Jan

15

2013

Paul Rude|10:00 PM CT

Do Truck Drivers Matter to God?

The interview playing over my car radio was standard fare. The host of a Christian program was interviewing a wildly popular contemporary Christian music star---little more than background noise as I drove down the highway. But then the discussion landed on the topic of serving the Lord in ministry. The musician told the listening world how his brother was once a truck driver but gave up trucking in order to serve the Lord as an assistant pastor. This drew hearty affirmation from the host, who was actually laughing at the comparative insignificance of truck driving. The music star then recounted his congratulatory words to his brother: "I always thought you had more in you than being a trucker."

There are 3.2 million truck drivers in the United States.

I turned the interview off and silently drove down the highway, wondering, What are the truck drivers who heard this feeling right now? A superstar Christian just implied that 3.2 million truck drivers are less significant than assistant pastors.

A massive question now hangs in the air---a question loaded with profound implications for the significance of your life and vocation: Are truck drivers---the same drivers who transport our food, clothing, building materials, and church sound systems---less significant to God?

Ultimately, the only true measure of significance is how much something or someone is valued by God. But many people mistakenly believe God only values ministry work, because it deals with eternal souls. In their minds, ministry is the only work that counts for eternity. They assume God places little, if any, lasting value on work that deals with the temporal things of everyday life. The implied ranking of our vocations is obvious. Additionally, when someone who holds that belief isn't careful with his words, it sounds as if he's applying that same ranking to each person's individual value to God. Our superstar probably didn't mean to imply that truck drivers are less significant to God, but that's what many of us heard.

Higher Call?

I've listened to hundreds of similar testimonies in seminars, conferences, and churches across the continent. You've probably heard them, too. Missionaries, pastors, and relief workers stand up and tell us about making the leap from nearly every profession imaginable. They answered the "higher call" to full-time ministry. They cast aside their marketplace jobs in order to do something meaningful---something "for the Lord." Meanwhile, everyone else, the remaining workforce, looks up from a pew and listens to their stories---stories often laced with contempt for the speaker's former, "meaningless" work.

Audiences will sometimes affirm the speaker's decision to leap "from success to significance" by offering up an "Amen!" or "Hallelujah!" They may even give the speaker a stirring round of applause. But what's the truck driver---the one quietly sitting nine pews back, third from the left---feeling at that moment? And the godly accountant, engineer, retail associate, bank manager, and all the other people who will get up early the next morning and bend their backs at jobs just like the one the speaker renounced---what must they all feel at that moment?

They've told me. I've listened to their frustration, their unapplauded stories, and sometimes their despair. You see, I've been that speaker---the one standing on stage, receiving the applause. I'm a former corporate finance guy who became a missionary and then somehow wound up doing some public speaking, too. Whenever I speak, I hang around afterward and talk with individual audience members about their specific questions and concerns. As a result, I've had countless conversations with people looking for an answer to the question of significance. They sit in those pews and wonder, Did I miss my calling in life? Is my life's work meaningless to God? Is ministry the only way to impact eternity? Sometimes they lower their eyes in resignation and guilt---vocational guilt. But that guilt is a lie.

Stunning Truth

The truth is stunning. The truth is that the regular, everyday, earthly work of a Christian's life possesses breathtaking significance bestowed by the touch of God's magnificent glory. God pulls the white-hot ingot of eternity from the forging fire of his sovereignty. Then, like master to apprentice, he entrusts the hammer to our hands (Eccl. 9:10; Col. 3:17, 23; 1 Cor. 10:31; 2 Thess. 3:6-12). He says, "Strike it. Strike it right here. This is your place. This is where I want you to influence eternity. Live the life I gave you to live." And so, in stammering awe, we take up the hammer. We live our lives---our regular, everyday, toilsome lives. The hammer falls. Sparks fly. Eternity bends, and the Master is delighted (Matt. 25:21).

God, the Maker of the universe, destines our everyday lives to make a difference? Yep. Fuel filters, tax returns, laundry, and Southern-style barbecue are important to him? Yep (especially Southern-style barbecue). A life as a gospel-driven engineer, florist, or realtor can be as meaningful to God as the life of a pastor, missionary, or humanitarian relief worker? Absolutely.

There's something massive going on here---God's epic cosmic story---and we're smack in the middle of it. He knows your name and mine. He's given us each a life to live---a regular, everyday life---a particular place for us to shape eternity (Phil. 1:27; Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:12; 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:6-12)

You and I look at our ordinary lives and think, "Seriously? That's supposed to be epic?" But the Master delights in it. He forges his masterpiece with it. And when we see what he's done with it, it will blow our minds (1 Cor. 2:9). It will thrill the souls of men, dazzle the angels, delight the heart of God, and glorify his name. Forever.

