While I was speaking to a gathering of young professionals, one of them raised his hand and said, “I am struggling to understand why anything in my normal routine matters. I know why I come to church and read the Bible, but I don’t see any lasting value in my job, cooking a nice meal or cleaning my apartment.”
I appreciated the man’s honesty, and wondered whether the man had picked up this vibe from attending church. Perhaps his pastor, like many other pastors, says that his mission is to get as many people into heaven as he can, and that this is the only true purpose of Christian ministry.
This is a noble sentiment, but it leaves out something important:
Why does it matter what we do on earth?
Jesus calls us to follow him in our covenantal (e.g., church and family) and professional vocations, but do you know why it’s important for pastors to frequently remind their people? I happen to be Baptist, so I’ve got three points, suspiciously alliterated.
Christians who have been freed from the slavery of sin must be reminded that Jesus has also freed them from the tyranny of “spiritual” expectations. Pastors rightly encourage their listeners to store up treasure in heaven, but we don’t always tell them how to do this (Matthew 6:20).
Christians lay up heavenly treasure whenever we do something God rewards.
And what does God reward? Obviously, Christian activities such as Bible reading, prayer and evangelism, but also anything—even a glass of water—that is given in his name (Matthew 25:34-40).
Gerald Manley Hopkins explained:
“To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dungfork in his hand, a woman with a sloppail, give him glory too. He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should” (“The Principle or Foundation,” in Gerald Manley Hopkins: The Major Works).
Pastor, do your lay people know they are not second-class Christians just because they aren’t in “full-time ministry”?
Can they explain why God needs bricklayers and businesspeople and how their particular vocation contributes to the kingdom of God?
God has given you to the church to “equip his people for works of service,” and since their service is not limited to what goes on inside of the church’s wall, coach ‘em up! (Ephesians 4:11-13).