The Sacred and the Secular

Bob Robinson has a good take on an important issue: Dualistic Christianity and the Church. Pop over and read it. It’s good.

Bob’s post reminded me of a similar piece I did back in June 2008. I’ve reposted it here because I believe “dualistic Christianity” is an underlying reason why so many follower of Jesus struggle to consistently embody the life, spirituality, and mission of Jesus.

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Ask yourself, are we merely devotees, who, as a mark of our faith, attend church weekly, participate in a bible study and often invite a friends or neighbors to join us? Or are we disciples of Jesus whose life is consumed 24/7/365 with, as Hirsch stated it, “the practical outworking of the mission of God (the missio dei) and of the incarnation”? Most operate in the former when God calls us to the latter. Missional is about the latter. So why does the average Jesus followers labor to understand Gods call and to live it out?

One core reason for this struggle stems from our western culture adopting the Greco-Roman supposition that all the world is divided into two realms: the sacred and the secular. The average Jesus followers segregates their lives (all they are and do) into one of these two boxes.

Work, clubs, hobbies, school, recreation, vacation, money and other such things go into the secular box. Sunday “church,” bible studies, home groups, short-term missions trips, feeding the poor, quiet times, bible reading, prayer, teaching Sunday School, serving on a church committee, tithe and the like go into the sacred box. This thinking leads to considering the secular as pretty much devoid of anything sacred or spiritual. And anything spiritual must happen in the sacred box.

Dualism

When you attempt to explain the concept behind missional, the average Jesus follower simply can’t comprehend how they could possibly live their entire life in the sacred box (where all things spiritual happens, right?) unless they became full time clergy (the clergy/laity divide is a result of Greco-Roman dualism). In their mind, to live 24/7/365 as a missionary would require them leaving behind the secular. But which activities do most of our contact, dealings and interaction with our neighbors and community spring from? Can you see an oversees missionary thinking of their vocation as anything other than a powerful tool to be use to accomplish the practical outworking of the mission of God in their context?

I realize that most people have more gray between their two boxes than I’ve portrayed here, but my point is that we have to deconstruct the belief in dualism if you want to be able to communicate what missional is. Believers need to see their life holistically and completely sacred before they can begin to grasp what it means to be missional.

Part of the point of the missional movement is to recapture the biblical understanding of who we are and the life we are called to walk. A life where we are consumed 24/7/365 with the practical outworking of the mission of God and of the incarnation. A life where “the way of Jesus*” informs and radically transforms our existence to one wholly focused on sacrificially living for him and others and where we adopt a missionary stance in relation to our culture. But it will not happen in a people that operates within the concept of dualism.

* Seeking to consistently embody the life, spirituality, and mission of Jesus.

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2 Responses to “The Sacred and the Secular”

  1. Mike Gastin says:

    Rick, good thoughts! Question: how do we effectively help followers of Christ to see this dualism and help them break free of it? Of course, we can teach, but how do we help them ‘get it’ and live a life of 24/7/365? It seems to me that one key to 24/7/365 is the ability to hear Christ’s voice and to obey, in the same way that Jesus heard and obeyed His father. Do you think most followers can confidently hear His voice?

  2. Rick Meigs says:

    Mike,

    Excellent questions for which I have only a few thoughts at this point, so I hope others might jump in here also.

    Those who study such things tell us that people change voluntarily only when they become interested in the need for change, they become convinced that the change is in their best interests, they committed to the change, and they take the actions that are necessary to make and sustain the change.

    Briefly, one has to create an awareness of the issue, communicate a biblical perspective, and lay out the positive and negative ramification of not making the change. This creates an interested in the need for change, helps convince that the change is in their best interests, and gets them to committed to the change.

    Since people often misunderstand words and find abstract concepts difficult to grasp, it is important that leadership model the change in their own lives, that they create a culture that allows and encourages change, and that they tell stories about those who are making the change and regularly draw attention to how others are implementing change and its positive impact. This helps people take the actions necessary to make and sustain the change in their own lives.

    BTW, your notion about helping followers of Christ to hear His voice is insightful. It should be a primary goal of all leaders. To reflect on this, you might ask what can we learn from John 10:1-5 about the importance of knowing and hearing His voice?

    Rick….