“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
I was at the O’Hare airport in Chicago, and while waiting for a delayed flight, I got into a conversation with a gentleman sitting next to me. He was VP of a division of a large, global company. We talked business and the economy, and at some point our conversation moved to the topic of faith. I discovered he is a very committed Christian, and that he goes to a large, well-known church in the city where he lives.
I asked him, “What is your church’s theology of work?” He looked at me quizzically and asked that I repeat the question. I asked the question again, and he said, “I have never heard that question before. I’m not sure I understand.” So I clarified for him by asking it another way: “What does your church teach about the role of work in the life of a Christian, and the role of a Christian at work?”
His response was: “I have no idea.”
Over the years, I have asked this question all over America to hundreds of Christians and the response is almost always the same. It reveals a dangerous and debilitating blind spot in the Christian community. The church lacks a robust and comprehensive theology of work that connects and integrates the gospel, the kingdom of God, the Christian life, and the everyday work of Christians.
Work — your daily job — is not separate from the gospel. It is not separate from the ministry. It is not separate from the calling of Christ. Your work is the ministry. Your work is the calling of Jesus on your life. Your work is one of the primary ways you are called to live out the gospel and fulfill God’s purpose for you.
In recent years a number of “faith at work” ministries, articles, blogs, and books have emerged. Some are insightful and helpful; some are mediocre. However, nothing to date has been able to capture and focus the collective spirit of the Christian community to rediscover and recommit to God’s purpose for his people to have dominion on planet earth as agent’s of the kingdom.
Because of the importance of work in God’s purpose and plan, I believe it demands a significant shift in the focus of the church. Since Christians spend more waking hours at work than any other activity, the church should be focused on equipping Christians with the skills necessary to be effective, high-impact agents of the kingdom in the workplace.
This requires much more than an occasional sermon series on “faith at work.”
It requires much more than a book study of the latest Christian best-seller on Jesus in the marketplace.
It requires much more than a men’s ministry that periodically has a speaker who addresses job-related issues from a Christian perspective.
The importance of work in the kingdom of God demands that the church renew its belief that God is the creator of the physical world, rediscover the dominion commandment, and recommit to the priority of work in the daily life of every Christian.
The priority of work challenges the church to fundamentally rethink and reshape its approach to discipleship. The purpose of discipleship is to equip Christians to live for Christ and be salt and light in the world of work Monday thru Friday. And since we spend the majority of our waking hours working on the job, should not discipleship place significant focus on equipping people with the skills for effectiveness and fruitfulness at work?
The priority of work also challenges the training of pastors and the role of pastors in the local church. The training that most pastors receive does not equip them to equip Christians for the world of work. This is because seminaries and bible colleges do not have a robust and comprehensive theology of work that connects and integrates the gospel, the kingdom of God, the Christian life, and the everyday work of Christians. They are not preparing pastors to prepare Christians for effectiveness in the marketplace.
Think about it. If you are a Christian who wants to build next level skill for effectiveness on the job, do you look to your local church for that kind of training? The answer, of course, is no. The church does not offer that kind of training. And why not? Because it is not part of the church’s vision.
It’s not that it isn’t a priority for the church.
It isn’t even on the church’s radar screen!
Someone asked me recently, “Tim, are you suggesting that the local church become a vocational training center?” Yes, absolutely! Imagine the impact on a community if a bunch of local churches focused their collective resources and collaborated to establish a Development Center that offered job skill training, leadership development, team building skills, tech skills, etc..
So let me repeat: Work — your daily job — is not separate from the gospel. It is not separate from ministry. It is not separate from the calling of Christ. Your work is the ministry. Your work is the calling of Jesus on your life. Your work is one of the primary ways you are called to live out the gospel and fulfill God’s purpose for you.
The importance of work in the kingdom of God demands that the church renew its belief that God is the creator of the physical world, rediscover the dominion commandment, and recommit to the priority of work in the daily life of every believer.