Vocation vs. Occupation

2015 Redeeming Work Conference - Portland

What is the difference between vocation and occupation? In this 25-minute session from the 2015 Redeeming Work Conference in Portland, author and pastor AJ Sherrill defines vocation and shares three ways pastors and church leaders can safeguard congregants from considering work their worth.

AJ serves as Parish Pastor of Trinity Grace Church in Chelsea, New York. He is also the author of Quiet: Hearing God Amidst the Noise and Urban Disciple: Following Jesus through the Gospel of Matthew. 

How has work shaped culture? When are you tempted to make your work and achievements the most important thing in your life?
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AJ quoted Steven Garber who said, “The word vocation is a rich one, having to address the wholeness of life, the range of relationships and responsibilities. Work yes, but also families and neighbors and citizens, locally and globally…that to which I am called as a human being.” 

What are you called to as a human being? How does this definition help you reframe what vocation looks like in your life? How might a theology of vocation impact your church, from business professionals to stay-at-home moms to blue-collar workers?
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AJ outlined three theological teaching concepts that promote the value of work, but safeguard believers from idolizing it:

  1. Identity: Expressing identity through work instead of achieving identity through work
  2. Imagination: Imagining reconciliation and transformation for jobs and industries 
  3. Eucharist: Trusting that God works through the ordinary  

When have you sought to achieve identity through your occupation? How is your identity in Christ now expressed through your occupation, relationships, roles, and gifts? How can you better pastor congregants who seek their identity in the outcome of their careers?
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AJ said, “It is our responsibility to foster the imagination of our congregations, and provide biblical accountability and feedback for their dreams.” How could you help your congregants imagine what flourishing would look like in their workplaces and industries?
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AJ concluded, “Church gatherings are one of the only rooms in the world that weekly gather people of every industry sector, under one roof, for one purpose...What an incredible opportunity to shape our time in human history by the power of the Spirit.”

For more information about Redeeming Work and how you can attend the next event, click here