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The Aging of Commitment

Were you involved in student ministry during your years in college? What criteria would you now use to make major decisions about your work, life style and service? Here is a case story that Dr. Gary wrote to spur on discussion among 20-somethings, with respect to their faith and values. 

I used to teach with Youth With a Mission. I would spend four mornings with 20-somethings as part of their practical ministry training. I used this “World Christian” case study to spur on discussion about our values, our service and our lifestyles. You are free to use this case story in your own training.

Worker at Computer

“Well, what do you know! Jim Foster, I haven’t seen you in months. How’s life treating you? Any special person in your life yet?”

“No, I’m not even close to that. Since I began to work at Micro Systems last year, I’ve had only two long weekends at the beach. In fact, the software business is going so well the boss wants me to become a regional manager.”

“Hey, I’m sure happy for you! I’ve been at Rayon now for two years, and I haven’t gotten any breaks like that.”

“Well, I’m glad, too; but with it comes much more work and fewer weekends away. Hey, have you heard anything from our old college buddies?”

“No, not really. You know Rick moved to Denver, and Mark is still serving with DC Ministries. I still get Karen and his prayer letter. Hey look, Jim, I’m on the run, but I’ll give you a call next week and maybe we can get together.”

Jim used to view himself as one of the committed Christians on campus. Ore summer all he ate was rice and bean all summer in an effort to live simply and free up money to support others in ministry.

During the school year you could find Jim busy with extracurricular activities like teaching; special seminars, organizing evangelistic outreaches or making trips to Juarez to work in an orphanage. After college he worked for two years with Mission Ventures, leading students on short-term summer trips. But that seemed so long ago.

“Maybe I shouldn’t take that promotion,” Jim thought out loud to himself that evening as he was fixing dinner for himself. “All my time is spent caring for ‘things’ and working hard at the job. It’s not that I think: secular employment is wrong; it’s just that things have changed. Maybe I’ve grown up.”

“I feel I’ve lost a certain spark since my college days, but we were all kind of crazy back then. Anyway, it sure was good seeing Carl. It brought back all those memories of the times we had during our college days leading those service projects to Juarez.”

“I really feel better about myself since I left Mission Ventures and started working in the computer industry,” Jim thought. “I was getting a little burned out having to keep my support level up each year.”

At first Jim thought his job with Micro Systems would only be a one-year sabbatical from full-time ministry; but as things developed, he agreed to stay longer. “At least now there is enough money coming in to meet all my needs. Besides, I can do lots of things now that were never in my reach before.”

Just this past year, Jim purchased a new car. “My parents said they would help on a down payment for a BMW if I would carry the monthly payments. I thought it would be good to take up their offer as a gesture of that and respect.”

The BMW opened a whole new world. Soon he found himself making decisions on clothes, personal assets and special clubs that before would not have been options.

“Maybe life has become more comfortable, yet I have to put up with very long hours to get to the place where I can have the means to do with my life as I want.”

Jim dreamed of the days when he would be financially established and have the freedom to take time off to serve Christ overseas through short-term service as he had in college.

Being a hard worker and committed to the sales goals of Micro Systems, Jim was determined to do well in the company.

Even his parents were delighted to see him doing something they felt was respectable. They had paid for a good percentage of his college education, and now they wanted him to keep growing in a good job where he could use what he had been trained in.

Even at church others took note of him. He was offered a position on the missions board in light of his pest experience with Mission Ventures. Hardly a month went by without some men in church telling him they were pleased to see him develop his gifts and begin to settle down.

As he was walking out the door of Micro Systems two days ago, Jim’s boss told him, “You’d be crazy not to take this promotion, Jim. The money is fantastic. Besides, you would be the first regional manager under 30 years old that Micro Systems has.”

Jim needs to let the management of Micro Systems know his decision next week on whether he will take the promotion.

“I’m not sure where all of this will lead. Maybe there is a better way to go. Yet, I’ve got to decide soon if I’ll accept the promotion offer; otherwise they’ll pass it on to someone else.”

Questions for Reflection

1. What were the major values and influences that affected Jim’s life during and after college?

2. What criteria would you use in making decisions about your work, life style and service?

3. What advice would you give to Jim on his decision next week? Why?

4. What counsel might a mission leader give Jim? What counsel would a marketplace ministry leader give Jim? How would you reconcile the gap?

This article first appeared in LifeNet Journal, Vol 3, No. 1, Winter 1988, p. 7, a publication of Campus Crusade for Christ, San Bernardino, CA.

Dr. Jay Gary is president of, a foresight consulting group. Over the past twenty years he has helped non-profits, foundations, civic leaders, and strategic alliances to create more promise filled futures. He also teaches strategic foresight, innovation and leadership at the graduate level and through professional development courses.

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