Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sacred Work

A few months back, when things were crazy-busy at school, I was thinking about my kids and the life we led just a few years ago and I compared it to our life now.  Back then, we had the luxury of being on pedestals, unfortunately.  We were revered for our choice to go overseas as missionaries, and to serve in a place where no one had served before.  In fact, I wrote about it here.  The reverence placed on our position then as opposed to where we are working now has been concerning to me, because in my mind, the service aspect of our lives have not changed.  Only location.

Back when we lived overseas and I started blogging, I took part in a blog tour with Marcus Goodyear, an editor with the High Calling.  It's a branch organization of H. E. Butts, from H. E. B. grocery stores.  Mr. Butts is a huge believer in the High Calling of the every day worker.  In fact, he runs a camp for those workers called "Laity Lodge."  He uses his work as a nationally known grocer to serve others and to glorify God in his everyday work.  Mr. Butts also has 30 second radio blurbs in which he encourages the everyday laborer to use their work to serve others and to show our love of God through the quality and character of our work. It was then that I started noticing the disparity between those who were professional ministers and those who served but worked regular, secular jobs.  The former had an easier time doing ministry because it was what they were paid to do yet they received the accolades, while the latter had a harder time with ministry because it was done in their extra time, yet they received no recognition for their hard work.  Yet through it all, it is because of the lay worker that any type of ministry actually exists!

See, the thing that bothered me to my core while I was an "overseas missionary,"  (I've never stopped being a missionary) was the sense of entitlement I saw in my fellow missionaries, even when they knew they were living better than most people in the states, let alone the people they were there to reach.  And even in that lifestyle, they would complain, or find loopholes in the system in order to gain financial advantages.  They would present themselves as living worse off than they were or being needier than they were, in order to gain sympathy from those in the States who didn't know any better, so that some giving, hard-working soul would hand over their hardworking dollars to them.  They knew that lay person worked harder than they themselves ever intended to, yet they greedily accepted the money. I believe there will be special consequences for those people. Even now it sickens me.

But I happened upon this book called Mission Critical: 90 Days of Meditations for the Marketplace by Dwight Hill, and it completely affirmed this thought process I've had for awhile now.  The book discusses how we as Christians have placed ministers and missionaries on a pedestal of christian service, but don't see the value in what we as lay persons do on a daily basis.  We see our work as a "necessary drudgery" in order to make money, when we should be seeing it as a way of life in which the nature of man "should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself, to the glory of God." (p. 11)  Mr. Hill writes that even Paul, one of Christianity's most famous and sold-out missionaries said in his letter to the Thessalonians, "You should follow our example.  We are not idle when we are with you, nor do we eat anyone's food without paying for it.  Rather, we work night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you."

I think back to my mom's grandfather, Reuben Shinn.  He was a minister.  It was what he was called to do.  So in order to minister, he had to work to sustain his ministry.  He worked as a doctor during the week, and on weekends he ministered to four different churches.  He traveled to each church once a month so that the ministry could continue and the people in those communities could have church services on a regular, albeit limited, basis.

My husband and I no longer work in overseas ministry.  But that does not mean we are not missionaries.  We see our daily work as a work of service to those around us, and a way to bring glory to God in the workplace by working hard, and having a work ethic that glorifies Him.  Do I have bad days?  Yes.  But there is always the recognition that my life is a testimony to others.  The work I do is a High Calling.  It is Sacred Work, and I'm thankful that God has allowed me to do it.  I pray our ministers today learn to connect with this part of the people they serve.  I know God will bless them for it.

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