Following Jesus in the “Real World”

Wrestling with vocation and our call to follow Jesus in the “Real World”? Let’s have a conversation . . .

The contributors to Faithful is Successful, Notes to a Driven Pilgrim are very much interested in feedback from and interaction with Emerging Scholars. That’s why they’re sharing their material with a volunteer ESN writer team to review and respond to via an ESN blog series. As you may remember, Andy Walsh kicked off the series with In Response to “The Difficulty Discerning Calling”. Please join the on-going conversation. . . . ~ Thomas B. Grosh IV, Editor.

————

I’m having an unexpected emotional reaction to the chapters I’ve read so far from the book project, Faithful is Successful: Notes to the Driven Pilgrim. I emphasize emotional, because this isn’t a rational response. I can convince myself rationally that I shouldn’t feel this way. But I do, and I’m not completely sure why. When Tom Grosh asked me a while back to consider responding to draft chapters on the ESN blog, I thought it looked like a great idea. Vocation is something I believe in. Following God’s calling. Faithfulness. Supporting Christians in careers that lack a significant Christian presence. Dialog about all this on a site for Christian students and scholars sounded ideal.

But frankly, as I’m reading through the table of contents and initial chapters (I have read drafts of the first two chapters in full), I’m finding myself uncomfortable. The chapters are testimonies of successful men stepping out in faith, letting go of their own plans and allowing God to direct their steps. Bryan McGraw describes giving up youthful dreams of adventure to follow God into academia, and then leaving a tenure-track position to prioritize family and “Kingdom work.” He explains how his view of vocation changed as his position at a “small Midwestern Christian liberal arts college” made worldly success “wildly elusive.” Dano Jukanovich, who wrote the second chapter, was likewise a (self-described) “young, goal-oriented, relatively successful, type-A male,” a recipient of the Harvey Fellowship awarded to Christian graduate students at premier institutions in hopes that they make a difference in their field. He gave up a lucrative position in corporate finance to open a consulting firm in Rwanda aiming to “alleviate poverty, improve community, shape industry and inspire others.” Both are stories of God’s faithfulness as men who had made it in worldly terms re-evaluated their idea of vocation. These are the kind of men I’ve been raised to see as role models, and whose lives I’ve sought to emulate.

But that may be the problem. (Bear with me as I try to think through this. I may still change my mind.) These are exactly the kind of people that the American evangelical middle-class subculture—my subculture—designates as role models. This is what I wanted to be when I grew up. They are successful, well-educated, middle-class white men, married with children, respected in their careers. They made it! And beyond that, they trusted God enough to give up excellent positions to follow His calling on their lives. Appropriately, God has blessed them in new ways. They were chosen to contribute to this book for that very reason: the book project website explains that “We asked a group of ambitious, driven people—professors, scientists, artists, investment bankers and more—to give us their stories….”

I’m not trying to be cynical. Their stories are inspiring and challenging. But it stings a bit—reinforcing an ideal that I now know I’ll never achieve. I’m McGraw’s age, but don’t have tenure, much less at the Harvard of American evangelicalism, Wheaton College. (I cringed hearing him describe a career at Wheaton as limiting his influence, given the number of Christian leaders Wheaton shapes.) My childhood dream was to do what Jukanovich does—to work overseas toward social justice and the eradication of poverty, even adopting children internationally, as he has. But despite my best efforts, those doors never opened to me. While I love my current position now, I mourned a lost dream when I accepted the job offer, feeling like a failure for “settling.” Worldly success was never my primary goal; I wanted to be out there serving the poor, working for justice, and training a new generation of Christian leaders, like those presented to me as examples of a faithful Christian life.

My story doesn’t end there. I, too, can tell of God’s faithfulness in my own unique circumstances. Like these authors, my understanding of my calling has changed over time. But while I can learn from McGraw and Jukanovich, their stories don’t resonate with me. I haven’t achieved the Christian ideal. I’m not a married white man with a family and a career. (The list of contributors to the book gives only last names, so I don’t know how many women are involved.) And if I feel this way even though I have achieved a modicum of success, what about those who haven’t made it as far as I have? What about my colleague in the humanities who has been an adjunct professor for over a decade, while his wife pays the bills? What about my former student, a committed Christian turned down for ministry positions because he’s gay? Both McGraw and Jukanovich experienced worldly success early in their careers. What about the many students graduating this spring who don’t have even worldly success to look forward to in their immediate future? (There’s a marked difference, after all, between surrendering worldly success to follow Christ and not succeeding at all.) What about those who were forced to drop out of college for family, health, or financial reasons? Or the majority of the world, who doesn’t go to college at all? What does vocation mean to them? What is success in God’s eyes? Does it normally mean a book published by Cambridge University Press (as McGraw has), or an influential ministry overseas (like Jukanovich)? According to the book project website, the question asked of each contributor was how they “follow Jesus in the real world?” But is this the real world?

