Calling and Community Cherie Harder

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

When Os Guinness’s wonderful book The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life was first published a little over two decades ago, it came as a revelation to this then-twentysomething. Like many of my driven, idealistic peers, I harbored a strong, if frustratingly vague sense of purpose, and hungered to discover, pursue, and fulfill what I trusted would be an increasingly clear calling. Also like many of my peers, my sense of that calling, as ill-defined as it was, was largely oriented towards professional achievement.  The Call changed my understanding of the call.

One of the great insights of The Call is that our life calling is primarily relational, rather than occupational. Indeed, very idea of a “call” presupposes a “caller,” and grounds our identity and vocation in relationship and community. Os defined calling as “the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.” In short, calling is not about merely realizing one’s professional potential or other forms of self-actualization, but necessarily includes stewardship and connection, and often involves building up a community of faith. 

Embedded in this new understanding of calling and vocation is the insight that we largely discover our gifts, talents, and aptitudes in relationship and community. It is a happy irony that it is in relationship with God and others that we become ourselves. As CS Lewis observed in Mere Christianity: “The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become… The more I resist him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact, what I so proudly call ‘myself’ becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events which I ever started and which I cannot stop.”

It is a fascinating insight. And it raises new questions: if God’s call on our lives is grounded in relationship and often realized in community, what does that mean for our own increasingly alienated, fractured, lonely times? As communities break down, and quarantine forces us to isolate, how can we understand our place and purpose? And how do we live out our call to engagement and service in an increasingly isolated society?

We’ll explore questions like these on Friday with Os Guinness and Pete Peterson as part of our Online Conversation series, where Os and Pete will discuss “Calling and Community in a Post-Pandemic World.” We hope that it will be both an encouragement and a catalyst for greater reflection and discussion. And we hope you will join us!

Recommended Reading and Resources
As we navigate these uncertain times together, we recommend the related resources
below as both an encouragement and catalyst for reflection.