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his church shift their outreach focus from their own ideas of community impact to the goals of their community leaders. Still others have stepped to the forefront of community orphan care and flooded their foster care systems with quality homes, all as a means of living out their faith. These disciples have taken James’ admonition to heart: “Religion that is pure and undefiled

new degree programs in these serving professions in demand, but other degree majors are even shifting to accommodate intercultural or social work minors that can draw those who may want a traditional business or education degree but who also want to change the world. This makes sense for all the reasons of faith and Christ’s teaching we’ve already explored, but it’s also evident

“Highly gifted and capable students now routinely choose the heroic path of self-sacrifice in order to spend themselves in a sense of mission rather than mere career.” before God, the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James. 1:27). Indeed, even denominational missions organizations have broadened their sense of purpose to include missionaries who build water wells, establish indigenous businesses, teach English in government schools and serve distant communities in many more ways than just a Sunday pulpit. Such efforts are even opening doors that other political and religious ideologies once had slammed shut.

Changing the World

It’s against this backdrop that a new type of army is emerging. While one can argue that the church has always had its food banks, its clothing drives and its remnant of compassionate saints turning their bake sale monies into help for the homeless, there is a significant shift afoot. The era of mere projects or two-week forays into distant cultures is now breeding expanded interest in the full-life commitment of the serving professions. Counselors, teachers, mental health workers and a host of other compassion-focused friends are aligning their futures with needs and crises rather than paychecks and nest eggs. Making money is giving way to making a difference as a life focus. Universities are among those responding to such values. Not only are 24


that the need for these friends is rising. Counselors with crisis training may be in greater demand today than ever before. Perhaps it’s our worldwide awareness of the challenges in the global village or our ability to travel to any crisis venue, but serving professionals are now routinely mobilized to the site of the latest mass shooting, tsunami or terrorist event, ready to bring relief and hope when the latter seems highly at risk. In such moments, communities look to compassionate helpers. Government and business leaders swing the door open wide to those equipped to serve needs that go beyond their skill sets. Pastors, counselors, relief workers, teachers, doctors and many others find open hearts behind these open doors, and their sense of making a difference proves life changing, and not just for the ones in need. Having spent a week in a small Alabama town in the throes of such tragedy, I saw firsthand how no setting and no subject was off limits to those who could help. Of course, it’s not just crises that bring these professions to the forefront. The potential needs and arenas of human pain and suffering consistently offer a wide spectrum for such callings. Highly gifted and capable students now routinely choose the heroic path of selfsacrifice in order to spend themselves in a sense of mission rather than mere career. For many, it’s the compelling voice of Christ in their hearts that points out their pathway. They see their own

lives as brief expressions of Christ’s love to be spent for others in sacrificial love. For Christians, there is an inner compulsion to make a difference. The pursuit of sanctification is the hunger for Christlikeness. For the modern disciple, can there be any career path better connected to the Savior than a life of serving others? To many, a life in a serving profession allows every day to be an expression of Christ’s admonition in Matthew 25. This path isn’t just for missional impact but also is a fully immersed effort to live as an act of worship. Ultimately, the serving professions provide a junction point between Christianity and a cultural value we currently see emerging. Millennials want to be doers. Their dissatisfaction with religion is with the boring parts, the words without the actions and the perception of superiority from those who really don’t look that superior. For them, perhaps more than for their boomer and buster parents, a faith that doesn’t reach for the hurting or provide for the hungry seems illegitimate. Here’s where the make-a-difference opportunity of the serving professions attracts them. They seem more prone to view that the path to changing the world is through fixing it rather than through owning it. Now, these ideals certainly are not the private property of Christians, as such priorities are rising throughout this generation. Many have grasped the idea that “it’s better to give than receive” or discovered significance to be found in helping others, but for the Christian, there’s more at work here than the pursuit of personal satisfaction. It’s in serving that the disciple experiences a heart connection with his Savior. As Paul says, it’s a great thing “to be called according to His purpose.” Indeed, it seems there’s something innate in every believer that is drawn to those in need. Through the serving professions, many are finding a means for expressing that passion, and in many ways, they are changing the world. DR. MIKE CLARENSAUis dean, College of Bible and Church Ministries at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas. c h ar ism asb est . com

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