I recognize the hypocrisy in my response. I’m well-educated, solidly middle-class, and white. I don’t speak for the majority of the population. (For an interesting look at the social and cultural bubble that I and, presumably, the majority of contributors to this book inhabit, take this quiz.) I’m not male, but I’m certainly not faulting the contributors to this book for their gender. Nor am I faulting them for their ambition or success.

So why am I uncomfortable with a book written by those who have achieved what I have so long striven toward? Am I jealous? Perhaps a bit. Is it my own low self-esteem? As I said, this is an odd emotional response that I’m having trouble putting into words. It’s not the content of the chapters I read that bothers me—the stories are encouraging and their theological insights are sound. But the underlying message still feels wrong, the affirmation of a Christian ideal that most of us will never achieve. What message does it convey that “professors, scientists, artists, and investment bankers” write about following God in the “real world,” while kindergarten teachers, accountants, nurses, office managers, journalists, and stay-at-home parents are left out (not to mention the careers open to those without a college education)? What about those who don’t have tenure-track positions or six-figure salaries to sacrifice for Kingdom work? Why aren’t there more women contributors? Why is the “real world” understood to be those who are doing exciting and fulfilling things with their lives? (Even the chapter on failure is written by an M.D.!) What about the unemployed, people with disabilities, those who struggle with their sexuality, those who struggle with their faith? That’s the real world for most of us.

While there’s nothing wrong with being a successful middle-class well-educated married Christian man—if that’s what God has called you to be—let’s be wary of declaring this to be the “real world.” We’re doing them a disservice if we convey to our students (or our children) that we expect this of them. Or even worse, that God does. What did Christ mean when He said that the meek—not the ambitious, driven, influential or successful—will one day inherit the earth? (Matthew 5:5)

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Kate Peterson

(pseudonym), an assistant professor in the humanities at a Christian institution of higher education.

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30 Comments

  • drandrewwalsh@gmail.com'
    Andy Walsh commented on May 8, 2013 Reply

    Thanks, Kate, for these very honest and transparent reflections.

    I wonder if your reservations have any connection to something I personally have always struggled with: the tendency towards post hoc analysis of God’s calling. By that I mean that a lot of discussion about discerning God’s will comes from retrospective reflection on personal experience. “I did this and it went well [in some sense], so that was when I was following God’s calling. This other time, things did not go well, so I must not have been listening to God.”

    If find myself wondering if this is the right approach. Is there a certain amount of selection bias involved there? And how do we know when we have reached “the end” so that we can say things worked out? Often times a secondary theme of these stories is that things weren’t going well in some sense for a while, but now they have worked out so it must be that God had a plan all along. But if that’s the case, then the perception of whether we are following God’s plan changes depending on when the question is asked along the course of the events.

    On the other hand, doesn’t being a Christian involve choosing to interpret our lives and tell our story in a way that is framed around God’s agency, so that we might bring Him glory? If that’s the case, though, then it seems to reduce the explanatory power of the notion of God’s plan; instead, it is an act of obedience to frame things in those terms, regardless of the particulars. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if that’s what we are doing we should be clear about it.

  • eltopiafrank@wildblue.net'
    lockwoodsblog commented on May 8, 2013 Reply

    Kate, maybe it’s just a question of, “that’s them, but this is me.”

    The “different strokes” thing.

    The spiritual ideal, if there is one, is precisely not to have models. Abraham was not following a model! Not all would agree, of course.

    Etc.

    • drandrewwalsh@gmail.com'
      Andy Walsh commented on May 8, 2013 Reply

      So, even if Abraham was not following a model, other Biblical figures certainly were. Elisha was mentored by Elijah, Samuel was raised by Eli, Joshua learned from the example of Moses, and so on.

