Two Sides of the Calling Coin: A better way to frame vocation

Two Sides of the Calling Coin: A better way to frame vocation April 21, 2017



Figuring out Calling

Is calling the possession a chosen, few, those who are holy enough and spiritual enough to hear from God regarding what they should do with their lives?  The Call: the province of the saintly elite, not to be possessed by most mere mortals.

Or is calling the personal right of anyone and everyone who will bother to do the work to find their dream job.   After all, “your calling is work that makes you happy.”


Near Misses on Calling

The above lines describe two common and equally destructive twists on the otherwise life-giving experience of calling.

  1. In the first, calling is reserved for clergy and other “public service” roles, and everyone else is relegated to 2nd or 3rd tier status in a vocational cast system.   The elite view of calling grates against your sense of equality.  It also minimizes concern for the affairs of creation, the grand scope of the interest and investment that God places in this physical world.
  2. In the second, each of us essentially can serve as our own caller. Like every other modern ill, a lack of calling can be cured by human attention and technique. Follow the two steps, the five paths, take this assessment, get in touch with your passion and voila, you have discovered your calling.   No caller is necessary.

The Biblical concept of calling is a) for everyone and b) unwilling to be domesticated into a tamable self-centered journey (See  Myths Part 1, Myths Part 2 to unpack other “misses” on calling).   A life-giving sense of calling is, in reality, a two-sided coin, a two-edged sword, a carrot AND a stick.


The Two-Sided Definition of Calling

How to define calling?   How does this ring for you?

A calling is an invitation and summons from God.

Calling is an invitation. The God of the universe invites us to actively participate in this unfolding story through the work we do each day (We have other callings besides our work, see here). God is elevating the status and importance of our work, bringing up to a plain of cosmic importance. Calling is a letter in the mail that you are invited to the party, to sit a seat of honor, to enjoy the feast.   And yet, calling is more.

Calling is a summons.     The God of the universe is requiring something of us. He is insisting that we respond to his grace and wisdom through the embrace of specific responsibilities. Calling makes us accountable. Thus the apostle wrote “live a life worthy of your calling (Ephesians 4:1-2). Calling is a summons in the mail, notice that you are required to serve on jury duty or be present in court, no excuses accepted.


Working Called

When you go to work with a sense of calling, you go with both a sense of privilege—God cares about your work and has a purpose for it. And a sense of responsibility, God is summoning you to a way-of-being in the context of your work and to trust him completely with your career path.

Calling is gift and demand, opportunity and challenge, invitation and summons.   Lean into the caller to hear what he wants you to do.

Find other insights on the journey towards working called by clicking here:


About the Author:  


Dr. Chip Roper writes Marketplace Faith from New York City, where he is the Executive Director and Principal Consultant at Voca Center, an organization dedicated to helping clients find and follow their vocational calling.   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:

The VocaCenter is an initiative of Lead.NYC, a subsidiary of the the New York City Leadership Center.




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