Jimmy Buehler: Hi, this is Jimmy. Is God more pleased with missionaries and pastors than He is with stay-at-home moms and custodians? What does it even mean to be faithful and mature in our everyday Christian life?
Today on the podcast, Jon and I discuss maturity, vocation, and every day that we all experience in our Christian life. We’ll go after this over spiritualization and radical movement, and how it’s affected our thinking of our jobs and our vocations. In the members’ portion of the podcast, we discuss a hot topic: political spheres, and what does it mean for Christians to be involved in policy change and politics in general?
We hope this conversation is helpful for you. It certainly was for us. Thanks for listening.
Something that our church has been doing is we’ve been walking through the Lord’s Prayer and looking at the different petitions that Christ has given us to ask of the Lord. In this past week in our church, we looked at “Give us this day our daily bread.” One of the things that I pose to our church is the question, “Have you ever stopped to consider how it is that God answers that petition?” That opened up a whole conversation about the doctrine of vocation and what it is that we do on a daily basis.
We consume Christian podcasts, we read books, we listen to sermons, and we do all of these things that are “spiritual”, but the fact of the matter is that every single day, the majority of our time is spent doing very mundane, everyday things. What happens is we can have this dichotomy, which we will begin to deconstruct here in a moment. We can begin to have this dichotomy where this is when I do my spiritual thing, listening to Theocast on the way to work, and then when I get to work, this is when I do my everyday thing – I fill out reports or I am a teacher or a doctor or whatever it is that you do.
What we want to talk about today is the everyday madness of the Christian life specifically in regard to vocation and how we tend to under spiritualizing or over-spiritualize some of these things.
Jon Moffitt: I’ve only been a full-time pastor for the last 10 to 12 years. Before that I was bi-vocational and right now, technically I’m still bi-vocational. I worked in the secular world for the majority of my life. I worked for Apple and had a career for Apple, and before that, I worked for Stanford Hospital. So the majority of my Christian life and my adult life were not spent as a full-time pastor. I remember thinking, “Oh, I can’t wait until all I do is Christian work when all I do is read Scripture and study and shepherd. I had in my mind that that was where the real work of the Christian life is done; that God really uses people is in those who have the vocation of ministry.
Luther really came after this during the Protestant Reformation, because there were people who thought if they could just be monks or priests, then that’s where God really comes in and uses and transforms the world and transforms lives. Luther completely flipped it on its head began to help people understand that God is not just using one vocation to accomplish His mission.
You can correct me if I’m wrong here, Jimmy, but I would say the majority of the world does have this sense of the pastors doing the work of the ministry and everyone else is just not necessary for the advancement of the Kingdom. That’s how we see it in those two lights.
Jimmy Buehler: Referencing what I said earlier, we often create this false dichotomy. That isn’t to say that we don’t believe that pastors, missionaries, and those who are in full-time, or we should say, paid vocational ministry are unimportant and that there’s no distinction. Certainly, the work that you and I do as pastors and the missionaries that we know is valid and important. Not everyone is called to be a pastor. Something I like to say is we have given our lives to this work; we have given our lives to the studying of Scripture and the proclamation of the Gospel to sinners. There is uniqueness there.
However, I think when we misunderstand the doctrine of vocation. What we begin to do is we take this spiritual hierarchy where the work of the pastor almost becomes Roman Catholic where it’s like we are the Pope or we are the Cardinals and everyone else has these mere underlings that work to serve us in the church, so to speak, because we bring them the Bible each and every week.
What we want to do is encourage the everyday listener. Perhaps you are listening right now do not work in the ministry. Maybe you are an accountant, or you breed dogs, or you are a farmer or whatever it is may be that you do. What we want to do is encourage you in your vocation in terms of how you think of it and how you process it.
Jon, I’m going to throw this question out to you. I’ve had this conversation before. You’re sitting in your pastoral counseling office and this person comes to you and they say, “You know, Pastor Jon, I just don’t feel very spiritual in what I do every single day.” How would you encourage that person?
