Churches Supporting Christians at WorkAcademic Paper / Produced by Individual TOW Project member
1. Introduction to This Research
Christians are coming to Sunday worship dressed in their workday clothes and bringing some distinctive objects from their workplaces with them to put on display at the front of the sanctuary. In another congregation digital photos of members in their work settings are being screened during a time for meditation and prayer while a song about the meaning of work is played through the sound system. Elsewhere a pastor is being paid by his congregation to spend one day a month working alongside some of his parishioners in their workplaces. One well-known megachurch in California has 200 workplace groups that meet weekly, in addition to its regular mid-week home groups, and a person is contracted to prepare studies specifically for these workplace groups. Meanwhile, Fortune magazine is saying, ‘Executives are in the vanguard of a diverse, mostly unorganised mass of believers…who want to bridge the traditional divide between spirituality and work. Historically such folk operated below the radar, on their own or in small workplace groups where they prayed or studied the Bible. But now they are getting organised and going public to agitate for change.’ What is going on?1
Fortune magazine is describing more than just an American phenomenon. There is a widespread international movement of interest in faith and work issues. This is evidenced in:
- a publishing boom - as described in Pete Hammond's introduction to The Marketplace Annotated Bibliography.2
- the rapid multiplication of a multitude of different workplace ministries - described in teh Preface to the International Faith and Work Directory. 3
- increasing interest in courses related to faith and work issues - as listed in the International Faith and Work Directory. 4
- growing academic interest from business academies in this phenomenon as documented by David Miller in God At Work. 5
A fifth development, that this paper is devoted to examining, is the growing number of churches becoming more intentionally involved in supporting Christians at work. (For specific examples, see our article 30+ Examples of Faith and Work Initiatives in Churches.) I am personally involved in resourcing churches which are part of this movement and want to think that this represents the shape of things to come. But I am also wary of making exaggerated claims, especially if David Miller is to be believed when he concludes in his recent study of the history of the Faith at Work6 movement in America that, ‘…despite some exceptions, the evidence strongly suggests that the church in general seems uninterested in, unaware of, or unsure of how to help the laity integrate their faith identities and teachings with their workplace occupations, problems, and possibilities... there is a gaping chasm between what is heard on Sunday in one’s place of worship and what is experienced on Monday in one’s place of work... This pattern is apparent at all levels of the ecclesiastical hierarchy... Indeed the higher up the church hierarchy one climbs, the less interest - let alone awareness - there is in speaking to the Sunday-Monday gap.' 7
This would suggest that not a lot has changed since Calvin Redekop concluded, in some words that have haunted me ever since I first read them some 14 years ago: ‘Most of us spend almost 40% of our waking time at work. In contrast the average Christian spends less than 2% at church during their working years. Yet the church puts most of its energy into that 2%; almost nothing into the world of work.’8
Fortunately, despite David Miller’s misgivings, there are signs of churches starting to take much more seriously support for Christians at work. And more than just a few churches. Churches of different shapes and sizes and representing different denominational backgrounds. I know this, because in recent months I have had the opportunity to examine and visit quite a few of these churches. This paper describes what is happening in these churches.
2. Method and Background
This study is based on information gathered from 48 formal interviews with church leaders and faith at work advocates, plus numerous other conversations and extensive background reading conducted during six months of study leave in the second half of 2007 in Britain, North America, Australia and New Zealand. This input is supplemented in a few cases by information gained from interviews conducted during an additional three month period of study leave in 2002 in Britain and Australia. It was a conscious choice on my part to concentrate on just a few Protestant and Pentecostal churches in the so-called Western world.9 This was not a random sample. These churches were chosen because they were known to have already developed specific strategies for supporting Christians at work. I also chose churches that represented a variety of different denominational backgrounds, different sizes and different models of church. This is because I wanted to make a comparative study, seeking to trace points of convergence and divergence in the theology and practice of these different churches.
I examined examples of five different models of church, that I have categorised as:
- Regular Congregations
- Emerging and/or Missional Churches
- Home Churches
- Church Beyond the Congregation
I will explain the characteristics of these models later.
Through my reading and interviewing I have tried to analyse and understand:
- The theology that undergirds the practice of these churches.
- The practical strategies that have been adopted by these churches to help support Christians at work.
The Shape of this Paper
Rather than simply divide this paper into two halves, with the first half examining Theological Foundations and the second half presenting Practical Strategies, I have inserted descriptions of different practical strategies throughout the text as a reminder of the process of experimentation that has accompanied the theologising. The Theological Foundations themselves appear to revolve around three major themes:
It is exploration of these three themes that provides the skeleton that shapes this paper.
The Challenge of Mission in the West
The most obvious emphasis that all the churches I looked at shared in common was their desire to become more effective in mission. Most of them shared the opinion that, if the church is to have a good future in the West, it will need reinventing in ways that see it better equipped for mission. And one very important part of this will be a new emphasis on resourcing and supporting church people for Christian mission in the course of their daily lives. Hoping that we can attract more people to come and participate in church programmes on our turf and our terms, is no longer sufficient. It is not hard to see why these churches have begun to think about workplace ministry as a strategic concern, given that that this is where most of the members of the church spend most of their time and energy.
At the same time these churches have awakened to the strategic significance of the workplace for mission, they have also begun to discover that this emphasis connects with a widespread need that is being expressed both inside and outside the church for a spirituality that is more engaged with daily life and helps to bridge the gulf between church and home and work and the rest of life. David Miller certainly sees this sort of impulse at work fuelling the growth of the Faith at Work movement in America in recent times: ‘If there is one overriding theme or organising principle that appears to be commonly held by virtually all participants in the movement and that drives interest in Faith at Work, it is: a quest for integration. There is a shared view that faith and work are not meant to be separated or isolated from each other. Business people want the ability to bring their whole selves to work - mind, body and soul - and we no longer satisfied with sacrificing their core identities or being mere cogs in the machine, nor do they want a disconnected spirituality…living a bifurcated life, where faith and work are compartmentalised, is neither true to the Gospel, nor a healthy way to work.’10
Different Starting Points
David Miller is not suggesting that everyone gets involved in this movement prompted by the same concerns. In fact Miller’s research leads him to conclude that there are four different doors he sees people walking through to explore the integration of faith and work: Evangelism, Ethics, Experience and Enrichment. Miller pictures these as four quadrants in his so-called ‘Integration Box’.11 Outside this ‘Box’ faith and work are disconnected. Inside the ‘Box’, one quadrant may be the initial concern that gets a person started in the process of seeking a more holistic integration of faith and work, but they may also go on to explore one or more of the other dimensions of integration over time. Hence churches wanting to support Christians at work need to be aware that different approaches are required to connect with the needs of people at different starting points.12 Moreover a holistic approach should probably include all four dimensions.
