Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization Occasional Paper on Marketplace Ministry
The context for the production of the Lausanne Occasional Papers
The Lausanne Movement is an international movement committed to energising “the whole Church to take the whole gospel to the whole world”.
With roots going back to the historical conferences in Edinburgh (1910) and Berlin (1966), the Lausanne Movement was born out of the First International Congress on World Evangelization called by evangelist Billy Graham held in Lausanne, Switzerland, in July 1974. The landmark outcome of this Congress was the Lausanne Covenant supported by the 2430 participants from 150 nations. The covenant declares the substance of the Christian faith as historically declared in the creeds and adds a clear missional dimension to our faith. Many activities have emerged from the Lausanne Congress and from the second congress held in Manila in 1989. The Covenant (in a number of languages) and details about the many regional events and specialised conferences which have been undertaken in the name of Lausanne may be examined on the Lausanne website.
The continuing Lausanne International Committee believed it was led by the Holy Spirit to hold another conference which would bring together Christian leaders from around the world. This time the Committee planned to have younger emerging leaders involved and sought funds to enable it to bring a significant contingent from those parts of the world where the church is rapidly growing today. It decided to call the conference a Forum. As a Forum its structure would be to allow people to come and participate if they had something to contribute to one of 31 issues. These issues were chosen through a global research programme seeking to identify the most significant issues in the world today which are of concern in our task to take the good news to the world.
This Lausanne Occasional Paper (LOP) is the report which has emerged from one of these Issue Groups. LOPs have been produced for each of the Issue Groups and information re these and other publications may be obtained by going to the Lausanne website.
The theme of the Forum for World Evangelization held in 2004 was “A new vision, a new heart and a renewed call”. This Forum was held in Pattaya, Thailand from September 29 to October 5, 2004. 1530 participants came from 130 countries to work in one of the 31 Issue Groups.
The Affirmations at the conclusion of the Forum stated:
There has been a spirit of working together in serious dialogue and prayerful reflection. Representatives from a wide spectrum of cultures and virtually all parts of the world have come together to learn from one another and to seek new direction from the Holy Spirit for world evangelization. They committed themselves to joint action under divine guidance.
The dramatic change in the political and economic landscape in recent years has raised new challenges in evangelization for the church. The polarization between east and west makes it imperative that the church seek God’s direction for the appropriate responses to the present challenges.
In the 31 Issue Groups these new realities were taken into consideration, including the HIV pandemic, terrorism, globalization, the global role of media, poverty, persecution of Christians, fragmented families, political and religious nationalism, post-modern mind set, oppression of children, urbanization, neglect of the disabled and others.
Great progress was made in these groups as they grappled for solutions to the key challenges of world evangelization. As these groups focused on making specific recommendations, larger strategic themes came to the forefront.
There was affirmation that major efforts of the church must be directed toward those who have no access to the gospel. The commitment to help establish self sustaining churches within 6000 remaining unreached people groups remains a central priority.
Secondly, the words of our Lord call us to love our neighbour as ourselves. In this we have failed greatly. We renew our commitment to reach out in love and compassion to those who are marginalised because of disabilities or who have different lifestyles and spiritual perspectives. We commit to reach out to children and young people who constitute a majority of the world’s population, many of whom are being abused, forced into slavery, armies and child labour.
A third stream of a strategic nature acknowledges that the growth of the church is now accelerating outside of the western world. Through the participants from Africa, Asia and Latin America, we recognise the dynamic nature and rapid growth of the church in the South. Church leaders from the South are increasingly providing exemplary leadership in world evangelization.
Fourthly, we acknowledge the reality that much of the world is made up of oral learners who understand best when information comes to them by means of stories. A large proportion of the world’s populations are either unable to or unwilling to absorb information through written communications. Therefore, a need exists to share the “Good News” and to disciple new Christians in story form and parables.
Fifthly, we call on the church to use media to effectively engage the culture in ways that draw non believers toward spiritual truth and to proclaim Jesus Christ in culturally relevant ways.
Finally, we affirm the priesthood of all believers and call on the church to equip, encourage and empower women, men and youth to fulfil their calling as witnesses and colabourers in the world wide task of evangelization.
Transformation was a theme which emerged from the working groups. We acknowledge our own need to be continually transformed, to continue to open ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit, to the challenges of God’s word and to grow in Christ together with fellow Christians in ways that result in social and economic transformation. We acknowledge that the scope of the gospel and building the Kingdom of God involves, body, mind, soul and spirit. Therefore we call for increasing integration of service to society and proclamation of the gospel.
We pray for those around the world who are being persecuted for their faith and for those who live in constant fear of their lives. We uphold our brothers and sisters who are suffering. We recognize that the reality of the persecuted church needs to be increasingly on the agenda of the whole body of Christ. At the same time, we also acknowledge the importance of loving and doing good to our enemies while we fight for the right of freedom of conscience everywhere.
We are deeply moved by the onslaught of the HIV/AIDS pandemic – the greatest human emergency in history. The Lausanne movement calls all churches everywhere to prayer and holistic response to this plague.
“9/11”, the war in Iraq, the war on terror and its reprisals compel us to state that we must not allow the gospel or the Christian faith to be captive to any one geo-political entity.
We affirm that the Christian faith is above all political entities.
We are concerned and mourn the death and destruction caused by all conflicts, terrorism and war. We call for Christians to pray for peace, to be proactively involved in reconciliation and avoid all attempts to turn any conflict into a religious war. Christian mission in this context lies in becoming peace makers.
We pray for peace and reconciliation and God’s guidance in how to bring about peace through our work of evangelization. We pray for God to work in the affairs of nations to open doors of opportunity for the gospel. We call on the church to mobilize every believer to focus specific consistent prayer for the evangelization of their communities and the world.
In this Forum we have experienced the partnership of men and women working together. We call on the church around the world to work towards full partnership of men and women in the work of world evangelism by maximising the gifts of all.
We also recognize the need for greater intentionality in developing future leaders. We call on the church to find creative ways to release emerging leaders to serve effectively.
Numerous practical recommendations for local churches to consider were offered. These will be available on the Lausanne website and in the Lausanne Occasional Papers. It is our prayer that these many case studies and action plans will be used of God to mobilize the church to share a clear and relevant message using a variety of methods to reach the most neglected or resistant groups so that everyone will have the opportunity to hear the gospel message and be able to respond to this good news in faith.
We express our gratitude to the Thai Church which has hosted us and to their welcoming presentation to the Forum. We are profoundly gratefully to God for the privilege of being able to gather here from the four corners of the earth. We have developed new partnerships, made new friends and encouraged one another in our various ministries. Not withstanding the resistance to the gospel in many places and the richness of an inherited religious and cultural tradition we here at the Forum have accepted afresh the renewed call to be obedient to the mandate of Christ. We commit ourselves to making His saving love known so that the whole world may have opportunity to accept God’s gift of salvation through Christ.
These affirmations indicate the response of the participants to the Forum outcomes and their longing that the whole church may be motivated by the outcomes of the Forum to strengthen its determination to be obedient to God’s calling.
May the case studies and the practical suggestions in this and the other LOPs be of great help to you and your church as you seek to find new ways and a renewed call to proclaim the saving love of Jesus Christ
Mind the Gap between the Church and Marketplace Ministry
Many may have had the experience of stepping onto a train in London, Sydney or elsewhere, to the ritualistic incantation of the words ‘Mind the Gap’ warning you not to fall between the platform and train.1 This is an apt analogy for the gap between Sunday and Monday or the Church and the work world or marketplace. This Lausanne Occasional Paper aims to:
- Introduce the gap, define Marketplace Ministry and explain its rise, setting it in its Lausanne movement context.
- Examine the main reasons for the gap developing.
- Propose ways for bridging that gap through a return to our biblical and theological foundations.
- Provide practical, alternative models of marketplace friendly churches; marketplace (not marginal) spirituality; marketplace, lay-oriented theological education and marketplace models of mission or witness at work.
We conclude with a Marketplace Manifesto and a subject sensitive bibliography, to equip churches to move into this ministry.
What is Marketplace or Workplace Ministry?
No single term is perfect for encapsulating ministry and mission in the workplace so we will use the terms workplace and marketplace ministry interchangeably. Some prefer ‘world of work’. Neil Johnson defines the marketplace as ‘the forum through which human economic commerce is conducted’. It includes the business community, the workplace of whatever kind and ‘policy-making forums’ at local, national and international levels that impact the economy and those working within it. He describes the marketplace as ‘perhaps the only institution that touches, directly or indirectly, virtually every person on planet Earth. In one way or another, it is a pervasive part of every society, culture and people group. It is found in the midst of every religion and every political system in every historic era’.
Johnson waxes lyrical about marketplaces:
‘Marketplaces come in many forms, flavours and textures, but each is reflective of the people and culture to which it belongs. Consider the almost infinite, contrasting variety: the Great Silk Trade Route of Marco Polo, the Plaka of ancient Greece, the forum of the Roman Empire, the stockmarket on today’s Wall Street, the Ponte Vecchio of Florence, the Bazaar of Istanbul, the shops and street carts of Kowloon, the commodities markets in Chicago, the factories of Nanking, Piccadilly Circus in London, the Ginza in Tokyo, the Plaza in Santa Fe, the floating market of Bangkok, the flower market in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the farmers’ market in Lonrina, Brazil, the spiced market of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the city markets of Arusha, Tanzania, Cuzco, Peru, and Juarez, Mexico, and the flea markets and black markets in every corner of the world. In spite of their diversity, all have one thing in common. All involve people seeking to trade goods, to barter wares, and to earn money in order to survive, then thrive, with the hope and goal of positively transforming their lives at the global, national, state, and personal levels’.
To such people seeking transformation, we seek to bring the greatest transformative agent of all — the gospel of Christ.2
What about the biblical marketplace? The ancient Athenian agora where Paul walked around like Socrates dialoguing and debating (Acts 17:16-19) included both ‘town and gown’ — work places/businesses, academia and forums where philosophical discussion took place. It also included temples and idols, entertainment, politics and the court of law (i.e. the Areopagus). The medieval marketplace included the Town Hall, cathedral and market. Today in the West, the market has taken over from the other two institutions as the dominant visual presence and the new master-narrative or dominant language. Yet while the philosophical and religious aspects of the marketplace are less overt in the West today, they are still there. In the East (and parts of the West), they are more explicitly intermingled where shrines hang in Buddhist bakeries and the five-fold call to prayer punctuates the Muslim day.
In various contemporary cross-cultural contexts, ‘marketplace’ can have a more literal and narrow or more metaphorical and broad meaning. In some developing or majority world contexts, marketplace literally means those working in food markets and is looked down upon by the middle and upper classes. Various groups can use terms imperialistically and divisively as if, for instance, marketplace ministry means only businesspeople, or worse, businessmen, or only those employed full-time or employed at all. We will use marketplace ministry as an umbrella term for workplace ministry without excluding those who do not have paid jobs. 90% of unreached peoples who live in the 10/40 Window suffer unemployment and under-employment rates of 30-80% fuelled by rapidly rising populations.
We also acknowledge the enormous amount of unpaid domestic and community work, particularly that done by women and volunteers. We also note that there is a global brain drain from the developing world to the West and that the ‘care drain’ of millions of nannies, maids and prostitutes leading to a ‘care deficit’ in their own countries and families.3 Meeting in Pattaya, the centre of Thailand’s sex industry, we could not avoid the sorry trade in human flesh, even of very young girls, often by much older, predatory western males. Alternative work is essential to overcoming these moral and economic problems as The Rahab Project demonstrates in moving young women and children from prostitution to nonexploitative, gainful employment and education. The Lausanne II Manila Manifesto’s 13th affirmation states, ‘We affirm that we who claim to be members of the Body of Christ must transcend within our fellowship the barriers of race, gender and class’. In embodying this, marketplace ministry is workplace ministry to all races, classes and genders.
Marketplace Ministry Within Lausanne Forum 2004
Within the Lausanne and wider Evangelical movements, what then is the relationship of Marketplace Ministry to the Holistic Mission, Tentmaking and Business as Mission Issue Groups at Lausanne 2004? Certainly there is much overlap, both theologically and practically. There has been some discussion and cooperation between us, but there needs to be much more. As Neil Johnson puts it,
‘The distinctions between and among these camps [excluding Holistic Ministry] is far from clear even to the participants and there is often a blurring of the lines among them. Nonetheless, each camp is currently operating independently of the other two camps and all three are operating with only the loosest ties to the ecclesiastical Church. Each camp has its own associations, its own conferences, its own literature and its own leadership. There is little, if any, communication among the camps and there is little awareness of what is transpiring within the rival camps’.
While the tone and terms like ‘rival’ and ‘camps’ may be too strong, Johnson is right to see confusion and competition as an inevitable by-product of the embryonic marketplace mission movement(s).4 However, we should not be complacent about this and should see our meeting together at the synergy groups of Lausanne 2004 as the beginning of greater communication and coordination without developing one mega-organization or movement out of keeping with the dynamism of the Holy Spirit or the marketplace.
Holistic Mission addresses the whole person within the whole world of creation.5 Marketplace ministry applies to all workplace areas by laying down certain theological foundations that others have built on and applied to their more specialized areas. Tentmaking takes up the Pauline and classical missionary (Moravian, William Carey) model of using one’s skills to gain access to mission fields (local or overseas) and maintain support as a means of ‘being all things to all people in order to save some’ (1 Corinthians 9:22). There is some debate, but the best tentmaking theology6 sees the tentmaking activity of a range of occupations, business and non-business, as God-glorifying and worshipful in itself (Romans 12:1-2, 1 Corinthians 10:31). Similarly, Business as Mission, while again involving a spectrum of views, by the very name, sees business itself, as a form of mission in itself not merely a means to mission.7 Tentmaking and Business as Mission tend to be focused more, though not exclusively, on cross-cultural settings; marketplace ministry more, though not exclusively, on local settings. We also see important links with the International Student Diaspora stream as a way of reaching students and preparing them for the above strategic ministries.
