What Is Ministry? – The Reality

Last week, Dan Edelen had a somewhat pessimistic post about whether it is possible to really serve the Lord while maintaining a career and middle-class lifestyle.

I want to believe that a man can work a sixty-hour week, spend quality time with his wife and kids, be involved in his community, find time for leisure, and still be an effective disciple of Jesus Christ.

Who is actually doing the work of the ministry today? It’s a handful of people, mostly full-time Christian workers.

As I noted yesterday, I want to believe that the average Christian man working a middle management job in some cubicle in Conglomo Corporation can make a difference for Christ. But I don’t see it. I see that man’s large suburban tract home, his boat, his trips to Disneyworld, his 401k account, but I don’t see any impact for the Kingdom.

The primary ministry of the average person is their family and their job. By fulfilling their responsibilities in these areas, are they neglecting the work of the kingdom?

Often when the topic of bi-vocational ministry is discussed, the conclusion is that it is not possible to do both, that ministry requires one’s full-time attention.

What does this mean in a missional sense? Perhaps it is not possible for the average, working-class person to be an effective disciple. Or perhaps they are setting themselves up for missional fatigue by believing they can do both.

What do you think?


37 thoughts on “What Is Ministry? – The Reality

  1. Grace, as much as I don’t like the word ministry I would like to comment. During our time in our CLB we did the traditional ministry things. We lead small groups, we met students for lunch or coffee and ‘discipled’ in that way. But in looking back at our lives since entering ‘ministry’ in our adult lives the one thing that I can look back on and see actual real fruit was having people live with us. In all, in the past 23 years we have had 11 young adults live with us. Some for 6 months, others for up to 2 years. This was not always the easiest thing or the most pleasant but it did seem to yield some real fruit in theirs and our lives. Now this ‘ministry’ did not really have a plan. Life was just lived – theirs and ours – and then around the dinner table or fireplace or pool it was discussed how to walk as Jesus would want us to and that was that. We did not feel noble for our service….it was just something that we had the resources to do and it felt natural for our family. They learned far more than a Bible Study or party would ever teach them. They learned about raising toddlers, disagreements between spouses, finances in life, keeping a house clean and running, potty training and such. But each of them still come back with fond memories of those days and speak of how much it helped them as they became adults.

    We were busy people. We did not have time for ‘full or even part time ministry’ but we did have something that we could share while we walked along the Journey that God has us on in that season.

    It is not THE way to do it but it could be one way.

  2. I am going to have to write about this on my blog soon, because Chris has also posted on this topic and it is raising bells in my head. Right now, I guess I will just say I am on the pessimistic side.

  3. Grace,

    I honestly belive that ministry is not something you do, but a way you live your life. Why must ministry be a component of our lives, and not our life as a whole?

    During my everyday life here at the university, I struggle to be something great. I wanted to do something great for God – which is what I believe(d) people mean/meant by ministry. Then, I started seeking God. That want fell away. My new want is to do little things in my life that may or may not impact someone eternally – maybe holding a door when it makes you stop walking and wait four 6 or 7 seconds.

    I believe that is ministry, or a type thereof.

  4. This is a Cartesian mindset. We separate and compartmentalize our lives and assume mission can’t be part of everything, when it can. I, for one, believe that we can bring restoration to any work place. It’s just easier not to.

  5. I think that seeing our homes/family lives, our universities/student lives, our workplace/job lives, and communities (even suburban ones) as valid mission fields is fundamental. (Since the word ‘mission field’ carries it’s own dualistic baggage, let me clarify a bit. I don’t mean these should be arenas of nonstop evangelism – at times, being obedient to God’s leading, evangelism will be one part of it. But rather, being a carrier of Christ in these places, being His hands and feet to befriend, to serve, to pray, and to just be who we are in Him in the presence of other people – as salt and light).

