Dear Christian College Student:
Though we may have never met, I want to encourage you using my story of college and post-college. It is my hope and prayer that the Lord would use my story to give an honest perspective to students who are deciding whether or not to work a secular job or enter full-time ministry. I pray that God will use my story to encourage you in faithful obedience to His leading. Using my story of Why I serve with Cru, I want you to hear two things: why it’s worth it and why you can too
Allow me to introduce myself; my name is Joe. My wife and I are first year interns with Cru at the University of Illinois. I graduated with an Accounting Degree from U of I in May of 2015 and after graduating I worked for a year at the Corporate Headquarters of a Fortune 100 company (“Company”). Prior to that I was a student-leader in Cru at U of I.
During my senior year, I had a job offer from the Company but was seriously considering turning down the offer to instead do a one-year STINT with Cru in Croatia. When I was deciding to STINT or take a corporate job, I wrestled with the idea that if I did not work with Cru I was choosing something lesser. This is false. In deciding what you will do post-college you are not choosing between following Jesus or not. Working with Cru is not a higher, better, perfect calling. You can glorify God in all work. It is not disobedient to work a different job or go to grad school. I serve with Cru because God is and has been doing incredible things through Cru for the fulfillment of the Great Commission, and I want to help you see if God might be leading you to be a part of this after you graduate.
For a few years now a verse I cling to has been Acts 20:24 in which Paul, writing in the face of certain imprisonment and persecution for proclaiming the Gospel, says,
“But I do not account my life of any value, nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God.” (ESV)
Why am I serving full-time with Cru?
First and foremost, I quit my corporate job to serve with Cru because I am 100% convinced the world’s problems are spiritual. I believe eternal investments are those we make in God, His Word, and the souls of people. I believe sin is the biggest problem and we are in desperate need of a Savior. I serve with Cru because I believe the Gospel is the only solution and I believe Jesus is everyone’s only Savior and only Hope.
During my time in the corporate world, I quickly learned that, in the workplace, there is very little time and space for Gospel conversations. No matter what job you have, the typical workday is mostly spent doing the work the job requires of you. And unfortunately for me last year, that left very little residual time for me to invest in the lives of coworkers for the sake of the Gospel. In short, workplace ministry is difficult and constrained by the obvious limitations of the daily responsibilities of work.
I did, however, get to befriend and work with other recent college graduates. I spent many lunches getting to know coworkers and I did get to engage in spiritual conversations at work, but it was always limited by time and work responsibilities. This week, as I was reflecting on last year, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that before working in the corporate workplace all of my coworkers, much like myself, were on a college campus. In reaching college students for Christ, are we not simultaneously reaching the future workplace? I serve with Cru because I believe that reaching college students today means reaching the world tomorrow.
One reason I love Acts 20:24 is its simplicity. You could say this verse is Paul’s mission statement, his motto. Basically, what he’s saying is “I want to be all about the Gospel at any cost to myself”. The simplicity of our mission is another reason I chose to serve with Cru. I want my life, my work, my marriage, my mornings, my evenings, and my everything to be about the Gospel, and that’s what you get to do with Cru. I serve with Cru because I have the incredible privilege of focusing my efforts everyday on testifying to the Gospel of the grace of God.
Last year, it was not uncommon for me to sit in my cubicle, staring at the excel spreadsheet on my computer screen and ask myself, “will this matter eternally?” or “will it matter, even in ten years, that I made this spreadsheet more efficient or made sure the numbers on this paper added up correctly?”
On a typical day, I would show up to work at 8 am, sit in a cubicle, stare at spreadsheets, and work on problems that had no eternal significance. This year, I get to spend my workdays meeting with a Christ-centered team of coworkers, encouraging disciples in their walk with God, and telling students about the Savior they desperately need. On Wednesday this past week I spent time meeting with a leader in Cru for discipleship, and later that afternoon I shared the Gospel with a freshman who had never heard it. Yes, that’s really what I get to do as my job! How thankful I am that I have this incredible privilege! If we truly believe that only God, His Word, and people’s souls are eternally significant, wouldn’t we want to spend our days investing in these things? I serve with Cru because I want to invest in eternal things as my full-time job.
God also used Psalm 67 to clarify why I wanted to be in full-time ministry.
“May God be gracious to us and bless us, And make His face to shine upon us, That your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations” Psalm 67:1-2 (ESV)
I still remember reading this verses on a Summer Mission with Cru in Croatia when God lit up these verses to my heart to show me what it meant to steward my life well. What these verses are saying is basically, “we’ve been blessed by God to make much of Him.” I realized then the responsibility I had to use all I’ve been given to make Jesus known. In my four years in Cru I was unbelievably equipped to walk with Jesus and share my faith. I’ve also been given a US passport that let’s me go just about anywhere in the world, I’ve been given good health, a college education, and so much more! You and I have a lot to steward for the sake of the Gospel.
Last year, during a morning commute to work I listened to a podcast in which John Piper answered a question about Careers. Part of his response included this statement:
“Those of us in the prosperous West should keep in mind that one of the most surprising features of our culture which visitors from the two-thirds world are amazed at when they come is the stunning number of choices we have…And we tend to take all these choices for granted. Most places in the world, people do not have 100 possibilities in front of them for how to make a living. They may have one or two or three options given their village and the family they are in and the society they are in”
Even having a choice in our jobs/work is a western idea and privilege. When I heard this, I saw so clearly the gift of grace it is that we get to choose our vocation.
We have been given a lot. How will we steward it? I pray Psalm 67 for us, that God will bless us so “that His way may be known on earth, His saving power among all nations”. I serve with Cru because we are called to steward our entire lives to make Jesus known.
A big concern that many have about choosing to serve with Cru or enter full-time ministry is your circumstances. Whether that’s student debt, lack of support from parents, a fear of support raising, other job offers on the table, grad school, or anything else. In making this decision last year to work with Cru, my wife and I were engaged, and, yes, it was a sacrifice to choose to work with Cru. I could have kept a job that paid me a regular salary. We could have had an easier first few months of marriage if we didn’t have to support raise. I could have paid off a lot more student debt. In many ways, it would have been a lot easier to stay at my job at Allstate. However, God honors our sacrifices. He provided for us as we took this step of faith. He provided an incredible team of partners, and we got to experience Him deeper as we trusted him with these decisions. I do not say this to tell you how great I am. My only boast is Christ and any good in me is only by His grace. I tell you this because our God is worth any sacrifice. I’m sure every one of you could think of at least a few reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t choose to serve with Cru. Parents, student debt, support raising…whatever it is for you, I can tell you confidently, NO ONE has the perfect situation to choose to go into full-time ministry. It will always be a sacrifice, but it’s worth it. I serve with Cru because sacrificing everything to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God among college students here and around the world is worth it.
My prayer for all of us is that we would be willing to say with Paul, “I do not account my life of any value” so that we would live so to make known Jesus’ “saving power among all nations”. I pray that God will raise up laborers for His Kingdom to serve with Cru here at U of I, across the country, and to the ends of the earth, because “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few”. (Luke 10:2 ESV)
Joe, University of Illinois Cru Staff