Business As Mission: Some thoughts…from Evan
What does endemic poverty or political corruption have to do with redemption?
I have been learning about ways in which God has commanded us to interact with the world and how the Kingdom of Heaven is supposed to look on Earth. As a result, I have also seen parts of the picture we as Christians have overlooked in the past few generations and that oversight has become the norm.
As modern Christians our paradigm of the nature of sin has so narrowed that we no longer even recognize how the world is broken. Our command to “disciple the nations” has broken down to “save souls” or “plant churches.” And that seems to be mostly what we do. That's a good thing and important. But it’s also a very small view of the divine narrative; God working to redeem the whole of creation. It is the story from Genesis through Revelation. We have learned to read only a small part of it, and that through a lens.
The first two chapters of Genesis is the account of God's creation and the value He invests in it. At every step God said, “It is good.” This includes work, companionship, stewardship, the whole physical and spiritual world that He had created. There is nothing – not even the physical – which is not good. When our first two ancestors messed up this balanced system the entire rest of the Bible is the story of God redeeming the world to Himself and bringing in the values and characteristics of the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth through those who obey Him. The Ten Commandments are a boiled down, concentrated slurry of values that describe the heart of God; firstly, who God is and who we are. Then how we are to interact with God, each other and the rest of the world. The book of Deuteronomy is the practical interpretation of those laws in that time and place. It is a concrete example of how God wanted to “bless the nations” through Israel. Most of the time the statement to Abram (“the peoples of the Earth will be blessed through you” Genesis 12:3), is spiritualized. The interpretation is that eventually Jesus would be the blessing which came through Israel; which is true, but not really the point. In fact, the Old Testament is full of methods – not just theory – of how to build a community which reflects the values of God. It is one which not only takes care of itself, its own weak and vulnerable but also weak and vulnerable foreigners within its borders. It describes how to build a community that values government, economics, family, science and technology, communication, arts and entertainment, education, religious instruction, health care, law and justice and all the subcategories within those. In short, it is the discipleship of a nation. We have forgotten that and only disciple people. I believe that God is not a generalist; He does not desire a theoretical blessing. And He has given us the tools for real blessing without being a prosperity gospel.
Business As Mission is based on the understanding that God calls EVERYBODY to some kind of work. There is no sacred/secular divide – an artificial distinction between what we consider God-ordained and everything else. The sacred/secular divide can be lumped into broad categories. The first category might include missionaries, evangelists/church planters and pastors. The second category might include... well, everybody else, really. Apparently everybody else's primary job is to support “ministry work.”
Regarding the concept of “full-time ministry”… To indicate that a person is “called into full-time ministry” is to indicate that others are number one) not called. And number two) not doing ministry. This is to reassign value based on our own prejudice. More to the point, we are nullifying the value that God has assigned, saying, “I know better than God what is sacred,” and then saying the work we are doing is God-ordained. When God has deemed a thing as sacred, it is not our place to deem it otherwise.
A less extreme example but at least as prevalent and harmful is what I will call the Spectrum of Holiness. At the top you've got missionaries and pastors; typical ministry work. Next there are the doctors, aid workers; humanitarian type work. Slightly below that are teachers and social workers. Then there are just the people with jobs; poor souls. Not even on the spectrum are business owners, lawyers and politicians. They are the necessary evil because somebody has to do it. I've heard more than once the question posed whether real Christians could even participate in some of these professions because obviously a prerequisite must be moral leniency.
As a result, much of the redemption that Christ-followers are supposed to be injecting into culture (salt and light, remember?) has been long absent. We have abandoned governance, higher education, science and business professions to those who adamantly claim there is no standard by which to live. And then we wonder why our culture is going down the gurgler? Our culture has little remaining positive Christian influence in many realms because we have willingly abandoned the influence to whoever would like pick it up. The devil will not leave such an opportunity idle. Even worse, it is not an uncommon accusation from well-meaning Christians that to be successful or to have influence is un-biblical. So we tear down the Christians who might actually be in positions to most concretely affect the community when we should be holding them up and affirming their sacred calling.
Regarding the template that God laid out, the methods for discipling the nations are described in the Old Testament; much of it in the books that have been deemed by some to “not have any relevance to modern Christians because we are no longer under the Law.” To claim such is to miss the point of both the “Law” and the nature of redemption. The principles of discipling a nation are integrated into the Old Testament narrative. Though they are affirmed in the New Testament, they are not repeated. Therefore, if one was to only read the New Testament then Christianity is no longer redemption; it is reduced to sin-maintenance. True redemption effects all of creation, all of life; not just afterlife (John 10:10).
To say that much of our current practices and paradigm are wildly divergent from biblical principles of affecting a community is not mis-stating the situation. But though we have missed the mark (which happens to be the Hebrew understanding of sin, by the way), look at how open the way is for true transformation. God has not only sanctioned our involvement in business, politics, science, entertainment and the like – He has ordained those professions as holy and pleasing to Him. This is the freedom to fully embrace whatever God has gifted each of us to be and do even for those who are not pastors.