Demoted to Promotion: Career Suicide as the Only Way Forward?

It is here that the need for a new Christian leadership becomes clear. The leader of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success and to bring the light of Jesus there.”
-Henri J.M. Nouwen, In The Name of Jesus, 1989

A conversation recently with a friend over sweet tea and bbq (gotta love the south) spurred a mutual spark of awareness of the hand of the Divine in our lives. He was sharing about his chosen demotion, and how he had given up that path pretty much for good. There is something powerful about this, when someone who by all rights and means should be surging forward, chooses instead, to take his hand off the throttle of career and to walk away. It is a beautiful act of downward mobility, and truth be told, as pastor of a church that draws many corporate types I wrestle along with my congregation about how best to live as disciples in that context.

It’s kind of like the game of monopoly which I know all too well; I want I want I want – and the more properties I get, the bigger I get so I can win. I advance. It’s also like chess; where we are constantly positioning ourselves on the playboard so as to set ourselves up FTW. Ernest Becker goes so far as to say our human drives are our way of pursuing immortality, or the Denial of Death as he calls it. It’s not entirely bad, this human drive to advance, but it exists in tension with the call / cost of discipleship. In many ways, deeper Spirituality begins from a place of chosen weakness, a willful handicapping, purposeful demotion. And not all can accept this call.

The Prayer Appointed for the Week

Grant me, O Lord, to trust in you with all my heart; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.†

How do you do it? Some take pay cuts, some turn down lucrative offers, some move into harder neighborhoods or overseas, some choose to live in obscurity. I mean, is this the only way? Can’t we just obtain discipleship by taking a program or something?

Published by Wayne Park

Asian-American clergyman thinking about issues of faith, place, race and culture-making in the vast city of Houston, TX

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