If I love God with all my heart and want to do his work, should I pursue a career in the church? Over the years I occasionally struggled with this question. What does it say about my faith if I declare Jesus as my Lord and Savior but continue in my career in the secular world? At the same time I realized that I don’t really feel God has given me the gift to serve as a pastor or in a similar position. I also really enjoy my job in the technology industry. What now?
I’m reading a book titled Total Truth: Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity by Nancy Pearcey. I picked up this book at the recommendation of a friend, not at all looking to answer this particular question. However, God knows what we need to hear and speaks to us in his own way in the right time and the right place.
The first chapters of the book discuss what the author refers to as duality or a dichotomy. A quote from John Beckett captures this problem:
Sundays were Sundays, with the rest of the week largely detached, operating by a different set of rules. Can these two worlds that seem so separate ever merge?
This same dichotomy was the root of my dilemma - that serving in the church must be at a higher level than any other profession. That to truly serve God we must ascend into the higher realm - everything else is of lesser value.
This is not the way God meant for us to view the world. In Genesis 1:28 God instructs:
Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
God specifically calls each of us to build civilizations and to use earth’s resources for our betterment and survival. This calling can be applied to almost all professions - in some way or another each of us are working toward that end. Farmers work the land, preventing erosion, subduing out of control vegetation, and producing food for everyone. Health professionals help to heal us when we are injured and keep us healthy so we can continue God’s work. Software developers write programs enabling companies to carry out their work more efficiently and bring their goods to the masses. We all serve each other in the unique way God has called us.
In this way, Pearcey suggests that we should not view the world as secular, or view the work that non-believers do as being of any less value. Pearcey says,
There is no need to avoid the secular world and hide out behind the walls of an evangelical subculture; instead, Christians can appreciate works of arts and culture as products of human creativity expressing the image of God.
We are all made in God’s image. God’s creation is inherently clean and perfect. Therefore, we should celebrate the products of all people as “reflections of God’s own creativity”.
This is not to suggest that there are not evil or sinful professions, or that people do not create things that are harmful and contradict God. Sin perverted God’s perfect creation and we must be mindful of this. However, by default this does not mean that the work of non-believers or the product of their labor are not to be appreciated as reflections of God.
In addition to fulfilling God’s mandate from Genesis, believers can absolutely serve the Kingdom and affect the world positively through their professions. 1 Peter 2:9 refers to the priesthood of all believers:
… you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
First and foremost we can share Jesus’ light through our actions - “they will know we are Christians by our love!” From John 13:35:
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
We can also witness to coworkers, clients and others we encounter through our daily duties. Pearcey quotes Lesslie Newbigin who says that ordinary Christians are “the Church’s front-line troops in her engagement with the world.”
It is extremely comforting to know that each of us serve God and work to further his kingdom in our common business. As a result, we should take care to avoid viewing this world from a dual perspective. We should worship God everyday in all that we do, not just on Sundays; All believers proclaim the Kingdom of God, not just pastors and church workers; No one profession is above another. We are all servants, we are all sinful and we all need grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.