Everyday Significance by Paul Rude

Much has been written over the years about the unhealthy Christian division between the secular and the sacred. A friend has published a new book with a poignant personal perspective on this issue that I have found challenging and intriguing. I attended bible college with Paul and his wife Misty before they were married and attended church with them after they got married. I admit that some of the challenge to me in reading his book is that it pokes me a bit in beliefs that I never verbalized yet now realize I nonetheless held about Paul himself based on his vocation.

Paul graduated with a business degree and started his career in the corporate marketplace. Our families had attended church together for a few years when he and his wife decided to join a missionary group in Alaska. Suddenly, I took new note of him. He hadn’t previously struck me as having a particularly strong personal devotion to God. But, then again, I didn’t know him well or talk to him much. Did their family’s move to the mission field signify some significant change in their devotion to God? It did at least in my head, though I never allowed myself to verbalize such a view. 

Paul experienced multiple poignant interactions after deciding to move to the mission field that exposed this view commonly held among believers – secular work is mediocre for those less devoted to God and full-time ministry is better. My family has had to personally worked through this, probably again due to my own preconceived notions of the value of full-time ministry. We have talked often in my home of the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to Thessalonian believers.

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 

There is a divide in the Christian church in perceptions between full-time ministry and work in the marketplace. But that divide wasn’t invented by God or supported by the Apostles. I’m intrigued by the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to believers to work with their hands and provide for themselves. He certainly didn’t guilt them into changing to a more spiritual vocation.

Paul Rude’s Everyday Significance gives helpful insight into this problem as it manifests itself today. Here are a few quotes I underlined.

Ultimately, the only true measure of significance is how much something or someone is valued by God. 

We’ve defined the box of eternal significance, and it’s too small for 96 percent of a hardworking layperson’s life. 

… freedom from vocational guilt is not freedom to live a life of selfish indulgence. This distinction is important, because many fear that vocational freedom is simply a license to live selfishly. But that fear is rooted in a deep misunderstanding—the assumption that marketplace work is inherently selfish. 

When we automatically equate marketplace work with selfishness, we confuse two entirely different, unrelated issues.  

Deep down, many of us believe we labor in meaningless tasks and pointless work. … Pull a weed today; two weeds crop up tomorrow. Give up your weekend to write a report for your boss; he doesn’t even read it. Spend two years designing and installing ergonomically improved workstations in a factory; a foreign owner shuts down the factory and lays off all the employees, including you. Write a computer program today; someone changes the operating system tomorrow. Earlier today, I glanced out my office win- dow and saw that the tire on my utility trailer, the tire I patched last week, is flat—again. On and on it goes. 

… Faced with this dismal prospect, many of us embark on a quest to do something significant—something that will last for all eternity—before it’s too late. We think, Surely this isn’t what God wants me to be doing. He’s just got to have something more meaningful for me than this—something that makes a difference. Then along comes a well-intended friend or seminar speaker who says, “If you want to beat the futility blues and accomplish something that will last forever, then you need to start looking at your ministry options—the options that will airlift you to the highest peaks of meaning and purpose.” However, if we listen closely to their message, we won’t hear the truth of the Bible. Instead, we’ll hear the undertones of a deeply rooted lie—one that we’ve heard for a very, very long time. 

… we are selling a lie when we use eternal significance as a ministry recruiting tool. There are organizations that seek to recruit people out of the marketplace workforce by trolling the bait of significance through the waters of vocational guilt. “Hey, your life has been a meaningless exercise in the pursuit of success, which we all know is pointless futility. So join our team, and do something meaningful for God with the rest of your life.” Their intentions are good, but their primary recruiting tool is a glittering, treble-hooked deception: they imply that we can grasp significance by shifting over to the sacred side of the divide. 

… what would happen if, next Monday morning, we all quit our market- place jobs and charged out to do something more significant in full-time Christian ministry? Basically, the world would shut down. Major infrastructures and economies would collapse, and soon entire segments of the world population would lack food and other basic necessities. “Man shall not live by bread alone” —but he will starve to death without it. 

God, in his sovereignty, apparently created a system where most of us must work in the secular world—otherwise the human race would go extinct. It’s like a sick game of musical chairs; there aren’t enough significant seats to go around. When the music stops, the vast majority of us will still be standing. We’ll still be insignificant; our labor will have no eternal value. We’re trapped.

If you are struggling through this issue, this book gives helpful insight on both the problem in how we traditionally approach secular/sacred work in the Church and the solution from Scripture. It has certainly blessed me as someone who has wrestled personally with the secular/sacred divide when it comes to careers and ministry. I have several free copies to give away. If you are interested in one, leave a comment, and I’ll randomly choose 3 people on Saturday. You can pre-order a copy here.