The Main Divide – The Priority of Evangelism
There are differences in the way that these churches understand their mission as it relates to faith and work. The clearest divide relates to the degree to which workplace mission prioritises evangelism in terms of verbal witness, versus the ministry of Christian presence and service in a wider sense than just evangelistic proclamation.
Many so-called mainline denominations developed a variety of joint ventures engaged in industrial mission during the second half of the twentieth century. For example the Interchurch Trade and Industry Mission (ITIM) offering onsite chaplaincy and other services to commercial enterprises in New Zealand and Australia.13 This industrial mission movement has tended to prioritise the importance of pastoral care and justice concerns rather than evangelistic activities.
In contrast, most evangelical and Pentecostal churches, until recently, have tended to major on the significance of the workplace as a context for mission in terms of evangelism.14 Some significant parachurch evangelistic organisations, such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in the USA and Workplace Alpha in Britain, have adopted the workplace as a major emphasis in more recent times.
Among the churches and ministries I looked at, most emphasise the importance of both proclamation and presence, evangelism and social responsibility. But there are still a significant minority that continue to emphasise more strongly the priority of verbal proclamation of the Gospel. One clear example of this is the City Bible Forum in Sydney, where Peter Kaldor states quite emphatically that their two priorities are evangelising unbelievers and encouraging believers to live Godly lives. In defining what it means to live a Godly life he makes plain that this is not with the aim of transforming workplaces and the world, but focused on commending the gospel to unbelievers.
At the other end of the spectrum are churches that have been heavily influenced by liberation theology (and other political theologies) where salvation is seen primarily in terms of working for political freedom and social justice. Churches exclusively prioritising social justice and political concerns were rare in the sample I was looking at (probably only one church). I am not suggesting anything here about the relative numbers reflecting these concerns in the church at large. Nor am I wanting to suggest that political freedom and social justice were not also important priorities shared by other churches in my sample. But this is what we will examine now.
Integrated Theology of Mission
Those churches that clearly prioritise evangelism or social action as their primary reason for being have defined for themselves a fairly clear theology of mission. However most of the churches that I looked at would not be happy to prioritise just evangelism or social responsibility. They see that work for Christians is not just about God putting us in a context for evangelising unbelievers, nor is it just about working for social justice. Most of these churches seem to be on a quest that transcends the historical divide between evangelical and ecumenical theologies of mission. Not everyone could articulate a clear theology of mission. For many it is more of a journey in mission, rather than a particular theology of mission, that has shaped their approach. For those among whom I did see a convergence in understanding about mission theology developing, it had often been shaped by the influence of Lesslie Newbigin, David Bosch and John Stott.
Stott’s influence can be seen in the way he has helped some from conservative evangelical backgrounds to add a concern for social responsibility and creation theology to their redemption theology. Three important contributions of Newbigin that relate to this study are Newbigin’s focus on the meaning of mission for churches in the West, his emphasis on the importance of faith as public truth related to life in the marketplace and not just our private lives, and also his high view of the importance of the role of local congregations to remind Christians of their missionary calling and claim the whole of public life for Christ and his kingdom.15
While Stott and Newbigin propose particular theologies of mission, David Bosch provides more of a synthesis of different theologies of mission by describing the shape of what he sees as a new emerging mission paradigm that transcends traditional categories by including evangelical, ecumenical, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Third-World insights. Stott, Newbigin and Bosch, all emphasise strong biblical foundations, Trinitarian theology, a focus on what God is doing in the world, mission by the whole people of God that embraces the whole of life, and rediscovering the important role of the local church in mission. The work of these three theologians and others like them has been very influential for a generation of church leaders in search of a more holistic theology of mission.
For Stott, Newbigin and Bosch the starting point is the missio Dei and the Kingdom of God. Prior to any missionary activity in the Old or New Testaments lies God’s mission, often called the missio Dei.16 It is the God who creates who also redeems. It is God who seeks and saves. There is only one mission - God's mission. Different people in the Bible and in Christian history since then don’t have separate missions. The people of God participate in God’s ongoing creative and redemptive activity in the world. Mission is not primarily about getting people involved in what churches are doing, but getting churches more involved in what God is doing in the world. It is a shift in emphasis from attracting crowds to meetings, to churches equipping, dispersing, multiplying and supporting followers of Jesus as a central function. The direction of church has changed from centripetal (flowing in) to centrifugal (flowing out).
Craig van Gelder summarises the influence of Newbigin on his thinking with these words: ‘Newbigin made central the work of the triune God in calling and sending the church through the Spirit into the world to participate fully in God’s mission. The church is the creation of the Spirit as the sign that the redemptive reign of God’s kingdom is present. It serves as a sign and instrument under the leadership of the Spirit to bring that redemptive reign to bear on every dimension of life.’17
Representatives of the emerging church movement explain how they see the implications of this theology for their practice: Anna Doddridge (Bournemouth UK) says, ‘Our commitment is to be missionary at all times. Everything we do in our lifestyle, in what we say, in how we treat people, that’s all our witness. It’s all mission.’ Drew Jones says, ‘Our mission defines us more than our worship.’ Mark Scandrette from San Francisco says about the Christians he works with: ‘there are no mission projects or outreaches. Their daily lives point to the reality of the kingdom. Through their activities in the community, members preach good news. If the kingdom represents an entirely new way of life, then there is no start or stop to the gospel presentation.’18
Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger summarise their observations about emerging churches: ‘For emerging churches, to be a follower of Jesus is to live as a missionary… Emerging churches attempt to create 24/7 missional communities that seek to follow the pattern set by Jesus and express the kingdom of God in all they do. It is not about adopting a particular form of church. It is about the kingdom.’ As Deiter Zander says, ‘The kingdom transcends all forms. The answer does not reside in church structure but in the way of life modelled by Jesus and what that life looks like in our context today.’19 Emerging churches do not so much seek to plant churches per se but to foster communities that embody the kingdom.