    When we think of ‘ministry’ as something that only happens within a church building, then we have segregated ourselves and missed the mark of Jesus’s commission, “As my Father sent me, I send you.” We really can’t engage in His mission if we perceive ministry as something that only happens in a sacred building at a sacred hour (or within a sacred event/conference) among sacred people. This is a lot of what “full time ministry” looks like in the West today. And even missionaries sent out from the West tend to reproduce this mindset and model in other countries.

  6. I so agree with you Grace “that ministry is not something you do, but a way you live your life.”

    I think that Dan is working out of a very narrow perspective of ministry. Really, if ministry is simply loving people then we can minister at work, at home or wherever we are planted.

  7. I really doubt that the Christians who turned the world upside down in the first century did it by pursuing “ministry” as the church today defines it. They made disciples by living the Gospel out in their day-to-day lives and loving those around them, showing the greatness of their God and the beauty of Jesus.

    For those who are Jesus’ followers, everything in our lives is to be sacred and bring glory to God.
    We need to get away from dividing our lives into “sacred” and “secular”

  8. Sure we can “minister” to the people around us wherever we are, but it seems Dan raises a question about whether someone who is committed to the American suburban dream isn’t investing all his/her time and energy in the stuff of the dream. It seems to me that discipleship, let alone ministry, requires some space where we can step back and question everything the culture tells us is important, whether those things are sacred or secular.

  9. Am I wrong, or is the phrase “effective disciple of Jesus Christ” a concept that has been foisted on the church by Conglomo Corporation. I have no problem with the disciple part but effective implies quantitative and qualitative measures imposed by some one who thinks they know something better than we do. I think that this production model stems from the industrial revolution, not God. It might even be part of the problem. And who is this person that decides what effective means? Dan has obviously decided that North Americans have been ineffective. By what standard? Are we to compare ourselves to each other? It doesn’t seem right to me.

  10. Me thinks that Maria makes a very good point.

    At the same time, it seems that Paul speaks to this;

    17And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. Don’t think I’m being harder on you than on the others. I give this same counsel in all the churches.

    18-19Were you Jewish at the time God called you? Don’t try to remove the evidence. Were you non-Jewish at the time of your call? Don’t become a Jew. Being Jewish isn’t the point. The really important thing is obeying God’s call, following his commands.

    20-22Stay where you were when God called your name. Were you a slave? Slavery is no roadblock to obeying and believing. I don’t mean you’re stuck and can’t leave. If you have a chance at freedom, go ahead and take it. I’m simply trying to point out that under your new Master you’re going to experience a marvelous freedom you would never have dreamed of. On the other hand, if you were free when Christ called you, you’ll experience a delightful “enslavement to God” you would never have dreamed of.

    23-24All of you, slave and free both, were once held hostage in a sinful society. Then a huge sum was paid out for your ransom. So please don’t, out of old habit, slip back into being or doing what everyone else tells you. Friends, stay where you were called to be. God is there. Hold the high ground with him at your side.

    (The Message)

    So, it would appear that to be a diakonos or doulos is not place or circumstance dependant.

    (As an aside, the etymology of diakonos appears to be from the obsolete diako–“to run on errands.” Perhaps “missional” really means “to be on erands”[?])


  11. These are important issues to sort out. There seem to be two issues at play in this discussion. One is the dualism of ministry versus non-ministry in our lives. This dualism is not from God. It is a form of Greek pagan philosophy and Gnosticism. It is also not a form of Jewish thought prior to Jesus. Everything we do should in some way reflect the redemptive work of Christ in our lives and through our lives. One of the most marvelous things is that Father has invited us to join him in this redemptive process in his creation. We cannot say that one part of our life is engaged in this and another part is not engaged in this.

    The other issue seems to be can we do ministry while chasing a middle class North American lifestyle? This really has two questions in it, not just one. The fundamental question is “should” we be spending 60 hours a week at our work and possessing all those things? That is a question that each person must answer as a part of their conversation with Father. However, if those things become our god, then we have become idolators and it is not what Father would wish for us. And, do we reflect Father far more by living a more balanced life that is relational oriented?

