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How Pastors Feed the Sacred Secular Divide

How Pastors Feed the Sacred Secular Divide

I remember hearing a pastor say to his congregation at the beginning of a worship service, “This next hour is the most important hour of your week.”

No doubt, the weekly worship service is incredibly important. I’d even say it is one of the most important parts of the week for followers of Jesus.

But is it the most important hour? That’s debatable.

Consider the assumptions hiding behind this claim:

  • Doing sacred things is better than doing secular things.
  • Worshiping God at church on Sunday mornings is a sacred thing.
  • All the other things you do the rest of the week are secular things.
  • The sacred thing we do on Sunday morning advances the mission of God.
  • The secular stuff you do the rest of the week doesn’t really matter to God.
  • God is more pleased by the sacred thing you do on Sunday morning than by the secular things you do the rest of the week.

While very few pastors would verbally say these things, it is these assumptions that feed the sacred/secular dualism that we talked about in this earlier blog post

What Pastors Communicate to Their People

It’s not that pastors don’t value the work their people do during the week. And it’s not that they don’t think their people can do good for the kingdom of God while they are at work.

But pastors—intentionally or unintentionally—tend to communicate this message to their people:

​“Get a good job. Go to work. Earn a good salary. Work hard and with integrity. If there’s a Bible study at work, get involved in the Bible study—that’s a good, sacred thing you can do at work. Share your faith—that’s a good sacred thing you can do at work. And invite people to church! Oh, yes—invite people to church!  hat’s definitely a good, sacred thing you can do at work.

​“But when you’re not at work, make sure you come to church because this is where the sacred stuff really happens. And be sure to bring some of your money to church because this is where the sacred stuff really happens.”

This leaves people with the impression that what they do Monday through Saturday is far less valuable in God’s eyes than what happens on Sunday morning. 

It’s a Discipleship Issue

This message becomes a discipleship and spiritual formation issue. If people don’t think God values their work or think of God as being present with them in the doing of their work, they are far less likely to feel connected to God or listen for God’s leading when they are not doing sacred church stuff.

One of the great challenges for the church today is to undo the dualism of the sacred and the secular—for the sake of the church and for the sake of the world.

This article originally appeared here.

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Having served in Presbyterian churches since the 1990's (many of those years as pastor), Markus now serves as Director|Storyteller with Flourish San Diego to coach churches and people to live for the life of the world by embracing their God-given vocation. Markus lives in San Diego with his wife and three children.