I sat across the breakfast table in a downtown restaurant talking to an attorney who owned a sizable law firm. He was a leader in a large evangelical church which was familiar to me. I had been introduced to him by a friend and we had a good conversation about what God is doing around the world through business – creating jobs and making disciples of Jesus. Then he made this startling statement:
“I don’t see how what I do as an attorney has anything to do with what you are talking about…I don’t think I have anything to offer.”
How can that be? What did he mean? Bill Peel of the Center for Faith and Work states, “I believe the gap between what is preached and what is celebrated continues to cloud how people assess the value of their work to God,” says Peel.1
- Over two-thirds (70%) of Christians still cannot envision how the work they do serves God.
- Almost four out of five church-goers (78%) doubt that the work they do is equal in importance to the work of a pastor or priest.
Citing these statistics and others from the Barna Group and Center for Faith and Work cooperative research, Peel states, “Clearly, increased preaching and teaching about faith and work is a positive and praiseworthy step, but more is needed. Churches must become fully engaged in shaping people spiritually for the workplace. A powerful next step is to schedule time in worship services to publicly celebrate all kinds of work that advances God’s creation …this simple action can help people connect God’s truth with their work in life-changing ways.”Pastor Jim Mullins2 who also has business experience, suggests that all types of work, not just pastoral and missionary work should be publicly celebrated. Their church now has a 5-minute interview each Sunday morning of people from various occupations so that they may celebrate their work and affirm its importance in bringing glory to God. Says Mullins, “These interviews have slowly helped all of us to understand that ‘vocation is integral, not incidental, to the mission of God in the world,’ as Steve Garber says.”
Interview Questions at Redemption Church, Tempe, AZ
Mullins continues, “While there is some room for customization, we ask four basic questions in each interview. We repeat the same questions, because they give our congregants a weekly reminder and opportunity to reflect on their own work.
Question #1: How would you describe your work?
“We want a snapshot of the daily life of the interviewee. This answer often builds common ground between the interviewee and others within the congregation, even if they don’t work in the same field. Question #2: As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work? (Gen 1:26-28, 1 Cor. 10:31, Eph. 5:1, Col. 3:17)”We want to ground the intrinsic value of work in the character of God and frame our work as an act of “image-bearing” (Gen. 1:16-28, 2:15). Therefore, we ask the interviewees to connect their work to some specific aspect of God’s work. In Kingdom Calling, Amy Sherman offers six categories of God’s work that give us a helpful framework for our vocations:
- Creative work (artists, designers, architects, etc.)
- Providential work (entrepreneurs, janitors, civil servants, bankers, etc.)
- Justice work (lawyers, paralegals, diplomats, supervisors, etc.)
- Compassionate work (nurses, nonprofit directors, social workers, EMTs, etc.)
- Revelatory work (scientists, journalists, educators, etc.)
- Redemptive work (pastors, authors, counselors, etc.)
“Some people subconsciously think their work should always be fun and fulfilling, often assuming that the presence of pain and struggle invalidates the goodness of their work. We want them to see that, in a fallen world that is filled with sin and its effects, each occupation has unique hardships and comes with its own thorns and thistles. Question #4: Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others? (Mk. 10:35-45; Eph. 5:1, Rom. 12:14-21; Col. 1:24-27)”We want to broaden the application of Jesus’s command to love our neighbors. Many people assume this command is mostly applied as interpersonal acts of kindness, but we try to demonstrate that love can also be indirect and systemic.”I was teaching a college course in a Canadian college not long ago when a woman in the class made a statement to me about half way through the course. She was a faithful believer, served on mission trips and tried to live righteously in her sizable company which she had founded and where she was the current CEO. Michelle said to me, “for the first time in my life I have come to realize that my business is my ministry.”
All of us need to do what we can to celebrate every profession, every workplace skill, every occupation and every business as that which God desires to bring glory to himself and bring people to worship Him.
1 Is the Gap Between Pulpit & Pew Narrowing? Read the Latest Research ©2018 Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University
2 “The Butcher, the Baker, and the Biotech Maker”, Jim Mullins, The Gospel Coalition, October 29, 2014.
Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures