Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)
Every Christian is a herald, a herald of God’s kingdom.
The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is a mandate to extend God’s rule to every part of the earth. It was addressed to the church, and every member of that community has a role to play. Often, we think that we can only participate by taking up ordination or serving as a pastor, evangelist, or some other role within Christian denominations. The directive is actually broader than that. It is a call not only to make people believers, but to make them disciples.
God sends us into the different spheres of human society to proclaim his glory and goodness. And he calls us to demonstrate his rule within every sector or aspect he places us in.
Peter reminds us to serve one another with the grace given to us (1 Peter 4:10-11), and we can see instances of this in several godly people right through the Bible. Though they may not have been priests or pastors, they served God in the spheres in which God had placed them.
Consider Daniel. Here was a Jewish captive who excelled as an administrator and government official under both the Babylonian and Assyrian empires. Daniel so distinguished himself that he was made one of the top three under Darius (Daniel 6:1-3).
We also find Nehemiah, cupbearer to the Assyrian king, who became governor of the region of Judea sometime around 465-424 BC. His administration was just and righteous, and he was instrumental in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
Lest we assume that this call to serve God outside the local church expired with the coming of Christ, here are a few not-too-distant examples:
A recent Christianity Today article highlights the work of Francis Collins, who is a highly regarded American scientist and the 2020 winner of the Templeton Prize. He currently serves as the director of the National Institute of Health in the US. As a Christian working at the forefront of biomedical research, Dr Collins considers his work as a ministry, using ‘the tools of science to alleviate suffering’. In his own words: “I pray every morning that I will find a path forward to do that with God’s help.” (He recently had an interesting discussion with the theologian Tim Keller on the current pandemic, which you can find here.)
Another example is the late writer, speaker, and founder of Prison Fellowship, Charles Colson, who has been something of a personal hero for me. As a former special counsel to the American President Nixon, Colson was influential in American politics until he was implicated in the Watergate scandal of the 1970s. Following his conversion, shortly before his imprisonment, Colson was set by God on an entirely different course which saw him working to reform prisons and prisoners across the globe, as well as championing a recovery of Christianity as a comprehensive worldview over every aspect of life.
I also recall the life of William Wilberforce, the Christian politician and social reformer who laboured tirelessly for the abolition of both the slave trade and slavery in nineteenth-century England. Tossed between the seeming dichotomies of serving God and going into politics, he was wisely counselled that he could do both. And the modern world is a lot better because he heeded that counsel.
So, discard the idea that you must have a ‘religious’ calling in order to fulfill God’s task for the church. Perish the thought. God calls us into diverse roles and spheres – whether business, politics, or otherwise. Our task is to prayerfully discern which it is and announce his kingdom within it.