Blog - Grasping Vocation
Turning Daily Work into MinistryFriday, January 25, 2013
If work is "ministry,” what does that look like? What shape should such ministry take in a paid job? In unpaid work? In the efforts of the entrepreneur? In the labors of a retired (redeployed) person? From church meetings most of us have formed a picture of ministry in a Sunday context. But how should we go about making work a ministry in the weekday context?
The amount of attention Paul devotes to slaves and masters in his letter to the Ephesian Christians (Eph. 6:5-9) leaves little doubt that many in that church spent their days working. In the same letter, Paul makes it clear that God pre-planned a design for human work: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). How can we know the good works God has put on our to do list? The answer should shine light on how to turn our work into ministry.
To search that out, I suggest we probe with another question: "When was God’s will done perfectly on earth as in heaven?” Only one answer to that: before the Fall. The Bible records for us the pre-sin history of humankind on earth in two chapters, Genesis 1 and 2. In those chapters, we discover at least three "good works” we were designed and assigned to do.
First, we were made to commune with God. This good work involves communication. It takes place within a harmonious relationship of fellowship. God gave this communing gift to us by making us his image-bearers. We have the capacity to respond to him. The man and woman were made to be heart-mind-soul-body with God, to hear him and speak with him—the first "good work” God had prepared in advance for them to do.
Second, we were made to build community. Our vertical communing with God was to branch out horizontally. God himself—Father, Son, Holy Spirit—enjoyed perfect, eternal community. What single thing did God find "not good” in his creation? Adam’s aloneness. So God gave Adam a partner. They were to live "united” and as "one flesh” in community. And in directing them to "fill the earth,” God gave to them the "good work” of extending that community worldwide.
Third, we were made to steward the earth. God created an earth full of potential. He created us to do the "good work” of unleashing that potential. God actually delayed the growth of shrubs and plants because as yet "there was no man to work the ground” (Gen. 2:5). Those in God’s image were to rule over animals and indeed "over all the earth” (Gen. 1:26). Jesus is still the "ruler of God’s creation” (Rev. 3:14). But to us he has given the "good work” of serving as his property managers, stewards, overseers.
In doing these "good works,” we carry out the two greatest commandments. Loving God leads to communing with him. Loving our neighbors leads to building community and stewarding the earth. In upcoming blogs, I hope to unpack each of these three "good works” on our to do list by illustrating how we can carry all three out as we go about our daily work. My intent: to suggest what "ministry” looks like in what we do those other six days.