Thursday, July 21, 2016

The False Dichotomy and the Ensuing Struggle

Are you ready for a controversial post (or what might turn into a series of posts)?
Ok, here we go...

"While we believe there is an inherent separation between things that are of God and of "not God," we uphold that what is often touted as the dichotomy between the sacred and secular is largely false. God is God of all. The Holy Spirit is also at work in practices that happen outside of what gets labeled "church" and "ministry." (From the book Faith Coaching)

That largely false dichotomy between sacred and secular bothers me. This divide between realms has been especially bothersome to me in light of our shift from our work cross-culturally (labeled missions) and our current situation stateside (labeled bi-vocational ministry).

As you know, historically we have sent out newsletters (or updates) every other month for over five years. Now, hear me when I say that I am not opposed to sharing what is happening in our life and ministry--but I am opposed to the idea that I am required to give a report because what we do falls into some sort of 'ministry' category that necessitates a report.  Let's flip it around -- I don't expect anyone to send me a report of what they do at their jobs at banks, schools, businesses, or engineering firms. Of course, amongst friends, I am more than happy to hear what you are doing and how God may be working through you in your workplaces, but I don't have the expectation that you will send me a newsletter outlining the details of that. So, that makes me wonder...why is this expected of me? Again, it's not that I don't want to share what is going on...but rather because I question the motivation of why it is 'expected' that I share. I think that the answer in that lies in the chasm that is created by this dichotomy.

That dichotomy has some nasty side effects. It can tempt those on the "ministry side" to embellish/skew/alter the news they share or even hide certain aspects of life. This is dangerous. This starts to effect one's own personal view of their life...or even their 'worthiness.'  On the other side of this dichotomy, someone who works on the "secular side" may question their worthiness in God's Kingdom. Yet, if we look at 1 Corinthians 10:31 which says -- "Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" -- then whether I work work at homeless shelter or on Wall Street, it matters only that I should be doing what I'm doing for the glory of God.

Is there a difference between things of Earth and things of Heaven? YES. But as the quote with which I started states..."God is God of all." I am both struck and stuck at the divide we create (and allow) between that which happens in the 'secular' work place and the 'ministry' work place. It gets even more complicated when you throw "raising support" into the discussion. (That might necessitate a 'part 2' to this blog post!) And now that I've sent Pandora's box lid flying, let me just say that I feel like I've only scratched the service. I think so far, we are merely looking at a meta-theme when it comes to dichotomies that exist in the Christian culture. We can get a lot smaller (and controversial) than this. Dare I mention the dichotomy that exists between stateside ministry vs. overseas missions OR missionaries to un-reached vs. reached cultures.

So...what do you think?

Do you believe this dichotomy exists?

Where do you see yourself acknowledging a gap where God doesn't intend one to exist?

Are there jobs that are more 'holy' or 'worthy' than others?  Would you rank these jobs as having different 'value' or 'significance': pastor, ditch digger, barista, doctor, missionary, stay-at-home mom, banker, teacher?

Clearly, this is something that I am pondering deeply, especially, since returning stateside. While I love a good debate, I hope my motivation for bringing this to light functions more to help close the gap that has been allowed between the 'secular and the spiritual'.  I mean, really, if you think about it...we'd live so much more integrated lives if we close that gap. Of course, that is far easier blogged than done.

[End rant.]

I'd love to hear your thoughts on all this.
Email me.
You can even push back a little.
Ready? GO!