Can an office assistant or a research associate have influence for the Kingdom of God?
My new friend Allyse and her husband Shane met with me last week for lunch, and over gyros we discussed Allyse’s work. She has been working as an office assistant for a doctor who specializes in the care of autistic children and their families. I was really intrigued by Allyse's story because, even though she isn’t in a high place of leadership influence, she believes that God has called her to her role to have profound Kingdom influence.
She admits that when she was first hired for the position she thought of it as just a job, a way to earn some money to get by. But after about a year, Allyse began to see the doctor’s patients and their families as real people in desperate need of help and hope. Allyse saw a glimpse of the Kingdom in the healing work that was being done right before her eyes.
I asked her if she feels that her work as a doctor’s office assistant is a sacred calling.
Tears came to my eyes when she said “Oh, now I definitely see it as a sacred calling. I realize that the more I can help my office be efficient, and the more I can free the doctor to have more time to help these children and families, the more healing takes place and the more my world begins to be a picture of the Kingdom. My calling is to do the menial things that lead to more and better healing.”
Jesus said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Leadership in the Kingdom is upside down. In my book, Allyse is an influential Christian leader.
Our Work is Participation in God’s Mission
I have another new hero. His name is Matt. If you visited Matt’s office, you wouldn’t think of him as a mover and shaker for God’s glory. Most of his day is spent on the phone and in front of a computer answering emails, requesting data and developing spreadsheets.
Matt is a research associate whose everyday work helps find solutions for opportunity-poor communities within urban settings. By doing opportunity mapping the university-based social organization for which Matt works finds ways for people in those communities to have access to opportunities that lead to things like better jobs, healthcare, education and nutrition.
I asked Matt if he considers his modest role in the secular marketplace to be a part of God’s mission in the world. His reply echoed a sentiment I am hearing more and more often.
Matt said, “Within my everyday work I am confronted with the brokenness and injustice that God has called us to mend. In living in such overlap, it forces me to face the brokenness in our world, in our community, and in the work that I do. In facing it then, I experience the call to be part of renewal.”
Matt and his family have chosen to live in a low opportunity community like those his organization serves so that they can be part of God’s renewal in all aspects of their lives.
If Christian influencers are called to be part of Jesus’s mission to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, and that the oppressed will be set free (see Luke 4:16-21), Matt is truly a Christian Leader in the marketplace.
Allyse and Matt are part of a growing group of Jesus-followers who are redefining Christian leadership. They aren’t on upper rungs of organizational charts, leveraging high levels of corporate or civic influence. They don’t view their workplaces as personal platforms for evangelism and discipleship. They aren’t stewarding great sums of money, funding initiatives to change the course of culture.
This new generation of Christian marketplace leaders is quietly affecting influence, simply by grasping a vision of the Kingdom that Jesus described, and by doing their work in places and ways that help others in their communities experience the beauty and peace of that Kingdom.
This is a great encouragement to us everyday people who simply want our everyday work to be a meaningful part of God’s mission to renew our culture and restore our communities for His glory.
Doug Cooper is the Executive Director of Ashland Theological Seminary’s City Gates Initiative, a potent set of community-based learning opportunities and engagement experiences designed to prepare Christians to take part in God’s mission to renew their culture and restore their communities through their everyday work. Doug is also Founder and President of Coffee Growing Community, which partners with struggling individuals and groups among coffee reliant communities to identify and fund sustainable spiritual, economic and social development initiatives as tangible expressions of the love and compassion of Christ and His people.
© 2001 - 2014 H. E. Butt Foundation. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Laity Lodge and TheHighCalling.org. Article by Doug Cooper.