I see a lot of articles and talk to a lot of friends who are working really hard to find jobs that help them change the world, which I respect. But I’m not one of those people. I’ve got a regular job that I’m pretty indifferent about, that pays the bills … and I’m fine with that.
The problem is, I’m starting to feel a tension. Because while I like this regular job and desire to exert my efforts outside of the 9 to 5, I’m feeling like I’m spinning my wheels and not living up to God’s hope for me. I guess the simplest way to say it is: How does a guy who doesn’t have a great idea for some nonprofit or new church go about changing the world in his average life?
Here’s the thing, Douglas—you’re the man. I mean, I think I can speak for many people when I say, thank you for asking “our” question.
Yes, Douglas, our question—the question of the majority who occupy the center of the “extraordinary job” bell curve, who aren’t starting a new church, doing an internship overseas, launching a nonprofit or doing some other very glamorous “world-changing” job. I’m incredibly grateful you’ve asked this question.
Additionally, I’m grateful that you’ve asked because I now have the opportunity to adjust a bit of your thinking—and I’m sure the thinking of others. Because while I wouldn’t go so far as to say you’re wrong in your perception of a regular vocation, I do take exception to the fact that changing the world requires some all-in commitment of your vocational pursuits.
Changing Your World
First thing, let’s dial in the term “changing the world.” What does it mean to you, Douglas, to change the world?
For real, don’t skip over this thought. Take a few moments and really dial in what world-change would look like for you. Because I think that the idea that we’re supposed to be a driving force behind some grand shift in the planet is great, but it’s not usually what God’s needing from us. There just aren’t that many Martin Luther Kings, Mahatma Gandhis or Malala Yousafzais.
However, for every world-changer you know, there are millions of Joel Garretts who you’ve never met. Who’s Joel Garrett? A sweet man who unceremoniously and compassionately cares for dying kids and friends and random strangers in a little town in Florida—and is changing the world.
So define your world, Douglas. And strip away any illusion of fame or grandeur from the equation and really ask yourself who God has placed in your sphere of influence. I would argue that the greatest mission field you could be heading off to is your “regular” job full of people whose lives need your heart more than you know.
Using Your Time Wisely
Second thing, let’s talk about how you’re using your time. Because from your question, I feel like you’ve partitioned your life into 40 hours of work, and then the rest goes to the real business of doing whatever God has called you to.
This is the main point I want to challenge you on, mostly because I’ve spent my life working in those glorious jobs where everything you do is planet altering—in theory.
I was a pastor, which means that I should have had one of the most outward-facing, world-changing jobs of all time. In reality, I spent 50 percent of my time with the staff of the church. The staff was generally all Christian, easy-to-love individuals of above-average means and education. Outside of the staff, I spent about 40 percent of my time with the congregation, that is, the people who I knew who were volunteering or serving in some capacity that I was, as their pastor, equipping to do the work of the church. These folks were known entities and not necessarily in great measures of life-changing need, outside of the occasional pastoral care meeting.
And that left me with 10 percent of my vocational time left—which was spent having meetings with other community leaders talking about how to love people better, planning events that would draw people into the church or outside of the church walls (whichever fits the sermon verbiage better), and—of course—going to endless lunches about God knows what.
Now, was I a good pastor? I don’t know, and this whole section is teetering toward the overly introspective and self-aggrandizing. However, if I was doing it all again, I’d hack away the business in favor of relationships every single time.
Douglas, this is all to say that the glamorous jobs that seem to be world-changing are often more isolating from the world then they are actually serving of it. And for those of us with those kinds of jobs, we often envy you.
Because you Douglas, you actually have the dream job in terms of knowing people and leveraging all of your time to care for the world outside of the church walls. In fact, I would propose that God has put you in that regular, ordinary job for an extraordinary purpose. Somebody in the next cubicle over needs you to ask how they’re doing. The new hire who casually shares that medical bills are piling up needs you to put an anonymous wad of cash in an envelop on their desk. You get the idea.
Your world needs you, now go change it.
Let’s do this,
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Eddie Kaufholz is a writer, speaker and podcaster and serves as a director of church mobilization for International Justice Mission. He also hosts and produces "The New Activist" podcast. You can find on Twitter @EdwardorEddie.