    Having said that, we can be light in the dark places of our work relationships even if we are at work for 60+ hours per week. We cannot say those are not places/times of being Jesus to others just because they are in the work place.

  12. the eternal struggle of the Christian, to be now or to be later in the day. Here is where the old and I mean silver hair church had it correct. Or at least those I know who are now. They live as they worship, Christ is always at the front of their lives.
    As for the working class, I went to work at a sawmill where there were really tragic things happening. I remember not only the jokes and the attitude toward the world but there were those who would push another into a saw or throw boards at others with the intent to do harm. When I left there, did not preach to them, it was a far more peaceful place. Some told me it was because I held fast to my belief in how to respect others.
    Is just a thought, we can make a difference in the world where we live and work all day everyday.

  13. Barb, your description really resonates with me and my family. We have do a very similar thing. There is space in our home for people to live with us, short/long term. What wonderful experiences this provides for us. What wonderful conversations about life with Father! What great learning for me!

    As usual, God’s Kingdom is the reverse of this fallen world. The mundane is the extraordinary in God’s Kingdom.

  14. Wow – excellent questions, as usual. Just to give you some context, I myself am married, no kids, with a full-time professional day job (which I’m working on cutting to part-time – 30 hours / week), and a *lot* of time spent in a volunteer leadership role with my nondenominational emerging church community and in other Christian communities I’m a part of. No leader in my primary community has been paid full-time for many years, but we currently have one part-time staff member and until recently we had two. Both our current and “until-recently” staff members have worked multiple part-time jobs to supplement their meager church salaries, and their spouses work full-time. Both of those families have kids, and they’ve carefully arranged their lives to be present to their families, give time to “church work”, and keep their heads above water financially. Making this work for them, and for other “ministers” in our community (that is, pretty much all of us), has required a great many difficult decisions and sacrifices, from living more simply to managing part-time and work-from-home arrangements with employers to living in way-too-small spaces to supplementing our diets via dumpster diving, communal bulk cooking, etc. Many of our fellow community members have sacrificed much, much more than my wife and I have, but we’re also trying to simplify. Striking these balances is hard as hell, and something is always getting out of whack: family time, church time, cash flow.

    *But* I feel like I can say for certain that it’s *not* true that the only way to live as a disciple of Jesus and not totally burn out trying to do everything at once is to be a full-time, professional “minister”. There are a million ways. All of them hard. :-) Most of them, granted, don’t include (big) boats or (frequent) trips to Disney World. Most of them probably don’t involve working 60+-hour weeks on the secular day job, especially if my skillset is white-collar and high-paying and my family really doesn’t need that level of income. Sometimes these paths really suck. But in the context of a supportive community and wider network of support, IMHO they are totally worth it.

  15. Paul did it.

    Even more, though, I think the whole idea is wrong, and goes to a lot of misconception about ministry/mission. There is a place, I think, for full time vocational ministry. It takes a lot, a lot, of time and training to be able to pour through Scripture and go through the kinds of training that lends itself to certain kinds of spiritual teaching.

    The vocational minister, however, isn’t the primary missionary or minister. He or she should be the teacher of teachers/missionaries/ministers who work and who live in settings that a vocational minister will never reach. It is only those who work in those cubicles or in those classrooms or in that store or restaurant or construction site or office who will reach the others in those cubicles, classrooms, stores, restaurants, construction sites, or offices.

    Those are the places where the Spirit is working and the only way to really discover and participate in this work is, in essence, to go undercover into those places… living life as called and trained wherever God has us, doing whatever he has us do. It’s all mission.

