A few months ago, in a Transformed post called Walls That Divide, I suggested that there were two walls that divide the church. These walls have grown over time, and even though they are occasionally challenged, they keep showing up. They are the sacred/secular divide and the clergy/laity divide. I wrote a few posts on the clergy/laity divide and now I’d like to focus on the sacred/secular divide.
Mark Green in his three minute Vimeo clip The Sacred Secular Divide defines this wall by saying it is, “the pervasive belief that some things are really important to God and other things aren’t.” Mostly we think things that happen in and around the church or the para-church or the mission field—spiritual things—are really important to God and other things—like work, recreation and what we eat—aren’t. We call some of the first group “ministry” and the rest something else. But is that really true? Is that a correct limitation to put on the word “ministry?” Not according to the Bible.
Have you ever noticed that in Genesis 1 and 2, God is not introduced to us as prophet, priest or pastor, but as a worker. He doesn’t show up as king, judge or potentate, but as the Creator, that is, a worker. He’s not laying out edicts from heaven to humans to live by after He creates them, but He’s working.
Each day of creation He’s working. He is creating something. He is productive. At the end of each day, He is satisfied. He steps back and looks at what He has made and He says, “It’s good.” At the end of the whole process, Gen. 1:31 says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Gen. 2:2-3 says, “By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.”
Notice the word “work” appears three times in verse three, where it tells us He “rested from all His work.” Was God tired? Is that why He rested? I don’t think so. I think he was satisfied. I think He sat down and thought, “What a great job I did; all this is very good.” No sermons, no Sunday school classes, no discipleship courses, no mission trips, just work. And it was good.
Is it possible that God intended our work to be good, to be satisfying, and to be meaningful? Yes, I mean the work you do from 9 to 5, not just the work that people who work at the church do or that missionaries do. I mean the work you do at the factory, the hospital, the office, in the school, on the production line, driving the truck, sweeping the floors, in the store, or building a new building. I think so.
Can I ask you, when was the last time you came to the end of your day and paused for just a minute or two, reflected back over the day and said, “That was a good day.” Or, “That child who came to school today obviously upset, went home with a better attitude because I had a chance to chat with her.” “That accounting mistake I found will save us thousands of dollars down the line. That was good.” “That pallet of products I produced will be a blessing to folks as they purchase them and use them in their home. That’s good”. “That couple who came into the hospital today to face the first of many cancer treatments, seemed comforted by the hope I was able to give them. That was very good.” “Those new tires I installed on that lady’s car seemed to give her a peace of mind that had been in turmoil. That was good.” “That kind word I spoke to that grumpy customer as he left brought a smile to his face. That was good.” Were those really sacred acts? Even those done in a secular environment? Even though it wasn’t “church stuff?” Well, Jesus said they are. In Matthew 5:16 he said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Sounds sacred to me.
What if you began to see your marketplace job as much a place of ministry as people who work in the church see their job as ministry? What if the people who worked at the church saw your job Monday to Friday as much or more than a place of ministry as their jobs? What if we all decided that productive good work done for the glory of God, no matter what it is or where it is, made God smile and say, “That is good. They understand what I meant when I told them I made them in my image and I’m a worker?”
I’m thankful for the teachers who taught me to read, to write and to spell (I’m also thankful for whoever invented spell check). I’m also thankful for all the people who used their creative energy and skillful hands to make computers, especially this nice little light-weight laptop that I’m writing this on, sitting up in bed before I go to sleep. I’m satisfied with my work today. “Thank you Lord.”
About Jim Hislop
Jim Hislop is the Director of Western Seminary's Center for Leadership Development.