      And then there is the call to have Jesus as our model. For example, take 1 John 2:6 “The one who says he resides in God ought himself to walk just as Jesus walked.” Or 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”

      • eltopiafrank@wildblue.net'
        lockwoodsblog commented on May 9, 2013 Reply

        Andy: Perspective shifts. There are many ways to follow Jesus. One of those ways may be the way of breaking the mold. No one could easily prove that the religion of Jesus was not just “more of the same,” whether that “same” be Abraham, Isaac, Moses, you name it. Ditto on Paul.he only says to be a follower of him to the extent that he is a follower of Jesus, who seems to be a follower of no one but God. And a seemingly different God at that!

  • ckemere@gmail.com'
    Caleb K. commented on May 8, 2013 Reply

    Wow. My favorite “emerging scholars” list post of the year. I loved this part:

    What message does it convey that “professors, scientists, artists, and investment bankers” write about following God in the “real world,” while kindergarten teachers, accountants, nurses, office managers, journalists, and stay-at-home parents are left out (not to mention the careers open to those without a college education)? What about those who don’t have tenure-track positions or six-figure salaries to sacrifice for Kingdom work? Why aren’t there more women contributors? Why is the “real world” understood to be those who are doing exciting and fulfilling things with their lives?

    I, for one, would love to hear more from them. (I remember something relevant from an excerpted George Muller’s diary book about a shoemaker.) I think the problem is really one of selection bias. The “meek” (almost by definition) typically don’t expect that other people would be interested in their insights…

    • eltopiafrank@wildblue.net'
      lockwoodsblog commented on May 8, 2013 Reply

      Caleb, I think you are on to something. Is religion is a product of institutional spin or of divine Revelation? Why were none of the authors of the divine books, stay at home moms? A relevant question for those who see the Bible as a “Divine Book” rather than a human instrument.

      • drandrewwalsh@gmail.com'
        Andy Walsh commented on May 8, 2013 Reply

        Well, there is the Book of Ruth. It’s not by a stay at home mom (that we know of), but that’s a fairly accurate description of its eponymous heroine. Sure, strictly speaking gleaning in the fields represents work outside of the home, but it was hardly a glamorous career. And since she is not an Israelite and enters into an inter-tribal marriage, it seems rather remarkable that there is an entire book just about her.

        • eltopiafrank@wildblue.net'
          lockwoodsblog commented on May 9, 2013 Reply

          Andy, are you claiming then that the book of Ruth was written by a woman? Interesting thought, though one that I have never before entertained.

      • drandrewwalsh@gmail.com'
        Andy Walsh commented on May 9, 2013 Reply

        No; I have no evidence to support such a claim. I was saying that, regardless of its authorship (which is ultimately unknown), it is still remarkable for the nature of its contents.

  • hughe036@gmail.com'
    Joel commented on May 8, 2013 Reply

    Kate:

    I think it’s entirely rational to feel uncomfortable at what you’re read.

    On the one hand, you are asking the book to be something it’s not. It’s written to driven type-A “successful” people (in the world system) asking them to be faithful to God. On the other hand, if faithful IS successful, then there should be stories of “unsuccessful” people (in the world) who were faithful.

    One of the most successful people I have ever met was basically a housewife. Never attained any measure of status in this world. But at her funeral there were hundreds of people from the church of thousands that she helped found about 40 years ago. Many testified that she led them to the Lord, and/or that she met with them consistently for 5, 10, or 30 years. The church she helped start is comprised of predominantly (60-80%) people who were not Christians until they were involved in that church. I read the autobiography she wrote a few years before her death–it was humbling. Truly she is one of whom the world was not worthy (Hebrews 11:38).

    So part of your discomfort may be stemming from the fact that faithfulness (and fruitfulness in the kingdom of God) is orthogonal or even opposed to worldly success. Perhaps the authors are reminding us that worldly success should not really be considered success. I have not read enough to know.

  • morningstarsong@sbcglobal.net'
    Mo commented on May 8, 2013 Reply

    I wasn’t sure where this piece was going, but I stopped reading here:

    “What about my former student, a committed Christian turned down for ministry positions because he’s gay?”

    What about him? The Bible knows nothing of a “committed Christian” who is openly living in sin! Of course he was turned down for ministry positions!

    This was shocking. I thought this was a biblical site.

