Skip to content

Christian Advertisement Says Your Work Has No Meaning

December 29, 2008

I was driving back to Philly from my brother’s house in Kentucky last week after the Christmas holidays when I ran into some dense fog right around the Maryland-Pennsylvania border. We were coming into the home stretch after about eight hours of driving, and I turned on the radio to see if there were any accident reports.

As I scanned the AM radio waves, I landed on a station that was playing a catchy advertisement. It caught my attention. The announcer’s voice sounded like the authoritative voice of God, and he was having a conversation with a guy about his job. I can’t recall it verbatim, but it went something like this:

God/announcer:  “How’s your job going?”

 Christian Schmuck: “Pretty good, I guess. I’ve made it to Vice President of Sales. I make good money, and have a bunch of people reporting to me.”

God/announcer: “Yes, but are you really fulfilled in this job? Does it give you meaning?”

 Christian Schmuck: “Well, I don’t know. I get up every day and do the same old thing. I don’t really feel like I’m having an impact on people.”

 God/announcer: “Maybe it’s time you look for a job that you can really believe in!”

 Christian Schmuck: “Gee, that sounds great! How would I do that?”

 God/Announcer: “Go to CHRISTIAN JOBS DOT COM! You’ll find hundreds of jobs working for Christ-centered organizations.

 Cut to tag line:   Isn’t it time that you found meaning in your work? Go to Christian Jobs dot com and find a job that you can believe in!

——————————————————–

So there you have it. If you are not working for a “Christian” organization, then you are not really doing anything meaningful.

This is why I do not listen to Christian radio.

Who comes up with this crap? I know it’s a tough economy right now, and lots of people are struggling to find jobs, but come on. This comes off as manipulative and seedy. Why do some Christians have to perpetuate this idea that unless you are working for a non-profit/ministry/outreach organization, then your work has no meaning?

Aside from demeaning every “real” job and organization that exists out in the “real” world, this type of advertising lulls Christians into burrowing deep into the safety and security of working with other Christians, under the pretext that they will now be “serving Christ.” But what I want to know is, how will we then have any influence in the world around us if all the Christians are huddled together in a white-washed sanitized corner called “ministry,” shuddering and shunning against all that is secular? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? I mean, aren’t we better off serving God by getting into the mix of the actual, true, dirty, real world and then being our best “salt and light” in the midst of it?

It disturbs me, this incessant need of certain Christians to insulate and protect themselves from the seemingly cruel, harsh, meaningless vapor of the evil secular marketplace.

When I got home, I logged on to the Christianjobs.com site, to learn more, to check myself on over-reacting. I called up the website, and sure enough, there was that tag line prominently displayed on the upper left corner: “Find a job you can believe in.” Once in the front page, I was immediately presented with a scrolling list of job opportunities: Houseparent. Handi-Camp Nurse Manager. A vague reference to “Oversees Teaching Opportunity.” I noticed many ministry and non-profit positions listed. All right, then. I will concede that if you are interested in MINISTRY, or if you have a hankering for the helping professions, this site might be a good place for you to find a job.

Hmmm. So are there any for-profit jobs? Real jobs? Okay, here’s one – “Termite Sales Inspector.” Great.  Wait – here’s one. An Outbound Sales Consultant for Group Publishing. I know those people. That’s a real company that sells curriculum to youth programs and Sunday Schools. A real, Christian company. One that makes money.

I moved on to the testimonials on the lower left side of the web page to see what kind of people are using this site, and what kind of success they’ve had. The feature quote is from “Brenda” of Deer Park, NY. “There are so many Christians that have various skills and talents that do not have a source of job and business opportunities availaable to them,” she gushes, with a typo on “availaable.” I guess Brenda thinks that if you are Christian, you can’t figure out how to use other job sources like LinkedIn and recruiters and networking and the want ads and career fairs, right? Lame. I looked for some more testimonials.

“Its just the vehicle that will allow me to utilize my skills in a meaningful and God-honoring way.” Says Georgia of Titusville, FL. Georgia apparently can’t manage to honor God unless she is under the halo of the safety and comfort of a ministry organization. Georgia’s testimonial had a typo, too. She forgot the apostrophe on the “Its” when she started her sentence. If I see a resume with a typo, I always throw it in the trash. It’s just not a good sign.