Jon Moffitt: Those are conversations I have had and will have. When I worked retail or I worked in a hospital, it seemed like all I was doing was selling phones and selling computers and I wasn’t really impacting anybody’s life. I was just advancing a technology company. So I understand those feelings. It feels like day in and day out, I’m not impacting the world, I’m not doing anything for Christ, I didn’t share the gospel that day, I didn’t give money away that day, or I didn’t even make enough money to give money away. We have created the system that what I do on Sunday matters for God and what I do on Monday through Saturday doesn’t. What I do on Sunday advances the Kingdom and what I do on Monday doesn’t. We’ve created two worlds: the spiritual world and the unspiritual world. What we’re doing when we do this is that we are disconnecting how God works in this economy and in the world.
One of the two commands that we’ve been given is to love our neighbor, and the purpose of loving our neighbor, as Jesus said, is that the world will know that he has come. This unrealistic affection that we can show is a form of demonstrating the Gospel for people.
Now, I don’t think love is the Gospel, so don’t you hear us saying that. But the second thing that Paul says is that whatever our hand finds to do, we do it for the glory of God because it’s worthy of God’s praise. But there’s a part of the vocation that we don’t see and that is what God is accomplishing through what in our minds are meaningless tasks. We don’t see what God’s accomplishing. The first thing I will tell you is that your neighbor, to whom you are to love, is your co-worker, is your customer. If you serve them well, you serve them right, and you do right by them, and you do it for God’s praise and God’s glory, then that is just as important in advancing the Kingdom as it is of the sermon that’s being preached on Sunday. I know that sounds like there’s no way me selling, mowing the lawn, or changing the diaper are the same as the pastor preaching the Gospel but it is. According to Scripture, it actually is.
Jimmy Buehler: I think this comes up more frequently than we like to think. Often what you can hear from churches, or what you can hear from the pulpit, is this idea that the workplace is your mission field. To some degree, I appreciate the sentiment, but here in lies the rub that your workplace cannot be your mission field if you are a bad employee. I’m just going to say that flat out. If you cut corners or procrastinate or create a crisis for people at work because you’re too busy evangelizing at the water cooler, I just don’t think that works. I don’t think that’s how God has designed it to be.
Again, I’m being a little bit dramatic here. Jon, you’re bi-vocational. I myself am bi-vocational. Every day, Monday through Friday, I am faced with 20-plus students for eight hours a day sitting in front of me. They depend on me to deliver curriculum, and their parents depend on me – in fact, their parents pay a good amount of money for their kids to sit in front of me and learn from me. Now what if every day I just said, “Look, I’m bi-vocational and you guys are here to learn but I just really have to do some things. I’m going to flip on a movie and you guys will figure it out.” I don’t understand how that’s either honoring to the Lord or honoring to the people that are sitting in front of me. No, rather I have to understand that, yes, I have some unique challenges being bi-vocational but I think part of me being “spiritual” is coming to school showing up on time, being a respectable employee, honoring my authority that I worked under, honoring the coworkers that I work alongside with, letting my yes be yes and my no be no, and teaching to the glory of God and the good of my students. The same could be for if you’re a doctor – we don’t want you to cut corners. If I’m dying, I want to know some treatments. Please share the Gospel with me but also point me to some medications that I could use that could take away this pain.
I want us to be so careful that we don’t create this false dichotomy that even at work, we can come in and say, “I’m going to do a really spiritual thing by talking to my coworker about my church service.” There’s nothing wrong with that but when you’re doing it at the expense of actually doing your job, you’re actually undermining what we’re trying to talk about here, which is the doctrine of vocation, that when you go to work, do your job well. Fill out those reports and fill them out correctly the first time, rather than creating crisis for everybody around you to pick up.
Jon Moffitt: Some people think about choosing their careers. When someone chooses to go into ministry, it seems like this is such a big deal. But choosing a career can sound less important and God’s not really involved in it. What Luther was arguing for is that people can be called a cobbler, they can be called to shoe horses, to be a printer, to be a restaurant owner, where God is calling him into that. This is their purpose. This is what they should be doing because this is how God’s going to use them to advance His Kingdom. The advancement of the Kingdom comes through Christians who obey God, who love God, who do it for His glory and love their neighbor. That’s how God uses us to advance His Kingdom, which I know sounds crazy. We think the advancement of the Kingdom only happens when the Gospel is being preached.
Jimmy Buehler: There are so many things that need to occur in order for that to take place. Jon and I receive some monetary funding from our churches in order to do the work of the ministry. What would happen if nobody in our church faithfully woke up each morning and went to their jobs and brought home finances and they gave those to the church? It would be really difficult on us. It would be really difficult on our families.
