Monday, March 17, 2008

Advice to a young friend

Hi friends,

I just finished writing a note to a young friend of mine. He is making some decisions now about his educational and occupational future. I well remember the uncertainty of those days in my own life and offered him some advice. Then I got to thinking that perhaps it might be a help to some of you. Or perhaps you might have some additional advice/experience of your own you’d like to share!


Here’s a portion of my letter to him.

  • It sounds like you are propping up an unprofitable business. It may be that the business is going to turn around and has the potential for much improved income (there is a start up phase, in which money is tight, to any business), and you certainly have much more of the picture about whether that will happen than I do. I heard about (but have never seen) a funny commercial which has stuck in my mind as an illustration of what sometimes happens to us (even me). In the commercial, there are these two redneck entrepreneurs with a pickup buying a load of watermelons for a dollar a piece. Then they drive the truck in to town and put up a sign that says, “Watermelons, $1 each”. They are swamped with business. But as the days go on, one guy realizes they are not making any money, and he says to his comrade, “Why aren’t we making any money?” His buddy says, “I don’t know, maybe we need a bigger truck!” You will need to take a hard and objective look at why the business is not making any money and make your own decision about whether you feel called to continue to support it (after your education) with your labor. Like I said, you know the situation a lot better than I do so I can’t tell you what to do.
  • How are you planning to advance God’s kingdom? If you happen to be fortunate enough to know even a portion of that for yourself, it will help your occupational and educational planning a lot. It’s much better, if possible, to find your ministry and then find a job that will fit into your ministry than to find a job first and then find a ministry to fit into your job. Personally things did not work out that way for me. When I was 22-23 I was trying to figure out what kind of ministry God wanted me in (using the “Do nothing, pray, and hope for a lightning bolt” method—highly ineffective!). I wasn’t doing much of anything except for some housework. Eventually Dad came up with idea of doing Character Computing and I went along with it because I didn’t know of anything better to do. In hindsight I can see more of God’s plan in allowing things to work out in that (less than ideal) way. If I had jumped directly into ministry at that age, I would have probably gone into some form of donor-supported ministry and been highly ineffective at it. Being in the business world has given me better people skills and (more importantly) enabled me to see some of the pressures that face the average Christian worker. God only calls a small percentage of people to be donor-supported ministers. Most of us are called to be “tentmaker” (self-supporting) ministers. After a couple of years in business I got so caught up in it that I had practically no time left for ministry. Fortunately, God allowed me to get really sick at that point which readjusted my priorities. I cut back on my business and that is how I have time to do Skype ministry, speak for VOM, jail ministry, etc. now. As it turns out my business has a lot of advantages that make it easy to have flexible time for ministry. But if I had been mature enough to know in advance what direction I needed to go in ministry and then pick a business to fit that ministry, it would have been better. However, it looks like God has sort of blessed me in spite of my bumblings. Now my dream is to see many other Christian tentmakers raised up, who work jobs but don’t get sucked into the materialism / “bigger truck” trap like I almost was.

I don’t have time to type it all out myself (in my own words) but here is a link to a pretty good (although somewhat watered down) rendition of the analogy of the rocks, pebbles, and sand. Basically the point is that if you put the temporal things into your life (schedule) first, you won’t have room (time) for the important (eternal) things. It is actually a very powerful truth to it, which Jesus expressed in Matthew 6:33.

Along those same lines, the short classic essay, The Tyranny of the Urgent, might be a blessing to you now in setting your goals. Here’s a link:

I hope these thoughts are of some help and can help you avoid making some of the mistakes I’ve made.

May Jesus strengthen you and guide you!


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