Kingdom Agents: The Difference Between Gifts, Functions and Vocations (Part 1)

When I say ‘vocation’, what immediately comes to mind?

The 9-5 grind, the hustle and bustle, doing anything and everything to make ends meet?

If so, you’re not alone. After all, the world loves to condition us to view work as a ‘got to’, not a ‘get to’.

Yet, as I was reminded over the weekend, our marketplace vocation goes far beyond immediacy, intellect, and [our sense of] importance. Even though the nature of our jobs may require these elements, the aim of our jobs…the aim of our calling…is to serve as a royal priesthood, as Kingdom agents functioning in personal commission.

The question is: What does this look like and how does this happen?

tenor

For starters, it’s imperative we understand the difference not only between call and vocation but gifts and function.

To do this, let’s recap the spiritual gifts as outlined in the New Testament:

*Jesus gifts (Ephesians 4:1-3) – These are part of our vocation and include ascension and equipping gifts as well as the fivefold spiritual gifts (i.e. apostle, pastor, teacher, evangelist, prophet).

Note: While all are wired to shape influence, not all are wired to employ these gifts in the church/in these specific occupations. More on this in a sec.

*Spirit’s gifts (1 Corinthians 12) – These belong to the Spirit and are gifts in a gathering. Some examples include administration, discernment, wisdom, healing, and miracles.

* Community gifts (Romans 4:4, 12:4-8) – These help us function in a local body. Some examples including leadership, encouragement, service, and mercy.

list-of-spiritual-gifts

Due to word count, I’ll link these passages rather than copy/paste; however, after you read them, consider their Greek roots:

1. Romans 12:4-5 – The word for function is the Greek word ‘praxis’ meaning “practice function” and signifies continual activity.

2. Romans 12:6-8 – The word for gifts is the Greek word ‘charismata’ meaning “grace function” and signifies communal activity. In the workplace, we can know these functions as influencing functions.

In both these cases, it’s important to note the origin of gifts point to corporate functions created for unity, not individual skills and talents.

3. Ephesians 4:1-3 – The word for vocation is the Greek word ‘klesis’ meaning “calling function” and signifies the work in which a person is employed. This not only references our occupation but our acceptance of it as a divine call to a particular pathway/course of action.

In this case, it’s critical we know how vocation and calling work together. As Martin Luther once said, “Every person is capable of having a vocation”; however, our universal calling is to be a royal priesthood.

Accordingly, we can break this down as follows:

Our universal calling: Priest (1 Peter 2:9)
Our gifts and functions: Romans 12:4-8
Our vocation: Romans 12 filtered through Ephesians 4


I like how Timothy Williams, author of The Spiritual Gifts, captures the vocational aspect of our spiritual gifts: While we know there are 5 ascension gifts and 7 community gifts,  it’s important to note “each ascension gift has a corresponding functional gift.” For instance, a certain accountant may not be called to serve as a prophet in a ministry setting (i.e. a liturgically designed ascension gift); however, he can still employ prophetic insight through encouragement and counsel in financial arenas (i.e. a vocationally designed ascension gift with specific communal functions). Of course, there may be times the accountant imparts guidance for church staff in critical situations. But the bottom line is: The man of God is at peace serving the body as a financial advisor with a prophetic anointing as opposed to a prophet with financial skills. 

Before I continue, I want to share a couple quick points on ‘vocation’ and how we’re to perceive it in light of our identity:

1. Gifts and vocations are NOT meant to soothe your ego or confirm your identity. If you base ‘who you are’ by ‘what you’ve been given’, you’ll reinforce territorialism in place of influence. Don’t do it!

2. Gifts and vocations are meant to enhance a sense of intimacy. If you base ‘what you’ve been given’ by ‘who you are’, you’ll reinforce a radical dependence on God and radical equality in how you view authority and hierarchy.

3. If we see ourselves as ‘Kingdom agents’, then we’ll a) desire to use our vocation to emphasize the work cultures that already point to Jesus (i.e. redeem our work environment) and b) seek to give clients and colleagues a taste of God by ‘calling forth their destinies’ (i.e. restore people).

4. If we don’t see ourselves as ‘Kingdom agents’, not only will we risk compartmentalizing our sacred and secular lives, but we will also miss opportunities to help people discern spiritual things with their natural minds.