I have very specific people in mind at our church that often struggle with what it is they do. Is it important? How does me raising this crop or how does me doing this job or selling this product… what does this have to do with the ever beautiful doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone? It has a lot to do with it because your job enables you to meet people. It enables food to be grown. It enables products to be sold that help us all live our everyday lives. It helps fund ministries. It helps fund people. It helps fund pastors and missionaries. Again, I think often we can over-spiritualize, and almost under spiritualize at the same time, what it is that we do on an everyday basis.
Jon Moffitt: I couldn’t agree with you more. One of the things that we forget is that we don’t live in the church building. We’ve been programmed to think that the worship of God only happens on Sunday morning at 10:00 AM when the worship pastor – which is a weird title to me – strums his first string. It’s like now we’re worshiping.
Jimmy Buehler: All pastors are worship pastors, by the way.
Jon Moffitt: Exactly. Worship happens when we are living in the reality of our justification. When we think about how we have been set free from the bondage of sin, that God loves us as he loves His Son, we are adopted, we have all the benefits of Christ now we go and live in light of that. We love, we eat, we drink, we sleep, we work, all-knowing that we are a part of God’s great family and a part of God’s great mission. The way in which God is accomplishing this mission is how I love my kids, it’s how I love my neighbors, it’s how well I do my job, because God is in me transforming me, using me for the advancement of His Kingdom.
I said this last night in our men’s Bible study: can God just take home to heaven individuals whom He loves? Yes. Because He has on a fiery chariot. Boom. Gone into heaven. But God in His wisdom has decided that He is leading His children here for the purpose of a mission, and that mission is to advance His Kingdom and that the lost sheep of the world would be found well. If we’re going to have to be a part of that mission, we’re going to need jobs because we’re going to need us to provide for our families. And it’s not like, “I need to provide for my family so I’m going to go do that.” No. Even in accomplishing your job, if it’s selling laundry detergent, if it’s selling cars, you are a part of God’s advancement of His Kingdom and every person you come in contact with, for God’s glory and for their benefit and for demonstrating love, you do that job and you do it well, and you do it out of love and concern.
If you’re in a vocation where there’s dishonesty happening, like you’re lying or you’re stealing, that’s going to be a hard job to do for the glory of God. Leave that job. That is not what God wants you to do. I don’t care how much money you’re making. If you’re lying to make money, and you know it’s a lie, then change jobs.
Jimmy Buehler: I think particularly this is where I want to encourage young moms, because if there’s any demographic that is listening to us that struggle the most on a day-to-day basis with just monotony and frustrations, it’s young moms who have two, three, or four-year-olds at home in a thankless job. They’re waking up, they’re changing diapers, and they’re giving meals that often get thrown on the floor or not are not thankfully received.
Jon Moffitt: There’s a lot of criticism and hardly any thinking.
Jimmy Buehler: That’s exactly right. Just to encourage the young moms that when you discipline your child for the thousandth time, or when you make chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese, or you try to give them healthy meals and it’s not gratefully received, you can take comfort and rest in the fact that you are doing that which God has given you to do. A lot of times I will hear young moms be frustrated because they have so little time to read their Bibles. They have so little time to spend expended minutes and hours in prayer because they’re just constantly being yelled at and pulled at, and they’re incessantly disciplining and different things like that. I just want to say to them to take good courage and faith and rest that the Lord Jesus Christ understands your situation; He very much gets it.
I’ll never forget when we had our first child. Having your first kid kind of rocks your world, doesn’t it? You don’t even remember things you used to do before having kids. What did we do at night when we didn’t have kids? I don’t even know. My wife and I would joke about that all the time.
I just remember feeling so tired and “spiritually lethargic”. I was talking to another pastor and he just put his hands on my shoulders and says, “Jimmy, you don’t think that the Lord Jesus Christ understands that? You don’t think that he gets it?” Oftentimes we think, and I’m just talking to young moms or young parents, that it’s like God has graciously given us these children because He thought you could handle it, and that it would step up your spiritual game. At the end of the day, I think God is far more merciful than that. It’s like He is saying, “I gave you a kid and boy, do I know that it’s tough. It is hard. That’s why I made him cute – so you wouldn’t kill him.” Right?
