The topic of work is a popular one right now among Christian writers and thinkers, which makes sense. When the Monday morning sun breaks through the bedroom curtains, the last residues of Sunday’s joys afforded by the Word and the company of the saints, still lingering lightly in the mind, can dissipate with the sigh, “Time to make the donuts.”
Pastor, how do you prepare your members for Monday’s alarm clock?
It is easy for armchair theologians to over-exalt the activities of 9 to 5, and talk as if Christians can build eternity now. Never mind Ecclesiastes. In theologically sound circles, ironically, the greater danger is not triumphalism, but a graying out of the next world. Never mind heaven.
No, don’t go those ways, pastor. Your church needs a picture of Bunyan’s Christian stumbling yet steadfastly clambering toward the celestial city, hands stretched forward, eyes fatigued but fixed on the horizon.
Still, the eternal life does begin now for the Christian. And faith helps us see that we participate in the character of the creator through our work. The sharpened pencil says that he is a God of planning and intentions. The populated spreadsheet speaks to his analysis and oversight. The choreography of traffic lights communicates his affirmation of order. The clean sheets on the hospital bed say that he is a God who leans down with compassion. And then of course God rests to relish the good work of his hands.
What a joy and privilege it is to work, and so speak if only in whispers of our generous and delegating God, even as you make the donuts. Maybe an extra dollop of frosting says it more loudly?
9Marks devoted the last two issues of the Journal to lay elders. It seems time to help pastors think about Christians in the workplace. Pastor J.D. Greear meditates on what is “Christian” about work. Lukas Naugle, a marketplace maverick, points to the lessons that have helped him. Jamie Dunlop and Bari Nichols will help you think about specific groups—the over-ambitious and the worker in the home.
I am especially excited about Sebastian Traeger’s two articles on how the pastor and the business person can better understand and serve one another. In fact it was his ideas that first kicked off the idea of this whole issue. Also, check out this link to Traeger’s “Gospel at Work” conference audio resources, especially Michael Lawrence’s talk. And don’t miss the full manuscripts for one church’s adult Sunday School classes on work and money.
Finally, the article on Business as Missions is worth photocopying and distributing among the business folk in your church.
Pastoring Christians for the Workplace
Scripture teaches us how to serve God through our work, not just after work. Here are five features of what that looks like. Read more >
The marketplace can seem dizzyingly diverse, yet it’s where many church members spend most of their time. What should pastors teach them? Read more >
As Christians, we are called to be ambitious for Christ, yet many seem ambitious only for the things of this world. How can you pastor them? Read more >
To care well for the women in your church who work in the home, remember their curse, their context, and their culture. Read more >
Wanted: Businesspeople for the Church
Pastors and businesspeople bring different gifts to bear for the body. One way pastors can help businesspeople thrive in church is by teaching them to disciple. Read more >
It is easy for businesspeople in a church to feel misunderstood and underutilized. But this businessman advises, ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church. Read more >
The Executive Director of Access Partners
Business as missions is an old idea that’s opening new doors in international missions. Read more >
Practical resources for pastoring Christians for the workplace Read more >
Book Reviews on Work
With books as with cars and cameras, the good ones stand up over time. Much has changed in the fifteen years since Os Guinness’s now-classic disquisition on work, The Call, was first published. Read more >
It was not Gene Veith’s fault that I did not grasp what his book was really about until halfway in. I picked it up thinking it was about life in the office, or the classroom, or the workplace generally. But if I had paid better attention to the last words in Veith’s subtitle, I would have understood from the get-go that this book wasn’t exclusively, or even primarily, about the workplace. Read more >
Work. For many this word brings to mind frustration, weariness, disillusionment, and the like. But as Tom Nelson explains in his book Work Matters, “work” does not have to be a “four-letter word.” Rather, God’s design for vocation enables us to see the significance of work in the Christian life and also allows us to receive work as a good gift. Read more >
In How the Church Fails Businesspeople, educator and business consultant John Knapp argues that the church has largely failed businesspeople. Despite the fact that weekday occupations are the context in which most Christians serve others and develop their God-given abilities, “…church priorities continue to tilt heavily toward private faith and away from ministries that might equip believers for a robust public faith” (xii). Read more >
Based on what I saw in the Google preview of R. Paul Stevens’ new book Work Matters, I couldn’t wait to receive my copy in the mail. I was anxious to see how this author would write a theology of work focusing on individual narratives in Scripture’s storyline. I anticipated the book being amazingly theological, biblical and creative. But my expectations may have been unrealistically high, because after the first couple chapters, I was disappointed. Read more >
Other Book Reviews
I was recently on a conference call with a group of ten pastors who are all members of my theological “tribe,” as we’re calling them nowadays. Each of us took turns updating one another, and I mentioned that I was in the process of reviewing Timothy Keller’s Center Church. Would they pray for me? The conversation turned to Keller’s overall ministry program. Read more >
“The culture has changed, therefore the church must change.” That refrain, whether expressed or assumed, is the dominant motif of much of today’s church literature. And almost always, I’m unconvinced. Too often evangelicals mistake superficial trends for tectonic shifts. And too often we simply mirror the culture, as if what the world really needed was for the church to be just like it. Read more >
Good metaphors are great teaching tools. But the problem with metaphors, even the good ones, is that they can be pressed too far. This is a problem for Church Transfusion by Neil Cole and Phil Helfer. The authors, at times helpfully, appeal to DNA as a metaphor for transforming the church. Scripture teaches us that the church functions like a body. Therefore the DNA metaphor has good potential as a teaching tool. Read more >