    • drandrewwalsh@gmail.com'
      Andy Walsh commented on May 8, 2013 Reply

      Do we know that he is openly living in sin? If he self-identifies as gay, but leads a completely celibate life, would you consider that openly living in sin?

      I self-identify as a sinner; does that by itself mean that I am openly living in sin?

      • morningstarsong@sbcglobal.net'
        Mo commented on May 8, 2013 Reply

        Someone may identify as a sinner in general, but if they’re living in open, unrepentant sin that they have no desire or intention of stopping, then of course their spiritual state would be in question.

        ***

        You’re already operating on the assumption that homosexuality is inborn, something that can’t be changed, like eye color. That’s not the biblical view. It can’t be, otherwise God wouldn’t expect people to not live that way. It’s also not true otherwise there wouldn’t be people who once identified as homosexual and now do not. (But of course those people are said to never have been “real” homosexuals to begin with.)

        I am so weary of hearing this type of talk from non-Christians. But at least that is to be expected. But to to find it on a Christian blog is shocking. (Although I should stop being shocked at that as well. Even Christians now accept homosexuality or claim it can’t be helped or some other such thing.)

        I’m at a loss.

        • ckemere@gmail.com'
          Caleb Kemere commented on May 9, 2013 Reply

          > You’re already operating on the assumption that homosexuality is inborn,
          > something that can’t be changed, like eye color. That’s not the biblical view.
          > It can’t be, otherwise God wouldn’t expect people to not live that way. It’s
          > also not true otherwise there wouldn’t be people who once identified as
          > homosexual and now do not.

          I think this reasoning is spurious. God expects us to do many things that conflict with our “inborn” imperatives (e.g., not have heterosexual physical relationships outside of marriage). In addition, consider the random child born as a hermaphrodite. Does God expect them never to feel attraction to anyone?

          • morningstarsong@sbcglobal.net'
            Mo commented on May 9, 2013

            @ Caleb Kemere –

            We are not talking about hermaphrodites, which is a physical birth defect! No one is born homosexual. There is ZERO evidence to support any such thing.

            We’re talking about a professing follower of Christ who openly identifies as a homosexual and apparently thinks there’s nothing wrong with it.

            And apparently Christians on this blog think there’s nothing wrong with it either.

            Absolutely mind boggling.

          • eltopiafrank@wildblue.net'
            lockwoodsblog commented on May 11, 2013

            Re: “Mind Boggling:question of genetics

            Caleb, whether one is “born homosexual” may well depend upon your definition of homosexual.

            It comes down to the question of “What makes a person a girl, or a boy?” Is it genitalia? If the answer is yes, this is problematic for people who are born with mixed parts.

            We know that sexuality is not an either/or thing. For example, there are genetic reasons, other than cultural, that boys at a certain age suddenly take an avid interest in girls — or not. The fact is, our sexuality is programmed within our genes.

            Some of us are struggling with that, but we know it as a fact. And we know it intellectually even if not all of us like the emotions that go along with our enlightenment. It is not always comfortable to discover scientific facts, and that has been particularly true, for me at least, in the discovery that my views on sexuality were based upon superstitions that were culturally induced.

            Yes, it’s tough for those of us who have believed, (perhaps we have even have taught), that sexual urges were a matter of choice. But sexual drives are developmental. We don’t choose them. They drive us. Sex is a drive, like hunger or thirst.

            The fact is that we don’t all “develop” the same way.

            If most of us developed as homosexuals, we would not even be having this discussion. But because most of us develop as heterosexuals, those who develop into homosexuals are a minority.

            Is this comfortable for me, as a post Pentecostal? No it is not. Does that mean that I can avoid the issue? I am afraid that Christians are going to have to live with this, just as we had to live with the knowledge that the earth was not the center of the universe. So we have to deal with it. Most of us, including me, don’t know how to best do that.

            Is this issue “mind boggling”?

            You better believe it, and it is most boggling of all to those of us who are going through the transformation that is required to shed an outdated world view, to shed an obsoleted view of animal sexuality.

            And since we are still trying to keep our faith — our spirituality — intact, our work is cut out for us. It is not an easy job. We did not ask for this assignment. But a scientific understanding of the facts will make us more humane … more accepting of the human condition.

            We did not choose this work: It is being thrust upon us.