After reviewing this web site and considering their advertising spot, I have reached my own startling conclusion. Rather than promoting this site for what it is – a marketplace for ministry-oriented jobs – the advertising campaign of christianjobs.com is calling Christians away from the challenges, education, courage, creativity, and leadership required of “non-Christian” careers.

How timid, I’m thinking. How insular, cowardly and self-serving this appears, luring good Christians further and further into the fog and haze of a safe Christian environment.

That is not at all like the God I serve.

 ———————————————————–

Am I crazy? Am I being too harsh? Have I missed something? What do you think?

Advertisements
17 Comments leave one →
  1. December 29, 2008 9:42 pm

    My wife teaches at a secular emotional-growth boarding school (for “problem students” on the recovering side). Among my Christian friends, there are salesmen, computer programmers, radio DJ’s, contractors, web developers, a State Trooper, a couple real estate agents, several bank tellers (some of whom used to work for me), and so on.

    My father is even a public school teacher (gasp!).

    Somehow, they all manage to find purpose in their work without working for Christian groups. It might be because they have contact with other people, including ones to whom they can witness.

  2. December 29, 2008 10:22 pm

    i wood lik to be a roket sientest or a pie macker.
    ar ther any openings for thos jobs?

  3. kathy hickey permalink
    December 29, 2008 11:36 pm

    I like it.

  4. December 30, 2008 12:39 pm

    nAnCy, ha! your so funny.

    brad, one of my “favorite” christian tv commercials was for the Bible on dvd. two pieces i remember: 1) the entire well-dressed, smiling family piled on the couch while a narrator read Scripture passages. (if this weren’t unnatural enough, i remember flames blazing on the screen behind the words). 2) the irony when the commercial said “if you’re not completely satisfied, we’ll give you your money back.”

    not satisfied with what? the flames? the content of the Bible itself?

    ok, enough of that.

    my experience with listening to christian radio is similar to yours: frustrating. there are good elements, no doubt, but the content seems to lean heavily toward dualism. “separate yourselves,” they say, which doesn’t imply “be in the world but not of it.” it implies that there’s an observable line between sacred and secular and that we should stay on the sacred side. obviously this would be impossible even if the line were observable. i mean, you couldn’t go to the bank, or put your kids in dance, or drive a car, or shop at the mall.

    sacred and secular are simply too mixed, and all we need to do is think of our prayer times to realize how much secular makes its way into the sacred. have i ever had an entirely sacred, untainted, prayer time? nope.

    so your reaction to a dualistic view of work is well-taken. i work for an organization that tries to help college students understand that their work matters to God, regardless of what they do (barring a few examples, like, i don’t know, pimping). my own blog is an attempt to get Christians to do God-honoring, neighbor-loving work right in the midst of a terribly “secular” career: advertising.

    as you said, we need Christian influence right in the middle of life: “how will we then have any influence in the world around us if all the Christians are huddled together in a white-washed sanitized corner called ‘ministry,’ shuddering and shunning against all that is secular?”

  5. December 30, 2008 12:47 pm

    No, you are not crazy. Thank you for pointing out how this kind of thinking is pulling Christians out of the very world Jesus sends us into. For a look at how we western Christians have even exported this leave-your-secular-job mentality, see pages 125-129 in Darrell Cosden’s book, THE HEAVENLY GOOD OF EARTHLY WORK.

  6. shrinkingthecamel permalink*
    December 30, 2008 1:37 pm

    Sam and Nancy – you guys gave me a good laugh with your “find the hidden typos.” It’s hard when you guys only use lower cap to begin with! (JK!) Sam, I knew you’d have a story for me here.

    Larry – that book sounds really interesting. I’d love to check that one out. Is it different among Christians in Eastern cultures? Curious.

    Wickie (could that possibly be your real name?) – Thanks for the interesting comment and welcome to STC.

