More Good Work

There’s an unemployed man in your congregation. After searching for months for a job, he’s finally gotten a position on a landscaping crew. On Sunday, before the close of the worship service, a leader calls the man up to the platform. He tells the congregation about the member’s new vocation and then invites others up to the platform to place their hands on him. Together the church prays and ordains him for his new work, asking God to make him an instrument of his beauty and care for creation, and praying that he would bring pleasure to God and goodness to others through his labor. How would your church be different if this sort of scene was a regular occurrence? For landscapers? For business people? For students going back to school? For moms volunteering in the community? For financial planners? For nurses? For police officers? Consider this remark from Dallas Willard:

“There truly is no division between sacred and secular except what we have created.  And that is why the division of the legitimate roles and functions of human life into the sacred and secular does incalculable damage to our individual lives and the cause of Christ.  Holy people must stop going into ‘church work’ as their natural course of action and take up holy orders in farming, industry, law, education, banking, and journalism with the same zeal previously given to evangelism or to pastoral and missionary work.”

I don’t think Willard is devaluing missionaries or evangelism. Rather he’s affirming that the scope of God’s mission in the world may be far larger than our church tradition often recognizes. Here’s another bit from Os Guinness describing the origins of our misunderstanding about calling:

The truth of calling means that for followers of Christ, “everyone, everywhere, and in everything” lives the whole of life as a response to God’s call. Yet, this holistic character of calling has often been distorted to become a form of dualism that elevates the spiritual at the expense of the secular. This distortion may be called the “Catholic Distortion” because it rose in the Catholic era and is the majority position in the Catholic tradition. Protestants, however, cannot afford to be smug. For one thing, countless Protestants have succumbed to the Catholic distortion as Wilberforce nearly did. Ponder for example, the fallacy of the contemporary Protestant term “full-time Christian service” – as if those not working for churches or Christian organizations are only part-time in the service of Christ. For another thing, Protestant confusion about calling has led to a “Protestant distortion” that is even worse. This is a form of dualism in a secular direction that not only elevates the secular at the expense of the spiritual, but also cuts it off from the spiritual altogether.

“Everyone, everywhere, and in everything.” What a beautiful way of understanding the scope of our mission. And it seems wonderfully congruent with the mission statement painted at the front of my church’s sanctuary: “Forming a people through Christ to glorify him everywhere.” I’m becoming more convinced that if we are to seek this purpose we’re going to have to address our implicit and false dualisms (sacred v. secular, clergy v. laity) head on. labor day


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