But I think there can be a problem when we treat church-based work as somehow better or more holy than other kinds of work. Or when we celebrate 'Christian workers' in a way that we don't extend to those in sales, catering, retail, nursing or whatever. Now I don't mean to downplay what people like pastors and church administrators do, not at all. But maybe we should give equal credit, praise and support to the majority of us who don't have so-called Christian jobs. In my view, we have just as big a part to play in doing God's work (I said I'd explain what I meant by that, didn't I? Soon...).
So this conversation with my mate was a few days ago, and then yesterday I saw something about exactly this issue on a blog run by some American folks involved in various churches, universities and Christian magazines. The full post is here and I've picked out a few points below:
Here’s the problem – when we call people to radical Christian activism, we tend to define what qualifies as “radical” very narrowly. Radical is moving overseas to rescue orphans. Radical is not being an attorney for the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency]. Radical is leaving your medical practice to vaccinate refugees in Sudan. Radical is not taking care of young children at home in the suburbs. Radical is planting a church in Detroit. Radical is not working on an assembly line.
Paul [in 1 Corinthians 7] wanted to draw the Corinthians’ attention away from their circumstances and emphasize that the full Christian life could be lived anywhere by anyone if lived in deep communion with God. Do we really believe that? Really? Os Guinness reminds us that, “First and foremost we are called to Someone, not to something or to somewhere.” We should remember that the word radical is from Latin meaning “root.” If our lives are rooted in a continual communion with God, then every person’s life, no matter how mundane, is elevated to sacred heights – including a suburban mom’s, the office worker’s, and the EPA attorney’s. And it’s not just radical when they behave like a missionary or social activist in their free time. Even working the assembly line becomes a holy activity when done “with God.”
Paul... did not measure maturity or commitment to Christ based on how “radical” a life appeared on the outside, or the visible impact a person made either missionally or socially. These activities are good and important, don’t misunderstand me, but they are not the center of the Christian life. Rather maturity was seen by the depth of a person’s union with Christ. The truly radical life is the one intimately rooted in communion with God, through Christ, in the Spirit, and that responds obediently to his call – whatever it may be.
So I’ve come to embrace the reality that my place as a church leader is not to get people to do more for God. Rather, I believe my responsibility is to give others a ravishing vision, rooted in Scripture and modeled by my own example, of a life lived in communion with God. And there, as they abide in him, calling will happen. The Lord of the harvest will call and send workers. And he will call others to live quietly and work with their hands. Some may be butchers, and others lawyers, and some he will even call to be suburban moms. And all of their work will be holy, good, and, if rooted in communion with God, truly radical.
There's such an important message in that last paragraph, I think. Our churches should be communities where we are encouraged (and ourselves encourage others) to seek ever greater closeness with God, which does not mean being urged to do more activity. A healthy and sustainable desire to do more for God will gradually spring from a life of greater communion with our Lord. Dare I suggest that putting the activity ahead of the relationship is a form of idolatry?
To finish off, writing this has just reminded me of a talk I heard at New Wine a few years ago by Mark Greene, big-time workplace mission man and author of 'Thank God it's Monday'. I don't remember anything specific from the talk but what is still clear in my mind is that he gave everyone a red and white badge with the letters FTCW on it (just like that one up there). Full Time Christian Worker... God calls all of his children to be full-time workers for his kingdom, to make his will done on earth as it is in heaven. Are you in?