Why are Christians Living Lives Like Potluck Paper Plates?

A few months ago in my church we commissioned a family that was leaving to do “full time” ministry work in Europe. They had felt the call to go to Europe as missionaries and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost. We celebrated their call to ministry work and prayed for them as they left.

The next morning they left on a plane for Europe, following their hearts to change the world.

At the same time they boarded their plane Rich boarded his tractor, Natalie entered her second grade classroom, Nate sat down at his cubicle for Citibank and Russ picked up his trowel to smooth concrete

Is one space more sacred than another? Is one vocation more spiritual than the others?

The Christian perception tends to declare that God’s work revolves around preaching, evangelism, prayer and fasting, that the sacred spaces are temples, graveyards and seminaries and that the holy ones are pastors and missionaries; those devoted to full time vocational ministry. Is that true?

Does a student finishing a master of divinity degree have a brighter ministry future than a student writing their final dissertation on the “New Generator Control Algorithms for Smart-Bladed Wind Turbines to Improve Power Capture in Below Rated Conditions”?

While I have absolutely no idea what a paper on algorithms related to wind turbines could possibly say I realize that a call to mechanical engineering is just as “sacred” as a call to the pastorate.

Moving to Africa to serve the tribal peoples is no more holy than engaging your co-workers at the water cooler in God conversations and truth perspectives.

My family and I spent several years serving in a foreign country sharing the gospel through working with churches and leaders, so I highly celebrate and encourage those whose calling is such to follow the nudge God has placed on their heart. However, I also celebrate and recognize that ministering the gospel does not only go forth-through pastors and missionaries, but in every follower of Jesus, every day, in every sphere of life.

In order for the full gospel to impact the full culture it must be lived out in everyday people working and living in everyday situations. The Christian call to disciple nations begins with erasing the dualistic mindset that some things are spiritual (devotions, theology, missions) and thereby holy and superior while others things are secular (science, politics, media) and thereby worldly and inferior.

Is it possible to disciple the nations through Sunday services alone?

What has happened over the generations is that the church has prioritized the spiritual over the secular and has in turn lost its ability to engage the culture outside of our Sunday gatherings.

I love when I go to potluck dinners and the host has paper plates with divided sections. I don’t like the juices from my fruit salad to taint the potato salad or my turkey sandwich. What a divided plate does is separate the two and preserve the dry foods from being saturated by the wet foods. Unfortunately, Christians have done the same thing with their spiritual and physical lives. We have divided our lives like a paper plate with sections. Instead of allowing our faith to spill over into the way we work, act, and do business we have maintained strict divisions. Our faith and what we do on Sunday morning’s remains completely separated from what we do during the week. The result: a devastating dichotomy of thinking and an unbalanced view of work, life, and personal calling.

If we want to disciple the nations we must learn to allow the truths of Sunday morning to penetrate and drive the activities of Monday and beyond. We must recognize that our work in every sphere of society is our act of worship to the King of glory. Our vocation is our individual, God given, ordained and unique way of expressing truth to the world around us.

Darrow Miller captures the essence of Christ and vocation in this:

If he (Christ) were to come today as he did then, he could carry out his mission through most any decent and useful occupation. He could be a clerk or accountant in a hardware store, a computer repairman, a banker, an editor, doctor, waiter, teacher, farmhand, lab technician, or construction worker. He could run a housecleaning service or repair automobiles. In other words, if he were to come today he could very well do what you do. He could very well live in your apartment or house, hold down your job.”

Christ wants to inhabit the world through his people in the place where they live and work. As a Christian, I am not discipled to do “spiritual things” either as a higher calling or to supplement my “secular work.” No, I am to learn to live all of my life the way that Jesus would want it to be lived, in the house and in the vocation where he has deployed me. [1]

The church cannot continue to live with separated thinking. Dividing the “spiritual” and “secular” aspects of life limits our ability to impact the world we engage 40 or more hours a week and flies in the face of the biblical call to live all of life before the face of God.

Paul states it this way in 1 Corinthians 10:3: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

God is the Lord of ALL of life!

Why are Christians living lives like potluck paper plates??

Friends let’s throw out our sectioned paper plate mindsets and let it all be laid barren before God. Let’s be holy, set apart accountants, athletes, biologists, youth workers and pilots viewing our life and unique vocations as our own acts of worship. Let’s seek to redeem all of life (business, media, philosophy, politics etc.) with a wholistic understanding that allows our faith juices to completely saturate the way we live, work and think. Let’s live it all for the glory of God!

[1] Darrow Miller, Life Work (YWAM Publishing 2009), 152.
Image courtesy of hkboyee/ Flickr.com
By | 2017-09-08T10:06:52+00:00 May 21st, 2015|Categories: Core Principles, Integrating Physical & Spiritual, Learn and Apply|Tags: |

About the Author:

John Warden is Reconciled World’s global staff pastor and the facilitator for 2:10. He holds a Masters of Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has more than fifteen years of ministry experience. He lives in Sioux Falls, SD with his wife and two daughters. You can contact him directly at johnw@reconciledworld.org.


  1. Glynka June 2, 2015 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    John, you nailed it! I love this post, and the image of the paper plate. I will carry that with me and, I’m sure, use it again.

    Thanks for the insights,

  2. John Warden June 5, 2015 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    Thanks Glynka! I appreciate it. Glad you found the analogy effective!

  3. […] finances) in another. It’s called the sacred/secular divide. (For more on this concept read here) What that dichotomy of thinking has done is not only detach our faith from our “daily […]

  4. […] finances) in another. It’s called the sacred/secular divide. (For more on this concept read here.) What that dichotomy of thinking has done is not only to detach our faith from our “daily […]

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