In seeking His direction last year, I felt clearly that He said that I should be a part of this conference but now I had serious doubts about that leading. I thought; Speaking to a group of pastors? I’ve never done that before. Fortunately I arrived a half day early so I went to my room and sought His guidance. I determined I should focus the teachings on the theology of work.
That evening’s session went well; nearly all the pastors said, “We’ve never heard anything like this.” The next morning we honed in on the gap between the sacred and the secular, and the perceptions in the clergy which differentiate between full-time Christian workers and the rest of us. One of the verses we discussed was Matthew 4:20, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” The group discussed the passage and everyone agreed that this verse meant the disciples quit their jobs to follow Jesus and gave themselves wholly to “the Lord’s” work. We then looked at some passages in the Gospels where it seems likely that the boat Jesus was using was that of one of the disciples. The pastors were taken aback. The group came to the conclusion that when the disciples left their nets and followed him they did not sell their nets and their boats, but temporarily left them for a few days or perhaps a few weeks. They discovered that upon three occasions, and possibly more, the disciples returned to their work of fishing. They concluded that it is not necessary to quit your job to serve Jesus, but serving Jesus can be done via whatever job you have.
At this point a pastor of 20 years and shepherding a church of 900, stood up and said “I have a confession to make. Last week I preached on Matthew 4:20. I told my congregation they needed to pray and seek God about quitting their work and going into full-time service of the Lord. Now I realize I was wrong. They are already serving the Lord full-time in their jobs.” With tears now streaming down his cheeks he continued, “Please pray for me. I need to repent of my wrong teaching.”
Immediately people began praying out loud and for one another. For nearly 30 minutes these church leaders poured out their hearts to God. They confessed sins of feeling superior because they were “church workers.” They asked forgiveness for teaching about work from the Scriptures in an incomplete, even wrong way.
I sat amazed watching this happen. I’ve never seen anything like it all my teachings, conferences and meetings on BAM/B4T. It felt like something broke, and the heavens were opening. As one pastor put it, “I was blind, but now I see.” Many talked of a new hope for their church. The following sessions we discussed practical ideas of engaging business people in new ways for reaching their workplace and community for the King.
In the midst of this the Master tapped me on the heart and said, “I did not bring you here for your work, you are here to do My work.” Humbled, I too had a time of repentance.
Be ready my friends, it is a new day. Not just for missions but for the church as well. As C. S. Lewis put it, “Aslan is on the move.”
PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.