Growing up I knew I could serve God in whatever profession I chose. Providing, of course, I chose to be either a missionary or a pastor.

In the particular subculture in which I was raised, those were pretty much the two vocations available to serious Christians. And even within the dyad, there was hierarchy. Missionary was preferred to pastor. If you had a physical condition that made overseas living prohibitive, or had too many children when you applied to be a missionary with our denomination (as was the case with my parents), becoming a pastor was a respectable Plan B.

I remember one traveling missionary thundering, "Every Christian is called to go to the mission field!" This was no metaphor. He wasn't talking about being a "missionary" in your workplace or neighborhood. No, this was drop-a-finger on a map of Africa—and go!

I still appreciate that kind of passion for global missions. But that mentality often had negative, if unintended, consequences. For instance, it devalued "secular" ...

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