Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Carver Was In Full-Time Ministry

The accomplishments of Dr. George Washington Carver in the field of botany-chemistry are legendary, having developed 300 products from the peanut, and 118 from the sweet potato. The products Carver invented include printers ink, shaving cream, plastics, adhesives and much more.

But Carver only owned three patents on his many creations. Why? Because he didn't feel it was right to take money for something God gave him.

God gave him?

That's the way Carver saw it.

When he was inventing products from peanuts, Carver would go into his lab (which he called "God's Little Workshop") at Alabama's Tuskegee Institute, and ask God to reveal to him the mysteries of the peanut.

Carver literally asked God why He made the peanut, and, by Carver's own testimony, God answered his prayer. Carver locked the door to his lab when he was creating things, because, as he put it, "only alone can I draw close enough to God to discover His secrets."

Carver epitomizes what it means to be a co-worker with God. In a letter written to Rev. Lyman Ward, Carver declared, "I am not interested in science or anything else that leaves God out of it."

At the age of 63, he wrote: "Man, who needed a purpose, a mission, to keep him alive, had one. He could be...God's co-worker...My purpose alone must be God's purpose...As I worked on projects which fulfilled a real human need, forces were working through me which amazed me. I would often go to sleep with an apparently insoluble problem. When I woke the answer was there."

Carver did not practice a "Sunday religion." His relationship with the Lord was an every day reality: "...all my life I have risen regularly at four o'clock and have gone into the woods and talked with God. There He gives me my orders for the day."

Carver was in full-time ministry. Not as a pastor, but as a botanist-chemist.

We'll unpack more about Carver's life next week, but in the meantime, please take a few moments to watch a short video clip about Dr. Carver, and note the way he seamlessly integrated his faith with his work:

If the video does not play, click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wv4qYIyJoM

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  1. This is one of the best examples that I have ever heard of someone so consistently asking God to reveal mysteries that had not been discovered. May we all be inspired by his example and do the same with each of our vocations daily.

  2. Hi Dr Overman, I have been through your series God's Pleasure at Work, have read about 50 books on cultural mandate (everything from Wolters to Pearcey to various early Greek Fathers who opposed platonic interpretations in the Church) etc and hundreds of pages on the cultural mandate and its biblical roots. Yet I still have doubts and secular/sacred dualist christian 'friends' who say I am sinning if I do not enter into full time or part time ministry instead of what I want (to be a fiction writer--not one of those horrible 'christian' novelists but a novelist who happens to be a christian (big difference)). Its come to a point in my life where I have wasted 10 years after graduating university because though I feel condemened if I do what my heart wants (even to do it 'unto God') I feel absolutely no desire or excitement or motivation of any kind to become a preacher (Id rather be like the phillipians --support financially those who want to preach full time) but I want to write and I dont mean write gospel tracts that seem like stories but honest to goodness entertainment --art for arts sake. As the great Rookemaaker said "art is its own justification." I know it is yet why Im I need feeling free to do it? What am I missing?

  3. Do you think C.S. Lewis was told by his Christian friends that he would be sinning if he wrote the Narnia books? I hope not.

    Do your Christian friends think Lewis sinned by writing them? I hope not.

    Actually, I agree that we are sinning if we do not enter into full time ministry. But every follower of Christ should be in full time ministry, regardless of the profession or trade!

    Can't writing novels be full time ministry? I do not mean to say the novels would have to be about Christianity, or about Christians, or about feeding the hungry, etc.

    I think they could be novels about "you name it" and fit the category of "ministry" as long as they are novels that God would be pleased to read, and writing that is a true blessing to humanity.

    Is this too radical?

    Wasn't Bach was doing full-time ministry just as much when he wrote string ensemble music as he was when he wrote choir music to Biblical texts?

    It seems to me that the world could use more truly good novels.

  4. Hi again Dr. Overman you are very kind to answer me on here thank you. I was going to email privately, but I decided it would be better to post on here so others can see this interaction and also benefit from it. Sorry Im posting as Anon (please call me George)--I do not have a google account etc.

    Anyway, yes I agree with you about Bach and C.S. Lewis, and countless others you could mention and when I hear fellow believers such as yourself say or write these excellent things about the pursuit of a Christian worldview/culture I feel like the apostles felt when they saw Jesus but did not recognize him and later said: 'did not our hearts burn within us when we were with him?' I feel moved to know you are right but it still hasnt clicked in there somewhere for me:

    these 'friends' of mine say "well there are thousands of unbelievers dying right now in the world while you are righting your stories of good over evil." Now to be honest their protests do sound a bit hollow in my ears as when Judas said "that bottle of perfume should have not been used to wash the Masters feet, it could have been sold and feed the poor."

    Ultimately, the cultivation of the earth must continue. Ill support those who are priests and pastors, theologians and missionaries but I want to write. And I know a friend who wants to be dentist. What kind of preachers would we make? Terrible ones for sure.

    It dawned on me after reading your posting above that what is really bothering me is that there is no 'epsitle to cultural mandate' as their is for faith/grace (ie Galations), marriage (ie 1 Cor 7 etc)in the New Testament but thats only because as a typical 20th century christian Im forgetting that the socalled "Old Testament" is as much the word of God as is the New Testament.

