Why You Should Include Work in Your Preaching
The people in your church spend the majority of their week at work. They labor in all manner of occupations, both paid and unpaid. At work they encounter a wide variety of people and face an amazing array of opportunities and challenges. They may feel deeply engaged in their work, or they may hate their job, or maybe something in between. Some are struggling to find a job, others are trying to figure out how to make it in the gig economy. Many are constantly wondering whether God has a calling for their work, and if so, how to find it. If the people in your church are to faithfully bring the Christian faith to bear in their work and careers, they need to know how the Bible applies to the everyday work they do.
Most pastors believe they are already addressing work themes through their preaching. When we survey working Christians, however, many do not perceive that their pastor cares about or understands the world of work they inhabit. This is true even though most pastors believe they are already addressing work themes through their preaching. To bridge the gap between church on Sunday and work on Monday, you don't necessarily need to preach sermons about work. Regular sermons that include work on a weekly basis are the most effective to help people apply the Christian faith to their work. Bringing work into your regular preaching helps the people in your church accomplish their God-given purpose every day of the week, wherever they work. Here's some encouragement from Pastor and researcher Alistair Mackenzie:
God’s mission is not primarily about getting people more 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 church meetings towards equipping and supporting followers of Jesus for their work in the world. This is not to suggest that gathering for worship and church meetings is not still important to [equipping] churches. Rather these churches recognise the importance of both gathering Christians together and sending them out to do the work of God in the world. Sending people out has become a more serious attempt to forge stronger links in people’s experience between Sunday and Monday in order to help them become more effective participants in God’s work in the world.
Conversely, churches that don’t help people connect their faith with their work are missing an opportunity to tap into the greatest mission force in history—the church’s own members embedded in every sphere of society. Harvard research fellow Laura Nash calls this, “the largest act of self-marginalization churches have ever engaged in.” Renowned preacher Haddon Robinson, author of "The Art of Biblical Preaching" a standard text in seminaries around the world, offers a chilling warning about what happens when pastors ignore the work of the people in congregations:
Several years ago I had breakfast with a group of Christian businessmen. Perhaps because I was there, they began talking about their pastors. They respected their ministers and appreciated their dedication, but they also felt their pastors were out of touch with them. Their preachers had visited them or members of their families when they were in the hospital, and a couple of the ministers had visited two of the men in their homes. Two others reported that their preachers had played golf with them. Yet, none of the clergymen had ever spent a day with them at work or even visited them at their place of employment. As one of the men put it, “I enter his world once or twice a week, but he doesn’t bother much about mine.”
“As much as I appreciate my pastor and enjoy his sermons,” the businessman concluded, “it’s not often that he speaks about my world.”
There are many resources available for applying the Christian faith to ordinary work. Among them, the Theology of Work Bible Commentary—a free online resource that forms the core of this website-- is especially useful for sermon preparation. It provides theologically sound exegesis, hermeneutical guidance, and practical workplace applications covering almost a thousand passages from all 66 books of the Bible. Passages are tagged according to topic, covering not just “work” topics, but the kinds of topics your sermons may already include, such as relationships, grace, covenant, environment, serving others, justice, spiritual gifts, calling or generosity.
In addition to the TOW Bible Commentary, the website includes thousands of items to help apply the Bible and the resources of the Christian faith to ordinary work. Here are some resource to help bring work into your preaching more regularly:
- Explore how to use the Theology of Work Project Bible Commentary.
- Learn how to read the Bible with workplace eyes as you do your own exegesis and application.
- View all of TOW's resources on how to include work in your preaching.
- Read some sample work-themed sermons from a variety of pastors.
- Discover what other churches are doing to help their members integrate their faith and work.
- Hear what other pastors are saying about including work in their preaching.