            But just as we are better off knowing that the world is round, in the future we will also be better off knowing that genetic components determine our sexual orientations, or at the least, that they determine them to a far greater extent than was once realized.

            Ignorance is not bliss (as any homosexual can certainly tell you).

      • drandrewwalsh@gmail.com'
        Andy Walsh commented on May 8, 2013 Reply

        “You’re already operating on the assumption that homosexuality is inborn”

        I’m sorry if it came across that way, but I am making no such assumption when I ask these questions. I do not know the person in question; I have no idea why he chooses to identify as gay. The only thing I know about him is that he does. And so I am asking whether identifying as gay — just the act of using that word to describe oneself — is a sin. Because if it isn’t, then I see no evidence to conclude that he is “openly living in sin.”

        • morningstarsong@sbcglobal.net'
          Mo commented on May 8, 2013 Reply

          @ Andy Walsh May 8, 2013 at 10:52 pm

          (I can’t find a way to reply directly to the comment.)

          “The only thing I know about him is that he does. And so I am asking whether identifying as gay — just the act of using that word to describe oneself — is a sin. Because if it isn’t, then I see no evidence to conclude that he is “openly living in sin.”

          Why in the world would a professing follower of Christ choose to openly identify themselves as homosexual? (I do not use the word “gay”, which used to simply mean “happy”.)

          This is baffling to me. It would be the same as someone walking around identifying themselves as someone who is living with someone outside of marriage, and then being shocked that they are not being offered or considered for a ministry position.

          Again, the fact that I’m having this discussion on a Christian blog, among Christians leaves me stunned. And discouraged.

      • drandrewwalsh@gmail.com'
        Andy Walsh commented on May 9, 2013 Reply

        (Replies can only nest a couple of levels; after that, your best option is to do exactly what you have done.)

        “Why in the world would a professing follower of Christ choose to openly identify themselves as homosexual?”

        I don’t know for sure. I could speculate, but that’s all it would be. If you consider his motive relevant to the question of whether or not identifying as gay is a sin all on its own, then in the absence of information about his motive the charitable thing to do is give him the benefit of the doubt and not accuse him of “openly living in sin.”

        And if motive isn’t relevant, then we are back to the question I asked in my last comment.

        “I do not use the word ‘gay’, which used to simply mean ‘happy’.”

        True enough, I suppose, although I’m not quite clear on the relevance. Gay has also meant “splendid and showily dressed” and “gallant knight,” among other things. Language is always evolving. For clarity and accuracy, I thought it best to stick with the word used in the post.

        “Again, the fact that I’m having this discussion on a Christian blog, among Christians leaves me stunned. And discouraged.”

        I certainly do not wish to be discouraging, and am sorry you feel that way. However, the accusation of “openly living in sin” is a serious one. If I am to “act justly and love mercy,” as the Bible admonishes, then I think it is important to not levy that charge if it is unwarranted.

        • morningstarsong@sbcglobal.net'
          Mo commented on May 9, 2013 Reply

          @ Andy Walsh –

          I gave the example of a heterosexual person who says they are a follower of Christ but lives with someone outside of marriage and then is shocked that they are not considered/hired for a ministry position.

          The fact that you chose to ignore that is troubling.

          The Bible is clear on homosexuality. The fact that it’s being excused and defended here… I don’t even know what to say.

          I’m going to remove myself from the conversation now. It’s just too frustrating. And once again, on a Christian site.

          • eltopiafrank@wildblue.net'
            lockwoodsblog commented on May 9, 2013

            Homosexuality is an uncomfortable topic for many Christians, including myself, but it is an issue that we cannot simply withdraw from, because modern genetics presents overwhelming evidence that our sex drives are predetermined by our genetic makeup.

            I feel very uncomfortable including homosexuality within the normal range of human behavior, but I believe that science seems to be on the side that opposes strict adherence to certain biblical authors viewpoints. We need to get used to the fact that the authors had viewpoints of their own, and that those views were not necessarily always the views of the Creator..

            The bible is a natural book produced in the normal manner of all books, and therefore it contains subjective material.