My observation is that not only emerging-missional churches have adopted a theology along these lines, but this is also very compatible with the approach of Robert Banks and the theology of many, if not most, leaders of the regular congregations I talked with.20 Another smaller group of church leaders in my sample who advocate a similar concern for cultural engagement but from a slightly different theological angle are those whose perspective has been strongly shaped by the Protestant reformers Luther and Calvin and later Reformed theologians such as Abraham Kuyper. For these leaders work is about sustaining life, serving the community, Christian witness and cultural transformation. Those leaders of regular congregations who strongly prioritise proclamation above other concerns are generally less comfortable with the emphases of these two groups above, as are those for whom liberation and political action are primary priorities. The two groups I found harder to categorise in terms of their theology of mission were megachurches and churches beyond the congregation. Megachurches tend to be strongly shaped by the gifts and theology of their founding leaders. Leaders such as Rick Warren and Bill Hybels are very effective evangelists who have started with an emphasis on church growth and then been forced to think about and develop other dimensions of ministry. Interestingly, both Hybels and Warren do express some concern for workplace ministry, but still with a stronger emphasis on evangelism than other dimensions. This is also reflected in the ways that the SHAPE and Network programmes that these churches use to help people to discover their giftedness are both weighted towards finding where you fit in the life of the church and its ministries rather than in God’s wider purposes in the world. On the other hand, Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, with its pastor Tim Keller coming from a more Reformed theological background, has quite a different emphasis. As the lead banner on its website, Redeemer carries this mission statement: ‘Redeemer Presbyterian Church: Seeking to renew the city Socially, Spiritually, and Culturally’.21 Their Centre for Faith and Work, headed up by businesswoman Katherine Leary, aims to be ‘the cultural renewal arm of the Redeemer movement, founded to equip, connect and mobilize leaders in their professional and industry spheres toward gospel-centred transformation for the common good.’ On their website they compare their approach to those of churches who adopt conversionist (change through personal conversions), political (change through Christian political power) and separatist (the witness of a distinctive Christian subculture) approaches. While each has its merits, and Redeemer includes elements of each of these in its overall approach, ultimately Redeemer seeks to promote what it calls ‘the renaissance of Christian cultural engagement in New York City’.22 Here we find mission theology interacting with elements of public and political theology. This is also apparent, but even more complicated, when it comes to those who concentrate on church beyond the congregation. These people tend to be more entrepreneurial individuals who champion particular causes and are more often found in specialised or parachurch ministries. In my experience each of these enthusiasts tends to develop a language of their own. They are less likely to promote a particular historical theological tradition and more likely to be mavericks borrowing and synthesizing bits from other passionate enthusiasts like themselves.
Another influence in some churches is the growing Business as Mission movement which has often started as a new approach to mission overseas promoted by mission societies, but also forges links between business at home and overseas.23
Whatalltheabovechurchesandministries recognize in common is that God is at work in the world and the role of the church is to get people better connected with this work that God is doing in the world. They agree that God has got people mobilised in the world through their work for a reason. Where they differ is in their understanding of that reason and the roles that Christians can play in the world through their work. They are still discovering and defining the role that the church has to play in resourcing Christian people for this mission. Most have not yet articulated a well-developed theology of work or mission.
I listed above five different models of church I found in my sample. I admit that these are rather arbitrary categories, but let me provide some examples of what I mean:
The majority of people in my sample are part of what I have called regular congregations. These groups are characterised by usually having a weekly worshipping congregation (or congregations) at the centre of their life as communities of faith. They represent a variety of different denominations, from Anglican/Episcopal (largest number in my sample) to Baptist (second largest) to independent and Pentecostal churches. I also include in this category David Clark’s ‘diaconal church’ and Anne Tomlinson’s ‘local collaborative ministry’, because these have both been developed within traditional denominational structures (Methodist and Episcopal respectively) even though they also promote the vision of a very different church that in many ways seeks to ‘break the mould of Christendom’ as David Clark puts it.24
The online Wikipedia describes megachurches as those church congregations that include more than 2000 regular worshippers.25 I have included these as a separate category because their size and multidimensional programmes mean they share characteristics that are different to other regular congregations. Churches such as Willowcreek in Chicago and Saddleback in Orange County have been very effective in promoting their programmes and use of their resources elsewhere and hence have influenced thinking about church life in many other places.26 Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City also fits this category. In Britian St. Thomas’ Church Sheffield is the largest church I visited that clearly emphasizes the importance of workplace ministry.27 Two parachurch ministries which I include in this category, because they are involved in resourcing a number of larger American churches for work-life ministry, are His Church At Work and Leadership Network.28
Emerging and/or Missional Churches
The emerging and missional church movements are often categorised as two separate movements, but with some overlap. Each of them also includes a variety of disparateelements. Forthisreasontheyalmost defy clear definition What they generally share in common is a desire to rethink and reinvent the shape of Christendom models of church in the West in response to new challenges in a post-Christendom context. The people whose observations I include in this category generally identify with elements of both missional and emerging movements, although at the same time they don’t necessarily want to be defined by particular expressions of either of these movements. These people include Steve Taylor, Michael Frost, Alan Roxburgh, Alan Hirsch, Mark Pierson, Brian McLaren and also the observations of Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger.
Robert Banks has been called one of the fathers of the modern faith at work movement. Banks was involved with the Sydney Anglican diocese when he went to do post-graduate biblical studies overseas focussed on the theology of the apostle Paul. But in the course of these studies Banks became increasingly convinced that home churches provide the best way to help people integrate faith and daily life.29 For Banks, large formal congregational gatherings create a world apart from the rest of life and don’t allow people to participate in a natural way that encourages them to integrate their faith with the rest of life. The early church built its life around gatherings that were family in nature, full-orbed and including everyday aspects in character, and participatory in style.30 He remains a keen advocate for this model of church. David Allis in New Zealand is also a keen advocate for this model of church with a strong missional emphasis.31
Church Beyond the Congregation
Charting the development of the multitude of parachurch faith at work ministries that have developed in recent times is beyond the scope of this paper. But I was interested to understand church-based ministries that are also exploring ways of moving beyond the congregation.
