Blog - Supporting Believers
Church-from-Scratch: Work-World Windows (Part 6)Friday, December 14, 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 sixth blog in a series responding to this question.
The from-scratch church would make room in main weekly meetings for those from the workplace to bring reports from the "front lines.” Here, employers and employees would have opportunity to help others in the church family see their jobs as serving God. How is God moving in that arena? What dilemmas or challenges are they facing? What opportunities are opening up? How can fellow believers pray for them?
This offers one major way of practicing Heb. 10:24—"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” The strong Greek word behind spur on in the NIV has also been translated as motivate, stir up, and stimulate. This affectionate prodding is something we do for "one another.” This—along with all the other one-another instructions in the New Testament—flows directly out of Jesus’ new command: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).
In The Other Six Days, R. Paul Stevens suggests that, "each week [in the church meeting] an ordinary member should be brought forward and in five minutes interviewed along these lines: What do you do for a living? What are the issues you face in your work? What difference does your faith make to the way you address these issues? How would you like us as a church to pray for you in your ministry in the workplace?” Stevens says that by including such reports, "the culture of a local church can be partially changed in fifty-two weeks . . . .” (p. 159).
Lowell Bakke, Professor of Pastoral Studies for the Bakke Graduate University, says: "The church needs to teach that work is worship. So on Sunday we could report on how we worshiped during the week. We should have people report on how God shows up in their work and how they are working for the glory of God by serving their masters. . . . They could explain how they fulfilled the purpose of the church by . . . stewarding their work for the good of the community.”
How will leaders of the church-from-scratch unearth these workplace reports? Mainly by making it known that the church body needs to hear such stories. Through announcements (up front, in bulletins, on websites, etc.), such reports would be asked for. These could include idea-prompters—such as: How are you dealing with an unreasonable boss? What difficult ethical dilemma are you facing? How have you been able to maintain a biblical lifestyle on the job while remaining on good terms with those who live by different standards? And so on.
These windows to the work world would provide a way for the body to build itself in love "as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:16). In a recent blog, our daughter, Jana Jarvis, expanded on why we gather as believers: "We go there to face a new week, locking arms and re-energizing each other to go out there and love God and people with abandon. Whether we meet together in a church building, a restaurant, or a home, our goal is the same . . . to encourage one another. To remind each other. To strengthen our team mates.”
For a great many in the from-scratch church, most of the people they ought to love "with abandon” as they face a new week will be those they encounter in the course of their paid or unpaid work. Reports from the front lines will help equip them to practice that love and those good works on the job. And it will let them pray intelligently for their brothers and sisters who are struggling to keep on representing Christ in their workplaces.