  16. Grace,
    I Work about 50 -55 hrs per week and I feel very little “effect” from my time there.
    I do know from experience that our “ministry” in our workplace can (and does) effect people.
    We may not see it, I rarely have. But, there are those times that God will allow us glimpses of how we effect others around us.
    My wife gives me credit for her own return to Christ( not that I would claim any such thing) and it was not about some spiritual wisdom that I gave her, some “pearl of wisdom” bestowed upon her, but just because of the way I treated her. At the time I didn’t feel like I was doing anything that could be called “ministry” but maybe it was.
    At that Time I was a line cook working mostly days at a little restaurant & bar. I was I think 3 months out of prison when I met Johanna and some how God was using me to get to her. I would say I agree that our lives are our ministry .
    I can’t identify wit h the middle class thing because I pretty much just support my family and if I could I would love to work less than I do .
    I struggle with what I “should ” be doing vs. what I “am” doing for the kingdom all the time.
    Just my thoughts

  17. When you lead a life of love prompted by Jesus, you will be surprised at how he works through you even when you are doing the most mundane things with people.
    Also, Mrs. Inheritor and I are “regular” people who love and extraordinary God. We both work full-time in the “secular” world. As our kids were babies, we worked in the nursery and built relationships with the other babies parents. As our kids were a little older we worked in Sunday School and built relationships with kids and parents and now that they are teens we do some stuff with the teen ministry and built relationships with teens and parents. We also do some prayer counseling and deliverance ministry as time permits and so continue to build relationships. Is one ministry more important? No. Is our “church work” more important than our jobs? In one sense, no. Helping people meet Jesus or get to know him better can be done in either place. Jesus can change people and set them free in either setting. People can be blessed and prayed for anywhere at any time. The love God has for them is communicated in many different ways in all those relationships.
    What we do at church is part of our “real” lives because it is fully integrated into who we are and how we choose to live.

  18. Grace,

    I hope you don’t mind me using your graciousness as hostess to invite your guests into a couple of other ‘homes’, but it seems God is sending an encouraging and fresh message to the ‘ordinary people’ regarding ministry in His economy. Pam Hogeweide posted a great series called ‘The Power of the Ordinary’ at *The Porpoise Diving Life*, using great thoughts from others regarding the topic. You can view her article at:

    Then there is a great web site that deals with this topic on an ongoing basis called *Doable Evangelism*. (Director, Randy Seiver, also has an article in Pam’s post at PDL). One of the key components of DE is what founder Jim Henderson calls ‘Ordinary Attempts’. Ordinary people ‘ministering’ in ordinary ways in their ordinary lives – and discovering that it counts in God’s economy. Here is the OA link on DE’s site where you can read some of these OAs:

    These are people who are no longer struggling with the issue of ministry, they are simply living it in their ordinary lives.

  19. As a “professional” clergy person, I have the luxury of getting paid to do ministry. On average, I devote 40-50 hours/week to various ministry tasks.

    I am often concerned at the amount of time some folks put into church work. Not so much those who are retired and “professional” volunteers – but those with working careers and especially those raising children.

    I’ve become increasingly convinced that one of the reason children of church leaders rebel against the church is that their parents devoted too much time to it at their expense.

  20. As the originator of the article, I appreciate the link and the commentary here.

    We can no longer escape the obvious, though. The type of work we do in an industrial/post-industrial work environment is simply not conducive to the Gospel—at all. We will either be effective in our work or effective in ministering the Gospel at work, but we cannot choose both. To be effective in our work means getting our work done and falling into line with everyone else. To be effective in ministry at our work means that our work will necessarily suffer for our ministry—and that will get 99 percent of people fired today.

    To those who say that this is not an either/or proposition, I would encourage a step back and look at the reality of the work world today. To say that both ministry and work can be done effectively is to draw extremely low expectations out of one or the other. I find that what passes as a Christian witness at work is starting a Bible study for workers. Truthfully, while that is a nice idea, it is the rock-bottom of what should be expected. What is harder is to genuinely serve as the Gospel representative in all aspects of business at one’s work.

    Because most businesses operate from anti-godly worldviews (such as pragmatism, Darwinism, or utilitarianism), the true Christian at work MUST confront those worldviews within his/her workplace or else be seen as a friend of the world and not of God. This MUST place the Christian at odds with the prevailing means of doing business in the world today. This will ALWAYS jeopardize the Christian’s job. Yet where are the mass firings of Christians who stand up against antichrist in the workplace? There should be scores. Yet there are next to none.

