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Congregational Development and Revitalization | God's Instagram Part Three: Janitor For Jesus

God’s Instagram Part 3: “Janitor for Jesus”


Mark 1:14-20


One of my first responsibilities when I became a lead pastor at a new church was to hire a secretary.  The secretary that had been working there resigned before I arrived at my new appointment.  As we finished working out the details of the job description the thing that stumped us the most was what to call this person.  We needed a job title.  We didn’t really like “secretary” because we felt like we needed something more modern.  We thought about “Office Manager” or “Office Coordinator”.  It took way too much brain power to come up with something that seemed so simple.  Reflecting back I am glad we took some extra time to get the title correct for this position because titles in the business world really do matter.  They sort of define us and our role.  


Our jobs, careers, titles, etc really are good things.  God created us to be people who work.  All the way back in Genesis God created human beings to care for the earth and to work it.  Our work gives us purpose and it allows us to find joy.  At the same time our work can take away from who God created us to be.  Work can cause frustration and pain. A job loss can be debilitating and take away our sense of self worth.  Being in a job that we see as meaningless can leave us feeling devalued.  Even in successful careers we can lose our sense of self worth and identity in our jobs.


Recently I have taken on a different type of role after serving as a youth director and a pastor for 20 years.  On Christmas Eve for the first time in many years I had no role to play in the worship service.  I was overwhelmed with a sense of sadness.  In that moment not being a pastor leading the service made me feel less than who God created me to be.  Maybe you have had similar moments when your job, career, or lack there of left you feeling less than who God created you to be.  


Over the last several weeks we have been looking at our identity and how we can ground our identity in who God is.  In part 1 we talked about Jesus’ baptism and that when he came out of the water Jesus heard God affirm that he was God’s son and that God was pleased with him.  We can and should hear that same affirmation as the beginning place of our own identity.  We are God’s children first and foremost.  In part 2 we discussed how John’s gospel describes Nathaneal’s skepticism of Jesus, his need to analyze and control Jesus as we sometimes do.  Jesus however invites us into a special relationship with him where we can accept and return his love for us.  Today I want us to explore our calling and how we find identity in our work as we look at Mark 1:14-20.


In this passage in Mark’s gospel we meet four fishermen.  More than likely they have been fishing their whole lives.  Fishing was probably their family business and everyone around would have known this was what they did and so it was who they were.  In the first century people where not only defined by their relationship roles, but they were defined by what their occupation was.  It would have been expected that they pass on their trade to their children and to their children’s children.


Interestingly enough Jesus walked up to four fishermen and asked, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers on men.”  More interesting than Jesus asking the question is that they say yes and follow him.  We have no idea if they had ever met Jesus before.  Mark’s Gospel doesn’t describe a previous encounter between these four fishermen and Jesus.  John’s gospel does mention a different encounter between Andrew, Peter, and Philip with Jesus. John mentions the possibility of their being John’s disciples first and then following Jesus.  We simple don’t know.  We also don’t know what the reaction of their friends and family would have been to their leaving.  Who would have helped their fathers?  Did their fathers throw a fit?  Did their mother’s cry?  Did they leave wives and children behind?


What we do know is that for Jesus; Peter, Andrew, James, and John we more than just four guys who had a fishing business.  Their careers did not define who they were.  I believe this is so important and if we don’t get this it can be devastating to our own sense of self worth.  It is something I have really struggled through.  It is this: we are more than our jobs and our careers.  Those things are important, but they should never define who we are.  I am Brian Davis who is a child of God.  That is who I am.  The role I serve may be a pastor.  It may be a teacher.  It may be working at any number of jobs.  My job is not the sum total of who I am.  When we lose ourselves in our career or job we lose who we are in God.  And if that job or career falls apart we have nothing left.  You and I are greater than what we do.  We need to define ourselves as someone who is radically loved by God.  


Notice also that Jesus’ invitation is to “follow him.”  When we define what it means to be a disciple it means to be someone who “follows.”  A disciple is a follower of someone.  If we are a disciple of Jesus we follow Jesus.  Jesus’ invitation to these four fishermen does not first involve a job description.  They may have wished they had gotten one, but they didn’t.  The invitation is first to “follow.”  That is it!  They didn’t even know what they would be doing.  


Here is the point.  Jesus calls us first and foremost to “follow.”  That is our first calling and it goes before anything else that we may do vocationally. Karl Barth said of the disciples, “They are elected to discipleship simply through the fact that Jesus claims them.”  The same is true for us.  Jesus simply claims you and I and elects us to discipleship.  That is the greatest calling we can every have.  It is greater than any job title.  It is greater than any work we may do.  It is greater than any paycheck we will take home.  The God of the universe calls us to follow him.  And… when we respond to that calling we will find that our job and careers find their meaning.  


When we receive a job description from our employers our success is determined by how well we perform what is in that job description.  For these four fishermen their success was determined by how many fish they could catch and sell to provide for their families.  For us it could be how well we teach, how many patients we treat and cure, how quickly we stock a shelf, did we deliver all the packages we needed to in a timely way, or how many projects we completed.  Jesus seems to measure success differently.  He tells these four fishermen that their measure of success will be fishing for people.  In other words they will be joining God in reaching people and their measure of success will be about following Jesus.  Mike Beaux in his book Identity Theft says, “It isn’t that God doesn’t want you to be successful it is just that he measures success different from the rest of the world.”  He goes on to say that God does not ask us to be the best at everything we do.  He asks us to be our best and do the best we can for God’s sake.  Jesus has a calling for each of us that is grounded in our finding our identity in him and following him.  Success is grounding ourselves in those two things and letting our calling come out of that.  Being successful then isn’t determined by our current job, it is determined by how we approach our current job.


When I was growing up there was a man who had a huge impact on my life.  His name was Jack.  Jack had a way of making me and others feel special.  We called him the “candy man” because he handed out candy after church each Sunday.  Jack never went to college.  I don’t know if he ever finished high school.  I have my doubts if Jack ever learned how to read.  Jack worked night shift in a grocery store cleaning the floors.  I will never forget one time asking Jack what he did for a living.  His reply still makes me smile.  He said, “I am a janitor for Jesus.”  What if all our job titles ended in “for Jesus.”  I hope they will because when they do we will find we are a success in whatever job we may find ourselves in.




Read about God's Instagram Part Three: Janitor For Jesus in this story from The Call

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