When I was in college, the question of my future career was a continual concern for me. Would I be a pastor, a missionary, a teacher? Or would I be something else entirely? A musician, perhaps? Maybe I would grow a scruffy beard and paint custom illustrations on motorcycles. (This was actually a short-lived dream of mine, born out of watching too many episodes of American Chopper on the Discovery Channel.) I didn’t know, and the uncertainty bedeviled me.
This uncertainty was compounded, I think, by an anemic understanding of vocation. The term vocation derives from the Latin word for call. In modern parlance, vocation mainly refers to a person’s job, to what he or she primarily does during the waking hours of the day. But historically, the concept of vocation was not so professionalized. As Gene Edward Veith, Jr. has observed in his book God at Work, vocation “is a theological word, reflecting a rich body of biblical teaching about work, family, society, and the Christian life” (17).
Recently, the faculty in our Christian Worldview Integrated Curriculum program sat down to think about how we can best communicate the education we offer our freshman and sophomore college students. I was tasked with addressing the topic of vocation. To do this, I thought about the various ways in which our college students have experienced, are experiencing, and will continue to experience the calling of God in their lives.
First, and most importantly, God has called our students into his fellowship in Christ. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:22–24, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (ESV; italics added). This means that our students have already launched into their primary vocation. God has called them to be Christians, and so our main goal in teaching our men and women is that they would flourish in their relationship with God.
Second, during their time at Bethlehem College & Seminary, our students have multiple callings, multiple spheres of responsibility into which God has placed them. To begin with the obvious, God has called them to be students. This means that reading, writing, and class attendance take up a large portion of their attention. At least it should. But our students have other vocations, too. God has called them to be roommates, church members, employees, children, siblings, citizens, ministry volunteers, and friends. These vocations require attention, too. We must remember, then, that though our students are students, they are not students only.
Finally, in light of the creation mandate in Genesis 1:28 (“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it,” ESV), God has called our students to meaningful labor for his sake. This labor can take any number of forms, provided it honors God and serves neighbor. The field is wide open: medicine, missions, business, law, homemaking, mothering, engineering, skilled labor, the arts, education, political office. In the Lord, it is all valuable. So whatever career path our students are envisioning, we want to remind them of Paul’s words to the Colossians: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23–24 ESV).
Excited to be serving the Lord Christ with you,
Johnathon Bowers Assistant Professor of Theology and Philosophy Bethlehem College & Seminary
Chapel Message, September 7th
Join us for our weekly Chapel Service on Wednesday, September 21st, 12:00-1:00pm, to hear Dr. James McGlothlin on Philosophical Attempts for Joy
1. Pray for our board members as they meet today. Pray that God would give our board wisdom, unity, and joy in their discussions and decisions.
2. Pray that our students would be faithful in all that God has called them to during their time at Bethlehem. Pray for our Preview Day coming up on October 7.
3. Pray that God would bring many interested students and that their time with us would be encouraging.