Blog - Embodying Truth
Separation of Church and WorkWednesday, August 08, 2012
We’ve all heard the words, "separation of church and state.” Many seem to think the American founding fathers wrote the phrase into the Constitution. Thinking that way is not only wrong, it’s harmful. The separation of church and work is also wrong—and also harmful.
The wrong began centuries ago with the split-up between church and work. As the children of that divorce, we live with lingo that reinforces the separation. We’ve been divided into "clergy” and "laity” classes. Our work is either "sacred” or "secular” (which the online Oxford Dictionary defines as having "no religious or spiritual basis). A tiny few of us are in "full-time service,” leaving the rest, if they want their service to count, to do it on evenings and weekends. Although "ministry” in the New Testament means "serving,” now you enter it only by leaving your ordinary job to go on the payroll of a church or mission board.
The harm is that church seems to have less and less to do with life as most people live it. And the separation plays right into the world’s agenda for the church. In the movie, Expelled, biology professor P. Z. Meyers describes the wedge he’d like to drive between Sunday and Monday:
"Religion...gives some people comfort, and we don't want to take it away from them. It's like knitting. People like to knit. We're not going to take their knitting needles away; we're not going to take away their churches. But what we have to do is get it to a place where religion is treated at the level it should be treated. That is, something fun that people get together and do on the weekend and really doesn't affect their life as much as it has been so far.” To hear him say these words himself, go to:
More than 60 years ago, J. H. Oldham called for a "re-uniting of Christian faith with actual life as it has to be lived by those in secular occupations.” He said, "A larger place needs to be found in public worship for the matters which exercise the minds of most worshippers.” Without that larger place, church members are "in danger of looking on the activities of . . . daily business as lying outside the religious sphere and as of little significance in the eyes of God” (Work in Modern Society).
We Christ-followers rightly struggle against the separation of church and state. Why? Because Jesus sent us into the world as his light-bearers. Why, then, do we raise so little objection to the practices that separate church and work? After all, it’s in our workplaces—not our church buildings—that the world can take its longest and hardest look at us.