    So far, no flaming haters? Sorry, I mean, people who disagree with my conclusion? I’m tempted to email this over to Christianjobs.com to get their input on it. If someone else has already, let me know.

  7. Lynn permalink
    December 30, 2008 5:49 pm

    shrinkingthecamel – already sent over

  8. Sarah permalink
    December 30, 2008 6:00 pm

    Yes, I get the idea that ALL jobs are meant to be worked for the glory of God and that you can work in the secular world and be honoring God and having meaning. What I don’t get about your criticism is that you say it “insulates…protects, etc” christians from the real world but I disagree. Most of these jobs have the purpose of being salt and light. These people are working at Christ-centered organizations and ministries to isolate from the world – it’s the exact opposite. It’s to have better resources to reach the world for Christ that you wouldn’t have going at it alone or starting your own business.

  9. shrinkingthecamel permalink*
    December 30, 2008 8:40 pm

    Sarah – First of all, thanks so much for voicing a dissenting opinion!

    Now. I don’t disagree that people who choose to work in ministry can be effective in reaching the world as salt and light… We need these organizations and ministries. I said that here. MINISTRY is MINISTRY. And God calls certain people to ministry.

    But tell me, don’t you know Christians who are only comfortable in the Christian subculture bubble of the books, radio, church, TV, music, etc etc etc.? Christians who want to surround themselves with Christianity? I know, because I’ve been there. I was swimming in that pool for years before I had the guts to climb out. I may be wrong, but I’m challenging people here.

    But the whole point of this post is to call out that annoying radio advertisement and tag line, which completely condescends and de-values the rest of us in the secular working world. THAT’S THE PROBLEM!!

    Trust me, there is a backlash brewing among hard working folks who feel they are constantly getting the subtle message from the Evangelical church that secular education, work, careers, etc. are of less importance to the Kingdom of God.

  10. December 30, 2008 8:50 pm

    Bradley,

    Please do write or better yet, send me an email and I will send you my cell number. I would love to chat with you about your observations and discuss ideas on how we can improve our ads.

    While I disagree with some of your assumptions, I certainly agree that we all can serve Christ in whatever profession we find ourselves.

    At Salem Web Network, we partner with hundreds of ministries and I can tell you that the people that work and sometimes volunteer in these organizations would take issue with your assumption that they don’t have “real jobs.”

    However, I appreciate our right to have spirited and meaningful dialog among believers.

    Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Rick Killingsworth
    Senior Vice President of New Media
    Salem Web Network
    http://www.salemwebnetwork.com

  11. shrinkingthecamel permalink*
    December 30, 2008 10:27 pm

    You got it, bro!

  12. shrinkingthecamel permalink*
    December 31, 2008 1:15 pm

    I had a very nice chat with Rick from Christianjobs.com this morning. He understands my concern that the current advertisement sends the wrong message about work and he will revisit the ad copy. I also admitted to him that I was out of line saying that ministry jobs are not “real” jobs. Of course they are.

    Thanks Rick for taking the time and effort to open dialogue on this important subject.

  13. December 31, 2008 1:24 pm

    so glad you and rick could talk.

  14. December 31, 2008 2:34 pm

    it is so good to see that you and rick got a chance to relate about this.

    🙂

  15. December 31, 2008 7:45 pm

    Amen to such an honest post!! I am so sick and tired of seeing Christians play church and think the way you descirbe in your post. Great that you had a chance to talk to the guy at the website, but man, Christians really miss the mark on so many things. I wonder what Jesus must be thinking of all our stupid efforts to “serve” Him. After my year of some really great spiritual growth with God, my eyes have been opened to allot of things we do so backwards from the true heart of God. My prayer is for God to truely be glorified in all we do, so He can truely Shine in 2009!!! God bless you and glad to have you on my blogroll. Your a great writter and thinker.

  16. January 3, 2009 6:15 pm

    just read this today
    and since it kind of relates…

    http://kinneymabry.blogspot.com/2009/01/work-as-working-for-god.html

  17. January 5, 2009 12:59 pm

    another…
    it seems to be a theme that i am running into lately

    http://mike-crow.blogspot.com/2009/01/because-you-say-so.html

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: