Preaching on Vocation
Our work is one of the main ways to participate in the mission of Jesus.
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The longer I preach, the more I realize that in the fight for the kingdom of God, my arch nemesis isn't liberalism, conservatism, secularism, pluralism, or any of the isms at all—it's irrelevance. So many of the burning, acute issues of our day and age simply don't get talked about in church. At all. Tom Nelson wisely said, "In the church, we often spend the majority of our time teaching people how to live the minority of their lives."
He's so right. Think about it. After we're done teaching on a Sunday, most of our people will spend well over forty hours at their job. That's not even counting all the work they don't get paid for: parenting, cleaning the kitchen, yard work, exercise, social justice, and serving at the church …
Work consumes the lion's share of our lives. So why don't we talk about it more often in the church? We need to talk about it. The question is: How?
Work and discipleship
Well our teaching on work has to grow out of our teaching on discipleship. The longer I follow Jesus, the more I see discipleship as the primary category for what this is all about. I would define discipleship as living as a student, or apprentice to Jesus. Making it your life's ambition to be with him, learn his teachings, become like him, and, in time, carry on his work in the world.
Discipleship is holistic. It has to do with the whole person, with all of us. What we call "spirituality," along with work, marriage, sex, money, environmental impact, community, health, and on down the list. Every single category in our life needs to come under apprenticeship to our Rabbi, Jesus.
Most of us don't think about Jesus as a worker who was really good at his job. But he was. In fact, people even called him master. He had a trade. Remember that before he was a well-known Rabbi, he was a techton working in obscurity for three decades. Working hard six days a week, and then resting on the Sabbath, as an act of worship, and then doing it all over again.
If Jesus came today he could have been a software engineer, a high school drama teacher, a graphic novel writer, a diesel mechanic, or a journalist for the New York Times. In other words, he could very well do what our people do. He could live in their house or apartment, work their job, have their education and skill set, and none of that would keep him from 24/7 life in the kingdom of God.
So the central question of every disciple of Jesus is this: If Jesus were me, if he lived in my city, had my job, my income, my relationships, my personality, how would he live? That is the question. But it's a question we don't ask nearly enough.
At my church we have newly married groups because we really believe that marriage matters, and that if we're going to follow Jesus, we need to be good spouses. But why don't we have "newly hired accountant" groups and "newly hired investment banker" groups and "newly hired fireman (or woman)" groups? After all, if we really believe that what we do matters, and if we're going to follow Jesus, than we need to be good accountants, investment bankers, and fire-people.