Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Means to an End


-----------------------

Do you think, in an effort to remain popular with our own members, that the American church has lessened the importance of overt ministry on our home soil?

I know this is probably too vague of a question and it is a terrible introduction, but these thoughts crashed into my insomniac mind last night, and I have not been able to shake them.

Let me attempt clarification.

For years I have heard that not all “Christians” had to be “missionaries”--meaning not all of us who claim the name of Christ have to travel to distant lands and preach the gospel.

“God needs Christian car mechanics. God needs Christian plumbers. God needs Christian school teachers. Etc. Etc.”

Some form of this phrase has been repeated throughout my childhood and adolescence, and I can appreciate the intention behind this distinction. However, I wonder if the same thing has happened in the mind of others that has happened in my own….

I began to see this truth as some sort of a get-out-of-jail-free card.

In all honesty, there was a time in my life when I was literally scared of giving my life fully to Christ because I was terrified of being called to the African savanna or the Amazon river basin.

I had it in my na├»ve head there were only two ways to serve God—the pulpit and the mission field.

I am thankful that my education, maturity, and experience have shown me that this is, in fact, not true. God does have children in a great many disciplines, working for Him in a great many ways.

Yet, I fear my adolescence-and-older mind may have twisted this truth into something it was never intended to be.

Too many times, we think the extent of this truth is to do our job well or put a Christian fish on the back of our work van. These are both fine things, one perhaps more so than the other, but they are both missing the point.

We are commanded and encouraged to work hard in whatever we do. Throughout Christ’s ministry and Paul’s letters, we see the importance of hard work and the necessity of living above reproach.

So yes, we should strive to be the best plumber, teacher, mechanic, we can possibly be, but this is only part of our call…and a lesser part at that.

We are Christians first and foremost. We are Christians before we are bakers, technicians, or doctors. This is our priority. This is our identity.

The others—our occupations—are secondary. They allow us to pay for our lives. They allow us to live in our society comfortably while we pursue our truest purpose—Seek first the Kingdom of God.

Throughout my transition between high school and college, I tried to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I loved to write, and I was beginning to realize my gifts related to this love of communication. However, I also knew that twenty-one year old authors needed a form of steady income. Something to pay the bills while I toyed with the inner muse and explored my career as a writer.

I needed something to finance my passion.

Perhaps we need to expand this idea from the starving artists into each Christian life. Perhaps we need to step away from our occupation, our career path, and realize that it is only something to fund our passion for the Kingdom.

It is not our identity. It is a means to an end.

We are missionaries. I think any Christian would agree, but I wonder how many of us actually live like one.

When was the last time we were persecuted for our ministry? When was the last time we were forced to live entirely on faith in Him? When was the last time we sacrificed until it hurt? When was the last time we mentioned God in the workplace? When was the last time we used the resources afforded to us by our career to pursue the evangelism of our city?

It is so easy in our society to equate our purpose with our occupation, but we MUST realize that our purpose is an eternal one.

So where does this leave us?

How do we use our careers to further the Kingdom? How do we truly embrace the call of a missionary in something as simple as a dishwasher?

Ask God. Really ask Him.

I have a feeling He’ll tell us if we are sincere.

And as with so many other lessons we have to learn, the Scriptures contain an amazing example of someone to whom God revealed the answer to the questions above.

Paul.

Research him. Read his letters. He never stopped working, but he is not known for his tents. Sure, his tents were probably expertly made, but he was not a tent maker. He was an apostle who also made tents.

Who am I?

Am I a teacher? Or am I someone who pursues the expansion of the Kingdom with everything I have and just happens to be a teacher? Am I pursuing my passion with my resources? Or are my resources spent on trivial, simple, finite things?

Who are you?

-------------------------------------------

Acts 18:1-4

1After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Acts 20:34-35

You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

1 Thessalonians 2:9-12

9For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11For you know how, like a father with his children, 12we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”

2 Thessalonians 3:6-12

6Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, 8nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. 9It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”