One of the keys to living a missional life is to live holistically by not compartmentalizing life into the two categories of “the sacred” and “the secular.” We tend to consider church, small groups, devotional times, and service as the sacred parts of our lives and exercise, entertainment, working, and studying into the secular parts of our lives. I’d like to give a few reasons why this is a false dichotomy.
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Everything Is Worship
Worship is not a matter of what we are doing. Worship is a matter of why we are doing it and who we are doing it for. By this definition nothing is sacred or secular. Everything can be sacred if done with the right motives and for the right person.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24
Paul was writing this to slaves, giving them advice on how to work for their masters. Slavery in that day was more like employment, not like the forced slavery of an ethnic group like we see in the history of our country. Paul, then, was telling people that they could make work into worship if they worked with the right motives (“as working for the Lord”) and for the right person (“It is the Lord Christ you are serving”). Worship is not confined to what we do within the walls of our church buildings. We can worship within the walls of our classrooms, warehouses, offices, and homes.
“For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” I Timothy 4:3-4
In Paul’s day, like our own, religious people take morally neutral things such as money, food, arts, TV, exercise, sports, and entertainment and categorize them into categories of good or evil. Paul is telling us that these things are morally neutral. What makes them good or evil is how they are used. They can be used for evil or they can be used for worship. Again, what makes the difference is the motive (“if it is received with thanksgiving”) and to whom you’re thankful (God). Worship is not confined to music, meditation, prayer, and scripture reading. We can worship as we exercise, watch TV, go to a ballgame, create art, make music, study, and party with friends.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” I Corinthians 10:31
Everything Is Ministry
Ministry is not a matter of religious activities such as service projects, prayer groups, Bible studies, and evangelism. Ministry happens all around us as we simply live, work, and play with others. Anytime life is shared, ministry is happening. This is the way the gospel spread from the time the church began.
“While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.” Acts 17:16-17
Notice where Paul did ministry. He did it in the synagogue and in the marketplace. Notice when he did ministry. He did it day after day. Read the book of Acts and you will see that almost all of the miracles and stories of salvation take place in the marketplace, schools, homes, and streets. This is how God intended the gospel to grow.
“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.” I Thessalonians 2:8-9
Notice where Paul did ministry. He did it in the marketplace. Notice when he did ministry. He did it “night and day.” Paul worked an everyday job as a tent maker (Acts 18). He ministered to the people of Thessalonica as he worked. The revival described in Thessalonians chapter one began in the marketplace. Paul did not divide the sacred world from the secular world. Everyday life was ministry.
Justin Christopher is the national campus director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Project and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.