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You’re a member of a church, part of the laity (non-ordained folk). You have come to believe that, even though you’re not ordained into “the ministry,” you have in fact been called into the ministry of Christ. Your context for ministry isn’t primarily the church, though you do serve in your church in a variety of settings. Rather, you understand that you are to be a ministry of Christ in the world, in your daily life, and, in particular, in your workplace. Thus you seek to live out yourYou’d like to receive support, encouragement, and perhaps even training from your church for your ministry. But this isn’t happening. You don’t hear sermons that relate Scripture to the workplace. Prayers don’t ask God to bless and use people at work. There aren’t classes or fellowship groups dedicated to workplace ministry. That which you believe to be central to your Christian discipleship isn’t explicitly discouraged by your church. It simply isn’t mentioned.
Somehow this doesn’t seem right to you. Shouldn’t your church support you as you seek to serve the Lord at work? Shouldn’t you receive encouragement, even teaching about this crucial area of discipleship?
Since you’re not the pastor of the church, you can’t stand up next Sunday morning and start preaching on the importance of faith at work. If you did, you’d probably be escorted out by the ushers. But you’d like to do something to help your church be more supportive of your own efforts to minister at work. Moreover, you have a sense that many others in your church would appreciate and benefit from attention to faith at work issues. So what can you do? What steps can you take to help your church address these crucial issues, both for your own sake and for the sake of others?
Before I suggest some answers to this question, I want to thank those who have shared their ideas with me through commenting on my last post or through their emails. These contributions, both short and long, have been thoughtful and helpful.
Furthermore, I would want to affirm “your” sense that the church should be with you in your effort to live out your faith at work. Sometimes, when your church isn’t offering much support, it might be tempting to leave the church behind. In fact, as David Miller shows in God at Work, much of the faith at work movement has happened outside of the church. Michael Lindsay, in his recent book Faith in the Halls of Power makes a similar observation. Now I have no objection to so-called parachurch ministries. In fact, I now work for one. But sometimes ministries that are supposed to be alongside the church (as “parachurch” means) end up leaving the church behind, to the detriment of all. If the world is going to be impacted by a faith at work movement, the church will be a necessary and central player in this movement.
So then, back to the central question:
What can lay people do to help their churches help them live out their faith at work?
Recommendation #1: Invest in Christian fellowship and help your fellowship to deal with issues of faith at work.
I received input from a number of my blog readers, both in comments and in emails. Just about every person said something about the importance of Christian fellowship. Joseph Timothy Cook said: “Fellowship with others working in the same or similar arenas . . . . Get together and talk with your church friends.” RJS wrote, simply, “Reorient to view church as community rather than resource.” (Note: I will use the names as they appear in comments. Email names will remain confidential.)
It’s easy to see the church as an institution that is dependent on and even limited by the pastor. But, biblically speaking, the church is a body of members, each of which is essential and each of which contributes to the life of the whole body. Dependence on any one member is excluded by the mutual interdependence of the body.
Practically speaking, this means that as individual church members invest in Christian community, as they begin to live as members, not of a club, but rather of an interdependent organism, then they can encourage, support, challenge, and teach each other, without relying on their pastor(s) to do the job.
Getting more specific, Joseph Timothy Cook explains:
Fellowship with others working in the same or similar arenas…and specifically and intentionally talking about challenges to your faith in the workplace. I’m now retired, but during many years practicing law, I received great blessings from other Christian lawyers while discussing our challenges. And, I hope, I’ve been able to help others in a similar way.
I realize that many lay people have felt unsupported by their churches in their effort to live out their faith at work. But I have to wonder home many of these people were, for example, invested in committed small groups. It’s hard to imagine that a member of such a group wouldn’t find lots of support for living out their faith at work, unless, of course, they themselves never brought up the subject.
So, if you’re a lay person in a church and you desire support for your faith at work discipleship, get connected with other believers who share a similar desire. Talk with people in your line of work. Bring up the subject of work in your small group. Pray for others as they seek to live out their faith in the workplace. And ask for prayer as well. You may not be able to change the culture of your whole church, but you can begin to make a real difference in the lives of a few people, including yourself.
Tomorrow I’ll suggest some further recommendations.