Success in Job or Business Doesn’t Guarantee Faithful Service in Church
Note: This article addresses pastors, who may be either bi-vocational or full-time church workers, to consider carefully about the entrustment of great responsibilities in church to those who are prosperous in their jobs or businesses. Also, this message is an encouragement to believers to understand the difference between the marketplace and the church.
The Lord in His grace and mercy saves all kinds of people—poor and rich, educated and uneducated, great and small, and adds them to His church. So it is good to have people in church who are proven successful in their job or business careers. They can be a great blessing and encouragement to the church.
Having said that, as shepherds of God’s flock, we must be careful not to give such people too much attention and prematurely elevate them to high responsible positions in church. Considering their position, success, and salary, I have seen pastors and leaders hastily giving these people great responsible positions in church. I am afraid this may do more harm than good.
Pastor and author, Ray C. Stedman (1917-1992), rightly expressed his concern:
- I am always amazed at how many churches elect wealthy men to their boards merely because they are wealthy. Nobody ever seems to ask what other qualifications these men might have. If they make money, if they are successful businessmen, it is widely regarded that that makes them eligible to be elders. But it does not. They may be the worst possible men to put into that office.
Job Skills versus Exemplary Lifestyle
In the marketplace, people give preference to work knowledge and skills. Though their interpersonal skills are considered important as they have to work with teams, the fundamental focus will be on ability, intellect, experience, and credentials. These are the things that are valued.
Nevertheless, when it comes to church, what matters essentially is lifestyle. It is good to have knowledge and skills, but nothing is crucial than how you live your life as an example to other believers in church. This is so significant that Paul wrote to Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).
In God's kingdom, who you are in your character is more important than who you are in your career.
Another observation: In the marketplace, people respect their managers either genuinely or spuriously to gain their favor and for job security. In fact, people are paid to respect and submit to their managers.
But in the church, no one pays money to believers to respect and submit. Respect is earned by living a godly life among the believers. One cannot simply expect to get in church what they get in marketplace. What matters in church is a godly lifestyle and this is what is highly valued.
Projects verses People
In the marketplace, people deal with projects for lucrative results. Despite the fact that there are people involved in work, the focus usually is not on the welfare of people but on the projects that bring monetary benefits to the company.
On the contrary, in the church, we don’t deal with projects; we deal with people. The goal in the body of Christ is seen in the confession of Paul, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28).
There is a massive difference between expending your energy to finish a project and pouring your life towards leading people into maturity. Making disciples is all about making obedient disciples of Christ (Matt. 28:20), and this is contrastingly different from leading a team to finish a project or accomplishing a business objective.
Manager versus Servant
In the marketplace, being a manager at work is about managing the team, overseeing the projects, and bringing profits to the organization. And there is a good compensation for doing these things.
Yet, in the church, what is commanded in God’s Word is to love and serve people with all humility and without selfish gain. It is not about performing feats, but washing the feet of people (i.e. figuratively speaking, serving others as a servant). It is not about advancing oneself, but seeking the welfare of people (Phi. 2:3-4). These are the words of the Lord Jesus, which are an offense to 'self', “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
"If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all."
Many people who hold high positions in their jobs or have successful business careers often tend to live with a pompous attitude in church. Sadly, this tendency may not visible to their own eyes. They place their identity on who they are in the marketplace. Hence, they are reluctant to stoop low and do menial tasks, which is what the Lord Jesus did in washing the feet of His disciples (John 13). They want managerial jobs even in the church.
In Christ’s church, we must all see ourselves, this includes believers and church shepherds, as servants of one another and be willing to do any task when required.
Paul instructs Timothy that in electing the elders in church, an elder “must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6). Although this is speaking about the appointment of elders, the principle that we learn from these words is that GREAT RESPONSIBLE POSITIONS IN CHURCH MAY MAKE A PERSON VULNERABLE TO PRIDE AND SELF-GLORY.
Therefore, we must be careful to delegate responsible positions in church only to those who have proven themselves humble, Christ-centered, and people-minded. What a blessing such ones are to the body of Christ!
Dear shepherds, don’t treat believers by who they are in the business world and how much they earn, but by how they conduct themselves in the kingdom of God. Disciple them well by teaching them godliness and servanthood, and test them carefully before entrusting them with great responsible positions in church. Remember, we are building God's kingdom, not ours.
C. Stephen David is a child of the Living God, a husband to Chaithanya, a father to two children, and an elder/shepherd of Ekklesia Evangelical Fellowship. He lives with his family in Hyderabad, India.