And then we attend a missionary rally or hear a particularly stirring sermon and there’s a stirring in us, too, and we wonder whether we’d be serving Christ better in a more ‘obvious’ Christian role.
And the Christian world tends to support this. I moved to Scotland over 13 years ago as a result of going on a short term missions trip there. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been told that I’m brave, and courageous, and such a wonderful missionary. Would I have gotten the same response if I moved from Phoenix to Des Moines, I wonder?
Even writing this article is a bit of a mind shift for me. When I moved to Scotland, it was very much with the missionary mindset. I’d finished a six-week missions trip in Airdrie, followed by another in Northern Ireland and Cyprus, and I was ready to serve as a missionary in Scotland, even if it was more of tent-making mission work. I got a job at an accountancy firm, then with a consulting company. Slowly, life settled in, and now I’m a dual British-American citizen, and I own two businesses which I run from my home in Airdrie.
I’m just one of the working world now.
And as such, I’ve started to think over where I was, and where I am now, and where most of us as Christians are. How do we serve God in what we secretly consider to be “the boring” – the 9 to 5, the job, the business, the self employed, the part time worker? Yes, it’s just as holy as being a missionary – or is it, we wonder?
Yes, it is. But as with all work, it’s easy to slide into a rut. Even missionaries do it (trust me). And lately as I’ve been looking over the life I’m in now and the work I do and praying and considering how I can serve God to the best of my ability in the daily, and sometimes the boring, here are some areas that might help you to do the same.
Be generous with your money. If I’ve learned anything in running multiple businesses, it’s that you can believe someone is serious about doing work with you when they pay the money. When they buy online, or donate, or pay the deposit – that’s when they really mean business. I’ve lost count of those who “want to put it off until January”, or “are really busy right now and will look at it later”. All true, but what they mean is that when it came to forking out the cash, they suddenly realised it wasn’t so important, or they just weren’t ready. The same applies for your money, and what you do with it. It’s not just about the 10% tithe. The Bible regularly speaks about tithes and offerings. For years I cheerfully gave my 10%, never questioning it or regretting the money in the slightest. And then my minister preached on tithing, and I listened to the whole thing and nodded and agreed, and then at the door I overheard him answering someone else’s question with another question: “Why stop at 10%? Why not give 15%, or 20%?” I was literally stopped in my tracks. I had been cheerfully giving God his ‘due’ for so long that it had no longer become a sacrifice. Naturally, I’m not giving you another rule to follow – God still loves a cheerful giver, and those who give their two mites. But if you want to serve God in the boring, the first place to look at how serious you are is to look at your cash. If you’re not tithing, get yourself slowly up to the 10%. If you’re giving 10% cheerfully, start asking Him if He would have you give a little more.
Build a close relationship with just one or two people. Again, in spite of our good theology, we’re still tempted to think that quantity is the biggest measure of success. How many new church members? How many saved? How many at prayer meeting? How many Bible studies do you run? One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever had came from a casual chat I had with a minister on this topic. We discussed some of the work I’d done in my own church and the time with one particular person, and he said, “Never underestimate the power of investing in just one person.” Remember, of course, that this is not a guarantee things will go as you hope. Perhaps you invest hours of time, as well as money and emotional energy and more, and this person leaves and goes to another church. Or leaves the faith. Or never thanks you. Or is not there for you when you’re struggling. That does not mean your work is wasted. There is great power in investing into one or two people. Think about where you can focus your efforts, and pray your efforts – and don’t feel you’re not serving Christ enough because you’re not doing this with hundreds or thousands of others.
Pray for your co-workers and friends. I worked with a colleague at one time who was an atheist. He was a remarkably talented man, and extremely busy. I rarely had the opportunity to talk with him about my faith or about who God is. There were little snatches from time to time, and I trusted God to use this as He would, but from time to time I was wracked with guilt, thinking I should have tried harder or been more bold or reached out more obviously. One Saturday I was in the office, and so was this person. We were the only people there, and I remember thinking, “I should talk to him about the Gospel somehow – this is a great chance!” But any attempt to start conversation fell flat, and he busied himself for an hour or two and was gone. I emailed my Dad, who worked for 25+ years as a computer engineer and had often witnessed to his colleagues and co-workers as the opportunity presented itself. “What should I do, or what should I have done?” I asked. My dad said that if he could do anything different in his working life, it would have been to pray more. Pray more for opportunities, pray more on the Saturdays when you and another person are the only ones there, pray more when that person has left and you haven’t said anything. It struck me powerfully, and I still hold to it today. If you’re not sure what to say, or the opportunity seems forced, or they just won’t listen, pray. Pray specifically. Ask others to pray. Look for an answer. And trust God that He will use you in ways you don’t see.
