Mere Christians

JP Pokluda (Host of the Becoming Something podcast)

Episode Summary

“Only do vocational ministry if you can’t do anything else.”

Episode Notes

Why you should “only do vocational ministry if you can’t do anything else,” JP's terrifically freeing definition of calling, and what dirty bathrooms have to do with the worldview of mere Christians.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Transcription

[00:00:05] JR: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Mere Christians Podcast. I'm Jordan Raynor.

How does the gospel influence the work of mere Christians, those of us who aren't pastors or religious professionals but who work as data analysts, locksmiths, and philosophers? That's the question we explore every week.


Today, I'm posing it to my friend, JP Pokluda. He's the host of the wildly popular Becoming Something podcast, and the lead pastor of Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. JP is a kindred spirit. We sat down recently to talk about why you should “only do ministry, vocational ministry if you can't do anything else.” We talked about JP’s terrifically free definition of calling, and what dirty bathrooms have to do with the worldview that mere Christians take into the workplace. Trust me, you are not going to want to miss this episode with my friend, JP Pokluda.




[00:01:12] JR: JP, welcome to the Mere Christians podcast.


[00:01:15] JPP: Man, thank you for having me on. So great to be with you and just to catch up with a friend on the air. Let's go.


[00:01:21] JR: Let's go. Let's go. I can't remember what it was. I feel like everywhere I go and speak now, somebody comes up as like, “Oh, man. Yes, I heard you on the Becoming Something podcast with JP.” Shows become kind of a big deal, huh?


[00:01:34] JPP: We plant those people. So what we do is we figure out where you're going to speak, and then we send some people there. That's just kind of how we promote the podcast.


[00:01:43] JR: I believe it.


[00:01:44] JPP: I would say likewise, man. I think you're doing such an important work on calling people who are in their positions, to faithfulness as believers where God has called them to be. I think that message is so important. So I just – man, I'm cheering you on from Waco.


[00:02:03] JR: Well, vice versa. I've never been to Waco, by the way.


[00:02:06] JPP: Well, let's change that immediately.


[00:02:08] JR: Let's change that. My wife's been out there, done the whole Magnolia pilgrimage thing.


[00:02:13] JPP: Well, I have a jet waiting for you outside as soon as we're done, so.


[00:02:16] JR: Wonderful, wonderful. Hey, so I've never heard all the details of your story. I'm really interested to dive in. God saved you later in life, right? Like what's the story there?


[00:02:27] JPP: Yes. I would just say, some confusing aspects of it is I was raised in the church. So I was raised Catholic. My dad was Catholic. My mom was Lutheran. They stayed married and just went to separate churches every Sunday. I never even knew that was weird, until I left home. So sometimes, I would go to church with my mom. But most of the time, I would go with my dad. I was raised in a Catholic parochial school, so church school. I had a religion class for nine years. There was a lot of – I was surrounded by a lot of faith.


Then when I went to college, I just didn't have that foundational route. I didn't have a real relationship with Jesus. So I did whatever I wanted to do in college, which looks like the sadly typical worldly college life of a lot of partying and sleeping around and all of those, some recreational drug use. I graduated somehow and moved to Dallas because I was raised on a farm in a small town in South Texas. So I was like, “I got to get away from that as fast as I can. I want the big city.” So I moved to Dallas.


My journey is I started in corporate America. I didn't really start it out of college. I worked some odd jobs, Abercrombie and selling gym memberships. I landed a job in telecom and worked for two different, smaller telecom companies, until I landed at AT&T where I was for several years. At AT&T, I was kind of climbing the corporate ladder and ended up in their global accounts division. It was really SBC, and then AT&T merged. I was there for that merger. So I'm doing that and just – I’m kind of everything wrong with Dallas and a person. I want to be a millionaire before I'm 30. I got the penthouse condo in uptown, the Jaguar S type. I’m that guy. I'm a little bit flashy, if you will.


I’m at a club 21 years ago, and someone invited me to church. I went hung over. I sat in the back row. I smelled like smoke from the night before. I heard the gospel in a new way and understood grace in a new way. Long story short, I ended up realizing that that Jesus on the cross, that that was a payment for my sins. I just realized like, “Man, I'm going to live forever. And if I'm going to live forever, then I've got to live for this guy.” So that just reframed everything in my life. As I started learning the Bible and then living with a biblical worldview, just everything changed. Not to mention the Holy Spirit came in and just began to do a makeover.


[00:04:42] JR: I've heard it articulated by some people who came to faith later in life that they just – there was this moment where they realized this is either the most important thing in the world, Jesus of Nazareth, or absolutely the dumbest waste of time of all time. It sounds like that's what you're feeling sitting in the back of that church.


[00:05:00] JPP: Man, it makes me emotional. It wasn't that moment. I know that moment, bro, like what you just described. I was sitting on a friend's couch, ironically, here in Waco. This was a long time ago, but we were visiting here. I was visiting a friend here, and I was sitting on his couch. We were talking through just the implications of the gospel. It was like the scales fell from my eyes. I began to look around. It was like I was in the matrix. It would be the best way to describe it, where everything's ones and zeros.


