I recently sat down to lunch with a millennial. I originally met this young man through a church mentoring program a few years ago. From day one, I’ve known that he was destined for great things. My intuition wasn’t far off. Less than a year out of college, he’s employed by the “Best Bank in America” according to American Banker Magazine and he’s already moving upward in a rapidly growing niche-lending environment.
He invited me to join him at their in-house, atrium-style cafe, complete with a daily hot bar and made-to-order sandwiches. As I looked around, the culture of this place was vibrant—it was young, ambitious, and full of life. It was a millennial’s heaven.
However, a consistent struggle for this generation, especially those who are professing Christians, is how to live out God’s purposes in a corporate environment. In fact, as I talked with my friend, I could tell he was wrestling. Even in this picturesque setting, he wondered if he was really pursing his life’s purpose.
During our conversation he let me in on a secret millennial code that I hadn’t really considered before. Between bites of sautéed bok choy and edamame, he looked up and said, “So many of us just feel trapped by the nine-to-five.” I could see his entrepreneurial wheels spinning. He talked about traveling abroad, starting a fitness company, the recent craze of social media millionaires, and the tension of serving God in the midst of it all.
I think a lot of Gen Xers and beyond frown at this type of thinking and chalk it up to entitlement. “Nine-to-five for forty years is the way it’s supposed to be, kid,” they begrudgingly say. As if hard work is our only heavenly duty. But the beautiful thing about Millennials is that they really believe they can change the world. What’s wrong with that?
My younger friend closed with a sobering thought, “I just want to know that I’m doing all I can and sometimes I feel like I’m getting lost.”
I know exactly how he feels.
Where the Church has Fallen Short
The Western Church at-large has done a poor job of preparing its padawans for life in the real world. We’ve missed the point that it’s ok to be a Christian and fully invested in the business world. Whether it’s overt or not, the translation is that if you’re not completely devoted to international missions and reaching the lost for Jesus, then your faith really isn’t strong enough.
I’m sure that’s not the heart behind the message, but it is certainly the perception.
So many Christians, especially Millennials, feel forced into choosing this or that. Are you going into business or are you following Jesus? While international missions and reaching the lost are essential responsibilities of the body of Christ, we have to remember the one body, many parts dynamic. We have to diffuse the tension that missions and reaching the lost are only an overseas ministry.
Quite candidly, spiritual development does not equate to going on staff a church or starting an orphanage in India. Spiritual development is a process of humbling ourselves before God. In our humility, He promises the wisdom needed to understand our unique gifts and how they can be used for kingdom purposes. More than ever, we need ministers in banking, in health care, and in politics.
The question is, how do we actively live this out?
The Power of ‘And’
Three years ago, in the middle of running my own small business, an insurance agency in my hometown of Wilmington, NC, I felt a call to pastor. The first thing I wanted to do was renounce my business roots and lose it all for Him. For nearly eighteen months, I lived in a this or that tension which left me feeling exhausted and ineffective. But as I quieted the stream of noise, I realized that there was an alternative.
In his book, Built to Last, Jim Collins proposes a concept known as “The tyranny of the ‘or’ versus the genius of the ‘and’”. Collins argues that great organizations embrace both ends of a continuum—it’s the visionary companies that strive for a both mentality.
As I read his concept I thought:
- If this applies to companies, can it also apply to people?
- In a world of or, can we embrace the and?
- Can I be a Christian and a businessman/woman?
For the past two years, my goal has been to embrace an and mentality—actively engaging as a Christian and an insurance agent and an author and a speaker and a husband and a father to four. And, and, and. God has responded.
With more opportunities than I can count, I have had the distinct privilege of walking alongside people right where they are. People who, quite honestly, wouldn’t set foot in the church. But despite congregating in a physical location, God is still working on their hearts. From couples battling infertility to stressed professionals, I have had countless conversations with people that have opened my eyes to what it really means to become the church to people.
We must go beyond the confines of old thinking or we will quickly lose our footing as the sand shifts beneath us. The world is in desperate need of pastors in the workplace because the church is changing rapidly. That’s how we change the world.
We can’t relegate the Christian life to a pulpit or full-time church work. If so, we’re missing our call altogether.
To Those Living the ‘And’
The question is, how do you navigate the tension of the and in your own life?
Well, first and foremost, God will use you right were you are, if you’re willing. But here are a few points to consider.
1. Your Nine-to-Five Isn’t Restrictive
The greatest misconception that exists today is that the corporate world is restrictive. Social media has produced so many overnight successes, it has somehow become less important to pursue a traditional work environment. However, it’s the structure of a traditional environment that allows you to create great habits and build character that will help you thrive in the future. Instead of seeing a nine-to-five as restrictive, shift your thinking to see it as the soil for planting seeds that will yield sweet fruit. Learn more about yourself and the intricacies of business, so that if you’re called away in the future, it will serve you well. Your nine-to-five is the soil of your life and your mission field, prepare the soil.
2. Steward What You Have Been Given
In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus tells of a master who imparts blessings to three different servants. Two of the servants are great stewards of what they have been given and multiply what they’ve been entrusted with. The third servant is fearful of loss and buries his talent in the sand. Upon returning, the master praises the first two while condemning the third. Be a good steward with what you have.
As Christians in the workplace, we have daily opportunities to be a light in the world. While this doesn’t require quoting scripture or guilting people into sharing your beliefs, it does require you to be Jesus to people. The birthplace of God’s future gifts is your faithfulness with what you’ve already been given. The only way to be truly grateful for what is to come is to cultivate a grateful mindset in the here and now.
3. Keep Your Eyes on the Horizon
The gospel often uses seemingly opposing characteristics to describe the journey of faith: patience and endurance, humility and confidence, faith and works. Living an and mentality requires you to be planted where you are, while keeping a faithful eye on the horizon. As you live and work and serve in the everyday, you must remain in-tune to God’s call for your future. This shouldn’t be lost in either, but rather diligent in the present and hopeful in the future. The time will come when He calls you to new endeavors. Have an attentive ear, but don’t let it draw you away from where He has placed you today.
As I pulled away from our lunch meeting, my phone vibrated. It was a text from my young friend:
“Thanks for today, man. It was just what I needed.”
I wrote him back and said, “Me too, buddy.”
Regardless of your generation, if you are willing to quiet the noise from all of the cultural influences, you’ll see the opportunities that are right before you each and every day. You do have to work hard, but you also have to dedicate yourself to something greater than yourself. The church can is an extension of each one of us—it is our expression in the world.
In essence, we are the salt and light. If we want to change the world, let’s start living that way.
In his first book, Redefine Rich, Matt Ham shares stories that challenge the cultural view of wealth. His stories bring a breath of fresh air to the daily grind.
Matt has partnered with Zondervan author, Kevin Adams, to create You Print©, a faith development organization. YouPrint is an entrepreneurial, kingdom minded, and socially responsible enterprise who invests in people eager to satisfy their God given desire, thrive in their gifts, and live the life of impact they were created for.
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