************

This excerpt is adapted from Paul Rude's new book, Significant Work: Discover the Extraordinary Worth of What You Do Every Day (Everyday Significance, 2013).

Paul Rude is a ministry consultant, speaker, and founder of Everyday Significance, an organization dedicated to helping people connect Christ-centered faith to everyday life. Before launching Everyday Significance, Paul spent eight years working in missions as a ministry leader. Prior to that, he spent a decade in the adrenaline rush of Fortune 500 corporate finance—and loved it. When he's not speaking or consulting, you might find him rafting whitewater rivers or climbing mountains. Paul lives in rural Alaska with his wife and their five kids.

  • http://mikesnow.org Michael Snow

    A much needed meditation. The point was brought home to me long ago by a little tract by Elton Trueblood, entitled, "The Ministry of Every Christian."
    The opening sentence, rooted in Ephesians 4, was, "If you are a Christian, you are a minister." ["And He gave some to be...pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry..."]

    • http://everydaysignificance.org Paul Rude

      I'd love to find a copy of that Trueblood tract. I've seen snippets, but never the whole. Any publication data on it? It sounds like a gem.

  • Andrew

    Beautiful article! I am definitely placing an order for the book. I had a lump in my throat reading the story about the truck driver. This has been a subtle undertone in most of what I have been sitting under for the last few years, and it makes Monday mornings very hard! Thank you!

    • http://everydaysignificance.org Paul Rude

      You are not alone, Andrew. Because of Jesus Christ, your life's work matters. It matters to God. It matters for his glory!

  • http://blog.tifwe.org Greg Ayers

    This is a great reminder and encouragement to all Christians working 9-5 (or longer!) I appreciate how you mention "God's epic cosmic story." We often reduce the message of the Bible to simply salvation and redemption. Those are important chapters, but we forget that God's cosmic story includes creation and restoration, too.

    These chapters provide context for our everyday work, which God is using to build His Kingdom and write His epic story that begins in the Garden and will end in the City of God when He returns to establish His Kingdom in full.

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  • A.C.

    I think it's churchianity that places professional ministry as the ideal. I know several people in professional ministry who admit to not knowing any non-churched or non-believing people.

  • http://www.xristopher.com Chris

    The presupposition behind this dualism is the same as that which prevailed during the Middle Ages: nature vs grace, or what is now called sacred vs secular. It is a non-Biblical assumption that there are certain places or spheres of life that are sacred, and others not sacred. EVen the first poster suggested that life is made important when we call things "ministry" (which is just another form of the same thing). No, life is important because God says it is. "It is good".

    The dualism, which kills life and freedom, needs to be thrown into hell.

    • Jonathan Tomes

      I'm a little confused. Help me out.

      The cultures of this world are just as sacred as the Church (the present sphere of the Kingdom of God)? Why can't life be good (I liked that part) AND there be a distinction between sacred and secular. Why does secular have to translate to "meaningless"?

      It doesn't seem helpful to flatten these distinctions. Also, why can't secular vocations be good, and we still recognize the importance and significance of the biblical vocations of Elder and Deacon. These vocations are not on a continuum. It is good to drive a truck and it is sacred to administer the Word and Sacraments.

      • http://www.xristopher.com Chris

        Jonathan,
        Yes, the world as God made it is good. I am not flattening out anything, but instead suggesting that each sphere of life be allowed it's flowering under the Lordship of Christ. He is King over creation and His church.

        I think your paradigm of the kingdom is limited (and not reformational), as the church is one part of the kingdom, but not the whole. Where a faithful tChristian is, in whatever vocation, there is the kingdom. You suggested in your first post that what gives meaning to a vocation is identifying it with ministry. But just now you say that "These vocations are not on a continuum". I agree with the latter statement. Which one are you suggesting is true?

        The minister and truck-driver are not the same. Bleeding "ministry" into other vocations does not give them meaning, but drains the church of Hers. Which is, ironically, what you said I am doing. I don't use the words sacred or secular as my own; I think they are misleading.

        Hope that clarifies things.

        PS- As a précis to the issue, I would suggest reading some of this: http://calvinistinternational.com/2012/05/29/calvin-2k-1/

        • Jonathan Tomes

          Sphere sovereignty is helpful on a sociological level, but I'm less certain that "every square inch-ism" is the best way to approach the Christian life. Not everything that we do has equally ultimate significance, but this does not rob a secular vocation of "meaning." Secular vocations are a part of life under the sun. That isn't to say that Christ is not Lord of all of life, but it is indisputable that a Christian plunges a toilet in the same manner as a non-Christian. This are common (and good) cultural tasks and the believer will often look indistinguishable from the unbeliever. Certain secular vocations necessarily do more to display the antithesis between believer and unbeliever.

