It‘s Tuesday afternoon and I am sitting in the career counselor’s office. “Have you had any thoughts about what you’ll do at university?” my teacher asks.
I’m coming up blank. Sure, I’ve got interests. I like helping people, I have a yearning to travel and see new places, I’m saddened by injustice in the world … oh, and I love Jesus. At age 16 that’s what I’ve worked out. But it doesn’t seem like enough to pick subjects for Year 12, let alone choose a university course or a lifetime career.
At age 19, after a gap year overseas, I have no greater clarity despite exploring a number of options including a couple of short-term mission trips.
My story is not uncommon. It happens to many people, usually in their twenties. Finding a life purpose, a focus for our passions, isn’t always straightforward. McCrindle research suggests Australians of my generation, the Millennials, will have 17 employers and five careers in their lifetime.
The Millennials and the younger Gen Z are facing a different world than those who came of age in the twentieth century. Our world is more globally connected but feels more unstable. Our neighbours are more diverse, work and career is less linear, and as Christians our faith is challenged by questions from our secular counterparts.
So how do we engage with Jesus’ call for every generation: to love our neighbours, to make disciples and to be kingdom minded? Our world looks different and yet Jesus’ call remains the same.
Maybe we need to start by letting go of the expectation that a meaningful life will always progress through traditional milestones. Blessings come through a career, marriage and children, but blessings also come through courageously making space for the unknown—the openness to do unlikely things and make seemingly illogical choices as we follow our God who specialises in the unexpected. Are we willing to trust in God’s goodness? Are we willing to walk an unknown path of sacrifice for His Kingdom?
We also need to get better at knowing our neighbour, so we can love them well. More than pulling in their wheelie bin after collection day, can we love from the point of understanding their worldview, their culture, their beliefs? The good news of Jesus answers the heart’s cry of all people, but do we understand it from their perspective? This is no longer a challenge set aside for the expat, the missional-minded worker in a distant land. In our globally connected world we all need intercultural understanding to love like Jesus loves, to share His good news and to disciple those who believe.
And yet, if the mission movements of the twentieth century teach us anything, it’s that we need community. We can’t possibly hope to do these things on our own, nor does God intend us to. Alone we become distracted, pressured by life’s challenges. Alone we become disillusioned or discouraged when our efforts bear no fruit. But together we live out the encouragement from Hebrews 10:23–25. Together we remember that the hope we have in Jesus is sure and his love spurs us on to share His hope with those around us.
Jane Fairweather leads On Track Together, a new initiative helping to equip, envision and engage those in their 20s and 30s in lifelong missional living.