During the fall of my freshman year at Andrews University I took a break from my studies to spend a weekend at home catching up with family and friends. That Sabbath I decided to visit my hometown church, a warm and welcoming congregation that I have been blessed to be a part of for most of my life. After the service, I stuck around to catch up with old acquaintances and church family who I knew would want an update on my life and college experience. At first, it was the usual questions, like “Do you miss home?” and “How are you adjusting to your classes?” but eventually the subject turned toward my future career.
“What are you studying at Andrews again?” asked one of my elders.
“Political science,” I replied. His brow quickly furled and he adopted a stern expression.
“Politics, eh? What is a Christian going to do with a degree in politics?”
I was initially taken aback by his questioning. My field of study and career plans (although I had considered them extensively) were not something I was used to being grilled about.
Now, I know that this man did not intend to come off as condescending or patronizing, but I received the message loud and clear: politics is not an acceptable field of study or career for an Adventist.
Years later, every time I recall this conversation, I find myself annoyed. How can someone unequivocally condemn a certain career as unfit for an Adventist to pursue? And moreover, who gets to determine which careers are acceptable and which are not?
Perhaps my experience was an isolated incident, a symptom of an especially conservative interpretation of Adventist theology on the part of a member of an older generation. Or maybe he said it because for so many Adventists (and Christians) politics has become a dirty word, carrying with it the assumption that one cannot in good conscience become involved in secular politics without corrupting one’s soul or forsaking Biblical precepts.
¶These are certainly plausible explanations. But I have come to believe that my experience is reflective of a much deeper problem within certain constituencies of the Adventist church—a tendency to promote traditional Adventist careers in fields such as pastoral ministry, healthcare, or education—at the expense of discouraging younger generations from pursuing a calling outside the realm of these conventional and accepted vocations.
The Adventist church has a deep-rooted history of contributing to education, health, and ministry—and rightfully so, as these are important areas to focus on—but with millions of Adventists now swelling the ranks of our global church, it is not realistic or beneficial for us to filter our young people into only these three fields.
There is another compelling argument for supporting millennial Adventists who are looking towards careers in emerging fields of technology, business and politics, and it is rooted in the many ways that globalization is changing how we think about ministry. Long gone are the days of sending missionaries on lengthy expeditions deep into the interior of unexplored continents. Missions may still be a crucial part of our evangelism efforts, but the 21st century mission field looks remarkably different than it did 50 or 100 years ago.
¶Our efforts to win souls for the Kingdom are no longer limited to sparsely populated locales, nor are they constrained by some of the limits of human ingenuity that our early Adventist pioneers had to grapple with. We now live in an information economy, where new job fields and careers are opening up, and fewer people are needed for traditional jobs. Now more than ever there is a great need for Adventists who are skilled in new media, who can manage IT systems for our universities and hospitals or who can solve complicated humanitarian policy questions for ADRA. In our increasingly complex world we need Adventist CEOs, lawyers, entrepreneurs and yes, even politicians.
¶In 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Christ refers to the early church as a body of believers, consisting of many different parts, yet unified in mission and purpose. We would be wise to appreciate that diversity in our church is far more encompassing than race or geography— that it is also a diversity of ability which extends to the talents God has given each of us that we might fulfill the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19) Because of this reality, we ought to be more supportive of our young people who choose to follow a higher calling that leads them to minister in non-traditional ways.