It’s amazing how my attitude towards garbage can change.
When I’m by myself and I notice a full garbage can, I have no issues tying up the bag and taking it out. It’s a small task, but when I see it (admittedly, not very often), I have no problem doing it.
The problem comes in when someone tells me I need to take the garbage out. The more directly and bluntly the task is given to me, the more degrading it feels. The person asking may have said, “can you take this trash out?”, but what I heard was, “hey, garbage boy! This is what you’re worth.”
I know this problem lies in me. I should not hear it that way and I should be willing to think of myself as a servant. But it does expose how grand my plans can be.
In Christian circles, we talk about serving. A lot. We discuss methods of influencing the culture, sharing the Gospel persuasively, or massive, sweeping changes we’d love to bring about.
I love those conversations. I think they can be helpful, motivating, and, at times, needed.
The issue we can run into is that these conversations give us illusions of grandeur. They make us think we need to be the ones doing the big tasks or we’re not making a difference at all.
Please don’t read this as a rant against ambition. I believe in ambition. The flip side of this article is commentary on our need for ambition. The problem isn’t wanting to make a difference. The problem is that we feel our name needs to be associated with the change.
For many young Christians, these ideas push them into thinking they need to be “in ministry.” If they don’t work in a church or don’t carry the title “pastor”, then maybe they are not making a difference. This can create a dissatisfaction with where they are now, whether it’s being a student, a barista, or whatever other job they are in.
When we think about reaching out, we need to start by using what we have. The roles we occupy, the responsibilities that currently lie on us, they are part of how God wants us to reach the world.
Think of the standard question you ask when you meet someone: “what do you do?”
Your job is often the first way you’ll relate with people, whether it’s at the job you work or by telling people you work that job. And how well you do that job will impact how people see you.
I remember being a high school student and wanting to influence my school. At one point, my sights were set on my teachers. I wanted to show them who Jesus was by my character. The problem was that I also wanted to make my classmates laugh, I didn’t want to do my homework, and I had my focus in lots of other directions. To my dismay, this led many teachers to just see me as a punk kid. (They were right, but it still made me feel bad).
As I was thinking this through, I remember talking with my dad about it. His advice sticks with me: “you’re supposed to be their student. If you aren’t good at being their student, why would they think you’re good at anything else?”
When we meet people, we judge them by how well they do their job. I never think the slow barista who burnt my drink could help me see the world in a more complete way. Maybe that’s judgmental, but it’s how life works.
If you want to reach people with the Gospel, start by being amazing at your job. It may not be ministry, you may never read the Bible to anyone there, but it can still be where you reach people.
Two great things happen for your ability to influence when you do your job really well.
First, you become a model of servanthood.
All jobs, to some degree, serve other people, especially if you look to do them well. Humility can be displayed in a retail worker, a salesman, or a teacher. When we focus ourselves on doing our work well, we show people we accept our role and want to bless those who put us there.
Spoiler alert: that’s not how most people go to work. Most people work purely for their own advancement. Working hard so others can advance sets you apart.
This leads to the second great thing, you create open doors to explain why.
People will see this difference and they will want to know why you live this way. That’s the open door for the Gospel. Preachers say all the time that you should “live a life that demands an explanation.” Well when you do that, people will want to hear you explain it.
I get you may not love your job. At the very least, you probably don’t like everything about it. But remember who we follow. Jesus is the ultimate example of taking on limits for the sake of the advancement of others. When we welcome the limits of our jobs and perform them as well as we possibly can, we live a little more like Jesus and make people curious about him.
No, your job may not be a ministry job. But it is your ministry. Work that job like your boss is Jesus and watch how He begins to change your workplace. And you.