JACKSON, Tenn. – Sept. 10, 2004 – “The idea of calling is not simply to see whatever we do as a calling but to have calling determine everything that we do,” James Emery White said to Union University freshmen the evening of Sept. 9.
“This is radical thinking for many people and a revolutionary expansion of how we think about our lives,” he said. “Our tendency is to compartmentalize.”
White is author of Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day. The book was chosen as required reading for the freshman introductory course designed to aid freshmen in the transition to college.
In references from his book, he told students that a calling from God to a vocation is not just for those entering ministry, but for all who follow Christ.
“If you’re a Christ-follower you have been deeply and profoundly called by God,” he said, “not just once – twice. You wouldn’t be a Christ-follower if you hadn’t answered the first call. You can’t impact and influence the world around you as fully as God intends without answering the second call.
“The first of God’s calls was to your heart, to respond to Christ for forgiveness and leadership. The second call on your life is at the center of how Christ wants you to personally penetrate this world and live for him. That’s the call of vocation,” White said.
President David S. Dockery describes White as a prolific author with a rare combination of gifts. Serious Times is White’s ninth book.
“He combines the head of a scholar, the strategist of a church planter, the heart of an evangelist and is a powerful communicator,” Dockery said.
White, who is founder and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., said many try to have a separation between their spiritual life and their vocation because they fail to look to God on the subject.
“It’s not that we’re trying to drown out what God is trying to tell us,” he said. “I think it’s because a lot of times we don’t think God talks about this stuff. We really don’t think God cares about our major. We could not be more wrong.
“Before I can have God tell me what he wants to do with my life, I’ve got to listen to God telling me what my life is,” White said. “The most profound vocational question is not, ‘What should I do with my life?’ That’s not your big question. The big question is, ‘Who am I?’” he said.
One student asked White how he could tell if an opportunity is something that God may be putting in front of him in terms of vocation.
According to White, college should be a time to explore as many opportunities as possible.
“What I would suggest to all of you, at this particular juncture – and certainly for the next four years – is pursue everything. Do everything,” he said.
“This is not the time you’ve got to have it all figured out,” White said. “This is the time you’re trying to get it all figured out. I would encourage you to go down a lot of those avenues. Take advantage of them all; see what God does with it.”
Earlier in the day, Dockery inducted White into the R.G. Lee Society of Fellows, one of the highest honors given by the university. As a fellow of the society, White will have a paper included in the next edition of the Union Pulpit, available at the Southern Baptist Convention in 2005.