Skye Jethani: Recipe for Church-365 (Part 3)
What if our approach to discipleship considered a person's vocation?

Read parts one and two of "Recipe for Church365365365".

Ingredient Three: Vocational Discipleship

Last month I met with David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group, to discuss our new books. He wanted to talk about how the themes in my book With: Reimagining The Way You Relate To God fit with the research he lays out in You Lost Me: Why Young People Are Leaving Church...And Rethinking Faith. Central on David's mind was rediscovering a theology of vocation. Here's a quote from his book that articulates the problem:

For me, frankly, the most heartbreaking aspect of our findings is the utter lack of clarity that many young people have regarding what God is asking them to do with their lives. It is a modern tragedy. Despite years of church-based experiences and countless hours of Bible-centered teaching, millions of next-generation Christians have no idea that their faith connects to their life's work. They have access to information, ideas, and people from around the world, but no clear vision for a life of meaning that makes sense of all that input (You Lost Me, page 207).

If Church is going to be intentional about engaging all 8 elements of the culture, then it must find a way of linking vocation and discipleship–the maturing of a follower of Christ with Christ's particular call for that person. In other words, if a 20-year-old is called to a career in the financial markets, her curriculum for discipleship must focus on how to be a financial analyst with Christ. A cookie-cutter, off the shelf discipleship program isn't going to cut it.

Likewise, young people in the church will need a vision of life with God that is far larger than the one often presented. It must go far beyond serving the church and vocally sharing the message. It must include their work and how it connects to God's purposes in the world.

What will this look like? I'm not entirely sure, but in my conversation with David Kinnaman we both agreed it's going to be highly relational. It's going to require an older believer in finance to mentor a younger one. It's going to require church leaders to function as match-makers linking people of similar callings together for support, encouragement, and equipping, rather than imposing their pastoral calling upon all of the sheep.

It also means seeing local businesses, clinics, schools, parks, and studios as discipleship outposts of the church. Consider my friend Walter in Phoenix. Walter works in real estate development, and his heart is to help young Christians who are called into the marketplace to engage their work with Christ. He's created opportunities over the years to mentor younger business leaders in his office. Walter's business is a discipleship outpost.

Displaying 1–9 of 9 comments

Substance Abuse Counselor

April 17, 2012  1:13pm

"Am I the only one thinking this way on this element?" Tim, you pretty much nailed it. There's no point in even spending any time saying anything after your comment. Thanks for sharing that.

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October 28, 2011  9:54am

A not of dissent against the comment above, "we must scrap the institution". Props for stating clearly that the Church is God's people, (and cannot be scrapped), but I think there is a better way to get at the same sentiment. Andrew Walls, a missionary in West Africa and frequent writer on the growing churches in that part of the world, also wrote a lot about Western missions. One was entitled, "Voluntary Societies and the Fortunate Subversion of the Church." Voluntary societies, from Bible studies to missionary organizations empowered 19th C. Western laity for prayer and active obedience in a way that Sunday services could not. But thanks to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we will always want to gather for worship, communion, reading of the word, teaching and fellowship. That will be institutional church even if we don't call it as such. If our beef is with institutions themselves, we can be open to reform while also remembering that the Church does not always and everywhere have the luxury of being one among many institutions. If it hadn't been for Christian institutional leaders insisting on education in their societies in the 16th-18th centuries, an empowered laity in the 19th would have been a lot less impressive. As a read through Corinthians, Galatians, Acts, etc, etc shows, we had our communal issues long before Constantine or large bureaucracies. It is an act of faith in the Holy Spirit to continue to associate ourselves with the body of Christ, repenting all the while for our personal and collective sins.

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October 12, 2011  5:09am

As someone who worked in the marketing industry for 12 years before becoming a pastor in a UK church, I have a real passion for this topic! However, if we are going to make ‘vocational discipleship' a reality, I think we have to work through some hard questions to get a mature grasp on this issue. The most important is this: What is a biblical theology of vocation? The problem with calling every job a vocation is that there is almost no biblical evidence for it. If you look at the uses of the word ‘call' in the bible, especially in the NT, we are all called to follow Christ, and some are called to be apostles, but no-one is called to ‘regular' occupations. The closest parallel is Bezalel in Exodus 31, but even he was called to be an artist working in the temple! I wrestled with this question throughout my years of working in a thoroughly secular industry. I knew God wanted me to be in the job I was doing, and every time I prayed about it, He told me to stay – but how to reconcile this with the biblical question? In the end, the answer I arrived at was to say that I wasn't called to be a market researcher – the bible did not endorse that view – but I was called to THIS job at THIS time. It was a work ‘prepared in advance for me to do' (Eph 2:10). For those in regular jobs, the key is to see our work as a MINISTRY and not a calling. To ask the questions: how does God want me to do THIS job? And how would He want me to do ANY job? It follows that my task as a pastor now is not to tell people they are ‘called' to a particular profession, but (1) to encourage them to seek the Lord for their work, to ask how they can be ‘the aroma of Christ' in that workplace; (2) to equip them with the vision and skills to relate their faith effectively to their work: how to form good relationships, to live with integrity, to address specific challenges in that type of job. And (3) to be honest that living for Christ in any regular job will likely involve a cost – which we have to admit is the other reason people stick with the sacred-secular divide. It's not all the church's fault! I agree wholeheartedly that we need to equip people to live for Jesus 24-7. But maybe this is a better model for this vital task.