James Thwaites was originally an Assemblies of God pastor and part of the pastoral team of the combined AOG/ Methodist church in the Sydney beach suburb of Manly. Thwaites is disturbed by the way we so strongly identify church with gatherings. For him this expression of church needs to die in order that new expressions of church might be birthed, even if this means giving church members permission not to gather, in order to explore other ways of being church. Being church must place greater emphasis on the importance of us joining God in the more significant work that he is initiating in the world. If church is to move beyond its containment in meetings and programmes it must reconnect with the everyday lives of its members in the world. Real ministry ought to happen in the midst of everyday life rather than special congregational events. But fortunately a new landscape is opening up served by a theology of church that enables us to see Christ’s body living and working with impact in every sphere of creation.32
Canberra pastor Brian Medway talks about building ‘Monday Church’. This includes ‘everything that individual believers or groups of believers do in the wider community when they are not engaged in Sunday Church activities…[Monday Church] exists to see the kingdom of God come to the respective spheres and to see every part of that sphere coming under the Lordship of Jesus Christ’.33 Medway certainly doesn’t go as far as Thwaites in questioning the value of Sunday congregations. Peter Wagner with his talk about ‘Church in the Workplace’ and ‘Apostles in the Workplace’ and Os Hillman’s ‘9 to 5 Church’ are other examples that push in this direction. And these voices that keep focusing on life outside worshipping congregations often sound threatening to those whose livelihood depends on growing such congregations.
Reoriented Perspective and Changed Priorities
Irrespective of the model they are working with, these churches are all asking: ‘Where are our people during the week?’ and ‘Can we resource them better to live for God there?’. As workplace ministry has become a serious focus, several things have changed, including
- These churches are starting with a vision of God at work outside the walls of their church buildings and the other places where Christians gather.
- These churches understand that most of the time the people of God are strategically placed in the world to work as the salt of the earth there.
- For these churches, coming to church and church growth are no longer sufficient ends in themselves. Gathering is about resourcing Christians to go. These churches are starting to work more intentionally to see all their members equipped and supported for mission and ministry in the world.
- They have redefined their priorities and are reallocating their resources to support ministry in daily life.
- They realise that this is where faith is lived out in front of the world every day. This is where the future of the church is being decided.
The Language We Use: Church Words
One major point of debate which cuts across church categories is about whether it is helpful or not to use words normally related to more traditional church roles about the roles Christian people play through their work in the world. This relates to words like church, ministry, priesthood, apostles, worship and laity. For some people it is essential to reclaim and redeem these words by using them repeatedly but filled with new meaning related to the everyday life of the people of God in the world. These proponents talk about ministry in daily life, church scattered (or dispersed), Monday church, marketplace ministry, His church at work, work-life ministry, priesthood of all believers, workplace apostles, work as worship and ministry of the laity.
Another group of advocates for faith at work maintain that this is really unhelpful. From their point of view these church words are already so loaded with particular institutional content that their use only confuses matters and is more likely to undermine new understandings rather than enhance them. For these people ministry in daily life just encourages Christians to attempt to do more churchy things in daily life, or to create groups that operate like churches in their workplaces. Their reasoning is that ‘if you use church words people can’t get past their existing church mentality’.34
Some people prefer to just talk about ‘following Jesus in our work’35 Some are happy to talk about work as Christian service, but not ministry.36 People debate how much the word ministry should be applied to all Christians, or only to some people performing some more specialised functions. Other language that is frequently related to workplace ministry in some church circles is talk about workplace apostles, prophets, priests and kings. This language is applied in too many different ways for us to discuss here, except to observe that here is another set of attempts to establish connections between biblical roles and workplace ministry, although there is no clear consensus about the meaning and relevance of these terms in this context.37
Members of most groups draw on Jesus’ vocabulary about being the ‘salt of the earth’ and the ‘light of the world’. Also most groups use Kingdom of God language in some way, although many still have mixed feelings about this. On the plus side, this language so clearly goes back to the teaching and ministry of Jesus himself, and is rich with associations elsewhere in the Bible, as well as individual and communal dimensions that apply to all aspects of life. Another plus is that ‘the Kingdom’ provides a way of talking about the work of God outside the church as well as inside the church. On the negative side ‘Kingdom’ talk is not quite so helpful in strongly republican contexts. Some find talking about the ‘rule’ or ‘reign’ of God more helpful and this means it is also less associated with a particular place. Another minus for some relates to challenging existing understandings of the Kingdom of God where this terminology is already loaded with unhelpful associations eg. where the Kingdom of God has only been talked about in terms of our ultimate future hope.
Paula Gooder argues that ‘discipleship’ is the category that is most clearly the hallmark of all who believe. ‘Discipleship is the bedrock of Christian community since it is the fact that we follow Christ in word and deed that draws us together’.38 And this gives rise to a church which ‘nurtures, inspires and challenges all Christians to follow Christ everyday of their lives’.
Overall, I found that, whatever other language was used in different contexts, the clearest common denominator was a focus on Jesus and what it means to follow him in the course of our daily work. Rev David Gordon in Scotland said the language he has found himself using most often recently is:
‘Be Jesus-like people Doing Jesus-like things Living in Jesus-like ways Bearing Jesus-like scars.’39
The People of God
A number of people have deliberately chosen to talk about the people of God rather than church. This language can be used to talk about the people of God at work in the world as well as the people of God gathered as a community. Advocates for this argue that the Greek word for ‘people’ (laos) originally included all believers (that is clergy and lay people) and hence the inclusiveness of this language helps to overcome problematical clergy-laity distinctions. Moreover, talk about the people of God also avoids debate about whether the word ‘church’ (ekklesia) should be used at all in relation to the people of God scattered in their places of work. Some say that, strictly speaking, the word ekklesia should only be applied to the gathered people of God who are a subset of the People of God, who are all ministers, both gathered and scattered, Sunday and Monday. Hence talking about the people of God, rather than church, helps to move us beyond this semantic debate.40 A number expressed discomfort with what they considered to be loose talk about believers being the church wherever they are. Some try deliberately to even avoid talking about congregations or worship gatherings as ‘church’, and generally try not to use the word ‘church’ at all.
Will Messenger says that typically churches have followed a three step pattern in trying to promote the ministry of the people of God in the world:
- Theologically acknowledge that the work of all Christians is service to God;
- Put this into action in the church community through encouraging ministry to each other;
- Apply this to life outside the church.
But lately Will Messenger has come to the conclusion that step 2, rather than providing a step in the right direction, is a barrier to step 3. It so often just results in pastors recruiting Christians for church- related responsibilities and never gets around to step 3. Messenger now sees the need for a more direct jump from 1 to 3.
