Why “Calling” Isn’t Working For You

Why “Calling” Isn’t Working For You December 7, 2016


Myths (commonly circulated half-truths and falsehoods) have a way of ruining otherwise good things for the rest of us.  As an almost lifelong suburbanite, I was raised to think of cities a dirty, dangerous, congested, and terrible places to raise a family.  After two years in New York City, dirty and congested?  Yes.  Dangerous and a terrible place to raise a famil? No–those are myths.  And myths are spoiling the attraction and power of calling for many of us.


The Myths About Calling

1. Myth, Calling Is Only For The Clergy

During the medieval period, the organized church created a two-tiered level of calling.   Perhaps taking the Old Testament system of a priestly class to its logical conclusion—some are called to serve God, and the rest serve those who serve God by paying the bill.

In more recent history, the “clergy-only” idea has been reinforced by the use of the terminology by pastors and missionary types who share their calling stories. Some Christian institutions overtly or more subtly reinforce the idea that if you are really committed to the faith, you will leave it all and work in “the ministry.”    But this is a myth.   God has good work for all of us to do, it’s part of his plan for out lives (Ephesians 2:10).  When we discover and pursue that work, we are following a calling. 

2. Myth: Calling is about work that is altruistic, that makes a difference.  

The picture at the top of this article is from the New York City Subway.  It is an advertisement for a medical school in the Caribbean.  (I’m wishing I was called to West Indies Medicine!)  The implication is that learning and practicing medicine is a true calling.  And it feeds into a myth: work is only a calling when it is work in one of the traditional helping professions.  The idea is that if find your way into medicine, social work, or education, then you have found a calling.   The rest of us, well we just work for a living.

But this is a myth, there are ways to have a positive impact on others in every type of work not just the officially helpful ones. There are also some terribly mean and unhelpful people in the helping professions.   Your industry code does not determine whether or not your work is a calling.


3. Myth:   Calling = finding your dream job

A Quick survey of the NY Times and TheMuse.com, equate “Calling” with “Passion” with “A job that you love.”

This is a pattern we see on a regular basis—the reduction of wisdom to the passions in our hearts.  These passions sometimes last our lifetimes and sometimes do not last for five minutes.  These passions sometimes seem to lead us to destinations that fulfill and sometimes lead us into trouble.

Dream job = passion = calling is a myth.  Calling is bigger than your job.   Calling is bigger than what we think we want..  A season of your calling could require working a nightmare job in order to prepare you for something else.


Maybe Finding a Calling is Better Than You Think

Perhaps the conversation about finding a calling has been lost on you because someone pitched you one or more of these myths about the concept.   Might finding and following a calling be better and more relevant to your life than you thought?    


I think the answer is yes.  But of course, I’m biased because my calling is to help you find and follow yours!


About the Author:  


Dr. Chip Roper writes Marketplace Faith from New York City, where he is the director of Marketplace Engagement at the New York City Leadership Center.  Chip is driven to turn the daily grind into a spiritual adventure.   In service of this vision to empower individuals to approach their work with a keen sense of vocation, he aims to end the “stunning silence of the Church regarding life at work.” He is convinced that a central piece of God’s plan for any city or community is the work that people do each day. You can learn more about him here. Chip is available for speaking, consulting, and coaching engagements. Inquire via his email: croper@nycleadership.com.


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