I had a different entry up here earlier this evening, and I’ll put it back up tomorrow, but I just read Mark’s last entry and the reasoning was so wrong I nearly fell out of my pants. I have to respond.

I hope it’s ok to be public about this since Mark did. If this bothers you, Mark, seriously, just tell me, because it doesn’t need to be, and I don’t really care. I just don’t want people to get the wrong idea from your page.

Anyway the basic idea is this. Is it right to put a missions trip down on your resume? Not as a missions trip, but as something else? Like a teaching English trip.

I had to think about this last year and ultimately decided not to, because of my unique circumstance. One big thing is that the group I went on my trip with was really big about security, I mean, they didn’t even want us to say what country we went to, even it was pretty obvious. But there was a spirit of security. And I felt if I advertised where I had been that summer in any amount of detail, I would be violating that spirit of security. It wasn’t just a matter of indicating where I went in detail or just in general; it was a matter of indicating where I went that summer at all. For the same reasons we were so conscious about security before and during that particular trip.

Secondly, I figured it was wrong because why the heck would I even list it on my resume? Just because? Obviously not, since you always gotta pick and choose what you put on, you don’t just wanna stick your whole life on there. No, you put it on to stand out, and to give you a boost in getting a job. In other words, for career advancement.

That’s the bigger thing I figured for me was wrong – I went for a particular purpose, that is missions, and I didn’t want to taint that by trying to derive personal gain from it where that was not the intention. It just felt to me like I would be violating the spirit of the trip, or bastardizing it by trying to use it for personal gain. Especially when it’s a misleading bullet point and not relevant.

What I mean is this – I think it’s cool to say, I was a church leader and put it on your resume for a position that involves leadership. I’m sure that’s not why you did it, and that information is both accurate and relevant to the position you might be seeking.

With a mission trip, I wouldn’t advertise it as such unless I had a blatant disregard for the group’s security concerns. And in this case, the information I presented, while it might not be a flat out lie, is highly misleading. I didn’t go to learn culture, or the language, or to gain leadership experience, or teaching experience. I went for a very particular purpose, not any of the things I might list on the resume. So it’s fundamentally misleading. And because of that, it’s not relevant – the reasons why I went wouldn’t have any bearing on the position I was trying to get.

Anyway, that’s what I decided, and you know, that’s just me. Honestly, I don’t feel that strongly about it that I’m going to say it’s wrong period, I would just like people to think about it, that’s all. And whatever happens then is fine with me. I don’t think it’s a clear issue.

Mark’s thinking, however, is so totally illogical I need to point it out. He writes:

Is it wrong to use “missions” as a career advancing step in the secular realm? If I went on a missions trip, or had some sort of leadership role in ministry, and put it on my resume to give out to companies, is it wrong?But let’s look at the opposite question. Is it wrong to use a secular career as a springboard or a faciliatator for missions or ministry, which has basically what I have been thinking — even strategizing — about as I try to pursue these consulting jobs in a search for my ticket to going forth into the world?

This is completely illogical. These are hardly the same questions. I think the message of the Bible is clear that we should use all we do, in fact view all we do as tools for “ministry,” that is, for the work of God. So using our secular career to further our work in promoting the kingdom of God is not only OK, it is an imperative. This is clear.

To say that the opposite question, whether using our ministry roles to further our secular career is OK, is the same question is a fallacy of epic proportions. If we made a lot of money personally, which is not a bad thing, would it be bad to use it for the ministry of the local church? Of course not. Now then, is that the same as asking whether we should use the ministry of the local church to make lots of money personally? Whether you think it’s right or wrong, it’s clearly not the same question. Oh my goodness, that it’s so different is incredibly clear to me.

I mean, are you saying that the Bible says that we should use our work in the kingdom of God for our personal advancement? That is bold bold bold bold. It’s not just bold, it’s wrong. You have to understand these are two different questions you’re asking, and on one the Bible is clear – it’s good. On the other…

I’m beating a dead horse. It’s obviously wrong; they are clearly two different questions, so the answer to one question (is it right to use our secular career for ministry) has no bearing on the other (is it right to use our ministry experience for career advancement). So from the beginning, this train of thought is on a dead end track.

Anyways, Danny’s viewpoint that he doesn’t want to “use” a missions trip to gain something which it wasn’t intended to “gain” troubles me a bit, because to me, it reinforces a “dichotomy” between secular and spiritual life, activities, and achievement: If you go on missions, you score X heaven points, and if you land this secular job, you score Y earth points, and those two aren’t transferrable.