41 Responses to Everyday Significance by Paul Rude

  1. strengthfortoday December 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    This sounds very good. Even in our little tiny community, this is a very real issue. We have everything from ranchers to grads from Hyles-Anderson…folks who are all dealing with this question, but from very different angles. I'd love to read this.

  2. Jessica December 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    This is an issue that my husband and I have talked about time and time again as we both wrestle with our jobs but don't feel “called” to anything different or “higher”. I would live to win a copy and to hopefully be able to encourage my husband that the secular is indeed sacred if done in the Lord. Thanks!

  3. Karen Davis December 13, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    What a timely topic! Is love to win a copy and share with the folks at the church who struggle with the idea if their secular job as a calling.

  4. Jackie Lyles December 13, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    This sounds like a very interesting book. I was always taught that everything is sacred to the Christian. My daily work is to be as unto the Lord. He is my employer and my sustainer. I've always had a heart for missions but the opportunities to go full-time never materialized. It took me a long time to realize that my “secular” job is there to provide the means for someone else to go; and in that way, I get to participate in full-time missions.

  5. The family Z December 13, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    This is something my husband and I talk about a lot. But it's one thing to think we believe it, and another to really let it change the way we think about our vocations and other's and how we judge others, if only in our minds.

  6. Mrs. David Hankins December 13, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    I'd love to read this book! Count me in, please! 🙂 Thanks for the opportunity!

  7. Rachael Starke December 13, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    Wow, do those quotes ever hit where I've been for the past few years. Count me in on the drawing. 🙂

  8. Katie T. December 13, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    This is an incredibly intriguing topic to me. As a stay-at-home mom, daily significance is hard to see at times. I know my husband would appreciate the encouragement and incite as well.

  9. Kirsten Kuo December 13, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    This is really timely – my husband and I have been wrestling with this exact issue ever since he finished school a couple of years ago. I'd love to win a copy for us to read together.

  10. Amy Lear December 13, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    Thank you for offering the copies of the book here. I'd love to read this.

  11. Paula Green December 13, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    This post and the message of this book really resonated with me! I come from a family heritage and church background of the idea that if you aren't evangelizing, then you aren't doing your job, and foreign missions or full-time ministry is the ultimate significance and reward. This is a book I'd definitely like to read.

  12. Jen December 13, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    Right now I'm working full-time for a Christian publisher, and it's been so great. I love what I do. But I don't feel it's any more “worthy” than the jobs I did in the secular workplace for almost a decade. Both places were exactly where God wanted me at the time.

  13. Anonymous December 13, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

    What a great post, and I have to confess I have often found myself believing the lie.
    Tami D

  14. Stephanie December 14, 2012 at 12:01 am #

    If this giveaway is open to residents of Canada, I'd like to enter.

  15. The McCains December 14, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    This sounds like a very interesting book. It is easy to fall into that way of thinking, but clearly, we are not all meant for full-time ministry. I'd love to win a copy of his book.

  16. Christian Homekeeper December 14, 2012 at 2:47 am #

    I think I really need to read this book. I struggle so much with this.

  17. Haley Olson December 14, 2012 at 2:57 am #

    What a timely post!

    I'm graduating with an undergraduate Business degree on Saturday, and the question of “what do you want to do?” always comes up… sometimes making me feel guilty when I say I truly want to work in the business world.

    Thanks for sharing with us!

  18. connie December 14, 2012 at 3:06 am #

    The marketplace IS where the ministry is! Most “ministry” jobs really should be about preparing the rest of us to be ministers IN the marketplace. That is where all the people are, after all-people who need hope, help, and most importantly, the Lord.

  19. amhaskins December 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Ironically, we face this issue and my husband is on staff at a church. But his job is in administration, overseeing the financial affairs, food ministry, communications, technology, building facilities, etc. of the church. In many ways, his job is the same as those who work outside the church. Sounds like an interesting read!

  20. Na Eun Kim December 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    Thank you for sharing. I had not thought about ministry in perspective before.

  21. Lynn Marsh December 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    I spend my 8-5 hours as a speech-language pathologist in a children's hospital working with kids (and their families) with language disorders, speech sound disorders, childhood apraxia of speech, Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorders. After work, I serve with Young Life, a high school relational ministry.

    My reformed perspective college experience attempted to ingrain in my head the view summed up by Abraham Kuyper, ” no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!‘”

    Immersed in the evangelical world, I often find myself elevating Young Life small group study and devaluing 'just' helping children communicate better. I fit the mold of my generation who fears not having enough impact on life while trying to live 'for' God (see Skye Jethani “With” book/book trailer.)

