My friend is an attorney in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Several years ago, we were having lunch together. At some point in the conversation, he made a statement that I have remembered for about eight years. He said:
I just wish that the church would recognize what I do at work as legitimate ministry. Every day, I attempt to be faithful to my calling as a follower of Jesus. I try to practice law as an expression of my vocation as a Christ-follower. I try to treat people as I think Jesus would treat people. Yet, our church NEVER recognizes this kind of life as ministry. No, the ministry that gets affirmed is either something that happens in the church building or is organized by someone at the church.
I hear his frustration. Why is it that we often don’t recognize what someone does in their work toward another as legitimate ministry?
Let us consider a few basic realities of work and ministry:
1. Most of the church’s waking hours are spent at work. Consequently, work is where the church is doing much of its ministry.
2. We are concerned about work in the church because work is where the church is to be found much of the time. The primary ministry of the church is what we do every day through the power of the Holy Spirit, wherever we are. One could almost say that the organizational ministries at church supplement what we are doing every day at work and beyond.
3. Far too often, we see the church’s ministry as something that happens in the church building and in some way is connected to a church building. Again, the truth is that the church’s work is being done wherever the people of God are.
4. We often see church members only in terms of what they contribute through the church through its organized ministries. Yet, we also need to be affirming people for what they contribute to the kingdom of God in their workplace.
5. God cares about our work and the Gospel can make a real difference wherever we are.
I think my friend is right. Far too often, we just ignore the everyday ministries of people in our church while we praise those who are involved in organized ministries. I’m not sure Jesus would do this. He actually cares about your work. The Gospel can make a real difference wherever you work.
Now I am not suggesting that tomorrow when we go to work that we place Bibles on our desks or that we announce in some way that we are Christ-followers and are doing ministry at our workplaces. No, most of the time, our ministry at work will be as salt, leaven, and light. Wherever we are, we (as Christ-followers) bring the presence of Christ into that workplace.
What do you think?
Why do we typically only affirm people in their work among our organized ministries while so often nothing is ever said to suggest that the church is doing legitimate ministry when its members go to work each day?
[I am thankful for a book entitled Supporting Christians at Work (without going insane) by Mark Greene for many of the thoughts in this post.]