Blog - Grasping Vocation
Sacred vs. Secular Work: Loss to KingdomThursday, October 11, 2012
In the last blog, I focused on several responses of doctoral and masters students in my online classes to this question: "What effect does the sacred/secular divide have on how Christians often perceive the dignity of work?” This post continues on the theme of "loss” so often expressed in their answers to that question.
They see the "Kingdom of God” as one of the major losers in the sacred/secular split. One student wrote, "A Christian operating inside his/her ministry is supposed to advance the Kingdom of God. However, a Christian who cannot understand that God appreciates the job that he/she does can . . . neglect to build God’s Kingdom.”
Many believe the problem is that the sacred/secular divide causes Christians to become church-centered rather than Kingdom-oriented. "It causes everything to revolve around the importance of church work rather than the Kingdom of God.”
One student, a denominational overseer, thinks the effect is "Making people feel as though their work is ancillary—they work only to provide for their family and give money to church work.” This "creates a lack of appropriate honor and appreciation for the Kingdom contribution being made.”
What these students are reporting confirms what R. Paul Stevens has written in The Other Six Days: "Kingdom ministry has been almost totally eclipsed by church ministry. Ministry is viewed as advancing the church rather than the Kingdom.” And, "The church is the principal agency for the Kingdom on earth” (p. 47).
Several students commented that a church-centric vision negatively affects how believers demonstrate the Christian life on the job. An author and consultant said: "I have seen some Christians who do not give their best to their secular work. They try to compartmentalize their spirituality from their work and give their all to their church activities while on their jobs long for the day to be in ‘full time ministry.’ They want to read their Bibles at work, have negative attitudes, take offense if being corrected, use work supplies and materials for church work, do not keep commitments and responsibilities, do not embrace growth and change, and generally just give the label Christian a bad name in the marketplace.”
Along that line, another wrote: "Christians unfortunately often perceive that to optimize their input for God they have to serve in the church. . . . As a result, they clock in and out in a routine way, are given to complaining and may even feel justified to take time to fulfill church commitments on work time.”
When the sacred/secular divide leads believers to act like this at work, how does it affect our King’s reputation? In Kingdom Calling, Amy Sherman recalls what a pastor who taught a workshop at her church said about the Kingdom. He "held up one of those tiny pink taste-test spoons from Baskin Robbins. You know, the spoons that offer you a foretaste of the ice cream to come.” The pastor then "challenged attendees to see themselves as such spoons, for our role in the world is about offering foretastes of the kingdom to our neighbors near and far” (p. 23).