Liberate

You're Free To Stay Put

Martin Luther was once approached by a man who enthusiastically announced that he’d recently become a Christian. Wanting desperately to serve the Lord, he asked Luther, “What should I do now?” As if to say, should he become a minister or perhaps a traveling evangelist. A monk, perhaps.

Luther asked him, “What is your work now?”

“I’m a shoe maker.”

Much to the cobbler’s surprise, Luther replied, “Then make a good shoe, and sell it at a fair price.”

In becoming a Christian, we don’t need to retreat from the vocational calling we already have—nor do we need to justify that calling, whatever it is, in terms of its “spiritual” value or evangelistic usefulness. We simply exercise whatever our calling is with new God-glorifying motives, goals, and standards—and with a renewed commitment to performing our calling with greater excellence and higher objectives.

One way we reflect our Creator is by being creative right where we are with the talents and gifts he has given us. As Paul says, “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God” (1 Corinthians 7:20,24). As we do this, we fulfill our God-given mandate to reform, to beautify, our various “stations” for God’s glory–giving this world an imperfect preview of the beautification that will be a perfect, universal actuality when Jesus returns to finish what he started.

For church leaders, this means that we make a huge mistake when we define a person’s “call” in terms of participation inside the church—nursery work, Sunday school teacher, youth worker, music leader, and so on. We need to help our people see that their calling is much bigger than how much time they put into church matters. By reducing the notion of calling to the exercise of spiritual gifts inside the church, we fail to help our people see that calling involves everything we are and everything we do—both inside and, more importantly, outside the church.

I once heard Os Guinness address a question about why the church in the late 20th century was not having a larger impact in our world when there were more people going to church than ever before. He said the main reason was not that Christians weren’t where they should be. There are plenty of artists, lawyers, doctors, and business owners that are Christians. Rather, the main reason is that Christians aren’t who they should be right where they are.

“Calling”, he said, “is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction.”

So, you’re free to stay put, right where you are.

55 Comments
  • William Lynch says:

    Luther was wrong…and I love Luther, but everyone has a bad day or two…(would have probably been more if blogs were around back then). I love the reformed tradition as well, mucho, but if I hear one more time about how making shoes is as glorious as preaching the Gospel I think I’m gonna hurl…seriously!
    In love…cause you know I love you Pastor.

  • Bryan says:

    How does the Christian find a good balance between the idea of staying put, making a good shoe, and selling it at a fair price, and being missions minded and going into the world to share the gospel?

  • Simon says:

    yes that’s a fair call, i think we need ‘Christian’ professionals, doing honest business.
    But i struggle when i read that 96% of all resources go to the 1/3rd of the world you already call themselves christian, then 3% goes to the 1/3rd who have access to hear about Jesus, then only 1% goes to people who have never heard of Jesus.. With some people going birth to death without hearing the name of Jesus..Jesus said in Acts all will be able to be God’s witness, so i believe God can use us wherever we are, but there is plenty of need for people to go out into the world to be a witness.

  • Question says:

    Did the author of the blogpost follow Luther’s advice to stay put?

  • […] Tchividjian (who also rights at The Gospel Coalition) does an excellent job applying Luther’s teaching on vocation. If any of you have suggestions for good blogs/articles that I’m apparently overlooking, […]

  • William Lynch says:

    Bi-vocational…all missionary, but practice a trade that still can glorify God (just less so) but also pays the bills…freeing you up from false accusations of impure motives and being bound to the rich guys in the eldership. Do you really think Paul considered his tent-making to be on par with his proselytizing?

  • Richard says:

    Really recommend you pick up an excellent book on the subject, “God at Work,” by Dr. Gene Veith. Our mens’ group at church had a good time re-discovering the doctrine of vocation. Also profitable is a book by Gustaf Wingren, “Luther on Vocation.”

  • William,

    I don’t think I saw anything in the blog about shoe making being “as glorious” as preaching the gospel. There is obviously a special call to preaching, and preachers/teachers are worthy of special respect (1 Tim. 5:17).