I was like, “Man, none of this matters outside of being redeemed for kingdom purposes.” I was just like, “If there is a life after this life, and that life lasts forever, then my work has to be redeemed. My words have to be redeemed. My relationships have to be redeemed. Everything that I do, I need to see through the lens of eternity.” Yes, it was just this like really profound shifting moment.


I always struggled to explain it theologically. I mean, truly, I've talked with people about second baptism and salvation justification. I'm like, “Man, was that the moment I was saved?” I don't know what's happening right there. But I can just tell you something spiritual happened right there in that moment.


[00:06:17] JR: So fast forward a few years later, you were sitting in high rise. I'm assuming at AT&T, you heard this very clear call from the Lord about what was next for you or that there was something next for you vocationally. Can you share that story with our listeners?


[00:06:30] JPP: Yes, I will. I'll say a disclaimer on the front end is I've learned from sharing this story that, typically, it's not normal. I'm not saying that to try to be unique in any way. I'm saying that to I don't want to discourage anyone who hears this and is like, “Hey, when's that going to happen for me?” I will say more about that. But, yes, I'm sitting at AT&T. I’m on I'm kind of like studying some basic apologetics.


[00:06:55] JR:, I love it.


[00:06:57] JPP: Yes. Just like reading these articles. I've got questions like 101. What about dinosaurs, and how old is the earth? So I'm just reading these papers. I met with the person that morning for breakfast around discipleship. I had another meeting at lunch that centered around discipleship. Meanwhile, my customers at AT&T were on cruise control. They were – everything was going well there. But I just wasn't spending any time on it. I went home and I was just exhausted. Monica was like, “Hey, did you have a hard day today?” I said, “I didn't do anything for AT&T today.”


Really, I went back the next day, and it was like a wash, rinse, repeat. I'm sitting at my desk. Again, is up, and I’m meeting with different discipleship meetings. I hear the Lord say, “You're going to come work for me now.” I mean, it was like this soul startling like look over my shoulder. Like, hey, if you were there, I don't know if you would have heard it. I'm not a big God said guy. But I can just tell you, there was this thing. It was like, “All right, you're going to come work for me.”


So I leave at 1:30 in the afternoon. I go home. I call a friend who was also transitioning into ministry, and I said, “Hey, I feel like I've been called into ministry. What do I do?” He says, “Man, you've been growing.” “I'm thinking I'm going to get an attorney. I'm going to start a nonprofit. I'm going to raise money. I'm going to give it away. I never considered working for the church. That never even crossed my mind, honestly.” He said, “Well, why don't you pray about it?” So I prayed for five days, and that five days wasn't a magic number. It just was five days. I said, “Lord, put me where you want me. Help me find contentment there. Put me where you want me. Help me find contentment there. Put me where you want me. Help me find contentment there.”


On the fifth day, the church that I had been a part of, the one I went in hung over years ago, smelling like smoke, understanding the gospel, they called. A person on staff called and just said, “Hey, I have a job I want you to consider.” I thought, “Man, I'll serve anywhere. Tell me where to volunteer.” He was, “No, no. Like an interview.”


[00:08:43] JR: Like a J-O-B.


[00:08:45] JPP: Yes. I was like, “Interview where?” He was like, “Watermark, which is the church.” I was like, “Wait, what?” I was like, “This is JP.” He goes, “I know.” I was like, “Man, I was praying over this job description, and the Lord kept bringing you to mind.” That's how it happened. That's the short version. Because the longer version is that I went, I took another job first, and I like ran from it. It was like delayed obedience and whatnot.


Then the longer explanation that I would put there is then I'm on staff at a church. In the years to come, I would lead these mission trips. I would train up 30, 50 young adults. We'd get on a plane. We'd raise thousands of dollars each to go and support. We go to these countries. We wouldn't speak the language. We wouldn't – we’d have to learn the culture. We have to share the gospel through an interpreter. I kept coming back, and I'd have the same conversation every time on the plane. It’s like, “Man, I wish I knew the language. I wish I understood the culture.”


We were coming back to this place where we knew the language, and we understood the culture, and people were going to pay us to be in our jobs. They were going to pay us to be there. I would always think about the eighth floor of AT&T. Because on the eighth floor of AT&T, it's this cubed farm of all these people that come there every day, and they have to. They're obligated by their employment to be there every day. There I was, a missionary right in the center of it, and I know the language. I understand the culture. I'm going to lunch with these people, and they're lost. The vast majority of them are lost as can be. I'm like, “Gosh, I would always look back on that moment with such intense regret.”


Now, the Lord was kind to allow me to see some people, some co-workers to come to the faith, just a great story of how He's done that or one specific. But for the most of it, I wasn't faithful with my faith in that position because I was thinking about P&L and how to increase my sales and make sure I make quota, which is important because whatever we do, we work at it with all our heart. It’s that we're working for the Lord. That is an aspect or a road or an avenue of evangelism.


But what's crazy is, I mean, I've been to the jungles of the Amazon. I've been to the mountains of Haiti, rural parts of Haiti, different parts of Africa. I've been on several different trips, and there's even closed countries. You think like Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan, places that you can't just walk in with the Bible and share the gospel on the street corner. But I'll tell you, I could get to Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan easier than I could the eighth floor of AT&T today. Because you go through two security checkpoints, you got a security badge with your picture on it. You can't just walk up there. I was there every day. I had credentials to be there every single day.