    For those interested, Tim Keller recently published a book with a similar perspective on the topic: Every Good Endeavor. Although, if randomly selected to receive a book, I'd read it and share it, too.

  22. Wendy E December 14, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    When you go into full time ministry to find significance, you still work in a broken world full of frustrations. . . You may not see “results”. . . . You are still yourself. . . And so you will still feel insignificant. The author is right! Our significance MUST be found in our value to God. In our standing in Christ. Sounds like a great book!

  23. Jenny4Jesus December 14, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Incredibly interesting!

  24. Anonymous December 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    My husband and I both grew up in the buckle of the Bible belt and still live here. We went to church with Paul Rude's parents growing up. There is incredible underlying pressure in the community we are in that says full time ministry is much better than a secular vocation. My husband has wrestled so much with this as he works in a family own business doing manual labor, since he graduated with a “ministry” degree from the same college you and the Rude's attended. He often battles to not believe the job God has given him is somehow second best to ministry. I think this book would be very helpful to him.

  25. Hillary December 14, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    My husband has just entered the secular workforce. The right time for us to read this bOok and get it into our brains that what we are doing isn't wrong!

  26. Melissa B. December 14, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    I am so intrigued with this subject and am eager to read where this book goes with it!

  27. Chelo December 14, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    This sounds like a book we would benefiy from reading. My husband and I were talking about this very topic the other day. I'd love to receive a free copy 🙂

  28. Erin December 14, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    Defineatly something I hear (the baiting) and something I struggle with. Would love a free copy!

  29. Sydnie December 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    I'd appreciate reading this. It's an issue I've wrestled with, without a satisfying resolution, for years. At its worst, my “Eternal Significance” reasoning has sapped the living out of life. I end up on a reductionistic, negative path. Something must be wrong, somewhere!

  30. Josiah December 14, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    Thanks for the opportunity!~

  31. Cindy C. December 14, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

    Would love to read this book. Thanks for this blog post!

  32. Doreen T. December 14, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Thanks for this post; the book sounds fascinating. I would love to win/read/share this book!

  33. Ruth in NZ December 14, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    Even reading the quotes you gave and your comments have started an internal diologue for me ..deep down it is hard to let go of the notion that it is just as meaningful to make plastic toys for McDonalds as it is to minister to people's spiritual needs. Are there “more meaningful” 'non-ministry' accupations? Does Paul Rude address this in the book? I would love to interact further with his ideas on this issue.

  34. Ruth in NZ December 14, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    Sorry, I meant it is hard to ACCEPT the notion….

  35. Cristin McIntire December 14, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    It sounds like a great book. If I don't win it, I'll probably buy it!

  36. Cammie S. December 15, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    I enjoy your blog. The topic is one that my husband and I have talked about dozens of times, as we've been in out and out of “professional ministry” throughout our marriage. Right now, I'm a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom and he is working in the business sector. But our hearts burn for the Lord. How I long for the day when we commission bankers and policeman and teachers and businessmen and doctors…alongside missionaries, pastors, worship leaders, etc.

    I must be honest…I still wrestle with those niggling thoughts in the back of my mind…that somehow those “professionals” are more hard-core Jesus lovers. I would love to read this book…I do believe it is a debilitating lie we've too long believed.

    Thanks for what you do. (I bought the book “Quiet” a few weeks ago after I read one of your blogs…by the sound of if, our husbands are very similar!! I am fascinated by what I've been reading. No doubt, with every passing year, I admire and respect more and more and more my “introverted” husband. I have much to learn from him!)

  37. sarah sawyer December 15, 2012 at 12:49 am #

    Having just left full-time ministry work overseas in Asia, this topic is particularly relevant for me. Thanks for pointing us to this book!

  38. Jessica December 15, 2012 at 1:48 am #

    Sounds like a fruitful read. I feel some of the author's points hitting home, which I interpret to mean that I need some “pruning” of lies in this areas as well. Thank you for the overview of the book, and I'd happily accept one!

  39. REInvestor December 15, 2012 at 3:27 am #

    Sounds like a worthwhile book. I have observed this kind of thing for awhile in the Christian world. I would be interested to read this.

  40. Corinne December 15, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    A topic that really does need more exposure in the church. With two sons in missions/ministry and one son not, my husband and I can relate to this. Thanks for the giveaway.

  41. Wendy December 15, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    Hi, all. I'm closing comments now. Paul has GRACIOUSLY offered to send books to each of you!! So if you'll send your mailing address to me at theologyforwomen@gmail.com, we'll get copies mailed out to you (both domestic and foreign addresses). 🙂