Yesterday, I had the privilege of being the chauffer for the president of a Christian university. As I approached the hotel where I was picking him up, I realized the incredible value of the opportunity before me. For two hours, I would have the singular attention of a man who inspired my respect, not merely because of his position, but for his wisdom, the godly character of his children (who I had worked alongside in the past), and the commendation of others.
Having never met before, our conversation began by discussing occupations, schools, family, the weather, and other general topics. As I drove, he made use of the time in the car to finalize business and personnel decisions at the college, giving me the opportunity to listen and learn. How does a Christian man, a university president, deal with conflict among faculty members? How does he communicate his concern and care for individual students without disregarding the business aspect of running a college? How does a college president communicate to an assistant that he trusts her to make a judgment call on a weighty decision in his absence? How does a university president handle the necessary adjustments in faculty positions with grace and tact? By listening to one-sided phone conversations, typically followed by brief explanations of the context and situation, I was able to glean wisdom from a man with more education and experience that I may ever attain.
Then, as the immediate needs were dealt with, our conversation continued. Eager to learn everything I could, I asked when and why a person should pursue further education. This lead into a discussion about the value and purpose of doctorate degrees, as well as a conversation about my brother’s educational goals and the possibilities that various degree programs held for him. While we talked, the idea of knowing God’s will came up, and I was refreshed to hear that the very theory of knowing the will of God that I had adopted over the past few years was shared by this university president. He shared how discovering that knowing the will of God did not require making decisions based on “feeling led,” words written in the sky, or dreams, was freeing for him as a Christian. He enthusiastically agreed with taking the opportunities that are laid before us, enjoying the freedom that God gives us to make non-moral decisions (when it is not black and white) and be confident that we are not outside of His will. This was refreshing to hear, as I came to this conclusion through the guidance of classes at Interface back in 2010, reading Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung, and my own personal study of the Word. Our exploration of this philosophy of knowing the will of God led us directly into another topic, where the American church, as a whole, seems to glorify full time ministry as an occupation over other professions. He felt, as I do, that Christians are needed in business, in law, in economics, in social work, in cosmetology, in music, in art, in public education, just as much or more as they are needed in Christian camping, youth ministry, pastoral ministry, and the like. My argument is that Scripture never once glorifies “full time ministry” as an occupation—rather, God uses people doing what they do—tentmakers, carpenters, shepherds, soldiers, etc. Yet somehow, the church has drifted into a mindset where they imply that those who are not working as pastors, missionaries, etc. are “second-class.” This is the reason that, when I share about moving to Papua New Guinea as a missionary, I specifically delineate that I am going, not because I cannot be a “missionary” here in the public school where I currently work, not because every Christian here in the states is not already a “missionary,” not because I cannot function as a “missionary” every time I walk into Wal-Mart, but that I am going because there is the opportunity, there is a need, and because I can. Do I feel that God is “calling me” to full-time missions work? Well, if by “call,” you mean that He has provided the desire and opportunity to go, then yes. If by call, you mean seeing words written in the clouds or hearing an audible voice telling me to go, then no. I love how Kevin DeYoung said it,
“The decision to be in God’s will is not the choice between Memphis or Fargo or engineering or art; it’s the daily decision we face to seek God’s kingdom or ours, submit to His lordship or not, live according to His rules or our own. The question God cares about most is not ‘Where should I live?’ but ‘Do I love the Lord with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, and do I love my neighbor as myself?’ (Luke 10:27) It’s that second question that gets to the heart of God’s will for your life” (DeYoung 2009).
But, before I get on a rant, I will quit. Suffice it to say that I was encouraged greatly by my taxi passenger yesterday! I am confident that it was God’s will for me to drive to Indianapolis and back yesterday…and I’m very glad that I did!