Many people I interviewed expressed concern that Christians often feel isolated and disconnected from other Christians in their work. Several different strategies have been adopted to counter this. Quite a few have got people connected with prayer partners, or in prayer triplets, or small workplace cell groups. These tend to have a share and prayer focus. In some cases these are less about regular gatherings in person and more about maintaining regular contact online. In other cases Bible study groups have been formed in particular workplaces, or in central city churches, or a business boardroom, or a café or some other more neutral city setting. Sometimes large churches have their own workplace groups (for example Saddleback’s 200 workplace groups in Orange County, and several city churches in Australia), but more often these groups are made up of Christians from different denominations and are resourced by parachurch ministries. A number of cathedrals and other large inner-city churches and parachurch ministries arrange midweek lunch-hour worship and Bible study gatherings. How much these seek to deliberately address workplace issues and include input from marketplace people in addition to regular clergy varies from place to place. From my observations, two critical factors that shape these events tend to be:
- Is this designed to be primarily an evangelistic event for non-Christians, or to equip those who are already Christians?
- How much are marketplace people involved in helping to create this event?
Workplace Ethics – does church going make a difference?
Robin Gill and others who have examined the results of values surveys in Britain, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, have demonstrated that churchgoing does make a difference to the ethical perspectives of regular attenders.41 Yet, according to these surveys, this is only with regard to a few issues of personal morality (in particular sex, stealing and accumulating wealth), and not very often to wider ethical considerations to do with business, the environment and government.42 Perhaps this explains how Kenneth Lay, CEO of Enron, and Bernard Ebbers, CEO of WorldCom, could remain devout Christian men actively involved in their local churches and protest that their hands were clean, even as they presided over companies in which enormously corrupt cultures were created. They had been taught to relate their faith to a small range of personal ethical issues and ignored the rest.43 It would seem that going to church does make an ethical difference. But only as it relates to issues that are regularly addressed in church. A number of the churches I looked at are starting to promote more conversations about the ethical issues Christians face at work through preaching, in small groups and professional groups and through mentoring relationships. They are also starting to explore more deliberately the working lives of biblical characters who faced ethical challenges in their places of work and are encouraging Christians to relate these examples to their own circumstances.
Work and Worship
In exploring the relationship between work and worship I found several points of convergence among these churches.
Work is Worship: These churches are generally concerned to make plain that worship is not just about what happens ‘in church’. As the Sydney Anglican paper on the Meaning and Importance of Worship says, ‘Worship is the appropriate response of the entire person to God’s revelation in Christ: it is an all-of-life activity (eg Romans 12:1).44 These churches are encouraging their people to practise what the apostle Paul talked about when he said, ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)’.
Prayer in the Fast Lane: There are many people looking for spirituality that offers a more personal sense of connection with God in our work. These people echo the sentiments expressed in Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God, but they also wonder if his experience in a monastery kitchen can be translated into the modern marketplace.45 Most of our approaches to prayer are retreating models. Is prayer in the fast lane just an impossible dream? I have been frequently asked for useful resources. But browsing the ‘Inspirational’ section of most bookshops suggests that the Dalai Lama and certain New Age groups are doing a much better job of seeking to address these issues than Christians at the moment. Although fortunately there are some exceptions.46
Corporate Worship: The discussion of churchgoing and ethics (section 4.10) demonstrates the way liturgy (both formal and informal) reinforces community values. These churches are experimenting with different ways of telling and celebrating the Christian story in order to forge stronger connections with everyday concerns. This includes:
- Preaching and Teaching: Most Christians cannot remember ever hearing teaching about the meaning of work from God’s perspective.47 These churches are learning how to teach and preach the Bible story from work-related angles.
A Pentecostal pastor in Christchurch, New Zealand, is preaching a series of sermons on Joseph. He feels challenged to try harder to understand Joseph’s daily work circumstances and relate these insights to the working lives of his congregation. He is stunned by the warm response from people and the feedback they provide. He gets some of them to tell their stories in church. He starts getting questions about other ethical dilemmas. So he decides to do another series based on the 10 commandments, also with a workplace emphasis. The lively feedback and stories continue.
- Liturgy: Liturgy (both formal and informal) that forges stronger links with daily life outside the church by incorporating elements (both verbally and by using symbols and images) of people’s every day circumstances and concerns.48
- Bible Readings: read, or introduced, in a way that more explicitly invites connections with life and work concerns.
- Intercessions: that include concern for people in their places of work and the issues they are working through there.
- Benedictions: that speak of God sending his people into the world to make a difference there.
- Hymns and contemporary songs: that talk about aspects of faith related to daily life and work.
- Visual images: in the church sanctuary that relate to people’s daily work in the world and God’s involvement there.
- Festivals: that celebrate workplace experiences and explore work-related issues in creative ways at Harvest Festival, Rogation or Industrial Sunday and Labour Day.
- Commissioning: of people for ministry in daily life as well as commending people for the work they do in the church and its ministries.
- Small Groups: Surveys suggest that although pastors think people talk about work issues in small groups, in fact they seldom do unless these issues are also raised in the congregational setting. Most Christians have never talked at any length to others in their group about their regular working lives except when they have experienced a crisis at work.
- Coaching: A recent survey at Willowcreek and 6 other congregations discovered that church attendance and participation in church programmes is not directly connected with spiritual growth except for a believer’s early Christian experience. The development of personal spiritual practices is the key to ongoing spiritual growth. The report concluded that churches need to transition from the role of spiritual parent encouraging dependence on church programmes to spiritual coach providing resources for people to feed themselves.49
In most of the churches I looked at some sort of conversation had begun between church leaders and faith at work resource people and grass roots church members. These conversations had been initiated in different ways. The input from faith at work resources was sometimes personal and sometimes through their books or video or online resources. But in each case these conversations have progressed to produce some creative practical attempts to better resource Christians at work. Most often these attempts have involved a combination of vision-casting from the top, practical involvement from the grass roots, and often also some resourcing from outside.
My conclusion is that all three components are usually necessary, but not according to any one particular pattern. One clear factor is the crucial role of pastoral leadership and how this is exercised. It is one thing to share a vision of pastoral leaders as the enablers of people for their ministry in daily life. It is something else to unpack what this looks like. David Miller identifies five factors that are related to core aspects of pastoral ministry in general, but that he thinks need to be more specifically applied to the workplace by church leaders. These include:
- A ministry of presence and listening in the work sphere, by visiting people in their places of work.
- A ministry of preaching and prayer that intentionally and constructively addresses faith and work issues.
- A ministry of teaching designed to address faith and work issues, also usign the experience and expertise of other church members for input.
- A ministry of personal integration that ensures that church members are trained to utilise personal prayer and devotional study in their daily lives.
