It is generally agreed among Protestants that God calls all people to vocations in the world. While there are many understandings of what that involves, the central premise that human beings are useful to God’s work and purposes in the world is something most agree on.
In the tradition in which I live and work, vocation is understood as a call to the baptized to live out their lives furthering the work God has started in Jesus. While all human beings are useful to God by virtue of their humanity, Christians are called to a more particular awareness of their vocation as being connected to the work of Christ and their identity as part of Christ’s church.
Within this, there are generally offered four arenas in which the baptized are called to live out this calling. These include the church, their work (occupational and/or volunteer), their households, and their civic life in the community as neighbor. Each person should discern how God wants to use them in each of these aspects of their lives.
But what if we rethink this a bit?
If the church is people (which it is), then those of us are the church don’t become church when we do “church” work and become something else when we do other things. The church is NOT an arena but an identity. Rather than thinking about church as one role within our lives, we need to think of church as the community of Christ from which we are sent, equipping and empowering us for the work of ministry in God’s mission wherever we find ourselves.
That means the time we spend together needs to be well focused. It needs to help us encounter God and equip and send us forth for God’s work in the world. Rather than seeing church as one arena among four, we need to see the church as the one place that is called to help us be effective Christians in the other three arenas. A church that gets people involved but doesn’t help them do better work in their families, communities and jobs is not doing the primary work that it is called to do. But a church that doesn’t see itself as a compartment in life, but as an integrating point for a faithful life, will help God do amazing things in the lives of its people.