Holding down a job or fulfilling a calling?

Quite often people are asked what they do for a living or what their job is and, quite understandably, they will respond with something along the lines of: I'm a school teacher, I'm in sales, I manage or own a business, I'm a computer programmer, I'm a software developer, I'm a stay-at-home mom. When asked where they work, the name of the company or business will be mentioned.

All of this is answering the question, what is your job? A deeper, and more meaningful, question to ask is what is your vocation? Someone might say that your job and your vocation are one and the same, but that’s not the case…they are vastly different.

The word “vocation” actually means “calling.”  I looked up the word  “vocation” in Webster’s dictionary and read: “from the word vocare, to call, a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action, a divine call to the religious life.”

I believe, and the Bible teaches, that all followers of Jesus have a divine call on their lives that goes well beyond a job?

When I became a Christian at age 20 I had a “job” at the post office. Over time, God began to make clear to me what my calling is. I increasingly understood it to be developing the next generation of leaders. I believe I would be doing this no matter what kind of job I held.

If I were to ask you what your job is, you could tell me what you do to put bread on the table and meet your monthly financial obligations; but if I ask you what your vocation is, I am asking you something entirely different…what God has called you to do, which may or may not have anything to do with your current job. What’s really wonderful is when your calling and your job are one and the same for this is where a sense of true fulfillment and godly satisfaction will be found. So many are willing to settle for a "job” rather than do the hard but rewarding work of discovering God’s calling for their life.

As I talk with 20 and 30 year olds in the course of my professional coaching and leadership development activities, I meet a lot of people who are looking for a job or have a current job, but are not seeking Jesus for what their calling in life is…what they have been created to do…gifted to do…are really passionate to do.

There was a song in the 50s titled, “Get a Job,” by the Silhouettes.  It was one of those fun songs that people my age listened to on the radio, danced to at sock-hops and laughed about, but never really thought much about. It seems to me that many young adults (and maybe older ones as well) are trying to “get a job” but are not searching deeper for what their true vocation (calling from God) is. In my book “Leaders Who Last” I devote a chapter to this important topic.

The purpose of this post is to simply get your mind and heart cranking on asking yourself if you have, or are pursuing, a job or a true calling from God.

From page 84 in “Leaders Who Last” here are a few questions to prime the pump!

  1. What do you enjoy doing?
  2. What do you avoid doing? Why?
  3. For what do you wish to be remembered?
  4. How might the offer of money or promotion sidetrack you from your true calling?
  5. What would your life look like if it turned out well?

On my website under Book Notes, you will find a book by Marcus Buckingham, “The Truth About You.” Read this Book Note to further prime the pump to discover your calling--not just a job. Marcus is not writing from a Christian perspective so he will not talk about Jesus in what he writes; but, nevertheless, I think his line of thinking and his questions will lead you from a “job” mindset to a “calling” mindset.

Have at it and, if you want, you can email me and let me know how the transition from thinking job to thinking calling is coming along for you. I'd love to hear from YOU!




Some leaders seem to be more fruitful than others. I don't think this is accidental. The touch of the Holy Spirit on their lives and ministries and the sovereignity of God aside, here are some things that fruitful leaders practice and experience that helps them cooperate with God in bearing good and lasting fruit.

Originally posted by Chuck Lawless

Last week, a student who is a prospective church planter asked me a question I had not considered for some time: “What characteristics have you seen in graduates who’ve done well – who’ve been effective in ministry?” Here is my response based on twenty years of teaching:

1.  They believe the Bible. I suppose that’s to be assumed, but such an assumption is not always valid among church leaders. The graduates I’ve seen do well stand uncompromisingly on the authority of the Word.

2.  They are gifted communicators. Frankly, I have seen very few pastors and church planters succeed well if they do not communicate well from the pulpit. Giftedness + training in preaching matters. 

3.  They’ve learned they’re not nearly as significant as they thought they were.  The young leaders I’ve seen serve effectively have realized that God doesn’t need them to accomplish His plan. He uses them not because they’re gifted, but because He’s gracious.

4.  They have been through a tough ministry experience at some point. This characterization, for certain, cannot be separated from #3 above. Often, these leaders have been broken (humbled, that is . . .) in the course of ministry – and they’ve come out stronger on the other side.

5.  They have willingly sought to learn how to lead. Sure, most are naturally gifted leaders, but they continue to seek out resources and other leaders to help them grow. Stagnation in their leadership skills is unacceptable to them. 

6.  They have a more experienced mentor who helps them when needed. Again, seldom have I met a young leader who’s led a church effectively without having two or three older believers to whom he turns for guidance.

7.  They choose to continue their education. They understand that the discipline of study and the value of others reviewing their work prepare them even more to lead.

8.  They build a team around them. These young leaders typically don’t want to minister alone; they want brothers and sisters who walk with them and serve with them, each of them operating out of his or her own giftedness.

9.  They have a “holy ambition.” That is, they want God to use them in mighty ways for His glory.  They’re not driven by ungodly ambition, though; what matters to them is that God uses them to make an eternal difference for His name. 

What other characteristics would you add to this list from your own experiences? 



As a leader, how to shoot yourself in the foot!

There are lots of ways to destroy your leadership effectiveness. Which no leader wants to do, but nonetheless many walk down one of these roads and some never return. Here are a few to keep a close watch for.

---Never say “no” to anyone, believing you have to be available to anyone with a need. If you don’t, they might stop giving, spread rumors about you or leave the church.

---Do everything yourself…don’t totally trust or delegate responsibility to anyone else, because no one can do it as well as you can. It will take you longer to develop someone else than just doing it yourself.

Be suspicious and keep your eyes open… people are out to get you, have you fired or get your job.

