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One of such dichotomies relates to the understanding of who does ministry and who does not. It makes an undue distinction between clergy, missionaries, theological educators and the rest of God’s people who are in ‘secular’ ministry. Hence authentic ministry or service is perceived to be the preaching, teaching, prophesying (or apostleship) exercised by pastors and other such church leaders. Conversely, those in other professional callings are perceived to be in ordinary secular service which is not necessarily Christian service. Those in Church ministry, various missionary service or theological education are considered to be in ‘full time Christian ministry’ and those not in this category are viewed as being in ‘ordinary employment.’
Related to this dichotomy is another one that draws a distinction between contexts of ministry or service. This makes some people think that Christian service is what is done primarily in certain spheres of ‘spiritual influence’ such as in Church, in Christian meetings etc. but not what is done in the public arena such as government departments. This mindset further tends to suggest that people like pastors, evangelists, prophets, worship leaders, missionaries have a calling but mechanics, doctors, economists, engineers etc. may not necessarily have a calling. It is wrong to think ministry only happens only in Church, Christian conferences or realms of ‘spiritual service’. The implication is that work done in the secular sphere is not service to God and can be done anyhow. More importantly this would limit the influence of the Holy Spirit or Lordship of Christ in the life of believers only to where two or three are gathered in His Name!
Such dichotomies lead to a ‘dualism’ in the life of Christians which reduce our lives to being accountable only in the so called ‘spiritual arena’ and not in the public arena. Yet the things we often consider secular have significant implications for Mission and transformation. Politics is not mere secular politics when ungodly government obstructs justice for the poor, encourages ethnic and gender discrimination or out rightly forbids freedom to proclaim the gospel. Economics is not mere secular economics if the wealth of a nation is mismanaged by corrupt politicians or bankers –with the ultimate result that ordinary people are dispossessed of their right entitlements and spend the rest of their lives in penury and bitterness. These dichotomies are unbiblical and uncalled for and negate the teaching in Ephesians 4:11-13.
Against them, we need a Hebraic world view of all of life as sacred. In the OT, God demonstrated complete interest in how governance, agriculture, architecture, industry, marketing etc. should be done. There were sacred guidelines for international relations, social engagement and in fact all aspects of life that we often categories as secular today! God was (and is) as concerned with how grain was measured in the market as he was with how the tabernacle was to be constructed. While some of us will be called to be pastors and teachers or Missionaries going into other nations, most of our will remain teachers in public schools, business women, financial consultants, technicians, administrators, publishers, sales men and women, medical doctors, nurses, engineers, university professors, etc.
I will suggest three reasons, among many, why it is so important to serve God through our professional sphere of life. First, this is God’s world and he is concerned with how it is managed. Just as God gave Adam the responsibility to tend the garden of Eden, we are called to be stewards of all of creation through our professions. We are sometimes bored with reading through the laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. However careful thought on the content of these books make us aware that God is interested in all aspects of life that professions involve, including architecture, agriculture, business, hospitality and various others referred to in one way or the other. God is so interested in this that he gives the ability and skills by the Holy Spirit for various kinds of work. He once told Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also, I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you” (Exodus 32: 2-6). This confirms that work is sacred before God and our professional callings are important opportunities to serve God’s purposes. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:17). Therefore, all professional work is to be done to the glory of God.
Secondly, our professional space of work is a unique place to bear witness to others. We not only do this by sharing tracts with them or praying for them. More importantly, we should do so by our commitment, due diligence, hard work and efficiency in our profession. Our work is to be done as unto God and not merely as serving men. Even then, no manager likes a shoddy or careless worker. When others see our dedication and integrity at work, they are bound to wonder or ask why we work the way we do. “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men. (Proverbs 22:29). There are several examples of people in the Scriptures who served God’s purposes in through their professions. Joseph did this as an economic manager of Egypt under Pharaoh in a time of famine, David as shepherd boy and King in Israel, Nehemiah as cup bearer to a King, Daniel as Administrator while in Exile as well as others like Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. (Acts 16:14). Their work as ministry was a witness to God’s saving plan.
Thirdly, and not least, some disasters caused in the work place due to carelessness, indifference or moral failure of greed and corruption calls for a deeper appreciation of God’s expectation for Christians to serve His purpose especially in their professional spheres of service. The loss of life caused by engineers who approve structural defective facilities or carless mechanics who fail to secure knobs and screws or pharmacists who sell expired drugs all highlight the need for Christian professionals with the mind of Christ. The integrity of Christian professionals in the work place can significantly reduce the scourge of corruption which exploits the poor and deprives them of basic amenities. The diligence of Christian professionals should reduce the disaster of collapsed buildings in some contexts which is attributed to people cutting corners or compromising standards. As we serve God effectively in our professional fields, we become instruments in the hand of God in reducing humanly created disasters.
Finally, it is through the faithfulness of Christians serving God through their professions that the Lordship of Christ is brought to bear on all spheres of life. This will affirm what Abraham Kuyper said, “there is not one centimetre of existence, to which Christ who is LORD of all, does not point and say, “This is mine”.