More musing on secular work and Christian faith

Our first night of Pre-Service Orientation (PSO) was exactly what one would expect on a night like tonight. Each of the leaders/speakers did their best to get the crowd engaged as they introduced themselves, and we watched the stereotypical introduction to the organization video.

What I found incredibly interesting was this: during the video, sound bites from several presidents from the past 40 years made it clear that our program is known and appreciated by higher-ups in national government. Both President Bush’s praised the VISTA program, which to be honest, completely surprised me.

But perhaps more surprising to me is this: at the conclusion of this week, we will be sworn into service using the very same oath President Elect Obama will be taking in just a few short weeks. In short, I will be swearing an oath (or more accurately using the word “affirm” because I don’t care for the swearing language) to defend the Constitution of the United States.

So, I will essentially be a pseudo-employee of the government, which comes with some interesting and ironic restrictions (at least for a seminary grad). Namely, I am restricted as to how and when I am allowed to talk about my faith. That part I understand and I’ve come to grips after some initial resistance.

But here’s an even stickier aspect.

Part of my job is to partner with faith-based mentoring programs, but in order for these organizations to receive any state funding, they are not allowed to evangelize. In essence, they have to exorcise discipleship from the mentoring program (at least officially) in order to receive all the benefits my organization can offer.

Although I do understand the rationale—that the government cannot endorse any particular religion—it will be challenging for me. In theory, I support faith-based mentoring programs who utilize discipleship as part of a holistic mentoring approach. On the other hand, I completely understand why my organization is under such restrictions. The difficulty for me will come as I attempt to recruit new faith-based programs into our larger umbrella organization. How will I be able to explain these restrictions in a way that makes sense? Or perhaps a better question is, should I even be asking them to join if one of the conditions is jettisoning discipleship as an official part of the program?

I’m curious: how would you handle a situation like this? Have you ever found your job to be a hindrance to your calling? What do you do when your livelihood conflicts with building The Kingdom?


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