I just want to encourage the young moms. Luther once said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that often the mom that is changing diapers is far more spiritual than the monk who is babbling Psalms for hours on end in the monastery. That when you change diapers and you help your kids to be nourished, fed, and disciplined, you’re doing the Lord’s work in your home. Take rest and comfort and joy and peace and faith. This is what God has provided for you to do in this time of your life, and praise be to His name.
Jon Moffitt: The pressure that most people feel has come from the revivalism and the missions movement, and while they did produce some good things, but it also created some really bad influences on Christianity.
In the new radical movement, there are the lazy Christians who aren’t taking their faith seriously. Then there are the Christians who are doing the radical opposite of the lazy Christians and they are taking their faith serious, selling their homes and moving to Ecuador, they are evangelizing while living on nothing because for them, it’s more important that the gospel be advanced and live on nothing than it is to change a diaper.
I’ve told this story before. There was a couple that read about the radical movement and they got rid of all their jobs. In six months they were living in Haiti and they had a little nine-month-old who is starting to crawl. The mother was always carrying the baby around. She felt guilty and wanted to buy this $40 mat because in Haiti, everything was just filthy. She wanted her kid to have somewhere to play on the ground and not get dirty. She felt guilty that she could use that $40 for something else, which I immediately opened up my wallet and handed her a $50 bill and told her to buy it.
There was this pressure on her that it was an unspiritual thing to take care of her daughter. Let’s be frank – it wasn’t like she was wanting to buy some gold toys for her kid to play with. It’s not unrealistic to take care of your kid in that way so that they’re not filthy at the end of the day. Moms feel this pressure that what they do doesn’t matter, that changing a poopy diaper, making mac and cheese do not do anything for the Kingdom of God. Then they look at the person who is helping the homeless, who is changing the world through their blog, they have a YouTube channel, or they’ve written these books. I’ve had this conversation with my wife where there’s this pressure to be not just a mom anymore – you need to be side hustling. You’ve got to have your own Etsy page. Then you can be the Proverbs 31 woman who is bringing in this extra cash in to help the homeless. Or if you’ve got three kids and you’re not adopting all these kids who don’t have parents, then you’re not doing your part.
Whoa, stop. Just stop. That is nowhere in Scripture. Do you see the apostle Paul calling the church to live that kind of life? He calls us to the ordinary. I love Michael Horton’s book Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World because how does God advance His Kingdom? It’s through ordinary people doing ordinary things for the glory of God, loving and caring for each other, where you are supporting those children, you’re influencing them, and you are forming and shaping them every single day. That mundane job is absolutely important because it’s what God has called you to. You don’t know what God’s going to use that person for, but you do know that God is in charge and this is where God has you. You can take full comfort in knowing this is where God has you right now, and you will do your job and I’m going to love God.
Jimmy Buehler: In a kind of a twisted way, when we have this mindset that everybody must be out there on the street corner evangelizing, we actually undermine Gospel ministry. I think we can undermine Gospel ministry because in a way, it’s like looking at the pastors and the pioneer missionaries who do give their lives to these things and saying we can all do that. We don’t really need to pay you to do that because we can all just do it.
We have a guy in our church that is a pioneer missionary. He is doing some very difficult work and I want to be so careful to say we’re all doing our thing, your thing isn’t that important, and we’ve all got our own important ministries. To some degree that is true, but I want to look at him and say, “You’re doing a very difficult work and we love you and we support you. We realize that God has uniquely gifted you to do this work. We, as a church, want to come around you and support you in that way.”
I have a question for you, Jon, because we could be blowing up somebody’s world right now. I can hear the person sitting across the table from us right now and they’re asking this question, “Okay. What in the world then does it mean to be a mature Christian?”
All three of us have very similar kind of sayings. I think you say everyone has an equal need a grace. Justin says, “Imperfect people, perfect Savior.” We say, “ordinary people, extraordinary grace.” We have all these sayings but at the end of the day, the mission of our church is very simple: proclaim the Gospel to sinners and help them mature and grow in their faith. Now it’s that middle word right there where I can hear somebody say, “What does that mean? What does it look like for me to be a member of a church and be a mature Christian? Because you guys are throwing out all these categories right now, I’m just confused.” So, Jon, what do you tell someone who wants to know how they can be a mature Christian?
