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Thinking About...

Vocation Volume 2, Issue 2 - May 2011

The teaching faculty of Ministry, Theology, and Culture at Tabor Adelaide are committed to serving the church by thinking about the gospel. We believe that individuals and the church can be transformed by the renewing of our/ their minds. Too often college lecturers are characterized as “living in an ivory tower” and “being too theoretical.” This stereotype doesn’t apply at Tabor; we are part of the church, and we want to see it grow in faithfulness to Jesus. This is why we have committed ourselves to producing this themed magazine for free distribution to the churches of South Australia. We trust you will find this semi-annual magazine helpful. We will value your feedback and your contributions; please email me at Rev Dr Stephen Spence Head of Ministry, Theology, and Culture

Thinking About... Vocation


n the 1970s it was fashionable for churches to change their noticeboards from “Minister: Rev John Smith” to “Minister: All God’s People.” Church ministry was not just the job of a single person but the task of the whole congregation. Ministry was being democratized; only 400 years after the Reformation rediscovered “the priesthood of all believers”!


owever, ministry was still located within the church and its programs. A person might work 50 hours a week at a production line, but it was only the 3 hours they spent leading the youth group that counted as ministry. And there was a hierarchy of church ministry: programs of outreach or preaching counted more than programs of ground maintenance or

transportation. (And it didn’t really count as ministry if your ground maintenance or transportation was done for a nonChristian community group instead of for the church.) Sermons would be preached on serving God, but the preacher’s point was usually about joining a church roster.


or these reasons, Christian vocation is almost always associated with serving the church (or para-church ministries). Possible exceptions are those involved in helping-jobs such as doctors or nurses or teachers. But that is about it. Christian vocation was limited to what 5% of Christians might do. [Disclaimer: I just made that statistic up.] The remaining 95% were being told that they had no Christian vocation – even if they maybe had a ministry from time to time.


ow ridiculous is that! Jesus is Lord of all aspects of life. We serve as his servant in all that we do. God wants us to understand that what we do in life is part of our response to following Jesus. Whether we are tinkers, tailors, soldiers, or sailors; whether we work in offices or factories, at home or in homes, we do so as servants of Jesus. ach one needs a sense of vocation, a sense that our job (paid or unpaid) is not just something that fills in our time but something to which we have been called. We need to Think About Vocation with Aaron Chalmers, Bruce Hulme, David McGregor, David Turnbull, Graham Buxton, Matthew Gray, and Stephen Spence.


Living as Called People U An extract by R. Paul Stevens from “Calling/ Vocation,” in Complete Book of Everyday Christianity (1997). Available online at complete-book-ofeveryday-christianity

nderstanding and experiencing calling can bring a deep joy to everyday life. Paraphrasing Os Guinness, I note several fruits of living vocationally rather than simply yielding to careerism, occupationalism or professionalism.


irst, calling enables us to put work in its proper perspective - neither a curse nor an idol but taken up into God’s grand purpose.

econd, it contributes to a deep sense of identity that is formed by whose we are rather than what we do. hird, it balances personal with public discipleship by keeping our Christian life from becoming either privatized or politicized. ourth, it deals constructively with ambition by creating boundaries for human initiative so that we can offer sacrificial service without becoming fanatical or addicted.


ixth, it gives us a deep sense of integrity when living under secular pressures by inviting us to live in a counterculture and a countercommunitythe people of God - so we can never become “company people.”


eventh, it helps us make sense of the brevity of our lives, realizing that just as David “had served God’s purpose in his own generation, [and] fell asleep” (Acts 13:36), we can live a meaningful life even if our vision cannot be fully realized in one short lifetime.


ighth, the biblical approach to calling assures us that every believer is called into full-time ministry - there are no higher and lower forms of Christian discipleship.


ifth, it equips us to live with singlemindedness in the face of multiple needs, competing claims and diversions - the need is not the call.

2 Myth Busting: good work/not-so-good work A person’s vocation often defines them. What do you do?” is often the first question we ask when meeting someone. Is this because we think that once we know what a person does, then we will know where they fit into life or into the Christian community? Is there a hierarchy of occupations?

