For many of us, when someone goes into “full-time ministry” we have referred to them as entering a “higher calling”. In fact we commonly speak of someone going into “THE ministry” as if there is only one ministry that is of note in the Kingdom of God. All activities that are related to the church (preaching, worship, music, Sunday school, Bible-study, etc.) are elevated into a special class of high value activities: they are “spiritual”. Everything else that we do (pursuing a career, studying, taking the kids to soccer, eating, paying our bills, even sleeping) are strangely demoted to a class of activities that don’t seem to interest God. It is only when we finally leave our homes on Sunday mornings, and go to the “house of God” that we can “enter into His presence”. This is spiritual. This is important. It’s almost as if God is at rest in “His house” from Monday to Saturday and when we enter the doors of the “house of God”, we gently rouse Him from His slumber so that we can perform our spiritual service of worship to Him.
But even a cursory reading of the Bible should reveal to us that this is a dichotomy (the Sacred-Secular Divide or SSD) that is hard to support. I think it is more a reflection of our Western cultural heritage than our biblical understanding. Paul tried to explain the concept of ministry when he wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus (see Ephesians 4:11 and 12). In his explanation he turns our conventional thinking on its head! He affirms that God did indeed give the Church some important gifts: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. But he clearly describes their function. He says they are there to equip all of us for ministry! Their primary function is to use their training and calling and leadership gifts to prepare an army of ministers to infiltrate the world; equipping them to encounter their communities with a mission. They are to become ambassadors of a Kingdom that is governed by the superior laws of a God who passionately loves the world that He is sending them into. He is sending all of them so that they can demonstrate how His ways work, and that these laws are higher than any other ways of doing things. And as they are going on their way, making disciples of all the nations they encounter, He promised that He would go with them even if they went into the ends of the earth (Mathew 28:19 and 20). This is not a picture of a god who slumbers or sleeps, He’s hard at WORK (John 5:17) as His Spirit is actively involved in the task of daily empowering believers to accomplish this mammoth task!
There is nothing in the biblical narrative to support our habit of separating spiritual things from the rest of life. Quite the contrary. God wants to penetrate every aspect of our lives with His holiness: our occupations, our activities, our families, and our communities. He wants to elevate all of us into “full-time ministry” so that we can bring a sense of His wisdom, His “way of doing things” into every aspect of our lives.
And those of us who are functioning in the role of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers? We have only one task: make and equip disciples. Our number one priority is to develop systems, teachings and resources that will form their character and build their skills so that they could more adequately represent the holiness of God in their respective worlds. We are not “higher”. We are not more “spiritual”. We are their servants (Matthew 20:25-26)! We are not going to be evaluated one day in terms of how many people come to listen to us preaching, or to how much money we have raised, or how large our staff is. The only metric that counts is how we succeeded in using our assets and skill sets to make and equip disciples!
For a brilliant exposition of the SSD watch this video of Mark Greene at the Lausanne Conference in Cape Town http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JErZzKBCf5M