Jon Moffitt: say that’s a great desire. That’s wonderful. Paul rebukes some of the church for being babies in the word. I know where you’re going with this: we often think maturity has to do with action, and that mature Christians are the ones who are on the front line and holding up the pickets; they’re evangelizing and they’re running Bible studies.
I just don’t see Paul describing maturity in that way. Now he does say that mature women of the church should mentor and love and care for the younger women. Same thing with the men in the faith. Just because you have gray hair doesn’t mean you’re wise. I know a lot of people with gray hair who do not know anything when it comes to the Bible and they’ve been Christians their whole lives. Paul’s the one rebuking you. What he is going after is that the person who has been seasoned in their faith and where they are resting… I want to go to Paul in 2 Corinthians where he says, “In my weakness,” he’s talking about the thorn in the flesh, “when I’m going through suffering, and persecution,” and he even says calamity. The way I describe calamity is a deer jumping in front of my car and totals my car. It wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t the deer’s fault. It’s just this bad thing that happened. He says in all of these, what’s being exposed is his weakness. “And when I am weak, therefore I am strong.” What does he mean? Jesus tells me that God’s grace is sufficient to get me through. A mature person understands that they live in the grace of God and that they are very weak, and without the grace of God, they cannot accomplish anything at all. They cannot accomplish being a parent, they cannot accomplish being an employee, and they cannot accomplish being a citizen of their country without the grace of God. Mature Christians live every single day in the weakness of their flesh, in the weakness of their spirituality, trusting in Christ. Where we mature is a greater and greater and greater trust in the mercy of God to get us through our everyday lives.
Immaturity is people who equate their maturity on their personal actions: if I’m doing this, I’m a good person. If I’m reading and evangelizing, if I’m giving, if I’m praying – all of these actions equate to maturity. But Paul talks about the attitude of the mature: the attitude of the mature is patient, kind, merciful, long-suffering, giving – that’s how he describes a mature Christian. We described mature Christians as the ones who are on the frontline who are radically doing something, and I just don’t see that.
Jimmy Buehler: We create a category that doesn’t exist when we say a true mature Christian is the one who voraciously works through their Bible reading plan and systematically has a guided prayer life. Hear us when we say, I know we go at this all the time and it makes people so uncomfortable, but I still see it. I still see it on Twitter. People be hating, but that’s fine. Hear us when we say that reading the Bible is, is a good thing. Certainly, prayer is a great and wonderful thing. But when somebody comes to Christ Community Church and they say, “We want to be a member. What is it like to be a mature member at this church?” What I would tell them is we would love for them to trust Christ, to walk in repentance over their sin, to faithfully love and serve this body, and to live out your everyday life and your vocation and responsibilities for the glory of God and the good of your neighbor. Just really simple things. I’m not going to hand you a Bible reading plan and a prayer list because I don’t want to add things to you. What I want you to see is that it’s our job as a church to point you to Christ, to confront you in your sin, and to help you to walk in repentance and to come around you as a body. It’s your responsibility as a member of this church to live out your everyday responsibilities, to do your job, and to be faithful in those things.
Often maturity in the Christian life looks so ordinary: you love those around you, you take care of your family, you serve the body, and you participate in the life of the church through word and sacrament, if you will, you go to work and you don’t cut corners, you honor your boss, and you exist “for the good of your company”. It’s okay to be very normal and average and ordinary because that’s maturity.
Jon Moffitt: This just goes back to Ephesians 4 here it says, “When the body functions properly, it builds itself up in love.” What’s interesting in that context is he says there are all these body members, and then there are gifts for the church: these are the teachers, preachers, and evangelists. God uses these to instruct and build up the church. So you have people who have been gifted in the word and they come in and they administer grace to these people. Then those who are a part of the body, they then use their gifts. We’ve all been gifted with grace and mercy and kindness and benevolence. There are people who are in our church who are gifted with evangelism. But when we’re all using it, the mature Christian understands that his role is to love and care for his congregation. When he plays his role as the hand, the foot, the eye, the mouth, the ear, or whatever it is God has him doing, he is advancing God’s Kingdom. Unfortunately, we have just created this world where we individualize our role as a Christian, and that mature Christians are these radical Christians who have these self-motivations.