    No, we like to believe that we are effective, but if we were, we would see the signs. We may dabble at ministry at work and toy with the idea while doing the absolute minimum to represent the Kingdom, but we’re lying to ourselves about our effectiveness.

    This is not to say that a select few companies out there are not more conducive to being a Christian in their midst, enabling some to rise above the lowest common denominator of what passes for ministry. But most companies are openly hostile to the Gospel.

    The largest company in town backed antichrist legislation a few years back. All the vocal Christian businessmen who worked for that company immediately shut their mouths for fear of opposing that legislation and losing their jobs. The silence was deafening and it spoke volumes about the fact that those men and women chose their jobs over Christ. And this happens daily around this country.

    Where are the business leaders speaking out against ungodly practices in the business world today? Most are quiet for fear of losing their prominent positions. Or they simply participate in the ungodliness like everyone else and find ways to justify it, sometimes even falling back on the Bible to justify their unrighteous actions. It’s simply astonishing when one looks at the situation with an unbiased eye.

  21. What does this mean in a missional sense? Perhaps it is not possible for the average, working-class person to be an effective disciple. Or perhaps they are setting themselves up for missional fatigue by believing they can do both.

    Are you really asking this question???

    Most people in most cultures around the world during most time periods work very hard to survive and provide for their families. Following Christ is not meant to be compartmentalized as Jonathon pointed out.

    I did just write about this whole ordinary follower of Christ thing (thanks Ken for the shout-out about it…)

    Really. If average Joes and Janes by their very lifestyle can’t be effective disciples of Christ than most of us, the world over, are screwed.

    As for Dan’s observation about middle class workers with nice homes and Disney vacations, he’s being shallow and judgmental in my opinion. We can’t judge others by how they spend their time and money. We can only judge ourselves.

    Jesus, it must be remembered, hung out with people who had nice homes and decent jobs. He scolded the one rich guy, but not EVERY rich guy. It is a mistake to judge a person’s effectiveness as a follower of Christ based on the house they live in or where they vacation with their family.

    Can somebody pa-leeze talk about how radically loving others is doable in everyday routine life???

  22. In 1 Samuel 30 there is an incident in David’s life that I believe carries a deep Kingdom principle. After a hard journey David and his men got back to their home town only to find it had been raided with their homes plundered and their families carried off. David set out with his 600 men to go get them back. It soon became clear that 200 were just too exhausted to continue, so David left them behind to stay with the supplies while the 400 went on to overcome the enemy and plunder them. When they got back to the 200, the 400 were going to give the 200 who stayed behind their families – but that was it. They felt that if they didn’t participate in the battle, they were to get none of the plunder. David wouldn’t hear of it. They were to share and share alike. They were not 600 men, they were one community. I believe this is a great Kingdom principle. The Kingdom is organic. Every member is important, and even if their only task is ‘to stay behind and care for the supplies’, their task is important to the whole. God is no respecter of men. Could it be that in His economy, there are no ‘super Christians’, but only faithful servants?

  23. I appreciate the discussion here. I am still very interested in exploring this topic.

    Let’s remove the aspect of consumerism from the discussion so that we can focus on the issue of ministry and the question of whether there is a sacred or redemptive nature to secular work.

    So, for the sake of discussion, we will make the work 40 hours a week, necessary for paying the bills, and we’ll drop the boat and Disneyland.

    Dan, thanks for dropping by. I agree that overt ministry is usually not compatible with doing an effective job at work. However, for most of us, working isn’t really optional.

    Given that circumstance, the question then becomes how we can effectively participate in the kingdom in our situation.

    While we may find occasional opportunities for acts of love, marketplace or workplace evangelism may not be a realistic part of our work life.

    What if the reality of our work is simply performing our task, whatever it happens to be? Should we, like Brother Lawrence, consider the mundane tasks to be sacred?

