FC Missional Moment: Voices from the Commons
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** Our Contingent Calling
Andy Crouch, author of Culture-Making: Recovering our Creative Calling and Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, reflected recently that as Christ-followers, we don’t have “a calling,” we have three.
Two of the three callings aren’t optional or even individual, but are fundamental and universal and prove to be the most important callings of our lives. Crouch argues that if we get these first two callings right, the third “contingent calling” is practically an afterthought.
Here’s his argument.
Beginning in Genesis 1 and 2 and tracing the entire story of God’s people, Crouch holds that we have these two fundamental callings: we are first called to bear the image of God and second to restore the image of God.
** To Bear the Image
Shared with every human being, we are uniquely called as humans to bear the image of God. Made in God’s image, as Genesis 1:26-28 declares, we reflect the Creator when we too delight to give and beautify. J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis spoke of humans as sub-creators—where, as a form of worship, we express the divine image by becoming “creators” in our work.
To bear the image of God, Crouch argues, “is to exercise dominion, caring for and cultivating the good world and making it very good through our creative attention.”
Most of our work falls under this heading. As Christ-followers, we gladly work alongside colleagues and neighbors who don’t share our faith. In part, as humans we all bear the image of God by working fruitfully in the good world. It was what we were always meant to do.
** To Restore the Image
Our second fundamental calling, shared primarily with other Christ-followers within the family of God, is to restore the image of God.
The entire story of the Scriptures shows God’s people in a vast, world-historical rescue mission to restore in all creation the capacity for true image bearing. Today, Christ-followers are at the heart of this mission of restoration, made possible through the reconciling power of the Cross.
As Crouch writes, “our distinctive calling as Christians is not just to till and keep the world as image bearers, but to actively seek out the places where that image has been lost . . .”
As Christ-following faculty, we confront places where image-bearing has been compromised by patterns of neglect in the academy, in our broken world and in the lives of those around us.
We should, Crouch maintains, be ready to speak up, to sacrifice privileges, to use our talents to help restore that lost image “proclaiming Jesus as the world’s true Lord and the image of the invisible God.”
** Our Contingent Calling
Our third calling is contingent, dependent on things that could be otherwise. Our “work” in the academy is dependent on certain resources—memory, energy, reason, attention, skill—and/or resting on a set of credentials, a title or position.
All of us know that any of these circumstances upon which our “calling” in the academy rests might change in a moment—sickness, job change, getting or not getting tenure, retirement, etc.
“For all their illusion of durability, the things of our contingent calling are only ours today.”
Crouch argues that, while this “contingent calling” seems so important to us, the Scriptures don’t seem to be that interested in it. The Scriptures focus us on God, on God’s mission in the world, on God’s commissioning us to “bear and restore His image.” The Scriptures focus on God’s gracious invitation to us to stop being so interested in us and to “start being absolutely fascinated by his mission.”
Crouch’s perspective is helpful to us, particularly as the semester begins: “We are called to bear the image and to restore the image in the world, making the most of whatever is given us today.”
Over this semester, the following practitioners in the academy will describe both how they take serious God’s mission in the world and how they—in their contingent calling—make the most of today while it is called today.
* Heather Holleman, Penn State— Go Early
* Phil Bishop, UA — I Never Saw It Coming
* Sam Matteson, UNT — Over My Shoulder: Spiritual Lessons from an Academic Life
* Ken Elzinga, UVA — The Professor as Servant
—Jay Lorenzen, FC Editorial Team
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Seek “shalom” and Pursue It.
– Psalm 34:14
“In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight–a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”–Cornelius Plantinga, Jr
Click on Excerpt to Read More:
We are sent. And if we are sent men and women, we are by definition deployed for a God-intended purpose. Thus, we should be asking God for more understanding of that purpose. (http://www.facultycommons.com/sent-to-my-university/)
“To what end have you sent me here, Lord?” is not a bad daily prayer. (http://www.facultycommons.com/sent-to-my-university/)
Many of us as Christian faculty realize that we are “on a mission from God” as the Blues Brothers said—but with much more earnest and serious consequences. We long to be missional, faculty members who are more than just members of the academy practicing a pleasant ecclesiastical hobby. (http://www.facultycommons.com/to-love-and-good-works/)
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