Bridging The Sunday-Monday GapAcademic Paper / Produced by partner of TOW
(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’.