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Robin Dalziel

October 11, 2011  3:33pm

Very good post. You have identified many areas that resonate within me. I am a Christian businessman, professional accountant, and a former university professor in Business. The church needs to get out of its building and walk the streets. "To visit Walter at his business". The focus is usually on building church programs (number crunching). "Its the difference between Church365 and Church52." There is more to the Christian life than getting people saved. Discipling people needs to be focused one-on-one according to individual strengths and needs, and not one size fits all. God has created us unique and gifted in many areas of life "to do good works that he has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them". Not all can be missionaries or pastors, nor should they be. Christ walked with the multitudes, so should we. I'm intrigued by the idea that mentoring young people might keep them in the church. That resonates with me. I have 3 young adult children. Two have left the church. One told me that if there was a christian adult that wanted to be friends with him and invited him out for coffee just to have a relationship with him, he would go to their church. Thanks again for your encouragement.

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Fran G.

October 11, 2011  10:50am

I've been reading the Church365 and haven't commented much, just trying to take it all in. I like what has been said on vocation, I wonder about two things. First what about those jobs that some might deem "un-Christian" Someone owning a liquor store that sells alcohol to those dependent on it, business or firms that may be ruining the environment, doctors that are performing abortions. Or what about those that do not have a vocation or job, those on welfare, etc... I guess when we start creating categories it can get messy as us humans seem to do often. The second thing I wonder about is the match-making as Jerry said earlier. I can see how mentoring could work, but I don't believe it has to be someone in the same field. I think having a group that you can come and bounce ideas and questions off of would be a better solution to discipleship in that way. Where people can say this is what is happening at my work and others can chime in and try to clarify and find avenues of love to take. Just some thoughts.

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October 05, 2011  11:20am

"Am I the only one thinking this way on this element?" No, not really. I was writing a long treatsie on what you wrote so succintly...however, I, suffering from verbosity, decided not to post because I reread it, and thought, "Ugh, I'm not doing a very good job of explaining my thoughts here." So yeah, you captured nicely.

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October 04, 2011  1:42pm

"It must be relational in structure, customized to callings, and distributed in location." This is the exact opposite of the pulpit & pew routines which are highly unrelational (one-way communication / crowd oriented), one man's thinking is all you get (he does not work in the marketplace - ever), and centralized in a venue that sucks up hugh amounts of $ and heart investment. Church 365 is what the NT has been asking for all along, but has been ignored by saints (clergy & laity) who will NOT examine what they are told to see if it's true. Acts 17:11 "It sounds messy to me, but also really fun." Yes, it's very messy for our flesh orientation of wanting to walk by sight rather than by faith. It's messy for our flesh that rejects walking heart to heart with saints very different from ourselves in many ways. We have loved casual acquaintance oriented gatherings far too long. The offset of the messiness is full reproductive faith and eternal rewards. " It's going to require church leaders to function as match-makers linking people of similar callings together for support, encouragement, and equipping..." This is the one I'm not so sure of. This is not what Jesus did. He went cross platform, cross current, cross workplace with his disciples. Clumping birds of a feather together is more comfort and sight orientation. It assumes greater success in the marketplace is primarily technical and personal expertise rather than spiritual and driven by God himself. The humble prayer life of a godly believer who has no experience in common with the believer he intercedes for (or even the prayer of a child for an adult) has far more power than talking with the greatest "expert" in your specialized field. I am suggesting faith should always trump sight in our systemic design for Church 365 life together. I would suggest the niche match-making is a minor detail compared to cross platform faith life. Am I the only one thinking this way on this element? Jerry "I really would scrap..." I agree, but would suggest it has worked in a meager mediocre fashion rather than not at all. Still, it must be scrapped. Most of what is said to be godly are bogus substitutes that nullify what God has asked for.

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October 04, 2011  5:52am

I've come to see discipleship as "living your life in front of other believers". Most church programs "do their disciplines" in front of others - but live their lives secluded and separate. To me, that's the perfect definition of a "hypocrit". What good is your "discipline" - if there is no love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.... (fruit)????? Without that, you don't even have a voice. I really would scrap the institution (not the church) - it hasn't worked out for 1700+ years - there's no reason to believe it will now. Human nature is the same. Control, dominate, possess, use, abuse, hobble, devalue the common person (laity) in favor of the elite (clergy). Sure - you can dress it up a whole lot and make it a whole lot more presentable - but it's not the church (people) Jesus died for. It's just another Saul - a whole lot of promise - and no substance.

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October 04, 2011  3:15am

How do you propose to do this well, across a very wide variety of disciplines in 365 days?

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