The Sacred Ministry of Cleaning Out the Porta-Potties

Well you have heard it I am sure. I have personally heard it dozens of times usually in testimonials and from Christians who are in some type of vocational ministry.  The comments usually go something like this, “I spent 25 years in a secular job but now I’m working for the Lord.” Or maybe it is a question to pastors and ministry types, “What was your secular job before you went into full time ministry?” Sometimes we divide entertainment into categories like sacred/ secular. We call some music sacred and some secular.  (Okay full disclosure: as I write this I am listening to my Pink Floyd channel on Pandora®) There is only one source of creativity in the Cosmos- The Triune God. We might spoil our music with rotten lyrics but as adults we should be able to eat the meat and spit out the bones without relying on divisions and religiosity.

Well here’s the straight dope on these sorts of statements and questions- they come from the lie of separation. The lie that we are separated from God began in the Garden with Adam and Eve but the Greeks intellectualized it and then the Christians incorporated it into their teachings through people like St. Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. The idea of being separated from God is fallen. You cannot possibly be separated from God… you have no power to be here… without a connection to a Sustainer you would simply cease to exist. Paul told a whole crowd on non-Christians that they live and move and have their being in Jesus and that Jesus gives life and breath and all things to all mortals. If you plan to die someday then Paul is referring to you!

Additionally in the first words of his gospel John, the beloved disciple, said that Jesus made everything and that nothing exists apart from what Jesus created.portapotty1

One particular year at Higher Ground Summer Camp the Porta-Potty company forgot about us and we had a rather smelly camp by the end of the week because these 12 portable bathrooms on site were not cleaned and with 135 campers and 75 staff well… you get the idea. It was unpleasant to say the least. Well the following year I served as Chaplain and during the final message of the week I kept referring to the sacred ministry of sucking out the porta-potties and each time the teens would giggle. Of course that was the partly the point of it all to keep their interest and make it fun.

Well in conclusion I asked the campers in the Chapel a series of questions: “How many think Jesus created you?” Every hand went up. Then I asked, “How many believe Jesus created you with a need to go to the restroom?” Every hand went up. Then the final query: “How many of you believe that Jesus provides for all of your needs?” Every hand went up and many many lights went on. I could see on their young faces that they’d made the connection.

Now the man who drove the sewage truck and cleaned out the port-potties would likely not tell you that when he was 16 he had a vision from the Lord that his calling would be to clean out portable bathrooms. You see it does not matter why he is doing the job but while he is doing it he is participating in Jesus’ provision for his beloved humanity.

There is no secular only sacred. All is sacred. Yes admittedly we sometimes spoil the things Jesus made. Child abuse is certainly wrong but it is merely a spoiling of something God made that is very good- the relationship between a parent and child. C.S.Lewis wrote, “Goodness is, so to speak itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled.” Do you see it? What you do every day is important in fact as important as what preachers do on Sunday mornings. (maybe more)

Could we travel safely to visit family or help a widow in need without reliable transportation? Thank you mechanics. Could we set bones and administer treatments without doctors and nusrses? Thank you medical professionals. Could we cross vast expanses without bridges? Thank you welders, masons, and construction engineers. Could we enjoy relationships over nice meals out without  restaurants? Thank you chefs, wait-staff, and managers. Thank you farmers, receptionists, firefighters, police, and military. Thank you janitors, teachers, and factory workers. You get the idea. Let us put an end to the snobbery of sacred/ secular and recognize that Jesus is Emmanuel and he is with us no matter what our occupation.

~Bill Winn

9 comments so far

  1. beloved on

    Wow! This is so beautiful. I was always taught that the only way I could participate in “God’s work” was to pray and pay my money from my valueless job to the church so it/they could do the real work of the Kingdom. Thank you. This message is so needed for us today!

  2. billwinn on

    Indeed Beloved, the Sacred/ Secular lie is often used as a money laundering scheme for the church. Your observations are keen and spot on!

  3. patchingcracks on

    Great post. Thanks for the perspective. It’s so easy to idolize certain kinds of vocations. Believers can serve and glorify God in everything we do.

    • billwinn on

      And the human race said, “Amen”

      • billwinn on

        also non-believers

  4. Mom on

    This is great. I plan to share it with my widows group and my Bible study group. Thanks!

    • billwinn on


  5. Trying to get people to see that is very difficult, especially when they get the idea that they are “working for the Lord” as if the Lord needed them to work for him. I keep telling them that they are taking on too much responsibility and that all humanity is already held together by the Lord God. We are in Him, if not, we would not exist. I get called a “universalist” and get shunned. I’m sure you do to.

    But the point here is that God created us for serving one another and that IS God’s work in and through us. not just us for the Lord, but in participation with the Lord.

    • billwinn on

      well said Boyd

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