Growing up I knew I could serve God in whatever profession I chose. Providing, of course, I chose to be either a missionary or a pastor.
In the particular subculture in which I was raised, those were pretty much the two vocations available to serious Christians. And even within the dyad, there was hierarchy. Missionary was preferred to pastor. If you had a physical condition that made overseas living prohibitive, or had too many children when you applied to be a missionary with our denomination (as was the case with my parents), becoming a pastor was a respectable Plan B.
I remember one traveling missionary thundering, "Every Christian is called to go to the mission field!" This was no metaphor. He wasn't talking about being a "missionary" in your workplace or neighborhood. No, this was drop-a-finger on a map of Africa—and go!
I still appreciate that kind of passion for global missions. But that mentality often had negative, if unintended, consequences. For instance, it devalued "secular" callings. The exclusive focus on "full-time ministry" vocations created a two-tier spirituality. Those in "full-time ministry" were the spiritual one-percenters; bi-vocational ministers and secular workers the second-class Christians.
Sure, a wealthy executive or doctor who lived faithfully for Christ might achieve a modicum of respect in church circles. But spiritually speaking, they were "walking wallets," useful for funding ministry—the real work of the Lord.
Thankfully, we've seen a shift away from that sort of thinking. The sacred-secular line has blurred while the desire to affirm all callings has sharpened. Many now rightfully see all vocations as equally valid ways to glorify God.
"Church leaders are increasingly talking about ...