Bridging the Divide: A Brief History of Sacred Versus Secular

by Kevin White

Rather than barricading ourselves within the confines of the church, Christians must view their business as a calling and an opportunity to bring to light of God into all spheres – business, government, art, music, science, and education – for the benefit of humanity and for the glory of God. This is the cultural mandate of the church in society and the calling of Business and Mission.

As dual citizens of the kingdom of God and of the world He has created, we are called to serve and be a witness and influence every sphere and profession for the glory of God.

However, today’s secularism has resulted in the cultural expectation of faith being altogether separated from public affairs. Lord Melbourne, who opposed Wilberforce’s efforts to abolish slavery in throughout the British Empire, lamented: “Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade public life.”1 Religion, regardless of its contribution the morals of society are treated as off-limits in the public arena. This has led to a mentality of separating faith from work in every sphere. Read more

5 Checkpoints for Work as Worship: Purpose, Profit, Product, Process and People

This post was first published on Leadership.com.sg.

There is no spiritual distinction between serving in the marketplace or doing ministry, as we should treat everything we do as worship to our King.

Luke 19:13 says, “So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’”

The conflict between the calling to serve in the marketplace and church ministry has to be cleared. There have been so many people who assume their work is “secular/carnal” while doing ministry in church is “sacred.” The result of this kind of mindset has largely dismantled the ability of Christians in the marketplace to exert positive influence and impact. If God’s redemption extends to all arenas of life, then it is always true that His redemption plan includes work and the marketplace. Jesus endorses us to be faithful in our work: “Do business till I come.”

In my personal life, for quite some time, I have also been juggling with the so called “myth balls” of work. As a Christian, I believe that my spiritual growth determines my future success in life; on the other hand, I believe the first “myth ball” that in order to develop my spiritual growth, I have to sacrifice part of my working life. I have to be very focused and serious in building up my spiritual journey in the church, involving myself heavily in church related ministry, and the rest of my time and energy – I spend on work. Read more

Things to Think About While You are Sowing

Should I shut my business down if I’m not seeing spiritual fruit?

This is a very important question, one that leads to some other questions and observations:

  • How do you know if there is fruit?
  • Why am I not as successful as others?
  • Things to think about while sowing

Let’s talk about each of these in turn:

How do you know if there is fruit?

One of the problems with coming from the West is that we are often too short-term results oriented. This is especially true when we apply a cause-and-effect mentality to the work of the Holy Spirit. It is not up to us to dictate what the work of Holy Spirit will do – we certainly must do our best in sowing and cultivating and praying but in the end we must give it over to the Lord to grow the fruit. We must do all we can in ‘preparing the soil and planting the seeds’ and let the Holy Spirit work on the person’s heart. Read more

10 Signs That I Have a Well Developed Theology of Work

These ideas come from a list of 47 signs by Worldview Matters.

 

I bear in mind daily that the two foremost workplace responsibilities I have are to love the Lord with all my heart, mind and strength, and to love my co-workers and customers as myself. Matt. 22:36-40

I communicate with God at work, and I ask Him for wisdom regarding the work I do. II Tim. 3:16-17; Rom. 1:18-20; James 1:5

I think about the fact that my workplace is a realm God intends for me to steward and govern over well. Gen. 1:26-28; Ps. 8:4-8

I think about my co-workers being spiritual as well as a physical beings, having both physical and spiritual needs. Gen. 2:7; Deut. 6:5

I am conscious of the fact that since I am a believer in Christ, and I have the Holy Spirit dwelling within me, He empowers me to live a God-glorifying life in the workplace in all circumstances. I John. 4:4 Read more

How the Sacred-Secular Divide Influences Attitudes to Business in the Americas

We asked people engaged with BAM around the world to share how they see the sacred-secular divide affecting thinking in the Church in their country – and how this influences engagement of Christians the business sphere.

Perspectives from North and South America

João Mordomo – Brazil

My day-to-day experience in both mission and business, as well as my academic research concerning business as mission, have convinced me that the sacred-secular divide is one of the greatest challenges facing not only Latin American missions, but the Latin American Church at large.

Latin America can be divided broadly into two major regions, based on language. Portuguese-speaking Brazil comprises roughly half of South America’s landmass and population. The other half, as well as most of Central America, is Spanish-speaking. While there are significant historical, cultural, linguistic, economic and religious differences, for the purpose of these brief observations concerning the sacred-secular divide, we will consider Latin America as a whole. Read more

What Does the Sacred-Secular Divide Look Like Around the World?

We asked people engaged with BAM around the world to share how they see the sacred-secular divide affecting thinking in the Church in their country – and how this influences engagement of Christians the business sphere. Here are some of their responses and we will be posting more in the coming two weeks.