    However, I think Luther was right in his response to the newly converted man. I’m 25, and I’ve been through a lot of stupid sins and watched others do the same. I’ve also watched newly converted men or boys run off and jump into ministries they should not. I had a family member who got excited and ran off into pastoral ministry and probably did more harm than good (see James 3:1). There was also someone my age who gave a great testimony to a certain church. I advised him, as I still saw some concerning things in his life, not to be too eager to teach, but to keep submitting to his family and to keep growing in the faith (it was soon after that he gave the splendid testimony/speech). So, he didn’t listen to me, and sure enough, he “fell away” soon after that (although today he is doing better).

    I think the point is that you can glorify God in your job just as much as you can glorify God in preaching. Preaching is a very high calling, but it’s not a calling for everyone. Are preachers the only ones who can properly glorify God? The answer is obviously no.

    Steve Lawson has some great sermons (perhaps from a Ligonnier Conference; I’ll have to find them) on how Calvin’s preaching had this effect. Calvin preached on the greatness of God in everything, and he taught people to remember God as worthy of all glory and central to everything. Calvin’s influence effected his society powerfully, as people began to work hard at what they did (even the shoemakers I’m sure). His influence even spread, arguably, into the west (perhaps America as we know it today). It’s all pretty interesting.

    So, William, I see your point about preaching being a very high calling, especially gospel preaching that brings the truth of God’s gift of Jesus Christ to people’s ears. However, I don’t think Luther was wrong. I think he was very right.

  • Michial says:

    Tullian
    Are you a closet Lutheran? I know Iam. I have a Lutheran emphasis on justification and sanctification with a reformed view of regeneration and perseverance of the saints. I speak for myself. Love your theology Tullian! We are moving from Seattle to attend Coral Ridge because we see your vision of the gospel even in the reformed ranks is sorely lacking and want to grow more in it and be of service any way we can. Your prayers are begged.

  • Jerrod says:

    Michael, just food for thought in accordance to what we just read: why not stay in Seattle and influence the sphere around you with this gospel? Sharing it with your family, co-workers, neighbor, the people in line at Starbucks, etc. Just think of what would start to happen in our families, neighborhoods, and churches if those who hold to this faith and vision start to share it and see others liberated by it? I know that since my “awakening” to this true gospel, I have been adamant about sharing it with as many people as possible-especially the closet Pharisees I know(including myself) in the church. As Tullian says, “it is the drum I beat constantly…”

    Anyways brother, just food for thought.

  • Tullian Tchividjian says:

    Michial,

    LOL! I am grateful for what confessional Lutherans have taught me about the gospel. Men like Forde, Senkbeil, Rosenbladt, and Veith have shown me dimensions of the gospel that I hadn’t seen before. But I’m a happy Presbyterian :)

    We will be praying for your transition and will welcome you with open arms when you arrive.

    Tullian

  • Mitchell Hammonds says:

    I find it extremely odd that Cornelius, upon his conversion, wasn’t even advised to cease to be part of a notoriously violent occupation. I also assume he was free to do as he liked. The role of a pastor is a vocation as any other. If it is viewed as “more glorious” it is then elevated above all other callings. I find this to be the same view as the papacy.

  • William Lynch says:

    Aha…I believe I have found the root of the reformed call to “stay put”, although I did once hear a Calvary Chapel pastor once recommend staying in the secular music business as a way of fulfilling your commissioning. But I digress..anti-papal hypercalvinism. Interesting…considering Calvin states in his commentary on Ephesians, if I paraphrase accurately..”If those who are called don’t go where they are supposed to, who will?” Calvin was never hyper…he was just Calvin, and Tullian is definitely not hyper…just maybe Lutheran :)

  • someobody in Pennsylvania says:

    …But people,you missed the whole point! The above post is a call to a life lived right where we’re at, today, that is totally delighting in God and serving Him, and doing everything in life with a passion for GOD. I’ve had a motto for years, that wherever I am, I’m going to burn the candle at both ends for God, and I’m going to love Him and serve Him with everything in me – till God moves me on somewhere else or brings me home. And if He brings me home, it’ll just be a continuation of the thrilling life I’m living here! Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that’s the call of the post above. Let’s do it all – secretaries, mechanics, babysitters, mothers, dads, whatever – for the glory of God, and show this world what He is like!