Umm, there’s clearly a dichotomy between secular and spiritual (sacred). Were there not a dichotomy, there would be no distinction. There is and should be a dichotomy between the two. If there wasn’t, think about the implications. Secular achievement = spiritual achievement? Bill Gates has achieved that much spiritually? Obviously not. Because they’re not the same thing. How we do in our spiritual life is the same as how we do in our secular life? Our spiritual activities and our secular activities are the same? They’re different. Should they even be the same? So our spiritual achievement should be viewed as the same thing as our secular achievement? No. There is clearly a dichotomy.

The last thing in this paragraph isn’t dealing with secular / spiritual life, activities, and achievement. There are clearly differences here. What you’re talking about is the the ultimate purpose of these things, what we should be using them for. And in this there should be no distinction – we should do everything for the glory of God. We shouldn’t look at why we do secular and spiritual work differently, or what the purpose of each is, or what our fundamental attitudes towards those things should be. But in the things themselves, of course there’s a difference.

What is missions, anyways? John Piper writes that missions exists because worship doesn’t. Missions is an means to worship, as well as a means of worship, and that is not an option for us believers. After my experiences, one of the things I’ve become convicted of is that there really is no barrier that we should be erecting between the two, as far as where and when we should be desiring His name to be glorified amongst the nations and peoples, between the secular working world and the “missions field”. I’m not just saying it just because it’s “cool” as a Christian — especially career oriented Stanford Asian-American Christians like us — to say so, but that’s what we should be thinking as, because God doesn’t think bimodally, in “missions mode” or “non-missions mode”.

Yikes, invoking Piper in this line of thinking is scary. Again, this reasoning is just wrong. You have the right point, but the wrong conclusions. Yeah, there should be no strict dichotomy such that a missionary is more holy than a working person. The point of this, though, and Piper, is that everything we do should be a ministry in some sense – we should use whatever we have, do whatever we do, for ministry.

You’re going in the opposite direction, saying, since there should be no separation, anything I do is automatically ministry. Isn’t that essentially what you’re saying? You’re saying landing a secular job is as good as going on missions, that they are “transferrable,” and thus, using our work in ministry to further our secular careers is good.

You’re right, we should use everything for missions, but that doesn’t mean everything we do is automatically missions. So say that this is what Piper is saying is (my opinion) fundatmentally misinterpreting what he is saying. Again, it’s the fallacy that it works in both directions. This is true – we need to reign in everything we do, including our secular work, for God’s purposes. This is not – everything we do is automatically God’s purpose.

Anyway, every example he states that is good is an example of using our secular positions for His kingdom. There is nary an example of where using our role in His kingdom for our personal career is a good thing. It’s simply not the same thing.

At any rate, this lack of logic bothers me, but I don’t think that’s what Mark is fundamentally thinking. On the basic issues, I think Mark’s on the right track, which is why I feel comfortable writing all this here, because I don’t think he’s totally screwed up at heart. I think at the heart of it, he’s thinking that he’s going to use his career for the purpose of missions, and that’s good. And in that case, whether it’s wrong to cite a past missions experience is less clear.

But I still think it’s wrong. I’m sorry, but there is a difference between how our careers work and how we work in ministry. It’s wrong to want them to be exactly the same because they just aren’t. Look at the difference between a job application and a missions application. They look for very different things, and there’s no use pretending they are the same. In that sense, sure there’a dichotomy. What shouldn’t be separate is how we view the ultimate purpose of it. But in terms of how each operates, and how we obtain each position, there’s a definite real dichotomy. If you deny that, just send your missions app instead of a resume. Since there should be no “dichotomy,” this seems the most sensical thing to do.

The point is, everyone interacts in the business world differently than they do with the church. And what we do in the business world is not automatically “ministry,” rather, we should seek that in all we do in the secular world, it be ministry. To cite a ministry experience in a secular resume, an interaction with the secular world which is typically different from those with the church, in a manner which is misleading, is to me dubious. Even if it is for a good purpose, it seems to me to lack faith, that God cannot put us in the place where He wants us without us having to use our past work for him in a deceptive manner, for a purpose for which it was never intended.

So even if you plan to use your career for ministry, I don’t know about it; it just seems lacking in faith. And again, if you’re going to do it, be honest about it. Intentional deception in this case doesn’t seem a kingdom characteristic to me.

Anyway, of the fundamental question, whether it’s ok to list a missions trip on a resume, I’m undecided. But the reasoning Mark uses I think is faulty, so I’m responding more to the reasoning than the actual question. Sorry for this lame entry. It’s late, and I just realized I’m not being as logical as I think I am. I think it’d be good for Henry to respond with his celebrated logic, whether he disagrees or not. Let me know if you disagree, because I’d like to know.

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