Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Full-time

Curt did something really cool the other day. We were teaching at the Torchbearer school in Albania and were asked to “give our testimony” as a way of introducing ourselves.

Curt started by asking if anyone knew what he did in his work. As I think about it, I suppose all their other teachers are pastors or missionaries or somehow in full-time employment in the church. Curt’s an oil guy. He works the upstream (subsurface) side of things—the side of the industry that gets that dark green stuff up out of the ground--and he loves his work. That came clear as he described to the students some of the excitment of getting a six-inch pipe and drill bit through several miles of rock to reach the deep places of trapped oil. “Miles” and “barrels” and “millions” and “billions” peppered his sharing.

Translator, students, staff—the collective mental gasp registered on their faces. “This is a testimony?”

Curt went on to speak of the people he works with: UAE nationals, Egyptians, Jordanians, Sudanese. Men and women. All Muslims. He talked about ways he and his colleagues share their lives in the workplace, and how much he enjoys his co-workers and the challenges they embrace as a multi-cultural team. I didn’t know that some of them call him “the preacher.” Curt also talked some about the people who come to our house, and the food, games, conversation, studies, movies and prayer that happen in our living room.

As Curt and I travel and occasionally get to teach or preach in the US, Europe or Asia people often ask what mission board we serve with. They look so disappointed when we tell them that an oil company brought us to the Middle East.

So often we think of “ministry” as something “missionaries” and “pastors” do. Or something we “normal people” do in our spare time under the auspices of some church program. Something with a title and a job description to validate it. “Youth worker.” “Sunday school teacher.” “Board member.” And don’t we elevate in degrees of status or hierarchy those who make their living from the church over those whose income derives from “secular” work?

Yet the human calling, from creation, is to fill the earth and subdue it. (Genesis 1:28.) To live in this world God made and to care for it, use it, steward it, tend to it.

We are spiritual beings, but we are also physical--of the earth and earthy. This earth God put us in charge of is full of possibilities, but it needs to be creatively, enthusiastically tended if it is to supply human need—especially as we live out the other charge to multiply and fill it up. To be a farmer or a scientist or a doctor or a water-quality inspector or a day-care provider or a bookkeeper or a civil servant or a mother—OR AN OIL GUY—is a HOLY calling.

Curt’s testimony vividly illustrated his self-understanding: “I am a full-time Christian!” No distinction exists between his “secular” and his “sacred” work. It all belongs to God. Whether he is planning a new well, engaged in dialogue about faith, exploring the back alleys and souks, or playing a game in our living room, if he is there because Jesus opened the way and gifted him to be there, and if his heart is submitted and attentive, God will be glorified and His Kingdom will be advanced.

And that’s COOL!



1 comment:

Dean & Mary Anne said...

You can't be suggesting that one's testimony should be "full time" are you? Isn't a testimony just what one does on Sunday morning and maybe some other instances during the week? With thinking like that aren't you afraid that living a life as Christ would have you live might actually change the world? Would that be exciting????

The discouraging thing is that many of us do live our testimony on Sunday am then the rest of the week live as a regular member of the secular world.

This is a great reminder of living our life 24-7 for Christ! Thank you.

We continue praying for you.