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Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

How Flying Helicopters Is A Way To Really Serve The Lord

Not long ago, I had a conversation with a young man in my office I’ll call “Jason.” He is in his early 20s, a committed follower of Christ, and a graduate of Bible school.

Jason loves to participate in street evangelism. His greatest thrill in life is to lead someone to the Lord. Wonderful! A remarkable young man.

When I ask him what profession he wants to pursue, Jason turns his head to the side, looks up at the ceiling, utters the words "Forgive me Lord,” and then (looking me straight in the eye), declares: "I want to fly helicopters."

Flying really interests Jason, and he's particularly fond of helicopters. He loves everything about them. He tells me he wants to lift logs out of forests, in logging operations. Yet, it is evident Jason feels tension in his life because he doesn’t see how flying helicopters is a way to really serve the Lord.

I ask Jason if he is aware of the First Commission. He says he hasn’t heard of the First Commission, so I turn his attention to Genesis 1:26-28. Here is how it reads in The Message:

God spoke: "Let us make human beings in our image, make them
      reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
      the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself..."
     He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
     "Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!..."

The Amplified Bible translates verse 28 like this: “And God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it [using all its vast resources in the service of God and man]…”

I shared with Jason how flying a helicopter in logging operations fits beautifully into the fulfillment of our job description, to steward God's creation. He could directly serve God and indirectly love people by lifting trees from forests so they can be hauled to mills and cut into lumber for building homes.

Jason's face lit up. He had an epiphany. "I never thought of that!" he said. He suddenly saw a way to participate in the First Commission of Genesis 1:26-28 and the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. Both. 

He seemed to shed 420 pounds in an instant.

Using all its vast resources in the service of God and man...Take charge!

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Like Shooting A Few Sacred Cows

The Sacred-Secular Divide is a mental problem that affects us more than we realize. Mark Greene calls it, “SSD.” Sounds like a disease, doesn’t it? Dr. David Scott, a professor of theology at Southern Evangelical Seminary, calls it a “mental virus.” See his essay, A Church Without A View.

It doesn’t sound very nice to say it, but we really do have a mental problem. The “virus” is so deeply embedded in our brains that we assume the Sacred-Secular Divide is a normal, natural, and even necessary way of thinking.

This is a huge part of the problem. We think this way of thinking is normal! Some may even like the Sacred-Secular Divide. It might feel good to be known as a person who is “in full-time Christian ministry.” It has a nice ring to it. Many have done a lot, given up a lot, or paid a lot to earn that distinction. Others dream about it. “Someday,” they think, “I will quit my job (or retire) and go into the ministry.” 

Go into the ministry? What does that mean? Aren't we "in the ministry" wherever we go?

Was Jesus "in the ministry" during the eighteen years He spent as a carpenter? Was He doing what His Father showed Him to do during those years as much as the last three? Actually, Jesus was in the ministry of carpentry. And this is no joke.

Nearly 500 years ago, Martin Luther tried to rid the church of the notion that some people have “special” calls: “Monastic vows rest on the false assumption that there is a special calling, a vocation, to which superior Christians are invited to observe the counsels of perfection while ordinary Christians fulfill only the commands; but there is simply no special religious vocation since the call of God comes to each at the common tasks.”

For Luther, such common tasks included milking cows and changing babies’ diapers. These things, too, are “the Lord’s work.” But if you or I were to ask one hundred Christians to give six examples of “the Lord’s work,” I doubt if milking cows would be mentioned.

Speaking of cows, I’m convinced that ridding ourselves of SSD requires some hard decisions, like shooting a few sacred cows. While the thought of shooting cows may be unpleasant, I think it's necessary.

To be continued.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

The Most Important Talk At Lausanne

"We honor, celebrate and tell stories about pastors, preachers, worship leaders, missionaries and social activists,” Mark Greene told his audience at the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelism, in Cape Town last October, “but we almost never hear stories about cleaners, or bus drivers, or lawyers, or bankers, or politicians."

Why is this the case?

Greene, a leader in the marketplace movement, told his Cape Town audience that we have a “systemic” problem: "The good seed of the marketplace movement,” he declared, “is being planted in poor soil. So it will not matter how much we water that soil, or how diligently we seek to nurture the seed, how we protect the plant from disease. The soil is deeply affected by the Sacred-Secular Divide."

This is the truth. The church has been so infected by “SSD,” [Greene's shorthand for the Sacred-Secular Divide], that no matter how much we try to nurture the marketplace movement, it can’t blossom as long as the soil in which it is planted is leached of nutrients.

“We may know in our heads that the Gospel embraces every area of life,” Greene said, “but this is not the Gospel we have been teaching people to live, or celebrating when they do.”

"There are two strategies to reach the world,” Greene maintains. “The first one is to recruit the people of God to use some of their leisure time to join the missionary initiatives of church-paid workers. And the second one is to equip the people of God for fruitful mission in all of their life.”

The first strategy has been the predominant approach of evangelical churches for decades. The second is in need of reformation through elimination of the "SSD" problem.  

Greene, the author of Thank God It's Monday, is the Executive Director of the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity. This organization, founded in 1982 by John Stott, is based on the premise that “every part of our lives comes under the Lordship of Christ, and that all of life is a context for worship, mission, ministry and active Christian engagement."

Bill Peel, co-author of Going Public With Your Faith, and Executive Director of the LeTourneau Center for Faith and Work, says Geene’s Cape Town speech, “may be the most important talk at Lausanne.”

Watch an edited version here: People At Work.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

The Neverland Of Our Times

When Luke (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) wrote, "He is Lord of all" (Acts 10:36), I don't think he meant to imply that Jesus is just Lord of all who believe He is Lord. The fact is, Christ's authority applies to everyone, whether His authority is recognized or not. 

Christ is the Head of the University of Washington whether the Board of Regents acknowledges Him as such or not. If the Board has any authority at all (and it does), it is only because God grants it authority. Jesus made this clear at His own trial, when He said to Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above." (John 19:11)

So when we add up the fact that the universe is held together by the command of Christ, and that everything and everyone on the planet is owned by Him, and that all authority is given unto Him in heaven and earth, the only thing I can conclude is, the "secular world" is the Neverland of our times. We have talked about it so long we think it is actually there. But where exactly is this place?

The word secular comes from the Latin word saeculum, meaning an "age," or "long period of time." At one time, this word may have distinguished the temporal, time-bound realm from the eternal, but today the word goes far beyond that. It connotes things detached from God's business, existing outside the realm of His affairs, interests and authority. But the truth is, we can't get away from His business, interests or authority, no matter how hard we try. Even, as King David said, if we dwell in "the uttermost parts of the sea." (Psalm 139)

I suggest we drop the word "secular" altogether, and substitute the word "secularized." While we don't live in a secular world, we do live in a world that has been secularized by humans. There are no secular jobs, but many secularized jobs. The University of Washington is a secularized place, but not really a secular school.

Words can send unintended messages. Every time we use the word "secular" we reinforce the idea it exists. This makes it hard to eliminate the "sacred-secular distinction," as Nancy Pearcey describes it. So let's quit making the distinction altogether. 

See Where Exactly Is The Secular World?: http://youtu.be/gPPh3FCRlnc

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