by Tom Kraeuter
I should probably warn you. I am standing on a soap box. No, you can’t see it, but it’s there just the same. So when I start ranting, don’t say I didn’t let you know it was coming.
I am tired of Christian leaders making people feel guilty because those people are not involved in “ministry.” I have too often heard pastors say that everything we do should have some sort of “ministry” value. Of course, some don’t say it quite so directly, but they imply it in the way they phrase their statements. Even those who would verbally disagree with such a statement often imply that ministry endeavors are more important by overly emphasizing such endeavors.1
Scripture declares, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Whatever you do is pretty all-inclusive. It really doesn’t leave much out. But note that it doesn’t say that everything you do should be evangelizing or preaching.
Personally, I like what Martin Luther said. He phrased it like this, “The cobbler gives God the highest praise when he makes the finest pair of shoes.” The shoemaker isn’t speaking forth the Word of God, yet he is doing what he does to God’s glory. He is doing his most excellent work, putting forth his best efforts. He is clearly in line with Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” Doing the best job you can do at your vocation brings God the highest honor.
In Western Christianity, we have a tendency to separate the “sacred” from the “secular.” We like to compartmentalize those areas and keep them at a distance from one another. After all, God must think more highly of the churchy stuff, right? The “sacred” must be better.
Yet, as a child of God, I have been made holy. I am sacred. His Spirit indwells me and I am holy in His sight. It does not matter, then, if I’m teaching a worship seminar or laying carpet. In fact, I can teach a worship seminar begrudgingly and half-heartedly, and in God’s sight it would be putrid. Later I could lay carpet and, by giving my best effort in order to glorify God, the Lord would be honored in a much greater way.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24, author’s emphasis). Our work — secular or ministry — is all for the Lord. We need to get over the idea that ministry somehow trumps secular vocations.
You see, if everyone on the planet “got saved” tomorrow, we would still have a need for garbage collectors, factory workers, plumbers, engineers, architects, cashiers, cooks, salespeople, taxi drivers, etc. Those are not ministry positions. To be sure, we all should be ready and willing to share our faith when the opportunity arises. But the Lord does not call all of us into “ministry” type positions. Some honor God by building roads. Others by making ice cream. Still others by flying planes or fighting disease. In any or all of these positions — and a myriad of others — we can do what we’re doing to the glory of God. We can honor Him by doing with all our might the things He has given us the opportunity to do.
Look at it this way: If indeed all of those varied occupations are necessary, then God leading us to participate in one of those positions is just as much a “calling” as that of a preacher.
Speaking as one who has been in full-time ministry for more than twenty years, ministry is nice, even tremendously rewarding, but from the Lord’s perspective I’m really no better than my friend the factory worker or his wife who cleans people’s houses for a living. My friends who are missionaries to China are not superior in God’s sight to my friend who helps build cars in Michigan. God loves us all equally. He gives us gifts and abilities to fulfill His plans and purposes, whether those plans and purposes include preaching or detective work, missions work or driving a truck.
1. I am not suggesting that pastors should cease from recruiting people into ministry. That should indeed be a part of their role. But honestly, it’s not a lot different than years ago when I was in sales as a vocation. I often tried to convince others that sales, when done in a righteous and godly way, is a great profession. I still believe that. I have a friend who helps owners of small businesses to be more successful in business. He often tries to convince people that they should be in business for themselves. I think it should be that way. If we’re truly endeavoring to honor the Lord through our vocation, then we should be completely “sold” on the idea that it is a good and noble profession, worthy of others being involved in it. This includes pastors.
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