Pray for your business or your job. I’m extremely blessed in my marketing business to have a business partner who is a solid, believing Christian. God provided the business opportunity, and He truly provided the business partner as well. When I go down to Nottingham (where our offices are based) and we have three-day strategy meetings, we start them with prayer. Sometimes we walk along the river and pray aloud about clients, new opportunities, cash flow issues, hiring needs. We pray on the phone, or on Skype. We constantly pray for the work we are doing, that we would be a blessing to our clients and everyone else we know, and we pray specifically for things like client issues or new hires. Tossing off a quick prayer that you’ll have a good day at work is one thing – taking time to plead with God that He will show you a solution for a major work project is another. Of course, it’s not a magic trick. You may pray earnestly and screw up the project. You may seek His face sincerely and say something really stupid or unkind to a colleague. But you will also see amazing things happen in your workplace.
Take care of your family (or yourself) appropriately. As a single woman, I don’t have a husband or children to look after – but I’ve realised recently that “not neglecting the needs of your own household” for me means….me. Doing the work I need to so that my income covers the bills. Taking a day off so I have the energy to focus. Buying appliances that mean my household runs a little better. Taking a holiday so I get the rest I need. These are practical, real things that enable me to live and work – and support the church, too. But if you’re overworking to the point that you never see your family, or you’re exhausting yourself by too much travel, or your days off include checking the work email every five minutes, you might want to readjust a bit. If you’re taking care of your (and your family’s) practical needs, you are all serving Christ where you are.
Don’t be racked with guilt if you can’t attend all the church events. This is a follow-on to the previous point. Sometimes I have to travel for work, and I miss a MET (our church’s small group Bible Study) here or there. I like to go to our Saturday night prayer meeting, but some Saturdays I have a client project that must be finished on deadline, so I’m not there. The key is to review whether it’s a one off here or there, or becoming a habit. If I look back over my calendar, will I discover in surprise that I haven’t been at MET in six weeks? Will I realise that I’ve skipped Sunday morning prayer meeting and Bible class three months in a row? These are the means of grace, and our regular pattern should be to be there. But if you miss one or two for legitimate reasons, it’s not the end of the world, or of your church. Be regular in talking to your Session about it, and in evaluating whether it’s an excuse or a reason. And then go to what you can, without feeling that “if you were a good Christian you would….” (fill in the blank)!
Look for ways to provide work for others. Depending on your job or your role, you may be able to provide some kind of work for others, particularly those in your church family or community. Our marketing business regularly hires freelancers and outsourcers to for one-off projects or monthly retainers. If I can particularly bless someone in the denomination, I will. If we need to hire someone in India, that’s fine too. Don’t allow your generosity to restrict the good work you’re committed to doing, of course. If your church has a graphic designer but he’s not able to do the kind of work you need, it’s fine to hire someone else. But where you’re able, look for ways to bless those around you and make the opportunities available to them. (As a side note, if you’re a content writer or a graphic designer, get in touch. Our business is always hiring them.)
Use your skills and gifts in the church, too. This often happens without your even seeking it. Most churches I know use their members’ skills – accounting, photography, website design, construction. But if your church hasn’t asked you about a particular skill, or uses one of your skills to the exclusion of others, don’t be afraid to ask. I own a photography business and have provided some photography for our local church and a few others. But it’s only recently that I realised my online marketing skills in the area of website design could really bless my own home church – and if you don’t offer, you may not get the opportunity. This is a real, practical way to serve Christ with a skill you may not find boring, but simply easy. But it isn’t easy for everyone.
Give at the wrong time. When you’re employed or own your own business, there’s never a right time to give your skills or time or money or energy. You’re always busy, and the emails never stop pouring in, and if you decide to wait until that one project is completed or you’ve gotten a few more clients, it may never happen. Or worse, you’ll find yourself in a place with plenty of time or money, but the opportunity has passed to use it. Maybe someone else sacrificed their time when they didn’t have it, and now they don’t need you. If it feels impossible, pray about it. Talk to your leaders and your family. Consider what you can sacrifice in order to be generous to your church. And give when it doesn’t suit you.
My work is far from boring. Being a wedding photographer and the owner of a marketing business is actually pretty fun. I love what I do, and the work is rewarding. But on the days when I’m tempted to think that I’ve fallen into a rut of being “just a business owner” and not as special as in the early missionary days, I come back to some of these points, and am encouraged.
May God bless you as you serve Him, even on the boring days.
This is a guest blog post by Karen Reyburn. Karen originally served on the Airdrie, Scotland and Northern Ireland mission teams in 2000, as well as on multiple teams in Cyprus. She currently lives and works in Airdrie, Scotland, and is a dual citizen of the UK and USA.