Today, as a pastor, I cannot go up there because I'm not an employee. It would be easier for me to get into Afghanistan today than the eighth floor of AT&T. So I always just think about, man, what is the opportunities in front of us where God has called us to be? How do we be faithful in that?


[00:11:43] JR: Amen. I love how nuanced your thinking on this topic is. It's so much more nuanced and I believe Biblical than a lot of pastors. All right, there's a lot I want to unpack from this story because I think there's a lot that the mere Christians listening can learn from it.


First is something that you and I talked about before on the Becoming Something podcast, right? Anytime you heara  dramatic calling story like yours, it can lead others, I think, to feel like they just have to wait around for a similar experience before they can call whatever work they're doing, a calling, right? They treat vocational calling the way Hollywood treats marriage, as if there is a singular Mr. or Mrs. Right for us in our career. Help us debunk this myth.


[00:12:26] JPP: Man, we could debunk both of those. I’m passionate about both of those, and so yes. Os Guinness wrote a book in calling and talking. I had a conversation with him recently. A lot of times, our calling is where we find us, where we find ourselves when we walk faithfully. That road to Damascus story, I think that is the exception, and it's not the good exception. I'll just say in my case, it's not the good exception. Meaning, I think God was so merciful with me that He did what He needed to do, understanding how deep and stubborn my rebellion was. He got my attention in a unique way.


Who knows? I'm telling the story 20 years ago, and I leave so much room for grace. I'm like, “I don't know.” My maturity at the time, like who knows what happened and what I was feeling. I don't want to discredit God in any way because I know we can do all of those things. But I will tell you, in meeting with tens of thousands, and I mean, I mean that literally, tens of thousands of people that most often calling is the place where we find us, find ourselves when we walk in faithfulness.


So it's just like when we wake up and we say, “All right, God. How do I be faithful today,” and you say, “What have you called me to?” We need to start with, well, what is around us. Who have you called me to share with? It's like the irony is, the Holy Spirit is never jumping up and down, waving his arm, saying, “Don't share with that person.” We should start with, well, who's around me? Who's on the other side of the wall? Who's on the other side of the cube? Who's on the other – who's in the carpool line? Who's the barista next to me? Who is around me? Who are the teachers in the teachers’ lounge, right? What’s the faculty around me? That's the people that God has called you to.


I see this in Matthew 5, right? That a builder, a strategic builder is very intentional about where he puts lights. They don't put them under a bowl. Still, in the 21st century, we built two homes. I can tell you, people are still very intentional about where they put lights. God called us to be lights to push back darkness. He's the master builder. He's put us in places intentionally. We don't need to resent those places. We need to repurpose those places, to open our eyes to say, “Okay, God. What is the mission that you have for me here?”


I have this conversation with young adults a lot when they're talking about changing jobs. They'll be like, “Right now, I'm making 50,000, and I'm working all these hours, and it's hard, and my boss hates me. But I have another job. It pays 100,000. It's less hours. The boss loves me. I get to work with friends. Like no-brainer, right?” I'm like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Not necessarily.” Not necessarily because you are where you're at on purpose. Have you been faithful there? Because the people there know you're a follower of Jesus. If you leave, what implications does it have for the gospel?


I'm not trying to put shame on your shoulders at all. But I'm just saying have you been faithful there, and would you say this new job, if we think about it all in terms of kingdom purposes, is this new job a calling? Meaning do you sense, well, I've called there to be on mission because it's not just about the bottom line. It's not just about how many hours you work. It's not just about the ease and being with friends and whatnot. We're all on mission, we're all in ministry, and we have to see our current vocation as such.


[00:15:46] JR: Yes. I mean, I think about Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:20. Each of you should remain as you were when God called you, right? So wherever you are, when God called you, that's what God has called you, right? That's where God has put you right now to be on mission for Him. I appreciate you saying that, right? Because I'm always hesitant to share the stories of people like you who are called out of corporate America and into vocational ministry because that can so easily be interpreted as that's what everyone else should do. I would argue, in our increasingly post-Christian context, that's what very few of us should do. We need more people rushing on the eighth floor of AT&T.


I had Skye Jethani on the podcast last year, and we were talking about the statistics. I know you know all too well, given that work so much with 20-something Christians, namely the number of young adults leaving the church. Skye was arguing that the church is focused on the intrinsic goodness of work outside the four walls of the church, is part of the solution to this problem, right? It's the driver's license to marriage license gap. Or churches know they're going to lose you from, let's call it, 16 until the time you get married. What's in between is vocation, right?


If we as pastors, church leaders, were more intentional about that, man, maybe the church would become a little bit more relevant to those 20-somethings. I mean, what do you make of Skye's argument?


[00:17:11] JPP: This is the message that I think where the church misses it. One, leadership in general. When I say the church, not every church. I mean, generally the local – the expression through the American church, generally speaking, I think we can beg people, “Hey, will you please show up. Please hold the door. I'm not going to ask much of you.” We don't understand that in our congregations, there's really gifted people, and their gifts are in part being exploited by corporate America for the bottom line.


This message is really nuanced. You used that word really earlier. I think it's important, and I want to clarify because there's lots of avenues to misunderstand what I'm saying. We should work hard in our occupation. We should be very intentional about doing ministry there. Those two things have to be coupled together. The church should not resent your occupation. We should set you up for success there in any and every way we can, giving you a redemptive lens for it.


