(Lisa Robinson)

In case you missed it, the internet has been abuzz the past few days over this article posted by Dr. Anthony Bradley. In it, Bradley’s asserts that ‘missional’ has become a means to aggrandize accomplishments for God and shame people who live ordinary existences because they feel they are not living up to being ‘missional’. He states;

I continue to be amazed by the number of youth and young adults who are stressed and burnt out from the regular shaming and feelings of inadequacy if they happen to not be doing something unique and special. Today’s millennial generation is being fed the message that if they don’t do something extraordinary in this life they are wasting their gifts and potential. The sad result is that many young adults feel ashamed if they “settle” into ordinary jobs, get married early and start families, live in small towns, or as 1 Thessalonians 4:11 says, “aspire to live quietly, and to mind [their] affairs, and to work with [their] hands.” For too many millennials their greatest fear in this life is being an ordinary person with a non-glamorous job, living in the suburbs, and having nothing spectacular to boast about.

Now there is been a fair amount of push back over a lack of qualification of certain statements. But I do agree with the above referenced section. As I wrote here that celebrity Christianity has made the average Joe feel woefully inadequate. Even worse, when you add shame into the equation and tell people they aren’t measuring up unless there doing x, y, z notable accomplishment for the kingdom.

There are other points as well. But central to what I want to write about is Bradley’s premise of 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (I added vs 12 as it is pertinent to this post), where Paul tells his audience

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you may not be dependent on anyone.

I want to focus on what Paul is telling the Thessalonians because I think it addresses a growing concern of mine. First, on leading a quiet life. The verb ἡσυχάζειν connotes a stillness; inner peace. It is a settled life with what has been given. Now I get that some people have been given responsibility for grander accomplishments. But others can be just as effective leading normal lives, loving God and neighbor, influencing in whatever circles they find themselves. Neither should be exclusively promoted or condemned.

Aside from living a quiet life, what Paul says next is pretty significant, “to mind your own business”. As I scan blogs, Facebook, twitter, sermons, and Christian circles in general, I think there is a unusual pre-occupation with the affairs of others. And by affairs, I mean concern for what others are or are not doing in the body of Christ. We are very quick to cite how others are not measuring up – how their not witnessing enough or giving enough or expending enough time or energy. Deficiencies abound!

And I think this feeds into the ‘missional’ concerns. It strikes me that we can have such a ‘doing’ mentality that it gets imposed onto the affairs of others. People need to know they should be doing more and this seeps into the pulpit and books and blogs, “If Christians were really missional they would be [fill in the blank with prescribed activity]. I wonder if at the heart of the backlash of Bradley’s article is a reaction against people not working enough or rather “not as hard as I’m working”.  Martha anyone?

Mission involves a multiplicity of functions as God redeems lost creation to himself of which the church is a chief instrument as I wrote about recently. That means different people play different parts in different ways and yet it all works together. The person who sells all their possessions to minister in the Amazon is no more on mission than the accountant who works a 40 hour work week, provides for his family and doesn’t do any kind of grand accomplishments. Mission simply means being involved in what God is doing in his grand scheme. And yet many are not satisfied and insist they people but be doing x, y, and z to really be on mission. Is it any wonder Bradley calls this ‘legalism’ ?

But moreover, why are we so concerned or even threatened by how others are not measuring up? Friends, Paul’s commands to the Thessalonians are ours as well. We must mind our own business. We should not be so overly occupied with the affairs others that we find statements of leading ordinary lives threatening to the work of God’s kingdom. This is the quiet life Paul commends. Is God not sovereign over his affairs? Is he not masterfully orchestrating each person’s sanctification process that would lead to the good works he has prepared in advance (cf Eph 2:10) whatever that may be so it fits in with the whole? Can the Holy Spirit not convict where needed where there is a lack of fruitfulness?Did Jesus not say he would build his church?

Look at Paul’s next statement – “to work with our hands”. Meaning, we put our hands to what God has called us to do. Let’s worry about our own hands and tasks. Let us be good stewards for whatever our hands have been given.  Let the one who is to take on big responsibilities do that. Let the one who is convicted to give up all and go to remote places, do that. But let the one who leads a quiet, ordinary life do that as well. Over it all, let God be God.Whatever it is, if done to the glory of God, will win the respect of others for God’s mission and his glory.

    18 replies to "On Leading a Quiet Life"

    • Chad Winters

      I think Luther said something similar when a newly converted cobbler asked what he should do now that he was a Christian. ” Make the best shoe you can and sell it a fair price”, I believe was the answer.

      That was from vague memory so I could be wrong…

    • Delwyn Xavier Campbell

      Anything can be overdone, and anything can be *underdone* as well. The call to Christian engagement in the affairs of life, in our communities, comes because, in far too many communities, the “official” Christian response (based upon Christian and right-wing talk radio broadcasts) has tended to be criticize those who live in dangerous, blighted urban areas for not doing more to change their situation, while sitting in the relative comfort and safety of their sanctified suburbs. Meanwhile, resources and revenue continue to follow the flight path out of the inner city, until those residents turn to the State, hoping for relief. This gets greeted with cries of “government tyranny.”
      I’m not saying that everyone should be joining YWAM or moving into the ghetto; some who read this would have a heart attack before they stayed 7 days in the city. I am not going to say that seeking a justification for being “at ease in Zion” is the right way to go either, however, and that is what I hear in your presentation. Unsaved people can do what you are calling for – you don’t need Jesus in order to live a life of quiet indifference to your neighbors, and quoting 1 Thess 4:11-12 without reading verses 9-10 certainly supports such a conclusion. I’m just saying that I don’t see all that many people walking around acting like they are tormented by the fact that they aren’t doing more in Jesus’ name. I wish that were the case, but I don’t see it, sorry.

