Do you want to find personal congruence with your institution? Would your approach to your work environment be different, if you thought of yourself as embodying God’s welcome at your workplace? How does the reality that our thinking is secular unless we learn to think Christianly about all of life grip you? In Your Calling Here and Now, Gordon Smith shows us how our vocation is a form of spiritual engagement and gives us direction to discern our callings in the immediacy of our lives.
Dr. Gordon Smith is the President of Ambrose University and Seminary in Calgary, Alberta, where he also serves as Professor of Systematic and Spiritual Theology. He has been with Ambrose since the summer of 2012. He is also a Teaching Fellow at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia. Gordon Smith’s areas of particular interest are the nature of conversion and religious experience, spiritual discernment and effective decision-making, the sacraments, and the question of calling and vocation. Dr. Smith has published several books reflecting his wide range of interests from topics such as Institutional Intelligence: How to Build an Effective Organization to Welcome Holy Spirit: A Theological and Experiential Introduction. He is an ordained minister of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Gordon Smith grew up in Ecuador and has also lived for a decade in the Philippines. He is married to Joella who is an artist and gardener, and they have two married sons and six grandchildren.
Session 1 — Chapters 1-3
1. How do you respond to the idea that calling is always in the particularity of our lives – in the here and now, rather than life as we wish it to be?
2a. How do you respond to the idea of doing no more and no less in any situation — including discerning when to be silent even though we might have things to say?
2b. As college professors who get a lot of attention, how do we reconcile the idea of being content with obscurity? Is serving in obscurity always appropriate?
3. How do you respond to the author’s assertion that the norm of our lives should be a “leisured pace”? Is this an ideal we can agree with and aspire to as women with multiple responsibilities?
4. Can you identify an aspect of your work — waged or as a volunteer, in the marketplace or in the church — where you have a keen awareness of how you, specifically you, bring what is needed to this place at this time? (Question 2 – page 36)
5. What is your greatest need so that you can be present in the here and now? Focus? Courage? Connectedness with others? Patience? (Question 3 – page 18)
6. What are you doing daily/often enough that is outside of what you need to do?
7. What do I need to tend to because it feeds my soul? (Question 4 – page 55)
8. In what way may one of my callings strengthen and inform some other aspect of how I have been called? (Question 6 – page 55)
9. In a university setting teeming with experts, it is not difficult to fall into hubris. How can you hold in tension a proper and justifiable confidence in yourself, without being narcissistic or arrogant?
Session 2 — Chapters 4-6
“A Christian mind refers to how we think of every aspect of our life and work — whether our faith and religious practices or our approach to banking, to buying and selling, to matters of legality and morality.” (Page 73)
"We are secular until and unless we learn to think Christianly about all of life — our religious practices and our work in the world.” (Page 73)
1. What are your thoughts on the notion of a “Christian mind”? In what ways have you seen the outworking of a Christian mind in others? What are some areas of life you’ve been thinking Christianly about? What are some areas that you’d like to grow in learning to think Christianly?
2. In your current social and religious context, what is the greatest threat to the life of the mind? Is it pragmatism, sentimentalism, or partisan propaganda? (Question 1 - Page 89)
3. For your own reading, what comes to mind as a topic — theology, fiction, history? Or an author you’ve been intending to read? (Question 2 - Page 89)
4. How did Gordon Smith’s affirmation of vocational calling in mid-life resonate with you?
5. For yourself, is there the potential to make a peripheral move successfully? Something you have wanted to do? Do you need the nudge, the encouragement, the support, or the training to make the transition? (Question 2 - Page 70)
6. Describe a project you did with your hands and why it was meaningful to you. (Question 2 - Page 106)
7. How do you respond to the different ways we have made distinctions between “white collar” and “blue collar” work? Any gendered dimensions that you observe in the discounting of manual work? What are your thoughts about how historically Eastern and Western traditions viewed manual labor? How do they contrast with a Christian worldview?
Session 3 — Chapters 7-9
1. Gordon Smith says that we will flourish optimally when we are working at an institution with which we have a high degree of personal congruence. What is the level of personal congruence you feel towards your own institution? How can you thrive vocationally within it?
2. “We need to learn and know how institutions work and how we can work most effectively within them.” What is the system of governance in your institution? How well are you able to function within it?
3. Gordon Smith talks about knowing how to leverage the potential of an organization. Are there ways in which leveraging the potential of your institution is easier for some rather than others? If so, why is that? and how can everyone leverage this potential?
4. “If you recognize that your calling and work are located within an organization, you will know how to work within the system of governance and decision making of this particular agency.” To what extent does living out your calling within an institution depend on you? and to what degree can institutional leaders impact your ability to thrive or be thwarted?
5. Within your current position and place of work, what are the key stress points that you need to manage with wisdom, patience, and grace? And how are these fostering within you a greater capacity for faith, hope, and love? (Question 1 – Page 126)
6. In reading through the four practices of engagement, which one stood out to you as a practice you might give more attention to? something that you might incorporate more fully into your life? (Question 1 – Page 148)
7. Where and in what ways are you experiencing discouragement, disappointment, and heaviness of heart? What is a source of encouragement for you precisely in the face of your situation? (Questions 1 & 2 – Page 160)
8. “Prayer is not superior to work, but it is the essential counterpoint to our work, just as work is the essential counterpoint to our prayers.” How do you meet God and know the grace of God in the world?
9. How do you respond to the varied definitions & illustrations of hospitality?
(Questions with page numbers in parentheses are the author’s own).