Releasing Vocation

At the heart of the emerging shift in the church at the moment is the dawning understanding that every single member of the church has a specific calling. A core task of the church is to help them uncover that calling and pursue it. The challenge is though, that there are not many churches doing this successfully.

This page will wrestle with what it actually means to help people discover their God-given vocations and to support them as they run the specific race marked out for them.

Four years on and the 6 Radical Decisions still shape my life

The official book launch in August 2012

The official book launch in August 2012

As the Olympics approach I am reminded that it was this time four years ago that my book 6 Radical Decisions was launched in London.

The book was really an attempt to name what I was committed to after a few very disorientating years of trying to help Fusion hold together after my Dad, the founder, stepped down from leadership.

While I didn’t know that this would be my last time working as a Fusion leader, there was a deep grief that pervaded the background of my experience of 2012. It was increasingly becoming clear to Leeanne and I, that in order for Fusion to move forward, the son of the founder needed to step away from the organization.

For two decades I had felt as though I was doing something very important, shoulder to shoulder with people I loved. I believed in what I understood Fusion to be about and now, as I worked with these people one last time, I sensed that I was in a process of letting go.

The 18 months of conceiving, writing, editing, re-writing, re-editing and finally proofing the book had been important for me. As I was increasingly finding myself moving to the outside of Fusion, I found my commitment to the core things that originally drove Fusion unshaken. The book was my attempt to name those core things.

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By far the majority of ministry needs to happen outside, and not inside, the congregation

I am not arguing for a new type of congregation. In our current societal framework, the congregation will continue to be separate from the daily life of non members. As Newbigin suggests, to address the challenge of mission to a nation or community, we are going to have to think in new ways that are bigger than any local congregation or denomination.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer called for the church move to “the centre of the

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

village,”[1] through the discovery of “religionless Christianity.” [2] He asserted that the “church is church only when it is there for others.”[3] While this intent sounds quite similar to the discussion about “missional church,” Bonhoeffer is not arguing for a re-formation of congregational life so that the mysteries and sacraments of the church are more readily accessible to non-believers.

Bonhoeffer called for a correlated rediscovery of the “arcane discipline”[4] so that “the mysteries of the Christian faith are sheltered against profanation.”[5] The word “arcane” literally means “hidden”[6] and in calling for a rediscovery of the arcane discipline, Bonhoeffer is calling for the recognition of the need for the normal functions of the congregation to be closed, “rather than thrust upon the world in a ‘take it or leave it’ way that profanes them”[7] as the church engages with the world.

The congregations of the early church too, were separate from society. Mission did not eminate from the gathering of the congregation, but was a result of the day to day interactions between believers and non believers in the normal business of life.

The ancient church knew nothing of “evangelistic services” or “revivals.” On the contrary, in the early church worship centred on communion, and only baptized Christians were admitted to its celebration. Therefore, evangelism did not take place in church services, but rather, as Celsus said, in kitchens, shops and markets.[8]

The modern Christian church has not been very effective in equipping its members for engagement with the world. We tend to find our Christian fellowship inside the walls of the church, and tend to wrestle with theology within the confines and actions of congregations and seminaries.

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The church moves to the heart of the community

Dietrich Bonhoeffer called for the church to move to “the centre of the village,”[1] through what he called “religionless Christianity.” [2] While people have debated what he meant by that, there is a growing resistance in Western society to what people perceive as “religion.” Bonhoeffer asserted that the “church is church only when it is there for others.”[3]

In dawning era, Churches will be most effective if their corporate engagement with their communities comes from service and hospitality motivated by love rather than ideological conflict.[4]

Social engagement, though, requires social skills.

As the general society becomes more isolated, and less relationally connected, churches will need to teach practical skills such as listening, managing conflict and giving constructive feedback as pressures on relationships continue to grow. This pressure will particularly be felt as congregations become more multicultural, with increased need for social awareness.

The focus on service and relationship does not mean that the church should avoid ideological debate. It is true, however, that a church known for its positive engagement with the community will have a much stronger starting place to speak into society than one that seems to focus only on debate over moral questions.

A church’s public engagement with ethical issues will also be greatly enhanced if the church has been actively encouraging and supporting its people to move towards their own vocation.

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Three big insights on the journey towards Vocation.

Here at we will be continually publishing insights and tools about the journey towards vocation, which is at the heart of the emerging reformation in the church.

This article is written by Matt Garvin.

In 2012 I published a book based on the idea that the big shift the church needs to make is the realization that every person has a vocation.

In 2013 I started work as a pastor and began the wrestle of trying to work out how it might be possible to align a church from this perspective.

There are three big insights I have gained on the journey so far:

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God’s people are called to whole nations and communities

The Bible is concerned with God’s reconciling action for whole peoples. The Old Testament focuses the journey of Israel as a whole people, chosen by God. This theme is specifically spelled out in Deuteronomy 7:6[1] and 14:2[2], but continues as the central story throughout the biblical narrative.

When Jesus gave the great commission, he commanded his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations”[3], rather than individuals. In Revelation 7:9 we are given the picture that at the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God, nations, tribes and peoples will still be distinctly recognizable. National and cultural identity is not lost in the Kingdom of God, and as Christ’s ambassadors,[4] we need to not only understand what this means for individuals but also for whole nations and communities.

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