  • Mitchell Hammonds says:

    William,
    Maybe we should all become pastors then, better yet let’s just call ourselves apostles so we can really have some glory… though I’m sure the following verses will mean absolutely nothing.
    Apostle Paul: “Only let each person lead the life ​that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him… Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called… in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.”
    These verses are speaking about one’s vocation.

  • Michial says:

    Tullian,
    I too am happily reformed, and happily grateful to Rod Rosenbladt and other Lutherans for their views on Justification. Its a best of both worlds I believe. My family and I feel led to move out. I want to be a Pastor as it is a vocation I feel called to. I want to come out and join Coral Ridge and Lord willing go to Knox across the street, and help out in serving anyway I can. I would love to dialogue with you and ask you for some advice. My email is thefloridabrowns@hotmail.com if you have the time. My 8 year old boy Caleb loves your teaching. He walks around the house with his ipod playing your sermons! My wife and I strike a chord too with your teaching and and look forward to moving out there.

  • William Lynch says:

    Amen and amen Pennsylvania…just include a healthy dose of straight up preaching in your day (or night) and now your cooking…with FIRE!

    PS: And thanks to Mitchell for solving the Church’s desperate need for preachers in the of Global South. Everyone do it…oh wait a second Our Lord already commissioned us all to do just that…..my bad.

  • Mitchell Hammonds says:

    Ahh… thanks Bill. Glad I could help you out.

  • Paul St. Jean says:

    Pastor
    First of all, welcome back. I’m glad ya’ll are revived and refreshed. The news about your Granddad is wonderful. I still watch his crusades, the last one was from Boston “82”. I can remember looking forward to his crusades when televised. Back then we had no cable so it was few and far between, now i’m spoiled i can watch them everyday.
    I believe the world revolves around the church, and we the church are made up of two or more people. that’s my take on it. Furthermore, we as believers should set the bar. Technically we are all ministers in God’s church and no job is too large or too small. Whatever you do, do well…Eccl.9:10

  • Liz Blalock says:

    God calls each of us to glorify Him within the sphere of influence He has placed us in. I have personally experienced that it is easier for me to glorify Him among likeminded believers than it is for me to glorify HIm in word and deed within my community. We are called to be a light and allow the love of Christ to be reflected by our actions and attitudes not just the believing but the unbelieving. We are called to be difference makers in the world by being different than the world and in turn when the world sees this difference within us they are drawn to us and want to know more about the hope we profess which is Christ. Jesus prays that we wouldn’t be taken out of the world but protected while in the world. In everything, we are to bring glory to God by giving it our best and trusting Him to open doors to proclaim the hope that we have within us, which is Christ.

  • Abby says:

    Tullian, I am a happy “Lutheran” (LCMS), but LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, your writings and preaching! I truly feel as brother and sister with you and other “Reformed” preachers from whom I am learning much. God bless us all!

  • Jerrod says:

    Amen Abby. Like you I am so blessed to learn from so many gospel-addicted brothers and sisters. Wow! It has totally “reformed” my understanding and love for Jesus. Thanks be to God!

  • Michial says:

    Right on Abby. What the world needs to see and what we need to mature to is what I call a gracious orthodox ecumenicism. Liberals have ecumenicism that denies the gospel. Let ours be one that agrees to disagree agreeably on secondary matters but unite under the gospel. Some say that is a sign of weakness but biblical and orthodox ecumenicism is a great strength and reflects the heart of our Lord. . It’s time Baptists Presbyterians Lutherans etc stop belittling eachother. There’s no reason we can’t retain our convictions and at the same time let the gospel reign over our relationships with one another in the body of Christ. I am happy to hear Tullian quote broadly from the body of Christ. It is very refreshing. Its time we recognize God is also working outside our denomination in His church. Iam praying for a mighty revival at Coral Ridge and across our nation as we saw in the first great awakening. Soli Deo Gloria.

