My ﬁrst day in seminar y I got a job working in the seminary bookstore, only to be ﬁred three weeks later for “evangelizing the students.”
Yeah, you read that right.
I was ﬁred from a seminary bookstore.
For evangelizing students preparing to be pastors.
At the bookstore I processed the books shipped through the mail and then placed them on the store shelves for sale. Like every job I’ve ever had, I arrived early, stayed late, worked hard, and tried to add value in any way I could.
To pass time, the ﬁve or six of us (all students) who worked in the back would talk for hours as we unpacked books, aﬃxed price tags, and carried them out to the shelves. It was one of those “I’m so bored I’m going to rip my eyeballs out of my head if I have to do this any longer” kind of jobs, so we talked to pass the time.
My ﬁrst day was telling. I met a young woman preparing to be a pastor who had just spent the weekend in a nonstop drunken stupor.
“You spent the whole weekend getting smashed?” I asked her. “Wait, aren’t you preparing to be a pastor?”
“Yeah, but it was an incredible party.”
After a few minutes, another student told me out of the blue that she was a lesbian.
“I see you have a ring on. How long have you been married?” she asked me.
“Three years in July,” I said.
“My girlfriend and I have been together for three years too. She’s coming to visit this weekend.”
Not quite sure how to respond, I said, “Oh, that’s nice.”
A guy sitting across from me introduced himself and asked me what my long-term goals were in ministry.
“I feel called to start a new church somewhere. I’d also like to teach in a Christian college as an adjunct professor.”
“So you’re obviously conservative.”
“Well, I wouldn’t put a label on it. I’m—”
“But you feel like you have the right to force your opinions about God on other people, right?”
“Well, no, I don’t … I mean … if I was … um … what?”
“I just think evangelism is spiritually oppressing people.”
“But we’re all preparing to be pastors in churches!” I said. “The last time I checked, Jesus’ command to evangelize the world hasn’t been retracted.”
“You’re a fundamentalist.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are.”
“What, are we like in third grade now, resorting to name-calling?” I shot back.
The conversations that ﬁrst day set the tone for the rest of my three weeks at the bookstore. These discussions were all new to me. And fascinating. Yet I found, time and time again, that I was the only one asking the question, “What does the Bible say about this?”
Over time I grew weary of the debates, so when the topic of religion came up, I simply talked about my relationship with Christ—what He meant to me, and how He continued to change my heart.
Then something happened. After about three weeks, the manager of the bookstore abruptly called me into her oﬃce. “Brian, this is just not working out.”
“Not working out? I work harder than all your other employees combined.”
“Yeah, but you’re evangelizing the students.”
“Evangelizing the students? We’re all Christians! How can you evangelize people who already claim to be Christ followers?”
“I just think you make people feel uncomfortable.”
“You mean we can have a heated three-hour discussion about the spirituality of Che Guevara (the Argentine Marxist revolutionary), but if I mention Jesus, and what He’s doing in my life, that’s out of line?”
“That’s ridiculous. This is a Christian seminary bookstore.”
“I don’t care. I’m the manager and I say that this is an evangelism-free environment.”
“But we’re all Christians. You can’t evangelize people who are already Christians!”
“Doesn’t matter. I’ve made my decision. I’m ﬁring you.”
“You’re ﬁring me?”
“You’re seriously ﬁring me for talking about my faith in a seminary bookstore?”
“You know this has to be a ﬁrst in the history of, well, the entire Christian religion.”
“I don’t care. I can’t have people running around here trying to convert people. I just don’t think that’s something Jesus wants us to do.”
“You’re serious? I’m being ﬁred.”
“Because I evangelized seminary students?”
And that was that.
I walked out the door, ﬁred, for the ﬁrst and only time in my life.
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