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From a talk by Greg Thompson and Gabe Lyons

There's an organisation in the USA called Q. Its tag line is 'Stay Curious. Think Well. Advance Good'. It was birthed out of a vision to see Christians, especially leaders, recover a vision for their historic responsibility to renew and restore cultures, inspired by Chuck Colson’s statement, “Christians are called to redeem entire cultures, not just individuals.”.

At the end of 2016, they posted a video regarding Vocation. This is one of a set of videos on 6 practices of the Church; context, confession, identity, formation, love and vocation.

Here is an edited version:

We have to ask the question: How do we labour? We do that through the practise of vocation.

You see, our vocation is where we start to express everything that we've learned, how we've been formed, what we believe. Understanding the context we live in, we start to use our gifts and our talents to contribute, to not only the flourishing for our own lives, but for the world around us. And that takes us beyond the home, it takes us into industries, it takes us into institutions, it takes us into the public square, where we start to live out a vision of vocation, that starts to fix things that are broken in our society, that offers an imagination to the world around us, for their industries and how they contribute to the good and redemptive purposes, instead of contributing, or celebrating things that are corrupt, or evil, or divisive.

So it's with our vocations that we're all called to walk forward, wherever God has placed us, wherever he's put us in this context, with the vision for helpfulness, and to do it with joy in such a way that those around us ask bigger questions.

How should we labour?

This is a question that we have to answer both for ourselves and for our neighbours. For ourselves, because the purpose of faithful Christian presence is not just to live with our neighbours, but to labour for them. The whole purpose of vocation is that we are to bring goodness out of this earth and bless them with it. To cultivate orchards and to create cities where our neighbours can flourish.

But it isn't easy because both Christian and Enlightenment history places a massive emphasis on work and we are deeply confused about both the nature and the goal of human work. So because of this, one of the most important tasks in the Christian Church is to reimagine vocation, to asking how do we labour?

And in order to do that, we are going to have to think about two aspects of how we labour with renewed maturity.

The first of those is what I'm going to call, 'The domains of vocation.' Here's what I mean. Over the past several decades, a ton of work has been done about what you might call the 'individual domain of vocation'. About helping Christians understand the way that their individual work in this world is a part of life with God. That's to say the way God calls every human being to labour, every man, woman and child. He gives them gifts, and the call was to understand those individual gifts and then to exercise them in the world.

But we have to go further than this, because in addition to the individual, we have to think about 'the institutional domain.'. Most of us live and work in larger institutions. I don't just mean larger companies, I mean as a part of a larger system of institutions, whether they're economic institutions, or political institutions, or educational, or artistic, legal institutions. They have incredible impact, both for the good and for the harm of our neighbours. We have to press beyond the merely individual domain, and to give an account of the institutional domain in the horizon of our vocations and the meaning of faithful work within institutions.

And that leads to another domain, 'the civic domain'. This is because institutions don't work in a vacuum. They actually work in dense overlapping networks with one another. And these dense overlapping networks of institutions create the foundation of our cities, of our communities. They create civic ecologies in which we and our neighbours live and move.

So those are the domains of vocation.

Secondly we're going to have to give renewed attention to what I want to call, 'The direction of vocation.'.

And what is the goal of Christian vocation? It is of course love. And for many, many years, Christians have understood that our work is devoted toward the love of God. That work is in fact an act of Christian devotion and that everything that we do is an expression of our love for God. This is the direction of vocation that's oriented towards God.

But Christians also understand, have long understood, that there's another direction to our vocation, and it is not just God, it is also to the neighbour, that we're supposed to work for them, for our brothers and our sisters and our neighbours and our enemies. That our vocations are to be directed in love towards all people.

And this means that the direction of vocation is not just Christian devotion, it's also the common good. That when we work, we are labouring for the common good. And in this age, which is a pluralist age, in which we and our neighbours live together, we have to continually explore what it means for Christians to work for the common good, because we have not conceived of this maturely enough, about what it means, for Christians, men and women and children, to get up every day of their lives, and go out and to do their work for the sake of their neighbours and their cities.

So in the midst of a culture with deep struggles over the meaning of vocation, the church has to recover a strong vision of vocation, in which we labour in our individual and institutional and civic lives, both for the love of God, and for the love of neighbour and of enemy.

What do you think will happen if we do this? I don't exactly know, because the whole point of this is that we are in the work of reimagining. These are the improvisations of love and we will only know as we live them out together.

But here's what I do know. The men and women and children wandering in this world are wrapped in whatever they have to make their way through the pain of the manifold absences of this world. And I know that God loves all of them. He delights in their dignity, he weeps in their pain and he longs for their shelter, I know that. And I know that because God loves them, he has put you there, he's put you there in that city and not just you, but many others like you in the Church, to be the faithful presence of love in the absences of this world. And because of this, I know that the work before us, this work of reimagining Christian faithfulness in our time, it's not in vain. It's not in vain.

So as you learn about vocation, consider what is it that God's saying to you. How does he want to use you and your gifts, to be a part of his vision, to show up in the world, to be a presence in the world, to offer love to the world in a way maybe it's never encountered before?

Listen to the full 12 min talk here:

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From a talk by Greg Thompson and Gabe Lyons, 05/07/2017

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