Blog - Grasping Vocation
Newbigin on the Work WorldFriday, October 14, 2011
Believers from the work world gather Sunday after Sunday to listen to their pastors. What if pastors could listen to those believers describe the challenges, opportunities, frustrations, and questions they face on the job? For the past several weeks Leroy Hurt and I have been planning a county-wide forum to create just such an opportunity.
While working on this project, I revisited—and was greatly encouraged by—Lesslie Newbigin’s book, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. This veteran missionary saw the importance of so-called "secular” work. A January, 2010, Christianity Today article called him "The Missionary Who Wouldn’t Retire.” Newbigin had left England in 1939 to preach the gospel in India. When he "retired” in 1974 and returned home, he found communicating the good news in England far more difficult than it had been in India. So he began to apply within his own homeland the cross-cultural ministry skills he had honed in India.
How could the gospel be communicated in what had now become a "foreign” culture?. "The only hermeneutic [interpreter, illuminator] of the gospel,” Newbigin wrote, " is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it.” Such a congregation, he said, needs to be "prepared for and sustained in the exercise of the priesthood in the world.”
Where does this priesthood of believers function? "It is in the ordinary secular business of the world that the sacrifices of love and obedience are to be offered to God. It is in the context of secular affairs that the mighty power released into the world through the work of Christ is to be manifested. The Church gathers every Sunday . . . to renew its participation in Christ’s priesthood. But the exercise of this priesthood is not within the walls of the Church but in the daily business of the world.”
How can this priesthood of believers be equipped to represent Christ in the work world? "The congregation has to be a place where its members are trained, supported, and nourished in the exercise of their parts of the priestly ministry in the world. The preaching and teaching of the local church has to be such that it enables members to think out the problems that face them in their secular work in light of their Christian faith.”
On Saturday morning, November 12, in the forum mentioned above, Thurston County pastors and church leaders will hear from those on the front lines of the work world. What they hear should make them better able to help Christians in the work world "think out the problems that face them in their secular work.”