I heard a story of a person once. I love this story. He was the best employee on this team on this floor of this company. Everyone knew as such. He was the one that was held up and said, “Hey, be like this person.” So he was double-promoted every year. So he’s just fast track up into corporate America because of his work effort. Every year, they threatened to fire him because he was so open with his faith. So you had these people that were antagonistic toward his faith, but they couldn't let him go because he was such a diligent worker. He was so intentional in what he did.


I think that tension there is a beautiful picture of what it means to work with intentionality where we're at. I know it's – everyone has to nuance that to their current – am I in a position of management? What am I doing? What is it? Am I delivering newspapers? Whatever it is, your work matters. You can think like if you weren't delivering the newspaper, if you weren't cleaning the toilet, if you weren't serving coffee, if you weren't writing $10 billion contracts, who would? God has you doing whatever it is that you're doing intentionally because he's placed a light there. You guys might say, “Okay, what is my mission and purpose?”


[00:19:37] JR: Yes. It's perfectly said.


[00:19:39] JPP: You have a narrative that always gets in my head but it gets fuzzy. So you kind of talk about the fall in Eden, right? So the garden. Then you talk about Jesus as the gardener. Easter is around. We have minds around that holiday. Can you remind me of that? I'd love to make that fresh in my mind, just in this opportunity


[00:20:01] JR: Yes. I got to give credit where credit is due. N. T. Wright’s the one that tipped me off in this direction to chase this rabbit trail. So every Easter, we read John chapter 20 in our churches, right? We are told that upon seeing the resurrected Christ, Mary Magdalene didn't recognize Jesus. She mistook Him for the gardener.


Now, Jesus had just beaten death. Clearly, He could have chosen to be mistaken for anything. A carpenter, a fisherman, a great king. But instead, He chose to be mistaken as a gardener. Why? Some people said, “Well, listen. It was just because he was raised in the garden of the tomb. Maybe that's true. I think the God who created tens of thousands of species of fish is a little bit more creative than that.


Some scholars suggest that by including that detail of Mary mistaking Jesus the gardener, John is deliberately contrasting Jesus, the last Adam, garden of the tomb, with the first Adam in Genesis 1-3. In the beginning, we know God inaugurated the world, but He didn't finish it. This is the message of my children's book that you love, The Creator in You. The six days is just the beginning. He put Adam in the Garden of Eden to work and to take care of it. First, Adam broke that rule, ensuring our need for a redeemer.


Fast forward thousands of years and here with the resurrection, God is inaugurating a whole new world, the second and the final creation. The last Adam, Jesus Christ, I think, is choosing to appear as a gardener, as a symbolic way of saying that He is planting heaven on earth once again. Just like that first Adam had his bride, Eve, to help him cultivate and work the first creation, Jesus, the last Adam, has invited His bride, the church, to help Him cultivate the final run, right?


As we're celebrating Easter this week, and when we're recording this, it should strike us right between the eyes that it was perfectly within God's power to perfectly and fully reveal the eternal kingdom of heaven on Easter Sunday, but He didn't. He inaugurated the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven and drafted us into service to help Him grow and to cultivate that. That's the symbol there. That, I think, is one of the most beautiful pictures for our work.


So I point it back to you, JP. What does that look like? How do we on earth glimpse this of the kingdom of God, as we work in places like AT&T? I mean, you went back to AT&T for a few years after your conversion. What did that look like? How did you change how you worked as a means of revealing the kingdom of God?


[00:22:46] JPP: Yes. Man, I'm hit with this story. It's a really weird story. So I'm going to tell it, and you can edit it out if you want. But it’s a weird story, man.


[00:22:56] JR: I love when I get warned that I might have to edit something out.


[00:22:59] JPP: I'm going to lose some credibility on this. I was going through this worldview class. The term worldview, it didn't really mean anything to me. I was hearing it every day, but it was like “wah wah wah.” I was like, “I don't really know what that means.” We're talking about God has us here as ambassadors to redeem the spaces and the times and the places that we are in, right? I'm learning this. I don't know. It’s like I just said that to people. People just heard that through your air pods or your headphones or whatever. Some of you know what it means, and some of you don't. So this is – you’re going to get to learn from my experience.


I'm in this class, and I'm learning this slowly, and it's not all making sense yet. I'm in. I go in a public bathroom. I'm going to use the restroom. I open the stall door, and I just like – this is the weird part. Someone has left a mess in there. I'm just like, “Oh, man.” I'm repulsed. I turn around. I'm walking out. I'm like, “That's – oh, my goodness,” and I just since. The Lord is like, “Wait a minute. But you're here, and this is my creation, and what are you going to do about it? Are you just going to leave? Are you just going to get back in your car? Are you just going to go somewhere else?” I was convicted in this strange way. I'm like, “Surely, God, you don't want me to clean up someone else's mess? Surely, that's not what you want.”


That's a really weird picture, right? I hope it's not what He wants for you, listener. But here's what I do know. If you can take that as a metaphor, if you can take that as an illustration to think about, all right, who do I serve and who am I responsible for. How do I remove drudgery? How do I bring about joy and synergy? How do I help us become more effective? How do I keep people motivated and optimistic? How do I take the kingdom of God, that the kingdom that I belong to, the kingdom that I'm going to end up in, be in most realest presence?


