By Dave Kahle
For much of my Christian life, I’ve struggled with a difficult and painful image of myself: I was a second-class Christian. No one ever said that to me in so many words, but a certain belief permeates our Christian culture so deeply that few Christians would ever question it:
Real ministry is defined by the time you spend in the official efforts of the church to evangelize the lost and edify the saved. This is the work that God is interested in, that He considers most important, special, and significant.
By accepting this false belief, our fruitfulness is hindered by shrinking and distorting our views of what we and our businesses can be. As a result, millions of Christians, like myself, lead lives that are far less productive than God wants. And hundreds of thousands of businesses are hampered in achieving their full potential. And that means that the Church’s influence and impact is light years away from that which it could be.
Here are some ways this belief is expressed in Christian culture:
A client recently told me that one of his salespeople left the company to go into full-time ministry. The implication was that the former employee merely ‘made a living’ when they worked for my client; now they did ‘real’ ministry – that work that is only in the context of the church.
A few years ago, I read a book by an author encouraging Christian business leaders, after having achieved some degree of success in the first half of their lives, to use the second half to do something significant, such as donating their time, money, and talents to a ministry.
It’s not unusual to hear a fellow Christian talking about “God’s work,” or referring to the church building as “God’s house.” This kind of language indicates that God is more interested in these things than he is other things that are not “God’s work” or places that are not ”God’s house.”
Each of these examples illustrates this concept of ministry as a deeply held, pervasive paradigm that is embraced to some degree by almost all of 21st Century Christendom. But is that what the Bible teaches? Hardly. In fact, it’s just the opposite. For example, Paul said that everything we do, if we do it as a service to Christ, is important:
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. I Cor 3: 23, 24 (NIV)
More than Church Work
God’s work is far more than just those activities we know as “church work.” God desires to extend the kingdom into every aspect of His creation. And He expects us to be obedient to Him and offer our lives to extend His influence into every nook and cranny of His world. When we go to a meeting at our children’s school, we take Christ’s influence with us, extending His impact into that aspect of creation. When we go to work, we are extending Christ’s influence into those contacts with people with whom we connect. When we talk with a neighbor, fill the car up with gas, cut the grass, or shop for groceries, we are Christ’s ambassadors, extending His influence into those realms.
Believing that only church work is God’s work leads us to think that the talents, experience, education, and gifts that we use in our jobs and our families are of little interest to God. And, while we desire to be active and pleasing to God, we think we can’t be because we aren’t ordained, or in vocational ministry, or don’t have enough time to devote to church work. However, recognizing that God has appointed each of us to a ministry in our work and families does just the opposite, energizing us with spiritual power and purpose. The second mindset fosters an attitude of joy, peace commitment, and empowerment.
The conclusion is obvious. The cultural paradigm that holds “church work” as a higher calling than “secular work” is an insidious, debilitating concept. It’s time to do away with it. It’s time to recognize that our lives, when lived for Christ, are our highest and most noble ministries. We have been selected by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit to extend the Kingdom into every area of creation.
Dave Kahle has been a Bible teacher, elder, house church leader, short-term missionary and Christian executive roundtable leader. For 30 years, he has been an authority on sales and sales systems, having spoken in 47 states and eleven countries. He has authored 13 books, including The Good Book on Business. Sign up for his weekly messages here. More from Dave at: www.davekahle.com.