Work, Ministry, and the Gospel
December 10, 2012 1 Comment
“If there’s anything in life that we should be passionate about, it’s the gospel. And I don’t mean passionate only about sharing it with others. I mean passionate about thinking about it, dwelling on it, rejoicing in it, allowing it to color the way we look at the world. Only one thing can be of first importance to each of us. And only the gospel ought to be.” -C.J. Mahaney
The False Dicotomy: Work vs Ministry
Too often, I’ve heard a Christian friend or adult say, “I have a normal job and I enjoy it, but ministry always comes second. I just wish I could have a ministry job where I can devote all my time to God and ministry.”
While this sounds spiritual, it leads to three common misconceptions of the relationship between the gospel and our work:
- Work is a curse, not a blessing
- The gospel is secondary in the workplace
- Giving to a ministry equates to doing ministry
If we are to live all of life, including our time in the classroom and workplace, for the glory of God, then we need a gospel-centered view of work. It’s not enough that we try to honor God in how we do our work, or that we try to be Christlike to people at work, or that we support God’s kingdom with the money we make from work. The glory of God must inform and transform our view of work itself.
Created for Work
The first misconception caused by the separation of work and ministry is that work is a curse, not a blessing.
Because of the Fall and the resulting curse of sin, work is often difficult (Genesis 3:17-19). It involves stress, long nights, monotony, and difficult people. However, work is still good.
If we go back to the very beginning of time, we see that Adam was commissioned by God to work even before the Fall took place (Genesis 2:7-9; 15). We were created to work and to do it for the glory of God! This is reinforced by the “cultural mandate” in Genesis 1:27-28: as the human race continued to expand, they were to mirror the character of God by creating, subduing, ruling, and working until every aspect of life and culture was saturated by the beauty, glory, and love of God.
Work isn’t all good, but it’s not all bad either. Just like the rest of God’s good creation, work has been tainted by the Fall. And God is at work to redeem work through the gospel (Romans 8:20-21). Christians use their job as a way to continue to create, subdue, and rule creation for the magnification and worship of the Lord. As we are transformed by the gospel, God extends his redemption to the world around us.
Called to Work
The second misconception caused by the separation of work and ministry is that the gospel is secondary in the workplace.
A gospel-centered life results in a deeper level of intimacy with God and a new basis for everything that we do including how we work, study, and play. The gospel transforms our view of work from a necessary evil into a God-ordained calling. This applies to any job that you may have whether you are a pastor or a businessperson, a missionary or an doctor, a worship leader or an artist, a Sunday School teacher or a farmer. All callings have the same end goal: to glorify God.
The gospel influences our calling in four ways:
- The gospel gives us a moral compass
- The gospel helps us find our deepest identity in our Savior, not our work (Colossians 3:22-24)
- The gospel gives us a new conception of work as the means by which God loves and cares for his world through us
- The gospel gives us a new world-and-life view that shapes the character of our work
(list adapted from a post entitled “How Faith Affects Our Work” on Tim Keller’s blog)
Commissioned as Workers
The third misconception caused by the separation of work and ministry is that giving to a ministry equates to doing ministry.
This is probably the most tragic result of divorcing ministry from our work. Too often, when asked to participate in some sort of ministry, we find ourselves asking subconsciously: “Isn’t that what we pay the pastor/missionary/etc to do?” Many would rather give towards a ministry than step up and do ministry.
Of course, this is ridiculous. Any true disciple of Christ has surrendered to doing ministry wherever God places them. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is a commandment to all believers, not just those that work at a church or serve in the mission field. So wherever, God leads you, whether it’s the workplace, the art studio, the outdoors, a church, the mission field, or a home; work and work for the glory of God!
Learn It. Love It. Live It.
For more on work, ministry, and the gospel, check out:
“The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing” by C.J. Mahaney
“Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work” by Timothy Keller (Interview with MSNBC)
“Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will” by Kevin DeYoung
“God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in all of Life” by Gene Edward Veith, Jr.