    I agree with those who have given examples of how we order our ordinary lives to include ministry that happens along the way. A lot of that has to do with developing a perspective that recognizes the opportunities for ministry all around us and purposes to make oneself available to love and serve in those opportunities.

    But what about work and the mundane tasks that seem to have no spiritual significance except to put food on the table.

    Feel free to continue the discussion here or in the next post.

  24. “Most are quiet for fear of losing their prominent positions”

    Have you seen many full-time ministers? They live by the grace of tithing. Offend the wrong person, they lose their “prominent position” too. It’s a huge issue for those in full-time ministry.

    I know many people who have very wonderful ministries in public schools, in academic science departments (where opposition to Christianity is deep indeed), in business settings, in all kinds of places. If you can’t have ministry within the work world, then those same issues will undercut the ministry in a full time setting.

    Maybe this means being willing to risk, or trust that the Spirit’s work through us in our working situation may be more effective than we can imagine, even if its not quite as sexy as full time ministry.

  25. Well being pastored by a dude who had the 6 figure salary and walked out one day to start a church of less than 30 members (with no promises of anything)… has given me a lot of perspective. I have to agree with Dan. I unfortunately also have to work in the world. I’ve been fired a few times. Thing is, it was always my mouth. When something went really wrong, I had to say something… granted I didn’t always do it out of the loving heart I should have therefore God couldn’t be in it at times… but I’ve had to pay the consequences of speaking up. Thing is, people will be martyred… the first 10 will make news… the next 30 maybe… but when person after person after person starts standing up for what is right, then real change can happen.

    I’m sorry but sometimes I feel like I’m standing alone because all the “christians” around me are too scared to speak truth. Truth is truth, it can defend itself and if you are called to speak it then get off your butt and do it. God owns everything… and do you honestly think He can’t take care of us? Not to mention we have this expectation that if we are in the will of God everything will go right… where is THAT in the bible? We are going to suffer. We are going to be stoned, imprisoned, made to look a fool… but we should know it is coming, and be willing anyways…

    …then again we are just too selfish and have to pay for our 2000 sq ft homes and satellite tv…

    I think a good number are totally missing what Dan was trying to say.

  26. Dan and Ronni,
    I will have to respectfully disagree that it is our role at work to confront world-views or to evangelize during our work hours.

    When we are being paid for a job, we have basically entered into a contract to exchange our services/time for money. In my opinion, it is a really poor witness to attempt to promote another agenda instead of fulfilling our obligation.

    Personally, I believe our best witness would be the excellent fulfillment of the obligation we have contracted in the business environment.

    I don’t believe the kingdom is advanced in our failure to fulfill our duties or that it is persecution if we reap the consequences of not performing well.

    Perhaps at this point it would be important to consider the contracts we voluntarily enter into especially with unbelievers and what our attitude should be in that relationship.

  27. Pam,

    Regarding your comment that we cannot judge others, only ourselves, that’s flat-out unbiblical.

    While it may be true that Christians are not to judge non-Christians, Christians are most definitely to hold each other accountable. That requires making godly judgments about right and wrong. If my brother in Christ lives a profligate life that threatens his connection to Christ, then I am obligated to say something to him or else I myself am being disobedient.

    In this case, if I see that my Christian brother refuses to confront evil at work, then I will need to ask him why he does not.

    Our inability to do this simple thing is one reason that Christians have become friends with the world and are no longer living with the Kingdom in mind. It explains why Christians, who used to make a big difference in the way the work world functioned in fin de siecle America, now make virtually none at all. We lost our resolve. We relented. We simply gave up because we valued our jobs more than we valued serving Christ.

  28. Patrick,

    I’m not saying that a person in a work environment can’t have a few meaningful conversations with lost people or even start a work Bible study that brings forth some fruit. I’m saying that’s not enough to make a huge difference.

    Take a look around. Where are the huge revivals breaking out at this company and that? They aren’t there. And they aren’t there because Joe Christian at work can’t devote the time needed to make them happen.

