New Research Shows Ways Churches Can Equip Congregations to Live Out Their Faith in the Workplace
Billy Graham once said, “I believe one of the next great moves of God is going to be through the believers in the workplace.” And equipping those believers to live out their faith in the marketplace begins in the local church.
Helping pastors and church leaders prepare people spiritually, mentally, emotionally and practically for the rest of their week beyond church services is the overarching goal of the faith and work movement. Driven by and based on a deep and rich theological foundation, this movement aims to close the gap between Sunday and the rest of the week.
Scott Sauls, senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, says, “Faith and work are a way of understanding how God created the heavens and the earth, and how he created humans. Faith and work integration recognizes that God is a creator of work, and that the first great commission God gave was for Adam and Eve to tend his garden in Eden. This principle demonstrates that work is a vital part of what it means to be human.”
What are churches doing today to help equip their members to live a life of faith in their workplace and community? Leadership Network conducted a small research project last year to uncover some of the current best practices among churches leading the way in the faith and work space.
A HIGHER CALLING?
Whether intentionally or not, many pastors have created a sense of hierarchy within the church that elevates the value of paid vocational ministry in the church over jobs their members have in the marketplace. This type of thinking and teaching has reinforced for church members the view that their vocations lack status, which can lead them to feel as though they are doing something that is not important when compared to those serving in traditional full-time ministry in the church.
Therefore, a key measure of the movement’s traction in a church is the pastor’s perspective on life and calling. This viewpoint can either be a catalyst or a deterrent to the faith and work mindset—it influences how a pastor teaches, preaches and communicates. Several of the pastors interviewed in our research expressed a concern that most pastors spend a majority of their time preparing their people for the smallest part of their lives.
Tom Nelson, founding and senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Kansas City, president of Made to Flourish and author of Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work, calls this “spiritual malpractice” and challenges pastors to start placing a greater emphasis on whole-life discipleship that equips church members for life Monday through Saturday.
In his book How Then Should We Work? Hugh Whelchel says, “Until Christians embrace the biblical doctrine of work, they will remain ineffective … helpless to impact the culture around them for the glory of God and the furtherance of his kingdom.”
A VOCABULARY GUIDE
Ryan Wall, director of city engagement at Watermark Dallas, says, “There’s a huge language problem in the faith and work space. People say different things and mean the same thing, and vice versa when it comes to terms like work, vocation and calling. There’s some fighting over terminology in the drive for clarity. There are also some theological implications around some of the language.”
Several terms and concepts are repeated when listening to champions of the faith and work movement talk about their goals and strategies. Integration, for example, is a key concept that was mentioned by many pastors. We also heard “overcoming the sacred and spiritual divide,” a major push for most of the pastors leading a faith and work initiative in their local church.
“Whole-life discipleship” was another oft-repeated phrase pastors stressed to help their congregants realize that faith should be lived out in every aspect of their lives. The idea behind this concept is that churches need to help their congregations integrate faith and work into the regular rhythms of everyday life rather than just add more church programs for people to attend.
THE MARRIAGE OF FAITH AND WORK
Churches are taking a variety of creative approaches to promote the blending of faith and work.
• This Time Tomorrow Interviews. Several churches regularly schedule times in their worship services to interview one of their members. In this interview the person shares details about their work life. The person conducting the interview encourages the church to pray for that person and those who serve in similar industries.
• Sermon Series on Faith and Work. Many of the pastors surveyed said in addition to preaching sermon series focused on work, they also use more marketplace illustrations in messages.
• Small Group Sharing and Studies. Christ Community Church recently started encouraging each of their small group Bible studies to let one member in each group take about 10 minutes during a meeting to tell their work story.
• Workplace Visits. Many pastors talked about intentionally visiting congregants at their workplaces for meetings or just to better understand the realities of their jobs.
• Vocational Affinity Groups. Watermark is implementing industry-based groups within the church to gather like-minded marketplace leaders together.
• Organizations and Institutes. Many of the churches most engaged in the faith and work movement have created separate institutes or organizations outside of their churches to reach a broader audience to help advance the cause. Made to Flourish, for example, was launched by Tom Nelson at Christ Community Church.
• Marketplace Residents. Assistant Pastor Bill Lamberth from Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas, says his church is adding marketplace residents this fall to join the other staff members focused on expanding their faith and work efforts.
A number of churches are exploring different types of economic capacity building or social enterprises. The mission efforts of these businesses vary from church to church, but this trend could be the next iteration in the process of the faith and work movement. In his new book The Coming Revolution in Church Economics, Mark DeYmaz, cofounder of the Mosaix Global Network and pastor of Mosaic Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, discusses how the church collectively can be entrepreneurial in order to leverage its assets not only to bless the community, but also to generate a sustainable income. And DeYmaz, a contributor to Outreach magazine, knows what he is talking about. The local community has recognized Mosaic Church for purchasing a vacant Kmart and renting half of it to a fitness club. This business move generates enough revenue to pay for a majority of the church’s mortgage. Gabe Coyle, downtown campus pastor at Christ Community Church, says they are exploring ways to grant free office space to immigrants and minorities at their new downtown campus where they have some additional space available. They also are thinking about creating a studio to help emerging artists develop business acumen through a mentorship program. The church would provide them with space for gallery hops to sell their work.