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“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” – Matthew 4:19-20

I woke up this morning wondering if the apostles ever heard from their friends and families, “Get a real job!

I hear variations of that phrase more than I care to. Usually I am not too offended, but many of the youth who have worked here (or would like to work here) struggle with this dilemma. The pressure weighs on them, to find a job that pays better or a job that aligns with desirable career goals. Working for Jesus has never been mainstream.

Many people arrive at the conclusion that working at a summer camp, or even in full-time ministry, isn’t a “real job.” Most assume that working for a Christian camp doesn’t pay much, an that assumption would be correct. The challenge is – when did pay and job satisfaction ever really define what a “real job” is?

Many of the young people we see are struggling to not only go to college, but pay for college. They are trying to set out on their own and it requires an income. What concerns me most is the message we are sending them. We say, “You can be anything you want to be,” but it really means:

“…anything you want, as long as it makes you comfortable and isn’t stressful.
“…anything you want, but dad needs you to help with his business.
“…anything you want, after you get into the RIGHT college.
“…anything you want, as long as it doesn’t embarrass me.

Why are there always unstated conditions around the “you can be anything” statement?

In truth, any adult would admit that the promise of being free to be “anything” is false. There are limitations from all sides and the reality is more like: “Life happens, make the most of what you’ve got.”

I think we are getting it all wrong and asking the wrong things of our children. I wonder if the apostles felt those same things when they left their nets to follow Jesus, or gave up the dreaded, but lucrative taxpayer job. 

Our Identity is an Adventure
When we lived in Colorado Springs we attended Woodmen Valley Chapel. We loved that church very much and it was difficult to leave our church family when we moved to Jaffrey, NH. The former pastor there, Matt Heard, did a series of sermons on worship that changed my view so much on the concept. I still remember the phrase he would use, “worship is our active, all-of-life response to the worth of who God is and what He does.”

I want to rephrase this. Our identity is discovered in our active, all-of-life response to the worth of who God is, what He has done, is doing, and will do. In other words, our identity and purpose is discovered and comes alive as we engage with the story and heart of Jesus Christ. Our identity will be shaped by our pursuits.

When my parents encouraged me, they told me, “Follow Christ.” I am so appreciative of that wisdom. My life isn’t anything that I thought it would be and if you took a close look at my LinkedIn profile, you would see a pedigree that looks more like a mutt than a pure-bred. If anything, it sure has felt that way. But I believe God is doing something for His glory with what I’ve got.

Following Christ
One of the things I love about Jesus is that He was a rebel in the purest of ways. His selection of his disciples is just one example of Jesus bucking the mainstream thought. Usually the students chose their mentors, and obviously if you were choosing your rabbi, your pursuit was religious in nature. Jesus conformed to neither. Not only did He choose His followers, but it appears that they had no interest in furthering their religious education. This is especially true of Simon, Andrew, James, and John, who were on a solid fisherman career path. We don’t really know why Jesus chose them. Of course, I often wonder why Jesus chose me. 

I love their response. They followed immediately.

Now I don’t think they had any clue of what they were getting into, or what they signed up for. But they walked with Jesus for three years, saw the miracles, and experienced a life beyond all imagination. They saw Jesus love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable, heal the unhealable. And they began to find their identity and value in the worth of who God is and what He wanted to do through them.

Instead of simply instilling and passing down the pressures of going to the right college, getting the perfect job, and checking the career blocks; we need to encourage our youth to discover who they are in Jesus. They must discover their identity in the pursuit of Christ, not the pursuit of success. If not, the pursuit of success will inform and become their identity.

Let our conversations with those we love sound more like, “Follow Christ” than “Get a real job!” If not, they may miss out on the greatest adventure.