Blog - Grasping Vocation
Relating the Gospel to Work-World CulturesThursday, December 22, 2011
How are believers in very different cultures
to authentically live out the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ in their
workplaces? First, they need a biblical theology of work. That is, they must grasp
what God has revealed about everyday human work. For example, how did work originate?
What are God’s purposes in our daily work? Is non-church work second-best?
Second, this biblical theology of work needs to be "contextualized” so that it speaks clearly within a given culture. In that culture, what does the gospel confront and correct? What does it affirm? What cultural characteristics can be used as "bridges” for the gospel?
These are some of the issues I have been dealing with as I just completed a directed study in contextualizing the theology of work for cultures around the globe. At the end of September, I sent a questionnaire to several who have been teaching this subject in seminaries and universities in various countries. Four responses came back from Africa, two from China (Asia), one from the UK, and one from New Zealand.
I just posted the compiled results of this survey. It includes 25 questions, each followed by the responses from the theology-of-work instructors. Here, for example, are five examples of the questions asked:
- What have you found to be the
most difficult theology of work concept to communicate in this culture? What
makes it so difficult?
- In this culture, what does having a job mean?
- Does the prevailing culture press people toward underwork (slothfulness), hard work (with appropriate rest), or overwork (workaholism)? What explains the trend you identified?
- In the culture of the work world, in what areas does sin manifest itself most clearly?
- How would you describe the predominant attitude of the clergy toward non-ecclesiastical work?
For me, one of the benefits of this study was the ways in which it has prompted me to examine these issues within my own culture here in the United States. As the culture of the work world here drifts further and further from any biblical anchors, it becomes increasingly important for us as believers to know how to evaluate it in light of what God has revealed.
Here’s a challenge: try asking the questions of the work-world culture in America. For example, what does having a job mean? What does it—in actual practice—mean to most Christ-followers? What should it mean?
To read the survey results, click here.