      • drandrewwalsh@gmail.com'
        Andy Walsh commented on May 13, 2013 Reply

        @lockwoodsblog Re: “Mind Boggling:question of genetics” (May 11, 2013 at 2:32 am)
        (The relation used to define the ordering of comments here eludes me)

        There are some interesting assertions here. As a biologist, I feel as though I need to get more up-to-date on the literature of this topic before commenting further. At the moment, I don’t feel as though I have a good handle on what evidence is available, and what can and cannot be inferred from it. I am going to do some research with an eye towards summarizing my findings in one of my monthly science posts.

  • r.mckenzie@uq.edu.au'
    Ross McKenzie commented on May 8, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for this excellent post.
    Based on your description, I have the same negative emotional response to this project.
    It seems very American!
    I wonder what David Platt (Radical) thinks about it.

    I don’t think your negative response is solely based on your own “failure” to match the “success” of the authors.
    I am the kind of person who might have been invited to contribute to the book….
    white, married with children, affluent, Princeton Ph.D, Professor of Physics at a research university in Australia, often speaking on science and theology, involved in ministry in the developing world….

    Some faithful people are “successful”. Other are not. Look at the end of Hebrews 11.
    I think failure and weakness is the normal Christian life.

  • esnkate@gmail.com'
    Kate Peterson commented on May 9, 2013 Reply

    Thanks, everyone, for your understanding and support!

    YES to all of you who pointed out that success for a Christian isn’t the same as worldly success (and that is indeed what this book project emphasizes.) But I’m still uncomfortable with replacing worldly success with a new definition of “Christian success,” which is what it FEELS like it’s doing, even though I doubt that’s the goal. I can’t speak for others, but I was raised on the stories of faithful, successful Christians who did for great things for God. Whether or not it was spoken aloud, the implicit message was that this was what good Christians do, and if we’re truly doing what God has called us to do, God will bless us in it. (A similar principle to a “health and wealth Gospel,” although health and wealth are replaced by prospering ministries and widespread influence for Christ.)

    I do want to emphasize, though, that I wrote this after reading only two chapters. It could very well be that future chapters go in different directions. And yes, I agree that it feels very American to me, but that may be only because I’m reading it through the lens of my own American upbringing.

    Caleb – I love your point that “the ‘meek’ (almost by definition) typically don’t expect that other people would be interested in their insights…” How true. It’s a Catch-22. They aren’t asked to share their insights, so they don’t, and because they typically don’t, no one thinks to ask them… I have that problem as a teacher – the less confident students don’t volunteer answers, and so I don’t call on them, and so I don’t get their insights… You’ve given me an idea for an interesting future book (or blog) project: collecting the stories of Christian “failures” – those who dropped out of college, ended up on disability, did not succeed at the ministry they felt God was calling them to, lost their jobs (or their homes). And not waiting until they’ve done something else great for the Kingdom, but asking what it looks like while they’re still at the bottom. Hmm… maybe after tenure.

    Mo – My student received a response similar to yours from the ministry he hoped to serve with. It stung, as he had put a lot of prayer into his decision to apply, and really did think at the time that it was God’s will. I was impressed that he admitted upfront that he experienced same-sex attraction, since he knew it could lead to rejection. And yes, he did use the word “gay,” just as he had before he became a Christian, although he had never been sexually active. (Where I live, the term “gay” is often used to refer to someone who is attracted to others of the same sex, whether or not they’ve been in a relationship.) While a lot of people do experience changes in their sexual desires or orientation, the fact remains that he had not. I’m glad that he didn’t feel he had to sit around waiting for that before he could begin serving God.

    But I do recognize that this is a difficult and emotional issue for many people, and I expect it will be a topic of a future blog post of mine (although I don’t want to hijack the ESN blog for discussions of homosexuality). Thanks for your concern.

    Kate

    • Tom Grosh IV commented on May 9, 2013 Reply

      Dear Kate,

      As I’ve shared in other contexts, your contributions to and charitable comments on the Emerging Scholars Network Blog are much appreciated. Thank-you. Keep pressing on in the upward hope of Christ Jesus.

