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Saturday, August 27, 2011

2021--on work

            This is another expansion of one of the two minute (speaking time) commentaries I posted in December, 2010 into a five minute (speaking time) format.  This is an expansion of #21—supporting Christian workers.

2021—on work

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  When God sent the Holy Spirit upon the people in the upper room in Acts chapter 2, they were a group of people desiring to be obedient to Jesus, whose lives had changed in a way that, although obvious to anyone who knew them, was not easily able to be described, and was not even a blip on the overall society’s radar.  There was no organization, no money, no one of any renown; even Jesus’ own death was notable to unbelievers only long after it happened.  We see in Acts 2 that when the Holy Spirit came upon them, they went out into the streets, spoke, and many that day and in the days following sensed the spirit of God in the words and the actions of the believers, repented of their sins, and attached themselves to this growing group of people.  There was no human organization, no human plan.  As the weeks and years passed, the apostles taught the new believers what Jesus taught them. The church cared about those around them, both those who believed and their neighbors who did not. Some of those who were not believers came to faith in Jesus, and even those who didn’t respected how they cared for others unlike anything they had seen.

            Apostle was not just a term for the 11 who had followed Jesus and taught the early believers.  It came to be a term for a believer gifted to go and communicate the message of Jesus to others in other geographical areas, direct persons to become followers, and teach these early groups of new believers how to be the church.  People were part of the church as groups.  We see the New Testament church spent money on only two things—helping the poor, both within and outside the church, and to help persons called apostles go to other areas to spread the message of Jesus.  The word “apostle” then meant virtually the same as the modern English word “missionary” does today.  Even then, the apostle we are told the most about in the Bible is Paul.  Being a former Pharisee, he received training in a trade, so that when he went on his travels, he didn’t have to depend on financial help from the church in Antioch, just north of Jerusalem, which he was part of between the time of his coming to faith in Jesus and years later when he began to travel to non-Jewish areas of the world.  A couple who we are told also moved to help spread the message of Jesus, Priscilla and Aquila, also had the same skill as Paul.  There was no place in the early church for a trained, salaried religious professional, unlike all the other beliefs in the society around them.  We see a church meeting at the home of Lydia, who sold fabrics to the royal class.  As a result of coming to faith in Jesus, some who were formerly illiterate desired to learn to read so that they could read scripture, which gave them a skill useful to the Roman government.  In 250 AD, when Diocletian’s last general persecution happened, so many believers held government positions and fled for the hills, the government could not function. Diocletian had to relent, and that was one of the events that led to the eventual legalization of faith in Jesus in the Roman Empire.

            Today, one of our society’s problems is that in too many businesses and other organizations, the people they want to hire and promote are neither the best trained nor the best workers, but those most easily corrupted.  It is a natural, but difficult part of a believer’s living for Jesus to desire to do work that is honest and ethical by God’s standards.  How do we give out best to honor Jesus in work? 

  1. Work as unto God, not as unto man.
  2. Get a skill.  One in six in our society with a college degree is not using it in his or her job, so our world’s idea of counseling is sending a lot of people down dead ends.  In every culture, we, the church, are directed to be salt and light.
  3. Many godly people chase employment in the organizational church, but that wasn’t God’s plan.  I know what I am saying about leadership and every member ministry can be felt to be threatening to persons in the status quo system, but it has no basis in scripture. It is only as a copy of the religions of the world, even when a position is held by a person seeking to honor Jesus.
  4. Each of us needs to desire to work for an ethical employer.  The believers in the early church who were slaves had no choice, and there may be times today where, for a time, we may have no choice, as our society is overrun with employers whose only honest jobs are the bottom line ones, but we should favor honest work with a passion.
  5. We have a responsibility to follow the teaching of the apostles, that helping the poor is important.  A problem today is that there are organizations created to help the poor, but whom use the money to support the organization and the people employed by the organization first.
  6. We have a responsibility to support our brothers and sisters who desire to go where the message of Jesus’ love for mankind still hasn’t been heard, even though those places, in this day, are the most dangerous places to go.

I can be reached at or by phone at 757-735-3639.  If you would like to re-examine what I just said at your own pace, a transcript of what I just said is posted on my blog,, on the entry dated August 27, 2011.  You can find out more about non-corporation structure of people desiring to be the church at 

As with many of these posts, various information in this was obtained from George Barna and Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity, which has, in turn, copious historical footnotes.  Some of what I have said here about employment in this society comes from my life, none of which has been spent on the payroll of any church organization, for which I feel grateful for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, even though I have many friends who have had the opposite experience.

An excellent work on the role of work in the Christian life is R. Paul Stevens’ The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective (Carlisle, UK: Pasternoster, 1999, and printed in North America jointly by Eerdmans and Regent College).

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