Marketplace Ministry Within the Lausanne Movement
It was said at the Forum in Thailand that Lausanne 1974 ‘gave us people groups’, Lausanne in Manila in 1989 gave us the 10/40 Window (the area between the 10th and 40th parallels north of the Equator, ranging from Africa to East Asia). We ask now, will the Forum give us Marketplace Ministry among other essential mission tasks? Marketplace workers are among the great forgotten people groups. Today, many marketplace missionminded Christians are focusing on 'the 9 to 5 window'8 of the workplace as much as the ‘10/40 Window’. Lausanne founder Billy Graham said: ‘I believe that one of the next great moves of God is going to be through the believers in the workplace.’ In stressing the ministry of ‘the whole church’, the Lausanne II Manila Manifesto (paragraph 6) noted that whilst some are called and equipped to be pastors, teachers and evangelists, all God’s people are called to be witnesses and the privileged task of pastors is to equip God’s people for this ministry. It affirms that ‘lay witness takes place, by women and men, not only through the local church …, but through friendships, in the home and at work …. Our first responsibility is to witness to those who are already our friends, relatives, neighbors, and colleagues.'9 The workplace is where ‘most Christians spend half their waking hours and work is a divine calling. Christians can commend Christ by word of mouth, by their consistent industry, honesty, thoughtfulness and by their concern for justice in the workplace. When others can see from the quality of their daily work that this work is done to the glory of God, then the Christian worker is being a witness in deed and needs to pray for and look out for the opportunity to express the gospel in word.10 This mobilisation of marketplace Christians is essential if the Sunday-Monday gap and the goal of world mission is to be accomplished. As Pete Hammond, former director of InterVarsity’s Marketplace Ministry arm said at Lausanne II, ”This immobilization of 99% of God’s people is both unbiblical and discriminating, while making our task of world evangelization impossible.”
Businessman, Ford Madison’s informal census at Lausanne II in 1989 found that the majority of the participants came to Christ through the witness of a layperson. This is confirmed by Australian Church Life Surveys.11 Lee Yih drew the analogy of clergy as frogs and laity as lizards:
‘This is how the church goes about its business. Vocational workers normally have their work brought to them [like frogs]. If they are going to preach the gospel, a church or hall is booked in which they stand to speak. Other people drag in the populace…. The lizards, the lay people, go out into their daily occupations, they meet the general public in the form of their neighbours, friends and workmates, fellow club members in the course of their lives…. [T]he lizard is unthreatening, and always there, ready to take the opportunity to talk about Christ when offered. This is real full time Christian service.'12
Though Marketplace Ministry has charted encouraging growth of over 50% in the last decade, yet there remains a gap between the ministry and the church. Mike McLoughlin of YWAM Canada and Scruples Faith at Work online network issues an appropriate challenge:
‘It is becoming a popular sport in the Faith at Work Movement to point out the flaws in the Church and the professional clergy with respect to workplace ministry and the lack of calling and commissioning of every believer in the marketplace. However, while it may be easy to point out the problems,.. it is incumbent upon this movement and the leaders to propose solutions… The 2004 meeting is the Faith at Work Movement’s opportunity to start addressing this lack of overall strategy.'13
The Sunday-Monday, faith-work gap must be bridged. Yet for this to happen, we need to understand how big is the gap and how it came about. The fault lies with both lay people and the clergy.
Over 70 years ago, G.A. Studdert Kennedy asserted that:
A very large number of the people who attend our services and partake of the sacrament are disassociated personalities. They are one person on Sunday and another on Monday. They have one mind for the sanctuary and another for the street. They have one conscience for the church and another for the cotton factory. Their worship conflicts with their work, but they will not acknowledge the conflict. I want to press home what seems to me to be obvious, that while this unfaced conflict exists, the soul is not on the road to salvation.1
Likewise, a contemporary ditty says: ‘Mr Business went to church, that’s what he did on Sunday, Mr Business went to hell for what he did on Monday’. We could say the same of other professions.
In their defence, many marketplace Christians, including increasing numbers of paid working women, feel justifiably marginalised from their churches. Thousands make up the rapidly increasing legion of unchurched Christians in the West.2 Their workaday concerns are often banished from the pulpit and public worship, prayer and pastoral care. In one survey, 90-97% said they had never heard a sermon on work.3 One Christian in Singapore who suggested a commissioning service on Teachers Day was told by his pastor that it was a great idea for Sunday School teachers.
Alternatively, marketplace Christians, whether in the West or developing world, often feel their workplace concerns are trivialised or stereotyped when pastors, Christian academics or church social justice and welfare agencies speak from judgmental ignorance on business and economics. The critics often do not realize or acknowledge their own dependence on business, e.g. for their superannuation or pension schemes, mortgages or publications. Nor do some welfare and advocacy groups, who largely do an excellent job, acknowledge their vested Constantinian or Christendom dependence upon the State for funding, or the extent of their own secularisation and captivity to their professional interests as social workers, academics or those in caring jobs.
Many Christian businesspeople feel like they are second-class citizens in the church. A prominent Australian evangelical businessman, Alan Kerr, now retired, once spoke about being a Christian in business at a church only to be told by two young university students that a Christian could not possibly be engaged in such a sordid activity.4 They would not be alone. Many Christians today cannot see how ‘unspiritual’ business can be a Christian calling.5 Given the bad press that many transnational business corporations get, and some may deserve, this attitude is understandable.6 Yet it is ultimately misguided, representing an amnesia about one of the Reformation’s great distinctives, the doctrine of the universal calling or vocation of all believers, in whatever biblically lawful places of service they find themselves, including business corporations.
Alan Kerr also said recently7 that he had spent ten years as a churchwarden of his Anglican church as a support to and confidante of the ordained minister. Not once in those ten years did that minister ask about his work or how he expressed his faith there. Some say less than 10% of today’s pastors have any idea of the challenges today’s marketplace Christians face. They are often overwhelmed by the myriad tasks to be done in ministry to their congregation. Even if they have worked before being ordained, they often feel isolated from the rapidly changing working world. Little wonder if they don’t ask questions or show an interest. They may well feel intimidated.
On the other side of the socio-political spectrum, there is a long-standing gap between the church and working class. One of the leaders of our group, Gordon Preece, worked outside school days for his father’s small “Concrete Products and Home Improvements” business in Sydney. One day, in the display yard, he saw a few people gathered around some concrete slabs. Sometimes, his Dad’s workers cured concrete by putting a sheet of newspaper over it. In this case, it was the centre-spread of the notorious pornographic magazine The Kings Cross Whisper, with a young woman displayed in all her glory. He instantly became aware of a gap between his church connections and the working-class men who worked for his father. Similarly, he became aware of a gap later in life in ordained ministry when visiting a female parishioner at her work with ten electricians where the lunch room was covered with pornographic posters.8 He realised that the men who worked for his father and those who worked with his parishioner were like the tax collectors and sinners Jesus worked with and befriended.
Given that most Christians agree theoretically with the Bible that Christ is Lord of all life, why does the practice of many Christians correspond to Studdert Kennedy's comment
(see previous page)? Is it due to individual faithlessness, lack of basic discipling and discipleship, or a dualistic worldview? It is all three and more. Its roots are not just personal, but biblical, historical, structural and practical. We have cut ourselves off from God the worker, the Creator and Redeemer. We need to remind ourselves what it means to be the people of God, that we are the light of the world and we are to let our light shine so that others can see our good work(s) and give God the glory (Matthew 5:16).
This section examines how this distortion of Scripture, Christian history and secular social structures occurred.
(A) We note that the gap begins with an individualistic, dualistic (dividing the world in to two separate categories) and privatised misuse of the Bible. This is influenced by western (Greek) and eastern dualism respectively. This dualism takes several forms:
- Theological: a doctrine of God as being unchangeable and immaterial Spirit as against creation which is changeable and material.
- Anthropological: a doctrine of humanity split into an unchangeable, immaterial spirit or soul and changeable and material body confused with the biblical ‘flesh’ or ungodly, worldly values, such as pride.
- Christological: a doctrine of Jesus Christ as divine Saviour of human souls/spirits but not fully incarnate, human, embodied;
- Ecclesiological: a doctrine of the church as a ‘ghettoized’ gathering of Christians away from corruption by the material, working world, minimizing the role of the dispersed people of God in the world.
- Eschatological: a doctrine of the last things as an ‘escapology’ that sees salvation as the soul’s escape from an evil, material earth to a spiritual heaven where we will no longer work. Yet as Senator Jovito Salonga said at Lausanne II in Manila in 1989: ‘the time is past when we can build our own separate, individual stairway to heaven, away from the sufferings of our people’.
This multiple, dualistic misreading of the Bible has left the public and marketplace realm bereft of biblical input. It has left the clergy adrift, unable to help their people with the structural and ethical dilemmas of working life. Bishop Anthony Russell describes the way most clergy have read and taught the Bible as if:
Most of the ethical teaching of the Bible and the church ... concerned personal relationships and was more relevant in guiding men's behaviour in the face-to-face encounters of family life and the village community than in the impersonal role relationships of more advanced social systems. By the end of the eighteenth century ... the traditional means by which the clergy communicated values and norms were seen to be inadequate.9
(B)Our inability to interact with the public world of work and our unbalanced view of discipleship whereby we view evangelism as only seeing people make decisions for Christ, is a consequence of our having an unbalanced view of the doctrine of the Trinity. This most maligned or ignored of doctrines, far from being a piece of mysterious divine maths or probing the mysteries of ‘God on the Inside’ is a very practical doctrine.10 It is the way we develop a balanced view of God’s work as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier and of our work in His image. However, while we all formally believe in the Trinity, we are often Unitarian in practice, playing favourites with the Trinity. Various denominations, traditions or groups within evangelicalism often emphasise one person of the Trinity and His work to the neglect of the others. Some stress God the Creator’s work and ours in creation, others stress the Son’s work and ours in salvation, and some stress the Spirit’s work and ours in sanctification and completion of the new creation. We often act, for instance, as if God has only one hand, Word or Spirit, rather than two hands, as the great second century church father Irenaeus said. This gives us a one-handed and unbalanced view of God’s work.
(C)Some have a dualistic, personal relations ethic and unitarian or binitarian biblical interpretation which also leaves out the realm of our relationship with the earth in dominion and stewardship (Genesis 1:26-28; 2). This is known as the creation or cultural mandate/commission (or omission!).11 It is often overlooked whilst the Great Commission and Love Commandment are central to the thinking of committed Christians. This has detrimental effects on Christians not gifted as evangelists or not doing direct evangelistic work or not doing direct caring or people work, i.e. those working with technology, material things, administration, the arts or in wealth creation. They often feel second-class or have to pretend to be social workers or evangelists at their work.
Without a fully biblical view of human dominion available to all as part of human self-development,12 workers are demeaned. As Nicholas Wolterstorff (with his strong Calvinistic inheritance) has made clear, “The structures of our social world are fallen. They are alienated from the will of God...we are not to avert ourselves from our social condition...for God Himself is disturbed by our human condition, rather we are to struggle to alter those structures and the dynamics behind them, so that the alienation is diminished.” Wolterstorff goes on to state, “The obligation to act culturally...belongs to the very essence of what it is to be human; it is indigenous to our creatureliness...We have not insisted that economic activity also must be morally responsible...Our relation to the Kingdom is not only obedient waiting, but active contribution."13 14
(D) Our excessive emphasis on ecclesiology or the doctrine of the church gathered, usually neglects the role of the laity or the doctrine of the people of God scattered and gathered. This is coupled with our outdated adherence to the implicit clericalism of the OT where the Spirit came occasionally upon special people like prophets, priests and kings. This leads to our suppressing the NT’s radical universalising of the Spirit’s presence and empowering for all believers as prophets, priests and kings. Also, there is a lack of emphasis on the way the Trinity works cooperatively in the world and the role of the Creator Spirit’s gifts in the people of God in the public and working world is neglected.
No sooner was the Spirit’s personal presence with the people of God and impersonal presence in the world as wind, fire, etc. experienced at Pentecost (Acts 2) than the early church fathers reverted to OT and pagan sacred and secular models of clerical leadership that monopolised or channelled the Spirit.15
In the dualistically influenced medieval western church the ‘perfect’ contemplative life of Mary was exalted over the ‘permitted’ active life of Martha (Luke 10:38-42).16 Clericalization produced ‘the taming of the pew’.17 Lay people were to ‘pay, pray and obey.'18 In Christendom, the Catholic Christ and Clergy above Culture and Laity model,19 while giving the church input into the working and economic world, was triumphalistic and clerically dominated.20
Clerical dominance was partially turned back by Luther’s wonderful rediscovery of vocation and ‘priesthood of all believers’. However, Protestantism’s focus on reforming the doctrine of salvation left the doctrine of church largely intact. As such, the Reformation was incomplete. Apart from the preacher replacing the priest, the Reformation brought about insufficient structural change, as evidenced by the 19th century adoption of the Catholic seminary system and the practice of clergy ordination without equivalent recognition of lay vocation in society. While the medieval church exalted the contemplative life over the active life, the reverse is now the case after Luther universalised vocation to apply to all ordinary occupations, not merely the monastery. The active life is now the life of an ever-active mind operating at computer pace in the increasingly information based western and Asian economies.