  • […] work. Not everyone has to serve as a pastor. This is for you Christian cobblers (and others). Tullian Tchividjian refers to a well-known story involving Martin Luther. Martin Luther was once approached by a man who enthusiastically announced that he’d recently […]

  • Chris says:

    Great article. I think Luther gave sound advice. I think if we all look at the chain of conversions leading to us, we find a lot of ordinary people, who were faithful to doing their part. We all have our part, whether big or small, we should just be faithful to the calling God has placed on our life.

  • From The Question:

    Do you really think Paul considered his tent-making to be on par with his proselytizing?

    Nope, but that doesn’t nullify the application to those who *aren’t* called into specific inside-the-church pastoral ministry.

    Luther was wrong…and I love Luther, but everyone has a bad day or two…(would have probably been more if blogs were around back then). I love the reformed tradition as well, mucho,

    A better grounding for the doctrine of Christian vocation — better than “it’s our tradition” or “Luther said it” — is Scripture itself. Paul wrote of different Spirit-given gifts among Christians, and didn’t give exhaustive lists, and we read also, before the days of the Church, the Spirit giving men like Bezalel (in Exodus) gifts to do creative works for God.

    Moreover, the Great Commission does not nullify the creation mandate, even in a world corrupted by sin; it extends and clarifies this.

    but if I hear one more time about how making shoes is as glorious as preaching the Gospel I think I’m gonna hurl…seriously!

    Perhaps your call is specific pastor-role Gospel-preaching? and therefore the equivocation rightfully seems repulsive to you?

    I’m a community newspaper writer and novelist, and yes, it often seems very unspiritual to think that covering my city-council meetings and Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cuttings is as important a Gospel-call fulfillment as, say, specific witnessing to a person. But that’s a Gnostic mindset, and well-meaningly reductionistic. The Gospel has something to say not just about the state of our deadness in sin (its most vital component), but what happens *after* Christ redeems us and brings us into His Kingdom. Its transformative effects aren’t limited to the Spiritual. To think otherwise divides Material and Spiritual.

    Moreover, let’s not forget that while in the New Heavens and New Earth I’m sure we’ll be reminded in our words and spiritual lives of the Gospel, we will also surely be fulfilling that creation mandate in creative works, technology, working and playing with animals, and many more “vocations” … all for the glory of God and the furthering of His Kingdom on the refurbished New Earth.

  • William Lynch says:

    Stephen,

    Thanks for the thoughtful critique, maybe there is hope that the blogosphere could be a place for edifying conversation that spurns us towards glorifying (His glory, not mine) action. The only problem is your recommendations are less than that. With all due respect my brother, what would you have me do, drive a nail, or light a FIRE…fix a leaky roof, or SAVE a restless soul, comfort a infirmed convalescent, or bring the Gospel to a starving third world. Of course I intend to do both, BUT at no time will I consider my time nailing, fixing, or comforting to be equal too, or even in the same vain as sharing the only truth that matters. Having that said, I am a cultural transformationalist, just thinking its important to put first things first.

  • Love Os Guinness quote. I’ve often thought that preachers have taken the easy road, protected and surrounded by other Christians, while the real gospel (life-changing) ministry is living for Christ in the real world. As an Anglican minister, we dress up in women’s clothes and prance around a communion table as if that’s real ministry. How foolish (and protected) we pastors are! Thanks Tullian.

  • Mike says:

    Luther was smashing an archetype of his time that is carried over into our time, that is, that the truly spiritual, or relevant are in “full time ministry” or true callings are to pastor, teachers, prophets, teachers of theology or be in some kind of “church work, missions or something related” “secular work” is seen as less relevant. It was in Luthers time and it is in ours. I find joy in my secular job and find ministry type work boring and unfulfilling but I certainly get the pressure from my church to be more “ministry focused” the way I see it someone has to go out and make the money to give to the church to keep it going! if everyone was “called” to full time ministry the preacher wouldnt get paid unless of course they were a best selling author like PT;)When I in fact saw my rather mundane job as a calling and gave up the notion of having to be in some kind of ministry to be truly relevent; it was then I began to have a new peace and enthusiasim about my work. I love making money and I love giving it to the church! Thats what Im called to do. Thanx PT for your continued non apoligetic preaching of Gospel truth! Mike

  • Jonathan says:

    A great book that addresses this topic in depth is “Your Work Matters To God”.