There are all kinds of things that are going on there. I look at Paul in the New Testament and it seems like he just flattens everything out and says, “When the body functions,” not the pastor, not the radical missionary, he says, “When the body functions properly, that’s when the work of God has accomplished.” It’s incredible. Jimmy and I don’t feel the pressure that our churches will succeed if we succeed. We understand that our church will succeed as Christ comes in and he empowers every single body member to do his or her part. Then our church will succeed. I couldn’t live with that pressure – it’s too much.
Certainly, I see a distinction in roles. Allow Jon and I and our elders to come to you week in and week out on the Lord’s Day and point you to the fact that you are a great sinner, but you have a great Savior. Now go live in light of that reality as you parent and as you work and as you drive and as you provide, go live. It is our job as pastors and elders of Christ’s church to point you to the truth of the Gospel and to remind you of God’s Law and His perfection, that you are indeed a great sinner and there is nothing that you could actually do to merit His love or His favor. Yet this is why Christ has come: that Christ has lived, Christ has died, and Christ will come again – and he has done so on your behalf. It is our job to point you to that reality. Your “responsibility”, and I’m using that term very loosely, is to trust that and live in light of that – to live status forward. God is so good and so gracious and kind, and I get a weekly reminder of that reality.
It’s my turn to throw something at you and we’ll use it in the members’ podcast. One of the things that’s coming up right now is the Christian’s involvement in government and the transformation and change in the government. I know we have worldwide listeners so some people who listen may or may not understand what I’m about to say, maybe they will, but we have set it up to where a good American is a good Christian and a good Christian is a good American. The church is in a weird spot because we’re mixing those two. There’s a lot of bickering, a lot of fighting going on, and it’s almost as if it’s the responsibility of the Christian to save America in our context. There’s the belief that God’s not blessing America because the church isn’t doing its job. Now the radical good Christian are the ones who are moving in this direction. So I think in the members’ podcast, it would be good for us to talk about the involvement of government and vocation.
Should Christians be involved in politics? What does that look like as it relates to our vocation? There was also William Wilberforce who was involved in those things and was a Christian. We’ll save that for the members’ podcast.
Jimmy Buehler: I like where we’re going. Well, thank you for listening. We certainly hope that this podcast has brought you rest and pointed you to the fact that Christ is sufficient even in your day to day, every day, vocational life. What you do matters. It very much matters.
I want to leave you with this small illustration, and maybe we can link the video. We have an Ask Theocast video – it’s either coming out or will be out by the time this podcast is edited and released – where answer the question, “What does it look like to be a faithful Christian?” in a five-minute video. In there I share an illustration of everyday when our family sits down for a meal. Our middle son, Owen, who loves farming, will remind us as we eat meat, or we eat vegetables, or we eat bread that these things were grown in raised by farmers. He just loves farms and farming. And, and I will say, “That’s absolutely right, buddy. These things were grown by farmers.” In that moment, my five-year-old understands the doctrine of vocation. We have a farmer in our church that goes to work every day and he raises crops and pigs – and his job is so important. Why? Because he feeds people and he helps create a whole industry because he’s got to sell those hogs and crops, we’ll have to transport it since it has to go the store and people need to sell it. Then I have to go the store and buy it, so it ends up on our table. When we pray, and I’m going back to the beginning of this podcast, how does God answer the prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread”? He answers it through you. He answers it through fellow sinners who do their jobs and their vocations to the glory of God and the good of their neighbor. So when you go to work tomorrow or when you go to work today, just remember that and keep in mind that when you fill out that report or when you discipline your kid, God is using that for the advancement of the Gospel and the good of those around you.
We hope that this podcast was helpful for you. We’d ask that you would go and leave us a good review, please, on wherever it is that you get your podcasts. That certainly helps us a lot. We read them and it’s so encouraging for us to read how God is using this ministry and our vocations in this ministry to help people to find rest in Christ.
We’re going to head over into our members’ podcast right now. If you want more information about what that is, you can log on to theocast.org and look at our total access membership where you can come into a little bit more resources and other fun things that we have just for members only.
Thank you for listening. We certainly hope that it helps you find rest in Christ. We look forward to bringing you more podcasts and resources like this in the future.