• Roger Duke

Calling and the Christian Life | Episode 3

Editors Note: This is part 3 of the introduction to Concerning This Concept of “Calling” which is the first chapter in The Four Callings of William Carey. Dr. Roger D. Duke explores the question, "What is our calling?" Dr. Roger D. Duke serves as the Scholar-in-Residence at Stage & Story.


This is a continuation of Duke's conversation exploring our "calling" If you have yet to read the previous installments, you can find them here: Part I & Part 2.

If there is a calling—then there must be one who calls. Os Guinness shares his wisdom on the topic. There is a life-changing concept we can learn and experience. Guinness posits:

Calling 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 lived out as a response to his summons and service. [1]

God then clarifies “between [the] primary and secondary calling[s]” for the disciple. [2] This becomes apparent as s/he lives a life of service in the Christian community and the wider world.


Guinness explains: First, “Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him.” [3] God calls us to himself—He calls us to His personal relationship. Our call is not to something such as an office of motherhood or politics, necessarily.

This would seem contrary to Luther and Calvin as expressed above. But they would strongly advocate a call to Christian discipleship as expressed by Guinness. There is no contradiction, only clarification and hopefully explanation.


Further, “Our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him.” [4] At this level, Guinness would have us understand; if one is a homemaker, or practices law, or teaches art history—then this is God’s calling and vocation for them.

All these vocations are callings. All acts of service for neighbor by the disciple are always secondary callings. They are never the primary calling. The primary calling is to take up one’s cross and follow Christ. It is the calling to the disciple to come and die.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer declared: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” [5] This summons is the primary call of God to come to Christ.

There is a difference between “callings” and “calling.” These “Secondary callings matter, but only because the primary calling matters most.” [6]



[1] Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (Nashville: The W Publishing Group Division of Thomas Nelson, 2003), 29.

[2] Guinness, The Call, 31.

[3] Ibid. This quote taken from the New Testament, Romans 11: 36.

[4] Guinness, The Call, 31.

[5] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Good Reads,” accessed 3 February 2021, internet source https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/98256-when-christ-calls-a-man-he-bids-him-come-and

[6] Guinness, The Call, 31.