  • Steve Martin says:

    We are free…in Christ…period.

    So, now that you DON’T have to do anything…what will you do? (I think that was G. Forde)

    What far off land did Jesus send the demoniac (that he healed) to?

    “Go home…” Jesus said.

  • Mitchell Hammonds says:

    Stephen,
    That’s Dr. William Lynch to you mr.

  • […] 7:20, Paul said “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.” Tullian Tchividjian expounds upon this. In a similar post, Relevant Magazine stresses the need for boring […]

  • Mitchell Hammonds says:

    Good post Mike

  • William Lynch says:

    I envision a pastorate that is income producing and soul saving, putting some skin in the game, while keeping your heart clearly focused on the lost. I am not advocating an abandonment of the marketplace, nothing could be further from the truth. What I am advocating is the awknowledgement that Gospel preaching is a distinct reponsibility of each and every Christian. Whether or not you get paid, or are even are any good at it. I’m calling laymen out to practical and increased kingdom revelation while challenging our full timers to get a J-O-B! And that’s why I get beat up from both sides, friendly fire from my brothers in arms and cold isolation from the pulpit. Pray for me, as I pray for you, but more impoprtantly pray for the good news to go forth. All in love, much respect and a smattering of angst.

  • […] another quick take on the same subject, check out this post from Tulian Tchividjian of The Gospel […]

  • Scott Boyd says:

    William,

    Your last post, August 7 at 3:32, is much different in flavor than your first post, August 5, and it causes me to soften my opinion of you and consider your message.

    I would suggest that you consider that the context in which we share our faith can change its effectiveness. In this light, I believe you are too harsh on vocation being a lesser calling than preaching. We have all seen a preacher on a college campus having no effect. In the same manner, a Christian who is terrible at their vocation, because it is an inferior calling, will be less effective in being a light.

    God created work before the need for preaching came into existence. All work brings Glory to God. If you weed a flower bed it becomes more beautiful and gives glory to our creator. If you work on a set of books as an accountant, there is more order brought to the numbers and that can bring glory to God as well.

    I would encourage you to consider this as you seek to stake your claim on what is the highest calling. It is like ripping the colors in a rainbow apart, when our creator simply wanted us to look at the whole. I find the intellectual crowd loves these types of debates, what is the highest calling, and they cause my heart to be sad.

    The highest calling is to be what the creator made us to be. As we are who we were made to be, we will be the most effective vehicle to share the gospel with others. As we delight in how God has made us, we will draw others to the faith.

    Scott the plumber

  • William Lynch says:

    Scott,

    Thankyou for your kind tone and thoughtful reply. Much appreciated…BUT I do have one more illustration that I think conveys my point most cogently. Its a take on the title of my Pastor’s new book, which I hear is excellent, “Jesus + Nothing = Everything, whic is of course true. I am very much looking forward to the read. My equation related to our discussion, his blog post, is, “Plumber + PREACHER = Christian” so therefore “Plumber – Preacher = PLUMBER!”

  • Don Sartain says:

    I think I read that in Guinness’s book “The Call”. It definitely changed the way I thought about pursuing vocational ministry as the only means to “move forward” as a Christian.

    Pressing into Christ, letting grace consume our thoughts and affect our actions. This is moving forward.

  • William Lynch says:

    I lied…I repent…one more, straight outa (sorta, its a parable)red letter scripture…enjoy, ponder, ACT!

    28 h“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in ithe vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he jchanged his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, kthe tax collectors and lthe prostitutes go into mthe kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you nin the way of righteousness, and oyou did not believe him, but pthe tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward jchange your minds and believe him.
    http://biblia.com/books/esv/Mt21.28

  • Mitchell Hammonds says:

    Great verse William! Change your minds and believe… gotta love that one.

