Sixteen years ago this month, I embarked on a new chapter of my life. Having closed the door on eleven years as a United Church pastor followed by a five-year adventure in church planting, I enrolled in business college to learn a marketable skill other than ministry. A year later, I had emerged with a certificate in computer technology, and a contract working for a small software company whose local office was managed by Graham, a friend of mine from church.
Since then, I have made my living in the field of information technology. After a couple of years working for Graham’s company, I launched out on my own and began working as a consultant. Though I felt very green and still had a lot to learn, the Lord has blessed me in this new field of endeavour. He has provided work for me time and again, and I have had numerous confirmations that the world of business and technology – which at the time seemed like totally foreign territory to me – was a field in which he wanted me to grow and prosper.
A few days ago, I heard myself described as someone who “used to be in ministry”. The label prompted some reflection. Since “ministry” simply means “service”, am I less of a minister – less of a servant of God – because I now make my living in the world of business? I don’t think so. In fact, I am more and more convinced that God placed me in this field so that I could serve Him there.
I’ve re-examined this decision at numerous forks in the road – in fact, pretty much every time a work opportunity comes to an end, which has happened multiple times since I’ve been in this line of work. Do I bid on new IT work, or is there something else the Lord has in mind for me? So far, His consistent leading has been to keep doing what I’m doing. Last year when Marion and I were in Kansas City visiting International House of Prayer, I received a major prophetic word – from someone who knew none of the details of my life – identifying and confirming some of the purposes of God in my life that could only have been fulfilled through involvement in the worlds of business and finance.
I used to have a very religious view of money. Although I might not have said this out loud to anyone (or even acknowledged it to myself), I believed that prosperity was somehow unspiritual. I now see that money is simply a tool, which can be used to do good or evil. If I make it the aim of my life to accumulate wealth, then I have become a slave and have totally missed the point of my existence. But if I make it my aim to serve the Lord, prosperity can be a means of great blessing to many. One of the goals that Marion and I have adopted is financial freedom – not so that we can spend an easy retirement on the beach, but for the sake of increased capacity to serve the Lord both with our finances and our spiritual gifts.
This morning Marion and I had coffee with our good friends Mark and Jane, who have just decided to spend the next six years of their lives living in Indonesia, serving as long-term volunteers in a mission assignment with Mennonite Central Committee. We are excited for them. They were free to make this choice because they are not owned by their stuff. They have placed their hope in God, so they are free to do whatever He leads them to do.
Their decision is a challenge to us. Could we lay everything down, and contemplate such a radical change of direction? It seems like an important question, and yet in reality, it’s a bit of a phony question. I mean, it’s not as if I had any real control anyway. All around me I see people working hard to control their world – and for what? Control is an illusion anyway. People die unexpectedly every day, and when they do, all their plans come to an end. Since I have no real control over my future, it’s best to settle the issue of ownership at the outset. My life is not my own, and I’m glad it’s not. I can make good business decisions without being owned by my business, because I’m only in business as long as Jesus wants me there. As long as I’m there, I’ll give it my best shot, and seek to be a faithful representative of my King where he has placed me. When he has a different assignment for me, he’ll tell me.
Another fork in the road? How exciting! Thank you, Lord, for the freedom to follow.