Vocation, Ministry and Mission
The concern that this chapter attempts to address is probably best illustrated by a story. It is the story of Ted Peck. It is narrated by his son:
My father was a coal miner in Australia. He worked in that industry for nearly forty years. During that whole time he was also a devout Christian, and for most of that time he was a deacon in our local Baptist church. There is no doubt that he brought to bear upon his life in the mines the Christian faith that he professed. He did not hesitate to testify to Christ, and in all kinds of ways his commitment to the gospel made him an influence for good in day-by-day situations, in special circumstances (such as his role in the Mines Rescue Brigade), and in the industry itself throughout the district where we lived. But my father always had within him a secret disappointment: He wanted to be a minister. He certainly was a preacher (for at least three different denominations) and a Sunday church school teacher. He was a leader in his local congregation at several important points in time. He helped raise a Christian family (his two sons were ordained and his daughter became a missionary). But as far as he was aware, and as far as his church led him to believe, he was never able to fulfill the one desire that had often been uppermost in his mind. Lacking the education and the opportunity, he had never been able to become a minister ... I became a minister; he did not. He found fulfillment by proxy in my vocation, but he remained a coal miner and, as such, just an “ordinary” Christian.
One of the things that my recent journey has done for me has been to make me seriously dissatisfied with this evaluation of who and what my father was. He lived as a Christian where God had placed him. He made a significant impact on his environment as a servant of Christ. On many occasions he took stands and pursued courses of action because he was convinced they were required of him as a Christian. He ministered, if anyone did, to individuals, to the structures of his society, to his community. In places to which I as an ordained person could not have gained access, he was present in Christ’s name, and he bore witness. The neighbourhood, the organizations, the mines of our region were better because Ted Peck lived and worked there and was not afraid to minister the gospel.
Yet neither he nor his church ever thought of him as a minister or of his service as ministry. He was not acknowledged in that way; he was not specifically trained for such a task; he was not explicitly supported in what he did; he was not commissioned; he was not held accountable. Those things all happened, by the grace of God, but neither he nor his church ever brought them to consciousness or developed the programs and structures that might have made him feel throughout his life and at its end that he had, indeed, attained the status and fulfilled the function for which he had longed. He ministered without ever being able to say with clarity, “I am a minister of Christ.” (Peck 1984: 13-14)
In the discussions of vocation that we have surveyed so far, seldom has the concept of the vocation of the laity in the world been directly related to discussion of the doctrines of ministry or mission. This is not to suggest that no links are made, but rarely are these links explored at any depth. Heiges’ examination of ‘vocation as ministry’ is an exception (Heiges 1984: 81-104). This does seem surprising on at least two counts. Firstly, we might expect stronger links because the development of the concepts of ministry and mission has in many respects paralleled the development of the concept of vocation. That is to say, mission and ministry have been traditionally related to the work of specially called and ordained groups of people within the Church, identifed as missionaries or ministers. These were commonly perceived to be ‘spiritual’ roles within the Church as distinct from the secular roles that necessity demands most Christians invest most of their time and energy in outside the Church. Hence, traditionally it has been difficult to discern the real connection between the daily work of most Christians and the ministry and mission of the Church.
But recent theologies of mission and ministry do recognise the mission and ministry of the whole people of God. And they also recognise that for most of the laity most of the time and energy they invest in this mission and ministry will be in the context of their daily lives in the world rather than the Church.
Secondly, it is surprising that this connection has not been developed at more length recently, because almost 40 years ago Hendrik Kraemer in his pioneering work on A Theology of the Laity insisted that two essential ingredients in developing a theology of the laity must be a rediscovery of the missionary calling of the laity and the understanding that all Christians are diakonoi, ministers, called to a ministry (Kraemer 1958: 131-155). Kraemer went on to underline the close connection between the mission and ministry of the laity and their every day work in the world.
To explore how these concepts of ministry, mission and daily work might be linked in a re-statement of the doctrine of vocation we now go on to look at three recent documents which examine ecumenical understandings of mission and ministry.
BAPTISM, EUCHARIST AND MINISTRY
The 1982 Lima text of the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry report of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches is the end product of more than 50 years work by the Commission and ‘represents the significant theological convergence which Faith and Order has discerned and formulated (WCC 1982a: ix)’. It is the most widely based ecumenical pronouncement on the subject of ministry, especially as the Commission includes among its full members theologians of Roman Catholic and other Churches which do not belong to the WCC itself.
