THE MANDATE FOR MISSION. Connecting Sunday’s faith to Monday’s life.
As long as I can remember, there has been a perceived gulf between those in “secular jobs” and those in “the ministry.” Those that played a role in ‘the Ministry’ appeared to be more sacrificial and spiritual, while those working in the secular realm were perceived to be a little less holy and often “caught up in the things of the world.” I’m grateful this kind of thinking is less noticeable with the current generation, who want to know how their vocation is tied to the Kingdom of God!
Consider these words from the German priest, professor, and Reformation leader, Martin Luther:
“The idea that service to God should have only to do with the church altar, singing, reading, sacrifice, and the like is without doubt but the worst trick of the devil. How could the devil have led us more effectively astray than by the narrow conception that service to God takes place only in church and by works done therein… The whole world could abound with services to the Lord… not only in churches but also in the home, kitchen, workshop, field.”
In Scripture that there really is no such thing as a division of “the sacred” and “the secular.” The division is not between the sacred arena and a secular arena, but between the light and the darkness. Where there’s darkness across the face of the Earth, the Lord wants to affect it with the sons and daughters of light.
Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.”
Our people, as disciples of Jesus, need to know that every area of their lives must be yielded to His Lordship, including what we get paid to do during a certain forty to fifty hours each week. Many view what they do during those hours only as a way to put bread on the table, so they can do what they really want to do. For many people, they are working hard, so that one day they don’t have to work, for them work is seen as a curse. For others, work consumes their life, it gives them identity, status, and power, creating a warped and confused understanding of work. However, I submit there’s another vocational vantage point!
The root of the English word “vocation” is the Latin word ‘vocatio’, which means “calling.” Having a vocation is more than simply an occupation, a job that provides, or even a place to express your ego; rather, it represents calling and purpose within the framework of the divine mission of God. As the Imago Dei (Image of God) in the Missio Dei (Mission of God). A vocation is a calling for followers of Jesus to contribute to the world around them by becoming aware that they are on mission with Christ in the world.
Genesis 2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
The first engagement, after the creation of humanity, was their mandate to work.
This was written to Israelites, penned by Moses, who was the one who delivered them from slavery in Egypt. The Israelites had every reason not to embrace their work. They were enslaved by the Egyptians, given hard, manual labor, and told they were worthless.
Similar in the New Testament, where we find in Greco-Roman culture a similar view of work, but with another dimension. The Greeks were dualists – for them the spiritual realm was pleasing to God, but the physical realm was sinful and degrading. The philosopher Cicero wrote: “whoever gives his labor for money sells himself and puts himself in the rank of slaves.”
It is within this cultural understanding that the apostle Paul writes:
1 Thess 4: ‘You should mind your own business and work with your hands…so that you will not be dependent on anybody’.
Work with your hands! This was a revolutionary idea. Where does it come from? The understanding of creation. Not only did God create matter and call it good. Work is not a means to end.
TGIF (Thank God it’s Friday) is bad theology – it does not take the purpose of creation seriously. We should teach our people TGIM (Thank God it’s Monday)
Work is not a means to end. If you’re a Christ follower, using your work to share your faith, or starting a prayer meeting is not the only thing that makes your work good. Your work is already good in itself.
Work was instituted before the fall, at creation. And God said it was very good.
Some misguided ideas about work:
- You work to make enough money so you don’t have to work.
- You work to make enough money so you can give it to the Kingdom work.
The biblical doctrine of work: You work for the value of the work itself.
In ancient Hebrew, however, there was only one word to describe these things, the word – avodah.
It’s used first in Genesis 2:15.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work (avodah) it and
take care of it.” Genesis 2:15.
In Psalm 104:23 to describe work.
“Then man goes out to his work (avodah), to his labor until evening.” Psalm 104:23
In Exodus 8:1 to describe worship.
“This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship (avodah)
me.” – Exodus 8:1
In Joshua 24:15 as service.
“But as for me and my household, we will serve (avodah) the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15
Avodah, breaks down the walls between worship and work, the sacred and secular.
God created each of us to play a unique and meaningful role in society. He intended that we be motivated by love, serving one another out of purpose, seeking ways to serving and benefiting the community at large. As each one serves through his God-given measures of capacity and influence, people are taken care of, and real needs are met, and creation brings glory to God. William Perkins, a Puritan author, emphasized calling as “a certain kind of life ordained and imposed on man by God, for the common good.”
We are called to usher in the presence of the Kingdom, not in a triumphalist way of wanting to take over the world – but within the ‘presence paradigm’ (Fathering / Faithful / Fruitful)
- FATHERING presence – a burdened heart. The COMPASSION of Christ in the world. Theawareness of the need in our world.
- FAITHFUL presence – The CHARACTER of Christ in the world. The aroma of Christ filling the world, as we choose to exhibit Kingdom principles – not as a program – but a transformed life. Before we rush out to DO, we should start by focusing on how to BE.
- FRUITFUL presence – The CAUSE of Christ in the world.
Taking Faith, Love and Hope to our world. Here we order our society, our home, our workplace, and our community, according to the Kingdom way of life.
What could happen if we encouraged our people to discover ‘God at their workplace’. Their jobs won’t then just be places to work and get paid. Vocational engagement is meant to reflect and display various aspects of God’s character through our lives as we do what we do. It’s a very practical way for each of us to bring glory to God! Each vocational field contains a God-given competence that can be used to serve others. Abilities, skills, and gifts become visible in vocations, and has a certain contribution through which it can specifically serve others. It’s not “just a job” you go do, it’s doing God’s work everywhere you go! It’s not a “profession,” rather, its “partnering with God in His purposes”. And it’s certainly not your “career,” but rather a calling to see “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven”.
Disciple making is now to be aligned to equip our people to be able to connect ‘Sunday’s faith with Monday’s life’. The raising up, releasing of, and celebrating of godly men and women who reflect God’s character – and walk in His ways will result in entire communities and segments of society being transformed to reflect the glory of God! We live with this promise: That the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.
A discipleship framework that has distinct outcomes: