The backdrop could not have been better. The large sign behind me read “La Rey de Reyes,” Spanish for “King of Kings.” The team of 16 that I had travelled with to Argentina was enjoying the last day of the Southern Hemisphere summer before heading back to the remainder of our English winter. We stood outside the church together, chatting to the locals on this street in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires. I had long dreamed of visiting Argentina, and this trip had exceeded my expectations in many ways, including the opportunity to visit and minister in a prison that was experiencing a charismatic Christian revival. Even though I had already experienced more than I could have imagined, as I stood on that street in the Argentinian sunshine, I could not have known that there was one more surprise in store for me, a surprise that would affect my destiny.
From the age of seventeen, I carried close to my heart the memory of an encounter with the still, small voice of God. It was a call to ministry, which I heard in Southampton Central Baptist Church in 1975. I was attending an Evangelism Explosion trainers’ conference, and the preacher was Reverend Vic Jacobson, European Director of the Fort Lauderdale based Evangelism Explosion. He had found Jesus in prison and dedicated his life to the gospel.
I knew that Sunday evening in 1975 that I was called to full- time ministry. What that meant then, and now, are two very different things, but that call would steer my life. At the time, it meant to me that I might pastor a small church or perhaps be a missionary nurse somewhere in the world. I responded to the call by heeding the advice of my future grandfather-in-law and gaining experience working with people. In a strange twist, the call to “full-time” ministry that I received that night would eventually lead me to work in prison.
Twenty-two years later, at 39 years of age, I stood on the streets of Buenos Aires beneath the “King of Kings” sign, and received a commissioning that would change my life and perspective. I had just received a fax from England informing me that I was being promoted to prison governor. I stood there, with that fax in my hand, next to Claudio Friedson, one of the great revivalists of our day. He placed his hands on my shoulder and looked me straight in the eyes, uttering as he did, “Go back to England and run that prison for God.” That day, I laid down my original call and allowed myself to see that governing a prison would be an acceptable way to live out my working life until retirement. And that, in itself, is a calling.
I returned to England to take charge of that prison. Unbeknownst to me, for the first time, God was commencing another journey that would eventually lead to the fulfillment of the call I received in 1975. Even though I had stopped seeking it, God was about to lead me into a church-based ministry.
As I write this book, it is essential that I underline one of my core life messages: there should be no secular-sacred divide in thought or practice. I could study and write of its origins, but for now I want to build a foundation for this book and the books that will follow it. The implications of believing that there is a di- vide between the secular and the sacred, and worse still, that it is a hierarchical divide, are so far reaching and damaging to our assignment during our lives on this planet, that it is clearly a masterful scheme of Satan, the enemy of our souls. If, hypothetically speaking, 97 percent of any church congregation are not paid to go to church as their occupation, and if they should believe that their contribution to Habakkuk’s prophecy, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Glory of the Lord…” (Habakkuk 2:14, NKJV) is in some way not sacred, then we have created a 97 percent disempowered army.
Every step of my personal journey for 22 years I had a feeling of only being valued by the church for what I did in the con- text of church related meetings. I was valued in my workplace for what I achieved there, but I do not remember being, in any significant way, celebrated in the church for what I did in my workplace. I am sure that some acknowledged my contribution to society, though usually in the form of casual interest or flattering encouragement.
This divide will affect every area of our lives, from personal understanding to our worldwide contribution, and our equipping of the next generation. The absence of genuinely empowering the 97 percent, the majority of the body of Christ, has catastrophic potential to do harm and will limit our global impact. I will return to this subject throughout the Mastering Kingdom Administration series. However, my goal for now is to create a foundation upon which everything else will be built, whether your career is in the church or elsewhere.
My pastor often uses the phrase “Change the way you think.” It is his definition of repentance. This is where I want to start; changing the way we think about every aspect of organizational leadership, management, and administration. No thought or action can afford to be defined as only sacred or secular. Either is an error, which has consequences for His Kingdom.
There are, of course, spiritual aspects to life, but to label those things as sacred is a detriment to the emotional or physical realm, and will rob us of the full experience of life. Jesus was fully God and fully man. The Son of God, the most spiritual of beings, be- came the most physical of beings. That must teach us something.
The soul is commonly described as being the combined mind, will, and emotions. If we adhere to this definition, then it is interesting to note that God must therefore also represent the soul. After all, He has a mind, will, and emotions. Add that to the knowledge that our heavenly Father is creator God, that He created all things physical and that He is described as being the “great architect,” and we should have enough to know that a secular-sacred division cannot possibly be in the original plans and order of God.
Somewhere hidden in this divide is, I suspect, a lingering arrogance and Godlessness. Is there a suggestion in our developed psyche that we have somehow eclipsed God with our advancements, particularly in science? I love to jest that we think that if we gave God a new smartphone or computer tablet He would not know what to do with it. Yet, the truth is, He knows things that the developers of that technology do not know.
To quote my pastor once more, he said a few years ago that, “With God, everything is natural.” I like to add to his thought by saying that once, everything was supernatural. These two concepts will most likely start to mess with your thinking, and that is the goal: change the way you think. Let’s think of it another way—at one time, there was nothing on this planet made by man. God hid everything for us to discover. Food, building materials, and technology were all waiting, hidden by a creator God who would watch man’s advances through time—man’s great con- quests—with the joy of a dad.
Perhaps this secular-sacred division lies in a misunderstand- ing of the meaning of sacred and the goal of being holy. Sacred- ness has its roots in being holy, but holiness is not to be misunderstood as being set apart from the world, but rather, as Strong’s Concordance puts it, “abstaining from earth’s defilements.” It means to be devoted to the service of deity, and the service of deity is to see the whole world filled with glory, not just the church.
Although it is listed in 1 Corinthians 12:28, the gift of ad- ministration is often a victim of this thinking. What exacerbates the problem is that even when used in the church, administration has been reduced to a non-spiritual gift. The gifted administrator has been twice robbed. Their gift, when used in the church, has been considered non-spiritual, and their gift, when used outside the church, has had a non-sacred context.
Can we correct this imbalance? I believe that we can. When I wrote my second book, “Kisses from a Good God,” I included a chapter based on a statement that I had made from the pulpit. It was a simple phrase: “Surgery is not a second class healing.” In the foreword to my book, a urologist friend of mine wrote, “That simple message was probably the most profound pearl of wisdom that I have learned in all my years of training and practice.” Doctors and other Health Care Professionals have told me that I have changed the way in which they practice medicine. I am humbled and greatly encouraged. I believe that the same transformation will happen to you as an administrator. You will see, as my friend Leif Hetland says, “Through heaven’s eyes.”
Recent history has seen many great barriers and divisions fall. This world is a significantly different place than it was be- fore; travel and communication have dramatically changed in a single generation. I am encouraged to believe that a sacred-secular divide can fall too, especially as it affects the leader, manager, and administrator.
I love a particular prophecy that has been repeated so many times that I do not recall its origin. It is the word about the rising up of a nameless and faceless revival. Some have been put off by it as we all clearly have a face and identity with God, but the point of the prophecy is that there will be a move of God that does not depend upon the individual “man of God” leading the meeting, but rather the participation of the entire Church. There is an army of believers living in a world that defines them as secular but He has designated the work of their hands as sacred. It is time to recognize that call, erase the secular-sacred divide, and release the army to become fully engaged and fully empowered.