The Lima text begins its discussion of ministry by emphasising the significance of ‘The Calling of the Whole People of God (WCC 1982a: 20)’. It then quickly moves its focus to discuss ordained ministry, but still acknowledges that, ‘the word ministry in its broadest sense denotes the service to which the whole people of God is called, whether as individuals, as a local community, or as the universal Church (WCC 1982a: 21)’. It is clear that the churches agree in their general understanding of the calling of the people of God. It is also clear that differences still exist concerning the place and forms of the ‘ordained ministry’ which is what the Lima text goes on to to discuss in detail. But what is significant for our purposes is the shared recognition that ‘as they engage in the effort to overcome these differences, the Churches need to work from the perspective of the calling of the whole people of God (WCC 1982a: 20)’. Hence what is emphasised is that the ministry of the whole people of God is the living context for the service of the ordained ministry. No longer is ministry just the preserve of a special class within the Church. Every Christian is a minister. And ministry applies to our service in the world as well as in the Church. There is a dual calling for Christians. A calling out of the world to form one family of people under God. And a calling back into the world to serve a needy world in God’s name. Everyone is called to participate in this service. It is from the ministry of Jesus that all ministry derives and on it all ministry is patterned. Ministry is from Christ to the world through the Spirit.
The Church is called to proclaim and prefigure the Kingdom of God. Living in communion with God, all members of the Church are called to confess their faith and to give account of their hope. They are to identify with the joys and sufferings of all people as they seek to witness in caring love. The members of Christ’s body are to struggle with the oppressed towards that freedom and dignity promised with the coming of the Kingdom. This mission needs to be carried out in varying political, social and cultural contexts. In order to fulfill this mission faithfully, they will seek relevant forms of witness and service in each situation. In so doing they bring to the world a foretaste of the joy and glory of God’s Kingdom. (WCC 1982a: 20)
When the document says,’The Holy Spirit bestows on the whole people of God diverse and complementary gifts for acts of service within the community and to the world. Hence all members are called to discover, with the help of the community, the gifts they have received and use them for the building up of the Church and for the service of the world to which the Church is sent (WCC 1982a: 20)’, a clear foundation is laid for connecting ministry, calling and daily work in the world. Although the Lima text does not set about exploring these implications itself.
DAVID BOSCH - TRANSFORMING MISSION
Another bold, although individual, attempt to give expression to the emerging ecumenical consensus is made by David Bosch in his book Transforming Mission (1991). Bosch attempts to identify and describe common themes in what he sees is a convergence of thinking about mission coming from different streams of contemporary Christianity. One of the thirteen major elements in Bosch’s ‘emerging ecumenical missionary paradigm’ is ‘Mission as Ministry by the Whole People of God’ (Bosch 1991: 467-473).
Bosch maintains that ‘the movement away from ministry as the monopoly of ordained men to ministry as the responsibility of the whole people of God, ordained as well as non-ordained, is one of the most dramatic shifts taking place in the Church today (Bosch 1991: 467)’. He also quotes Moltmann: ‘Christian theology will in the future become more and more a practical and political theology. It will no longer simply be a theology for priests and pastors, but also a theology for the laity in their callings in the world ... it will be directed not only toward divine service in the church, but also toward divine service in the every day life of the world (Moltmann 1975: 11; Bosch 1991: 467).
According to Bosch the missionary societies of the Church have been influential in fostering the rediscovery of the ‘apostolate of the laity’ and the ‘priesthood of all believers’. Catholic missions have always had a significant lay involvement although firmly under the jurisdiction of the clergy. Protestant missions were from the beginning largely a lay movement, and a movement in which women were often in the majority and able to assume leadership positions not open to them elsewhere in their home churches . After World War II it seems the ‘home front’ slowly began to catch up and both Catholics and Protestants rediscovered that apostolicity is an attribute of the entire church and the role of the laity is central, especially with respect to the church’s missionary calling:
an unmistakable shift is taking place. Lay persons are no longer just the scouts who are returning from the outside world with eyewitness accounts ... to report to the "operational bases"; they are the operational bases from which the Missio Dei proceeds. It is, in fact, not they who have to "accompany" those who hold "special offices" in the latter’s mission in the world. Rather, it is the office bearers who have to accompany the laity, the people of God. (Bosch 1991: 472)
It is the community which is the primary bearer of mission: ‘mission does not proceed primarily from the Pope, nor from a missionary order, society or synod, but from a community gathered around the word and sacraments and sent into the world (Bosch 1991: 472)’.