The modern marginalization of the clergy from being educated all-rounders with theology as the integrating queen of the sciences in village societies, to being clergy who now are general practitioners (GPs) in a society of specialists with theology as a minor speciality, generally causes clergy to feel unable or unwilling to engage in the world of specialised ‘experts’. ‘The layman’s predicament'21 of being silenced by the specialist professionals is also the clergy’s predicament as they are lay or amateur in relation to many of the major issues lay people face in public or working life and even in theology, with an increasingly theologically literate laity.
The great missiologist Roland Allen wrote in “The Case for Voluntary Clergy”:
Stipendiary clergy cut off by training and life from that common experience are constantly struggling to get close to the laity by wearing lay clothing, sharing in lay amusements, and organising lay clubs; but they never quite succeed. To get close to men, it is necessary really to share their experience ... by being in it, not merely to come as near as possible without being in it.22
Many western pastors and churches are becoming defensive and authoritarian as they lose numbers and status through secularisation, perceived irrelevance, and moral and abuse scandals. ‘Beware the papacy of the pastor,’ said John Stott at the Keswick Convention 2000. Too many believe ‘not in the priesthood of all believers, but in the papacy of all pastors.’ However, it is easy for laity to luxuriate in the role of victims or the loyal opposition without ever having to come up with policies or strategies or recognising our own complicity in our captivity, as Mike McLoughlin pointed out earlier.
Lay liberation should not be anti-clergy, but should also liberate them. Anne Rowthorn notes:
The devaluation of lay ministry has also had a negative effect on clergy. Clergy have become isolated, withdrawn into themselves as a group, disoriented in the community of faith. Their development as a class apart from the whole ministerial body has resulted in their becoming over-extended, subject to unreasonable expectations of the laity and expected to see to all the spiritual needs of the congregation while sometimes neglecting their own. No major denomination is without their share of clergy who at midlife and midcareer have become bitter, broken, disillusioned or angry. It is the legacy of the age-old split between clergy and laypersons.23
(E) In the 19th century, Protestants adopted the Catholic seminary system (Athens) or the liberal academic system of theological education (Berlin)24 and this maintained a clericalised pattern of theological education. Although an increasing number of laity are now getting theologically educated, the majority of students in theological colleges are not taught to integrate their faith and work as marketplace ministry. Therefore, they and the clergy sometimes fight over time and space to speak in church. Many theological colleges and seminaries aid and abet this by being publicly invisible in their cities, their neighbourhoods or in the media. They fail to model forms of ministry beyond ordained ministry.25 Heroic models of lay theological education, such as F. D. Maurice’s mid-19th century Working Men’s College, precursor of the successful Mechanics Institutes have run up against problems of fatigue and lack of time among their overworked students.
(F) We have a shrunken view of stewardship that includes only the small change of our lives. In the context of ‘the meltdown of the mainline’ in western denominations, it is easy to go into the defensive, downsizing, possessive mode to preserve resources of time and money in order to keep the church going. This is short-sighted. The lack of a corporate and concrete reading of Scripture in relation to the material realm leads to another kind of dualism where money is seen as sacred or too private for discussion. Or, if stewardship is discussed, it is in the privatised, ‘psychologised’, secular terms of individual happiness.26 This leaves people easy prey to advertising induced anxiety, greed, workaholism and debt. In church, we usually only talk about money in relation to church giving, not in terms of the larger stewardship of life and work.
(G) The Western church’s mission frontier has moved from the early Church’s strong difference to (and occasional hostility from) the Roman Empire to the Constantinian/Christendom parish based church from the 4th to the 18th centuries and then to Enlightenment modernity.27 Modernity privatises faith and morality. It seeks to confine Christianity to the home and excludes it from boardroom or ballot-box ethics. The modern Enlightenment’s gap between facts and values - facts governing public working life and values governing private and religious life - has trapped much of the western and perhaps developing church in the confines of privatised family values. Scientific, economic or utilitarian individualism governs public, working life from Monday to Friday while expressive, therapeutic (psychological) or religious individualism governs Sundays where we squeeze our values into the leftovers of the week.28 Women’s relational values and males competitive values govern Sunday and Monday respectively.
(H) These gaps between the public and the private spheres, between work and home are exacerbated by the way industrial and rapidly growing urban/suburban society spatially separates work, home and church. In the pre-industrial household economy, these were integrated with the church steeple and bell, respectively seen and heard from the highest hill in the town centre. Harvest festival celebrated work in one of the peak times of the agriculturally based Church Year. In the move to urban society at the turn of the nineteenth century there was a shift in perspective – work and home/church were separated. It has been said that by emphasizing the two poles of political/business work in London and family/church in the suburbs, unintentionally 'Evangelicalism led almost inevitably to their functional and then physical separation' - between the feminine/natural/emotional world of family and the masculine/rational/urban world of work. Eventually, this led to a narrowing down, in more fundamentalist forms of Evangelicalism, to a more segmented and exclusive focus on family values and ethics whilst forgetting the city, the workplace and boardroom ethics. There were outstanding examples of those who did not make this separation such as William Wilberforce and the group of evangelicals who came to be known as the Clapham Sect.29
Further, the massive rise in the number of paid working women has led to the loss of much of the church’s great unpaid voluntary workforce. It has also shown that women are not intrinsically more religious than men, just that they were seen as belonging in the private, domestic and religious area of life. Empirical and anecdotal evidence shows that women working full-time go to church, pray and read the Bible less than their sisters not working fulltime.30 Their husbands also end up attending less. It is partly time pressure, but it is more a lack of connection between Sunday and Monday.31 It would be blaming the victims to blame working women for this.
(I) Segmentation versus Integration: the Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution and rapidly rising urbanisation lie behind the contemporary sociological and structural dominance of the work pattern of segmentation - or compartmentalization - living life in two boxes - work and home - with church fitting into the private realm of home.32 Some draw a rigid, thick line which is more compartmentalised. Others have a dotted line or no line - they have a more integrated home/work/church pattern. Segmentation is not necessarily bad, especially if the workplace is intrusive, but segmentation often makes it more difficult to integrate our faith and work and share our faith in an unforced way. So we need to think through these issues consciously and in community with our spouses, workmates, and churches. Often, our inability to negotiate these boundaries Christianly means ‘we worship our work, play at our worship and work at our play’ (Gordon Dahl).
(J) In part due to western evangelicalism’s shaping by the privatising influence of the Enlightenment, we have often had a very narrow utilitarian view of work as being only an instrument or means to the end of verbal evangelism or proclamation. This puts an intolerable burden of conscience on many people who think they are expected to evangelise in the boss’s time. It is also increasingly problematic in a pluralistic and post-9/11 world. It raises many questions and causes many problems for tentmakers and businesspeople in mission as a recent Time magazine article on tentmaking post–9/11 shows.33
(A) In Scripture there is no ancient or modern, eastern or western dualistically derived gap between private and public, faith and work, charity and justice. There we have many images of God as a worker (Genesis 1-2, John 5:17, Revelation 21:5), specifically as shepherd (Psalm 23), warrior (Exodus 15:3), teacher (Psalm 143:10, Proverbs 15:33), potter (Jeremiah 18:6, Romans 9:20-21) and as vinedresser (Isaiah 5:1-7, John 15:1-6).1 We also find that marketplace Christians such as Joseph, Esther, Daniel, Nehemiah, Lydia, Priscilla and Aquila are very prominent among God’s people.
Against an individualistic reading of Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount, John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus2 depicts the people of God as a city (polis) set on a hill as the light of the world, who are to let their light shine so that others can see their good work(s) and give God the glory (Matthew 5:16). Furthermore, Paul tells the Ephesian Christians, ‘We are God’s workmanship/masterpiece/work of art created in Christ Jesus to do good work(s), which God prepared in advance for us to do’ (Ephesians 2:10) and ‘stop stealing and do good or useful work so you can share with the needy’(Ephesians 4:28). Note also Ephesians 6:8 concerning the work of slaves and masters: ‘You know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free’. By translating ‘good work’— as David Prior does, we get away from a medieval Catholic reading that sees these as occasional, private, spare time ‘do-goodery’ as a means to earn our salvation rather than ongoing justice in our jobs or work. ‘Good work’ ‘has the overall meaning of “quality work”—i.e. going about our daily work in a way that is both ethical and attractive.'3 This does not let unjust churchgoing business magnates like the late J.D. Rockefeller salve their consciences with charity.
(B) To bridge the gap in our partial perceptions of God’s work we need to be more thoroughly trinitarian instead of having in practice a unitarian (one person) theology playing favourites with the Trinity. In good Augustinian trinitarian theology, the three persons of the Trinity all cooperate in their work in the world. Yet each takes the lead in the trinitarian activity for their special part in salvation history - so while the Father is primary in creation, the Word/Son is involved (John 1:1, Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1:3, etc) and the Creator Spirit too (Genesis 1:2, Psalm 104: 30 ‘You created all of them by your Spirit, and you give new life to the earth’). Christ is primary in relation to reconciliation, the Spirit in transformation and completion. Yet they work together. Individuals, institutions and marketplace ministries often grasp one aspect of the Trinity’s work and highlight their own particular gifts as the greatest and compete with others.54 There is nothing wrong with having a particular emphasis or calling but it is imperialistic to be claiming ‘ours is more essential’ as if the body is one organ (1Corinthians 12:14-31). Some will focus more on creation development and maintenance, some on evangelism, others on spiritual gifts and new creation. Yet we should all affirm the importance of each and bless each one’s work if we are to have a properly balanced view of God’s trinitarian work in creation, reconciliation and transformation. This is why we need to develop a three mandate/commission theology.
Some only have a creational/cultural commission emphasis. They rightly stress the biblical wisdom tradition that we are creatures first, then Christians and stress the horizontal relationship to the world. Yet they can become easily secularised and lose a sense of the evangelistic urgency and christological finality and uniqueness, in their comfortable chaplaincy to secular, pluralistic societies.
Others are rightly Christ-centred and urgently evangelistic. However, they forget that Christ is also the creator as John 1 and Colossians1:15-20 and the first chapter of almost every NT book shows. They stress the urgency of training more ‘fulltime Christian workers’ for kingdom work and see ordinary or ‘secular’ work as worthwhile only ‘to put food on the table and money in the plate’ or for opportunities for verbal evangelism or ‘kingdom work’ alone. They fail to recognise that exercising dominion is kingdom work and that the kingdom is ‘creation healed’ as Hans Kung said. Witness and mission is broader than verbal evangelism or proclamation, although the latter is included and important.
Others correctly remind us of our experience of the Holy Spirit’s presence, empowering and healing and of the immanence of the Kingdom’s coming. However, they can forget that the Spirit is the Spirit of the Word/Christ and of the Creator. They, therefore, confine the Spirit and spiritual gifts to the church, making them irrelevant to the workplace. Yet gifts of administration, craftsmanship, mercy, evangelism, political leadership and counsel among others are obviously relevant to the workplace. Thus they rightly pray for spiritual healing in church, but not for the work of Christian and non-Christian doctors who also have God’s gifts.4 On the other hand, some workplace chaplaincy groups using a relational pastoral model focus on the human spirit at work without any reference to God’s creative Spirit, ordering Word or redemptive word incarnate.
(C) The privatised personal relations exegesis and ethic leaves out the realm of our relationship with creation and the earth in blessing, dominion and stewardship (Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 2) known as the creation or cultural mandate or commission. This commission is often the Great Omission. It is often left out compared with the Evangelistic Commission and the Relational Commission or Love Commandment. This leaves us with an unbalanced twolegged stool that will fall over. Even in the case of one very good marketplace ministry church, their mission statement includes only two of the three mandates, excluding the creation mandate. Their vision is: ‘By 2010, we seek to be a community with 2000 people meeting in congregations and small groups, living out the Great Commission and Great Commandment in the city of … and beyond’.5
This also means recapturing the biblical significance of blessing. Some Pentecostals have tried to do this but have ended up taking an extreme stand through prosperity theology.6
They react to the position taken by many Evangelicals who subscribe to a ‘Deism of deliverance’, which is basically the belief that God is only involved in the big, miraculous moments of salvation history and remains at arm’s length, working by iron clad natural, scientific and economic law the rest of the time.
As Eugene Petersen writes:
The week is not divided into one Lord's day when the rule of God is acknowledged and six human days in which factories, stock exchange, legislatures, media personalities, and military juntas take charge and rule with their lies and guns and money, nor is the rule restricted to occasional interventions that are later remembered as great historical events - exodus and exile, Christmas and Easter.7
Evangelicals often neglect God’s continual maintaining and blessing of creation in all its vitality and fertility over and against curse and death, even and perhaps especially through our work. An Evangelical clergyman hurt a faithful parishioner by refusing to bless his new business which he had entered into as a real step of faith. Contrast the Indian insurance salesman who was prompted by his Muslim wife to ask for a blessing for his business from the local Evangelical minister and was drawn into the life of the church. There is much for Evangelicals to learn from our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters who bless the fishing fleet or a new factory. Blessings may sometimes seem superstitious, but they can provide contact points with seekers of other religions and lead them into personal relationship with Christ, just as Jesus drew the haemorrhaging woman who touched his garment and was healed, into a saving relationship (Mark 5:25-36). Blessings of workplaces and homes can also be a great encouragement to believers that God is present to bless every area of life.
