A while back, just as I was thinking about work, I came across this review series from Michael Kruse on How the Church Fails Businesspeople by John C. Knapp. In particular, the following quote struck me particularly powerfully:
“We should ask ourselves what is being communicated when a church allots time on Sunday morning to commission a short-term mission team for ten days in Mexico, yet does nothing to commission new college graduates for their careers in business or government or education. The crippling and unambiguous message is that ten days of volunteer work are more important to the church — and, by implication, to God — than a Christian’s lifelong occupation.”
I can imagine a pastor protesting and saying “crippling and unambiguous” is too strong an expression. “If we the church don’t commission the short-term mission teams, no one will,” a pastor may say. He’d be right. “The intent behind commissioning the mission teams isn’t to downgrade other work,” he may add. I absolutely believe it.
The issue, though, isn’t that the church is doing the right thing, with the right intent, when it comes to the mission teams. It is rather that a message is communicated, unintentionally I’m sure but unambiguously nonetheless, by the very absence of a commissioning service for anything else. And the effect in fact can be “crippling” for the vast majority of the congregation who are not missionaries, clergy, or even in the “helping profession” as Knapp later points out in discussing the false hierarchy of vocations Christians often hold.