“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a question we have heard since the earliest time we can remember. Our society tells us that we can be anything we set our minds to. We are told to just follow our heart, cause if you do what you love, it’s not really a job, right?
But then there are others who (intentionally or not) give us the impression that if we are not serving the Lord as a pastor/worship leader/missionary/etc. we aren’t really being good Christians. This attitude and mindset can make those involved in “secular” work feel as if they are second-rate believers, as if having a trade or working in an office was something to be ashamed of. Though I can understand the point behind this well-meant exhortation to be involved in the ministry, it reflects a misunderstanding of what it means to serve the Lord.
Let me first point out that there are no secular jobs for the Christian—can we get that out of the way with? This division of sacred and secular in the work place is based upon a skewed belief about our calling from the Lord, a misunderstanding that is so prevalent in the American Church today. You see, the Christian has different aspects, or levels, of a calling. We all have one universal calling, but then there are more individual callings as well. Let me explain.
When a person comes to faith in Christ, he or she is answering the call that God has placed upon their life for salvation. God has called believers in this way before the world even began (Ephesians 1:4, 5). The rest of the letter to Ephesians deals with what that calling means in all aspects of life, what is all wrapped up in being called to salvation. He says in chapter two that we are saved “by grace,” but are “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:8-10). We are not saved by good works, but as a result of salvation, we are to live in a way that is described as good works. But that’s a discussion for another post.
As Paul opens chapter four, he summarizes all he has been saying in the letter so far, describing in detail the universal calling that applies to all believers. He says, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). Paul then launches into a discussion of Spiritual gifts, which helps us understand what being called to salvation and resultant good works is all about.
Quite simply, the calling that is universal to believers is the call to spread the Gospel while maintaining unity with other believers. We are called in one Spirit, through Whom Christ has given the Church various gifts, all being given “For the equipping of the saints for the work of service” (Ephesians 4:4, 7, 8, 11, 12). The service of spreading the Gospel is not just for evangelists and pastors, but it is given to every believer, regardless of occupation.
And that is where the second “level” of calling comes into play. We are all given the same mission, often referred to as the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:46-48; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:8). However, how each of us is called to carry out that mission is unique to each person. Not everyone is called to be a pastor, nor are all called to be a foreign missionary, but all are called to serve in specific ways and avenues. Scripture is filled with examples of this truth.
Adam was made a gardener (Genesis 2:15). Joseph was made a government official (Genesis 50:20). Bezalel and Oholiab were two craftsmen that God uniquely equipped and called to build the tabernacle (Exodus 31:1-6). David and Saul were both appointed king by God (1 Samuel 15:17; 16:1, 12, 13). None of these examples were of men who “ministered” in the sense we use the word today. All of these were seemingly secular occupations.
Yet all were used by the Lord for His purposes. Yes, God does call preachers and evangelists (Jeremiah 1:5; Acts 13:2). Yet as Paul points out, not everyone was called to be a prophet (1 Corinthians 12:29). The Lord said that “in the hearts of all who are skillful, I have put skill” (Exodus 31:6). Though all are given a universal calling of Gospel witness, each person is given a specific calling in terms of occupation.
We may not all be given the same glamourous job. One person may be called to preach, another to be a carpenter, another a missionary in Asia, another to wire houses. And this is true for women as well. Some are called to minister alongside their husbands who are deacons, but others are called to be keepers at home (1 Timothy 3:11; 5:14). It is not that one is less important than another; all are needful in the Lord’s service.
The reason I say that is because each of these specific callings is subject and guided by the greater universal calling of sharing the Gospel. Missionaries, evangelists, and pastors have the most obvious position of fulfilling their primary calling (gospel outreach) in their secondary calling (occupation). Yet the plumber who is faithful to share the truth about Christ on Tuesday afternoon can be used just as mightily for the Lord. The Gospel is not limited to clean, pristine interiors of a Church building, as if it was too fragile to withstand the rigors of the work force. “It is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). It transcends time, place, occupation, whatever. It is for all men across all of time.
Yes, I do believe that the Lord calls Pastors and that men need to answer that call, and I am doing that myself. But I want to encourage those of us who are given a trade to not feel ashamed that we are not behind a pulpit or in some foreign mission field. God has given you a mission field right around you. Don’t think you have one? Just start by getting to know those in your area, and I mean really know. I live in the Bible Belt of the United States, yet it blows my mind how many people reject God or have never even read a Bible before, let alone held one. If God has called you to lay brick, do so to His glory, working diligently and always seeking to share the Gospel with co-workers and clients. Has God called you to drive a truck? Live a life that obeys His Word and be ready to share the Truth about Christ with anyone. Are you called to stay at home and raise your children? Love them and point them to the One whose love they can never lose.
Whatever job the Lord has given you, don’t be ashamed of it; use it to obey your primary calling and spread the Gospel.