Blog - Grasping Vocation
Turning Work into Ministry: Part 6--Building CommunityThursday, February 28, 2013
God’s "to do” list for us, seen in Genesis 1 and 2, includes communing with him, building community, and stewarding the earth. This series of blogs explores how we can carry these out in our daily work. For Part 5, click here.
In John 17 Jesus prayed for a oneness among his followers that unbelievers can observe. If that oneness is invisible to them, how will they come to know and believe the Father sent Jesus? A weekend gathering of Christians may and should enjoy great unity. But comparatively few outsiders will witness it.
On the other hand, our workplaces offer day-by-day opportunity to show the world what Jesus prayed for. We carry out the Genesis 1 and 2 assignment to build community when we cultivate oneness among the believers we contact in the course of our work. In this way, we can consciously seek to be a part of the answer to Jesus’ prayer.
I recently surveyed 60 believers employed in a wide variety of workplaces. Ninety-five percent knew of other believers among their coworkers, clients, customers, students, and so on. Nearly half counted six or more. Regrettably, almost half did not deliberately seek ways to encourage the other Christians in their faith and walk.
Does our vision for building up other believers sometimes extend only to those in our own church tribe? We can easily shrink Christian camaraderie to fit weekends and not stretch it to workdays. However, in Center Church, Tim Keller says, "We should not think of Christians out in the world as merely distinct and detached individuals. They are the body of Christ, the church. As Christians in the world, they are still to think and work together, banding together in creative forms, being the church organic that the church institutional had discipled them to be.”
Why is this "banding together” in unity such a convincing demonstration that God sent Jesus? Because the spirit of this world produces such widespread disunity. Our politics polarize. Countless marriages break apart. Children rebel against parents. We divide over gender, race, and religion. Nations go to war. Churches split. So when believers who gather in different church groups on Sunday exhibit the unity of heaven right out in the open there in the work world, their authentic community communicates.
This Christian-community-building can take forms that vary as widely as the workplaces themselves. A janitor in one of our local hospitals says, "My work puts me into contact with many people. God has placed me where I can talk to others, learn their needs and ask, ‘Would you like us to pray?' On any given day, I can usually get to 10 or 15 believers in the prayer chain. All told, I probably know of 30 to 40 believers in the various hospital departments.”
To build the believing community on the job, be intentional about discovering others in your working circle who are seeking to follow Jesus. Keep your purposes clearly in mind as you identify them. You are not recruiting potential members for the group you gather with on Sundays. You are building Christian-to-Christian relationships in which New Testament one-another love can be lived out in front of unbelievers in a place where they can see it. As Jesus said, "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples" (John 13:35, NLT).
Next time: Why we believers ourselves need Christian community on the job.