Blog - Grasping Vocation

Much of Life Takes Place at Work

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Recent events in the news plus a personal experience added up to one of those aha! moments for me. For days, the media focused our attention on the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, and at the Gateway Center in Orlando, Florida. Other than murder and injury, what did those tragedies have in common? All the victims were hit while in the workplace. According to a study done in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, between 750 and 1,000 people in the U.S. are killed every year in their places of work. Why does this workplace connection matter? It points to how much of life—and death—happens in our workplaces.

Only days following the shootings, my wife and I attended a memorial service for a family member. Those who came to honor him must have numbered between 800 and 1,000. During the open mike time, several stood to recall their relationships with this 31-year-old man. Aside from a few in his immediate family, nearly all who spoke had come to know and treasure him by working with him.

Years ago, the church, the corner grocery, the Grange Hall, or similar gathering spots served as the social centers in our society. Today the workplace fills that role. For great numbers of people, life happens on the job—life in all its complexities, pleasures, and pains.

Out of curiosity, I Googled on, “in the workplace,” using quotation marks to bring up those exact words. What, I wondered, would occur just in front of that phrase? In moments, I found a variety of answers. Each term in the following paragraph showed up at least once to fill the blank, “_____ in the workplace.”

ADD, Alcoholism, Babies, Bias, Bullying, Change, Civility, Complaints, Creativity, Depression, Diversity, Drug testing, Ethics, Fear, Gossip, Grief, HIV, Managing emotions, Narcissism, Pain, Parenting, Privacy, Religion, Security, Sex/Romance, Sexism, Sexual harassment, Smoking, Spirituality, Substance Abuse, Suits, Tuberculosis, Violence, Women.

Our work cannot be divorced from our lives. So much of life happens in the work world.

Jesus sends us, his followers, into the world as lights. The “world” includes the darkened world of work. Jesus came that people might have life—“life in all its fullness” (Jn. 10:10, Today's English Version). Consider Jesus' mission and our assignment. Should our churches, then, invest in preparing believers to permeate the work world by shining Jesus' life in the places where so much of life happens for so many?

How much does your church budget for equipping members to serve Christ in their workplaces? Does workplace ministry show up in your church's mission statement? When was the last time in a church service you heard a workplace testimony or a sermon on living the Christian life in the work world?

I'm asking real, not just rhetorical, questions. How would you answer them?

Comments (1)

Christian Overman (11/8/2009 4:46:16 PM)
The question of how many churches have "workplace ministry" in the mission statement or the budget would make a great project for somebody working on a Masters degree. I wonder if anyone has done this.

I suspect there are very few churches in this category. In my own experience, it is nearly a totally neglected area. However, our current pastor has made efforts to change this. The last two Labor Day services have been devoted to focusing on Christian living in the workplace. A small committee has been developed to focus on this matter (we call it the "Workplace Committee"), and our pastor has asked for help in this matter. But this is the exception rather than the rule.

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