Bosch also argues that, if the entire life of the church is missionary, then it follows that we desperately need a theology of the laity - something of which only the first rudiments are emerging: ‘Their ministry (or perhaps we should say their "service", for "ministry" has become to be such a churchy word) is offered in the form of the ongoing life of the Christian community in shops, villages, farms, cities, classrooms, homes, law offices, in counselling, politics, state craft and recreation (Bosch 1991: 473)’. Bosch echoes Lesslie Newbigin’s concern: ‘the priesthood of the ordained ministry is to enable, not to remove, the priesthood of the whole church (Newbigin 1987: 30; Bosch 1991: 473)’.
Other elements in Bosch’s emerging ecumenical missionary paradigm also provide important theological foundations for understanding the significance of the every day working lives of the laity from God’s perspective. These include:
1. ‘Mission as the Church-With-Others’ (Bosch 1991: 368-389).
Under this heading Bosch explores different understandings of the relationship between the Kingdom, the Church and the world. He notes the convergence of Catholic and conciliar Protestant views on the inescapable connection between the Church and world, as well as a recognition of God’s activities in the world outside the Church (eg. Evangelii Nuntiandi [Paul VI 1976] and Mission and Evangelism [WCC 1982b]). The church is missionary by its very nature. It is both ‘called out’ of the world and sent back into the world as a pilgrim church. Its members are equipped for their calling in society. The church is called to be a sacrament, sign and instrument of the Kingdom in the world. This double calling which requires both gathering and dispersing, separation and identification, demands a dual orientation and willingness to embrace a ‘redemptive tension’ which is difficult to maintain.
The church must be involved in the world and its membership engaged in every aspect of life. Yet at the same time, since it is an eschatological community, the church cannot commit itself without reservation to any social, political or economic project. The church exists only as an organic and integral part of the human community and yet at the same time seeks its identity in, and shapes its life according to, its vision of the Kingdom of God: ‘The church is both a theological and sociological entity, an inseparable union of the divine and dusty (Bosch 1991: 389)’. Bosch provides us with a warning that it is dangerous either to separate our vocation from our work or to completely identify our vocation with our work. And certainly a warning about the danger of identifying our vocation completely with our employment. Our vocation is a calling to participate in a mission much bigger than just our job. But it should nevertheless include our job.
2. ‘Mission as Missio Dei’ (Bosch 1991: 389-393).
Our mission has no life of its own but is our participation in the movement of God’s love toward people. And since God’s concern is for the entire world, this should also be the scope for the Missio Dei. It affects all people in all aspects of their existence. Mission is God’s turning to the world in respect of creation, care, redemption and consummation. It takes place in ordinary human history, not exclusively in and through the church. The Missio Dei is God’s activity, which embraces both the church and the world, and in which the church may be privileged to participate. Clearly this understanding of mission as Missio Dei is related to the understanding of vocation and daily work as co-creation, service and justice making.
3. ‘Mission as Mediating Salvation’ (Bosch 1991: 393-400).
Recent developments in the interpretation of salvation have challenged the tradition which has tended to limit salvation to the individual and their personal relationship with God:
hatred, injustice, oppression, war and other forms of violence are manifestations of evil; concern for humaneness, for the conquering of famine, illness, and meaninglessness is part of the salvation for which we hope and labour. Christians pray that the reign of God should come and God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Mt.6:10); it follows from this that the earth is the locus of the Christian’s calling and sanctification. (Bosch 1991: 397)
Of course this understanding gives rise to a tension. Salvation and well-being do not coincide completely, even if they are closely interlocked. The Christian faith is still a critical factor, the reign of God a critical category and the Christian gospel not identical with the agenda of modern emancipation and liberation movements. We do not claim that final salvation will be wrought by human hands, not even by Christian hands. It is dangerous for Christians to identify any particular project with the fullness of the reign of God. Instead we are called to erect bridgeheads for the reign of God. For we still hold on to the transcendent character of salvation and to the need of calling people to faith in God through Christ. Nevertheless, the integral character of salvation demands that the scope of the church’s mission be more comprehensive than has traditionally been the case.