The loss of the creation commission/mandate has detrimental effects on Christians who are not directly engaged with people-type or evangelistic work, who work with technology, material things or are engaged in wealth creation. These Christians often feel like second-class believers who have to pretend to be social workers at work. A chemical engineer when asked about his faith and work at an InterVarsity Graduates Fellowship meeting, described it in terms of the people-side of serving clients as if he were a social worker, but failed to mention that he had developed a less pollutant pesticide that fulfils the creation commission. In contrast, Crawford W. Long, M.D., who discovered the use of sulphuric ether as an anaesthetic in surgery on March 30, 1840 and whose statue stands in the US Senate building in the state of Georgia, was attributed with these words, ‘My profession is to me a ministry from God.’ Consider also Professor Graeme Clark, the Australian developer of the bionic ear who has brought hearing to over 50,000 people worldwide. His scientific passion for the creation/dominion mandate and for alleviating the suffering of hearing-impaired humanity (including his father) combined with his front-page and televised witness to Christ, represents a very balanced and inspiring expression of all three mandates. This made him a very appropriate recipient of the first Macquarie Christian Studies Institute Faith and Work Award.
Because God is a Worker - Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier - we need to re-link the creation and evangelistic commissions or mandates. The creation commission’s go forth and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28 to Adam, cf. Genesis 9:7 to Noah, Genesis 12:1-3 to Abram) is behind the
Great Commission’s ‘go’ into the world or as you go about your daily work and life (Matthew
28:18-20 cf. Matthew 10:7) as Leighton Ford stresses. When Jesus says ‘all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,’ He claims dominion over all creation as the true and ultimate human activity.8 As former Dutch Prime Minister, theologian and journalist Abraham Kuyper says: ‘There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, “This is mine! This belongs to me!’” Jesus demonstrated true servantlike rule of creation in His nature miracles and in His parables about nature and work life as the kingdom and creation intersect in Him. Furthermore, making disciples, not just decisions, commitments or ‘born again’ experiences, is about making and teaching people to exercise dominion as servants over creation responsibly under Jesus. I say ‘under Jesus’ because He first fulfils Psalm 8 and human dominion by exercising dominion over death and putting everything under His feet (Hebrews 2:5-18). This enables us ‘as a kingdom of priests to serve our God … and reign on the earth’ eternally (Revelation 5:10; cf. 2:26-7, 20: 4, 6; 22:5). Then the whole earth will be ‘regenerated’ and become a temple, the new Jerusalem into which the purified splendour of the kings and cultures of the earth will be brought (Revelation 21: 22-27) after the total destruction of the city of Babylon and all the work done in it (Revelation 18:2124). There will be no more sacred-secular split. “On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the Lord’s house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the Lord Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them”
(Zechariah 14:20-21, NIV). Unlike the often praised Brother Lawrence who prayed with his ‘sacred’ mind and spirit while doing the ‘secular’ manual labour of scrubbing pots and pans in the monastery kitchen, the very pots and the work of cooking (and washing up!) will be holy in themselves.9
To contrast ordinary work as secular or temporal and evangelistic work as sacred or eternal is an unbiblical dualism that runs against both the creation and the discipleship mandates. At the culmination of God’s purposes when Jesus comes again, Christians will be judged not only for their directly evangelistic and church-oriented work, but also for their faithfulness as stewards with their God-given resources and responsibilities: material resources, gifts, training and skills (Matthew 25:31-36). The judgement criteria of good stewardship of the earth and material things, and good work(s) towards people (Romans 2:6, James 2:14-26), places our present human work in eternal perspective.
The Old Testament vision of the end-time is of humanity engaged in fruitful work (Amos 9:13, Micah 4:3ff, Isaiah 11:1-9, Hosea 2:18-23). We will not be floating on clouds and strumming harps as popular fantasy has it. God says, ‘I am creating a new heaven and a new earth ... My people will live in the houses they build; they will enjoy grapes from their own vineyards. No one will take away their homes or vineyards. My chosen people will live to be as old as trees and they will enjoy what they have earned, their work won’t be wasted ... [‘in vain’] (Isaiah 65:17, 21-23 CEV). This picture is completed for us in the New Testament. Our final destination as Christians is a glorified material destination - a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21-22). The redeemed community will inhabit this new creation in their resurrected, glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15; Philippians 3:21). They, their work(s) (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) and the whole creation will be purified through a smelting fire and not destroyed (2 Peter 3:12, 13). The kings of the earth will bring their cultures (Revelation 21:24, 26) and their ethnic and linguistic diversities (Revelation 5:9) into the Holy City. Our godly human work will follow us into the new creation (Revelation 14:13). We will not so much as go to heaven but heaven will come to us - ‘then I saw New Jerusalem, that holy city coming down from God in heaven’ (Revelation 21:2). This provides real continuity between our work now in Christ and the work we will do in the new heaven and new earth.10 Compare this with the apostle Paul’s declaration that God ‘subjected the world to vanity, in hope’ of its new birth, which is hope for us and our work (Romans 8:20). There, and in 1 Corinthians 15:58 is the promise that in the risen Son, Ecclesiastes’ verdict of vanity ‘under the sun’ is lifted. ‘Therefore, be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for in the Lord, your work is not in vain’.
(D) To bridge the lay-clergy gap we need to change our basic image of who we are from ‘Church’ with a minister or two, referring to the Sunday gathering, to the People of God, who are all ministers, both gathered and scattered, Sunday and Monday. Biblically, the church gathering is a subset of the People of God. As citizens of the city of God, we should not spend all our time ‘gathering’ in the ecclesia or town hall like a Christian ghetto. Instead, we meet there to rehearse how we might humbly rule and transform our cities and workplaces in the light of the coming city of God.11 We also need to recapture the role of the Creator Spirit active in the working world, letting the Spirit ‘blow where it wills’ (John 3:8) rather than localising the Spirit in one place or, by implication, localising to one person or to one time (Sunday) or to a clerical caste (John 4:21-14). Some are trying to recover the biblical idea of reconnecting with the diasporas or people of God scattered. These include Australian Marketplace Connections, Macquarie Christian Studies Institute (MCSI), Zadok Institute for Christianity and Society, International Coalition of Workplace Ministries (ICWM), London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, Vocatio Institute (Regent College), Faith at Work New Zealand, Ridley Hall Foundation, School of Contemporary Christian Studies at the Bible College of New Zealand, Integra in Bratislava, Slovakia, Beyers Naude Centre for Public Theology at the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa), Industrial Ministry of South Africa, and other para-church professional and business groups.
Some practitioners/authors speak of ‘Church on Mondays’ or ‘micro-church’ on Monday.12 However, to use the term ‘Church’ for Mondays can confuse the gathered and scattered modes of God’s people and lead to a homogeneous workplace church. Workplace groups are too homogeneous in profession, class and sometimes, possibly gender and age, to do justice to the biblical picture of the diverse Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:15-39 cf. Galatians 3:28) and may be unnecessarily confronting to the clergy and the traditional gathered church. It is preferable to think in terms of the church scattered, during the week.
The two-way movement between gathering and scattering is illustrated well by international business consultant John Bray:
I look to the church for at least indirect support. In England, India, and now Japan, I have valued my association with local worshipping communities made up of people whose backgrounds are different from those I encounter at work. It is not so much that I wish to escape from the office on Sundays, but that I wish to go beyond it. The church provides a different, deeper and more long-term perspective. I look to it for inspiration, but not necessarily for technical advice.
Having said this, ... the institutional churches could play a more prominent role in coalitions against corruption - and in wider debates about corporate responsibility - than they actually do. Corruption is a complex issue and the churches will not ... have all the answers, not least because their own administrations sometimes lack transparency and accountability. However, they should have plenty to say about the ethical issues that go beyond technical advice, and the price for addressing them.13
To reinforce our Christian identity at work, we need to imitate Jesus in sending the disciples out on mission in little communities, ‘two by two’ (Mark 6:7). The most intimidating aspect for many Christians in the workplace is the feeling of isolation, like Daniel in the Lion’s Den, always asking ‘what can one person do?’ A form of ‘Monday monasticism’ or corporate marketplace mission orders with an accountable rule of life would link well with the original idea of “profession” or monastic vow, but should not be confined to the traditional professions. The support of a disciplined group of Christians will be essential for this to be worked out.
As God’s gifted people, we are all ministers or servants. Even the Roman state is called a minister or servant (Romans 13:4). There is no such thing as clergy in the NT, although there are church leaders in Ephesians 4:12ff, also there are pastor-teachers, prophets and evangelists who 'equip the saints for the work of ministry' and presbyters/elders (not priests) and deacons (in the Pastoral epistles). We are all ‘kleros’ (from which the word ‘clergy’ is derived). We are all called and we are all ‘laos’ (from which the word ‘laity’ is derived) or God’s people.14 This means that there should be no dualistic and imperialistic claims from clerical leadership that ministry in the local church is the greatest agent of God’s mission. Nor can there be a claim that to be a cross-cultural missionary is the greatest thing you can do. It is great, but is it the greatest?
Instead, we need a rediscovery of Luther’s ‘priesthood of all believers’, but in a postChristendom mission context. Note that this is not ‘every believer’ in the Protestant work ethic’s individualistic sense. It includes a corporate, communal sense that western Christians have largely lost. Nor is it a priesthood only of the professionals. It is all believers.
We need a rediscovery of the priesthood, prophethood and kingship of all believers, teaching/pastoring, proclaiming and wisely ruling/managing God’s people and creation respectively (Jeremiah 18:18). Paul Stevens quotes the Hebrews principle: ‘the deeper we enter into the sanctuary the further we will penetrate the world’. ‘Priesthood connotes the interiority of the whole people of God, royalty and prophethood connote the exteriority of every member ministry.’ This corrects both elitist Catholic and individualised Protestant distortions. No individual, except Christ, embodies all three perfectly. Nor does any leadership team, although hopefully they will have a balance of these roles, and see that all three operate within the church and model how Christians should operate in the world. Stevens cites banking executive Sandra Herron’s helpful description of this threefold ministry at work in her industry: ‘The prophet helping organizations discover what God intends for them to become, the priest caring for people and serving as a model, and the king acting as a faithful steward of people and resources’.15
While right-wing or conservative Christians often stress priestly or pastoral ministry, left-wing, progressive Christians often stress prophetic ministry. We need both, as well as those who rule the world wisely and demonstrate responsible dominion over creation (like kings) in positions of power. As the 1977 Chicago Declaration by Catholic laity stated: The impression is often created that one can work for justice and peace only by stepping outside these ordinary roles as a business person, mayor, factory worker, professional in the Government, or as an active union member and thus that one can change the system only as an ‘outsider’ to the society and system.
This ignores the role of
a prophets like Obadiah who worked within King Ahab’s court to preserve the lives of 100 prophets from Queen Jezebel while Elijah worked outside the royal court, challenging the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:13). The wisdom tradition is also concerned with ruling creation rightly, working from the inside, through wise public servants or counsellors who advise kings.
Similarly, the notion of vocation needs to be reclaimed and revised. Paul Stevens pictures a three-layered wedding cake of callings in a biblically and pastorally balanced treatment. The bottom layer of the creation commission is to all humans (to communion, community building and co-creativity - Genesis 1: 26-28, Psalm 8). The second layer is the Great Commission - to all Christians (to conversion, community and Christ-like character and witness - Ephesians 4:1). The third layer is the Spirit’s personal or particular call to individuals (to work, family and political roles - 1 Corinthians 7:17, 20, Romans 13). This avoids what Os Guinness describes as the Catholic hierarchical heresy of only some Christians, monks and priests, having a Christian or personal calling and the Protestant secularised heresy of calling as just a personal vocation, career or job where the divine Caller is forgotten. ‘First and foremost we are called to Someone (God), not something (such as motherhood, politics or teaching) or Somewhere (such as the inner-city or Mongolia).'16
To affirm these senses of vocation or calling, we need to develop forms of recognition of lay vocation in society through regular lay or marketplace commissioning services. A different group could be commissioned each month - doctors and nurses, teachers, businesspeople etc, not forgetting the unemployed and careers for children, the disabled and elderly - as has been done at the Emmaus Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit in Pennsylvania. Church directories, allowing for privacy legislation in the West, could include people’s interests/occupations in the broadest sense so they can be used to pray for their marketplace ministries more intelligently and to connect with and support one another. We should bridge the gap by seeing, entitling and rewarding our contemporary clergy primarily as part of an equipping team as in Paul Stevens’ The Equipping Pastor or Greg Ogden’s The New Reformation.17 The first aspect of this equipping is to talent-scout by mapping or auditing marketplace ministry and then seeing where there are clusters e.g. in certain occupations, workplaces, cities. The next step is to connect and equip people ministering there. This has the added advantage of not adding a lot of ‘church ministry’ or study time on top of already time-poor lives, the problem F. D. Maurice’s Working Men’s College faced. People can minister and reflect where they are. Thus the church is turned inside out.
(E) An increasingly theologically educated laity, now forming the majority of students in many theological colleges, provides an enormous opportunity for marketplace mission if they are taught to integrate their faith and work as marketplace ministry. Unfortunately, this is still under the radar screen of most theological and Bible colleges. They still tend to train for an ordained pastorate or overseas missionary model. When Pastor Al Roberts asked a seminary dean about his school’s willingness to equip people for the marketplace, he was told they would invite an outsider to give one lecture and perhaps develop a course. Roberts lamented this lukewarm response, ‘When will the seminary begin to examine how it prepares pastors so that they have some clue as to their role in helping plumbers to minister to other plumbers, carpenters to minister to other carpenters, and nurses to minister to other nurses... that is the launching pad for the real ministry of the church?’ The dean replied, ‘Well, we’re not quite that far along yet.’ With all due and great respect, they had better get further along or their training will be less and less relevant to the world in which ministry is to take place.
