Blog - Supporting Believers

Clarifying Last Week's Post

Saturday, September 25, 2010

One of the responses to last week's post came from a dear friend and brother, Henry Paasonen, who recently "retired” after years of missionary service in both Germany and France. He commented on this quotation I had inserted from my book, Job-Shadowing Daniel: "In your so-called ‘secular' work, you can do what no pastor or missionary could ever do.” Henry wrote, "Yes, we can and must do so as we encourage and equip the church as the church for daily full-court-press ministry.” Amen, Henry.

Those words, "you can do what no pastor or missionary could ever do,” might not have been understood in the way I meant them. So I appreciate the opportunity to clarify. In the book, that sentence fit into a context. When God placed him in Babylon, Daniel did what Jeremiah, the believer serving in a role comparable with today's pastor or missionary, could never have done. Two paragraphs before that quotation, I had written, "Through Daniel and his work God's light penetrated the pagan darkness of the Babylonian bureaucracy—something out of Jeremiah's reach” (p. 26).

Just yesterday, I spent most of the morning with a believer who works as an information technology specialist in a chain of retail stores that serves those in our military. His credentials got me through the guarded gate. Once inside, he introduced me to his boss and several co-workers. In their eyes, I saw the respect they had for him. His relationships with them have taken years to cultivate. And I realized once again, that this man is physically and relationally positioned to do what a pastor from the outside could not do.

In no way did I intend for the quotation to devalue the work of pastors and missionaries. Their work is vital, as Henry says, to "encourage and equip the church.” Rather than putting down their work, I intended that sentence to lift up the work and ministry of those serving in the work world. For too long, the Christian community has considered so-called "secular” work as of less spiritual value than "full-time Christian service.”

Nor did I intend the quotation to endorse individualism. Henry rightly comments that we are "much too focused on the individual believer apart from the church body.” In Job-Shadowing Daniel I devote an entire chapter to the need for teamwork in the community of believers. When he calls us to be a part of his Church, God calls us to both unity and diversity. We are one in Christ, and yet we play individual roles. An wrist cannot do the work of a kneecap. Nor can a kidney do the work of a liver. Yet each of them needs to work together with all the others.

We are one and we are many. That flows from God himself as Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are perfectly and eternally One. Yet they too work in individual roles. For example, only the embodied Son could die on a Roman cross and physically rise again—something the Father could not do. Only the Holy Spirit could work in all places at all times in both believers and unbelievers—something the Son could not do while on earth in a physical body. (That, by the way, explains why Jesus told his disciples in John 16:7-13 that his leaving would benefit them.)

One more clarification. In last week's post, the M.Div. students, those already serving on church staffs, were quoting church members in the work world as saying, "I think Christian workers are like orphans—no one from the church cares about us.” This reminds me, as Henry noted in his response to last week's post, that the church needs to work as a team. In effective teams, members care about each other. And they all know it.

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