The Convergence of Faith and Work
Daniel Chua speaks about living the life Jesus promised, in the intersection between the sacred and the secular
I was sincerely wrong.
I was in full-time pastoral ministry for more than 20 years and I loved every moment of it. After being powerfully converted to Christianity in my teens, I thought the most radical way to demonstrate my love for God and my service to Him was to fully devote myself to building the local church. Although doing that brought me tremendous joy, I have since realized that my view of what it meant to be a passionate follower of Christ was painfully narrow.
In my youthful zeal, I had wrongly assumed that being a pastor is the highest calling for any Christian. Although it was unintentional, my flawed assumption resulted in me promoting the secular-sacred divide — a prevalent but false dichotomy that has actually hindered the cause of the Church. Essentially, the divide is a distinction between what Christians regard as sacred and that which we deem secular. For instance, church buildings are consecrated grounds while shopping malls and stadiums are just places of entertainment. Being a missionary is holy and of God whereas being a lawyer is a worldly vocation.
Haven’t we all been inspired by testimonies of accountants and engineers hearing the call to leave their secular jobs so that they can serve the Church full time? On the flip side, how many Christians do we know that have “surrendered to the call” of film-making or fashion design?
That so many Christians believe some of us are “called” while others are not has led to many sincere believers confining ministry to activities that we perform in a church gathering on Sundays. Ask a lawyer what her ministry is and she will most likely reply, “I play the keyboard for worship” or, “I am a friendly greeter.” It is often the case that many like her would not associate their profession of bringing justice to the world with any spiritual significance. This truth has led me to ponder this very question, “Could this be a reason why so few Christians are fully activated in their God-assignments in the world?”
THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS EVERYWHERE
The more we understand the Kingdom of God, the more we realize that everything is sacred. Saint Paul, when writing about the supremacy of Christ, remarked in Colossians 1:16, “For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him.” Abraham Kuyper echoed this powerful truth in his now famous quote: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
We are commanded in Scripture to focus on the Holy One instead of Holy Places. In fact, God’s true home is in the Christian and He shows up when we show up. We, as Christians, are the ones who light up our work places with the glory of God that is within us. In addition, we are all called to be priests (1 Peter 2:5), regardless of our profession, and to worship God through our work. There is a diverse range of callings and giftings but these speak into our purpose, and not our position, in the Kingdom.
God has “saved us and called us to a holy calling” (2 Timothy 1:9). It is only when we embrace the spiritual nature of our vocation that we can wholeheartedly join God in His redemptive mission. Simply put, our work is ministry and thus we are all in full-time ministry.
OUR CULTURE MANDATE AND THE PURPOSE OF WORK
In the Genesis story, we learned that our ancestors were mandated by God to cultivate the earth. We are not simply consumers of God’s creation. On the contrary, we are stewards of the capital He has blessed us with, and He expects us to use these talents and gifts to shape cultures and build a better, more prosperous world.
“We are God’s standard bearers.”
In essence, culture is a manifestation of the gods we worship. As Theologian Henry Van Til aptly puts it, “Culture is religion externalized.” Therefore, culture is the convergence of two realities — the material and the spiritual — and where God’s people are obeying His commands and teaching others to do the same (Matthew 28:18-20), we are infecting the earth with heaven’s culture.
This is the true purpose of our work: to intentionally create cultures that reflect God’s nature and character in the domains God has assigned us to — no matter your profession. We are to sow truth (God’s righteous standards), justice (God’s moral standards) and beauty (God’s aesthetical standards) into every field. We are God’s standard bearers.
HANS NIELSEN HAUGE: A CULTURE MAKER
One of the best examples from history of a Christian who bridged the secular-sacred divide and lived out the culture mandate is Hans Nielsen Hauge. Hauge was the son of a Norwegian farmer. On 5 April, 1796, Hauge was plowing his father’s fields in Tune, about 100 miles southeast from Oslo, and worshiping to an old German hymn. It was then that he had a dramatic encounter with God and was intensely filled by the Holy Spirit.
When recalling the experience, he wrote: “My mind became so exalted that I was not myself aware of, nor can I express, what took place in my soul. For I was beside myself. As soon as I came to my senses, I was filled with regret that I had not served this loving transcendently good God. Now it seemed to me that nothing in this world was worthy of any regard. That my soul experienced something supernatural, divine, and blessed; that there was a glory that no tongue can utter — that I remember as clearly as if it had happened only a few days ago.”
Feeling “a deep, burning love for God and my neighbor,” Hauge started traveling around Norway on foot to preach the Gospel, even though it was illegal for “untrained laity” to do so. In spite of the persecution, a new spiritual movement spread throughout the country.
Confronted by the economic hardships of his fellowmen, Hauge and his friends built flour and paper mills, brick factories, fisheries and farms. These businesses created jobs and lifted tens of thousands of Norwegians out of poverty.
“Simply put, our work is ministry and hence, we are all in full-time ministry.”
Hans Nielsen Hauge refused to be bound by the religious constraints of his day. He allowed his sacred faith to spill over into the secular marketplace and influenced the early industrialization of Norway. When commenting about Hauge’s life, Professor Francis Sejersted, former head of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, said: “A new lower middle class in Norway grew up in the footsteps of Hans Nielsen Hauge.”
I believe that the intersection between the sacred and the secular is the sweet spot where we can fully experience the true meaning of the abundant and satisfying life that Jesus promised (John 10:10). You too can start your journey today by embracing your daily work as part of your worship.
You are already in full-time ministry. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
This article is adapted from Champions Vol. III. Daniel Chua is the Founder of Brave.is. You can find previous articles he wrote below: