Doesn't it seem like what we do defines who we are? In America, at least, your vocation is one of the most defining aspects of who you are. For example, when introduced to someone new, one of the first questions asked is “What do you do?”
This question generally stirs up pride or embarrassment, depending on how excited you are about your job.
The Puritans, our Christian brethren from four centuries ago, viewed vocation as a divine calling and an avenue for worship. “The main end of our lives is to serve God in the serving of men in the works of our callings,” wrote Puritan pastor William Perkins. Likewise, the Apostle Paul instructed first-century Christians in Colossae, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-24).
There is a sense of value and purpose infused in our work. But many Christians today have lost that sense of sovereign purpose in their jobs. Shuffling papers and never-ending deadlines cloud our view to the fact that what we do for a living matters much to God and fits into the big picture of His divine plans.
Christians must awaken again to the value of vocation not only as a form of worship but also as an avenue for fulfilling the Great Commission. For most, our greatest mission fields await us in the 9 to 5.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been greatly encouraged to meet marketplace chaplains who are engaging the lost in manufacturing plants, high rises, and job sites around the world. Likewise, there is a growing trend of ministries devoted to equipping businessmen and businesswomen to leverage their jobs for global missions. What a great joy it is to see men and women who view their vocation as a means for worship and witness.
Maybe this is a new concept to you. Or maybe the Lord has impressed on you a desire to leverage your employment for His kingdom, but you’re unaware of where to start. As you consider this, here are a few opportunities to pray through:
Witness in the Workplace
How do you view the relationships you have in your job? Do you look for opportunities to share a verbal witness with your coworkers? Certainly, a Christlike attitude and personal integrity bring honor to Christ, but don’t forget to speak the gospel as well. Remember, “… faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).
Often, an easy way to open gospel conversations is simply to ask, “How can I pray for you?” You’ll be amazed at how coworkers will open up to you about brokenness in their lives, giving you an opportunity to speak of the One who can heal their brokenness. (The 3 Circles Life Conversation Guide created by NAMB can aid you in connecting the gospel to their brokenness.)
Business as Missions
Global commerce and travel have flattened the world these days, as corporations fly employees to countries far and wide. Christians often lament countries that are “closed” to the gospel; however, companies like Coca-Cola have proved that virtually no country is completely closed. Genuine business efforts provide missionary platforms in some of the most difficult-to-reach locations in the world. How might you leverage your platform and the platforms of the people in your church for short-term or long-term missionary advance?
I know churches that have examined their congregation to see what vocations are most represented in their people and then created missions opportunities around those vocations to reach countries traditionally “closed” to the gospel. One church recognized a large group of special education teachers in the congregation and organized overseas teacher trainings in these countries. A friend who is a plumber has leveraged his skillset to help dig water wells in impoverished countries, opening doors for him to share about the Living Water.
Marketplace Ministries is an organization with a proven track record of bringing the gospel into the workplace through marketplace chaplains. Businesses represent an untapped mission field. Why not consider approaching local businesses or emergency response stations or sports teams and volunteering to serve as their chaplain?
Pastors can also make intentional efforts to visit with church members at their place of business. Of course, you want to be considerate and not distract a person from his job, but you never know what impact you might make on that church member and the people he works with.
Gil Stricklin, president of Marketplace Ministries, also advises pastors to show a genuine interest in church members’ jobs. Outside of sermon preparation, he says he would spend a great deal of his time “going out to guys’ (worksites) and kneeling down beside their desks . . . I’d pray for them and encourage them. I think that would be some of the most significant ministry any pastor could have.”
Parents, have you considered what your life and words teach your children about their future careers? Sure, we want our children to grow up and get good jobs, but why? Do we simply want them to make good money so they can live comfortably? What if Christian parents instilled in their children a desire to use their talents and careers to bring glory to Christ? It would certainly have implications on their decisions related to which college to attend, what major to pursue and what career path to take. The first step in teaching them this value is to model it in your own job.
What we do defines who we are. As Christians, we must view our vocations as opportunities for worship and witness in the world. We must “work heartily, as for the Lord.”
So, what about you? What do you do?