When I was completing my final year of university, my campus pastor sat me down and asked me to consider doing a one-year internship with my campus’ Christian fellowship. I jumped at the chance to spend a year getting paid to serve God.
After all, my time with the Christian fellowship had taught me the importance of the Gospel, and I’d received some encouragement that I should consider full-time ministry. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to nurture my own love for the Gospel and help others in their own faith while figuring out whether full-time ministry was for me.
However, it’s now been about six months since I’ve graduated from university, and this question still causes me to wince: “Oh, you’ve graduated? What are you doing with yourself?”
It’s the perfect concoction for awkward conversations at dinner parties or whenever I bump into former classmates.
How do I answer the question? I usually shuffle around clumsily and try to dumb down the Gospel aspect of what I’m doing. “Umm well, I work for my university’s Christian fellowship—basically I get paid to hang out with the students.”
I’ve conveniently left out the part where I work to help students further their understanding of the Bible, and challenge them to live by what it says. The feeling of guilt is almost instantaneous, and later that night I find myself wishing that I’d been bolder about my involvement in Gospel ministry. “If I can’t even tell people about my job, how can I hope to tell them about the Gospel?” I think to myself.
So, why do I find it so hard to tell people what my job is?
The truth is, I’m worried about what they might think. Many of my friends graduated and walked into well-paying jobs with great prospects of career advancement. They wear nice tailored shirts and pants to their office, right in the middle of the central business district; I’m sitting at a university bench reading the Bible with a student in the same t-shirt and shorts I was wearing a year ago. At the end of the year, they’ll all be jetting off on the well-earned holidays that their jobs allow them to afford; I’ll be working at an end-of-the-year Bible camp for university students.
To my friends, or whoever is asking, all this might seem a little foolish. In fact, I think the problem is that I think of it as a little foolish as well. After all, I’d just spent the last four years of my life working hard to graduate with respectable grades, only to earn less than half what most of my peers are earning. Sometimes when I’m being honest with myself, I do question if it’d be better for me to be working at a ‘normal’ job.
But we don’t have to be in full-time ministry to experience this. One of my best friends, still a student at university, spends the whole of his Saturdays serving at church, in the young adult’s ministry. I’m sure to many of his peers, that looks like a foolish way to spend his Saturdays, the day that most university students take to either relax or catch up on work.
I think, too, of the students who are members of the Christian Fellowship. They often spend their weeks preparing and facilitating bible studies, when they could be studying instead. In the face of impending deadlines and exams, I’m sure they look foolish to their fellow students.
Or, who hasn’t felt a bit foolish trying to tell their friends about the Gospel, or inviting them to church?
That’s why I’ve been so encouraged by the time I’ve recently spent reading the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians with a student. In 1:18, Paul declares, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” It seems that we should expect the Gospel—the very thing that our lives as Christians is meant to be built upon—to be seen as foolishness to the rest of the world. After all, the ultimate display of God’s power, was seen by many as his ultimate shame—the man who claimed to be the Son of God executed as a criminal.
Paul then goes on to explain, that what’s wise in God’s eyes is always going to seem foolish to the rest of the world. But as people who have been given the Spirit of God, we are more than able to see and understand things with God’s wisdom. He implores his readers to apply God’s wisdom in their lives rather than just do the things that the rest of the world counts as important and clever.
This means that my friend whose Saturdays are spent in church can be encouraged in the knowledge that the work he’s doing is seen as wise in God’s eyes. The university students I work with can continue striving for the Gospel, knowing that while their efforts might seem irrational to their peers, on that day when they stand before God, they will see that it was all worth it.
For me, I don’t have to feel ashamed about my job because it is through the Gospel that we are saved, and as we grow in our knowledge and conviction of it, we are being transformed.
So now instead of shirking away from telling people about my job, I’m trying to use it as an opportunity to tell them about the Gospel. And while the work I’m doing at the Christian fellowship seems foolish, in my short time there I’ve been greatly encouraged by how powerful it is when students become convicted of the Gospel and begin to make mature decisions to live in light of it. Of course people might still find it silly that I’m working as an intern at a campus Christian fellowship, but I can take heart knowing that the Gospel truly is the power of God.