5. Remember we’re all co-equal in value, diverse in function. Therefore, let’s engage our vocation as a holy partnership in influencing people to discover the fruit of their work/organization and in speaking restoration to people without agenda.

Looking ahead to ‘part 2’, I want to revisit William’s quote to help bridge the gap between Ephesians 4 and Romans 12.

‘Cause truth is: If we’re to better understand the relationship between gift and function within our vocation, we’ll need to apply additional grids and principles.

*Cough, Jethro. Cough, perichoresis. Cough*

Additionally, we’ll also need to add ‘elders’ and ‘deacons’ to the pastoral cluster so we can match 7 gifts with 7 functions. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

For now, I hope you were able to glean something out of this introduction. If you have any thoughts or questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or contact me at your convenience.

Until then, God speed on your week. May His sweet presence be fresh wind in your sails as you press into His goodness.

You got this!

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Fast Company; body graphic creds: Msinop; content written by Cameron & Steve Fry; audio voiced by Steve Fry at the 2020 Commission U Leadership Retreat on February 29, 2020

7 Ways to Be Alive in Christ at Work

Scratch notes/commentary from my latest run through Ephesians 2

1. v. 1-4 – We have every reason to be humble given we’re all blind/once blind as students of worldly systems (hence, ‘course’ in v. 2). As Paul suggests in Colossians 2, these systems operate out of fear and independence, not disobedience. Therefore, it’s worth noting many who are lost won’t immediately see the rebellion of what they’re doing. For those who are saved and now see, we need to focus on what the lost may be able to see first and fears are things all of us can relate to.

2. v. 5 – We’ve been made alive together with Christ so we could ultimately experience life in Christ. We should want to be like Christ not only to model our faith, but so those around us can get as close to a ‘with Christ‘ experience as possible. Our job isn’t to get people in Christ; rather, as we’ll see later in this passage, we’ve been saved by grace to be Christ to people. The joys of fellowship, intimacy, stewardship, compassion we experience in community…this is part of the ‘with Christ’ experience we’re to engage. Put another way, our part in making Christ’s nature known is to be alive with the Christ in each other. In this way, the spirit of authentic community and non-worldly systems can be mutually embraced.

3. v. 10 – For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…that we should walk in them. It’s not by good works, but for good works. By grace, we have been redeemed not only from desires of the flesh, but also to reveal why good works exist to those who do them.

4. v. 13 – Those who are in nearness with Christ should bridge nearness for others. Not only does this reference the Cross, but it’s also another way of rethinking the ministry of reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5).

5. v. 14-15 – Are we breaking down hostilities in our peace-making efforts? Are we allowing Christ to be our peace in the first place? If not, our desire to see unity in community will be hindered. Sometimes, to be a peacemaker we have to focus not only on the internal compromises (i.e. the excuses we make for not doing good), but also the things that keep us from being consistent…from being courageous…from walking in victory in uncharted territory. As Paul often notes in his letters, the law/ordinances not only represented an old way of doing things, but epitomized religion in a new age. Applied to our present, it’s worth asking, ‘Are we tolerating old ways in our life, even if they were once good, by resisting the new way…the new thing…the new work God wants to do?” Post Cross, Christ’s ministry of reconciliation manifests when community intersects sanctification (becoming more like Christ, walking in greater righteousness, holiness made contagious and experienced in koinonia, etc.). As such, both elements should be constantly maturing in our lives.

6. v. 19 – As saints, let the rights of our citizenship not only be self-evident, but contagious and attractive to others. By rights, I’m not suggesting we be entitled, but that we realize we’re no longer foreigners. We are all designed to be a part of God’s family. Accordingly, we should see all people as potential family members in faith.

7. v. 20-22 – It’s easy for those in Christ to accept their corporate identity as the collective body of Christ. But we are also the body in Christ and because of this we shouldn’t see ourselves as individual temples only, but as part of one sacred, sanctified structure coming together, continuing to grow as more come into fellowship…into the presence of God. Put another way, being built up in Christ, with Christ should not be individualized with eternity in mind. Yes, there’s an individual component, but its part in the grand scheme unfolding should not be ignored.

Bottom line: We are made alive in Christ to live life with Christ. His will at the core of our being, let what we believe translate into what we do so the way to God for others can be direct and perceived as good.

Cover photo creds: Cross Life Church