So we must affirm that redemption is never salvation ‘out of the world’ but always salvation ‘of this world’. Salvation in Christ is salvation in the context of human society en route to a whole and healed world. This is why in missionary circles today numerous attempts have been made to overcome the inherent dualism of past models of salvation in the search for an approach which emphasises the purpose of mission as the mediating of ‘comprehensive’, ‘integral’, ‘total’, or ‘universal’ salvation: ‘there is a strong desire to find a way beyond every schizophrenic position and minister to people in their total need, that we should involve individual as well as society, soul and body, present and future in our ministry of salvation (Bosch 1991: 399)’. Bosch concludes:
salvation is as coherent, broad, and deep as the needs and exigencies of human existance. Mission therefore means being involved in the ongoing dialogue between God, who offers his salvation, and the world, which - emmeshed in all kinds of evil - craves that salvation ... those who know that God will one day wipe away all tears will not accept with resignation the tears of those who suffer and are oppressed now. Anyone who knows that one day there will be no more disease can and must actively anticipate the conquest of disease in individuals and society now. And anyone who believes that the enemy of God and humans will be vanquished will already oppose him now in his machinations in family and society. For all this has to do with salvation. (Bosch 1991: 400)
4. ‘Mission and the Quest for Justice’ (Bosch 1991: 400-408)
Bosch recognises that in the words of the Wheaton ‘83 Statement, ‘evil is not only in the human heart but also in the social structures ... the mission of the church includes both the proclamation of the Gospel and its demonstration. We must therefore evangelise, respond to immediate human needs, and press for social transformation (Wheaton ‘83 Statement: para.26 in Samuel and Sugden 1987)’. Mission is the church sent into the world to love, to serve, to preach, to teach, to heal, to liberate. These elements are part of our Christian calling and designed to be expressed through our daily work.
5. ‘Mission as Evangelism’ (Bosch 1991: 409-420).
Bosch emphasises that evangelism is not only an important part of mission, but it is also calling people to mission. An evangelistic invitation ‘will include a call to join the living Lord in the work of his kingdom. It will direct attention to the aspirations of ordinary men and women in society, their dreams of justice, security, full stomachs, human dignity, and opportunities for their children. It will forthrightly name the "principalities and powers" opposed to the Kingdom (Scott 1980: 212)’. This is also part of our daily work.
6. ‘Mission as Liberation’ (Bosch 1991: 432-447)
Bosch asserts that solidarity with the poor and oppressed is a central and crucial priority in Christian mission. How our life and work impacts on the life of the poor is not just a social ethical question, it is a gospel question. To recognise God’s preferential option for the poor does not preclude God’s love for the non-poor. In their case, however, a different kind of conversion is called for, which includes admitting complicity in the oppression of the poor, and a turning from the idols of money, race and self-interest. As Moltmann says, ‘mission embraces all activities that serve to liberate ... from slavery in the presence of the coming God, slavery which extends from economic necessity to God forsakenness (Moltmann 1977: 10)’. The recognition of mission as liberation is a plea for Christianity to retain its counter-cultural and world-transforming role. It is to keep alive that vision which will direct our action within history. Indifference to this vision is a denial of the God who links his presence to the elimination of all exploitation, pain and poverty. As Bosch concludes:
we have to turn our backs resolutely on our traditional dualistic thinking, of setting up alternatives between the body and soul, society and the church, the eschaton and the present, and rekindle an all-embracing faith, hope and love in the ultimate triumph of God casting its rays into the present. (Bosch 1991: 447)
7. ‘Mission as Theology’ (Bosch 1991: 489-498).
The growing recognition during this century that mission is no longer merely an activity of the church, but an expression of the very being of the church has also resulted in a shift in thinking about theology. Originally the search was for a theology of mission. Now the quest is for a missionary theology. We are in need of a missiological agenda for theology rather than just a theological agenda for mission. Mission should be the theme for all theology. For when the church is perceived not primarily as being over against the world but rather as sent into the world and existing for the sake of the world, then mission is the primary subject theology has to deal with. Hence all theological questions should be examined from the point of view of the theology of mission; to widen our perspective to one of world concern.
