Blog - Grasping Vocation

Turning Work into Ministry: Part 7--Building Community

Thursday, March 07, 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 6, click here.

In our virtual-community age of Facebook and tweets, where do nearly half of us in America get most of our literal face-to-face time? On the job. There, we still read smiles and frowns, hear tones of voice, interpret gestures, and can actually touch each other. As those who recognize our God-assigned role of building community, we believers dare not overlook the opportunities right in our workplaces.

Jesus gave us an agenda he called a "new” command: "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn. 13:34, 35). Loving neighbors was an "old” command (Lev. 19:18). The newness of the new command had to do with the objects of our love (fellow Christ-followers) and the standard for our love (Jesus’ cross-bearing, laying-down-the-life kind of love). Out of this new command flow the dozens of New Testament "one another” commands.

Our job networks usually include at least a few other Christ-followers. According to Jesus, we are to love them in the way he loved us. Not only do we and they need to extend that kind of self-sacrificing love to each other, we all need to receive it as well. Some of the one-another commands are nearly impossible to carry out effectively in weekend church meetings.

For example, Heb. 3:13 instructs us to "encourage one another daily . . . so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.” Daily. Sin deceives us in the work world--daily. So we need anti-hardening encouragement from those believers we see all through the week. Those Christ-followers we see only on Sundays are hardly in a position to refresh us day in, day out.

Some may object that there is no time for cultivating Christian community on the job. Of course, we are not to steal paid work time for other activities. But job relationships offer many legitimate opportunities for community-building among believers. For example, suppose two believers are traveling together by car or plane to attend a company conference. Does the firm permit them to talk en route about family, sports, or weather? If so, then they may also encourage, spur on, and even pray for each other.

Lunch hours. Coffee breaks. Before and after work. If we are intentional about it, we can use all these times for one-anothering: building up, comforting, forgiving, honoring, serving, submitting, and so on. And within these shorter opportunities, we can invite each other into our homes off-hours to practice an additional one-another command: being hospitable to one another.

None of this can happen, of course, unless we make a deliberate and sustained effort to discover the others in our work circles who are seeking to follow Jesus. When we gather on Sundays, we more or less assume those around us are believers. They tote Bibles, sing praise songs, and display fish symbols on their cars. But out in the scattered church, the clues are far less obvious. We need to pray for the eyes and ears of detectives as we seek out others who share our faith in Jesus (some of them, for years, have been closet believers at work).

The work world, like battery acid, can eat away the life of the spirit. Practicing Christian community on the job can go a long way toward counteracting such corrosion.

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