Carolyn Arends is a recording artist, author
and director of education for Renovaré.
I was scheduled to speak in a Prairie town at a Christian conference. One of my dearest friends from university teaches
college in the area. We’d lost contact,
so I googled her. I discovered her
profile on Rate YourProfessors.com.
I hesitated to look at my friend’s
scores. I knew disgruntled students
are typically more motivated than
happy ones to rate their professors.
Still, I clicked on Sally’s name.
I read the posted comments
through tears of pride. “She makes
learning fun,” wrote one student.
“English was my most-hated subject. After having Sally it’s one of
my favorites,” professed another.
“Best teacher I ever had!” exclaimed
a third, summing up the apparent
sentiments of countless others. It
was thrilling to get a bird’s eye view
of a friend making a difference.
I eventually tracked Sally down.
We connected over pizza. After a
while she sighed.
“I read your conference bio on-
line,” she said. “I’m so proud of you.
But I wonder about my life. You’re
out there doing things for God and
I’m just here teaching English.”
I was shocked. How could my
friend be teaching college kids to
love language, ideas and them-
selves, and not think she was doing
things for God?
I assured Sally that God was obviously doing things through her.
We found ourselves unpacking how
we’d been raised to think about
As kids Sal and I learned that the
point of life is to tell people about
Jesus. When we contemplated our
future vocations, there were three
faithful options – homemaking,
jobs that allowed us to explicitly
share the gospel, or employment
that earned money to support
ministries. We had been taught to
prioritize the salvation of individ-
ual souls. But I don’t recall hearing
much about participating in the
redemption of culture.
We had what author and speaker
Gabe Lyons calls a “half-story”
gospel. Lyons and others argue the
Bible reveals a sweeping drama
unfolding in four acts – creation,
fall, redemption and restoration.
Our childhood churches had zeroed
in on acts 2 and 3 – the problem of
sin and the solution of the cross. The
fervour for those middle acts was
good. But our understanding of acts
1 and 4 was impoverished.
It’s in act 1 that God creates a
world teeming with possibility.
When He asks Adam to name the
animals, the Creator is inviting human beings to join Him in governing
creation. If we take act 1 seriously,
we begin to see that every time we
participate in good governance,
creative endeavour, the cultivation
of beauty or the nurture and protection of created things, we participate in the gospel – in the story of
God’s good plans for all He’s made.
Better yet, we see in act 4 that
God intends not to annihilate His
creation, but to restore it – to make
“everything new” (Revelation 21: 5).
If we wonder what a restored
creation might be like, the prophets
reveal that what God has planned
is shalom – a peace Andy Crouch
calls “the comprehensive flourishing of all things.” Isaiah’s vision of
shalom includes the turning of
swords into ploughshares (Isaiah
2: 4) and wolves living peacefully
with lambs (Isaiah 11: 6). Jesus
promises it involves freedom for
prisoners, recovery of sight for the
blind and release for the oppressed
(Luke 4: 18–19). Paul envisions a
reality that obliterates racial, socioeconomic or gender hierarchy
(Galatians 3: 28).
If acts 2 and 3 show us it’s important to tell people about Jesus, acts
1 and 4 tell us it’s important to
CEOs and new mothers? Would we start to
co-operate with Him in His plans
for the world. We are to be what
pastor and author Jonathan Martin
calls “people from the future”–
people who, because Christ lives
within us, carry His coming shalom
into our current contexts.
There’s no job in which we are
not called to be a sign of the good-
ness God intends for His creation.
Author Kai Nilsen asks what
would happen if our churches had
commissioning services for account-
ants every April. If Sally’s church
commissioned teachers each fall,
would she see her offerings of syntax
and story as in-breaking shalom?
What if we commissioned our
janitors, CEOs and new mothers?
Would we start to see that God’s
interests and plot twists are more
varied than we can imagine?
Ever since our pizza night, Sally
and I have begun to envision a less
abridged version of God’s story. We
worry less about “doing things for
God.” We’re far too busy delighting
in the things God is doing for His
creation – even through us. /FT
What if we commissioned our janitors,
see that God’s interests and plot twists are
more varied than we can imagine?
Butchers, bakers and
There’s no job without great and holy meaning
2 OR 3 CAREER
PATHS OVER THEIR
THINKOPOLIS IV: TIME
TO WORK, WORKOPOLIS
GO WITH GOD