On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan spoke to the people of West Berlin at the base of the Brandenburg Gate near the Berlin Wall. Listeners on both sides of the wall heard the address, which many consider to be the beginning of the end of the Cold War.
General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! ... Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
Watch President Reagan's speech in it's entirety here. The appeal to Gorbachev begins at 11:10 into the video.
A little later in the speech Reagan said,
I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner: "This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality." Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth.
The Brandenburg Gate was opened on November 9, 1989 and official demolition of the Wall began on 13 June 1990. The "fall of the Berlin Wall" paved the way for German reunification and signaled the fall of the Iron Curtain.
The Wall Dividing Faith and Work
During this same period of time, God has been at work to bring down another formidable wall—the wall that divides Sunday worship and Monday work. Often referred to as the Secular Sacred Divide, this ideological wall, with its truncated view of God’s work and vocation, cramped the faith and influence of millions of Christ’s followers. In doing so, it crippled the Church's ability to extend the transforming power of the gospel by relegating it to Sunday worship and private devotional life.
In 1989 at the Lausanne Conference on World Evangelism, three businessmen and a pastor—Bill Garrison, Lee Yih, Ford Madison, and Pete Hammond—presented papers explaining the importance of workplace Christians to the expansion of God’s kingdom. (Garrison indoctrinated and mentored me about faith and work as a young pastor.) The new millennium saw hundreds of faith-at-work organizations formed, building on the work of pioneers from previous decades like Richard Halverson (pastor and chaplain of the U.S.Senate), Dorothy Sayers (writer and theologian), and R. G. LeTourneau (businessman and inventor).
In 2010, I had the privilege of founding The Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University to champion the legacy of R. G. LeTourneau to help Christians see their work as a holy calling and experience Christ’s transforming presence in their workplaces. Since the University's founding, it has never been confused about the value of work to God’s world or the importance of the workplace to His kingdom mission.
Let's Don't Celebrate Too Soon
As we celebrate the 30-year anniversary of Berlin’s demolished wall and give thanks for progress made toward tearing down the wall between sacred and secular, there’s much left to do. As for Germany, a recent Wall Street Journal headline warned, “Europeans are Facing a New Divide: East and West are drifting apart again, 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall." A torn-down wall does not guarantee that "beliefs become reality" as wall graffiti proclaimed.
The same is true about the sacred-secular divide in the church. Although thousands of faith leaders have responded to the call to tear down the wall dividing faith and work. Michael Oh, CEO of today’s Lausanne Movement, published the following confession on behalf of the clergy (the 1%) in a startling article in Christianity Today entitled "An Apology to the Christian 99%, from the 1%."
I want to repent, on behalf of the 1%, for viewing the 99% of the church not in professional ministry as existing to support our ministry.
While the Secular-Sacred Wall is crumbling most people in the pews still rank themselves as second-class citizens in God’s kingdom, wondering if they need to leave their “secular” job and work at a church, mission agency, or parachurch ministry for their work to matter to God. That said, a growing number of Christians have embraced the truth that “holy calling” applies to pilots, painters, city-planners as well as pastors—yet they puzzle over how to live out their faith at work as whole-life disciples.
Turn Beliefs into Reality: Building Bridges
In order for “belief to become reality” we must not only work to eradicate the wall between sacred and secular, we must erect bridges that bring secular and sacred together, foster whole-life faith, and help Christ-followers close the gap between Sunday worship and Monday work.
Bridge One: Watch Your Words
A new language must be learned that honors all callings as equally significant to God. Since language is powerful, we can inadvertently fuel faulty thinking about how we are meant to glorify God. Work is the way God calls us to participate with Him in His work, whether as educators, bankers, plumbers, or pastors. All work that meets legitimate physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs should be termed “God’s work.” As followers of Christ we are all called to serve Him and are in “full-time service” or “ministry” whatever our honest work. Every workplace is a mission field, and every Christian worker is an ambassador for Christ. Every Christian has a “high calling” including those called to business and the world of work. All followers of Christ are called to glorify God by joyfully using their gifts to do good work, to love and serve others, and to please God in the daily tasks of their work, whether in a church or business, on a factory floor, at school, or in a home.
Bridge Two: Honor New Heroes
New heroes who take their faith to work must be identified and given voice. New leaders should be identified who are able to model and articulate a whole-life view of discipleship. The Bible is full of leaders like this. Seventy-five percent of the Bible's heroes had "secular" jobs. Joseph, David, and Nehemiah worked in government, Abraham was a rancher, Lydia was a merchant, Paul was a tentmaker. The disciples all had secular jobs. Even Jesus spent 90% of his life living or working in a small business. Here are several modern-day heroes we've profiled in video.
Bridge Three: Develop New Initiatives
New ministries and programs need to be developed that support workplace followers of Jesus. Truth about faith at work can be weaved into sermons and testimonies of God at work given to regularly remind people of how God can work in and through them in the workplace. Children must be taught from an early age that all of life is holy and be shown examples of how biblical heroes followed Jesus in their work. Training materials must be identified and developed that can be used to develop the spiritual lives of men and women in the workplace. Workers can be celebrated and honored in commissioning services. Specific prayer can be offered for men and women’s work and workplace victories celebrated.
As Germany has learned, it’s one thing to tear down a wall. It’s another to turn beliefs into reality. There's a lot of work ahead for Europe as well as the church.
From your perspective what other bridges need to be developed?
Form a White Paper by Bill Peel: "Tearing Down Walls and Building Bridges"
Photo: Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate by White House Photographic Office - Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, ID C41244-9., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=189219
Photo: "Berlin Wall death strip, 1977, showing Czech hedgehog and guard tower" Photo by George Louis at English Wikipedia https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Berlin_Wall_death_strip,_1977.jpg