Patrick Kuwana – South Africa

In South Africa there is a church on almost every street in residential areas (especially the poorer township areas) and in fact in some areas it’s two to three in the same street. The latest statistics show that about 80% of the population profess to be Christians and yet South Africa is listed 67th on a list of 175 countries/territories on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. So why would a nation that claims to be 80% Christian have this prevailing situation that more resembles the fruit of darkness in society? It is because most of the 80% claiming to be followers of Christ have compartmentalized their Christianity into a “church box” and have left their “business and workplace box” void of the principles and practices they adhere to while in the “church box”. The missing link is that there is a huge void in understanding that God’s statutes and ways are the foundation of every area of life and hence we see almost no biblical influence in determining the culture of business and the overall structure of the economy. Read more

Breaking Down the Sacred-Secular Divide

by Mike Baer

Adapted from material first published on the Third Path Blog, as part of a series, reposted with kind permission.

What is the Sacred-Secular Divide?

You don’t have to go very far today to hear some reference to the ‘sacred-secular divide’ or the ‘sacred-secular dichotomy.’ It’s in all the books, blogs, conferences – and occasionally in a sermon. And it’s always in a negative connotation.

So what exactly is the sacred-secular divide? In one sense, it’s impossible to define. It’s a kind of culture, a nuance, an entirely too subtle way of looking at life, vocation and ministry. It’s a shadow that covers many other aspects of our lives. It seems innocuous, but it’s not. The divide is a false dichotomy, a false worldview, an infection in the minds of Jesus’ followers that has done incalculable damage to the cause of the Church.

However, we can at least approximate the meaning of the divide in this way. It is a view of life built on a separation or distinction between those things, people and places someone believes to be sacred (holy and of God) and those believed to be secular (worldly and not of God). Certain callings are holy (missionary, pastor) and others are secular, i.e. of the world and therefore unholy (business, medicine, construction, etc). Certain places are sacred as well—church buildings, graveyards, seminaries while others are secular—my house, your house, schools, and athletic stadiums. I know you might like the sentiment, but a candle lit in a church building is no more holy or special to God than a candle on my 2 year old grandson’s birthday cake. Caution: if that statement offends you, then you are living in the divide. In short, it is all about distinctions and separations and classes and castes. Read more

No Such Thing as Instant Fruit: Faithfulness in Business

Should I shut my business down if I’m not seeing spiritual fruit?

Instant milk. That’s how a Brazilian friend recently portrayed the challenge of how our contemporary church culture often trains, and equips us to think about, and plan for results. We mix the powder with the water and voila – we have instant, pat-yourself-on-the-back results. In our instant-everything society, this is how we approach our lives, including ministry and discipleship. The ‘we need numbers for our next board meeting’ mentality, and our leaders ask the questions which help us formulate our approach: How many prayed the prayer, how many attend your fellowship, how many did you baptize? We’ve taken it so far as to expect it is the responsibility of the institutional Church to go make disciples, rather than the mandate given to each of us. We speak in terms of how wide rather than how deep. If we can’t quickly quantify our efforts, then we cannot justify our budgets, or in certain cases even our cross-cultural existence. The danger is that we focus on a formula to acquire souls and are driven by the fear of not reaching our goal, rather than the Spirit of the living God.

Those listed in the ‘hall of fame’ in Hebrews 11 were remembered as having walked in faith – even though they all had failures on their journeys, they were counted as faithful. Yet, they walked, never being assured of what they would see, they only had certainty of their call. They couldn’t focus on the daily bumps in the road and twists and turns in their path, which many times led them astray. They had to keep their eyes on the ultimate prize. Jim Elliot and his companions never lived to see the amazing movement in the lives of the Huaorani people, that was in the timing of God’s plan, not man’s. After tireless work, and despite failing health, William Wilberforce only learned three days before his death of the abolition of slavery in England. The Moravian Church, the oldest Protestant denomination, started a continuous 100-year prayer movement that resulted in the first significant wave of Protestant missionaries being sent to the world. The originators of that movement never experienced the incredible fruit that resulted. Read more

Friday Links: Posts and Resources from the Business World

Every Friday we connect you with some of our recent favourite links. This week:

Posts and resources from mainstream business publications

5 Steps You Must Take Before Becoming an Entrepreneur – Entrepreneur

Starting your own business can reap deep personal and professional rewards, but if you take the leap, your days of punching the clock on a regular schedule will end. If it’s work you love and you crave the freedom of operating under your own steam, starting your own small business will energize your career and make the long hours that await you melt away. But don’t go off half-cocked. Before you quit your day job, here are five steps you should take to ensure you’re ready to go out on your own.

Read more

What is the Sacred-Secular Divide? Watch 3 Short Videos

The sacred-secular divide is an unbiblical way of thinking about the world that pervades the modern church globally. It deeply affects the way we think about business and work and is one of the most frequently mentioned barriers to understanding and engagement in business as mission. In the coming weeks we will hear stories and teaching that will help to break down the sacred-secular divide. These three short videos, each just a few minutes long, will help answer the question, What is the Sacred-Secular Divide?

Mark Greene: Imagine – London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

The sacred-secular divide is the pervasive belief that some things are really important to God, and that other things aren’t… 

Read more