A Westminster Bookstore exclusive interview with author Charles D. Drew. His book A Journey Worth Taking: Finding Your Place in This World is now available. Find details about the book here.
WTSBOOKS: What is the difference between your approach and that of popular self-esteem or self-help books?
Charles Drew: My approach differs by being God-centered rather than people-centered. Most popular self-help books focus on the self. Journey focuses on the self in its proper context—and that context is a cosmos in which the reputation, honor, and purposes of God occupy center stage. The great irony to which I call repeated attention is found in Jesus’ words, “He who seeks to find his own life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Self discovery and self esteem come, as it were, through the back door—when we are focusing elsewhere.
WTS: How does one avoid having a quest after calling becoming a selfish endeavor?
CD: Only with great vigilance. Everything about how we are wired as fallen creatures tends towards putting ourselves at the center of things. For this reason I devote a major section of the book to the ravaging effects of sin upon human identity. Having said this, I do not believe it is wrong to write a book that highlights our search for purpose. C. S. Lewis has rightly pointed out that every command of Scripture contains an appeal to desire—which means both that the Lord meets us at our points of felt need (and who does not feel the need for a purposeful life?) and that he intends, in his own way, to meet those felt needs.
WTS: Are there structures in our evangelical churches that–however unintentionally–discourage church members from seeking their calling? How can churches better help people to seek and develop the full meaning of being called?
CD: Yes, I believe that there are. Both legalism and license sabotage the legitimate quest. Legalism does this by identifying certain callings and interests as “secular” and therefore, if not precisely evil, then somehow of less spiritual value than others. Churches institutionalize this, for example, by permitting only certain styles of music to be performed at church, or by adopting terms like “full time Christian work” to describe certain vocations (suggesting that being a businessperson or an athlete, for example, is not really a “full-time” Christian endeavor). License, by which I mean an approach to calling that makes affirmation and inclusiveness prominent above all other considerations, can open the door too easily to thoughtless participation in callings that one is not suited for, or which are too compromised by the fall. One of the best ways that the church can help is to provide forums for thinking and talking about calling in all of its dimensions—theological, practical, and ethical. Classes on the theology of calling alongside workshops and panels featuring thoughtful Christian practitioners of a wide range of careers and engagements (domestic and professional) can be a big help.
WTS: You say we should “worship while we work.” Can you expand on what you mean by that?
CD: It is not always easy to worship while we work. Thanks to the fall, there is no job—whether it is raising children, running a bank, or working as a carpenter—that does not have its dreariness. Nevertheless, God made us for work, Jesus is present with us in our work, and Jesus will one day completely fix work. For these reasons, we should seek occasions to thank God for and in our work. Simply to be given something to do that brings order into our life is cause for thanks. If we get paid for it, all the better. Work often presents us with people to love—and this is good for us (especially when it is hard). There are, or course, those occasional jobs (or occasional tasks within a particular job) that we actually enjoy doing—for which it is only right to worship God. Then there is the recollection of how much worse work might be for us if we lived at a different time or under different circumstances—a recollection that should train our faith to see the hand of the Redeemer at work, and to thank him. Finally, there is the promise of consummation—of a coming world in which all toil will finally be taken from our work—and for this hope we worship God (especially when we are acutely aware of the toil in what we are presently doing).
WTS: What is the importance of the “creation - fall - redemption - consummation” pattern of Scripture to individual believers seeking to discover their own sense of purpose?
CD: Paul tells us to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12). Good theology is always a healthy thing. If our thoughts are not “bibline” (as John Stott would say), our lives will inevitably be out of kilter. To keep all four of these doctrines in our minds as we walk through our quest for purpose is to infuse value, realism, energy, and hope into that walk.
WTS: Many Christians think redemption has to do with getting into heaven. How is it so much more than that, especially in how if affects how we live our “day-to-day” lives?
CD: The promise of redemption is that, through the Messiah Jesus, God has worked, is at work, and will work to reverse everything that has gone wrong with life as a result of Adam’s fall. When we sing at Christmas, “He comes to make his blessings flow, /Far as the curse is found”, we celebrate this great hope. The arts, the environment, worship, human relations at every level —all of these things are being renewed by the risen King. Certainly there is a future dimension to that renewal for which we must wait. But we must remember that Jesus has already sent his Spirit into the church, making us, even now, agents of all the good things that are to come. The believer who is content simply to improve his prayer life, and who otherwise waits passively for Jesus to come again and fix things, quenches the Spirit.
WTS: What possible difference does the consummation, the end of history, make in my life now?
CD: The consummation gives hope and weightiness to everything we do. Without the confidence that God sees all, measures all, and will one day vindicate all that has been done by faith and in love we are left trying to justify our existence by measures that can never satisfy—how we feel about ourselves, how much credit people give us, how effective our efforts seem to be, whether people notice or remember us.
WTS: Community is a recurring theme in your book. What part does community play in an individual’s sense of calling?
CD: Community plays a huge role. To be made in the image of God is, in part, is to be made for community—for God is himself a community of three Persons. While we each have individual value, that value is played out in the context of love—and there is no love without community. People help us bear our burdens. People draw out our gifts. People expose our sins. People identify our limits. Without people we, or our circumstances, stifle our gifts. Without people we live in self-delusion.
About Charlie Drew: Charlie Drew was born and raised on Long Island and received his education at Harvard (BA in English) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.). His wife Jeannie chairs the science department at the Riverdale Country School in the Bronx. They have two grown children – Allen and Sarah– both married (to Heather and Peter, respectively). Sailing and music are two of Charlie’s great loves (ask him about his sailboat). He has published two books: A Public Faith: Bringing Personal Faith to Public Issues (Navpress) and The Ancient Love Song: Finding Christ in the Old Testament (P and R). He has served churches in university communities for nearly thirty years, and is currently the senior minister of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, which he planted in 2000 near Columbia University in Manhattan.
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