Of course this also raises the question ‘who will do the theologising?’ Most of the theologies of work we have examined have been produced by academic theologians. But, if mission and ministry belong to the whole people of God, then surely all God’s people will need to be appropriately equipped for this challenge. Bosch talks about the need for a new level of partnership to grow between missiologists, missionaries and the people among whom they labour (Bosch 1991: 497). And although Bosch doesn’t elaborate on this, others do (see Chapter 5.1). Amirtham, for example, describes how in recent years we have been witnessing a new phenomenon. People are not only eager to learn theology. They are creating theology:
This is happening all over the world - in basic Christian communities, house church groups, parish Bible study groups and in rural and urban groups committed to promoting justice, peace, freedom and human dignity. Christians who have never had access to formal theology are learning afresh to relate faith to life, worship to work, prayer to action, and proclamation to protest in new creative ways. They discover in that process that they are doing theology, and that they need theology in their search for new forms of Christian obedience ... people need theology and, more particularly, theology needs people. (Amirtham and Pobee 1986: ix)
Clearly any theology of work that is going to preserve its vitality and wholeness needs the reflection of ordinary believers who are committed to Christian practice in their daily work. This insight and vision is embodied in the concept ‘theology by the people’. It seeks new ways of doing theology in community. It also seeks to see that a strong commitment to Christian social action becomes an integral concern of the theological enterprise. Hence any truly represenative theology of work will seek to connect the insights of academics with the real lived experience of people’s daily work at the ‘grassroots’.
It is the breadth of sources that Bosch surveys and his desire to work towards a synthesis of thinking from disparate streams of contemporary Christianity that make his contribution so valuable for our purposes. And it is striking how often the major elements in Bosch’s ‘emerging ecumenical missionary paradigm’, compiled for quite a different purpose, connect with themes of calling, ministry and mission as they relate to the faith and work issues that are the focus for our study.
Clearly developments in the theology of mission and ministry are beginning to take much more seriously the everyday calling of the whole people of God. At least in theory!
We have already noted in Chapter 2.7 how Vatican II gave expression to a new awareness of the central role of the laity in the church, particularly in respect to the church’s missionary calling: ‘The laity, by their very vocation, seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God (Paul VI 1964: section 31). The same document goes on: ‘the apostolate of the laity is a sharing in the salvific mission of the Church. Through Baptism and Confirmation all are appointed to this apostolate by the Lord himself ... the laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and active in those places and circumstances where only through them can she become the salt of the earth (Paul VI 1964: section 33)’. Section 34 of Lumen Gentium (hereafter LG) then goes far beyond any previous Papal document to explain how the laity participate in the prophetic, priestly and royal offices of Christ in their daily occupation. According to LG, the laity discharge these functions not only by contributing to the moral improvement of human kind through their involvement in secular affairs, but also by assisting the advance of culture and civilisation.
This marks a very significant shift in Catholic thinking. Previously the lay apostolate had been limited to the cooperation of the laity in apostolic tasks proper to the hierarchy. Now it is recognised that the laity have a certain freedom and autonomy within the secular sphere and terms such as apostolate, mission, vocation, calling and even priestly functions are related to the daily occupations of the laity in the world. This thinking had been pushed along by the earlier work of Yves Congar who had pressed for renewed understanding of the call and dignity of lay people (Congar 1957; 1960). It was developed through other documents from the Fathers of Vatican II, especially the Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity (Paul VI 1965c), the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Paul VI 1965b) and the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Paul VI 1965a). The latter document emphasises that Christ’s redemptive work involves not only the salvation of people, but also the renewal of the whole temporal order. The laity are urged to take on the renewal of the temporal order as their own special obligation. This temporal order includes
the good things of life and the prosperity of the family, culture, economic affairs, the arts and professions, political institutions, international relations ... as well as their development and progress ... it is the task of the whole church to labour vigorously so that men may become capable of constructing the temporal order rightly and erecting it to God through Christ. (Paul VI 1965a: section 7)
It is on this foundation that the encyclical Christifideles Laici (hereafter CL) (John Paul II 1989) builds. CL is focussed particularly on the vocation and the mission of the lay faithful in the Church and in the world. Hence we meet here a connection between vocation and mission and daily work.