    Genesis is as important as Acts and Galations!

    PS I feel the Lord is using the wisdom of the cultural mandate understanding from the old Dutch Reform tradition to revitalize all branches of the faith. I am an Eastern Orthodox christian (Greek) and am seeing God's movement in all branches of the faith among Protestants, Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox.

    For these reasons I praise God because of people like you. Please keep up this work there are many of us out here who need to hear these things continually.

    PPS I not going to do this to myself anymore. Im going to write and write till the Lord takes me home one day. I love the fact you wrote: "I think they could be novels about "you name it" and fit the category of "ministry" as long as they are novels that God WOULD BE PLEASED TO READ, and writing that is a true blessing to humanity"
    That pharsed I emphasized reminded me of the cultivating Adam was doing in the Garden must have pleased the Lord for it says "He walked in the garden"(gen 3:8--"...the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day...") ---> I never thought of God reading my writing as a sort of garden/cultivated item for HIS enjoyment. He walked in the garden before the fall meaning he must have looked/enjoyed the work of adam in the garden. Now via Christ redeemed I can offer my own cultiavations for His enjoyment once again. EXCELLENT!!!
    I'm pasting your words on my computer.

  5. George,

    In the second paragraph of your message you say, "...it still hasn't clicked in there somewhere for me." But by your last paragraph, you seem to be clicking with remarkable clarity and passion.

    I have no doubt that when you write well, George, you "feel God's pleasure," as Eric Liddell said in Chariots of Fire, responding to his sister's charge that he was wasting his time running races.

    Go for it, George.

  6. Thank you Dr. Overman, I will! God bless you!
    I should let you know what happened: between the second paragraph and the rest of the post (where I added the line of mulitlple periods) was a time delay where I walked away from the computer and did some bible study after reading your posting. I read through various references etc as I've done countless times before. But the Lord was saying "Go back and read what your brother is saying to you. Go back and read it again slowly." Then after all these years I saw what I needed to see, along with the second sudden realization that Genesis is as important as the epistles it finally clicked.

    It looks funny on the posting because there is no time delay conveyed on my posting but between those paragraphs I was away from the computer studying the scriptures and though it was only an hour (I think) or so and my realization must seem sudden and odd on here --its been 10 years in the making this 'sudden' eureka of mine.

    And you are very correct I do feel God's pleasure when I write but up until now I always thought: "it can't THIS easy to do the Will of God in my work life? I LOVE writing and being alone in a room of my books (everything from Bradbury to Dickens that have fantastic elements in them), cloistered away from the world working out stories of wonder and suspense. Gee George the Christian life needs to be harder somehow."

    And thats nonesense. Even if the fall made it hard to 'work by the sweat of your brow'. The redemption in Christ makes it 'easier' and you have a right to have it 'easier' (ie hard work but enjoyable,) in Christ for the Kingdom began when he rose from the dead. Now, I always mentally "knew" this but your statement of God himself sitting down enjoying my book clicked powerfully when God lead me to see he enjoyed Adams work --walking in the garden. Plus I knew our works here will be purified and brought in the New Jerusalem which means we aren't working for nothing (NT Wright and others showed me that) but I needed to know He is enjoying them. He enjoys our products. wowowow thank you so much.

    PS you know what the real tragedy is? I wrote a 372 pg novel last year (enjoying it immensely yet feeling guilty about it when my 'friends' would phone) and I sent it to a mainstream 'secular' publisher and though they rejected it (mine was fantasy and they wanted a more science fiction theme that summer in their books) the New York editor wrote me and said "George this is a great story!" The rejection was based on what they needed at the time for their booklist not lack of quality of my work, yet I never allowed myself to accept such compliments as signs I was feeling God's pleausure. Silly huh?

    I will go for it! And this time I'm not holding back. Thank you!

    My apologies for these long posts but thank you Dr Overman!!

    I'll drop in once a week to read your engrossing posts but I'm going to start writing again.

  7. George,

    Thank you so much for sharing the background to your previous post. It is a very special thing when those Holy Spirit "eureka" moments happen in our lives!

    I trust you have submitted your 372-page novel to other publishers for consideration. It is normal to be rejected by publishers, and it happens for many reasons.

    My first book ("Assumptions That Affect Our Lives") was rejected (or ignored) by about a dozen publishers. Maybe more. But it takes only one publisher to say, "yes."

    For me, Tyndale House Publishers was the one that said, "Yes," and it was because the particular editor who looked at my proposal had a personal interest in the subject matter.

    If you cannot find a publisher, you can self-publish. That is what we do now. We discovered that just because a major publisher takes a book "on," it doesn't mean they will do much to promote it. Today, with the Internet, the playing field is rather level.


  8. George,

    I urge you to read a short piece by Chuck Colson called, "Literary Fiction: How Fiction Can Point To Christ." It is the March 18,2010, posting of BreakPoint.

    Go to www.breakpoint.org and look for the BreakPoint articles.