Blog - Supporting Believers
Church-from-Scratch: Word-Work (Part 3)Monday, December 03, 2012
"If you could create it from scratch,” a reader wrote, "what would a church look like that fully embodied a proper theology of work and really empowered its members to be ministers in the workplace?” This is the third blog in a series responding to this question.
Good work must be founded on God’s word. So in the from-scratch church, instruction on what Scripture reveals about work would take its proportional place in the menu of teaching about what Christians are to believe and to do. For most believers, paid or unpaid work claims a huge slice of life’s pie-chart. "Proportional,” then, translates into a significant amount of teaching on work in a given year.
Such teaching would seek to communicate a theology of work. God’s words on work. What he has revealed about it and its place in his kingdom purposes. In Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller opens Chapter One with, "The Bible begins talking about work as soon as it begins talking about anything—that is how important and basic it is” (p. 33). For starters, instruction in the theology of work would present God himself as a worker. For example, Scripture shows him in a variety of roles: potter, gardener, architect, builder, and many more. A theology of work would point out that, because we are made in God’s likeness, our work—manual and mental—has dignity.
In addition to such basic instruction, teachers in the church-from-scratch would assist believers in exploring the richness of what the Bible says about our labor days. Such teaching would help them:
- Sort out biblical (and unbiblical) motivations for working in the world.
- Identify and break free from the idolatries of today’s working environment.
- Choose a direction for one’s life work.
- Make decisions when facing difficult ethical dilemmas on the job.
- Grasp God’s original intention for human work—and how sin has distorted it.
- Avoid both underwork and overwork and practice God’s call to rest.
- Distinguish the truth from the lies about earnings and profit.
- Know the legal implications of witnessing in the workplace.
- Recognize and avoid the pitfalls of the unbiblical sacred/secular divide.
- Carry out both Creation Mandate and the Great Commission in the workplace.
- Shine as light in the work world: glowing without glaring.
With teaching in these areas, believers could not just do work but do good work. Three times the New Testament speaks of believers engaging in "every good work” (II Cor. 9:8; Col. 1:10; II Tim. 3:17). The "every” in that phrase covers far more than what we have come to label "church work.” Paul urges slaves to do their work "to the Lord” and describes that work as "good.” So he recognizes ordinary, everyday labor as good work.
In one of the "every good work” passages, Paul reveals a key ingredient in making believers ready for such work: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 3:16-17). With Scripture, Church leaders can equip believers for the work they do.
Jesus said we cannot live on bread alone. Neither can we work for bread alone. Both living and working require every word that God speaks. The world desperately needs to see and benefit from work built on the word of God. The church-from-scratch would equip believers for word-work.