The encyclical states that in the field of a ‘commonly shared’ lay vocation ‘special’ lay vocations flourish. Thus within the lay state diverse ‘vocations’ are given, that is, there are different paths in the spiritual life and the apostolate which are taken by individual members of the lay faithful (John Paul II 1989: 56). The prime and fundamental vocation assigned to the lay faithful is ‘the vocation to holiness that is the perfection of charity (John Paul II 1989: 16)’. This is the call to follow and imitate Christ and
neither family concerns nor other secular spheres should be excluded from their religious programme of life ... to respond to their vocation the lay faithful must see their daily activities an occasion to join themselves to God, fulfill His will, serve other people and lead them to communion with God in Christ. (John Paul II 1989: 17)
Aumann (1990) in his discussion of CL distinguishes between the concepts of vocation, apostolate and mission. Aumann maintains vocation is a broader concept than apostolate or mission, because the vocation or calling of every Christian is first and above all to strive for the perfection of charity, as Christ taught; to love the Lord their God with all their heart, mind and strength and secondly, to love their neighbour and to express this love through the corporal or spiritual works of mercy. Therefore,
the vocation to mission or apostolate should flow from one’s vocation to holiness ... hence although the terms "vocation" and "apostolate" are not interchangeable they are closely related since it is through the performance of their ordinary daily tasks that the faithful can most effectively strive for the perfection of charity and increase the intimacy of their union with God. (Aumann 1990: 104)
The apostolate is defined as any activity that promotes the mission that Christ gave to all the members of the Church: the redemption and sanctification of humankind. It is the sanctification of the world and the temporal order which is specific to the lay ‘apostolate’. Hence the lay apostolate is the role of the laity in the mission of the Church which is primarily and normally in the temporal order (Aumann 1990: 113). The word apostolate applies to any demonstrated activity by which the mission of the Church is promoted. Vatican documents are much more reluctant to use the word ‘ministry’ with relation to the life of the laity in the world. Ministry signifies primarily those functions which normally belong to the clergy; ministry of the word and ministry of the sacraments. ‘Lay ministries’ refer to special cases of lay participation in the priestly and prophetic functions of the clergy such as preaching, teaching, liturgy or administering the sacraments. While in Protestant circles the distinction is drawn between the ministry of the laity (which includes the clergy) and the ordained ministry, in Catholic circles the distinction is drawn between the apostolate of the laity (which does not include those who are in holy orders) and the ministry of those who are in holy orders, the ministerial priesthood. Thus in official Catholic thinking while the word ministry is not generally applied to the life of the laity in the world, the vocation, mission and apostolate of the laity are closely related to the daily work of the Christian in the world. And although these concepts are subtly differentiated they are also closely intertwined.
The overall thrust of CL is to push for the recognition that the fundamental objective of the formation of the lay faithful is an ever-clearer discovery of one’s vocation and the ever-greater willingness to live it so as to fulfil one’s mission. It is asserted that ‘this personal vocation and mission defines the dignity and responsibility of each member of the lay faithful’. It is also recognised that ‘in the life of each member of the lay faithful there are particularly significant and decisive moments for discerning God’s call and embracing the mission entrusted by Him (John Paul II 1989: section 58)’. It is for this reason that the last section of the encyclical is devoted to exploring the process of the formation of the lay faithful with particular emphasis on the importance of helping adolescents and young adults discover and live their vocation and mission in the context of their work in the world.
The disappointment that Ted Peck lived with, that we highlighted at the beginning of this chapter, arose because his view of ministry was never big enough to embrace his own very effective ministry. And his church never challenged, nor worked to expand, that view.
Because the church so often defines what it counts important in terms of mission and ministry, it is essential to understand the relationship between these and the vocation and daily work of the people of God. This is easily done in theory, because the theology of most major Christian groups has been moving in this direction for some time. It is not a matter of diminishing the status of the work of the clergy, but rather enhancing the status of the everyday work of the laity.
Both Catholic and Protestant understandings have moved a long way in this direction. And although some subtle differences still exist in terminology, it is the close convergence of understandings that is most remarkable. While significant denominational differences still exist when it comes to defining the leadership roles lay people may assume in the church, when it comes to the vocation of the laity in the world and the work place, there is amazing unanimity.
It is recognised that most of the laity will invest most of their lives, either consciously or unconsciously, in service in and to the world outside church structures. Their vocation is to seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the purposes of God. At the same time as these developments have taken place the missionary nature of the church has also been rediscovered. The church’s call is to mobilise all its members in mission; to equip and support them for active participation in God’s mission in the world. Daily work is an important sphere through which this mission is furthered. Thus the vocation of the laity expressed through their daily work is a participation in the ministry of Jesus Christ and the mission of God.
It is most encouraging to see an ecumenical consensus emerging which establishes such clear connection between vocation, ministry, mission and daily work. The important need that we identified in Chapter Three for a theological framework that connects faith and everyday life has been addressed. It still needs to be expressed in more compelling and more popular forms. But much of the homework has been done.
The only other problem is that this theoretical understanding has usually proceeded much further and faster than the practice of the churches. But we will pick up this point when we examine the shape of church life in Chapter Five.