Why is this? It goes back to the early years before the protestant reformation. Consider the following history from Os Guinness’s book The Call of this segmented worldview:
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 William Wilberforce nearly did (he almost went into the “ministry” after salvation but was counseled to stay in politics). 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.
It is understandable why we are where we are today. Throughout centuries, we have been trained to believe that the two worlds of spiritual and secular are to be separated.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands. (Ps. 90:17 NIV)
Throughout the church, a view of those in “full-time” Christian work versus those who work “secular” jobs has created a definite class distinction. There seems to be little evidence of this distinction in the Bible. Yet, we often hear testimonies from those who left “regular” jobs to go into the mission field, or some other “full-time” Christian work.
A surprisingly large number of pastors subscribe to my TGIF (Today God Is First) Internet devotional that I write for men and women in the workplace that goes to 160,000 people a day. One day I received a very simple note from a pastor that said: “How can a businessman have such wisdom?”
This question spoke volumes to me. Basically, it seemed to imply that clergy are the only ones in tune with the spiritual matters of life—workplace believers focus on the “secular” life. Consider that all the disciples came from the workplace. The apostles and the five-fold offices came through everyday workplace believers, not paid clergy.
God is helping many of us begin to understand our true calling as disciples of the Lord Jesus, but with different roles to play in the body of Christ—and no role is less “holy” than another. I realize this could challenge some church leaders because there is an implied “higher calling” premise when one responds to a call of vocational ministry.
There is an unspoken spiritual hierarchy in our society that seems to place spiritual calling and value based on vocational position. It goes something like this:
▲ church worker
▲ vocational ministry worker
▲ stay-at-home mom
▲ ad agency executive (scum of the earth!)
God has never said that one profession has more spiritual value than another. We all have different roles and callings.