          I don't believe that secular vocations are "ministerial" in themselves. Secular vocations belong to life in the common realm. In that sphere we should seek for the good of our neighbor and be true to our confession. We are more like Israel in Babylon then we are like Israel in the Land. When I say that they are not on a continuum I mean that they operate in different Kingdoms.

          The Two Kingdoms doctrine is certainly "reformational," as it finds its source in the reformation. It appears to be overstating our current eschatological situation to say that the Kingdom is bigger than the Church. In the consummation the kingdom will be equivalent to the creation, but until then the Kingdom of God is found in the gathered Church. This is the place where the Word is preached, the sacraments are administered, and discipline is exercised. Our gathering is more than getting our batteries charged so that we can get back to what it's all really about. In the Church and her Lord's Day observance we find the foretaste of the wedding supper of the Lamb and our eschatological rest in New Creation. Christians are citizens of two kingdoms, one that will be shaken and one that will not. This is an important distinction.

          Certain strands of Neo-calvinism seems like a distraction from the mission of the Church. The ordinary, paleo-calvinism of the reformation finds the heart of the Christian life in Word and Sacrament. We do not redeem cultural products and societal structures (Some of them are evil, some of them are good, but none of them are holy), but we do seek for the redemption of those outside the Kingdom. Individual Christians, in seeking for the good of the city, should certainly seek for the good of their neighbour and the improving of their citiies. This is different from the mission of the Church; the expansion of the kingdom through Word and sacrament ministry. The vocation of elder is not superior to a secular vocation...but it is a sacred task. I don't want to elevate either one at the expense from the other...but one is a work belonging to God's common Kingdom and the other is a work belonging to God's special Kingdom. That's where the difference lays.

          (For a clearer presentation I would refer you to David Vandrunen's Living in Two Kingdoms and Jason Stellman's Dual Citizens)

          • http://www.xristopher.com Chris

            This is a large discussion that I don't have time to negotiate my way through right now. So, I think we will just have to disagree (with love). And I truly don't want to spent the next hour delivering myself from a thousand false characterisations.

            By the way, Spellman has since left the PCA for Rome — his two-kingdom dualism drove him back to the place from where it originated. But that's another story.

            Neo-Calvinism has not been a distraction for me in my vocation. By the way, Keller's version of neo-Calvinism is not the version taught by Dooyeweerd and others.

            • http://everydaysignificance.org Paul Rude

              Good sparring Jonathan and Chris! There's much packed into your written lines, and much between them.

              You've also touched on a nagging problem in the venue of Vocation Theology: we've not yet established an agreed-upon meaning of terms. Vocation, calling, work, ministry, Word ministry, two-kingdom, sacred, secular, significant, etc.—what precisely does each term mean? Answers vary widely or worse, subtly. There's work to be done on this front, and time will help. Till then, spar, and thereby help define ("in love").

  • http://www.SPIRITCDL.com Tanya Bons

    Yes, truck drivers matter to God. God even has His own truck driving school; I know because I work at the school.

    I can also tell you this, most of the people sitting in the church listing to the pastor are seeking God BUT we, the working Christians, often meet the people that haven't decided to seek God YET.

    We are the front line that introduces Christianity to others. We are watched and judged 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, when we think we are just doing our job. God has called me to do this and I have accepted His call. God has called others to the front lines too and we Christians need to remember how important we are in God's plan.

    • Shelly W.

      Amen, Tanya! I love how you have said this. Perfect!

    • http://everydaysignificance.org Paul Rude

      Amen from me, too! And someday I hope to attend truck driving school. It may be in heaven, but someday...

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  • Stanley Bridgeford

    Laborare est Orare. To labor is to pray.

  • http://tylerceason.blogspot.com/ Tyler Eason

    I am going to seminary. I hope one day to be a pastor. But right now, I am working a full-time gig, sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours a day. It is a temptation to think that I will really be able to bring God glory when I'm pastoring a church. But what a great reminder to remember that the work we do in our simple, secular jobs can make an impact for God more than anything else we could be doing at the moment. Thank you very much for the encouragement.

    • http://everydaysignificance.org Paul Rude

      May you drink from the overflowing well of cross-anchored joy as you magnify the glory of our Savior wherever he leads you—whether that's in a cubicle or a pulpit.

  • Mike Lecompte

    Do contemporary Christian music stars matter to God?

