I feel suspended between two worlds. In one world, I’m a businessman with a promising career. In another world, I’m an author, seminary student and pastoral aspirant with lots of ministry ideas. In the past, I felt that these two worlds conflicted with each other–that I was either called to ministry or to do business. In recent times, however, I think God is teaching me that they will somehow work together. Somehow.
Growing up, I remember hearing a lot about these two worlds. There were people who were supposed to be in the secular work-place, and there were those who were supposed to be full-time ministers. I remember many sermons that left the audience with the difficult question: are you called to ministry or to a regular job?
Some people told me you could have a secular job and still minister to people, but I never really believed them. They made it sound like a man or woman could force spirituality into a career setting, but they didn’t make it sound like it was a natural fit. In the same way, I heard people talk about the climax of spirituality—the call to full-time ministry. Everything else seemed to pale in comparison.
But is it that simple? What about those of us who are in the middle? What about those of us who are in the so called “secular” world? We don’t want to force our faith into a work setting, we want our faith to fit naturally with our work.
Did you know that Jesus prayed for you and me? I’m serious. In John 17, Jesus prayed not only for his disciples, but prayed for all who would follow him. Specifically, he asked the Father to give his followers strength to continue living in the world. He said,
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
Jesus recognizes that we don’t belong to the world, but he asks his Father to keep us in the world to which we don’t belong. Why? I think it’s because he wants us to be in the middle—suspended between two worlds. He wants us to be fully present in the “secular” world as a servant missionary, and he wants us to be fully present in the “church” world as one who encourages and inspires others to follow God more closely. This is not easy.
Part of me wants to choose one world or the other because it would be easier. I wouldn’t have to struggle with questions like: should a Christian businessman fire someone? I wouldn’t have to wake up so early to get my seminary studies in because it would be part of my job. I wouldn’t have to use vacation time to speak at a church or school because it would fulfill my job description. I wouldn’t have to constantly battle the tension of spending too much time hanging out with employees to build relationships with them, while also wanting to create a culture of efficiency and productivity where they are working hard. Like I said. It would be a lot easier to choose one world or the other.
But I think God wants me in this tension because it’s good. I’m even starting to believe that it might be what’s best. That maybe if I’m too Christian and ministry focused or too secular and business focused that I’m missing it–I’m missing what it means to live out what Jesus described: being not of the world while living in it.
P.S. That’s why I write this blog and why I wrote the book coming out in May.