InterVarsity is very good at getting college students out of their conventional Sunday-school comfort zone. It is very good at calling us to “pick up our cross daily and follow him,” and to radically love the forgotten and downtrodden that Christ cared so much for. InterVarsity also excels at providing structure in a free-flowing college environment, with its large-group gatherings, small groups, retreats, service trips, and many activities in between.
But, as this student declares, the very things that make InterVarsity great while in college can exacerbate the transition from college. Leaving the confines created by hundreds or thousands of peers struggling along with you through the exact same lectures, problem sets, papers, and stresses to embark on a world of daily commutes, staff meetings, water-cooler discussions, and the nine-to-five grind can turn your world upside-down. How does the radical, interceding God that we encountered at InterVarsity reside in the Monday-to-Friday grindstone of the working world? How can we be the Christians called upon by the oft-referenced visionaries like Shane Claiborne or Francis Chan if we enter “a traditional job”? Is it okay to enter a field where we might actually make money?
For those leaving the safety of the campus into the great unknowns of the mission field, may God grace this very new chapter of your life. However, this post is for the rest of us who have been called to seemingly secular work.
Radical Christians in Traditional Jobs
The most important thing that an impending college graduate should realize has been sagely summarized by the aforementioned student: “You can glorify God in your arts, you can glorify God in profitable businesses, you can glorify God in the fashion industry, you can glorify God in a career of dancing, performing, even Hollywood. You don’t have to live dirt poor and breathe ashes to be a child of God.”
In fact, I would argue, there is a dire need for bold Christians in profitable business or Hollywood.
The American archetypal job markets are, in many ways, a harder mission field than some overseas setting. Glorifying God and witnessing in the secular workplace is now often a longer-term, action-based process. It’s a journey of consistently keeping God at the center of all that you do—even when you’re two hours late for a deadline and your boss is breathing down your neck, or when your 8-, 10-, or 16-hour work day drains every fiber of your being (trust me, it can happen). Much of the secular culture dismisses thundering pronouncements of faith, but consistent God-centered actions are harder to ignore.
C. S. Lewis has always thought of Christians as subversive; in Mere Christianity and letters to Tolkien he talks about believers quietly entering “enemy” camps and, while guided by the Spirit, slowly but consistently transforming all those around by their faith. Lewis maintained that this Christ-centered faith could infect any enemy, no matter how secular or dismissive (even Hollywood!).
Close friends of great civil rights leaders have mentioned that the leader’s faith has showered forth from every pore of their being. But it is not only in these famous saints that we see the Spirit emanating and inspiring those proximate.
A friend once told me about an aspiring young man who lived in a monastery in Connecticut many years ago. His peers looked upon him as one to emulate, a man of profound, unceasing faith. After several years, the man left the monastery before taking his vows for the priesthood. His peers were shocked. Their amazement grew as they learned he did not have a crisis of faith, but simply wanted to go work for an insurance firm. And so the young man entered the 40-hour secular grindstone of the “real world,” and worked at that insurance firm for several decades, until he died.
Many of the seminarians (now priests) came to his funeral. Some were still baffled at his career change. But upon engaging with the dozens of coworkers who came to honor the man, the priests soon understood. The insurance firm was this man’s congregation. There were countless stories of the man’s charity, sage council, and honorable actions. The young man had transformed a bland insurance company into a close-knit family, akin to the early Church.
Where Will God Use You?
As you face the future, look to Christ and look toward your true passion. Consider taking the radical Christian road of entering the secular, grindstone-like, traditional workplace. And accept the challenge of glorifying God in the budget reports, project meetings, staff briefings, and looming deadlines of that job.
There are many adaptations that a college graduate has to make after graduation, and adjusting how you engage with God and community may be the largest. But in time, as you allow God to use you in the place he calls you to, it may also be the most fulfilling.
What vocational area is God calling you to? Or, if you’re already working, what fields is God using you in for his glory?