How do I bring it here on earth in the way that I work, in the way that I talk, in the way that I experience, in the way that I create experiences, in the way that I clean up, in the way that I redeem, in the way that I make things beautiful, right? How do I make every moment that I exist in an act of worship and really have this sense?



This is just great leadership now that nothing is beneath me, and everyone around me are people that I serve in the name of Jesus. So that in Titus 2:10, this is amazing verse. He says, “Work so that you make the teachings of Christ our Lord and Savior attractive.” It's like, “Oh, man. So that's just that. How do I work in such a way that I make the teachings of Christ attractive?” That's my story.


[00:25:58] JR: It's a perfect metaphor. It's a perfect metaphor. It's a posture going back to worldview. It's a posture of I didn't create all the mess in this world individually. But as a representative of the human race, yes, I have. My call as a believer is to enter into the mess and to renew and to redeem and to beautify. Our vocations are one of the vehicles we can do that. When we do that, they will see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven. You mentioned the story of AT&T. Somebody is seeing your good works, I'm assuming, coming to faith in Christ. Go back to it.


[00:26:31] JPP: Oh, man. What it was was – so like my entire time at AT&T, I'm trying to get this job into global accounts. So that's the job from my perspective at the time. If I can just get there, I can work that job for the rest of my life. This is the goal. So I'm interviewing, and that interview turns into a two-and-a-half-year-long process. In the corporate world, there was two hiring freezes that I survived through, and I'm just – everything. I've got all my eggs in this basket. I'm trying to get this job. I’m doing everything. I work in the political angles of corporate America, trying to get this job, right?


I get it. Long story short, I get the job. After two and a half years of interviews, I get the job. I’m week two on the job. I've been assigned to this mentor. I think I'm 24. I went to a two-year school. I went to college for two years, so I’ve kind of gotten in the work world early. So I was like 24, 25. I’m probably 25. I'm assigned to this mentor, and he's 46 years old. He’s kind of everything. He represents everything I want to be. We are driving from Dallas to Fort Worth together. He’s talking about just some challenges at home. We're just two guys chatting it up on a 40-minute road trip, and he's talking about just difficulty and the hard conversation he had with his wife.


I said, “Hey, how's your relationship with Jesus?” Now, this is just who I am at this time. I've found something new, and I love it, and I'm just telling everyone about it. I asked him that, and he gets so uncomfortable. He starts to shift in his chair, and his face turns red, and he's real quiet. He didn't say anything. He grips the steering wheel with both hands. Then after this like long pause of silence, he just says, “That is really inappropriate. We did not have those kinds of conversations in the work environment. And if you ever asked me something like that again, there will be consequences and repercussions. I will need to talk to HR.”


I'm like, “Dude, it's two weeks on a job that I've interviewed for two and a half years for.” I'm like, “Oh, my goodness. What just happened?” So we drive the rest of the way to Fort Worth in silence. I'm thinking the whole time, “I've got a drive back with this guy.” So on the way back, I was like, “Hey, about that.” He goes, “Yes, listen. I'm Jewish. You talked about Jesus. It just makes me uncomfortable. I'm not very religious. I was raised Jewish. I'm not very religious,” and it was fine. We got to a place where we could talk and be cordial, and it was fine.


Now, the months ahead, we're still working together in close proximity. He's still kind of assigned as my mentor. So I'm just praying, and they were like these really faithless prayers like, “God, save them. Yes, right. You're going to do that.” Then there's this business lunch that my church puts on, and I just invite the team. I've done no follow up on this because of fear, honestly. I've failed the test. I'm not the example. I've failed the test miserably.


But I invite my team to this deal, this business luncheon at my church. I just forwarded the email to my team. Well, he comes over and he's really excited about it. He goes, “Hey, are you going to this?” I was like, “Oh, yes, yes, yes.” He goes, “Oh, I'd like to go.” I was like, “Awesome.” As it gets closer, he's like, “Hey, what do I wear?” I was like, “Oh, man. Wear whatever you're wearing.” I'm like, “This is so weird. What is God doing?”


Then the day comes. He goes, “Hey, you want to ride out together?” I was like, “Sure.” We're riding out there, and we pull into the parking lot, and he sees Watermark. He’s like, “Watermark, Watermark.” He's like, “Oh, in this – you go to church around here?” I go, “Yes, yes.” He goes, “Is it this parking lot?” I go, “Yes, yes. This is at my church.” He goes, “Oh.” We go, and I was like, “I don't know what that means.”


We go up there, and two guys talk. They're businessmen, and one specific is sharing his story. He talks about two books, More Than a Carpenter and Man in the Mirror. I'm kind of watching my coworker like, hey, is he uncomfortable? How’s he doing?


[00:30:10] JR: Am I getting fired?


[00:30:11] JPP: Yes, exactly. The deal ends, and we get back in the car. He goes, “Wow, that was really interesting.” He goes, “I didn't know this was a faith event.” I was like, “Hey, man. I just forwarded you the email because I know. I know. I didn't read it. I just saw business lunch and got excited for a networking opportunity, and I didn't read the email.” I go, “That's on you, bro. Don’t try to – we're not going to HR. That's on you.” He goes, “But that guy was making some sense. I'd like to read those books.” So I just go on Amazon and have them shipped to his house.