  • Russ Grinter

    Whilst I appreciate truck drivers (having been one) I think this article confuses 'significance' and 'ministry'. We are all significant in God's sight, but that doesn't hinge on ministry. Having cleared that up, the Bible also shows us that Word ministry is important to undertake for all Christians in the mission of the church. I can be a truck driver and serving in Word ministry as I prayerfully teach people from the Bible about Jesus. Yet, every haul I did wasn't making disciples who are disciple-makers of Jesus, it was when I opened the Word with them. For a book and page that cuts to the heart of what many Christians struggle with in their vocational dreams can I recommend 'The Trellis and the Vine' (an Aussie book from where I am posting), and especially pages 136-139 answering the question: 'Is it demeaning for people to stay in secular work?'

    • http://everydaysignificance.org Paul Rude

      Thank you for your thought provoking observations, Russ. I hope you will dive into "Significant Work" and wrestle with its pages. And then I hope you'll give me your straight-shootin' feedback. It is extremely beneficial to me when others, like you, help me see through their eyes.

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  • http://www.dogmadoxa.blogspot.com Dane

    This is excellent, Paul.

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  • Glenn

    I am a truck driver and for seven years now I have been a pastor also. I know beyond a shadow of doubt God placed me at my church. I felt somewhat intimidated at first, just being a truck driver, especially being around other pastors. But God has opened doors I could never imagine, and I think being bi vocational I am able to connect with the average everyday working person. God has not called me to give up truck driving, but if and when He does, I pray I will be sensitive to His leading.

  • JohnE

    Many years ago when I was in grade school, our parish religious-ed program did a modernized version of the Christmas story. The angels announced the good news not to shepherds, but to truck drivers.

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  • Mike

    Great post! I happen to be a trucker its tough work with with "no respect". Yes I feel like I missed God but remember most truckers will not make it to church Sunday but they're getting the gospel from guys like me and we are out there, 2am in a truck stop discussing their broken sinful lives and Jesus where no Pastor will ever go, or being stranded on I77 for 12 hrs in a snow storm and taking care of people in cars scared and cold thirsty and hungry with kids or calling the police when you suspect an underaged prositute is being trafficed at 1 am in some dark truck stop or rest area. When you tell people you're a trucker they sort of hang their heads a little, and had one person actually said "owe Im sorry, what did you do before that?" I can almost guarentee you there are no truckers cruzin TGC web site but I do and am a "Reformed Christian" I tell truckers they dont need to be like those "church types" but They do need to put their hope and trust in Jesus' bleeding to death on that cross 2000 years ago and His ressurection from the dead for the forgiveness of their sins. I can give the Gospel in about two or three minutes you need to be breif and to the point, the chatter is overwhelming on the CB as soon as you speak the news of the Gospel. Mike

  • http://knownbylove.com James

    As a truck driver and pastor / youth minister I have learned that what God calls us to do may not always be defined as a vocation by the church. But it is the work God has prepared for us to do. I became a truck driver with out prayer or God's will and it almost cost me my marriage and ministry. Then when I got back into ministry God wanted me to quit driving but I did not with disasterous results for people placed in my ministry. But then God took the truck driving and made that my ministry. I know for a fact that God cares about drivers but as I have searched for hours trying to find a church to park near (in the I20 corridor of the bible belt) with no luck I have asked my self this question; does the church care about truckers?

  • http://www.redletterbelievers.com David Rupert

    Paul -- I've read your book and it's an excellent reminder of our place in this world and our place in His kingdom. The two are very close! That mere reminder gives us a fire to seize the day -- because it matters! For readers, if you don't already know about http://www.TheHighCalling.com -- we celebrate everyday workers every day. And we've been pleased to have Paul contribute his great thoughts in the discussion.

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  • http://www.thehighcalling.org Marcus Goodyear

    Paul, fantastic work here. The church needs more people like you writing like this.

  • http://www.cb39.org/library/how-much-truck-drivers John Hill

    There have been many nights I have been feeling down while on the road driving. While scanning through the channels on the radio or XM radio I will come across something inspirational from God which lifts my spirits or give me an answer to something I am pondering.

  • Mike Somerville

    I don't know weather I'm more embarrassed or hurt, but the simple truth based on my personal experience is that most christians and pastors for that matter would rather see a truck driver in hell than in their church. They always love you and want to share the gospel with you until they find out you're a truck driver. Then you find out just how little you mean to them and presumably God. I usually hear about how truck driving is such an ungodly profession somewhere along the lines of bartending, drug dealing, or pimping and prostituting. If ever the kingdom of God was for somebody, the last person you seemingly want to be if you want to go to heaven, is a truck driver. And if you have any doubt about that, just ask any pastor. I'm sure they'll happily make that case.