Causes of The Sunday-Monday Gap

Academic Paper / Produced by partner of TOW
Causes of the sunday monday gap

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