Busy Work

I was spending an enjoyable late evening with my buddy Jake after a great set of tennis (great because I won, naturally).  I think one of life’s greatest pleasures is to be able to sit and enjoy a bottle of wine and talk about Stuff That Matters with people.  And this was one of those pleasurable opportunities.

We’ve been sort of focused on the idea of vocatio, vocation, as we begin the process of trying to put together an intelligent and Biblically faithful book on the topic.  One of the things we’ve already realized is that the term itself has shrunk greatly in scope, until today people talk about vocation in terms of what your job is, how you labor.  And this is really too narrow an application of the term. 

But that’s another post (or chapter).

We were discussing last night what are the fundamental things that a church (congregation) *must* do to be faithful to it’s Biblical mandates.  Jake argued that Word and Sacrament was the sum total of what a church ought to focus on.  My initial (internal) response was to sort of cluck-cluck at him mentally for being such a good little Lutheran.  However, I sagely reminded him, the Great Commission enjoins us to teach, and when sermons are 10-15 minutes in length on average, can we rightly say that we’re fulfilling that mandate to teach simply in a Word and Sacrament worship?

Jake argued back that teaching or ‘the Word’ could come in any number of forms throughout the week, and needn’t (and arguably shouldn’t) be limited to traditional Sunday morning worship.  Ahhh, I responded, but a congregation that is focused properly on the importance of Word and Sacrament and what God does through these things is going to want to respond.  They’re going to want an outlet to minister, to serve, to participate in the work of God.  And how does the church provide that for them?

His answer was spot on, though I mentally argued against it at first.

His answer was that this is vocatio – the living out of our Christian faith, our response to God’s goodness in Word and Sacrament, forgiveness and grace – and that vocatio is lived out in our homes.  In our workplaces.  In our schools.  In the people we get together with for a shared meal or a few beers. 

Yeah yeah yeah, I wanted to say.  But I mean *really* serving.  *Really* ministering.  You know, doing something for the church.

But I realized more and more how completely wrong my impulse reaction was.  How very conditioned it was by the culture in which I have grown up.  A church culture that prizes commitment to ‘church events’ and ‘church programs’, but rarely if ever teaches seriously on the issue of ministering and serving and really doing something in the context of our families and jobs and neighbors. 

If a congregation were properly equipped for that kind of ministry, what could the church possibly add?  What program?  What study?  What pot luck?  It’s not that those things wouldn’t necessarily happen, but they wouldn’t need to happen anchored to the church, facilitated by the church itself.  People would be doing these things naturally as they sought to live out their vocational callings in the home or the workplace or the classroom.

What would it mean to our society if Christian men and women were properly taught and equipped to minister to their spouse and their children?  What would it look like if Christian men and women were properly taught and equipped to minister to their employers?  And what I’m suggesting is not that we teach them to become pastors in the home or the workplace, or evangelists in the home or the workplace.  But what if we taught them to see ministry in these arenas in terms of attitude, in terms of commitment, in terms of passion, in terms of valuing others?  What if the measure of a very ‘Godly’ person wasn’t how many hours they logged in church Bible studies or work days or fund raising events, but how passionately they gave themselves to their families?  How hard they worked for their employer? 

It’s a simply concept.  Deceptively simple.  And it counteracts the church’s heavy insistence on being the hub of all Christian activity at any given time.  But it resonates so deeply, and seems to so perfectly reflect the Scriptural emphases. 

I can’t wait for the next chance to flesh this out a bit further.  And I wouldn’t argue if a bottle of wine is involved!

3 Responses to “Busy Work”

  1. Nancy Campbell Says:

    This makes so much sense to me.

  2. Paul Nelson Says:

    That’s a huge relief ;-pFunny how it’s the simple stuff that can be so freeing and breathtaking when we first see it!

  3. rivasiko Says:

    I am glad that the blog is constantly evolving. This post just adds popularity

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