Achievement is encouraged and celebrated with some activities within the church, while achievement in other activities is not so encouraged and celebrated. This can be seen, for example, in the different ways that excellence in music and preaching are regarded within some churches. I developed this idea in a recent post, which addressed an “achievement double standard” in many local churches.
As much as that may be true for activities within church life, it is all the more so for activities outside the church.
Rightly will churches encourage believers to “give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, for your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58). We need to be encouraged to pursue the labor of Christian service and ministry. After all, our natural tendency is to default toward the norms and values of this world, thus putting the work of the Lord further and further off the agenda.
But, churches can overcorrect in this area. We can be so encouraging of the “work of the Lord,” that we entirely neglect all the other work that engages our effort, time, and energy. The Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 (or whatever), consumes more time than any other single activity in working adults’ lives—including sleep. If our churches pay little or no attention to this endeavor that occupies a huge chunk of our lives,The Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 (or whatever), consumes more time than any other single activity in working adults’ lives—including sleep. we are simply missing the mark. As Tom Nelson says, we must do better at connecting our Sunday worship to Monday work.Tom Nelson, Work Matters, 11-19.
The importance of connecting Sunday to Monday relates directly to the theme of achievement. Do our churches only encourage excellence when it’s related to the “work of the Lord”? What about other pursuits? Or is our attitude something like: “the world will encourage those things, but who else will encourage ‘the work of the Lord’?” That kind of dichotomy is simply not good enough.
The church must address all of life, because all of life is in Christ. This means that encouraging achievement (which we’ve already seen is a good part of God’s design) ought to be part of what our churches address—both in pursuing the work of the Lord, and in everything else too!
Even if our church leaders, preachers and teachers agree with this sentiment, the practical realities may prove challenging. We have limited airtime, so any encouragement toward achievement is most likely going to be directed to the realm of the work of the Lord. I get that. But, again, if we entirely neglect to address other areas of potential achievement going on in people’s lives, we will not serve them well.
We need to work at encouraging believers to pursue godly achievement in all areas of life. Churches need to do better at recognizing the validity of excellence and achievement in various endeavors. This ought to flow out of a theological conviction that God has wired us for achievement, gifted us for it, and provided various opportunities to pursue it, all for his service and glory.
Our fellow churchgoers will feel loved and understood if their pursuits toward achievement are affirmed with church culture. Of course this should not cause us to neglect the work of the Lord—we do need to keep our focus there. But balancing that with the rest of life’s endeavors is an important step toward preparing the whole person for a life of service.