      In Christ,

      Thomas B. Grosh IV
      Associate Director, Emerging Scholars Network

  • Tom Grosh IV commented on May 9, 2013 Reply

    A few thoughts on the larger project: Ever feel like it’s tough to share your story, even why you live life on a given day? A few years ago I wrote a ‘Spiritual Autobiography’ for a Spiritual Formation class, http://groshlink.net/gallery/1/Spiritual%20Autobiography2.pdf. This project gave me the opportunity to ‘flesh out’ more of what I meant when I shared about the gift of “One More Day.” Although I’ve made the story public, at times I’ve wondered whether it’s appropriate and how others interact with such a personal understanding of my story. Periodically, I am reminded that some who had (and may still have) great aspirations for me consider me a failure on a number of levels. Maybe some find me a success, but do I care? No, since cancer treatment I have sought to embrace each day as a gift of God to be offered to Christ alone without respect to the opinion of others. But this past term, a seminary professor reminded me that through Christ I have gifts to offer the Body of Christ. Furthermore, I should not shrink back from joyfully blessing others even if it is termed/understood as success by myself/others. Note: This happened in the context of whether I should present material with enthusiasm/passion and seek to persuade others to consider receiving the blessing of some of what I sense God has been specifically teaching me in my own ministry/journey.

    I look forward to reading the introduction to “Faithful is Successful: Notes to the Driven Pilgrim,” which “explains the origins of the book, why it is necessary, and introduces the vision for the book.” We read further, “The idea for the book originated out of the felt need and shared desire of the book’s editors to help Christians think about what it means to integrate faith and vocation, particularly in fields where Christians are underrepresented. Our common experience has been that Christians called to these fields face many similar issues and often feel quite isolated. While some have been fortunate enough to find older mentors and examples, these opportunities are rare. This book provides a vehicle to share the wisdom and experience of established Christians, with academic and professional credentials, with a broader audience.” — http://drivenpilgrim.blogspot.com/2012/12/a-tentative-outline.html.

    Looking over the table of contents (http://drivenpilgrim.blogspot.com/2012/12/a-tentative-outline.html), we’re receiving a raw glimpse of topics which honestly are not discussed well. As I consider speakers and mentors for the Emerging Scholars Network and the Christian Medical Society (CMS)/CMDA at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, I am struck by how few health care professionals and scholars/academics have considered following Christ with their ‘head, heart, and hands.’ Many times particular traditions give too much attention ‘head, heart, or hand,’ even leaving one out the picture entirely, http://blog.emergingscholars.org/2011/06/head-heart-hands-fragmented-faith-fragmented-people/. If you are interested in addressing this question and have material to propose or share via comments, please let me know. I desire the fruit of this endeavor to be the sharing good/provocative questions, challenging real life stories, and even wisdom/knowledge.

    As I’ve shared before, I find the writing team’s openness to giving the Emerging Scholars Network a sneak peek at and even influence material “in process” a unique opportunity. I pray that this conversation will be of benefit to all who participate, even when we wrestle with what it means to be successful and whether Christ followers are allowed to be successful in any way that the world or any segment of the Christian population considers successful. Note: Let me just briefly comment that I live in Lancaster County, PA, and am surrounded by Christian traditions who will never take governmental power positions (even fire fighting is a tough one for the Amish) and have no space for seeking success by leaving the family, local faith community.

    PS. With regard to the three “main characters” I have interacted with, they are more diverse than the impression given by the first two chapters (and maybe some of the fruit of this conversation will not just be chapter revisions, but also additions to the writing team or an afterward/response of some form). Furthermore I pray that they will continue to offer their gifts in service to the Lord . . .

    1. Josh Swamidass’ Urbana12 bio shares, “he is a young Assistant Professor in the Medical School at Washington University in St Louis. He is both a Christian and a Scientist. His scientific research focuses on designing new computer software that can help develop new medicines and the discover of new uses for existing medicines. He is also very active, both locally and nationally, with campus ministries groups for undergraduates, graduates, faculty, and international students. Dr. Swamidass often speaks to student groups about integrating our faith and vocation, finding God’s calling for our careers, how Christianity and Science are compatible, and ways of understanding Genesis and Evolution.” — https://urbana.org/urbana-12/speaker-and-team-bios/urbana-12-seminar-speakers/s-joshua-swamidass-md-phd. For notes from his presentation at Urbana12 visit http://blog.emergingscholars.org/2012/12/gradschool-for-gods-global-mission-s-josh-swamidass/.

