This post is part of an on-going Everyday Disciple series. We're celebrating here what it looks like to follow Christ faithfully in the day-to-day. I am thankful to share the stories of gracious friends and readers, and I have sought to preserve and honor their voice in the post below. I invite you to join me as we listen to their experience as an "everyday disciple."
Scott and I had the privilege of working with Josh at camp. They were high school friends and spurred one another on in their passion for discipleship. I was glad when Josh contacted me to share his thoughts about how his work in a cabinet shop relates to this on-going concern for seeing disciples of Christ thrive and grow. I hope you enjoy his insight.
* * *
When I was in high school, I was passionate about discipleship. Following Christ meant far more than being a part of weekly youth group. It meant finding ways to serve, to study and meditate the way of Christ, and to encourage others in that same path.
When discipleship is a passion of yours, and you strongly desire to see others follow Christ, the stereotypical conclusion is that you should pursue ministry. Following conventional wisdom, I went to college with plans to be a youth pastor or potentially an associate pastor.
Over those years of schooling, I worked a fulltime ministry job for a year and got married, all while continuing to grow in my own personal walk with Christ and in what it looks like to follow Him. Our little family began to grow, and I began to prioritize time for my family. In a very real sense family is a significant ministry, a kind of intensive discipleship, and I wanted to make sure I was not absent from that.
At first glance, it might not seem to make a lot of sense, why a college graduate with a Bible degree is working in cabinet shop, though the story about how I got there is relatively simple. I wanted a job close to home, with reasonable hours. I have always enjoyed creating and had recently begun a few woodworking projects. So, I stopped in at a cabinet shop a mile or two down the road and started working there shortly thereafter.
Some have said working with wood is a meditative experience. When sanding, finishing, or building, there are ample opportunities to, as Brother Lawrence writes about, “practice the presence of God.” To experience Christ in your work, as you shape the wood, by meditating on who He is, or on what you have been learning or studying recently. In the Gospels, we read that Jesus was a carpenter before He started His ministry, the son of a carpenter. There is something wholesome in creating, in crafting with your hands. In small ways we follow in the footsteps of our Creator when we use our God-given creativity.
When you work with wood, especially with fine trim carpentry or cabinetry, a lot of time is spent on the finishing process—the sanding, staining, etc. While this kind of work requires a lot of attention to detail, it is not a brain-intensive job, which frees my mind to meditate and pray. Recently God has really placed on my heart a burden for the Syrian refugees. So, as I sand doors or cabinets, I pray and meditate on it, seeking the Lord’s face on behalf of these downtrodden people and asking how I can help.
While this is good, however, what about my hopes of making disciples? What about that passion I had before? Were those four years of schooling a waste? Shouldn’t I be putting my degree to work?
For some, your passion and purpose in regards to seeking to be and make disciples plays directly into your work. However, I view work differently.
While there is something to be said for the sacredness of working with your hands to bring glory to God, for me, I work with my hands to free myself to do discipleship outside of work. We see Paul’s example through the book of Acts as a tentmaker—he had a simple trade profession he used to support himself while he discipled and taught. For me, I view my work, enjoyable and grace-filled as it is, in the same way. I work to, simply, provide for my family, so we are not a burden as I seek to make disciples and to teach.
We are a part of a small church that believes strongly in the priesthood of the believer as described by the writer of the book of Hebrews. The reality is this, when it comes to the Church: Everyone has a part to play. In Ephesians 4, Paul writes about the gifts that Christ has given to the church—apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers. These gifts present in the body of believers ought to be exercised.
While my Bible training has little influence in my work on a professional level (though I would argue, that the time spent studying and learning has been valuable and has informed my thoughts and beliefs), it does not go to waste. I share in the responsibility of preaching/teaching at our small church, along with several others. In a real sense, one could describe my work and life as that of a “tent-making” missionary, which I would argue is a description that might well apply to each of us.
One does not need to go into ministry to minister. One does not need to be a pastor to preach. God has equipped His people to do the work of His kingdom. In light of this view, then, my work is not an end to itself, but simply a means of support for my family, as I seek to be faithful to the gifts He has given me. As a disciple of Christ, learning to abide in Him, my work is an exercise in grace, and in meditation. Though I view my work in more utilitarian terms, there is still a richness there that cannot be denied. In little ways throughout our days, we are to walk the path of discipleship. Every experience and task can be used to the glory of God. We need to be faithful to the gifts God has given us.
If you would like to be a part of this project, I would love to hear your story. Contact me for more information.