Just as Jesus had a work to do before His Father, we each are called to a specific work for which we will be judged and rewarded. We should not consider this as a lessening of the call of vocational ministry but to realize our strategic role as equippers of workplace believers who have the potential to transform families, workplaces, cities and nations. Church leaders have a tremendous opportunity to impact society through working people. There is no other institution where leaders in the six culture mountains of business, government, arts and entertainment, media, family, and education convene weekly. Pastors have a tremendous opportunity to equip leaders in these areas of influence to impact the culture in their communities.
The consequence of failing to affirm that every believer is a minister is that followers of Jesus in the workplace are made to feel like second-class spiritual citizens and they exist purely to support the ministry of their local church through their giving. In essence, they feel prostituted. However, when a pastor affirms the call of their members in the workplace, their spiritual self-esteem grows and they become more active in their faith. They will use their influence for Kingdom initiatives in their workplace, city and local church.
When I received Christ in 1974, I was a professional golfer. God gradually led me away from golf and into business. In 1980, I considered moving into “full-time” Christian work by attending a short-term Bible school to determine if I wanted to be a pastor. I served briefly as an assistant pastor at a church only to have the position removed. It was never God’s intention for me to be a pastor. Implied guilt, rather than a genuine call of God, led me to consider “vocational ministry.” I believed I might not be giving my all to God if I wasn’t in “full-time Christian ministry.”
I have learned since then that work truly is worship to God. If you are in a secular job that doesn’t violate Scripture, your vocation is just as important to God as full-time missionary work in India. God calls each of us to a vocation. He desires to use us for His Kingdom in that vocation.
The Value of Secular Work
In the Word in Life Study Bible, Pete Hammond provides some good insights into God’s view of this great divide—secular versus sacred work. God values our work even when the product has no eternal value. Christians often measure the significance of a job by its perceived value from the eternal perspective. Will the work last; will it “really count” for eternity? The implication is that God approves of work for eternity, but places little value on work for the here and now. By this measure, the work of ministers and missionaries has eternal value because it deals with people’s spiritual, eternal needs. By contrast, the work of a salesman, teller or typist has only limited value, because it meets only earthly needs. In other words, this kind of work doesn’t really “count” in God’s eyes. But this way of thinking overlooks several important truths.
1. God Himself has created a world that is time-bound and temporary (2 Peter 3:10,11). Yet He values His work, declaring it to be “very good,” by its very nature (Gen. 1:31; Acts 14:17).
2. God promises rewards to people in everyday jobs, based on their attitude and conduct (Eph. 6:8; Col. 3:23-4:1).
3. God cares about the everyday needs of people as well as their spiritual needs. He cares whether people have food, clothing and shelter.
4. God cares about people who will enter eternity. To the extent that a job serves the needs of people, God values it, because He values people.
Skillful work is a ministry unto the Lord. Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men (Prov. 22:29 NIV).
The Lord has called each of us to be excellent in what we do. Those whom God used in the Kingdom as workplace ministers were skilled and exemplified excellence in their fields. Not only were these men skilled, they were filled with God’s Spirit. Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship” (Ex. 31:1-5).
Consider Huram, the master craftsman of bronze to whom Solomon entrusted much of the temple designs. He was a true master craftsman (see 1 Kings 7:14).
Consider Joseph, whose skill as an administrator was known throughout Egypt and the world. Consider Daniel, who served his king with great skill and integrity.
The list could go on—David (soldier and king), Nehemiah (government worker), Aquila and Priscilla (tentmakers). Most of these were in the “secular” world of work providing a needed service.
It is important for church leaders to help break down this wall of separation. Your people need to know they have a workplace calling that is as important as your calling to a vocational ministry. They need to be affirmed and valued as ministers in their spheres of influence. They need to feel they are not “second-class citizens.” It is time to affirm the workers in your congregation as men and women on a mission from God, in their workplaces where they spend 60 to 70 percent of their time. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Colossians 3:23,24).
Os Hillman is author of Faith and Work: What every church leader should know, Change Agent and TGIF Today God Is First. Continue the conversation with Os at TodayGodIsFirst.com with his free daily devotional for men and women in the workplace.