  • Colette says:

    Paul said, “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.” Lord help me if I was to ever go back to the life I was living when I first believed! I was one who wanted to move to a “better” place, but I couldn’t afford to. I went to live where I thought I wanted, and did evangelical work for three months. I was never so happy to get back home (with a new attitude!) I’m so glad we didn’t sell what we have. Now I use what God has given me to bless others here and there, and I try to always shine Jesus! When I’m having a bad day, I surround myself with God’s word to get me thru.
    I think communication among the church and family members is the biggest stumbling block. I agree that pastors and church leaders should not use the church to keep their brethren from outreach; and discipleship should be taught in the home and the church.
    In the name of Jesus, Bless You All!

  • Mitchell Hammonds says:

    Colette,
    I believe Paul was speaking of areas of vocation. If one is in a particular vocation their is no need to go looking to suddenly change what you have been doing to seek another job. Obviously, a man or woman involved in illegal acts to make a living would not fall under this. I think if you weren’t happy where you were you had all the freedom in Christ to go and do as you saw fit.

  • Colette says:

    Thanks for your response Mitchell…I understood perfectly what was meant. There are vocations that are not illegal, but undesirable to being and living as a Christian. For me it was on the road, working with headliners in rock n’ roll. For my husband, he spent 32 years at sea. After we were saved, my husband continued his goal to become a Sea Captain, and began a “Door-Knock Ministry” on his ship and is still ministering to this day. I was blessed to begin another career in travel, and work out of my home in ministry to orphans. There is no way I could have continued in my lucrative but sin-filled life-style. I use what I/we earned legally to help others. No matter what vocation you are in, communication is an essential part of growing in and influencing others in faith.

  • Scott says:

    I love this post and have sent it out to family members, etc Awesome post, straight from the heart of Jesus! Thank you for the encouragement. As I sit here helping nonprofits around the world get started and take care of my 3 year old at the same time I have renewed energy and vision for my day.

  • […] via You’re Free To Stay Put – Tullian Tchividjian. […]

  • boaz says:

    You yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

  • […] Luther is most helpful in addressing this issue, here’s an excerpt from Tchividjian’s blog illustrating Luther’s clever way of answering the issue: Martin Luther was once approached by […]

  • […] 1. You’re Free To Stay Put: One of the things I am passionate about is sharing with others how their occupation is a way to bring God glory; that its not just pastors who’s vocation is holy. This is a helpful article on that line. […]

  • Thank you for sharing what I believe to be a life changing (and biblically correct) shift in thought concerning one’s vocation. I also recommend Veith’s book.

  • J. Dean says:

    Well put. Luther was correct, and unfortunately in the zealous rush for evangelism we forget that opportunities for bearing witness for Christ can happen with the secular workers just as much, if not more so, than for the missionary, preacher, and evangelist.

    It’s interesting to note that Ephesians 4:11-12 states that SOME are equipped to be evangelists. This is a far cry from the “every Christian is an evangelist” rhetoric I hear from pulpits today. Yes, we are called to bear witness and be ready to give an answer for those who ask (I Peter 3:15), but for those of us like myself (a teacher and scifi/fantasy author), we have secular vocations through which God is to be glorified.

  • […] a great (and brief) articulation of some of these same ideas, check out “Your Free To Stay Put” by Pastor Tullian Tchividjian. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", […]

  • […] to serve God. I’m actually not going to post that anecdote, though you can read about it via a recent post by Florida pastor Tullian Tchividjian. Instead, I’m going to post Luther’s An Open Letter To The Christian Nobility, which I […]

  • […] * I almost included the quotation (attributed to Martin Luther): “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” This quotation is in dispute, and it sounds like a condensation of a less pithy anecdote – a tale that sounds more like Luther than this quotation does. Read the story here: http://www.pastortullian.com/2011/08/05/youre-free-to-stay-put/?comments#comments […]

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