He starts reading More Than a Carpenter and, long story short, gives his life to Jesus, like trust in Christ. His whole family becomes Christians. They all get baptized. It was like New Testament stuff. They go and his daughter gets baptized. He’s a believer. Just like the Holy Spirit came in his life, and he began to do a lot of what we're talking about right now. I mean, this was a person who was extremely materialistic and focused on worldly things, began to redeem those worldly things for a different purpose.


The devil is so crafty. There's a fine line. I think what we often do as Christians is we like throw out, “Okay. Oh, well. If I really live for eternity, I can't have nice things.” Not at all. You just have nice things in context of eternity. Or if I'm living for eternity, then I can't work hard. It's like, no, you do work hard. You work hard with the right perspective of that you can set it down. You can rest. You can trust God. So there's just these really – it's like this path. On both sides of this path, there's overcorrection, and there's extremes that are not helpful and are distractions to the path that we're actually to walk.


[00:31:51] JR: What’s one thing you think you did right? You were commanded not to mention it again with your words. What did you do right in your actions that you think got this guy interested and maybe Christian is incredible?


[00:32:03] JPP: Immediate answer is like just pray. I just remember I put him on the – we had a top 10 list at the time. It was like 10 loss people in our lives that were praying for.


[00:32:11] JR: Ten most wanted.


[00:32:12] JPP: Yes, the 10 most wanted. It’s like the picture of the new Christian, and I've got that bookmark in my Bible. I would just pray these prayers. But if I'm honest, at that moment, in my journey, I wasn't even – I'm like, “God, you're not going to answer that. But I'm going to pray this out of obedience.” I mean, He did in such a profound and distinct way, and really just to spur me on and encourage me. I felt encouraged in that.


There's something I forgot to say earlier, and I want to say I don't think it fits. But the reason – a part of my calling in the ministry was somebody had told me, “Only do ministry if you can't do anything else.” I thought that meant only do ministry, if you're not gifted at doing anything. I didn't know what that meant. I mean, somebody has said it. It was one of those things. It wasn't helpful to me because I didn't understand it.


Then when I was at AT&T, that story that happened, and I'm growing, and all of this is, and I just became really obsessed with the realization that meant I need to learn my Bible. I need to do this. I need to kind of go all-in over here. That statement made sense to me. I think that has a lot to do with calling. I've heard someone say, like when someone says, “Hey, I want to go be a pastor,” they actually try to talk them out of it because if they were really called to be a pastor, they couldn't.


The truth is the vast majority of the people that are listening right now are not called to be employed by the church. I mean, that's the reality. I don't think you need to think about that. As much as I would love for you to think about that as so much of a higher calling, what I see in my Bible is that we're all part of the royal priesthood, a holy nation, and people belong to God. So what does it look like for me to redeem my calling, my current position to a higher calling so that I'm there? I am a pastor. I'm doing ministry. I'm just doing it through the avenue that God has gifted me to do it in. So that was a thought I had from earlier.


[00:34:06] JR: No, man. That's perfect. I'm glad you followed up on that and shared it. Hey, I told you this before we start recording or alluded to it, I guess. Your new book, Why Do I Do What I Don't Want To Do, I'm loving this. But it's actually your first book that I've read, and I'm crushing it. I'm thoroughly enjoying it. The title, obviously, comes from Paul's words in Romans 7. For those unfamiliar with that passage, what's Paul talking about here?


[00:34:27] JPP: It's probably the most relatable section of the scripture is like, man, why the good I want to do, I don't do. The bad things that I don't want to do, this I keep on doing. So it just presents this picture of the clumsy life as a mere Christian where it's like, “Gosh, I want to do right, but I still have this flash or the sin nature that's kind of pulling me the wrong direction. The things that don't want to do, these are the doors I keep opening.” He goes, “Who will save me from this body of death and then this beautiful crescendo?” Romans 8:1, “For there is now no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus.”


Then the whole next chapter is just kind of life in the Spirit. What does it look like for me to surrender to the Spirit of God who's there as my helper in these times? That's so much of what we're talking about, Jordan, is just in the workspace, how do I understand that I'm not alone, that I have God as my helper here to do my work on purpose, on mission?


[00:35:21] JR: I loved the way you organize the book around these 10 common vices and these 10 biblical virtues that contrast the vice. So pride and humility, greed and generosity, apathy and diligence. As I'm reading it, man, if I'm honest, like the toughest one for me is pride and just continually slaying my selfishness, my pride, and replacing it with humility.


I want to go deeper on that for a few minutes because I think that's a common struggle for a lot of ambitious Christian professionals. What are some of the symptoms that this has become a problem for us? How does pride show up?


[00:35:55] JPP: It's such a foundational sin. So C.S. Lewis says, “It’s the sin that made the devil the devil.” A backup before I answer that and just say that the whole premise of the book is, because it's irrelevant, the premise of the book is a lot of times as a Christian, we get stuck on defense, where we're just trying not to be prideful. What I want to do with every vice or habit or sin or struggle is I want to say, I want to bring the reader's attention that there's a counterpart virtue that you can pursue. You can actually go on offense. So rather than try not to be prideful, I can actually effort to be humble. If I put my crosshairs, my sights on humility, the pride is going to take care of itself.


