The Church at Work

I finally finished reading Work Matters by Tom Nelson. I highly recommend reading this book if you want to understand more about how your faith and your work connect. I also highly recommend giving a copy to your pastor if you’ve never heard him preach a sermon on the theology of work. I really appreciated what Nelson writes at the end of the book, in a chapter called “The Church at Work.”

The Church at Work“God designed the local church to be a transformed people scattered in their various vocational callings through the week. One of the highest stewardships for local church leadership is to encourage and equip apprentices of Jesus for their work. Yet this stewardship rarely gets the attention and commitment it requires.”

“To move forward, a faith community will need to (1) become more intentional about teaching a robust theology of vocation, (2) begin celebrating the diversity of vocations, (3) equip for vocational faithfulness, and (4) collaborate with other like-minded local churches that also recognize the church at work as a primary conduit of gospel faithfulness.”

Nelson goes on to note that, “this requires those who preach and teach to provide the congregation with a rich and regular diet of biblical truth in regard to vocation, and to also increasingly be sensitive to any residual language that reinforces a Sunday-to-Monday gap.” He lists specific phrases like “a secular job” and “full-time ministry.” Amen! Sometimes I think I’m just begin too picky about word choice, but using the right words is truly important. Nelson writes, “All too often our theology says one thing and our language communicates another.”

On the same topic, the most recent Christianity Today features an article¬†(“The Cutting Edge of Marketplace Ministries“) about how business, faith and church come together through various marketplace ministries. The part that got me really excited was near the end:

Since 2008, Stephen Grabill of the Acton Institute and Scott Rae of Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology have helped lead a multiyear initiative that helps seminaries train pastors to understand and promote a holistic view of work and vocation.

At Talbot, for example, students take a required course on the theology of vocation, and they are required to interview marketplace professionals at their workplaces. Rae says, “Our goal is to equip pastors to affirm work as an arena of service to God that isn’t ‘second-tier’ and to begin developing a strong theology of work.”

When clergy fail to affirm the value of marketplace vocations, Rae laments, laypeople end up “feeling like they are doing something ‘less than’ for God’s kingdom in their workplaces, as compared to preachers and missionaries. We have unwittingly recreated a hierarchy of callings/vocations.”

We need to talk more about work means in church so that we can learn what it means to be the church at work. I’m encouraged to see churches, seminaries, businessmen and pastors addressing this need.