- A ministry of gathering of business people (and other workers?)50 perhaps in partnership with other marketplace ministries. David Miller comments, ‘my research has found that lay-led and lay-founded groups are generally more effective at understanding and meeting workplace integration needs’.51
William Diehl says something similar:
The key to bringing the workplace into the worship place is the pastor. If he or she has to have tight control over everything, it will not happen. There are two reasons why the pastor should not totally try to control: very few pastors have the breadth of knowledge of workplace issues to be able to design educational programmes of relevance. Secondly, lay leadership must be involved in both the planning and presentation of programmes in order to give them credibility in the eyes of the rest of the congregation.52
Robert Banks also argues strongly for the involvement of ‘ordinary’ Christians if we are to develop a useful theology of everyday life, because:
- Ordinary Christians can best identify their everyday concerns.
- Ordinary Christians already have some elements of an everyday theology.
- Everyday theology is a co-operative effort between ordinary Christians and professional theologians.
- A workable theology of everyday life requires practical testing by ordinary Christians.
For Banks, only a theology forged in the cut and thrust of everyday life will have vitality and relevance.53
Businessman Kent Humphries thinks pastors have an important role to play as equippers and mentors for ministry in the marketplace.54 David Clark and Anne Tomlinson plead for rediscovery of diaconal ministry in Methodist and Episcopal settings.55 The deacon in these settings is the representative of the people who brings the daily concerns of people and the needs of the world into the liturgy. Their task is to point the gathered community back out into the world (and from Anne and David’s point of view, to also resource the people of God to live as faithful followers of Jesus in the world). Diaconal ministers are said to have a ‘go-between ministry’. According to this approach church leadership exists to promote the dream of a church in which,
None has special status: The distinction between parish and mission is gone. But each congregation is in mission and each Christian gifted for ministry.56
In many churches fears were expressed by leaders about the consequences of their church embarking on this journey. Church leaders were asking, in different ways, ‘Are we cutting our own throats? If we start saying that real ministry is about what’s going on out there in the world, will people will stop putting their time and energy and money into supporting existing church structures?’ Knowing that these churches have already embarked on this journey, I admire them for the faith they have exercised already in spite of their fears. No one can answer the question for sure. It is possible that some people will be less committed to the institution. It is also possible that people will be more supportive if they feel the church is serving them better. Apart from stories of a few individuals who are now putting their energies into other endeavours, no obvious decline for this reason was evident in the churches I looked at. But you could also say that in most cases churches have not been on this journey long enough, nor approached it radically enough, to seriously undermine other aspects of their ministry. It has not been the radical response that James Thwaites calls for (section 4.5).
5. Theology of Work
When it comes to addressing the question ‘Does your work matter to God?’ all churches say ‘Yes’. But they give different answers when it comes to explaining ‘How does work matter to God?’ Those churches that prioritise evangelism tend to imply that work doesn’t have intrinsic value, just instrumental value. Work matters for what it means in terms of evangelism first, making money second (to support families and Christian ministry), and thirdly as a context for serving other people. I add this third element, because I observe that Christians involved in the helping professions, which include doctors, nurses, social workers, counsellors and teachers, sense that their work matters to God in a way that people involved in most other professions don’t. And even strongly evangelistic churches seem to affirm the worth of more direct, person-to-person, service kinds of work. Moreover words like ‘ministry’ and ‘service’ are often applied to this work.
Beyond these churches, some other views of work are growing that also affirm its intrinsic worth. For a few this is the result of a carefully developed theology of work.57 For most this theology of work is still embryonic in its development. However it is building around some common themes in different settings. Let me explain some of these:
The starting point in most cases is a rediscovery of the significance of the first two chapters of Genesis through the descriptions we find there of God at work and people working in partnership with God. The picture of God as a worker and an exploration of the ways God goes to work and some of the different dimensions of God’s work has proved very helpful in many settings. Some people express discomfort with talk about God as a worker if it is done in a way that seems to undermine the uniqueness of God’s work and being. And there is certainly debate about the idea of humans as co-creators with God which is a popular concept in some circles. Many are concerned to emphasise that humans are only junior partners in the unfolding creative work of God. But, whatever the differences over details, some of the common denominators are:
- A picture of God intimately involved in creating our physical world.
- A pronouncement of the product of that work as ‘good’.
- A much higher view of human work than other cultures in biblical times eg Greece and Rome.
- Work delegated to humans as part of God’s good purposes prior to the fall.
- A daily schedule for work, as well as a seven day rhythm of work and rest.
- Human work that involves both the cultivation and care of God’s creation.
- A close interconnection and interdependence between God, people and the rest of creation.
- Work give to humans with the invitation to exercise freedom, power, responsibility and creativity.
- Make and female working together as partners in God's work.
For many evangelical churches this is relatively new territory, developing a creation theology alongside the strong redemption theology that has usually dominated thinking in such circles. In other mainline churches creation theology has always been present.58
Almost all of these churches recognize and want to challenge the sacred-secular divide that runs like a fault line through our Western way of seeing things. James Thwaites, Steve Taylor, Mark Greene and Gordon Preece, among others, are loud in their denunciation of this problem.59
One danger that looms for those who start to elevate the significance of human work from God’s perspective, is that it can seem to suggest that this is how we earn or confirm our salvation. It can also suggest that this work is primarily about our paid employment. Our Western culture has already idolized employment and careers. Typically one of the first questions we ask when we meet someone new is ‘What do you do?’ Yet we are not wanting to reinforce that tendency to look for identity, status, significance and security in a job. Some of these churches were aware of this danger and deliberately trying to address it.
Centred on Jesus
As Christians we need to find our identity and status in our relationship with God first. This is our primary calling. Called to ‘belong’ and to ‘be’ in relationship with God through Jesus first and then to called to ‘do’ as we learn to follow Jesus in all of life. It is a vocation centred on Jesus and not the work that we do. This is not discipleship divorced from the work that we do. But a call to follow Jesus in all our daily activities. Domestic work, voluntary work and church work as well as employment. This is not just about our job. It is about our whole life’s work. And a balanced doctrine of vocation develops this further.
Christian Vocation or Calling
Most of these churches use ‘vocation’ or ‘call’ language in some way or another. This can be confusing. ‘Vocation’ outside the church is now just a secularised synonym for job, or career. Inside the church most often it is pastors, or missionaries who testify to being ‘called’ to their work. But increasingly the churches in this sample are wanting to emphasise that God ‘calls’ all people into a partnership with him and in his work. Doing God’s work is not just about the church work people are involved in. However there is still confusion about what it means to be ‘called’ by God. One helpful explanation is provided by Bockmuehl’s picture of a three-layered wedding cake of callings.60 The bottom (largest) layer is our human vocation, or God’s call to all people that we find in Genesis 1 and 2 and echoed in Psalm 8). The second (and smaller) layer is our Christian vocation expressed in the call to follow Jesus. The third (and smallest) layer is our personal vocation which includes that combination of roles (work, family and political) that each of us has been uniquely gifted for and will be led by the Holy Spirit to perform.