Theological education for marketplace ministry may involve different strategies. There is a place for the occasional marketplace course, but it will often be relegated to options for minorities. While some specific courses or streams are required such as Theology of Everyday Life courses or Christian Studies integrative streams or degrees (e.g. in The Australian College of Theology, Fuller Seminary or Regent College or Pat Kelly Bible College South Africa), the whole curriculum needs reorientation towards equipping for marketplace mission post-Christendom. Robert Banks’ Re-envisioning Theological Education: Exploring a Missional Alternative to Current Models18 emphasises the need for holistic mission to underlie the whole theological curriculum, not just one subject. It is not just a rehearsal or laboratory preparation for the working-world outside, though there is a place for disciples having time apart with Jesus. The three years Jesus spent with his disciples was as a travelling, experiential theological college, ‘on the road’, doing the work of the Kingdom and then reflecting on it. It was not three years of sitting in lectures nor was it divorced from the workplace. Theological education is best done in an action-reflection rhythm with teachers actually modelling mission in community and in the world, including the world of work - doing it together and reflecting on it together with students. Otherwise, the teachable moment for marketplace ministry is too far separated from the teaching.
The great missionary bishop, Lesslie Newbigin applied a missiological model learnt in India to the western world post-Christendom. Through the Gospel and Culture Network, he stressed the need to equip lay people to be at the forefront of mission in their workplaces.19 Theological education should also pay attention to the role of modern institutions and developments, such as the corporation, public service, technology, and globalisation which shape so much of our lives.20 We need to learn to discern prayerfully and wisely what ‘the principalities and powers’ are at work, what ‘spirit’ is at work in an organisation or institution’s culture. Some of the places trying out more lay-oriented workplace forms of education and equipping are: InterVarsity and its International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) Graduates Fellowships and Marketplace ministries, Regent College’s Vocatio Institute, Fuller Seminary’s De Pree Leadership Institute, Macquarie Christian Studies Institute (www.mcsi.edu.au), Ridley Hall Foundation, Yale Divinity School’s Center for Faith and Culture, Luther Seminary’s Centred Life Initiative (www.centeredlife.org), London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (licc.org.uk) and Zadok Institute for Christianity and Society (www.zadok.org.au), as well as www.faithatwork.org.nz. Macquarie Christian Studies Institute offers Certificates of Professional Development from a Christian perspective as a way to help learners integrate faith and profession while getting ‘secular’ credit and even time and payment for it. The short six-session course Connecting Christian Faith and Legal Practice designed by Christine Parker and Ian Barns21 is an excellent example of this. In Korea, the Christian School of Management and Christian Lawyers are very active, with the latter now have their own Handong International Law School. The Indian church is developing professional training for professional groups such as The Evangelical Teachers’ Fellowship in Nacharam, Hyderabad ([email protected]). Nigerian Christians are increasingly active in this area through groups such as The Kingdom Projects and their Africa Christian Teachers (www.tkpmissions.8m.com). Beijing University is setting up a Centre for Christian Studies and there are many opportunities for Christian businesses, English teachers and other professionals. Partnerships between developed and developing world marketplace training groups need to be intentionally nurtured.
However, some innovative lay ministry centres such as Boston’s Andover Newton Seminary’s (Church of Christ) Centre for the Ministry of the Laity or New College Berkeley have either closed (Andover) or scaled down (New College) due to an insufficiently broad financial support base. Often, when the champion of marketplace ministry dies or moves on, the ministry inevitably suffers since the vision has not been sufficiently institutionalised in preparation for the departure of the original charismatic leader. Success without succession is not success! We need to engage in constant succession planning. We should model the process of equipping and multiplying the ministry. No theological college or educational institute, apart from business schools, supports itself purely or even mainly from student fees. Perhaps a way forward is for these institutes to run their own businesses training people for self-supporting marketplace ministry on the job. The Cornerstone Community (www.cornerstone.edu.au) in many parts of rural Australia and now Africa, adopts this model with discipling taking place on the job, running pizza restaurants, farming etc.
Often, lay or marketplace ministry centres or courses are seen as non-core or not the main thrust of seminaries for whom the bottom line is training for ordination. As mission strategist Loren Mead says, in this sense, ‘Lay Ministry is at a dead end’, having advanced little on what Yves Congar (R.C.) and Hendrik Kraemer (W.C.C.) wrote in the 1950s.22 ‘In short, we’re not dealing with a problem that only resides in our thinking or our programs or processes. We are caught up in a system - an interrelated, interconnected set of relationships that reinforce homeostasis’ or the status quo. Marketplace ministry goes against the self-interest of key, clerical and pseudo-clerical players within the system.'23 The whole reward structure of the system is based on what happens inside church not outside. Yet with the downsizing of many mainline churches in the West and with the general poverty in the South, the day will soon come or is already here when ordained ministers will have to be tentmakers to pay their way. Hopefully, like the apostle Paul, they will see their work in an integrated way as a model of servant ministry in itself (1 Corinthians 9:19-23),24 not merely as a means to pay for ministry.
The early church only moved out from Jerusalem into new mission fields through persecution (Acts 8:1-3). Perhaps the same will happen again. If Christians cannot be marketplace Christians, not only Sunday or leisure-time Christians, they are hardly likely to be witnesses or martyrs. Perhaps, to paraphrase the early church father Tertullian, the blood of the marketplace Christian will be ‘the seed of the church.’
An Indonesian sister, Weilin Han, reminded us that marketplace ministry is essential in situations of Christian-Muslim tension and may in fact be the best preparation for Christians to stand up to persecution. After the 1997 economic crisis in Indonesia and the 1998 post-Suharto political reformation, many people turned to the church for ‘stress-relief’ and personal blessing.
The church has become: a private leisure-time pursuit purchased in the ‘market’ like any other consumer lifestyle. Christian student organizations ... face the same problems. They only focus on ‘vertical spiritual growth.’ To be a good Christian means one has his quiet time regularly and prefers a Bible study to going to a billiard centre or disco, but the curriculum will not gear a person to question the government’s policy, or an official’s corruption, or become a politician himself. On the contrary, the YMCA produces alumni who are now involved in the government. But, as the curriculum is so ‘horizontal,’ many are spiritually dry. Being ‘Christian’ does not mean anything.
As all levels of theological education must integrate the vertical relation with God and the horizontal relation with neighbour and nation, so as Weilin Han continues, we should integrate preparation for ministry inside and outside church:
At church … we have many people with excellent skills and talents. Our tendency is always to say ‘we don’t have enough church activists’. Then we load them up with tons of church programs from Monday to Monday till the person can’t even develop their ability. We create rigorous church activists that are very spiritual but anti-social and apolitical. When we have excellent Christian people’ outside such as YMCA alumni, we don’t really ‘bless’ them and send them to the ‘world’ because we see them as not part of the body of Christ. As a result, we have skilled ‘Christians’ who are saltless, but we are beginning to see that a church gathering can be anywhere – in office buildings, shopping centres, hotels, houses, you name it.25
More specifically and moderately, theological colleges can bridge the gap by:
- Affirming the experience of lay people as a resource for theological education not, for instance, expecting a General Motors executive ‘to park his experience at the door’. They may not use all the right theological language but the intuitive or tacit knowledge of marketplace Christians, the ‘sense of the faithful’ should be respected and utilised.26
- Providing ordination track students with field experience in market/workplace/world of work environments and, as Angus McLeay rightly suggests, as part of their post-ordination education, sabbatical etc. to keep them in touch with rapidly changing workplace trends.27
- Intentionally interweaving theology, scripture and ethics courses with workplace themes e.g. on the nature of God as worker in theology or on ethical issues of corruption, racism, sexism, poverty, HIV/AIDS at work as in the Beyers Naude Centre for Public Theology at the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa).
- Highlighting the interaction between the church and the working world in Church History courses and moving beyond a ‘Great Ordained Western Men’ syllabus to a global focus on all God’s people in ministry as Andrew Walls of Aberdeen has pioneered.
- Extending practical ministry courses and pastoral care resources to equip people for their role in the workplace.
- Recognising and equipping lay people to exercise their revolutionary role in public and marketplace ethics rather than the resolution-ary Christianity of clerically dominated Social Responsibilities Committees. As Jurgen Moltmann says, the laity are the real experts in social ethics. Many seminaries fail to equip the laity for this role by being publicly invisible in their cities and neighbourhoods, media, workplaces etc.28
(F) To bridge the faith-work gap we need to enlarge our shrunken notion of stewardship. In the US, clergy may use stewardship terms, but Robert Wuthnow shows how it is diluted, Americanised and secularised to support no more than ecclesiastical and clerical survival. This is greeted with cynicism by many church members struggling with financial pressures who are unwilling to simply ‘pray, pay and obey.’ Clergy also often provide secular or Americanised bromides such as the pursuit of personal happiness in terms of job fulfilment and hard work which arouse no more than a shrug of the shoulders. By not using our own Christian story or language to challenge the world of work and money, we have allowed the gospel to be marginalised. Martha Witten surveyed evangelical books and found a focus on personal morality such as honesty and sermons against workaholism (i.e. not enough time for church), which can best be described as Polyanna-ish. Contrast this with Richard Baxter’s Christian Directory and his Puritan critique of the abuse of the particular vocations of medicine, the army etc, in light of the general vocation to be Christian.29
Clergy and congregations need to hold people accountable and equip them to be stewards of their skills, talents, time and gifts in their working as well as their church lives. They need to be taught to be stewards not only of their money in consumerist societies, but of the environment in a world with major ecological problems, increasingly amongst the newly industrialising Asian economies and oil-rich African nations like Nigeria. Teaching and modelling stewardship in churches and businesses is a sign that the world is not our own, but on loan from God. A Christian CEO of a major private health provider in Australia committed his company to plant replacement trees for those lost to provide the paper they use. Employees, Christian and nonChristian, gladly participated.
(G) The Western church’s mission frontier has moved from the Early Church’s pluralistic, often persecuting context (1st-3rd centuries AD) to the Christendom parish based church (4th to 17th centuries) to Enlightenment modernity (17-21st centuries) which privatises faith and morality. Yet in a globalising or westernising world, we are coming full circle back to a postmodern, pluralistic situation something like that of the Early Church with all its opportunities and perils for marketplace ministry.
However, there is globalisation from below (Two Thirds World) as well as above (First World). The European Enlightenment and western modernity or postmodernity is not the experience of many parts of the world. ‘Secularisation and privatisation of faith is by no means an inevitability riding the coat-tails of globalisation, leaving islands of religiosity in a sea of secularity’ as missiologist Dan Beeby puts it. Western European secularisation is not the rule but the global exception.30
An increasingly globalized postmodernity is moving towards the Early Church’s pluralistic situation with a smorgasbord of spiritualities filling the gap. This is being challenged as some cultures move into the more postmodern end of the spectrum and as the clash of religiously based civilisations, especially Judeo-Christianity and Islam is increasingly acknowledged post-9/11. Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1998) argues that the major world conflicts today are increasingly religiously and culturally based. It challenges us, therefore, to address this dimension in economic affairs, not being bound by parochial Western secularism, especially in regions where religion is much more public and people want to fill the gap between faith and work.
American Catholic business ethicist, Denis McCann describes the necessity for greater spiritual and religious understanding in our increasingly pluralistic global business environment, especially in Asia:
The increasingly prominent multinationals based in East Asia are based on neo-Confucian values ... How can Americans [or other westerners etc.] evaluate the corporate culture in such firms without understanding the religious values operative in them? Conversely, how can Americans [or other westerners etc.] compete with them without understanding their own, still largely unacknowledged, religious assumptions?31
Our concern is more missionary rather than business competition, but the point is clear - in a global economy and religious world, we need to understand their relationships much better than we have, particularly in our dominant western dualist and modern liberal paradigms. In many non-western cultures, public and workplace religious expression is much more overt. There is less of a gap between faith and work and having such a gap is rightly seen as a sign of inauthentic religion as well as poor business practice. Trucks and buses in Turkey have ‘Allah protects’ on their windows. Westerners in Muslim countries, after mentioning their destination to taxi drivers at airports, are surprised to be told, ‘if Allah wills’. In Turkey, shoe-shiners finger their prayer beads during a break in business. An Australian missionary in Tanzania writes:
One thing that we like about Tanzania is the openness to talk about God; whatever has happened to the western world so that God is a nogo area outside of church? So when I went to renew the insurance on our Land Rover and told the insurance agent that we were going away for six months, his response was, ‘We shall pray that God will give you a good journey. Greet your family for us.’ This from a total stranger, who may be from any church or indeed from another religion. The bank clerk likewise said, ‘We pray that the Lord Jesus will bring you safely back.'32
Lest we idealise these more overtly spiritual cultures, there is overt spiritual warfare too. A Nigerian member of our group stressed the opportunities and costs of being open about one’s faith in marketplace settings outside the West:
In the north, churches are burnt because of religious differences and in the southern tip … because of resource conflicts. Workplaces like banks routinely have fellowships sometimes with guest speakers before commencing work while some others hold lunchtime meetings… It is a mark of increasing boldness and readiness of believers to declare their faith without apologies. Businesses almost routinely have names that can be traced to the Holy Scriptures. If Jesus tarries, we will not only be having house churches but factory floor churches. Yet, emerging problem is that, to some extent, it is becoming fashionable for people to say in newspapers that they are born again. Examples are actors/actresses in local movies who go virtually nude and whose roles would make you hang your head in shame claiming to be born-again Christians and doing what they do on the screen as mere acting! Indeed, a common trend in many home videos is to end movies with the caption ‘to God be the glory,’ and by so doing, receive the nod of the gullible viewers as being ‘Christian movies.’ The challenge and opportunity here is that the church must focus on internal evangelism [discipling] because the great numbers that are being added are not converted! The bridge is laid and we must walk across. How will the sifting be done? Lifestyle evangelism devoid of dichotomies will undoubtedly remain the answer.33
Increasingly, spiritual, if not institutionally religious, influences are infiltrating the western workplace as well. Others besides Christians are moving into the gap. Faith conversations with Muslim taxi drivers are relatively easy. The Spirituality at Work movement is booming in some sectors. New Age meditative and relaxation practices are used in many western workplaces to counter stress and encourage holistic health. New Age meditation techniques are used in the public service or corporations. The Tibetan Buddhist Dalai Lama has a new book on self-help shelves entitled Happiness at Work34 - where are the Christian books on those shelves despite a recent explosion of Christian writing on work in Christian bookshops? Buddhism and Hindu practices of meditation and yoga are seen in the West as a major antidote to the stress and lack of peace of overly busy, materialistic working lives. Though the spirituality at work movement is not necessarily specifically Christian we need to be able to contextualise our faith in relation to it, connect with it and correct it where necessary as Paul did in the Athenian marketplace of Acts 17.35 In some more pluralistic contexts, setting up a Spirituality and/or Ethics at work group rather than a Bible Study may be the way forward in sharing our faith at work, though we need to be clear and public about our own biblical basis of faith.