But now, to answer your question, specifically, what pride can look like is any number of sins. For example, it can look like living for the approval of others or people-pleasing. I care so much about what other people think of me. That in and of itself is a sin outlined in Galatians 1:10. But it also – at the root of that sin, the foundation that sin I believe is pride, materialism, or greed. I buy things to make myself feel better. I cope by going on Amazon today, Prime today. I want to get a newer car or a bigger house, right? You say, “Well, that's the sin of materialism.” But it can also be the foundation of pride in that we're trying to build a bigger kingdom for ourselves. We're wanting to be the main character of the story, not understanding that we have this tiny cameo in the story, and that the main character is Jesus, and that everything we do points to Him.


So pride can bring – turn a lot of – when it's our motive, when our self is the motive, self-exultation is the motive, then so many of sins that look like other things are actually rooted in pride.


[00:37:42] JR: I thought this was interesting. This is not a connection I'd ever made before. You argued that one of the symptoms of pride is that we're overcommitted.


[00:37:49] JPP: Yes.


[00:37:49] JR: What's the connection there? How do you see that being rooted in pride?


[00:37:52] JPP: It's two ways, like overcommitted on the calendar or over indexed, in that we view ourselves as the main cog, primary cog in the wheel that if we are removed, everything's going to fall apart. I see this a lot, honestly, with senior pastors who feel like they can't take off or they can't retire. Because they're kind of God's anointed, if you will. If they leave for two weeks, the whole church is going to fall apart. So how do – how do we work in a way that makes ourselves replaceable? Then how do we run at a pace that's sustainable?


It’s this overarching, hey, it's not about you, and it's not up to you. You don't have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Just be faithful in the situations that you're in, and then trust God. I really think that is the spirit of the Sabbath. Sabbath is such a buzzword right now. A lot of people are thinking about it, talking about it, asking what it should look like. I think the spirit of the Sabbath is the realization that it's not all up to us, that we don't have to get it all done, that we should be faithful and then we rest well.


[00:38:52] JR: That’s good. So the opposite of pride is humility. You wrote in the book, “I believe that the secret to happiness is actually practicing humility.” In other words, stop going on defense against pride. Go on offense towards humility. How do we practice humility, especially in the workplace, JP? What could that look like, aside from cleaning messes in bathroom stalls?


[00:39:14] JPP: Yes, yes, yes, exactly. Let me give some weight to that, the secret to happiness, because that's a big headline was secret to happiness. Wow, like I want to be happy. I mean, a lot of us are not on a truth journey. A lot of us just are on a happiness journey. We want to be happy, especially in the world. Just like, hey, how do we experience happiness?


Well, a lot of unhappiness comes from an overinflated view of self. In fact, and I'm going to be careful here, not a blanket statement, certainly there are exceptions. But narcissism is a foundation to a lot of mental illness. Not all, obviously, and it's not what I'm saying. But for a lot of times, when people have an overinflated view of themselves, and they feed that overinflated view of themselves, they find themselves where they're ill. They can be mentally impaired.


It’s hard to know what came first, the chicken or the egg. I can have those conversations with psychologists and therapists and psychiatrists. But I'm just saying, and they would agree with me, there's a correlation often. That's important to know. A lot of our disappointments come from when we feel like we've been taken advantage of, we've gotten ripped off, we've been slighted. So this is all – at a foundation level, there's pride there.


If I view myself as a servant to the king, and so Jesus – in the workplace, the big buzzword is leadership. It’s like, what does it mean, leadership? How do we practice leadership? How do we be a better leader? Even if I'm an employee, how do I be a better leader, lead out, lead up, lead down? I mean, there are so many books on leadership, all of these things. What Jesus defines leadership as is service. He says in Mark 10, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as ransom for many.”


In fact, the number one question that His disciples asked repeatedly, nine times in the gospel, they say, “Which of us is the greatest? Who can sit at your right and left in glory? Which of us is the best? Who's the greatest?” He's like, “You don't understand what it means to be great. To be great actually means to serve others.” So this is – the direct answer to your question, Jordan, is like if we want to practice humility in the workplace, it looks like serving others. Who is around us, and how can we serve them?


Here’s just a silly example. I'm not trying to be the hero of the story, but it's just something that recently happened. My son and I went to get an acai bowl for breakfast. So we go to the juice place. Before, I stopped by my favorite coffee shop and got a cup of coffee. I took it in there. The person was getting my bowl, and this was a person that I think a lot of people had overlooked. She's having a rough day, and she has a very alternative style, just to paint the picture of the just giant black nose ring. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but just to say there's a difference. I could just tell she was a little bit – feel beat up that day and just was very different than us.


But there was this moment where she kind of perked up and goes, “Oh, I smell your coffee.” She goes, “I'm going to get one. I'm going to get a cup as soon as I get off.” This is kind of what she said.” It’s a rough day and rough – the day had just started, rough morning. She says, “As soon as I get off, I'm getting a cup of coffee.” I was like, “Ma’am, what's your order?” I'm just trying to make small talk. She said, “Oh, oat milk latte.” I was like, “Great.”


