There is a subtle mindset which can creep into our thinking as missionaries and social activists.
We can begin to think that there are those who are called to go, and those who are called to give.
Jesus himself said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38
Historically this view has played out in multiple ways.
In his book, Futureville: Discover Your Purpose for Today by Reimagining Tomorrow, Skye Jethani recounts this path through history.
Eusebius taught a two class style. He said there is the perfect life (ministry) and the permitted life. All those not called to a “full-time” ministry emphasis could engage in vocations which were permitted.
The Protestant Reformation brought reform to this with the understanding that God is glorified in all areas of life – including work. This resulted in a dedication to work which was called the Protestant work ethic.
The strength in this is value brought to all vocations. The weakness is that work can become the focus. Our mission or calling can become our identity, even taking the place of God in our lives. Our mission becomes our God. (For a further development of this idea, I would recommend Jethani’s book, With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God. It is one of the most challenging books I have read in years.)
The Puritans had a bit of a different twist, saying each person had multiple callings which much be woven together:
– Highest calling – God himself and relationship with Him.
– Common calling – Biblical commands for life, family, evangelism, and social concern.
– Specific Calling – Vocation, unique expression in the world.
So which is correct?
Probably a blending of the Protestant and Puritan view.
The application for us as missionaries is more profound.
How do we view those who support us and provide for our livelihood? How do we see those called to different vocations?
A subtle sense of superiority can creep into our minds.
If someone is not involved in social transformation or evangelistic training and discipleship of souls, we cannot see them as second class citizens.
Jethani asks, “Do we value businesses for their ability to create jobs, sustain families and produce products and services which bless people or do we see them as a means to fund the ministry?”
Often, we can slip into the mindset that businesses exist to make money to give it to those doing the work of the kingdom – I hear it from people all the time on both sides of the issue.
Jethani adds, “Those who pursue and address social change are exalted…but how does a dentist, roofer, or homemaker find purpose? Are they require to give their surplus time and energy to the “cause”, whatever that might be.”
I would add that their primary purpose is not to give money to the causes. Yes, a missionary just said that people’s primary cause is not to give money to me!
All of life is spiritual, not just the things which pertain to missions or social change.
We as “full-time” workers in traditional Christian vocations need to keep this in mind. I have seen far too many people feel a deep sense of inferiority for merely being a businessperson or medical worker. That is not the heart of God.
How do we walk in this truth? And how do we help our donors feel valued for what they contribute to life and society, not merely the money they give to us?
Photo by Erik Cleves Kristensen via Flickr