(H) We need to work at overcoming the spatial gap between work and church and home. Instead of talking about a family church or service which often excludes those not fitting a conventional family and can privatise the church, we should recapture the spatial link between church and work in the biblical image of ‘the household of God’, not family. Households were workplaces that included slaves and often, house churches as well.
Further, Christendom type parish-based residential models of ministry have largely been left behind by increased mobility as well as urban and suburban development. Evangelicalism’s suburban heartland has its roots in the late 18th century when Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect founded the first modern suburb at Clapham, south of London. This separated work and home spatially, but they made heroic efforts to hold home and work together in their home discussions and research on how to end slavery, the greatest of global workplace evils. They were able to do this because they were a sect in the good sense of the term, a highly disciplined, accountable group, not mere isolated individuals. They took both suburban family and city based work and politics seriously.36
Industrial chaplaincy ministries to workplaces have tried to bridge the spatial gap between the workplace and local churches but sometimes, the gap persists. One daring example of industrial mission was The Urban-Industrial Mission in South Korea in the 1960s. Fired up by the prophets, they stood up for workers’ rights at a time when they had very few.37 Some churches such as The Uniting Church in the Marketplace in the Westfield Shopping Centre in Bondi Junction, Sydney, Australia, have been set in the middle of shopping centres and workplaces and have developed weekday ministries. These should not be mere duplicates of Sunday services, though they can be helpful for shiftworkers and others for whom Sunday does not work, but they need to be geared more specifically to equip people for ministry and mission at work.
Women have gotten the worst aspects of the suburban separation of faith and work as they increasingly try to hold paid work and family together. The second shift of housework at home can be exhausting. While we need to be sensitive to the variety of cultural gender roles, men need to share more of this where possible. Jesus both fed the disciples and washed their feet, doing work that was commonly done by women and slaves respectively. In western societies, many women also find themselves treated as subordinate children in some churches and equal adults in some workplaces. While western churches debate women’s ordination, we fail to equip women for their ministry at work and they increasingly find church irrelevant to a large part of their lives as working men do. We have not adjusted to women in the paid workforce. Further, most marketplace ministry groups are still very male dominated. Like Paul, we need to learn how to be ‘all things to all people’ - men and women - in order that we might save some. One woman started a group called Beyond the Glass Ceiling in Adelaide and Melbourne that sought to gather Christian working women to speak in a pre-evangelistic way about issues they faced in a mainly male work world. We need many groups like this to reach working women, lest we lose many of them who are feeling alienated from irrelevant and hierarchical churches.
(I) We generally need more integration and less segmentation between home/church and work. The survey of issues above shows the historical and theological reasons behind the dominance of segmentalist or compartmentalist work patterns, living life in two boxes - work and home - with church generally fitting into the private realm of home. Sociologist Christina Nippert-Eng says:
Consider your keys; calendars; purse and /or wallet contents; commuting, drinking and reading habits; your lunchtime and vacation plans; the photographs in your living room and work space and the people with whom you socialize. These items, along with numerous others ..., have one thing in common. They are dimensions through which each of us draws the line between home and work. Often practical yet eminently symbolic, publicly visible yet intimately revealing, these are the kinds of things with which each of us places a mental, physical, and behavioural boundary between these two realms.38
Some draw a big, thick line, being more compartmentalised, others have a dotted line or no line, being more integrated. From a sociologist’s descriptive perspective, they are merely different patterns, not good or bad. In many contemporary marketplace mission contexts, we need to stress integration versus segmentation, fragmentation and dualism. Integration is related to integrity. We need to focus on integration points between the personal/home/family/sacred dimension and the public/work/secular dimension. Our God is a God of the links, not a God of the gaps. God is a boundary rider, who links different spheres under his sovereignty. So we should focus on points of transition, boundary negotiation, developing rituals or rites of passage to negotiate them.
The reason for the difficulty in sharing our faith at work is often because it is difficult to share personal things in many workplaces. It is a sociological as well as a spiritual problem and requires more creative solutions than just inflicting guilt on individuals for not evangelising. We need to be trained and work towards more integration from the family and personal, church side generally if we want faith to infiltrate the workplace. We also need to expand fringe - work activities e.g. coffee and water-cooler conversations,39 lunches, walking, jogging, commuting, after-work drinks (you don’t have to drink alcohol) and sporting activities.
Being hospitable and creating hospitable spaces is the key-to building spatial bridges. A man called Rob described how changing to an open office setting opened up many more opportunities for him to naturally share himself and his faith with his colleagues. They’d overhear his conversations about World Vision and want to help out.
An interesting case-study of bridge-building is that of Jill, a female health educator, who like many Christians, has often had a bad conscience about not directly evangelising enough at work. Sometimes, she’s felt persecuted. A gay co-worker often denigrated her as a housewife but one day told her he was being tested for HIV; she told him she’d pray for him. Another difficult colleague would get up and leave very obviously at lunch when Jill arrived. She prayed for that’s colleague’s conversion, or else, for her to move out over a year or two. The colleague surprisingly got another job which freed Jill up to relate naturally again over lunch to other colleagues. Recently, Jill told another colleague facing unemployment that she’d pray for her and she visited that colleague and her family at their holiday house.
In trying to make the boundary between work and home/faith more porous, we need to be careful not to jump the gap between public and private too quickly. Jill had a colleague who had arrived recently from interstate. They had children at the same High School. Jill’s colleague knocked back a dinner invitation to Jill’s home - perhaps because Jill was trying to jump the public-private gap too abruptly. So, taking a different tack, Jill invited her colleague out to a coffee house. On neutral ground, she got a more positive response. This approach is like the use of dimmer lights in a home. As we move from one room to another, we don’t put the lights on and off, harshly, but gradually, almost imperceptibly.
That approach is beginning to work for Jill. Recently, after years of feeling friendless at work, she had a birthday party with 20 mainly Christian women but two good female friends she works closely with, lunches with, and occasionally visits. One sometimes came to Jill’s church with her children, the other is a nominal Roman Catholic. At the party, Jill asked people to share about when they first met her, looking for a funny story, but they all shared incredibly encouraging, largely Christian stories about Jill’s welcoming them when they were strangers and in one case, leading the person to the Lord, all while these two work friends were listening.
(J) We can bridge the gap between faith and work by recapturing a biblically balanced view of witness at work. Strategically, we are sending out our evangelists without having fertilised the soil and sewn seeds by having Christians fulfil the creation mandate in all spheres of society. As church growth expert, Eddie Gibbs says, churches should shift from an invitational, ‘Come’, seeker service strategy (which works in largely churched suburbs) to a ‘Go’ strategy of dispersal, with a sustained commitment to infiltrating each segment of this fragmenting world. This happens most readily through Christians already dispersed through their professions, workplaces, universities etc. - involved in all the marketplaces like Paul in Athens. We can raise questions of good things turned into gods, idols or ‘principalities and powers’ (cf. Colossians 1:16), gaining a second hearing like Paul in an ambiguous, pluralistic environment (Acts 17:32-34), before the evangelists arrive to do the reaping afterwards.
As church historian John Foster says:
It is hard to imagine how Christianity can penetrate certain areas of modern life except through Christian laymen. There is plenty of evidence that one factor in Christianity’s first swift spread was laymen, purposefully using the ordinary contacts of life to influence their nonChristian neighbours. The best picture is given by the second-century Celsus ... in villifying the Church: ‘We see in private houses, woolworkers, cobblers, washermen, the most uneducated, mere country clowns.... They get hold of the children privately and any women who are as ignorant as themselves ... they whisper “... you can come with the women and your playmates to the women’s quarters or the cobbler’s, or the laundry, that you may get all there is.” With words like these they win them over.'40
We can win them over also. As Mark Greene says in ‘Evangelism Isn’t Working’, the workplace is incredibly strategic for mission and ministry. We spend 50 to 70% of our waking hours there. ‘It’s the one place where Christian and non-Christian have to meet. The one place where the playing field is even, where Christian and non-Christian are subject to the same corporate culture, the same pressures. The one place where the non-Christian can actually see the difference that Christ can make to a life – not for a couple of hours over dinner but for 20, 30, 40, 50 hours a week over a couple of years.... Often the people who know us well don’t live next door, they work at the next desk.’ Note how many TV shows are set in the workplace - police, law firms, hospitals. That’s where the drama and life-changing decisions take place.
By contrast, church-based evangelism is often cold contact, or if suburban, too distant from people’s workplaces. ‘Meanwhile back in the workplace, the average Christian has already built bridges and crossed them, has already developed relationships and already speaks their co-workers’ language. Warm contacts are developed. We are encouraging people to go out and fish in pools and puddles when they are often sitting on a lake full of fish.’ Like the disciples after a hard night’s fruitless fishing (John 21:1-8), we need the resurrected Lord Jesus at large in the work world to show us where to put our nets.
When we think of evangelism at work, we need to be wary of doing the sort of unethical and aggressive evangelism by an American Airlines pilot on a flight from LA in mid February 2004. He is reported to have said over the Intercom: ‘“We’ve just levelled off at our cruising altitude, folks. According to our computer, we’re anticipating an on-time arrival in New York. And now, I’d like all Christians to raise their hands” … The pilot was relieved of duties pending an internal investigation because passengers rightly complained that he was proselytising. He talked about a Christian mission he’d been on and encouraged discussion about religion – talk about having a captive audience!'41 These well-intentioned but embarrassing Christians are not just fools for Christ, they are fools. They play into the hands of secularists who want to ban open religious dialogue in the workplace. Contrast another Christian pilot who saw his use of the best of modern technology and safe landing of an Airbus A340 in Geneva as part of the creation mandate and relational care of passengers. Later over drinks and dinner with Christian and non-Christian crew, there were opportunities for natural sharing of their stories, families and faith. An invitation to church the next day was even made.42
Increasingly, cross-cultural and local marketplace missionaries face the same difficult issues sharing their faith. A CMS missionary, Gordon Russell, one of the many professionals who helped develop the nation and church of Nepal,43 was a dam engineer there when he was reported by a Hindu for writing tracts during work time. It was untrue, but we have to be utterly scrupulous on the boss’s time with increasing nervousness about open religious symbols and discussion post-9/11 in very secular western societies like France or Hindu societies like Nepal or India. We need to be wise as well as bold. A Lausanne Marketplace Ministry group member, a supervisor with a prominent bank, was once about to leave work for her Bible College class when a Christian subordinate came to talk to her. She could see the colleague was upset and needed time so she clocked off from work and then took her tearful colleague into her room and prayed with her. The next morning, her superior called her in and said that someone had seen her praying with her colleague. She explained that it was on her own time and there were no problems.
Many Christians say they simply let their life speak, citing Francis of Assisi, ‘in all things let your life preach the gospel … and if necessary use words’. That may be OK if your life is as distinctive as St. Francis’ was, but most of us are probably not that great. As the Evangelical Quaker philosopher, Elton Trueblood said, it’s arrogant and self-righteous to claim we can witness to our faith purely by our deeds. No-one’s life is that good. We fall short, we need forgiveness, but that can be an opportunity to forgive, to practice reconciliation, and to point to Christ’s forgiveness.
A biblical middle way is described by Robert Banks. He cites Ephesians 6:5-9 and Colossians 3:22-4:1 on slaves serving their masters not as men pleasers, but with an eye on their master in heaven - loving and serving Christ in whatever they do ‘with all their heart’ (note the parallel with the Great Commandment of Matthew 22:37).44 We may not be slaves but in a way, we are wage slaves and under authority - we are not as free as we would like to be to verbally evangelise at work in the boss’s time. Nonetheless, slaves’ lives and words won many to the gospel in the Early Church.
The apostle Paul also stresses the role of prayer45 and presence before proclamation. ‘Conduct yourselves wisely in all circumstances letting your conversation be seasoned with salt so that you may know how to answer everyone’ (Colossians 4:5-6). The biblical emphasis is on knowing how to answer people, not how to tell them something. ‘Our main task is not to find ways to tell people about the gospel, but to find ways of getting people to ask questions about it.’ 1 Peter 3:15 says, ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do it gently, respectfully and consistent with your conduct.’ This is what it means to be a royal priesthood leading to God’s praise.
When ‘we remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith’, ‘your faith in God has become known everywhere’ (1 Thessalonians 1:3, 8). So we are to serve at work obediently, lovingly and joyfully. We are to make gracious conversation with a bit of bite or wit that raises questions so we can tell our own story of how God works in our lives. Then, others will pick up on it and pass it on and become witnesses. We need to trust God’s sovereignty. It takes, some say, an average of 30 contacts for someone to become a Christian. We are part of a 4 by 400 metres relay, not a solo sprint. Or to change the analogy, as the forensic scientists say, ‘every contact leaves a trace.’
