Your Work and Ministry Realities (Ministry and Work #1)

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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.

More later…

Questions:

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.]

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “Your Work and Ministry Realities (Ministry and Work #1)

  1. I'd also recommend the book Roaring Lambs. Not new, but speaks well to this situation.

    I think we have a real assembly obsession. Maybe that's because it's easier to feel like we're doing what we're supposed to be doing in the assembly. But the assembly isn't our Christian life; it empowers us to go out and live the Christian life.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

    • Tim–I'm familiar with the title but have not read it. Thanks for the recommendation. I like what you said here, Tim—"The assembly isn't our Christian life."

  2. In some of my ministry courses I remember a big deal being made of one's calling to "full-time ministry". I don't guess it is any surprise the latent effect framing all other Christians as part-timers.

    How do we highlight the important ministry of every Jesus-follower?

    • Brandon,
      That is a great question. I am still learning on this one but there are a couple things I have learned. Those of us who teach Sunday AM Bible classes can talk about work in the context of ministry. Far too often some seem to almost apologize for bringing up the subject of work. We could even even pray regarding our jobs and ministry there.

      In small groups, the facilitators of these groups can focus on especially praying for people at work.

      Those of us who speak/teach/preach can use examples from the workplace that suggest that God is at work in this place.

      I would love to hear other suggestions.

  3. I preached 30 years. I hope some good came out of it. By far, the most significant ministry of my life has occurred since leaving the preaching profession just over two years ago. I go home almost every night knowing for a fact that what we did that day touched people's lives in a significant way.

    • Greg,
      Sounds like you are exactly where you are supposed to be and where God would like to use you at this point in your life. Wonderful! I am glad that you are finding this time of life to be so satisfying in this way.

  4. Jim, You've touched on something that has long been a concern of mine. When the only affirmation that is given is to those who work within "organized ministries," it makes it seem that it is more important to support the "institutional church" than it is to go out and simply be a Christian in your everyday life. I feel strongly that this emphasis is completely wrong. My calling is to be Jesus to the people around me everywhere I go. If I am doing what I need to do in my roles as wife, mother, friend, neighbor, nurse, etc., I really don't have much time left over to join some program at church. And while I don't expect a pat on the back for simply doing what I am called to do in my everyday walk, I don't appreciate being placed on a guilt trip for not signing up for the latest program being pushed by someone on the staff at church. Perhaps that sounds harsh, but that is truly the way I feel.

    • Connie,
      Thanks. I suspect you echo the thinking/feeling of a number of others.

      You are so right regarding the need to affirm everyday Christians who are doing ministry through the power of the Spirit in the ordinary course of life. The main task of the church is to live out the gospel during the week.

      Unfortunately, some of us have left the impression with churches that real ministry goes on within the confines of the church building or in some way has been organized by the church.

      Both of these are legitimate ministries and both are carried on by good people who love God and want to serve in some way. However, I am bothered when we keep talking about the ministry of the church in a way that suggests that only the organized efforts really count. They may be important and quite often extremely important. However, the church carries on the ministry of God wherever the church happens to be. For so many of us during the week, that place is work.

      Thanks so much.