David Turnbull, Senior Lecturer in Intercultural Studies. He is enrolled in the PhD program at Flinders University. In second semester, David is teaching Theology in an Intercultural Context, History of the World Christian Movement, and Youth Work in Multicultural Settings.


vonne Smith* identifies this as one of three myths about work within the evangelical community. She calls it “there is good and not-so-good work” myth. According to this myth Christian ministry, especially word-based forms, takes precedence over secular occupations, especially those that are profit driven.


he basis of this myth is the western dualism that impacts so many areas of our lives and which cause those of us in secular occupations to keep their work and their ministry lives separate.


hy should God’s people bust this myth? So we don’t limit God. God uses occupational

diversity for his purposes. Numerous examples are provided in the Scriptures. Jesus was a carpenter, and some of the disciples were fishermen. Paul was a tentmaker, as well as being an evangelist and church planter.


ow should God’s people bust this myth? The efforts of a local church to disciple must include a healthy and holistic theology of work. It is vital for God’s people to see work as an act of worship and significant for evangelism and outreach. Areas to cover include the use of apologetics to answer the questions being asked about life in the workplaces, the development of valuable communication skills that aid relationship building and aid the use of empowering people to seek Jesus further, and how to cope with the cultural differences that confront them. For more information google, Lausanne + “Marketplace Ministry.” *see

Vocation has changed its meaning O Matthew Gray is Lecturer in Church History. He is enrolled in the PhD history program at Adelaide University In second semester, Matt will teach The Story of the Church (Tues evenings) and Exploring the Christian Faith (Friday mornings).

pportunity is our blessing, but it is also our curse. Hauerwas describes us today as “a quivering mass of availability,” almost paralysed by the occupational choices available. Bewildered Year 12 students stare blankly at hundreds of courses in their handbook. For the Christian, this is even more complicated, because of our inherent sense of vocation. hen the Church started, vocation was simple – it meant becoming a Christian.


Christians were those “called (Latin ‘vocati’) according to His purpose.” That changed with the arrival of Christendom; since “everybody” was now a Christian – the call was no longer necessary.

Calling came to have a much more specialised definition, that of monastic or clerical ministry. n the Reformation, Luther passionately emphasised that all people are called by God into their “ordinary” professions, whether a carpenter or a blacksmith. Calvin further intensified this with his emphasis on election – contrary to popular caricature, Calvin’s election was not primarily about salvation, but about


vocation. Calvin was convinced he was called by God (reluctantly, I might add) to his work in Geneva, and he was sure God called others into their jobs, too. The English Puritans, so deeply embedded in Calvinism, built this into their “Protestant Work Ethic”. inally, in the modern period, economic and technological change meant that a whole host of new jobs emerged, creating more choice. Simultaneously, secularism drove God out of occupational choice, and “vocation” (God calling us) became “profession” (we calling us). oday, we live all these tensions. As Christendom disintegrates, the Early Church’s emphasis on being specifically called to our faith gains renewed dignity. But we also wrestle occasionally with medieval ideas of only pastoral or overseas ministry being a calling, which is only intensified by secularism pushing God out of the workplace. Surely, we must return to the Reformation belief of Luther, Calvin and others, seeing our occupations as God’s calling. Then Year 12 students can focus on discovering what God is calling them into, rather than settling for just a profession.




Considering your options for study? Apply now for Second Semester Tabor Adelaide offers fully accredited courses in: • • • • • • • •

Teacher Education Social Science - Youth Work Social Science - Counselling Ministry, Theology, and Intercultural Studies Humanities: English, Creative Writing Humanities: History, Philosophy TESOL Certificate IV in Training and Assessment

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Martin Luther and Vocation U S Bruce Hulme is a lecturer in Practical Theology and is studying towards an MTh in Spiritual Theology In second semester, Bruce will be teaching an Intensive on Christian Spirituality, and is responsible for the Spiritual Formation Program and for the Supervised Field Education Program.

nderstanding and discerning our vocation can sometimes tie us in knots. We can be unsure of our desired career path, or unable to enter it; perhaps our work feels mundane and not ‘real’ ministry; or we might covet or judge the others’ vocations. How might Luther’s take on vocation help us here? irstly, for Luther ‘vocation’ transcends mere employment, because it correlates to our current network of relationships. We need only to look around us to discern our given vocations,


since the value of human activity lies not primarily in the task being performed, but in the fact that it is a person who is performing it. To work is to fulfill part of one’s role as a human being, living in a relationship with God and others. To this end, vocation is primarily relational than functional, and so for Christians all of life is vocational, whether paid or not. We may happen to be employees, but we may also be spouses, parents, friends, neighbours – these are all valid vocations in which we are called to embody the

gospel. econdly, Luther emphasizes that no matter how ordinary the task, it is honoured and enjoyed by God. God might call us to an explicitly ‘religious’ vocation (e.g. pastor), but equally he delights in a parent nurturing a child, or a teen working hard at school. This means the most mundane tasks can be infused with a spirituality of joy and dependence on him at every turn. Finally, Luther asserts that there is no place in the body of Christ for envy or judgment of others’ vocations. The particularity of our contexts means we will all be called to faithfully love and serve in different ways, and so we are freed from wanting to copy others’ vocations or look down upon them. ugene Peterson says that “God in Genesis and Jesus in John are named workers working in a workplace that all of us continue to work in.” Whatever our vocations, we can share in his work, doing all in the name of Christ and for his glory (1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17).



