Vocation and Location – holding the two?

Because we have a high focus on encouraging people to think and live more deeply in their neighbourhoods we are often asked how does that work with busy work lives? What about our work? and where is God calling me? Recently Steve summarised some of our thinking around locations and vocations – its worth a read:

We believe in holistic or ‘wholistic’ mission. Every part of life is important. God created everything good according to Genesis 1, and ‘everything is beautiful in its time’ according to Ecclesiastes 4. But in reality we all have limitations of time and resources and capacity so we can’t do or be a part of everything we want to. We have commitments to work and family. Both individually and collectively, we make decisions where to put our resources, our energies, our time, our passion and these decisions can change over the course of our lives.

For some of us, as individuals, work is very time and energy consuming, but we know that God has called us to serve Him wholeheartedly in and through our work (Col 3:23, Eph 6:7). For others of us, or at different seasons in our lives we have more time and energy to be involved in relationships and mission closer to home and in our neighbourhoods. That’s all part of our particular ‘Me Journey’. But also, collectively, some of us sense a call – a vocation – which fits with our passions and gifts to become involved together in specific ministries of the church, which use those gifts as special service to others wherever they are, while others are more involved together in the locations we live in, in our neighbourhood communities of faith. These are different kinds of ‘We Journeys’.

Both the Me Journeys and the We Journeys, the professional and the personal, the vocational and the locational are important to God, and as a church we celebrate and want to maximise the impact of all. People, especially marginalised people, need professional services of multiple kinds, and some of us are involved in delivering those. And people also need specific, trained arms of the church –our ministries – to support them at particular times in their lives for particular needs for them and their families.  And people also need personal, day by day, life by life engagement with neighbours who follow Jesus, that they might experience the heart and the hands and the feet of Jesus through us. The kingdom impact that we long for, comes in the mix of professional services acting on or to people and a community, ministries acting for people and communities, and local neighbours walking alongside people who are embedded in the community.  All three are needed and this mix of professional services, ministries and neighbourhood communities can all work together forming a rich web of support for transformation. Jesus talked about us being like salt and light (Matt 5:13-16) for those around us, which make life brighter and better and are ‘signposts’ to God for them.

In different seasons of our lives, our locational and vocational emphasis will vary. In modern western societies the emphasis has almost exclusively been on vocation to the loss of local networks. We are encouraged everywhere to focus on our vocation often without mention of or an equal focus on our location. It’s time the pendulum swung back to help this imbalance to be corrected. Without people who give of themselves to nurture local community life, despite all our professional services and church ministries, old people will continue to be isolated and lonely, children will fear playing in parks and parents will fear their children walking or biking to school. Vulnerable families will lack neighbourhood connections and baby sitters and sharing of vegetables and recipes and a bowl of sugar and a word of advice and a shoulder to cry on. Teenagers will lack mentors and the sense of being known and of belonging where they live; immigrants and new comers will remain socially isolated. It takes a village to raise a child. More than that it takes a village to help us all flourish at every stage of life. This is why SWBC is encouraging neighbourhood communities as a vital expression of the kind of redemptive communities God wants in our society in our time, to complement and maximise the kingdom impact of our professional services and ministries, and to share Jesus love in very practical, down to earth, neighbour to neighbour ways.