Why We Don’t Have to Choose Between Work and Worship

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The previous posts in this series explored two inappropriate postures for people of faith as it relates to their work lives. Here, we want to suggest another divide that occurs when we think we must decide between Christian work or secular work.

If the Work, then Worship paradigm risks understanding the faith life as playing handmaiden to our primary work identity—this misconception of Work or Worship risks making “worship” the only acceptable vocational occupation.

You may be familiar with someone who has deliberated about their work future in these terms: Do I take the Christian route and go into ministry (or acceptable human services field) or take the non-Christian route and go into a secular work field?

To provide an example, a close friend in an educational ministry once interviewed a successful middle-aged financial consultant who was considering a “jump into ministry” from his otherwise secular finance job. “I suppose the question is,” he pondered out loud, “whether I want my job to allow me to support those who are in ministry, or whether I want my job to be my ministry.” While understandable, we challenge the notion that one field is considered ministry, and one is not. Is there only one route by which “work” is worship?

While ministry is obviously work, the Work or Worship Divide suggests that the only form of legitimate work worthy of a Christian’s effort is a primary or secondary ministry position. The work or worship belief places many in a difficult situation. If we really love God and want our lives to totally reflect our worship of Him, should we reject work in a secular setting or a non-ministry vocation? Is it even permissible to work in the business world?

When we present work or worship as some kind of an ultimatum—we naturally risk moralizing one as good and the other as bad. This, of course, is a false choice. Skye Jethani, in his 2014 book “Futureville,” helpfully points out that any activity that facilitates order, points to beauty, or engenders abundance is rightly understood as Kingdom work. While this certainly incorporates those who find themselves within a specific ministry, it equally celebrates all participants across the work spectrum—from the hedge-fund manager, to the teacher, to the stay-at-home parent.

To present a choice of work or worship is to offer a false arrangement.


Kevin Brown and Mike Wiese are regular contributors to Faith and Work Collective. Thanks, guys!

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