Friday, June 25, 2010
I discovered that most pastors don't view themselves, or their churches, as being very effective in this particular area.
On a scale of 1-10, I asked each pastor what their level of satisfaction was in how well their churches were doing in equipping congregants to have an influence in the workplace. The average response was 4.58 (10 being the highest). Twelve pastors (60%) gave themselves a 5 or lower. 80% of the responses were 6 or lower.
I was impressed by the humility of those pastors. Many were not pleased with the reality of their particular situations, and it was evident that many wanted things to be better with respect to "worklife discipleship."
If a pastor were to ask me how to improve things in this particular area, I would probably say something like the following (and this may explain why pastors don't ask me this question!):
"Focus more on how you can help your congregants fulfill their roles as participants in the workplace than on what your congregants can do to help you fulfill your role as pastor in the church."
Several years ago, I had a conversation with a school superintendent who told me his pastor encouraged him to see his work in education as a priority over what was going on within the four walls of his church.
I remember thinking how unusual this was! In my entire life, I had never heard anyone say such a thing about his or her pastor.
Now, please don't read what I'm about to say as a slam on pastors. They need the support of their congregants as much as their congregants need the support of the pastor. But I think most pastors have their eyes fixed more on the church gathered in the building, than on the church scattered in the workplace.
I'm not suggesting it's an "either-or" proposition. I think it's "both-and." But how common is it for a pastor or a church to have a reputation for equipping believers for successful life in the workplace, in the truest sense of the word "success"?
My friend's pastor was Lowell Bakke. Please take 2.5 minutes to hear Lowell share his views on the role of pastors in the church: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jk8Vw-c1Bzc&feature=player_embedded
Friday, June 18, 2010
Before I answer my own question, let me distinguish between the church gathered and the church scattered.
When I ask, "How can a church help congregants to cultivate a God-centered approach to work," I'm first thinking about how the church gathered might do this.
I'm coming at this question with the fundamental understanding that the purpose of the church gathered on Sunday is to prepare, equip and encourage the body of Christ to be effective as the church scattered throughout the city on Monday through Saturday.
Whether or not this is what every pastor sees as the purpose of the church is another question. Perhaps you've heard the statement, "The most important thing happening this week in our city is what's happening right now, here in this sanctuary!"
Dr. Vic Pentz, Senior Pastor of Peachtree Presbyterian, in Atlanta, used to see it that way. But no longer. In fact, he says he doesn't even believe it any more.
Does this sound like he has lost his mind? Take 1 minute and 16 seconds to hear Pastor Pentz explain himself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YboJIUVm8Cc
Can the gathering of a church with its pastor on Sunday be likened to the players of a football team gathering at half-time in the locker room with the coach before returning to the playing field again?
While the analogy isn't perfect (there's more to the church gathered than the pastor's message), I think Pastor Pentz is on to something significant.
Of course the 'playing field' is more than a person's workplace. But since work occupies about 1/2 of a working person's waking hours, it's a pretty important chunk of life.
So what could happen on Sunday that might prepare congregants for engaging in their daily work on Monday as a "sacred task," whether swinging a hammer, driving a truck, running a business, or being a homemaker?
Next week we'll start exploring some specific ways in which a local church can cultivate a God-centered approach to life in the workplace, "out on the playing field."
Friday, June 11, 2010
Do you think the lost art of "God-centered work" can be restored?
If so, how?
Since no one responded, I'm left to answer my own questions! So, here goes...
When I'm involved in a project that requires skills I have never used before, or I'm trying to solve a problem I don't know how to fix, I look for "how to" information.
I appreciate the "_______ for Dummies" books, because they don't assume I know anything. They start from "A" and go to "Z," in an orderly, step-by-step fashion. That's what I like.
I can also Google, "How do I ________" and get a concise answer to just about anything in a nano-second!
But some challenges defy step-by-step solutions, and have no quick fixes. They are too big. Too complex. Like: restoring the lost art of God-centered work in a culture that has excluded Him from public places and relegated Him to "church" (which would have been unthinkable in Jonathan Edwards' day). Fixing such a problem is fully and completely beyond us. And this is a good thing!
Can the lost art of God-centered work be restored? The short answer is, "Yes."
Why do I believe this? Because "with God all things are possible" [Mark 10:27].
But those two little words, "with God," are critically important.
Psalm 127:1 comes to my mind: "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it."
When it comes to restoring the lost art of God-centered work in a post-Christian society, it can only happen if it's a "Holy Spirit thing."
Our role in the process is to come along side what the Lord is doing today in this regard.
So how is it possible to "come along side" with respect to restoring a God-centered approach to work in the 21st Century?
In the next few posts, we'll explore some ways we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit to revive a robust "theology of work" in today's culture. Specifically, I'll be looking at ways in which churches, homes, schools and companies can "come along side" in this move of God.
Did I say, "move of God?"
If it isn't, let's pack up and call it a day.
First stop: the church.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Christ instructs His followers to “occupy” planet Earth until He comes again. This act of occupation takes place in every legitimate field of human endeavor.
It takes place as followers of Christ observe all that He commanded within the realms of business, government, the arts, media, education, and every sphere of legitimate work on this planet.
The degree of corruption we sometimes find in these “earth-tending” spheres may be because Christ-followers have either opted out of them, or we have never realized that we are supposed to observe all that Christ commanded within the context of those kinds of jobs in the first place.
Jonathan Edwards and fellow graduates from Yale, in 1721, would have understood that it is in the workplaces of the world where we have a prime opportunity to “observe all that Christ commanded,” which is the thrust of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20.
It was the so-called “Protestant Work Ethic” that fashioned America into the land of opportunity it quickly became. Yet, today’s “sacred-secular split” has led many Christians to leave their Christianity outside the workplace door on Monday morning.
As a consequence, workplace participants cannot always distinguish Christians from non-Christians in the work-world, and our economy has suffered greatly.
I want to encourage the next generation to play a role in changing this. Will you join me?
The commitment to intentionally and systematically train young people in the “art of God-centered work” has largely disappeared from our churches, schools and homes. The custom of teaching students how to make connections between the biblical worldview and all forms of legitimate labor is no longer customary. It has gone the way of men's powdered wigs.
But it can be restored. I believe we can once again train our young people to see “their shop as well as their chapel as holy ground.”
The white powdered wigs can go. But to equip our sons and daughters with the ability to engage in their everyday work “as the work of God,” is long overdue for a comeback.
For a .pdf copy of the full article from the May-June issue of Home School Enrichment magazine, click this link:
Do you think the lost art of "God-centered work" be restored?
If so, how?