The Five Biggest Career Mistakes Christians Make - Part I

I can’t tell you how disappointing it was when, at age 22, I finally made the decision to pursue a “secular” career instead of going into the ministry. Rather than embracing a bold confidence in the choice, I had this sinking feeling that I was somehow letting God down.

The pathetic part is, I prayed, fasted, and tried every which way to make myself want to work in ministry - but it just didn’t click. There was this nagging intuition telling me it wasn’t meant to be, despite the gravitational pull coming from a loyal and supportive circle of super-spiritual friends who shared my undying passion for setting the world on fire for Christ.

Unfortunately, I had very little exposure to what this so-called world might actually have to offer, aside from being set on fire. It was difficult to fathom the God I thought I knew ever slumming down his holy presence into the midst of those distasteful secular settings. As far as I knew, the world outside of ministry offered only, well, “worldly” career choices – choices that certainly would not meet God’s standards of approval.

The truth is, I had spent very little time investigating this premise, because these things were of absolutely no value to my Christian subculture bubble, with its over-emphasis on evangelism and missions and basically converting everyone to our 20th-century suburban white American middle-class version of the gospel.

So naturally, I was a bit off-balance after making that fateful decision to venture off into a secular profession, careening towards a career in the salacious world of consumers and competition and, I don't know, whatever else those ungodly people did out there. I felt guilty, isolated, uncertain, and totally unprepared.

In my darkest moments, I imagined God floating around my head talking trash about me to his top-ranking angels, making vague scriptural references as to how I wasn’t measuring up. “That J.B. Wood, I had big plans for him. If only he had stayed in the good soil!” The angels nod knowingly, jotting something down in their legal pads.

Nonetheless, I instinctively knew it was right, even though I couldn’t envision where the arc of my career might take me. I just had to get started. Somewhere. It was a mustard seed of hope, a stubborn determination, as if God would eventually roll His eyes and let out a big sigh, saying, "Oh, alright! Sheesh!" I knew he'd help me figure it out along the way.

So off I went to the Big City, leaving behind my church, my family and my on-fire super-spiritual friends. Looking back, I would say this was one of the biggest acts of faith I had ever undertaken in the entirety of my small, sheltered life.

Fast forward 30 years. I discovered a rich, dynamic, creative career in business that I never would have imagined had I not ventured into the dreaded secular world. The varied work experiences also uncovered a wide range of skills and interests that might have otherwise been left dormant, untapped and invisible. I also crossed paths with many big-hearted men and women who guided and mentored me along the way. Most importantly, I began to appreciate the significance of work in its contribution to God's kingdom here on earth.

It took a couple of decades, but I eventually reconciled my career aspirations with my theology of work. Rather than tapping his fingers on the table with a critical glare, I now see God swooping to my side in the conference calls, the sales meetings, the Board presentations, flashing an enthusiastic thumbs-up and a wink. “Keep bein’ awesome!” he says.