Do the people in your church know that their work matters?
I sat at a Subway with my friend Steve, a pediatrician who had served families in our little town for years. In between bites of his sandwich during a quick lunch break, Steve asked me if I thought he was making a difference in anyone's life. Yes, he was doing good work that benefited so many people. But what good was it to go looking for monkeys in a toddler's ears (that's how he convinced them to let him use his otoscope) if he wasn't telling them about Jesus.
I hurt for my friend. We had a good conversation. I hope he left encouraged and invigorated in his work. A week later I got the phone call that Steve had been hit by a car and killed while he was jogging. Several days later at his funeral, well over 1,000 people showed up as the legacy of a man whose work caring for children made all the difference in the world.
I hope the men and women in your church know that their work matters. The good news that the perfect world God created is being restored into something better than brand new breathes life into the mundane. If you are not intentionally helping your people weave together their faith and work, here is a quick way to get started.
Start With These Convictions
This year I am working with a group from the Acton Institute and the Kern Family Foundation to bolster the efforts of churches in integrating faith and work. Undergirding that work are the following biblical-theological convictions:
The Scope of The Gospel
- Christ's mission is to renew all things, not just save souls.
- The consummation of Christ's kingdom will involve the recreation/restoration of the material world.
- The Gospel brings about transformation in individuals, communities, and cultures/societies.
The Scope of the Church's Work
- The church's mission is to join King Jesus in the missio Dei.
- The church's mission should include efforts to bring transformation/renewal not only to individuals but also to communities, social sectors, and cultural practices/values.
- Faithful discipleship is for the whole of life: our relationships, our work, our finances, our families - everything.
- Our church should work hard to equip congregants to live missionally for God's kingdom through their work.
Work and Economics
- Work is good and is not the result of the Fall.
- Through our work, we glorify God by serving others and the common good.
- All Christians, regardless of their particular job, have a ministry in and through that vocation.
- Churches that understand the economy will be equipped to help their communities flourish.
- Through economic exchange, we work together and create value for one another.
- We have a stewardship responsibility to flourish in our lives, to help our neighbors flourish as fellow stewards, and to pass on a flourishing economy to the next generation
Do The Next Right Thing
With the leaders in your church or ministry, take the following steps:
- Rate your team's strength of conviction on a scale of 1-5 (1=very weak; 2=weak; 3=fair; 4=strong; 5=very strong).
- Rate the church's actual level of implementation of these convictions using the same scale.
- Briefly describe one implementation practice that you do that expresses the convictions noted for each section (Scope of the Gospel; Scope of the Church's Work; Discipleship; Work and Economics).
- For at least two areas where your assessment rating was Fair (3) or less, identify the action step(s) you will take to strengthen this area. These actions can take place at the personal level (something YOU will do, such as studying a topic more thoroughly). Or you can work this out on a corporate level (something your team will implement in your church, or among particular groups such as staff, church officers, group leaders, men's ministry, etc.).
Where are you stuck? What are the theological conundrums or practical challenges that keep you from taking the next step? Let me know in the comments section below and I'll help you get on track.