Study Opportunities at Tabor Adelaide Intensive: July 4-8 YW2203 Youth Ministry in a Local Church Jason Hoet Jason is the Youth Development Facilitator for the Baptists in SA. He is a leader of youth ministry, a mentor and educator of those in youth ministry, and a creator of new and exciting ministries with youth. He is deeply passionate about people and the mission of God.

This new subject at Tabor provides a theoretical and practical foundation for doing youth ministry in the church, for a church, and from the church into the wider community. It therefore has an emphasis both on developing the youth who already are part of the church community and on reaching youth in the surrounding society for Christ. Ultimately, the goal is to empower youth themselves to become passionate in ministry with their own peers. Building a clear sense of foundations and outcomes – where you’ll start from and where you’re going – this will also tackle the practical issues of youth ministry in contemporary Australian society. This subject is suitable for those involved in leading their church’s youth ministry (whether paid or volunteer).

Intensive: July 4-8 TM4102 Christian Spirituality Bruce Hulme Bruce Hulme is a member of the Tabor faculty with a particular interest in integrating the understanding of, the practice of, and the experience of the Christian life for everyday, regular, Christians. To do this he has explored both classical and contemporary practices of Christian Spirituality. This subject will help you to explore the rich Christian spiritual landscape: its nature, foundations, history, and various expressions. At the heart of it all remains the Triune God, “who is Spirit”, permeating how we pray, how we think, and how we live. Set in an interactive intensive format, Christian Spirituality will heighten your awareness of your story within God’s, and introduce a range of practices to facilitate your ongoing spiritual exploration. It would be suitable for experienced Christian laypeople who are ready to explore their faith at a more personal and practical level. It is an important subject for those responsible for the nurture of other Christians.

Called to be Christians – wherever we are B I n the Middle Ages only religious people like priests, monks, and nuns had a vocation – a calling to serve God. It was Martin Luther who insisted that all Christians were called. Secular employment was just as much a vocation, he said. He was right to say that everyone is called to serve God, but

David McGregor is Senior Lecturer in Theology. He is enrolled in the PhD theology program at Newcastle University In second semester, David will teach Holy Spirit and Creative Living (Weds evening).

is it really true that our work is our vocation? What of children, the sick, the elderly, the unemployed who cannot work? Do they have a vocation?


arker Palmer thinks that the Christian calling comes from within, “calling me to fulfil the original self given to me at birth by God.” There does seem to be a ring of truth about this statement, but it also sounds a little self-centred to me. Is Christian vocation simply self-fulfilment?


arl Barth says that vocation is the call to become a Christian. It is the call to fellowship with God himself, through Jesus Christ; to accept and receive the love he has for us. What a vocation this is – simply to be loved by him – or as Barth says: “to be honoured by God”!

ut vocation is also a task that God shares with us, and in this way he further honours us. As Christians, we are called to be partners together with him in his love for the world. This, Paul says, is our “call to freedom”– not the so-called freedom of self-indulgence, but the God-like freedom of loving others (Gal 5:13). Vocation is to be lived in the particular (1 Cor.7: 17-24). This is the truth of Parker Palmer’s view, that God wants you to be uniquely you; and Luther’s insistence that vocation is to be lived, not just in the religious, but also in the secular sphere. As Bonhoeffer says, we all have our unique “spheres of responsibility” in which we are to live out “the mandates of God” – be that as the wife of this husband, or as the husband of this wife; the parent of this child, or the child of this parent; with this particular occupation or that. These spheres are not our vocation as such, but the places in which we are to live out our vocation. It is here, in the every day reality of our own particular lives, that God has called us into fellowship with himself and loving service to others – these particular others!



