Blog - Doing Earthwork

The Work Placed in Our Hands

Friday, January 28, 2011

As last week’s blog stated, many of us have not "connected the dots” between our daily work and God’s "Creation Mandate.” Mandate. That’s not a word you usually hear during lunch with a friend. A mandate is an authoritative command, an order. To mandate, literally, means "to give into one’s hand.” What has God given into our hands and commanded us to do? Theologians often speak of two basic tasks God has entrusted into human hands.

First, he gave us the "Creation Mandate” in Genesis 1:26 and 28—"let them [the humans] rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Verse 28 adds, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” In the Creation Mandate, God put into our hands the work of caring for his earth.

Second, God gave us the "Redemption Mandate,” often called the "Great Commission,” in Matthew 28:19-20. ". . . go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” In the Redemption Mandate, God put into our hands the work of making Christ-followers.

So God has put two duties into our hands. Typically, though, our churches emphasize the second and almost ignore the first. Which brings to mind the words of Jesus from another context: "You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matthew 23:23).

Last year I began pursuing a degree with The Bakke Graduate University of Seattle (BGU). That school administers the Mustard Seed Foundation’s "Theology of Work Grant Program.” In a handout explaining the purpose of this program, BGU comments on the difference in the attention given to the two mandates:

"Current pastor education is usually focused on teaching and modeling the Redemption Mandate, which includes such things as the theology of God, an understanding of the role of the church, a working knowledge of the scriptures, and insights into a pastors own spiritual formation. Woven into this program pastors are taught skills such as preaching, counseling, organizational and leadership development to help them build up the church they are called to serve. Fundamentally, future pastors are taught to know their own gifts and callings, and then they are taught the skills to be a good steward of their calling. We do not in any way want to minimize the importance of this Redemptive Mandate or the fact that pastors should know their calling.

"However, the Creation Mandate, which teaches that we work for Gods glory through our various callings both outside as well as inside normal church ministry programs, is not often discussed, taught or understood by our pastors and congregations. We believe that there is a great need for pastors to learn how to steward the callings of their congregants who are in the workplace by providing increased ministry guidance for them during the other six days. Often congregants are led to believe that the work done outside the church is something they have to do for financial income and has little significance in Gods purpose and plan for them on earth. As a result, they often have little joy in their work, give less than their best effort to their work, and sometimes even separate themselves from God while in the workplace.”

The word "steward” appears in each paragraph. Pastors are to steward not only their own callings but also the callings of those they shepherd.

God has placed two major responsibilities in the hands of Christ’s body. Typically, our churches, Bible schools, and seminaries emphasize the Redemption Mandate. But believers whose callings require them to focus on the Creation Mandate typically receive little or no instruction in the theology of working.

How can the local church create an environment that strengthens their hands in both areas?

Comments (1)

Jana (1/28/2011 2:42:08 PM)
Our church put on a "spa" day for the women in our community who are single mothers or military wives. It was completely free and babysitting and dinner were provided. Women from the church donated their time, expertise and their vocation to help with this. Manicurists, pedicurists, hair stylists, massage therapists, make up artists, etc. They were able to experience how much they can minister to women with their gifts and abilities that they use everyday at work. Hopefully they then carried this sense of purpose back with them to the workplace. It was an awesome day and a great outreach!

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