    2. Ross, you may be happy to know that Nathan Grills is currently residing in Australia. His bio at https://www.medicalmissions.com/community/members/nathan-grills reads

    “Public Health Physician and post doctoral fellow with the Nossal Institute for Global health at the University of Melbourne. He now works largely in India on disability, non-Communicable diseases and health training. In particular he is working with the Indian government to address tobacco usage in India. Prior to this he worked as a Public Health Fellow (Victorian Dept. of Health) and as a researcher with CDC & WHO on HIV. He extensively researched faith based health programs whilst completing his MPH and DPhil at Oxford University under a Rhodes Scholarship.

    He has worked in Africa, Fiji, East Timor, PNG, Bangladesh and Nepal and is currently working to meet the needs of the disadvantaged in North India. He and his wife, a dermatologist, are now based in India where they facilitate a Network of programs to work together to help train more Community Health Workers to serve the under-served (www.chgnukc.org). This work is undertaken in partnership with Interserve/Pioneers http://www.interserve.org.au, the Public Health Foundation of India, Emmanuel Health Association (India) http://www.eha-health.org/ and the Community Health Global Network http://www.chgn.org.

    3. David E. Lewis is a “Professor of Political Science and Law (by courtesy) at Vanderbilt University. His research interests include the presidency, executive branch politics and public administration. He is the author of Presidents and the Politics of Agency Design (Stanford University Press, 2003) and numerous articles on American politics, public administration and management. His most recent book, The Politics of Presidential Appointments: Political Control and Bureaucratic Performance (Princeton University Press, 2008), analyzes the causes and consequences of presidential politicization of the executive branch. The book received the Herbert A. Simon Best Book Award from the American Political Science Association’s Public Administration Section and the Richard E. Neustadt Best Book Award from the American Political Science Association’s Presidency Research Section. His current projects explore the political views of government agencies and their employees, the politics of presidential appointments and various aspects of public sector management performance. Ph.D. Stanford University.” — according to http://www.vanderbilt.edu/political-science/bio/david-lewis

  • pvinden@gmail.com'
    Penny Vinden commented on May 10, 2013 Reply

    I’m someone who has given up being a tenured professor to work with a Christian charity, and I can say that while I have received positive reinforcement from others who admire my willingness to take a huge salary cut, on the inside I sometimes feel as if I have failed: to be the kind of Christian witness in the university that I wanted to be, to engage the university in the way that I encourage others to do. I see the university as just as much a mission field as anywhere else – and one in great need of a strong Christian presence. It’s all a matter of perspective – faithful is successful, no matter where you are. Thanks for the great blog.

  • eltopiafrank@wildblue.net'
    lockwoodsblog commented on May 11, 2013 Reply

    Is there a way to correct an error in my post, other than reposting?

    Above I said: “No one could easily prove that the religion of Jesus was not just “more of the same,”

    What I mean to say was that “Jesus definitely was not just more of the same.” Not just another Moses, not just another Abraham. He was breaking the mold.

    To elaborate, Mosaic religion was not the same as Abrahamic religion: It was a new religion and even came up with a new name for God!

    Likewise, Jesus was compelled to contradict Moses concerning his views on marriage.

    The writers of the pseudo Pauline books felt compelled to go beyond Paul, if not to “correct” him, certainly to interpret him.

    Augustine, realizing the numerous inconsistencies contained in the scriptures, created a new way of interpreting and understanding the Bible, in attempt to reconcile the differences of opinions expressed in the Bible.

    Likewise, the Protestant reformers went beyond the church authorities, creating a new cannon and certainly interpreting the old cannon differently.

    Still not content with that, the dispensationalist reformers created yet another system or paradigm, I suppose for much the same reasons.

    All of the above were huge paradigm shifts at the time, but the paradigm shift that we are now facing seems gigantic by comparison.

  • Tom Grosh IV commented on May 16, 2013 Reply

    Yesterday, “Interruptions are not distractions” by Laura Meitzner Yoder was posted on the “Faithful Is Successful: notes to the driven pilgrim…” blog. I think that a number of the participants in this conversation (and others who follow the ESN blog) will appreciate reflecting upon/interacting with what the Associate Professor and Director of the field-based Sustainability Semester at the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College, Indiana, USA, contributes to “Faithful Is Successful: notes to the driven pilgrim…”

    Stay tuned . . . next week Yoder’s chapter will receive a review by a member or two of the ESN Blogger team. In the mean time feel free to comment on the chapter excerpt posted at http://drivenpilgrim.blogspot.com/2013/05/interruptions-are-not-distractions-by.html.

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