Study Opportunities at Tabor Adelaide TM4101 Communication Skills (with Ann Ibrahim) Tuesday 1-4pm Introductory level; suitable for Home Group Leaders TM3131 The Story of the Church (with Matt Gray) Tuesday 6-9pm Introductory level; suitable for the curious Christian TM4216 Preaching (with Don Owers) Tuesday 6-9pm Intermediate level; some preaching experience required TM1101 Creative Living (with David McGregor) Wednesday 6-9pm Introductory level; suitable for new and exploring Christians TM2116 Introduction to the New Testament (with Stephen Spence) Thursday 10am-1pm Introductory level; suitable for Bible Study leaders TM3112 Exploring the Christian Faith (with Matt Gray) Friday 9am-12noon Introductory level; suitable for the curious Christian Semester Two at Tabor Adelaide August 1 - November 11 181 Goodwood Road, Millswood

WANT DETAILS? contact Samantha (08) 8373 8777

TM2111 Reading the Bible Faithfully (with Melinda Cousins) Monday 1-4pm Introductory level; suitable for Bible Study leaders

Christians Contribute - whatever they do T

Rev Dr Stephen Spence (PhD, NT, Fuller) is Head of Ministry, Theology, and Culture In second semester, Stephen will teach Introduction to the New Testament.


he earliest written Christian document we have is Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians (c.49CE). This letter contains Paul’s encouragement to a group of persecuted Christians who are freshly converted from the worship of idols. But we urge you, Paul writes, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands…so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one (1Thess 4:1112). It doesn’t seem like a spectacular request but, according to Paul, this was part of their work of faith, their labour of love, and their steadfast hope in our Lord (1:3). This was part of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. This was part of what it meant to please God. ur Christian vocation calls us “to aspire to live quietly”; or in the words of Leon Morris, to “seek strenuously to be still.”


Time is precious, but we are not called to be so frantically busy with serious work (and/or ministry) that we are unable to “waste time” in stillness.


ur Christian vocation calls us “to mind our own affairs.” We already know that

gossip is unacceptable, but so is meddling and manipulation. Followers of Jesus should make excellent team members, whatever team they are on, because they let others get on with doing what they need to do.


ur Christian vocation calls us to “work with your hands.” This is not an insistence that all of God’s people will be tradesmen – even if Jesus was a carpenter! It is an insistence that none of them will be idle. Make a difference; do something. This was particularly significant to first-century Thessalonians who lived in a culture where it was felt that only slaves or the socially marginalized should do physical labour. Don’t think that it is the job of others to do your job.


he outcome of this Christian practice is that we will be valued in the workplace and in the communities that we are a part of – we are givers/contributors, not takers. Before we get the opportunity to tell people that we are followers of Jesus, the practice of our Christian vocation should have made them suspect there was something different about us.


Enrich your Ministry with International Scholars Professional Enrichment Seminars for Clergy and Church Leaders Tabor Adelaide is bringing to Adelaide a number of internationally respected scholars whose research and writings have greatly contributed to the church. These are rare opportunities to hear from people who are helping the church think through its life and mission.

August 1 Dr Soong-Chan Rah Freeing the Church from Cultural Captivity September 26 Dr Graham Buxton Overcoming Ministry Myopia October 17 Dr Pete Phillips Biblical Literacy and Communication in a Digital World November 21 Drs John and Olive Drane Faith in Stories: Mission and Discipleship in a Liquid Culture 9:30am - 3:00pm; $60 (lunch provided)

more details from


Jesus chose you (you didn’t volunteer)


am an ordained Anglican clergyman – as I prepared for training, I experienced family and friends voicing their views about the or fact that I was now ‘going into the church’, as if previously I was somehow ‘out’ of the church! At the same time some of my friends despaired that I was leaving the ‘real’ world to some kind of spiritual asylum. Rev Dr Graham Buxton (PhD, Flinders) is the Director of PostGraduate Studies In September 2011, Graham will be offering an intensive on “Overcoming Ministry Myopia: renewing our vision f Christian ministry.”


