By Patricia Engler, Crosswalk.com
Well, this is a switch, I thought, peeling another sticker off the roll of barcodes and slapping it onto a used flowerpot. Had it really only been a month ago that I was improvising kids’ ministry under an avocado tree in Uganda? Or painting a palm tree mural on the walls of the orphanage? Or illustrating Bible narratives with animal balloons at village Sunday schools?
Standing behind the cash register at the quiet greenhouse, pricing pots while I waited for another customer, Uganda felt like a lifetime ago.
I know this is the place for me to be right now, I thought, saving funds so I can start college, earn a degree, and gain qualifications for a career in ministry. So, if this is where God wants me to be, I’m technically serving Him—just like in Uganda. But I don’t really feel like it.
I stuck a barcode on another pot.
How do you approach your job as ministry, no matter what God has you doing? That’s what I asked myself at the greenhouse, where I continued to work summer after summer until after college. It’s also what I’ve been asking other Christians from diverse career fields lately.
Based on their insights, my own observations, and some hints from Scripture, here are 7 ideas for how we as Christians can recognize our occupations as ministries:
1. Remember Whose You Are
Whether potting planters at the greenhouse or pushing a pencil at college, I could view whatever occupation God placed me in as ministry because I knew my life belonged to Him.
When we give our lives to Jesus, we don’t just give Him our Sunday morning selves; we give Him every aspect of our existence—including our occupations.
He wholly redeemed us, and we’re wholly His. That means everything we are belongs to Him, and everything we do, we do for Him. Like Paul encouraged believers in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving—but only if you’re in fulltime ministry.”
Wait a second. That’s not how the passage ends! Paul didn’t suggest that only people with “ministry careers” are serving God; He said whatever you do is serving God. For Christians, then, serving God and others through any occupation He places us in is, at the core, ministry.
2. Remember What Life Is
Of course, answering emails, changing diapers, or flipping burgers might not always feel like ministry. But viewing our vocations as ministries becomes a lot easier when we remember what life is: a short-term missions trip.
We only have breath under the sun for so long; only so many days to touch the lives around us before we—and they—enter the one-way gates of eternity. Did God give us those days solely so we could amass wealth, grasp a few threads of happiness, and take our ease before we die?
That’s how culture seems to view the purpose of life. But it’s not how Jesus viewed the purpose of His life, and He’s who we’re called to follow. (Preaching to myself here too!)
Whatever we do, then, we can approach our work as agents of God on a mission to do the good works He created us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Zachary Nelson
3. Remember Who You Represent
As ambassadors for God, we represent our Savior to those around us—including our colleagues, managers, clients, and everyone else we encounter at work. We reflect His light to them, wherever we are, for as Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-15).
Even a small light stands out for the way it contrasts with darkness. In the same way, we stand out when we represent Christ to others at work, letting the fruits of His spirit—including love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control—shine through our everyday attitudes and actions.
On the flip side, we can’t shine Christ’s light by looking like the darkness around us. In fact, if we call ourselves Christians but don’t look like Christ, the resulting hypocrisy gives others reason to blaspheme God (Romans 2:21-24). This is as true in the workplace as anywhere else.
4. Seek Opportunities to Serve
So, what are some practical ways to represent Christ in our careers? All we have to do to answer that is consider Jesus’s character, and how we can emulate it.
One of the most profound words summarizing Jesus’s life on earth is servant. Jesus said He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” setting an example of servanthood for us to follow by washing His disciples’ feet.
As Paul said in Philippians 2:5-8, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who…made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.”
Sometimes, serving means looking for opportunities to meet needs, even if that means going above and beyond our job description—like Jesus did when He noticed His disciples’ dirty feet. Or, serving might mean keeping an eye out for ways to bless others with surprise acts of kindness.
Even actions as simple as a spontaneous word of encouragement can go a long way to brightening someone’s day.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/debbiehelbing
5. Seek Opportunities to Pray
One especially practical channel through which to serve others, live missionally and make a difference in the workplace is prayer.
Whether praying silently for the people you come across at work, turning our thoughts to God throughout the workday, letting others know we’re praying for them, or even praying with co-workers on the spot, as it’s appropriate, there are countless ways to saturate work with prayer.
Best of all, prayer keeps us close to and in tune with God, letting us be effective in both ministry and work. We can ask Him for opportunities to bless, to love, and to share His hope, along with seeking His guidance and grace for our everyday tasks.
6. Be Ready to Give an Answer
Praying for opportunities to share the hope we have in Christ is one thing. But what do we do when those opportunities come up? The Apostle Peter urged believers to be prepared for such situations, saying, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
Many Christians link these verses to the importance of apologetics, the field of study which examines why a biblical worldview makes rational sense. Apologetics training helps us answer questions like, how do we know the Bible is true? If God exists, why is there evil in the world? Hasn’t science disproven the Bible? Did Jesus really claim to be God? And, how does Christianity compare with other worldviews?
These are some of the first questions people may ask when we begin to talk about our faith, and thousands of articles, books, videos, podcasts and other resources from trusted, biblical apologetics ministries can equip you to discuss them.
You don’t need to be the next C.S. Lewis or know the answer to every question a non-Christian might ask. But being willing to discuss these questions and knowing where to find biblical answers can go a long way.
Along with apologetics, another natural way to share your faith at work is by telling stories of what you’ve personally seen God do in your life—your testimony. No one can really argue with your own story! (Also, for ideas about how to start explaining the gospel when opportunities open up for you to share what you believe, see How to Use Genesis to Share Your Faith with Friends from Other Faiths).
7. Be Faithful
Ultimately, the heart of turning any work into ministry is to be faithful. When we’re faithful in our representation of Christ, faithful in serving, faithful in prayer, and faithful to the tasks set before us—even if it’s sticking barcodes on pots—we’re shining as “the lights of the world” in every corner of society.
Like the wise workers Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25, we can offer God our best in whatever task He gives us, living to hear our Master’s words, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:21).
The work might not always be glamourous—like painting palm trees on orphanage walls in Uganda. But through it, we can make a difference for those around us, loving God and others with all our strength, wherever He calls us. And that’s what life is all about.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/digitalskillet
Patricia Engler is a Christian apologetics speaker, writer and Youth Outreach Coordinator for Answers in Genesis Canada. After 12 years of homeschool and a B.Sc. degree, she backpacked 360°around the world documenting how Christian students keep their faith at university. You can follow her stories and get connected at www.patriciaengler.com or answersingenesis.org.