Friday, June 25, 2010


I read or heard somewhere that the goal of Christians is to use their jobs as platforms for ministry. The indication was that good Christians either "witness constantly" or find some other way to bludgeon co-workers over the head with their faith, as if they are not being good Christians unless everyone they work with knows they are Christians, whatever that means.

This irked me.

When I was reading Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc., one of the early chapters mentioned asking what older generations think about younger generational obsessing about wanting to know where God wanted them to work so they wouldn't choose wrong and thus be living out of God's will for the rest of their lives. Long sentence (fun book). Anyway, older generations don't understand this obsession at all; work is what you do to stay alive, earn your keep, support your family, etc. It's not necessarily a spiritual life-calling. People who sit around doing nothing and saying they're waiting for God's will while living rent-free in the basement of their parents' houses are being lazy and kind of dumb.

Is this demand that others see work as ministry even biblical, or is it just more pop-culture Christianity baggage? I have enough to feel guilty about; I really don't need well-meaning legalists pouring on more because I'm not proselytizing in the workplace. Am I just being crabby because I've been leaning anti-"evangelicalism" lately?

Well, let's look at the Bible. Sure, some people in the New Testament were into full time ministry. They were supported by the charity and sacrifice of the average joes working 9-5 (or sunup-sundown or however things were back then). In the gospels, if I'm remembering right, Jesus didn't tell people to change jobs when they believed; He just told them to be faithful.

I think Paul swung that way, too. He told people to be diligent and work hard as unto the Lord and be fair and just and treat others well, etc. I guess when I read the New Testament, I get the impression that they didn't believe that "full-time ministry" was a "higher calling" or anything. We're all part of the team, and we all work to support ourselves and our families and each other, and we all contribute our gifts in the kingdom, is the sort of feeling I get from it.  How do you read it?

I remember this one time when Paul was visiting a church full of people who apparently thought he was just lazy since he was preaching and teaching and being an apostle all the time, so he made sure to work while he was visiting them (he was a tentmaker, as I recall). He didn't seem to consider that work beneath him. Work is work. You do it to the best of your abilities. It's not all hyper-spiritualized. That's the kind of impression I get from him.

So do you think work has to be a ministry? Is that what God requires of us?

Friday, June 11, 2010


I got the job. 

I keep waiting for it to be a joke, to wake up and be disappointed, to have them come back and say, "Just kidding."  I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It feels like a dream, like something unreal.

The other day, when I was talking about how it hadn't sunk in and relieved all my tension, my acupuncturist talked about chronic pain and how funny it is that even when the pain is not there, a lot of times we can't just relax and be content because we're always worried that we'll do something wrong if we're not careful, and it will come back with a vengeance.  It's a mental pattern that's hard to break out of.  We need to enjoy the times when the pain is absent or muted.  Maybe it will come back, but it's gone now.

I look forward to experiencing that absence of pain at some point, and I was nodding at how much her statement made sense when I realized that she was gently telling me to just enjoy the now and be glad that things went well and seem to be moving in a new direction.  I am a little slow sometimes.

Donald Miller said, ". . . I will readily accept a failure, even meditate on it, but I won’t accept an accomplishment.  There’s nothing healthy about that."

Zing.  (Direct hit.)  We'll thank the Lord for the good and assume the bad is our fault.  We'll accept the good from the Lord but not the bad, as Job implied.  Is that the way it's supposed to be? 

While I was in the middle of the increasing-bad, Christians would use language that indicated that God would rescue me from this attack of Satan, that this bad couldn't possibly be from God, etc.  I struggled with that because it smacked of that pesky, unbiblical prosperity gospel to me.  Does our success = God's favor?  I wondered. 

I think that our failures do not = God's displeasure.  We learn and grow from failures as well as successes.  Some lessons can only be learned in one place or the other.   It's how life works in a fallen world full of fallen people with free will.

I wonder if this is part of the secret of being content in all circumstances.

Any thoughts or wisdom you want to share?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Chronological Snobbery in the Church

My small group at church is considered kind of anomalously radical because we have college students, a newly married couple, a couple with two kids, and a happily single woman.  Our age range is all of 12 years, but it's quite unheard of at our church where Sunday fellowship is pretty much segregated by age or life stage.  We all think this is quite silly.

We decided to start up a Sunday school class where we actively invite everyone especially if they aren't in our age group or life stage or whatever.  As one woman in my small group says, "I don't need people to commiserate with at church; I need people to learn from."  Amen.  I want the wisdom of people who didn't grow up in my generation (whatever that is) or even my parents' generation.  I want to know how people are walking the Christian life even if we don't have "life stage" in common.  We need people to learn from.

And people who can learn from us.  We admit we're hardly masters of the faith at our ages, but interacting with college students, high schoolers, and anyone younger than us seems like it could be mutually beneficial.  There has to be something our experience can teach them, such as, "No, really, don't do that because look what happened to me."

"I want to be part of a chain of discipleship."  Isn't that what the family of God is?

Our college student members are enthusiastic about this.  They both live not-so-close to where they attend college, so they don't go home all the time.  They miss, "things like hanging out with grandparents and playing with animals and tripping over children" and other stuff they don't get to do on campus.  They want to belong to a family of believers.  But at our church, where The Way Things Are doesn't change very fast, and we don't have a lot of time (they'll both be seniors next year), we're finding it takes a lot of hard work to make a family.

Here's an interesting article I found by Mollie Ziegler Hemingway about age segregation in churches.  (If the CT site gets up again soon, you might even be able to read it.)  Probably your church isn't as extreme as these examples (and I hope it isn't even as extreme as my church), but the article as a whole did make me think more about the topic.

Anyway, our class starts next Sunday, and we have NO IDEA if anyone is going to show up.  So, if you get the chance, please pray with us that the Spirit will move people into getting out there and learning from and having fellowship with Others Unlike Them (maybe at our class, for example :).  I kind of want to make a Bible study with O.U.T. as the acronym now . . .

I'm curious about how this has worked at churches you've attended.  Is there a natural intermixing of ages/life stages, or do things naturally settle out along ageist lines?  Why?  How do you make sure you interact with your elders and those younger than you?  Do you think this should be a priority?  Should it be something natural, or do you think it necessarily requires work?  Any other thoughts on the subject? (Extra points if you know where the term in the title came from.)