Every day before he walked into his television studio, Fred Rogers said a simple prayer. “Lord,” he asked, “let some word that is heard be yours”. On Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood there was never any overt discussion of faith. There was never a sermon, a Bible story, or a mention of God. Yet in his abundant kindness, his quiet gentleness, and his loving spirit, we all got to see Rogers demonstrate what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
All of my life I have felt a call to ministry, and all of my life I have struggled to discern that call. Should I lead a church? Preach sermons? Go into counseling? Nothing seemed like the right fit; it was always a case, if you’ll pardon the pun, of right church, wrong pew.
I have worked many jobs that I would never consider to be a “calling”; they were jobs that I frankly hated. Yet in every job, I would strive to insure that employees, clients, and strategic partners were treated fairly. I frequently found myself arguing that while a particular business practice may well be legal, that doesn’t mean that it was ethical. I was often on the losing side of those arguments. The stress of feeling that I was doing evil by supporting those companies’ policies made me physically ill. Those ethical dilemmas are what drove me away from careers in the corporate world.
Last year I felt called to go back to school. I decided to pursue my business degree. In spite of the fact that I found much evil in the corporate world, I was good at what I did. Surely there must be a way to use my abilities for good, rather than evil? I had no idea where that road was going to lead me, but I felt very, very certain that it was the right road, and that I’d figure it out as I went along. In the meantime I became involved with ministry — again — and started feeling that call. A number of people began to advise me on how to pursue that call. These are the things I can or should do right now, some said. Those are the things I should think about, others said. It became very confusing for a while, because I felt as if I were being pulled in several different directions. The answer to most long-term plans, however, was universally the same: I’m not committing to anything major until I finish this business degree.
My call to business and entrepreneurship and my call to ministry are not two different things that are at odds with each other.
One of the reasons I’ve been so fascinated with the Chick-fil-A debaucle is that it exists at the intersection of faith and finance. An overt expression of your faith via the platform of your company is going to drive off some of your customers; the way you conduct your business can in turn impact your ministry and your ability to demonstrate the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. The whole thing, to me, has proved to be a demonstration of how to get it completely wrong on all account.
Mister Rogers got it right, as usual. He lived his faith thought his own actions, not by commenting on the actions of others. He allowed his personal principles to drive his work ethic, guide his business, and influence his product, but he never was so overt about it as to alienate. It didn’t hurt his television show, and it didn’t hurt his ministry. And there, in short, is my answer. I can try my best to lead by example, to be kind, and to be ethical, no matter what business I’m in. I don’t have to be “in ministry” to be in ministry. I will continue to follow my professional call to business even as I follow my personal call to be more like Christ.
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