For the past five weeks, we’ve run a series on vocation. This series was first developed by the Graduate and Faculty Ministry team in the Ohio Valley and we thank that team and the overall editor Robin Capcara for allowing us to post this wonderful resource. In this post we are providing links for each of the five articles in the series to make it easier for individuals and groups to use. Each post includes discussion questions. We are also including Robin’s Introduction, Afterword, and Resources for Further Reading
The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.
–St. Catherine of Siena
Christians in advanced degree programs and those engaged in teaching and doing research have probably already figured out, to a certain extent, what to do with their lives. But some (maybe many) have found themselves in academia simply because it seemed the next logical place to go. Many were bright, good students, and perhaps were encouraged by their teachers to keep going and pursue that next degree. The question of God in all of this has not necessarily come up. It may even seem odd that God would have an opinion about one’s career choice. And yet the nagging questions linger in the back of our minds: Where is God in all this? Has He called me to this work? Or does He have something else for me? And how would I know anyway?
Even for those who are sure that God has called them to academia, other questions arise: Now what? What does God want me to do with my degree program or my university position? How is He calling me to serve Him at the university, in my research and teaching, or in my chosen field?
The authors of this resource all work with graduate students and faculty through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Graduate and Faculty Ministries. We have all observed the questions and concerns grad students and professors bring to their work. This resource is designed to help Christian graduate students and faculty engage with these questions and explore the connections between our work and the God we love and serve. Let us explore together the ancient Christian notion of vocatio, vocation/calling, and see what the Lord has for us.
Robin Capcara, Editor
 Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, by Frederick Buechner, Harper & Row: New York, 1973, p. 95.
A common paraphrase from the original, “If you are what you ought to be, you will light a fire not only there but in all of Italy.” Suzanne Noffke, Letters of Catherine of Siena, 4:319-20 and adapted quote 4:320; as cited by Laura R. Dejmek in Setting the World on Fire: Lay Dominican Preachers as Grace in the World, Gift for the Church, Wipf & Stock: Eugene, OR, 2014.
- What is Vocation? This article by Robin Capcara traces the idea of vocation through scripture and church history.
- Work and the Missio Dei. Bob Trube (formerly Senior Area Director for the GFM Ohio Valley Team), explores how we may think about our work against the backdrop of God’s purposes and God’s work, or mission, in the world.
- Work as Service for the Common Good. Kathy McCready, GFM staff in Pittsburgh writes about connecting our gifts, skills, passions, and the needs of the world.
- A Calling to Life and Not Just Work. Jamie Noyd directs our attention to the multiple callings upon our lives reflecting our different roles. But how might we live a seamless rather than fragmented and frazzled life pursuing these multiple callings? It comes in understanding the greater story within which we live.
- Discerning the Work to Which God is Calling Me. Jeremy Hatfield explores the whole matter of discernment–our gifted passions, the world’s needs, and how we listen to God as we make specific choices about our work.
Remember that whatever God calls you to, He will provide everything you need to carry out that calling. As William Cowper, the eighteenth-century poet and hymn writer has said:
"...Great offices will have Great talents. And God gives to ev'ry man The virtue, temper, understanding, taste, That lifts him into life; and lets him fall Just in the niche he was ordain'd to fill. To the deliv'rer of an injur'd land He gives a tongue t' enlarge upon, an heart To feel, and courage to redress her wrongs; To monarchs dignity, to judges sense; To artists ingenuity and skill.”
Trust Him and follow where he leads.
Robin Capcara, Editor
FOR FURTHER READING
Called to the Life of the Mind: Some Advice for Evangelical Scholars, Richard J. Mouw, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2014.
“Calling & Vocation: Overview”, Theology of Work Project, https://www.theologyofwork.org/key-topics/vocation-overview-article#toc
Callings: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation, William C. Placher, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2005.
Courage and Calling: Embracing Your God-Given Potential, Gordon T. Smith, IVP: Downers Grove, IL, 2011.
Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living, Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2002.
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, Timothy Keller, Penguin Books: 2014.
Finding A Job You Can Love, Ralph T. Mattson and Arthur F. Miller Jr., P & R Publishing: Phillipsburg, NJ, 1999.
For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church, N.T. Wright, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2014.
Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good, Amy L. Sherman, IVP: Downers Grove, IL, 2011.
The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life, Os Guinness, Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 2003.
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, Parker J. Palmer, Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, 2000.
Listening to God in Times of Choice: The Art of Discerning God’s Will, Gordon T. Smith, IVP: Downers Grove, IL, 1997.
The Fabric of This World: Inquiries into Calling, Career Choice, and the Design of Human Work, Lee Hardy, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1990.
The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective, R. Paul Stephens, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2000.
The Way of Discernment: Spiritual Practices for Decision Making, Elizabeth Liebert, Westminster John Knox: Louisville, KY, 2008.
Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good, Steven Garber, IVP: Downers Grove, IL, 2014.
What Am I Supposed to Do with My Life? Asking the Right Questions, Douglas J. Brouwer, Eerdman’s: Grand Rapids, 2006.
What Color Is Your Parachute? 2020 A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers, Richard N. Bolles, Ten Speed Press: Berkley, CA, 2020.
Work in the Spirit: Toward a Theology of Work, Miroslav Wolf, Wipf & Stock: Eugene, OR, 2001.
Gordon T. Smith: Vocational Discernment
Gordon T. Smith – Vocational Discernment: A Biblical Theology of Work
Gordon T. Smith – Vocational Discernment: Know Yourself
Gordon T. Smith – Vocational Discernment: Having an Accurate Read of Your Circumstances
Gordon T. Smith – Discerning Constraints (Real or Assumed) in Vocation
Your Job Is a Parable Spoken By Christ by John Van Sloten https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4R5UEHJNjA0
- SIMA MAP (System for Identifying Motivated Abilities, Motivated Abilities Pattern) http://simainternational.com/powered-by-sima/
RM Wellock & Associates, Coaching, Rick Wellock, Associate Member; Ligonier, Pennsylvania
- MCORE (Motivational Core) https://motivationalcore.com/
- Theology of Work Project https://www.theologyofwork.org/
- Vocational Stewardship.org http://www.vocationalstewardship.org/
- The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture https://washingtoninst.org
 William Cowper, The Task, “The Winter Evening,” lines 788-797, 1785.
About the author:
Robin Capcara has worked in university and church-based ministry for forty years. She currently serves with InterVarsity Faculty Ministry in Pittsburgh, ministering to professors at Carnegie Mellon, Pitt, and Duquesne universities and as a spiritual director in private practice. She holds a M.A. in Higher Education from Geneva College and studied at Trinity School for Ministry (Anglican.)