Making Big Decisions: Career Pathways

by Christian Townson

As Christians, when we make big decisions, we should bring them before God. We want His counsel, knowledge, and wisdom. We want to ensure we hear from the Lord and not from ourselves. We do this with most decisions. However, for a lot of people, they do not approach decisions regarding their careers in this manner. For those entering the workforce, whether out of high school or college, their decisions focus on upward mobility, earning potential, and personal preference. They separate this “secular” aspect of their lives from the “spiritual.”

When I entered college, I chose to pursue a career as an orthopedic surgeon. Why did I choose this route? I claimed I wanted to help people, but I wanted to make a lot of money and boost my pride by proving I could do hard things. I wanted to make others happy by becoming great.

There was nothing wrong with becoming a doctor, but everything was wrong with my reasoning. I had no passion for the medical field. My drive to become a doctor was rooted in a selfish desire for comfort and control. I did not ask God if this was what He wanted me to do. I relied on my own wisdom and strength to make this decision. It was not until I began listening to and serving the Lord that I understood what He wanted me to do.

In 2019, I served as a short-term missionary in the Philippines. I led a group of young adults to share the Gospel of Jesus on an unreached island. In this region, there were few believers and no healthy churches. We spent day after day spreading the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We conducted Bible studies to make disciples. We also spent time in the Word and fellowship with one another. My mind quieted as I began to hear from the Lord. I experienced such joy and fulfillment in this position. I led others to fulfill the Great Commission as we shared the gospel with people who did not know. I felt like we were some of the missionaries in the book of Acts as we made it our “ambition to preach where Christ had not been named” (Rom. 15:20). I loved it when I could teach a lesson and their eyes would light up as they understood the truth of Christ. I knew I wanted to do this work for the rest of my life. I wanted to help others pursue the fulfillment of the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). I also desired to play a role in this. I knew God called me to ministry leadership. I did not know what this meant or what it would look like, but I knew I wanted to tell the Lord to “put me where you want me.”

I now serve as a Director of Missions and Mobilization, helping people pursue the Great Commission. God has blessed me with the privilege of sending out families as long-term missionaries. I have coordinated and led short-term teams to support the work. I continue to labor to help others become World Christians who leverage their lives for the Great Commission in pursuit of Revelation 7:9’s Great Multitude.

Here is some advice about making big decisions on career pathways.

(1) Ask God to Put You Where He Wants You

This must be your first stop in making any decision. Nehemiah prayed to God before he spoke to the king and brought up his distress over the dilapidated walls. Jesus fasted and prayed before he began his ministry. We must praise God and ask His kingdom to come and will to be done rather than our own. Ask God to put you where He wants you. Isaiah said, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8). We must go to God for His leading and counsel before our own or any earthly advice. God speaks through prayer and the Holy Spirit. Our careers should be for God’s glory, not our own. Our jobs exist to glorify God. We work for the Lord, not for men.

(2) Assess Where God has Already Prepared You

Assess where God has equipped you already. What experiences have prepared you for what He wants you to do? Where has God gifted you already? What are the skills, desires, and opportunities before you?  King David was a shepherd boy. Was this a waste of his time? No. God used that experience to help prepare him to shepherd Israel as its leader. God did not give me the desires and gifts to be a doctor. Through serving and listening to him, He helped me see my skills and gifts as a leader, teacher, and discipler. God will not waste His preparation for you. We must watch and listen to see where He is already shaping us. Assess where He has already prepared you. He may lead you to a different path than you anticipated.

(3) Seek Out Trusted Counselors for their Confirmation

God speaks not only through the Holy Spirit and prayer but also through His people, the Church. Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” We receive wisdom from the people God places in our lives. We must seek out trusted counselors to help us see where God could use us. Barnabas took Paul under his wing and watched him after his conversion. He helped confirm Paul’s call from God to the other believers. It may not be the right pathway if others do not see where  God is using you. If God calls you to vocational ministry, others will confirm it. If He calls you to work outside the church, others will confirm it. Trust those who will tell you good things and hard things. We need people to become doctors. I needed someone to call me out on my selfish purpose for pursuing my own desires. We need wise counselors to speak loving wisdom into our decisions.

(4) Discern and Strive Toward Where God Is Leading You

Discern where God is leading you. Most likely, an angel will not tell you exactly what to do. You must listen to the Holy Spirit through prayer, the Bible, the Church, and your circumstances. God allows us to choose what we do, but we must discern where He leads us. The Bible says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight” (Prov. 4:7). How do we discern? Get wisdom. Ask the Lord. He will provide it at the proper time. Once you discern a path God is leading you on, strive toward it. Do not ride the fence. “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do all to the glory of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 10:31). God wants you to finish the race and complete the task He has given you. Run after it with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. When we read the Bible, no one regrets giving their life wholly for Jesus. Do the same with your career. Give it fully to Him.

(5) Trust God’s Leading in Different Seasons

Pursuing one career pathway does not mean you will be in it forever. Many people who believe they will be in vocational ministry (pastors, missionaries, etc.) work bi-vocationally. Many people do not directly use their college degrees for their jobs. Our lives play out in seasons. We cannot write our paths. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Prov. 19:21). We must follow Him wherever He leads us. For some, it will shift from the medical field to the mission field. For others, it will be to pursue a career where they can make disciples in their jobs. We must trust God to make big decisions regarding our career pathways.

Christian serves as the Director of Mobilization/Missions
as he leads the For the Nations ministry for The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN. He is married to his wife Danyel. 


  • Cultural Christianity,  Decision Making