Discipleship is central to the life and mission of the church. Jesus commanded His apostles, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Many churches pay lip service to the importance of discipleship. But few offer a compelling picture of what it looks like. Discipleship is reduced to practicing spiritual disciplines or attending church programs. Or it is bypassed altogether in an attempt to attract the unchurched.
This causes many Christians to compartmentalize their faith. They put their relationship with God in a separate compartment from the rest of their life. Other compartments include family, career, hobbies, etc. They divide their life into different areas instead of viewing it as an integrated whole.
We desperately need to rediscover a sense of God’s calling. Paul tells us, “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1). This is not a call to hide our faith in a religious compartment. Rather, it is a call to submit every area of our lives to Jesus’ lordship.
Martin Luther battled compartmentalization as well. The church of his day encouraged people to be holy by becoming a monk or priest. Candidates renounced marriage, secular work, and civil obedience. Basically, they put their entire life into the religious compartment of the church.
In response, Luther developed the idea of God’s calling into a doctrine of vocation. Typically we equate our vocation with profession; in other words, our vocation is our job. But the word comes from the Latin vocare, “to call.” So our vocation is whatever God calls us to do.
Luther believed vocations are masks God wears. He cares for us by hiding Himself behind ordinary people. For example, He feeds us through farmers; He provides for us through parents; He rules us through governing officials; He educates us through teachers; He heals us through doctors; and so on.
Your vocation is whatever station God assigns you in life. This includes not only your job, but your position in your family, community, church, and the world. He doesn’t expect you to separate yourself from non-religious parts of life like a medieval monk. Rather, He expects you to serve and submit to Him in those parts too.
Because here’s the thing – God cares about the people in your life. And He wants to care for them through you. Discipleship permeates every part of life because God always wants to work through you in some way. He wants to care for others through you, just as He cares for you through others.
The rest of Ephesians bears out this truth. Paul goes on in chapters 4 – 6 to explain how to treat other believers, serve the church, and maintain personal holiness; how to treat our spouses and children; how to relate to our bosses and employees; and in all this, how to resist Satan’s schemes.
By doing so, he leaves no area of life untouched by God’s calling. The mature Christian does not compartmentalize. Discipleship is not simply going to church or having a regular “quiet time”; it is the process of answering God’s call in every area of our lives.
What calling has God placed on your life? How is He caring for others through you? Share your thoughts with a comment below!