Last year, I attended a conference at Bethel church in Redding, California. Senior Leader Bill Johnson shared how they used to envision “revival” for their city as people in the checkout lines of Wal-mart getting miraculously healed or falling out under the power of the Holy Spirit. He explained how that vision of revival had changed for him. While still advocating that believers should continue to seek God for how He might want to interrupt their day by praying for the sick, sharing a prophetic word, etc., Johnson also speculated that if revival hit business checkout lines like they had previously hoped for, it might actually have a negative impact on business, as businesses rely on predictability and regularity. If revival outside the church walls looked like some of the manifestations they were seeing inside their church walls, it might actually have a negative impact on traffic safety, etc. He challenged us to have a bigger view of the Kingdom of God and a bigger vision of revival. We have been given a garden to grow—to make more beautiful. We are called to bring “Heaven to Earth” in every realm, which includes the way we educate our children, the way we fertilize the soil, the way we make our laws, the way we do finances, the way we use science to heal, and how we become better servants through improving business systems, the arts and everything else.
I resonated with his message as the Lord had been saving me from a mindset that put spiritual work ahead of secular work in terms of importance, urgency, and eternal significance. Over the past few years, the Lord had been showing me just how important all the jobs that "take care of his garden" are. He was infusing “dirty” secular work with greater meaning and honor than I had ever given it before. In fact, I had experienced such an awakening to this, that I now felt like I had missed out on something. I wasn’t tending literal gardens (farming) or pushing medicine, political theory, education philosophy, digital arts or any of these other fields onto greater levels of heaven-likeness. I just had a spiritual vocation. I wondered—no, let’s call it what it is—I doubted, “Am I making the world a better place?” So, after the message I took my question to Mr. Bill Johnson himself.
“Can I sum up your message by saying, ministry is just everyone playing their part—being themselves and doing what they were put here to do?”
“Sure,” Bill responded with a level calm that made me feel that he was more present in the conversation than I was.
“But this has left me with a deep question: what about ‘ministry,' as we used to call it?”
Bill answers, “Well, my job is to equip the saints…to help them see the Kingdom.”
That was it. I shook his hand, thanked him and walked away. I had a mix of thoughts and emotions. I thought I was bringing him a brilliant question that would either dive deeper into the theology of work, or if we are waking up to a world where spiritual ministry isn’t a category anymore, then what should I do with the rest of my life, and all he said was, “…my job is…” This was brilliant for many reasons. He didn’t take the challenge my question assumed to the old category of spiritual callings, but rather confidently identified with a very specific (but also open) definition of spiritual ministry: helping others to see. His confidence in that significant role left me feeling empowered, and strangely vindicated, to discover my own calling in the world.
If someone had told my grandfather twenty years ago that you could make six figures by being a skateboarder and posting your pictures on Instagram, he would have said (without intending the pun), “That’s a pipe dream. They should go get a real job,” and I think I would have agreed with him. But now, I think I’d argue for more skateboard parks, more non-traditional industries and more creative ways of doing things that subvert old, established ways of doing things. I think we’ve only just begun to imagine what Heaven might actually look like on Earth. I believe in another 20 years there will be careers and wealth-generating ideas that would today seem ridiculous or impossible.
Jesus taught that we are spirit as much as we are flesh and that we need to be born of both. He also taught that we all—each one of us—need a diet of spiritual words as much as we need a diet of food. There aren’t some of us cut out to do purely physical work and others who do purely spiritual work. No. We’re all cut out to do work. And most of our work will never be thanked, noticed, paid for or valued on the stock market. But all of our work is meant to be enjoyed, whether it’s grocery shopping, changing diapers, mining, moving shipping containers or managing a fast food restaurant. Because doing all of this stuff is part of the love affair with life.
I used to try and systematize and categorize the engines of the world by putting them neatly into 7 realms, 5 personality types or by industry, gifting, economic need, etc. I felt a strange desire to somehow mentally balance the flow of all purposeful effort in the world so that it all had a net positive sum or remainder or whatever you want to call it. But now I see the world differently. I’ve given up on trying to org-chart the world. I’ve let go of trying to put certain things under the ministry column or the secular column. I’ve come to believe that there aren’t a limited number of jobs, occupations or callings, but that perhaps we live in a world with over 7 billion unique ones. (And they don’t begin at 18 and end at retirement age!).
Where does that leave us with how we balance a growing wholistic approach to Kingdom proclamation? I don’t know. But at one point the Lord spoke to me: “Garrett, everything you’ve done for love has worth in my economy.” I know that now, when I go out to Walmart or to a distant village in India, I’m there to love. What that looks like is different for each person and each situation, but I must go armed with,
1) The message of reconciliation—that God deeply desires to personally connect with every person,
2) The conviction that God is always eager to touch, heal and encourage others through me,
3) The identity that I am a child of Heaven, a walking tree full of Holy Spirit’s fruit, a conduit of God’s Presence and a flame of his hope, faith and love that can ignite the driest soul, and
4) The humility that infuses fresh honor and significance into the livelihoods of all who are trying their best to make it through this world.
That feels like the kind of Kingdom proclamation that I want to be a part of, regardless of whatever my “job” is.