    (Meanwhile, the Church in this country continues to diminish. Our lampstand is being removed and setup in India and China, in countries where the people take ministry seriously, while we continue to dabble in it.)

    It’s not just discipleship that suffers in the workplace, but justice. Few Christians in a workplace are willing to confront unjust work situations. They do not fight for the jobs of people readily let go so the big boss can get a bigger golden parachute. Christians are absolutely mute on those issues when they simply cannot be and still consider themselves Christians.

    But who is willing to go there? What church in our highly individualistic, “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” culture is going to stand behind someone who loses his job because he points out unjust and ungodly business practices?

    I can answer that: none. And that’s wrong of those churches. In fact, in most churches, you lose your job for any reason and the help you get from your church to find work or pay your bills while you look for work is zero. Nothing. And that’s wrong, too. Read Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-37 and tell me if you see the early Church living that way. Then ask yourself how we got so far away from the biblical model.

    No, our entire view of work in this country is flawed and ungodly, but where are the Christians who are pointing this out? Where are the pastors and preachers preaching on this topic, on an area that consumes more daily time in our lives than any other? They are absolutely silent. And that’s an utter travesty.

  29. Grace,

    I respectfully counter that simply doing your job well is a lowest common denominator result. How that will be a Christian witness is beyond me. Your average moral Buddhist will achieve the same result.

    If the Kingdom is not advanced at work, where will it then be advanced? And by whom? The length of the average commute and work week continues to rise drastically in this country. When will the work of the Kingdom get done if the work of paying for our lavish lifestyles consumes all the rest of our time? When?

    Ministry or work. That seems to be the dividing line. Choose one or the other.

  30. Dan, I think you’re looking for big revivals not kingdom work.

    I hear stories all the time.

    You have this modern image of ministry, and are then judging others for not meeting this very 1950s approach.

    Yes, people need to be better, but it’s absolutely ludicrous to think this only happens if people have to leave the workplace.

    Honestly, it sounds to me like you’re wrestling with a calling, and instead of acting out on it you’re pushing the blame elsewhere, accusing others for not doing the things the Spirit is asking you to do. And like a lot of people in that position you push your anger elsewhere because there are myriads of folks doing exactly what you don’t feel you are able to do.

    Ministry and work. Like I said before, it worked for Paul and it works for millions of wonderful, much better than you and I, Christian around the world who don’t have the luxury of being able to choose. There is a place for full time ministry, but the fact is that this country is absolutly filled with full time ministers who aren’t leading revivals either.

    Maybe the reason is folks are always wanting to be, do, or act somewhere else and blame the situation for the kingdom work they refuse to do. It’s easier to be outraged than obedient.

  31. Dan,
    First let me say that it’s nice to meet you, and I appreciate your participation in this discussion. I hope that you don’t see it as an attack on you personally, but rather a discussion of the issues on the table.

    You said, “How that will be a Christian witness is beyond me.”

    It seems to me that Paul addressed this issue in Ephesians 6…

    5Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, 8because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

    I think the mentality that ministry doesn’t happen amidst the ordinariness of life has been a hindrance to the advancement of the kingdom. For that matter, the advancement of the kingdom isn’t our responsibility. We are to open our eyes to the work of the kingdom already occurring and make ourselves a part of what God is doing.

    When we limit our understanding of the kingdom and ministry to a churchy understanding of ministry and spiritual life, we actually hinder the potential of ministry that could occur if we released people into a missional understanding of ministry in the midst of the world.

    The church in India and China flourishes because it is a grassroots movement of ordinary believers understanding the function of ministry as a part of everyday life, including work, who are not relinquishing their responsibility to minister to a specialized group of clergy and professionals.

    Consumerism is another issue. The reality is that most of us don’t have the luxury of full-time ministry, and often working 40 hours a week is simply to care for our families, which is also a biblical command.

  32. In other words, to add to my earlier comment, I think you’re seeing as a universal, generalized issue something that is more specific to your own felt calling.