I filed that away, get my bowl. We get in the car, drive back to the coffee shop, get the old milk latte, go back there. I just hand it to Weston and said, “Hey, will you run this in there to her, the person in the Doc Martens and the black jacket?” He does, right? Small act. Really, really tiny. Man, everyone hears the story and thinks, “Man, I bet that made her day.” No, it made our day, right? They made Weston and I’s day. It was just a great start to our day to start with a really tiny, miniscule act of service.


That's what we're doing as believers is we're occupying time and space. We're thinking, man, how can we serve people? How can we care for people in the name of Jesus?


[00:43:03] JR: It's just a posture of seeing others as greater than ourselves. That's it.


[00:43:06] JPP: That's it.


[00:43:07] JR: Very simple. Very hard to practice. Hey, three questions we wrap up every pod with, JP. Number one, which books do you find yourself recommending or gifting most frequently to others?


[00:43:18] JPP: Yes. You mentioned your children's book, which I want to talk about at some point. I want to – I'm going to call you someday and just what it's like to read a children's book.


[00:43:27] JR: Oh, anytime.


[00:43:28] JPP: But in that vein, it's an interesting answer that I feel like probably is more of explanation. But I love anything by Bob Goff. It's because he's such a great storyteller, and I read for preparation so much. So I'm reading in heavy commentaries. I don't read well. I’m not a strong reader. I don't enjoy it. So I like anything he writes. I'll listen to it at night. I feel like it's helpful to rest my mind. So that's the most honest answer I can give you.


[00:43:57] JR: It's good. Man, I love that I read in your book. You read a book by Tim Keller. You said, “Roughly every year that I read almost every year.” The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness.


[00:44:09] JPP: That's right.


[00:44:09] JR: Pitch the book real quick to our listeners. You can read this book in like 30 minutes, you guys. It's phenomenal.


[00:44:14] JPP: That’s what I was going to say. The pitch is it's a pamphlet. I try to only read books. I read your children's book and Tim Keller's. I try to keep it under 30 pages.


[00:44:25] JR: There you go.


[00:44:26] JPP: No, it really is a really short book, a small book. It’s everything we just talked about. You just hit back on your listening device two times on that 15-second skip. When we're talking about serving others and becoming like not thinking about yourself so much, that is the whole book, The Art of Self-Forgetfulness. I always say The Art of Self-Forgetfulness, but that's not it.


[00:44:49] JR: Yes, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness.


[00:44:51] JPP: The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness.


[00:44:53] JR: It was the first Keller book I read because I, like you, prefer short books. So I was like, “Oh, great. This is 30 pages.” It’s what caused me to go read every word that Tim Keller has ever written. It is an extraordinary book I read a lot. So I love that you point that in your book.


All right, second question, who do you want to hear in this pod talking about how the gospel shapes the work that mere Christians do in the world?


[00:45:16] JPP: Irony of ironies, man. It's got to be Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor.


[00:45:22] JR: I know. We've had Tim on a couple times. Actually, this week, I'm interviewing Tim's answer to this question, Dr. Francis Collins of the NIH, which would be fun.


All right, JP, what's one thing from our conversation you want to reiterate to our listeners before we sign off?


[00:45:36] JPP: If there is a God, I’ve bet the farm, I put my whole life in the answer to the affirmative answer to that that there is. But for you, if there is a God, and He created you, and He thought you up millennia ago, I mean, before creation, He created you. Acts 17, “In time and space, He determined your boundaries.” Then it is a reasonable, logical conclusion that He has a purpose for you to do. For you are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He's prepared in advance for you to do. It's literally to walk in the good works that He's prepared in advance for you to walk in.


So as you are faithful, wherever you're at, you are a representative of another kingdom, a kingdom that you will be in forever. But you get to show others a commercial for that kingdom today. I think that is purpose in its essence. So that's what I would say.


[00:46:35] JR: That's perfect. Buddy, I want to commend you for the extraordinary work you do every day for the glory of God in the good of others, for reminding us of the God-given goodness and meaning of the work that mere Christians do in the world and not just pastors like yourself. Thank you for helping us replace pride with humility in the workplace. Man, I love you so much. I'm loving this book so much.


Guys, JP’s new book is Why Do I Do What I Don't Want To Do. You could pick it up wherever books are sold. Hey, tell us about that website that you sent me with this like quiz of like what sin is going to get you. Yes, I love this.


[00:47:08] JPP: So you just go to We just said we worked with the publisher and some web developers to say, all right, what are some like big areas where people are taken out, where they're vulnerable. That's kind of the heart of this book is to help you identify those areas of vulnerability. They're usually different than what you think they would be. So there's a little quiz there. It takes about three to five minutes, and it will give you an answer.


[00:47:34] JR: It was super insightful. It's like really, really well done. JP, thanks for hanging out with us today.


[00:47:38] JPP: I thank you. I love you too, bud. Thanks for having me on.




[00:47:41] JR: I hope you guys enjoyed listening to that episode as much as I enjoyed making it. Hey, listen, we want to hear from you. If you think you've got something to say about how the gospel of Jesus Christ influences your work, I'm asking you to pitch yourself to come on to the podcast at Hey, guys, thank you so much for tuning in this week. I'll see you next time.