Crossroads: Navigating Your Calling and Career
- Thursday, April 03, 2008
I remember early in my life questioning my devotion to God because I never had a strong desire to serve a church in an official capacity. The truth is, the world needs godly men and women to work in all fields in order to reweave shalom, God’s vision for a flourishing city here on earth. Our work on this earth “is not something we do apart from God, as the secular worker would view it. Work is not something beneath God’s dignity or concern as the Two-Story view believes. Nor is work a game that we play with non-Christians in order to accomplish a more important agenda, as the Mainstream advocate holds.”4
This book seeks to clarify a biblical view of our secondary calling, to explore how we are called, as well as to offer practical guidelines to seizing the opportunities your secondary callings afford you. None of us is an ordinary person, and there are no ordinary occupations. We need to dispense our notions of hierarchical callings and embrace our God-ordained wiring in order to contribute to the kingdom. “Jesus built the kingdom as a carpenter before he built it as a rabbi. And he taught us in the parable of the talents that the question for disciples is not which callings they have but how faithfully they pursue them.”5
Dennis Bakke, sixty-one; president and CEO, Imagine Schools; chairman emeritus, The AES Corporation; author of New York Times bestseller, Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job; www.dennisbakke.com; Arlington, VA:
Miss McInnes, a petite woman in her early 50s, was my math teacher from 8th to 11th grade. Polio had left her with a withered arm, but her brilliance and dedication were her most important features. During my senior year, I decided to stay at school before home football games, which were played on Friday nights, instead of spending an hour and a half riding the bus home and then turning right around to get back in time for the game. Miss McInnes invited me to have supper with her before those games at the local cafe about a quarter of a mile from school. One evening she asked the question put to every high school senior: “What are you going to do with your life?” I gave her my usual answer: “I don’t really have any idea, although I am hoping to go to college.” I thought the college answer would bear out the faith she had shown in me. Fewer than 40 percent of my classmates planned to attend college. “I have some advice for you,” she responded without hesitation. “Raymond and Lowell [my older and younger brothers, respectively, both of whom had scrupulously avoided taking math from her] have already committed to be pastors. Someone needs to support them.”
To my knowledge, Miss McInnes was not a churchgoer or an amateur theologian. But her advice to me captured what I had been taught about the purpose of work and God’s attitude toward it. The best occupation for a devout Christian, according to the teachings of my church, was to be a missionary, preferably in rural Africa. My cousin Gordon Bakke filled that role for over 20 years. Second best was to be a pastor or priest. My brothers were called to this kind of work. Third in the hierarchy were the “helping” professions: teachers, social workers, nurses, and others who served in similar ways, especially those who were not paid high salaries. People seemed to get more credit if they performed these kinds of jobs within a Christian-based organization, rather than working for the government, a public school, or a profit-making organization. Next in line was government work. Homemaking was a respected occupation as well. At the bottom were commercial and business jobs such as secretaries, technicians, factory workers, and executives. The primary path to redemption for these unfortunate souls was to make enough money to support those working in “full-time Christian ministry.” They could also atone by volunteering their time to do something significant for the local church or another Christian activity when not at their jobs. Miss McInnes had advised me to use my talents to play the role dictated by my religious beliefs, at least to the extent that I understood them at the time.
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