Even when we should see them coming, layoffs tend to arrive like a thief in the night. Mine came on Election Day 2008. I was sitting at my desk that morning, still wearing my “I Voted” sticker, when my boss entered my office with a look of forced nonchalance.
For just over a year, I had poured my sweat and my soul into my employer, an international ministry. But my work was no match for changing donor behaviors and the promised efficiencies of a looming organizational merger. My job—and within months, the jobs of many coworkers—was gone.
Job loss is scary and can be profoundly disorienting—even for Christians, as our cover story on tech-related unemployment acknowledges. Yet disruption is a tool God uses with frustrating frequency for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:28), and even for those who don’t.
Recall that Jesus posed an existential threat to the status quo. Uninterested in political power, he nonetheless attracted great crowds, upended livelihoods (Matt. 21:12), and announced a new kingdom was at hand (Mark 1:15). That’s an unsettling combination if you were blessed with status and a plush job in the power structures of Jesus’ day.
But the disruption Jesus wrought was not punishment for misguided leaders any more than my layoff was a punishment for poor performance. It was disruption so “that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). This was Jesus’ mission, undermining oppressive systems that had outlived their purpose and replacing them with a new covenant by which all of creation could flourish.
Of course, disruption brings real losses that must not be trivialized or dispatched with truisms. But the loss is not the whole thing.
God is putting his disrupted world to rights. Even as shifting giving patterns impact venerable missions organizations, new missions models arise that challenge our imaginations. Or, as we also cover in this issue, innovations in church music and orphan care offer us new opportunities to explore God’s design for worship and nurture, even as we wrestle with their full implications.
And when we are simply unable to see the good of disruption—and may not be able to this side of heaven—we thankfully have the church. What better place to deposit our fears than among those whose identities are rooted in disruption and rebirth? We need not understand exactly what “life to the full” means, only that it’s being offered to us at every turn of this ever-shifting journey.
Andy Olsen is Managing Editor of Christianity Today magazine. Follow him on Twitter @AndyROlsen.