Graduating college. Landing that first job. Considering a job change—or even a career change. When we find ourselves at such crossroads, it’s important to stop and reflect before taking the next step.
In Crossroads, author and teacher Colin Creel gives help for navigating the murky waters of career and calling by looking at the biblical view of calling and offers practical guidelines on seizing career opportunities.
Crossway recently interviewed Colin about callings, career, and his most recent book:
What inspired you to write Crossroads? How does it relate to your first book, Perspectives?
Colin Creel: One of the sections in my first book, Perspectives, focused on career and many readers asked if I would elaborate on that section. In addition, like most young people in their thirties, I was re-thinking aspects of my career.
The words “calling” and “career” are sometimes used interchangeably. Can you help the audience to distinguish between the two?
Colin Creel: Each person has two callings. Our primary calling is as a child of God and our secondary callings (teacher, mom, coach, business person) only have meaning because we belong to God. There is no division between the secular and the sacred.
In the first part of the book, you boldly state that “work is a gift.” Many people might balk at this statement. Care to explain what you mean?
Colin Creel: Work is not a curse; rather it’s a gift from God in order for us, his children, to join Him in serving as stewards of His land. The fall tainted this wonderful gift. God placed Adam in the Garden to work it and take care of it (Gen 2:15). His first “work” was to name all of God’s creatures. Nowhere in Scripture does God curse work; rather He cursed the ground (Gen 17). It’s a small distinction, but a very important one. Work gives us meaning and helps us to restore the world the way God envisioned it.
Throughout Crossroads, you explicitly and implicitly assert that there are no accidental occupations. Share how you arrive at this conclusion.
Colin Creel: I have many friends who devalue their work because they believe the lie that if they are not in “full-time” ministry then they are not truly serving God. This is simply not true. God created each of us with a reason and a purpose. There are many roles to play, and each one must play his role in order for the body to function effectively. Full-time ministry is much like marriage…if you can envision yourself doing anything else or marrying anyone else then you should probably not go down that road.
You emphasize the importance of mentoring. Some readers are not currently exploring their calling and career; they have found both! Can you explain to them a little bit about the importance of mentoring? How does one start?
Colin Creel: It’s hard to travel wherever you haven’t been. A mentor serves as a guide and a sounding board. Mentors have a vision for you. In my life there have been many people who believed in me. It’s amazing what we can do when someone says, “I know you can do it.” In order to choose a mentor, I would look for the following:
• A natural rapport with the person
• Someone who models well those characteristics you admire
• A person who is willing to help
• Someone who will provide opportunities and have benchmarks of success for you
You include bits of what you call “seasoned advice” throughout the book. Explain what these sections are. Is there a particular bit of advice that was most interesting or helpful to you, personally?
Seasoned advice is wisdom from discerning men and women who can look back on their lives honestly and share morsels of truth. The wisdom comes from a wide array of people, like Shaunti Feldhan, Josh McDowell, Max Lucado, and singer Tammy Trent. Each person’s story is unique and will hit people differently, but my wife’s favorite comes from Laurie Smith, the energetic red head from Trading Spaces. I appreciate the wonderful story of a friend of mine who decided to change his career in his 30s. He was a lawyer who decided to go back to medical school. In order to apply he needed to take some additional classes. One night he was sitting at his kitchen table trying to study for a test as well as take care of his two kids. His wife was at a church retreat and he hit the wall. He was exhausted and basically cried out to God, “God, if this is what you want me to do, I need a clear sign from you.” Biblically, he knew he shouldn’t ask for signs from God, but he was at his wits’ end. Moments later the phone rang. A voice said, “Bill, we’ve been praying about it and we believe you are going to make a fantastic doctor. We would like to give you $125,000 to pay for your medical school.”
We all know about the economic obstacles that face job seekers. What types of spiritual temptations may they also encounter?
Colin Creel: The obvious temptations are the desire for money, power, and influence, but the subtle ones are stewardship and maintaining your character and your integrity. Many people live in the gray, so it’s difficult at times to discern right from wrong. The Bible is our standard, not our peers.
What is one piece of advice you could offer this generation?
Colin Creel: Think soberly about how you define success. How we define success serves as a critical question in our journey. It drives many into careers they loathe while others meet life where it meets them…that place where their giftedness matches their vocation.
Colin Creel serves as dean of junior boys at Wesleyan School in Norcross, Georgia, where he also teaches Bible and coaches swimming. Previously he worked as assistant director of admissions at Wake Forest University, where he earned his Master’s degree in communications and worked extensively with various college ministries. Crossroads is a sequel to his book Perspectives: A Spiritual Life Guide for Twentysomethings.