We conclude with this challenge towards greater integration and integrity from the martyred former Roman Catholic Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero: ‘Let each of you in your own job, in your vocation, … married person, priest, high school or university student, workman, labourer, market woman, each of you in your own place live the faith intensely and feel that in your surroundings you are a true microphone of God our Lord’.
Spirituality is about discovering and responding to the presence and purposes of God in every context, every task, every relationship and every moment of every day.
The dominant models of spirituality in today’s evangelical community depend heavily upon ‘monastic’ practices of withdrawal and disengagement. Consequently, they do little to enable the Christian to connect the presence of God with the realities and contexts of daily life, especially life in the marketplace. Words and images that commonly dominate this spiritual landscape include withdrawal, relinquishment, silence, solitude, meditation, serenity and stillness. Words and images dominating life in the marketplace are almost the antithesis of these. Tragically, this sets up an unfortunate dichotomy between the so called ‘spiritual’ realm and the world of work.
|The 'Spiritual' Realm||The Marketplace / World of Work|
In order for those Christians who spend a large part of daily life in the marketplace to discern and respond to the presence of God ‘in every moment of every day’, we need models of spirituality that engage with the realities and challenges of daily life in the marketplace and not only away from it.
(a) Finding God at the Centre
Ernest Boyer Jr., in his book Finding God at Home, speaks of two legitimate and interdependent models of spirituality. One he calls a spirituality of the edge, or desert spirituality. It is this model of spirituality that was pioneered by the ascetics and early monastic communities, those who withdrew from the routine commitments of domestic, marketplace and civic life to places and lifestyles of solitude to nurture their intimacy with and submission to God.
The second model is what Boyer calls a spirituality of the centre, a spirituality that pursues the presence of God not away from the stuff of daily life, but at the very heart of it. This spirituality of the centre is a spirituality for the marketplace, one that presses into the demands, joys and challenges of work as a place to encounter the presence and purposes of God. It is a spirituality that arises out of the certainty that God is as profoundly present at the work bench as God is at the communion table. It flourishes in the knowledge that the Spirit is as present in the gifts expressed in the workplace on Monday as in those expressed in the worship space on Sunday.
Of course, we are not suggesting that these two models of spiritual pursuit are mutually exclusive. All Christians need time at the edge, time to withdraw and to focus in an uninterrupted way on relationship with God - time for solitude, retreat and the practices of meditation and prayer. To suggest otherwise is to ignore the testimony of scripture and the experience of the Christian church through history. Even Jesus sought time alone with his father, time in the desert or on the mountainside. How can we do anything less? Equally, all Christians - even those who live the majority of life in monastic or desert communities - must engage routinely at the most rudimentary level with the ordinary and mundane aspect of life at the centre. The question to be asked of all Christians is: to which realm of spirituality are you primarily called, to the edge or the centre?
Still today, there are those primarily called to the edge, those who commit to a way of life involving vows of solitude and silence and the daily, disciplined routines of intercessory prayer. For example, we know of a small community of Carmelite nuns living in a walled community in suburban Los Angeles who live by a daily rule of silence and prayer, a community of women committed to spending large parts of each day in uninterrupted prayer for the city of Los Angeles. Such a calling is to be esteemed. However, for the majority of ordinary Christians, this is not what daily life looks like. For these Christians, the call of God is primarily to the centre of life, to the routines, challenges and places of the everyday, including the marketplace. While times at the edge will still need to be sought and planned for, they will always be occasional, accounting for only a small portion of daily life. For these Christians, the challenge is to find ways to discern and respond to the presence of God in the midst of the marketplace and not only away from it. If these Christians are not equipped for such discernment and response, then they are doomed to living the majority of their lives feeling as though they are sitting on the spiritual sidelines while others take centre stage with God.
It is worth saying that those who seek the presence of God in the marketplace are in good company. Even a cursory reading of the Gospels remind us that Jesus spent a large part of his time in the marketplaces, neighbourhoods and domestic spaces of everyday life. While we find him occasionally in the ‘sacred’ spaces of temple and synagogue or the ‘edge’ places of desert and mountainside, more routinely Jesus is found in the ordinary and mundane ‘centre’ places of life. While there, He inevitably tells stories about the nature of the Christian life or the kingdom of God using the most everyday objects, professions, places and tasks: a woman kneading bread, a father grieving for an absent son, a man hosting neighbourhood party, a farmer planting seed. In the most everyday tasks, the wonders of the kingdom of God are revealed.
(b) An Incarnational Spirituality
In the evangelical tradition where conversion is such an integral starting point for spirituality, the beginning of the Christian journey is commonly marked by three ‘indicators’ of spiritual health. This is exemplified in the post-conversion counselling commonly given to a new convert: (i) begin daily bible reading and prayer; (ii) find a Bible-believing Church to attend; and (iii) tell someone about your decision. We will call these retreat, church and evangelism. Commonly, as a convert grows into maturity, these three indicators remain determinative in the Evangelical’s diagnosis of the believer’s spirituality. While we confidently affirm these three activities as integral to a healthy spirituality, we believe such a model is fundamentally inadequate as a full description of spiritual pursuit for it fails to embrace the many aspects of daily life that do not have an immediate connection to one of these three activities. What do the daily activities of work, recreation, sleep, shopping, friendship, family life, eating, commuting - activities that take up so much of the average Christian’s day - have to do with living in the presence of God?
As illustrated in the diagram below, such a model of spirituality places God at the top and designates the three activities of church, retreat and evangelism as the primary mediating activities for nurturing relationship with God. All the other activities can only have connection to spirituality in a derivative sense.
The inadequacy of this model is four fold: firstly, it gives emphasis to the transcendence or 'otherness' of God - God at the edge - while failing to name the presence of God at the centre of life; secondly, it locates spirituality too much in the activities and programmes of the church; thirdly, it is only able to affirm the activities of daily life as relevant to spirituality if they provide a context for one of the three main indicators of spirituality (for example, recreation can be claimed as a part of the spiritual life only if it is playing on a church volleyball team; time at the family dinner table can only be named a part of the spiritual life is we engage in retreat style activities there such as Bible reading and prayer); and fourthly, it infers that spirituality is a process of moving progressively out of and beyond the human-realm into the God-realm.
A model of spirituality for the marketplace must look different in several respects: Firstly, it must issue much more out of an incarnational understanding of the presence of God. We worship a God who is, in Christ, enfleshed at the centre of human experience, not one removed and distant from the physical world.
Secondly, while it must be a spirituality nurtured by the gathered life of the church, it cannot be confined or contained by it. Certainly the Spirit is profoundly present in the life of the gathered people of God, but the Spirit is not the possession of the church.
Thirdly, it must be one that allows response to the presence of God equally in every aspect of daily experience. Though we must guard against the errors of pantheism, we can affirm confidently that through the work of the Father in creation, the Son in incarnation and the Spirit in transformation, every aspect of life is a potential revelation of God’s presence. Fourthly, it must be one that does not call for progressive movement upward and out of the human realm, but one that presses ever deeper into the centre of life in the belief that God is profoundly present there.
We can imagine a more incarnational model of spirituality. Such a model does several things: (i) it affirms the presence of God at the very centre of life; (ii) it gives renewed dignity to the many tasks, roles and contexts of life previously ignored as expressions of spirituality; (iii) it maintains the importance of church, retreat and evangelism as expressions of spirituality; (iv) it reminds us that it is only as we look for God in every aspect of life will we begin to see God more fully.
(c) Practical Suggestions
With this model of spirituality in mind, we now want to suggest some practical ways to nurture a spirituality of the marketplace in both the gathered and scattered life of the people of God.
A. The Scattered Life of the People of God
Typically, Christians go to gatherings of God’s people with an expectation that they are going to meet with God. We evangelicals have been encouraged and nurtured to see and respond to the presence of God in the practices of worship, Bible reading and preaching. What’s more, we approach daily quiet times and periods of spiritual retreat with clear expectations of encounter with God. However, it is unusual to approach the computer terminal, the workbench, the classroom or the household chores with such a clear expectation. The title of Michael Frost’s book, Eyes Wide Open, is a reminder that to see and experience the presence of God in the marketplace requires a new set of glasses, a new set of skills and language that allow us to name the presence of God in places and tasks not normally associated with the sacred.
- Marketplace Christians can expand their understanding of spiritual disciplines - typically understood as ‘edge’ activities - to include activities more often associated with the everyday. If a spiritual discipline is broadly understood as any activity undertaken intentionally and routinely that nurtures us into the likeness of Christ, then such activities as nurturing friendship, acts of service, perseverance, providing for one’s family, community building, the sharing of meals, attentive listening, careful attention to detail, etc., can be embraced in a new and liberating way.
- Marketplace Christians can reclaim aspect of their work as spiritually significant when they see what they do as a reflection of the work of God. A simple exercise of listing some of the working roles of God - Creator, Provider, Redeemer, Judge, Architect, Gardner, Healer, Teacher, Reconciler, Administrator - and then to reflect on what aspects of his or her daily work connect with the work of God.
- Marketplace Christians can find support and fellowship in naming and responding to the presence of God in their work by linking up with other Christians in similar professions or fields of work. Spirituality in the marketplace is not an exercise in solitude but one pursued in community.
B. The Gathered Life of the People of God
The gathered people of God can enable a reclamation of marketplace as a place of God’s presence in any number of ways:
- By bringing everyday life experiences into the Sunday worship experience. Through creative liturgy, testimonies, music, banners, and communal prayer, we can encourage Christians to offer their working life to God in worship rather than leave their working life at the door when they enter the sanctuary.
- By celebrating the skills and gifts of the marketplace. Through acts of commissioning or the placement of symbols of our working life on an altar or communion table, we can affirm the working life of the people of God as ministry ordained by God.
- By providing places and relationships of accountability. As Christians in the marketplace face significant ethical, moral and relational challenges in their workplaces, so the gathered community has the opportunity and responsibility to provide relational support and communal discernment.
- By providing preaching and teaching relevant to life in the marketplace. The Bible is full to the brim of stories and teaching relevant to the working life of God’s people. Yet too few sermons apply biblical teaching in ways that are directly helpful. This needs to change.
- By providing pastoral support in the workplace. By taking time to visit Christians in their work environment and being genuinely interested in what Christians do and achieve there, pastoral leaders can empower Christians in the marketplace in significant ways.
- By taking ‘church’ to the workplace. House churches and small groups are ideally placed to take the gathered life of the church to the workplaces of those involved. By meeting after hours in the classroom of a school teacher, the laboratory of a research scientist, or the office of a sales representative, the gathered community can affirm together the work of Christians as significant to the Kingdom of God.
No doubt there are other ways spirituality of the marketplace can be encouraged and affirmed. However this is done, it must be done for the wellbeing of ordinary Christians, for the sake of the church and for the sake of the gospel.
The future of the church will be decided by how effectively the people of God are equipped and supported to live out their faith in the world. Local churches have a crucial role to play in equipping and supporting their members for this missionary encounter. However, this vision of growing the kingdom of God in the world is larger than just growing a local congregation. It is our conviction that growing congregations alone is not a big enough vision to facilitate effective ministry in the world. However, to change our focus to pursue this larger vision towards an emphasis on weekday mission, beyond just Sunday gathering, will require a significant change in our priorities, the allocation of our resources, and the models of ministry that shape our practice.
As a group that includes a number of pastors, we recognise that the huge pressures on church leaders to produce significant Sunday events make it difficult to prioritise the significance of weekday ministry. We do not wish to see this added as another set of expectations on church leaders who are already feeling oppressed by too many expectations. Instead we see that what is needed is a change of expectations that is potentially freeing for both leaders and church members, if ministry is better shared and expanded to include the whole of our life in the world as well as in the church. We find ourselves excited by this vision, but are still groping to define clearly what this means and might involve. In humility, we offer the following observations about the challenges to marketplace ministry as well as some suggestions of strategic action in response.
(b) Examples of practices or mode of thinking that inhibit marketplace ministry
- Growth of the local church is measured by Sunday attendances as opposed to having a wider kingdom perspective whereby the results/fruit may not be seen in the local church.
- Churches tend to be Sunday-centric i.e. most of the resources, focus and energy is channelled to making the Sunday service a success to the detriment of ministry on the other six days of the week which for most people, is lived out in the world of work.
- Usually only ministries that function within the church and among church members are recognised and prayed for in our church services.
- Some churches fill their calendar with activities which require many volunteers to keep the programs running. Both church leaders and members may have differing expectations about members’ roles and involvement in these church-based activities. Oftentimes, busy marketplace people have real difficulty meeting such expectations.
- Already pressurised at work, church members may see church as a resting place - where they opt out and operate at a lower level than in their work life.
- In some cases, the pastor’s ego is stroked by ‘leading’ while church members are happy to be relieved of any ministry responsibility.
- Pastors who lack recent work experience outside of the church environment may have little or inadequate understanding of the pressures and possibilities in the world of work.
- Professionals may be reluctant to be led by less aware/educated church leaders.
- Some pastors may be intimidated by professional people or marketplace leaders.
- Bi-vocational ministry provides the pastor with excellent hands-on exposure to workplace issues but he/she will inevitably be constrained by time pressures.
- Some Christians are unwilling to identify themselves as Christians at the workplace because they have seen other Christians witness inappropriately on company time. It could be also that the Christian image in the organisation has already been tarnished by ‘super-spiritual’ Christians or otherwise, sub-Christian behaviour.