vulnerability, which lies at the heart of all pastoral ministry. n fact, vocation within the Christian community involves three important themes: personal humility, the life of the community and openness to the Spirit. If vocation within the Christian community is likened to a threelegged stool, then these three themes may be Yet which vocation is higher? The Christian viewed as the legs, without which the stool cannot artist who seeks to convey his faith through stand. Developing the analogy, if any one leg is his art or the Christian minister who leads her withdrawn, then the stool becomes extremely congregation week by week? wobbly and will not stay up for long by itself: all As I leave you with that challenging thought, let three legs are necessary. me make a number of brief points about vocation ürgen Moltmann sums up the matter well in that relate to both types of Christian ‘calling’. his discussion of the relationship between the n his understanding of vocation, Alan Lewis ‘assignments’, or callings, of individual people argues passionately for identification between and the calling of the community as a whole. He vocation and cross; for him, they are the same advocates a simultaneous outworking of divine reality. Jesus’ words “You did not choose me, but authority through the gathered community and I chose you” (John 15:16) challenge the idolatry through individuals, which he defines as a genetic of volunteerism and free choice in our perception Spirit leads men and women ~W W W. t notes a b five or a D E L aconnection. I D E . E“The DU .aU~ of Christian vocation. Lewis clerical into the fellowship of the messianic people, at ‘idolatries’ through which he suggests the church the same time giving everyone his own place and has modelled itself on patterns of vocation which his particular charge.” Only the Spirit has the have more to do with ‘Gentile’ models of power wisdom and power to orchestrate a community and wisdom rather than with Christ. Underlying of individuals in such a way as to mediate their all of these idolatries – summarized under the diverse callings in the service of the Kingdom of headings of perfectionism, power, permanence, God. professionalism and privatism – is the grace of




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T h i s t h re e - d a y c o n fe re n c e a i m s t o develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between science and faith, in today’s complex and fast-paced world.


Suitable for pastors, academics, school teachers, and interested lay-people, this three-day conference featuring international and local speakers aims to develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between science and faith in today’s complex and fast-paced world.

~INAUGURAL CONFERENCE~ An initiative of the Graeme Clark Research Institute at Tabor Adelaide along with The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge, UK.



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Questioning Calling


Dr Aaron Chalmers (PhD, OT, Flinders University) is Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies In second semester, Aaron will teach Introduction to Biblical Interpretation and The Pentateuch.

s a teenager I can remember struggling with the issue of God’s call. Thinking about it now, I guess I expected God to speak to me in a clear and definitive (verbal!) fashion, revealing his will for my life. I’m not sure exactly where this expectation came from, but perhaps it had something to do with the numerous call accounts that we find in the OT. e.g., • Moses’ encounter with the Lord at the burning bush (Exod 3), • Isaiah’s vision in the Jerusalem Temple (Isa 6) and • Gideon’s conversation with the angel of the Lord while he is hiding in his family’s wine press (Judg 6)! I guess I assumed that such experiences were somehow normative, especially for those who were considering leadership within the church.


aking a look at the OT as a whole, however, it quickly becomes obvious that the vast majority of God’s people did not experience such a dramatic divine encounter.


e have no reference to such an event in the lives of many of Israel’s leaders, nor does this experience appear to have been widespread with the “common” people. But were these people not fulfilling their God-given vocation? Was Nehemiah, for example, in his efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, not doing what God wanted him to do? Were the priests, in their continual offerings of sacrifice and instruction of the people, not doing what God wanted them to do?


y expectations, therefore, have had to change.

God speaks to his people in a variety of ways.

And while we might like the revelation of an indisputable “voice from heaven,” I have a sneaking suspicion that for the majority of us the reality will be a lot less spectacular. Or am I just missing something…?

8 Master of Divinity Following an accreditation process with the government, Tabor Adelaide has been awarded the right to teach the Master of Divinity (MDiv) starting in second semester. Tabor Adelaide is the only Adelaide-based college currently able to offer the MDiv. This degree in Ministry and Theology is the standard first degree for those heading towards professional church-based ministry and/or postgraduate studies in North America and in many parts of Asia. It has been available in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, and Melbourne; now it is available in Adelaide at Tabor. The MDiv is a graduate-entry degree. To qualify for entry you must already have completed a Bachelor degree at an Australian University (or equivalent) in a non-theological discipline (e.g., BA, BSc, BEd). MDiv students cover similar content to students enrolled in the BMin and BTh programs, but they do so at graduate rather than undergraduate level. This means that their study and assessment is at a deeper and a broader level of enquiry. Graduates from an MDiv program often seek ordination with their church or continue their studies by entrering into a post-graduate Theology of Ministry course (e.g., MMin or MTh). Students eligible for FEE-HELP can use it to pay for their MDiv study. WANT DETAILS? contact Samantha or (08) 8373 8777

Creative Commons License We are happy for you to reuse any of the material in this journal. We do require, though, that you clearly identify the source by “author’s name,” Tabor Adelaide, School of Ministry, Theology, and Culture (May 2011) This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Australia License. To view a copy of this license, visit licenses/by-nc/2.5/au/.

Previous editions available: 1.1 Kingdom of God 1.2 Discernment 1.3 Lament 2.1 Giving

Thinking About Vocation  

Tabor Adelaide's faculty of Ministry, Theology, and Culture explore Christian vocation from a number of different angels.