So far in this blog series on work we’ve looked at some wrong motivations for work, work as a part of creation and work as part of society. In this final installment we’ll look at doing the work of God.
Jesus tells us in John’s Gospel that there is a third kind of work – the work of God. “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (Jn 6:29). Not only is believing a work, but bringing others into faith is also the work of God. All of Jesus’ “works” point to the salvation he will bring. e.g. of the man born blind: “this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (Jn 9:3) and the “greater” works that Jesus’ followers will do after him (Jn 14:12). Paul also speaks of the ‘work of the Lord’, which is to see people saved. (e.g. 1 Cor 15:58).
Often people mistakenly connect the work of God too tightly with the work of a ‘gospel worker’, but this is far too simplistic a picture. The pastor, teacher, gospel-worker is given by Christ to the church to equip the saints for works of service. (Eph 4:11-12). The work of God is done by all Christians. All Christians believe in Christ (cf. Jn 6:29) and all Christians seek to see others believe in Christ.
How do we bring together all three kinds of work, then?
I take it that everyone does all three kinds of work. Everyone is involved in the work of creation (ordering and reordering), everyone is involved in the work of society (creating communities that care) and every Christian is involved in the work of the Lord (believing and seeing others come to faith). The mixes may be different between jobs, but everyone is involved in all three. Even the full-time minister does all three kinds – creation (cleaning up the office), society (running church committees) and the work of the Lord (preaching, evangelising, etc.).
How do I decide whether to go into full-time ministry, then?
What makes full-time ministry particularly worthy of consideration is the opportunity to ‘equip the saints’ and so multiply the work of the Lord. It is not that you do more of the work of the Lord, but that you help others do more. Of course, this equipping the saints is also part of the work of the Lord. A lack of pastors / teachers / gospel-workers constrains the growth of the church. Full-time ministry is not inherently more valuable than ‘secular’ ministry, but it is a key-enabler for multiplying the work of the Lord. As Christians we are completely free to choose to enter full-time ministry or not and both choices are good. Only those who qualify should be encouraged to enter Christian leadership, however (1 Tim 3:1-7).
All work towards the ends of creation, society or the work of the Lord is worthwhile. It is all at heart service in relationship. We must not segment off areas of our lives where the word of God no longer speaks. Those who work in the ‘secular’ workforce still need to consider what the word of God says concerning the work they are doing. How does it speak to the work of creation that they are doing? How does it speak to the work of society that they are doing? How does it speak to the work of the Lord that they are doing? We need to help one another think hard about how we work. Bringing the gospel to bear on our work will bring about the best work, since the Lord of the gospel is the same Lord who created us and created work.