Josiah Piett on pursuing God, not our callings
Interview by Ilana Reimer
Q. Are there common topics or themes you gravitate toward in the projects you take on?
A. For me, the big thing is understanding who God is. As we understand who God is, we’ll understand who we are, and in understanding who we are, we then understand our role to play in the world.
We have a role to play. We’re not just sitting here waiting to go to heaven one day or for God to fix everything around us. We have a responsibility to bring change in our society, whether it be in a local way or in a global way. I think often young people really want it to be the global way, and we don’t realize it starts with our friends, it starts with our families, it starts with our literal neighbours.
I’m a big-picture visionary type person, which is what led to [my wife and I] planting a church. The challenge with that visionary mindset is that I can end up loving a neighbour who doesn’t exist. I end up loving a hypothetical person in my future as opposed to loving my literal neighbour across the street.
Q. How do you narrow down that big picture way of thinking into something practical and day-to-day?
A. We all have different ways of hearing from God, but for me, I’ve had different visions and encounters that led me to the places that I’m in. They’ve helped me with the sense of direction that I should be heading. But the majority of my time was actually just being faithful in the small things and being faithful with whoever is in front of me. I think that’s important because, again, if you’re wired like me, you can get so caught up in the future that you’re not living in the present.
Q. You’ve written two books before. Did you have to overcome any insecurity barriers to write them? You mentioned to me that you didn’t necessarily think of yourself as a writer.
A. It’s kind of funny because I’d written those two books and then during Covid, I was immediately like, Oh, I’ll just write another book. And I felt the Holy Spirit say to me, You’re not an author. I’m like, What do you mean? You’re the one who told me to write books. And He’s like, Yeah, I told you to write those books, I didn’t tell you to keep writing necessarily.
So, it was kind of this process of learning the difference between being told to do something specific and then taking that too far. We can take something God says to us, let’s say—just to make it easy to grasp—let’s say God tells you you’re supposed to walk five kilometers. [But] we’ll want to be significant; we want to have a life of impact and purpose, so we hear five kilometres and we’re like, It must be 50 K. Or we’ll feel super insecure and we’re like, Maybe it’s only two kilometres. And so instead of doing what God says, we’ll take it too far. I fall into that all the time.
So for me, the idea of being an author is actually something I wouldn’t necessarily identify as anymore. Personally, I don’t have the gift of writing. I think I was told to write these different projects and then move forward from that.
Q. Following that sense of direction rather than defining yourself by one identity—such as not identifying yourself as an author—strikes me as freeing.
A. A big thing I’ve had to learn is that my identity can’t be rooted in what I’m doing. Growing up in the Christian world while having severe chronic health issues, I’ve learned that often the message of hope we give people who are sick like me is that God can change this pain and put it into a purpose so that you can help others.
I think that is a very well-meaning message. The challenge is that you’re actually placing your identity in what God can do through you as opposed to putting it in Christ alone. For example, if you write a book and you don’t sell a lot of copies now, what does that mean about your health issues? Does that mean God didn’t use them?
I’m not saying God can’t use your pain for a purpose. That sounds really good, and you can put it on postcards. What I am saying is that we have to be careful with the language we use and how and where we actually place our hope. I think your identity has to be in who you are in Him, and then out of that you live your life and do all those beautiful things.
Q. What’s something you’ve learned through using your gifts and being open to wherever God leads?
A. I’ve learned the importance of just being with someone. We’ve got to remember God went to an extraordinary length to become human, to become God incarnate. God didn’t want to leave us on our own. He wanted to be with us.
I’m trying to learn the importance of being silent and listening well. I think even in the church, sometimes we can be so focused on trying to evangelize people that we don’t realize the importance of just being quiet and actually listening. When Jesus was about to get crucified, He stayed silent in that courtroom. And that’s not because He was scared, it was because He was confident in who He was and where He was going.
Sometimes we can be quick to overspeak because of insecurity. I’ve been learning the importance of just being with someone with no agenda. Instead of saying, I’ve got to figure out how can I bring up Jesus, how can I get them saved, I need to centre myself in Christ and ask the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom on the things I need to say and don’t need to say. And I think we’d be surprised by how many times He doesn’t want us to say anything and to just be with someone. That in itself can be a seed.
Q. It seems a theme of this conversation has been around calling and vocation—and not letting that form the basis of your identity. Do you have any advice for other young Christians on how they can discern their calling?
A. It’s important to spend time with Jesus. How you hear from Jesus will be different than how I hear from Jesus. So when I say spend time with Jesus, I mean whatever connects you to Christ, whether it’s listening to music, reading the Bible, being in nature, whatever it is, do that and continue to do that.
But while you’re doing that, love others—not some imaginary people, but the people in front of you. And as you do, pay attention not only to how other people respond to you, but also pay attention to your own heart. Be praying and asking God, Where are you stirring my heart?
Sometimes the things that frustrate us most about the Church are actually the things we’re called to do. But also, know that being called to something doesn’t mean it’s going to be this big grandiose thing. It’s often just the small things right in front of you, and it’s just having a renewed vision for what those things might look like.
My encounters with God haven’t come from me pursuing them, they happened as I was in pursuit of Him. We’re not pursuing a calling, we’re pursuing Him. The [Church], the bride of Christ, isn’t married to a mission. It’s not married to a method, and it’s not married to a message. It isn’t. The bride of Christ is married to a person and His name is Jesus.
Read the parable where Jesus talks about how the kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field. A man stumbles upon it, and when he discovers it, he sells all that he has to buy the field. In my perspective, the field is the calling and the treasure is Him.
So for Kara-Lee and I to plant a church—that is the field God’s called us to pay for, so to speak, through His grace. Through it, we get to discover Him and know Him in a deep and intimate way. I have friends who are musicians, and the way they are to know Jesus is through writing music. I have friends who are parents and the way they are to know and have intimacy with Jesus is through loving their children well. Maybe you’re a teacher, maybe you’re going to be a banker. Those things are the fields, but in those fields there is a treasure. And that treasure is Christ.
Josiah has the privilege of being a child of God, husband to Kara-Lee, and a house church pastor. He also suffers from severe lifelong health issues. These experiences have shaped him into having a passion for seeing people discover who they are in Christ and their role to play in the Father’s Kingdom. To learn more about Josiah’s work, check out @JMPcast on Instagram.
This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.