    • Lisa Robinson

      “I am not going to say that seeking a justification for being “at ease in Zion” is the right way to go either, however, and that is what I hear in your presentation.”

      Delwyn, I’m afraid I have to agree with Greg. It’s interesting that in a post questioning why we are so concerned with what others are doing (or not doing) and commending that we mind our own business, that you would have a problem if anyone gets too comfortable. Why is that? And how do we know in what quiet ways the Lord may be moving in someone’s life to be a witness for him? This is precisely what I’m addressing.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Lisa Robinson: “The person who sells all their possessions to minister in the Amazon is no more on mission than the accountant who works a 40 hour work week, provides for his family and doesn’t do any kind of grand accomplishments.”

      Clarifying Q: Can this accountant not verbally engage in Great Commission work, and in terms of the two Great Commandments, only go to church on Easter and Christmas and baptisms and funerals, and still be thought of as “missional”?

    • Legalism is the killer of Grace. Each one will work out their own salvation… There are many parts of the Body… Does the potter not have the right to mold the clay to suit His purpose… Don’t trip, it’s all good.

    • Lisa Robinson

      You know, here’s a lingering thought I’ve had in response to Delywn’s comment about being comfortable. What Christian is truly comfortable in this life no matter how ordinary their lives are?

    • anonymous

      let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, Heb 10:23-24

      I know your deeds, toil, love, faith, service yet have against some -leaving your first love; holding to false teaching and putting stumbling blocks toward idols, immorality;some neither cold nor hot but lukewarm in need of nothing Rev2-3

      let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! Ps90:17

      in repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength. Isa 30:15b

    • Dave Z

      I think we all, consciously or unconsciously, tend to project our selves onto others. What we see as important, we think others should see as important, and if they don’t well, they’re wrong! And probably heretics! 🙂

      And, people tend to believe what authorities say, and authorities, having a built-in soapbox, project their selves over the masses – everyone should be like them and live their lives by the values of the authority. And people buy into it. Next thing you know, [whatever] is how the real Christian life should look. Then some develop a sense of smug superiority because they get it “right” while others feel insecure because, in essence, they just can’t seem to live that way, whether it’s “missional” or something else.

      First time I noticed this was around 1980 when Keith Green hooked up with YWAM and sudddenly began teaching “If you’re not specifically called to stay home, you are in sin if you don’t go to the mission field, because that’s a call for everyone.” What a load of [bleep]!

      Larry Osborne has written a couple of books that touch on this: “A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God: Spirituality for the Rest of Us” and “Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith.”

      It’s true that people feel shame, insecurity and inadequacy when someone they respect, typically someone with a level of celebrity, even if it’s just a local pastor, tells them they should be this, that or the other.

      And that’s the real shame.

    • Marc F

      Good article. Our pastor continues to remind us that the mission field is everywhere, including our own backyard. How we conduct ourselves should reflect Christ’s work within us, but we should all share the gospel to co-workers, neighbors, parents of our children’s friends, etc. We don’t need to go to a far away country to tell people about Jesus.
      And we need to tell people because failing to share the Gospel often makes it difficult to distinguish between a Mormon and a Christian when looking just at actions.

    • Delwyn X. Campbell

      I gave my reasons for discomfort in my first post. In America, we have gotten REALLY comfortable, on the one hand, with asking the Gov’t to fix our problems, then, on the other hand, complaining when they charge us a ton of money to do it. We are not a third world country; I would bet that most of the people reading this article go to fairly decent sized churches, rather than store-fronts, and we waste a lot of stuff to maintain our consumer economy (why should I need to replace a computer or cell phone every two years?). If you are putting forward the argument that a Christian would never feel comfortable with how they are living, like Paul, who said, “I have not yet attained, but I press on…” I can see that, but I think that, while there are people who carry burdens of false guilt, there are also a lot of people who think that they are saved by proximity – since they spend some time doing church stuff, they are ok.
      At the end of the day, you’re right. I am only responsible for what I do, or don’t do, in response to what the Lord convicts me to do. No one is going to hell because of me, and I can’t take a bow for anyone that makes it into heaven. So if God laid it on you to write this, so be it. I just gave you my first impression when I read it.

    • ralph schreiber

      John 17–that the world may believe and know–has helped myself.

    • Lisa Robinson

      I came across this article today, which I thought was very compatible


    • Lora

      Of the churches receiving Paul’s Epistles, the Thessalonians seemed to have known the most about upcoming end-time events. Since so many of their lives seemed to be wrapped up with speculation, Paul advised them to work, study to be quiet, and to eat their own bread.

      Great advice for all of us!

    • […] Lisa Robinson gives her perspective on Bradley’s article. click here […]

    • pcg

      I was wanting to write something like this to share with some friends in a “missional”-type church, especially to help them understand introverts a bit better. (i think many of the points made can be applied to folks cutting introverts some slack!)

      However, I don’t see any reason to repeat what you’ve so deftly said here. So I’ll just make this post required reading 🙂


    • […] This little blog got me thinking a bit about our responsibilities as Christians.  Give it a read and then review this passage from 1 Thessalonians 4. […]

    • chris skiles

      Thank you, thank you, thank you! Lisa, this is a message that is not being spoken enough. I think Michael Spencer would have been pleased with this post as well.

    • Andre

      Once AGAIN you are spot on! I just want to be part of your advance copy reading team for your first book! ? Keep up the GREAT work Lisa. Your are indeed a blessing!

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