This means that everyone is called by God (no exceptions), and that this call includes all our life’s work (not just church work and not just our paid work), and we are called first and foremost to Someone (into relationship with God), not something (a task) or somewhere (a place).61 But two other understandings are also necessary to help us realise a more balanced approach to vocation. Firstly, finding and fulfilling our vocation was never designed by God to be an individual enterprise. We find our vocation as part of a community with whom we together seek to fulfil our corporate vocation to live as the people of God in the world. Vocational guidance is part of the corporate ministry of the church. And this is a ministry that churches are in the process of rediscovering through the offer of encouragement and support, mentoring, workshops, public prayer and recognition.
Secondly a more balanced approach can also be assisted through emphasising our participation in the work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Both Gordon Preece and Paul Stevens warn that most churches play favourites with members of the Trinity. We end up building our theology more around the work of one member of the Trinity than the others: the Father our creator, or the Son our redeemer, or the Spirit who leads us into the new creation. In the process we neglect some other very important dimensions of God’s work. In fact, we are called to work in partnership with all three members of the Trinity who work together all the time.62
Another way of making sure that our theology of work is not just shaped by some distortion of the so-called Protestant work ethic in our culture is by making sure that it is always accompanied by a healthy theology of rest. Mike Breen says that Christians are called ‘to work from our rest, not rest from our work’.63
All churches agree that having being confronted with the reality of the fall and the impact of sin on our world, including the world of work, we are now invited to participate in God’s redemptive work. The main divide that is evident here relates to the extent to which Christians feel they are called primarily to a ministry of evangelism through their work or they also feel called through following Jesus in their work to transform circumstances as signs and agents of the kingdom of God that has come and is to come.
Ultimately our work is an act of eager anticipation. We seek to live now according to the vision and values of a community that is still to come. Jesus taught us to pray ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.’ We work in a way that anticipates and seeks the fulfilment of this prayer. But some clear divisions in understanding are evident here.
Firstly, the extent to which salvation is just about saving some individuals from out of this world to find eternal security in heaven versus the idea that all of creation is caught up in God’s saving purposes with everything in heaven and on earth being brought together as one united reality in Jesus (Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:20).
Secondly, the extent to which our ultimate future as Christians lies in some other realm completely separate from this present universe and not continuous with it, versus some real continuity between this world and the world to come.
Thirdly, the extent to which there will be work for God and us to do in the end, versus the popular pictures we get of the end as eternal rest, or eternal worship service. How fundamental to God’s nature and our own nature is work?
Fourthly, the extent to which our work now and the way we go about it has any meaning for the future, or impact on the shape of the future?
Fifthly, the extent to which Christians are called to work for concrete transformation of circumstances here and now rather than just wait for God to act, even though we recognize that only God has the power to bring about ultimate transformation.64
A More Rounded Theology
The approach that I found most frequently adopted to help develop a more rounded theology of work followed the pattern of creation, the fall, redemption and eschatology. These are used like four different lenses through which any subject might be viewed to gain a more fully rounded biblical perspective. In such a way we gain a glimpse into the good, the bad, the better and the perfect as portrayed in Scripture. I’m sure that part of the attraction is because this follows such a simple and easily remembered outline. But another attraction is the way that this outline also fits well with some essential elements that give shape to the Bible narrative from the beginning to the end. It is clear how these elements belong together as part of the larger Christian story that we now find ourselves participating in. Many preachers and teachers have obviously found this a useful pattern to use in their teaching.
An Australian Case Study
Very few churches have sought to define a formal theology of work. The Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church in Australia has made two attempts to do this. They have particular relevance for this study, because this Diocese is known for its strong commitment to evangelical orthodoxy and evangelism that emphasises the importance of the ministry of the Word. Hence these statements provide a useful window into some of the issues evangelical (and other) churches face as they seek to take supporting Christians at work more seriously.
The report of the Doctrine Commission tabled at the 1998 Synod of the Sydney Anglican Diocese on the ‘The Value of Work’65 summarises the nature of the debate about the value of everyday human work that it is seeking to address with these words:
On the one side there was an appeal to the worthlessness of human effort compared to evangelism and nurture in the light of eternity. According to this view, work is a distraction from the real task of evangelism and work is primarily of value insofar as it provides opportunities for witnessing and funding for (other persons to do) ‘full-time’ ministry as missionaries, evangelists and pastor/teachers. This is often accompanied by a critique of the idolatry of career and work in our culture. On the other side the point was being made that two classes of Christian are created, that little practical help is provided for those who spend a large part of their time at work, and that an unfortunate divorce between secular and sacred is being encouraged.66
This report begins by emphasising the significance of everyday work in God’s purposes as laid down in the ‘Order of Creation’, with special reference to Genesis chapters 1 and 2, although many other parts of Scripture are also cited. These paragraphs demonstrate quite a high view of the value of everyday work. This is followed by an exploration of the meaning of daily work in the ‘Order of Redemption’ in a way that emphasises that the gospel sets us to work for Christ as our primary commitment and to order the rest of our lives in the light of this priority. But it is also asserted that all labour is valuable when done as for Christ and comparisons of worth attempting to determine special marks of God’s favour are not helpful.67
It is interesting to see how this very deliberate attempt to include both creation and redemption theological perspectives gives rise to a tension that remains unresolved. For example, in the ‘Work in the Order of Redemption’ section we read in section 11-13:
With the coming into the world of Jesus Christ we see that creation and redemption belong together…Work in itself is not to be despised; our whole approach to it is transformed. It is one of the chief arenas in which we exhibit our obedience to Christ… The gospel therefore sets us to work for Christ. Our work for him is our basic commitment, and should order the priorities of everyday life for each individual. High among these priorities is the necessity for every Christian to promote the ministry of God’s word within our spheres of responsibility and influence. Thus the work of teaching our children the word of God is of greater significance than the work of managing a firm, though the latter may also be of great importance in our obedience to Christ’.
How does this fit with the previous warning against making comparisons of worth for different types of work?
The section in this report on ‘The Work of Ministry’ continues to wrestle with these concerns:
- The work of the kingdom does demand that some Christians give up their ordinary occupations in order that ‘the work of ministry’ may be done effectively and therefore need to be supported by others.
