Blog - Supporting Believers
Church-from-Scratch: Linking Believers in Similar Work (Part 9)Thursday, January 03, 2013
"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 ninth blog in a series responding to this question.
newly planted (or the older) church should promote and help establish networks of
believers engaged in similar occupations. Life in the 21st century
creates a far greater need for such linkages than in bygone eras. Working
Christians in New Testament times knew nothing of the modern forces that isolate
those in today’s workplaces.
The automobile and freeways now make it possible to us to live 50 miles or more from where we work. So those we meet with on Sundays are—during most weekdays—scattered far and wide. Specialization and technology have produced jobs unheard of even a decade ago. If you tell me what you do Monday through Friday, it may come across as a foreign language to me if I work in another field. The upshot of all this: Christians in the workplace are hard-pressed to connect with other believers who understand the dilemmas and opportunities they face during the bulk of their waking hours.
say you’re a young lawyer. You’ve just begun working for a law firm that
encourages its attorneys to secretly gather information from social network
profiles. As a believer, you’re not sure how to deal with your reservations
about this practice. Or you’re a nurse who just two hours before helped a patient,
at his insistence, sign a do-not-resuscitate order. Now, as he has lapsed into
unconsciousness, his wife is screaming at you to "Do something.” You refuse. But
you keep wondering, should you have listened to her? Or you’re a quality
control engineer in a company contracted to develop the programming for an
experimental fighter plane. Even though the program has met all the government
criteria, you believe it needs far more extensive testing. When you say so,
your bosses warn that the company will fold if it does not deliver the product
on schedule. What should you do?
church leader can possibly grasp all the nuances of what Christ-followers face
in their various roles in the work world. Public school teachers, pharmacists,
and flight attendants all deal with different spiritual challenges on the job.
In Center Church, Tim Keller writes, "urban
Christians are confronted with ethical and theological issues every day in the
workplace. Preaching and ministry in urban churches must therefore help
congregants to form networks of believers within their vocational field and
assist them in working through the theological, ethical, and practical issues
they face in their work” (p. 176).
The church should encourage Christians in such networks to reach across the lines of denomination and religious tradition. It should also teach how to recognize other believers in their field and to invite them into the network. Part of the training ought to include how to create fruitful meeting formats that foster cross-pollination.
network of Christians who work in the same or a similar field offers many
benefits. Among them:
- Encouragement from others who are willing to listen and who "get it” when it comes to work-related concerns.
- Counsel from older, more experienced believers offered in love to those just entering the field.
- Mutual prayer support from those seeking to follow Jesus in similar work.
- Wisdom from many counselors: "Form your purpose by asking for counsel, then carry it out using all the help you can get” (Prov. 20:18, The Message).
The church of today needs to counter the forces that isolate Christians in the work world with creative measures that make it possible for them to "spur one another on toward love and good deeds” and to "encourage one another” (Heb. 10:25).