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030 Meaning, Calling, Happiness. The Os Guinness Interview

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Does everyone have a ‘calling’ in life, or just a select few? How does calling relate to our everyday work? Can you miss your calling? How do you discover it? Os Guinness is a writer and speaker with over twenty books to his name. He lectures at universities around the world and can be found on influential platforms most weeks. One of his most insightful books is The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life, and in this interview you’ll hear him discuss the idea and how it relates to your meaning and happiness.

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In the Interview

Question: What do you think of Os’s ideas? What resonates with you? What doesn’t? Tell me now

This year I’m exploring the idea of calling on this blog and podcast, and I’ve been itching to share this interview with Os Guinness with you. The conversation is only a primer on calling, but should give you a starting point for discovering your own life calling.

Here’s a partial transcript of the conversation. There’s plenty more in the podcast.

SV: Does everyone have a calling in life?

OG: Absolutely. The trouble is, of course, that people who are not people of faith are called by God but they don’t respond to that call. Whereas the trouble with Christians is they are all called but many just reserve the word for things that are spiritual, like being called to the mission field or being called to be a minister. The Biblical notion is that all of us everywhere in all we do have a calling.

How does that relate to the work we do on a day to day basis?

Our calling is the whole of our life, because Christ is the Lord of the whole of life. We are called to know him and to make him Lord in every inch of our lives and the greatest part of our life is spent in our jobs. So our jobs must be a part of our calling.

Could we miss our calling by doing a different job than we’re supposed to do?

We should think through the notion of calling before we choose our jobs and even before we choose our career. The trouble is a lot of people choose their job and career and then try and fit the notion of calling in afterwards. Calling in essence is really doing what you are, so the heart of it is recognising the gifts that God has given us and then choosing a paid position that fits the gifts God has given us. Calling precedes our job and career.

So how does somebody begin to work out what their calling might be?

We have got to start as Christians with good teaching and break the grip of this dualistic idea that the spiritual is higher than the secular. Once good teaching is in place, Biblically speaking, each person needs to then consider the gifts God has given them. I don’t mean spiritual gifts; many churches do testing for spiritual gifts. I mean natural gifts too.

How does living in a globalised world help or hinder our search for meaning, for a calling, and a sense of place in the world?

Thinking locally is the key. In other words, you or I or anyone else can’t possibly be responsible for the whole world. We can each be responsible to our sphere of influence, which is our calling. As I often put it, calling is like a bulls eye—we live in the black centre, however we can travel and do lots of things. The furthest reach we can go is our prayers. We can pray for people that we would never meet or countries that wouldn’t allow us in or couldn’t afford the plane ticket to. But at the end of the day our circles of influence are small and that’s a mercy. We are only responsible for our callings and we fulfil those every day and then sleep at night knowing we have done our calling and the Lord is the Lord of all.

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  1. I am planning a Resurrection Year speaking tour through the US in October, and will be speaking throughout the UK also, including at Spring Harvest. If you’d like me to speak at your conference or event please get in touch soon.

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Question: What do you think? Is a local focus key to your calling? Tell me now

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  • Julian

    I wonder if the majority world for whom daily life is about putting food on the table talk about ‘calling’ the way that western Christians do.

    • That is a very good question, Julian. The same goes for previous generations in the west too. Were our grandparents thinking about calling the way we do, or just getting on with plowing the farm or working in the factory to earn a living, or fighting in the war?

      However, those generations had a greater sense of community and their role in it, and (like many majority world cultures) a greater sense of faith/spirituality – all of which leads to a greater context to interpret your life within. A question I want to explore in the future is just what this calling constitutes – how broad or specific it really is – from a Christian perspective. My sense is that our callings are a little broader than we’ve realised. And this may fit well with both the majority world and previous generation’s sense of the word.