Blog - Grasping Vocation
Getting Beyond Status QuoWednesday, May 16, 2012
The other day, I googled on the phrase "jobs on everyone’s mind” and received 1,150 hits. When it comes to work, people worry about it, watch movies about it, spend their best waking hours doing it, love it, hate it, and politicize it. And people talk about work everywhere—except in most churches.
It has been 65 years since Dorothy Sayers wrote "Why Work?” In that essay, she said, "In nothing has the Church so lost Her hold on reality as in Her failure to understand and respect the secular vocation. She has allowed work and religion to become separate departments, and is astonished to find that, as result, the secular work of the world is turned to purely selfish and destructive ends, and that the greater part of the world’s intelligent workers have become irreligious, or at least, uninterested in religion. But is it astonishing? How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life?”
In her book, Kingdom Calling, Amy Sherman writes, "The average Christian professional sitting in the pew hears little from the pulpit or in Sunday school about how her life with God relates to her life at work. She may receive general guidance about being salt and light in the spheres of her life, including her workplace. Overall, though, her church offers little specific guidance about why her work matters, how God can and does use it, or how her vocational power can be stewarded to advance his kingdom. . . . Lacking this guidance, some Christians simply ‘turn off’ their faith at work; they function as ‘practical atheists’ on the job. They have no vision for what it means to partner with God at work, to bring meaning to their work or to accomplish kingdom purposes in and through their work. . . . We need to get beyond the status quo.”
What will it take for the church to "get beyond the status quo”? I recently conducted a 41-question survey of 60 Christians concerning their everyday work. One question asked, "Before you went into the work world, did you receive any biblical instruction on choosing a job?” The choices were much, some, and none. More than three-fourths of the respondents checked none. One person commented, "I would have loved it. More instruction would have saved me a world of heartache and humiliation at doing a bad job at work and justifying it as a necessary evil for doing ‘God’s work’ off-hours.”
An email from the late Chuck Colson’s Centurions program included a link to a video in which Colson said, "We have to work to bring Christian truth to bear in every single walk of life.” For millions of Christ-followers, everyday work is a major walk of life (claiming perhaps 40-50 percent of waking hours). Walking the talk in the work world raises many seldom-addressed "how” questions. For example:
How can we prepare young Christians at the outset of their working lives to make occupational choices in keeping with God’s giftings and callings? How can Christians learn to mutually encourage each other in ways appropriate to the workplace setting? How does God use experiences on the job in the process of shaping us spiritually? How can Christians develop the right faith-walk/faith-talk ratio in relating as workplace neighbors to those who are not seeking God and even actively resisting him? How should the motives of a believer differ from reasons the world presents for getting up and going to work?
Now for a "what” question. What is your church doing to equip believers to respond biblically to such challenges in the 21st century work world?