- The 'ministry of God's Word' is a more fundamental task than daily work. But this task is shared by all Christians.
- It is not helpful to think of the 'ministry of the Word' as a 'profession' or job just for specialists. There is an overlap of daily work and the task of ministry.
Overall, a serious attempt is made to maintain a high view of the value of everyday work and the importance of all Christians living out Christian values and an effective Christian witness in the course of their work, while at the same time also valuing the unique role that some play in ‘prioritising the ministry of the Word’ and giving up other paid work to pursue this ministry. The word ‘ministry’ is most often connected with the ‘ministry of the Word’.
Another report was tabled at the 1999 Synod produced by a specially appointed committee in response to Resolution 50/95 of the Sydney Diocese which stated:
This Synod recognises, encourages and supports the roles of Godly men and women in their everyday work vocations - as distinct from ordained or full-time ministry - and affirms its belief that such work of service in and to the world done in the name of the Lord Jesus and by God’s enabling, is true and laudable service rendered to God Himself by those whose vocations it is and is no less acceptable to Him than the Ministry of the Word.
This report specifically addresses the question, ‘Is the above statement true? Or is ‘gospel work’ an activity and a work which should be elevated over all else?’68
Much of this paper is devoted to exploring a variety of different biblical perspectives on work which affirm the worth of daily work. This concludes with the observation that, ‘There is a higher ‘work’, the ‘work of God’, which is to believe on him whom God has sent. But this higher work does not displace the necessity and benefit of earthly work; rather it gives a new perspective to our earthly works in the performance of which we may and should ‘glorify God’.69
Another conclusion is that ‘It should not be thought that, because certain ministries of God’s Word are of greater significance for the salvation of mankind than say manual labour, an individual Christian can of his own volition take it upon himself to leave his work and assume a ministerial role.’70 This document is less hesitant to prioritise certain kinds of ‘higher’ work.
In drawing on Reformed understandings of work, Luther’s view is summarised as connecting heavenly and earthly work by emphasising the fact that all Christians are called by grace to enter the kingdom of heaven by faith and forgiveness while at the same time they are also called to serve their neighbours in their ordinary earthly life. Calvin is cited as also emphasising that God intends Christians to work for mutual service by utilising the gifts that God has given them for the common good. Calvin goes beyond Luther in suggesting believers might relocate or change roles to do more good, but still emphasises the importance of gifts being given to benefit others and the fact that in society we are all dependent on each other’s service. This is not just about personal advancement.
The focus is on service rather than work. And this service includes voluntary work, home duties, service to families, and a variety of other activities that involve everyone and are not dependent on employment, even though they may include employment.
This document prefers to use the word ‘service’ rather than ‘work’, because this suggests that the measure of the worth of work depends on its usefulness for the lives of others (equals service).71 While all Christians are called to voluntary ministry of the Word, some are also called to full-time ministry of the Word, supported by others. This document ends up endorsing the wording of Synod Resolution 50/95:
This Synod recognises, encourages and supports the roles of Godly men and women in their everyday work vocations - as distinct from ordained or full-time ministry - affirms its belief that such work of service in and to the world done in the name of the Lord Jesus and by God’s enabling, is true and laudable service rendered to God Himself by those whose vocations it is and is no less acceptable to Him than the Ministry of the Word.72
I don’t cite these documents to commend them as such. Personally, I appreciate the way they seek to add a more serious creation theologytotheexistingredemptionperspective of this diocese. They also add the Reformed emphasis that values work as service although interestingly not the Reformed emphasis on the transforming power of human work. And they choose to explore words that are important for any discussion of work and church, including work, creation, redemption, ministry, kingdom, and service. They don’t talk about ‘mission’ as such, but rather it seems that mission in these documents is primarily about the ‘ministry of the Word’. Overall, I am not convinced about the adequacy of the understandings of ministry, redemption, and kingdom developed here, as these relate to the daily work of the people of God. But at least we do have here the clear example of a church trying to develop a theology to support Christians at work while still holding tight to the truths that it treasures. Less clear is, to what extent has this theologising influenced, or altered, the practice of churches in this diocese?
There is a widespread movement of interest in faith and work issues. It includes interest from every continent, although we have only looked at the experience of a small sample of Protestant and Pentecostal churches in the West in this study. More study needs to be done to understand how this impacts church life in other cultural settings. In the West a widespread longing is being expressed for people to live more integrated lives in a way that challenges the dualisms that separate sacred and secular, private and public, spiritual and physical. There is a great need for churches to help provide resources for whole life discipleship that also corresponds with the challenge for the church in the West to rediscover its missionary calling.
David Miller expresses concern about the limitations and dangers inherent in this movement if this grass roots awakening develops in isolation, without engaging the structures of church and the ideas of the academy.73 It is to be hoped that a lot more fruitful conversation between these key partners will take place and that people moving between these different groups will help new understandings to grow and new creative strategies and structures that enhance cooperation to be developed. My own conclusion is that theologising about supporting Christians at work generally seems to have outstripped the practice of most churches.
It will be fascinating to see how profoundly (or not!) this movement affects the shape of church life in days ahead. That the church needs to take much more seriously the support and equipping of Christians for ministry in daily life seems certain to me. That more Christians will start to take this challenge more seriously, also seems certain. That some churches, such as those we have examined, are already taking this challenge seriously is very encouraging and helps point to possible ways ahead. I would like to think that the church as a whole will start to reshape its life and priorities in response to this challenge, but only time will tell us to what extent this happens.
Alistair Mackenzie is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Mission and Ministry at Laidlaw College-Christchurch Campus (formerly the Bible College of New Zealand). He also operates as a mission consultant for the Baptist Churches of New Zealand and several other denominations. He began his working life in his family’s timber mill and then as a truck driver while completing a science degree. After becoming a Christian and completing theological training, he spent 21 years in pastoral leadership of three Baptist churches in New Zealand and was also involved in the leadership of Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor, a mission and community development agency.
He has served as a staff worker for the Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship, and has done postgraduate study on the theology of vocation and work. Alistair has authored Where’s God on Monday?; SoulPurpose: making a difference in life and work; and Just Decisions: Christian ethics go to work. He is part of the Boston-based Theology of Work Project, the Lausanne Committee’s Marketplace Ministry Issue Group, and he founded Faith at Work (NZ). Alistair is married to Alison. They have two children, Catherine and Christopher, and a lovely granddaughter Ruby. Alistair enjoys playing guitar and blues harp with a band, armchair rugby and the odd round of golf (with an emphasis on the odd!).