God has interwoven my career pathway like the laces in a pair of shoes, crisscrossing them back and forth. I've gone from local church ministry to overseas service, back to local church ministry in cross-cultural settings in the U.S., then back overseas, and now back to local church ministry. After more than four decades of this, I see something of what He had in mind in leading me along a zigzagging vocational trail.
I see a similar pattern for other Christ followers, even for many who aren't on a ministerial track. In fact, Moses and Saul of Tarsus are two good biblical examples of people who had non-linear career paths.
Their career paths ran something like the following:
- Moses: scholar and statesman, fugitive, shepherd, deliverer, nation builder
- Saul of Tarsus: Pharisee, persecutor of Christians, tentmaker missionary, theologian, prison evangelist
It used to be that some people stayed with a single career, a few of them in the same place, for life. Now many individuals seem to change careers or occupations every few years or months. In the midst of current economic hard times, just to have employment at all is the goal for many people.
I believe that in fully following Christ's career pathway, you don't need to view change as a deterrent to your Kingdom usefulness.
My pursuit of Christ's plans has taken me along a scenic route rather than in a straight line, the shortest distance between two points. Yet, I look back and see that He has led me all the way.
For instance, my vocational timeline looks like this: pastor (late 1960s), missionary (1970s), pastor (1980-7), refugee work (1987-9), pastor (1989-94), mission executive (1994-2005), pastor (2005-present). The directional changes that my career has taken were not deterrents to the fulfillment of Christ's purposes for my life. Instead they helped develop my worldview and Kingdom effectiveness more fully.
The Lord is teaching me to view my vocation in light of a promise God makes to His people: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'" (Jeremiah 29:11).
All along our joint career pathway, my wife, Marty, and I have found the Lord to be our "Wonderful Counselor" (Isaiah 9:6). He has shown himself to be the only utterly reliable career counselor for us, and He wants to be that for you as well. You may safely follow Him where He leads you.
A. Brent Cobb is pastor of Lewiston, Idaho, First Church of the Nazarene. Previously, he served as director of the Asia-Pacific Region for the Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, Mar/Apr 2010