- Evangelical churches often express a dualism in relation to morality: they seem more interested in bedroom rather than boardroom morality.
- Very few songs ever pick up on workplace related themes (given that people imbibe theology through songs); some which do, have unhelpful words or poor tunes.
(c) Suggestions on how to assist churches to become marketplace friendly
- Address the sacred versus secular divide e.g. discuss films, art and literature.
- Find words or phrases which speak of God’s people in a way that reflects the emphasis on ministry in the whole of life e.g. missionary model (reaching out to the world) rather than attraction model (bringing people into the church), or gathered and scattered.
- Adopt a model and vision of church that seeks to ‘disciple and release’ rather than ‘convert and retain’. The appropriate analogy for the church is a fish hatchery, not an aquarium.
- Help church leaders explore how their responsibilities can be reconfigured to express the priority of equipping and supporting people for life in the marketplace.
- The focus on ministry in the whole of life should be taught even at Sunday School level.
- Structure the church so that the workload is shared between clergy and laity. Senior/sole pastor should be spared of extra duties and the need to be ‘everywhere’.
- To help pastors understand the challenges people face at work:
- They should visit members’ workplaces in order to build awareness concerning their work situations, and to provide support.
- During such visits, the emphasis should be on the pastor seeking fellowship in order to understand the worker’s plight rather than to give a sermon/talk.
- Pastors ought to allow and encourage the formation of workplace groups, rather than spearheading and determining the direction and course of such groups.
- Dedicate one Sunday a year as Marketplace Ministry Sunday to affirm what people do during the week outside of church activities. Alternatively, have a dedication service for what people do in everyday life at the start of the work year.
- Commission not only missionaries, pastors and those in the caring professions, but also Christians who work at other jobs including business people, craftsmen, tradesmen etc.
- Bring work symbols into church services as a way of celebrating the skills and gifts of the marketplace and to affirm the working life of church members as ministry to God.
- Identify and profile Christian role models from the world of work. Create and give a Faith & Work Award.
- During church services—
- Invite people to give short testimonies on their workplace experience.
- Present dramas that are connected to the workplace with professional ethics built in.
- Show videos of people at work including mothers and the unemployed so that the church can pray more meaningfully for them.
- Pray for Christians when they travel on business, not just when they go to Christian conferences.
- Design a discipleship curriculum that includes courses on time management, personal budgeting and stress management.
- Find appropriate forums to discuss moral dilemmas in business e.g. corruption.
- Use Word and Life Study Bible and Bible@Work Bible Studies.
- Produce marketplace preaching material and application aids for pastors (like what is done by the Industrial Ministry of South Africa).
- Use media channels creatively e.g. to produce television programmes on professional ethics etc. In Hong Kong, CBN together with FGBM run a program called Happy Men’s Club which features interviews with respected individuals from public life.
In order to meet the challenge of ‘the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world’, it is necessary to re-envision current forms of theological education. Existing models of theological education are mostly contemplative models that emphasize ‘withdrawal from the world’ in contrast with an experiential mode of learning. Others engage with issues of the world at the social, political and economic levels. Very few engage with the world of work. This has compromised the effectiveness of the church’s witness in the world as well as obscured the nature and role of theology. Theology needs to be practical and of service to society.
The contextual nature of the world in which formal theological education takes place has changed profoundly over the last century. During the 20th century, economics took the high ground and affected life to an extent that learners often felt that they were being prepared for a world that did not exist. The ‘real’ world, they discover, is filled with stress, unpredictability, complexity, ambiguity and increasing technology. We need to take the contextual realities in which ministry takes place seriously, and shape our educational pursuits accordingly.
The three contexts of theological education are academy, church and society.
After finishing their studies, learners are expected to support other Christians in their world of work environments. However, oftentimes, they are given little training on how to do that in the course of their learning. Our training methods often fail to equip learners adequately for the very role we are asking them to undertake.
We have become too blinkered in our approach to theological education. We take comfort in the familiar and adopt a narrow focus on what is ‘churchy’. We emphasize learning for the local church context and concentrate on traditional theological subjects. We teach people about ministry in the local church without consideration for service outside of the church walls. We approach traditional theological subjects from a historical perspective rather than teach their application for today’s world.
There is also an overemphasis on the ‘academy’ style of learning. This brings with it its own particular perils including the necessity of meeting accreditation requirements set by external bodies and the practicalities of course lengths. Furthermore, it would be unrealistic to incorporate every possible stream of learning into one academic program.
Funding of formal training is also a critical issue. It can determine the direction of a program and the extent to which new programs are incorporated. In many academies, world of work programs are regarded as new programs.
The scope of theological education is broader than accreditation based learning. Amongst other things, it should encompass lived and church experience. We should never treat people as if they have no history or background, like whiteboards from which we have wiped off all previous learning. Jesus always asked questions before answering them, teaching us that listening is the starting point of theological education.
70% of people’s waking hours are spent on activities defined by their world of work. It is therefore imperative to include world of work realities in theological training. The tendency is to attribute ‘practical’ offerings in the curricular with marginal status.
In the light of the complex nature of the world of work in which Christian witness and ministry are carried out, it is important to give it adequate rather than simplistic attention. To do this, we need to be cognizant of the 3 dimensions within the world of work: the meso-, macro-, and micro-levels.
Meso Theological education must assist learners in the meta-narrative (big story) or world view realm which represents the distinctively biblical-theological frameworks for interpreting the world of work, such as developing a theological understanding of work as vocation, mission, liturgy, etc.
Macro Theological education must assist learners in the structural realm, which represents the broader and more complex global realities that impact the world of work such as globalisation, poverty, job insecurity, etc.
Micro Theological education must assist learners in the personal-relational realm, which represents the more specific and personal dynamics at play between workers and their work and workplace environments, such as ethical dilemmas, conflict situations, motivational problems and discrimination.
Existing theological training marginalizes these dimensions. At the extremes, they may be trivialized as being completely unimportant or else, one realm may be given overwhelming attention at the expense of the other two. A re-envisioned theological education model necessitates a balanced inclusion of each dimension.
Faith and work formation develops in a variety of ways: from informal ‘lighter’ learning to formal ‘heavier’ learning (see Appendix 1). This presents its own particular challenges as it introduces a need to assess appropriate delivery channels and communication styles depending on the audience for the learning stream.
We acknowledge that steps have been taken to address the challenges in the world of work in a range of theological education programs in different places. Some models of promising practice (institutional support for world of work ministry) include:
- Singapore/Hawaii: Haggai Institute leadership courses
- Singapore: Biblical Graduate School of Theology; Discipleship Training Centre
- Canada: Regent College
- Australia: Macquarie Christian Studies Institute; Cornerstone; Zadok Institute for Christianity and Society
- USA: Fuller Theological Seminary; Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
- Philippines: Asian Theological Seminary; Asian Centre for Christian Studies
- South Africa: Pat Kelly Bible College; Industrial Ministry of South Africa; Beyers Naude Centre for Public Theology at the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa)
- Indonesia: SAPPI Indonesian Bible and Agricultural College
- Argentina: Kairos Research Centre
- United Kingdom: Ridley Hall Foundation; London Institute for Contemporary Christianity
- New Zealand: Bible College of New Zealand; Carey Baptist College
- Evangelical Teachers Fellowship
- Evangelical Medical Fellowship
- Evangelical Professionals Fellowship
- International Coalition of Workplace Ministries
- Business Networks
- Other (research)
- Australia: (Monash University, Nov 2004, Barry Rogers) Survey of psychological impacts of ordination and early post-ordination training in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne; (Anglican Diocese of Melbourne) Developing lifelong ministries - Task Group Report Council of the Diocese.
In re-envisioning theological education, the above models are resourceful for the following reasons:
- World of work orientation is institutionalized into the core platform.
- Continuing education is affirmed and practiced.
- Attention is being paid to the dimensions of world of work.
- Funding has been invested specifically for world of work issues. Some proposals for overcoming challenges:
- Incorporate and publish culturally adaptable examples and case studies that can be used to relate world of work issues to the curriculum, whatever module is being covered.
- Introduce a ‘specialist’ module that focuses on world of work issues – theology and practice.
- Develop a learning stream that prepares leaders for training marketplace Christians for world of work ministry.
- Develop a presentation/forum for directors of theological colleges, accreditation boards and denominational leaders to introduce the ‘specialist’ module (a short course that encourages ownership).
- Develop a strategy and robust business plan for approaching and encouraging accreditation bodies to actively consider ‘world of work’ as a subject, then a diploma, then degree, then masters etc.
- Design a learning stream appropriate to people at work considering their time and other commitments e.g. a modular approach that allows intensive courses, short courses; evening studies, correspondence and online learning.
- Develop non-accredited short courses that help workplace Christians relate to situations that arise in the world of work.
- Provide institutional support to the world of work through sharing of skills as mentors, ethicists and facilitators.
- Adopt a marketing approach to ask strategic questions and establish a business and delivery plan that answers the following questions: Who is our target audience? Where are they? How do they think? What are the most feasible delivery channels to them?
- Employ media and technological resources more effectively in the promotion and delivery of world of work solutions.
(e) Questions requiring further exploration
- Should clergy be authorized to take sabbaticals to spend time in non-church workplaces?
- How do we liberate and affirm the clergy to be open and transparent about world of work issues, including opening up teaching opportunities for members of their congregations who are world of work ministers?
- Should a requirement be made for clergy to have some secular work experience, not just church work experience?
- Do we need to re-envision roles, of clergy and laity?
The importance of witness at work is affirmed by the Lausanne Covenant’s definition of evangelism which says, “Our Christian presence in the world is indispensable to evangelism…” Evangelism at work has traditionally been understood as winning converts to Christ in the workplace. The work itself is seen to be of lesser importance than the work of gospel proclamation. This division of work into what is important (gospel proclamation) and what is less important (work itself) defeats witness at work because it lacks integrity and downplays the cultural mandate (Genesis 1:28).
Instead, this issue group is recommending a Trinitarian approach to witness at work in which we are fully present to our work, fully proclaiming the gospel in word and deed through our work and fully consistent in the practice of our faith at work. By being present to our work, we fulfill the cultural mandate given to Adam to reflect the Father’s glory in the wise ordering of His good creation (Genesis 1:26; Isaiah 43:7). By proclaiming the gospel in word and deed through our work, (1 Peter 3:15; Colossians 4:6) we give glory to Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who died and rose again so as to provide us a new way of being human free from the power of sin and death (Matthew 5:13a; 2 Corinthians 2:15-16; Romans 12:1-2). By the consistent and honest practice of our faith at work, we give glory to God’s Spirit (Acts 1:8) who gives life (Romans 8:11) to our effort to work differently (Titus 2:9-10) and live a life worthy of God’s calling (Ephesians 4:1).
Presence, proclamation and practice are the means to meet the challenges of pluralism and persecution in the workplace. In a pluralistic workplace we must earn the right to be heard through the way we work (1 Peter 2:11-12; 1 Corinthians 9:19-22; John 17:14-15). In times of persecution, our faithfulness to Jesus will be tested (John 15:18-20; 2 Timothy 3:12). Faith that withstands opposition and trials can be a powerful witness to those who may have heard the gospel but have not seen it demonstrated practically (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Witness at work through presence, proclamation and practice will bear fruit in discipleship. (Matthew 28:18-20). New disciples need workplace models of what it means to serve God faithfully (Philippians 4:9). Small groups at work organized around the application of God’s word in the Bible to the work context will be a support to new disciples (Hebrews 10:25). Workplaces and businesses that evidence converted work (Colossians 3:24) will be a witness to the marketplace that believers serve a different God than money (Matthew 6:24; Hebrews 13:5). Linkage with local churches will provide pastoral ministry for new workplace disciples and build up the body of Christ in community (Galatians 6:10).
In summary, witness at work is indispensable to the cause of world evangelization especially in the context of economic globalization. Gospel truth that is not concretely demonstrated cannot be recommended with integrity. Believers at work are uniquely positioned to be for our world what Jesus was for his world, a tangible demonstration of the love of God in bodily form. As Paul puts it, you are “children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…” (Philippians 2:15-16).
We believe in God the Worker who worked six days and was satisfied with His work.
We believe God likes matter - He made it and called it good.
We believe God made us in His image as junior co-workers, little lower than the angels.
We believe God enjoys and blesses human work, giving it to us before the Fall.
We believe God gave us royal dominion over the earth, to develop, tend, keep and guard it.
We believe the Fall resulted from humanity disobeying God’s call to god-like dominion and work by desiring god-like knowledge and by worshiping the creature not the Creator.
We believe that work is also now toil, hard labour and in vain because the ground is now cursed.
We believe God still maintains creation, blessing and giving us good work, renewing the creation mandate to Noah.
We believe in the Son, the Word, the Worker, who re-creates and redeems humanity and the world through his nature miracles, teaching and parables and above all, the Cross.
We believe Jesus has been given all dominion in heaven and on earth as the true human and King who fulfils the creation commission.
We believe He commissions and delegates His dominion to us to make disciples and teach them to regain their heritage of kingly dominion over the earth.
We believe we are called and commissioned to bring Christ’s presence and proclaim His royal rule to every sphere of work and every corner of creation.
We believe that God in hope and the Spirit subjected the world of work to vanity and the groaning of slavery and childbirth anticipating the Spirit’s birth of a new, good creation.
The creating and re-creating Spirit’s gifts and fruits are not only exercised inside the church but overflow to all creation through our everyday life and work.
We believe in, wait for and hasten a new heaven and new earth in which justice dwells and where we will rule under Christ, doing joyful, creative work forever in His Kingdom, which is creation healed.