---Never get personal or share information about your family in public communication as it may be used against you.

---Avoid transparency and vulnerability in your relationships, assuming it’s a sign of weakness.

---Don’t allow anyone to offer constructive criticism or question your motives, decisions or ideas. You are God’s anointed and no one should touch you.

---Put your family second to the church. Your family will understand that you are serving the Lord and should be willing to pay the price.

---Find your security, identity, worth and significance in how big your ministry is and how fast it’s growing. Didn’t they count people in the book of Acts? Isn’t there is a book in the Bible called “Numbers?”

---Don’t worry about taking vacations or practicing Sabbath. Real leaders give it all they have (and more) and can rest when they get to heaven. It’s better to burn out than to rust out. Jesus was tired most of the time, never took a vacation and was so exhausted that he fell asleep in a boat in the middle of a storm. You can be like Jesus!

---Don’t worry about secret sin…nobody’s perfect. If you confess your sin, people will think you are not worthy to be a leader and will ask you to step down.


Puppets don't lead!

Good leaders attract and develop more leaders, not-so-good leaders simply attract more followers. If you are leading well, you are developing and releasing new leaders, not controlling them. Dan Rockwell shares some excellent insights on "Puppet Leadership."

Originally posted by Dan Rockwell


 Eliminate, “I’m letting people lead,” from your vocabulary. “I’m letting people lead,” means they aren’t really leading, you are.

“Letting people lead,” suggests you hold the strings. As long as you control others, you lead. They’re puppets.

Puppets don’t lead.

Old language:

Language is never just semantics.

“Let” language reeks of arrogance. Oh my! It’s so big of you to “let” others lead. 

“Let” may mean authorize or grant the right to. But, typically, in leadership circles, letting others lead means allow.

Others won’t own what you allow.

New language:

I’m learning to be led by others. A leader of leaders learns to be led by others. If you’re always the leader, others aren’t leading.

I’m learning to enable and liberate those who aspire to lead.

I’m giving authority away.

We’re choosing a path forward and leading together. It’s “we” not “me.”

I’m defining my role as a partner, not a parent. Read Peter Block’s book, Stewardship: Choosing Service over Self-Interest.

7 indications others are leading:

1.  You’re excited, not offended, when your ideas are challenged. Constructive dissent is normal, expected, and honored.

2.  People improve without your involvement.

3.  Changes are made without your permission.

4.  People don’t fear making responsible mistakes.

5.  You feel left out.

6.  Accountability flows both ways.

7.  People control themselves. Accountability is more about transparency of process and responsibility for results, not being pressured from the outside.

5 ways to liberate leaders in your organization:

1.  Developing leaders is the greatest opportunity of leadership. It’s also the most challenging.

2.  Develop shared vision for leadership as partnership in your organization.

3.  Discuss the process of transferring authority.

4.  Create clear responsibilities and accountability.

5.  Exercise brutal transparency with kindness.

Practice forward-facing curiosity.

What prevents experienced leaders from liberating new leaders in their organizations?

How might leaders develop leaders without being puppet masters?


Has unity (a good thing) become uniformity (a bad thing)?

Unity is a good thing.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.” Psalm 133:1 (ESV)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3 (ESV)

Uniformity is not always a good thing.

In 1962, Malvina Reynolds published a song titled “Little Boxes” The song was later recorded by the protest singer, Pete Seeger.

It’s a song protesting uniformity, where everyone looked, dressed, lived and acted just the same. I’m afraid the same can happen in churches, businesses and families.

Here are some of the words:

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one 
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out the same,
And there's doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

It’s a light-hearted sounding song with a serious message that I believe is very relevant to leadership today. (You can listen to it on iTunes.)

The big question is how does unity, which is a good thing, degenerate into uniformity, which can be a bad thing--especially as it relates to the implementation of vision and ideas?

I am deepening in my convictions that we need unity in essentials and diversity in non-essentials. I think this applies to the family, the church, business, sports, government and leadership across the board.

In 1627, Rupert Meldenius said “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.

That pretty well sums it up.

I think any church or organization functions best when there is unity around:

  1. Purpose
  2. Values
  3. Vision
  4. Strategic direction

And where you have diversity and freedom to experiment around:

  1. Methods
  2. Practices
  3. Programs
  4. Implementation

When you force unity in both essentials and non-essentials you have uniformity which:

  1. Curbs creativity
  2. Robs people of using their God-given gifts and personality
  3. Chases away creative people
  4. Fosters boredom and lackluster performance

Denominations exist in part because of the unwillingness of leaders to hold minor and non-essential issues with an open hand and by making every aspect of what they do an essential where there can be no deviance from the way everyone does things. It can, and often does, create a stifling and suffocating environment in which to work…it just ain’t no fun!

One of my early mentors, Warren Myers, told me, “Major in the majors and minor in the minors. Don’t major in the minors.  Where the Bible is black and white, be black and white. Where the Bible is gray, be gray. Don’t make the Bible black and white where it is gray.” We could save ourselves a lot of organizational pain by following Warren’s advice today.

How much personal satisfaction can there be in doing a job that is completely programmed, where your muscles or brain are used to perform repetitive operations already planned and dictated by someone else?

There ought to be something in every job that’s satisfying to the person who does it. Unfulfilled people can be just as serious a problem as inefficient methods.

Creating a climate that gives people independence and freedom, without losing control, takes a lot of leadership skill.

I am becoming an avid fan of unity in essentials and diversity in non-essentials as we strive toward the same agreed-upon ends. I am opposed to the enthronement of methodology rather than the diversity of methodology. Best practices can become death practices to creative initiative.

+ What do you think? I would love to hear your comments on “Unity verses Uniformity!”

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