On Jesus Creed, (probably the best theology blog around) the awesome Scot McKnight often responds to letters from readers. My old friend OddBabble posted a comment a few days ago and now that I am back from the cultural Arctic circle that is Belfast, I can respond. She wrote on my post last week about vocation:
This is something I’ve been thinking about too but from a slightly different angle, so forgive me if I’m being tangential.
I have followed your advice of testing out what I feel I want to do and have found that I love and am good at, being a counsellor. The thing that is bugging me though, is that being a counsellor does not seem to do much to advance the gospel. I feel a burden to make the gospel known, but I hated being an evangelist as my job. Being a counsellor in the secular world prohibits me from talking about Jesus, so is that an immoral and irresponsible career to choose?
I’d be intersted in anyone’s thoughts on this.
I have some thoughts on this and maybe if I give it a post others will join in and help. But I think I need to formally propose that the idea that “advancing the Gospel” means verbally proclaiming the Gospel and nothing else is sub-Biblical. Culturally, there are quarters within the evangelical Christian church that have become so inward-turned that the Gospel means “going to heaven” or even worse, from a conference speaker I was listening to recently, “avoiding the wrath of God”. If nothing else, linguistically, the Gospel good news surely cannot take the form of the negative statement, “avoiding the wrath of God”.
When Jesus comes to announce his mission he speaks of the Gospel in remarkably social terms.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
It seems to me that the role of counsellor is smack-bam central in what it means to advance the Kingdom of God. The Biblical testimony across the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament is that the people of God are called to be a people who sincerely and truly live to honour others, since they are the artwork of God. The restorative mission of a counsellor is a much needed ministry in our world and it flows perfectly into the grand culmination of the Gospel that we find in Revelation when Jesus will say, “Behold! I make all things new!” At that time, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” The Kingdom will have come fully. No one could seriously say, with this in mind, that counselling cannot be a colony of that Kingdom ahead of its full arrival. It is a completely moral and utterly responsible career to choose. You get to spend your days bringing the healing that the Bible speaks of to bear in people’s lives. And in the context of friendships with co-workers and others you have the freedom to share the Gospel in word and in deed.
That by the way, shows people they need not be alienated from God far better than simply telling everyone we meet that they have to repent and believe.
Your Correspondent, Tightens his belt by cutting out past-tense from his grammar.