    This is something I’m sensitive too as the pastor of the church I used to work at used this approach to utterly undermine every other ministry at the church. Because he saw as general what was God’s own work in his heart he felt everyone had his own purpose and his own calling and his own weaknesses. He exhorted in sermons for people to do what was clearly something God was telling him to do.

    He couldn’t see how other people could do and were doing what he himself wasn’t and felt unable to do. And this led to a lot of similar calls against supposed consumerism (even as he was a consumer and judge of “just the right kind of Christian’). He undercut what others did because it didn’t fit into his model of what should be done. He upset ministries meant to encourage so that people could go out and do more visibly active evangelism such as door-to-door, which is immensely ineffective but very visible.

    He broke people’s morale because he would rail against people doing other things, even as he expected their work to fund his opinions.

    Full time ministry is funded by people who do work, and should be working, in other settings, living as Christ would live amidst that work.

    Again, if you can’t be a reflection of the kingdom within a work setting then those exact same issues will rise up in a full time setting, and once again the blame won’t be put on oneself, but upon the parishioners. The grass is never greener on the other side. And the attitude that it has, or that blames others, undermines even more ministry that’s happening whether anyone thinks it can or not.

    Which is why my dad, for instance, prays and ministers to other juvenile hall teachers and workers, by doing first an execeptional job as a teacher there, and then as a quiet, receptive source who people know is aware of deeper, spiritual things, leading to a slow change of the whole spiritual atmosphere within what might be a very spiritually oppressive place. He touches the lives of kids who have been utterly rejected, touches the lives of fellow workers who have often rejected the church as being entirely irrelevant, and becomes a reflection of the Spirit to people who really are looking for God. All while the more active, revival interested Christians turn people off, and then complain that no one wants to hear the message they are preaching, a message that seems to have the words of Christ but is not of Christ and Spirit.

  33. M e r c y! Grace!!

    All this from a seemingly “simple” question?

    I had read your initial question before heading out of town the other day and thought about it while driving. I had a much simpler answer which has probably already been mentioned (didn’t go back to that post)–“Incarnating Christ in thought, word and action.”

    Can we overthink it? Naval gaze just a bit too much? It seems like you were headed somewhere with this and I’m wondering if the comment thread led you in another direction.

    Anyways…………good reading. I can count on you and your friends for that!

  34. Patrick,

    I am not saying to leave the workplace. I’m asking for Christians to rethink the workplace and their role in it. That’s an entirely different thing.

    If anything, I’m the one saying that the 1950s idea of the workplace (the idea we still support today) is wrong. Why is it that so many Christians support the industrial revolution and its fallout without even once thinking what was lost and what might be regained by rethinking industrialism and its progeny?

    A quick study shows the Church in America uncritically embraced industrialism as a resul of postmillenialism and triumphalism that swept the American Church in the late 19th century. We have seen the massive damage that uncritical embrace has caused to our culture and to Christianity. Yet virtually no Christian leaders on the national level will question how we do work today. Why? In many ways, the way we do work is largely responsible for many of the social evils the Christian culture wars address (especially those that directly impact the family), yet nothing is done about that root disease. In fact, most Christian leaders support the defective system.

    It’s simply astonishing to me.

  35. Grace,

    When I talk to missionaries in rapidly Westernizing countries like India and China, they unanimously agree that the greatest threat to revival in those countries is the adoption of Western work patterns and the Western consumerist mindset. Add in American lust for cheap goods and you’ve got people in China working in factories 18 hour days, seven days a week, all year round. And if someone drops, they replace that person with someone else. If we don’t think that’s going to put a damper on evangelism and revival, we’re nuts. Most of the revival we see going on is largely confined to the countryside for this very reason.

  36. I’m really not getting what your point is.
    Work in the west is dysfunctional?
    America is to blame for overworked Chinese factory workers?
    The west is to blame for stifling revival in third world countries because of our consumerism?

    Does the Holy Spirit know about this?

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