More and more Christians are talking about the importance of connecting faith and work, and a growing body of resources helps you think through these topics. Here at Intersect, for example, you can access a wealth of articles, a free class and more to do help you think well about faith and work.
Even with all of these resources, I still wrestle with the question of how. As a pastor, I know I must help the people under my care integrate faith with the rest of their lives. But what does that look like, practically? If you’re a pastor, teacher or small group leader, perhaps you’ve asked this question, too.
As I’ve been reflecting on this question, here are a few practical tips I’ve considered:
1. Apply the Bible to people’s workplaces.
As I prepare my sermons each week, I spend extensive time meditating and praying through the application. The first applications that come to mind generally relate to people’s inner lives or their life within the church. For example, if I’m preaching on the Beatitudes, I may first consider how Jesus’ teaching shapes someone’s relationship with God or life in the church.
Clearly, we should apply Scripture to these parts of our lives. Yet the men and women in my church spend the majority of their time outside the four walls of the church building. How does the Bible influence that part of their life, too? So I push myself to reflect on how the passage I’m preaching that week impacts people’s life in the workplaces. For example, I could explain how those same Beatitudes can transform someone’s work ethic, workplace attidue and relationships with co-workers.
Pastors and teachers, we must force ourselves to think more deeply about how a biblical passage applies to the rest of believers’ lives — in the workplace, at home and in the community. Thinking through these applications may take time, but it will be time well spent.
Instead of encouraging workers, cluttered church schedules further exasperate them.
2. Give targeted faith and work talks on special occasions.
You may want to take the conversation about faith and work deeper than a few points of application in a sermon or Bible study. Personally, I benefited from discovering a biblical framework for vocation. I learned that work was good at creation, that it was distorted by the fall and that Jesus will eventually redeem it. Most believers would benefit from this perspective as well.
If you don’t have time to have this conversation on a Sunday morning, take advantage of special teaching occasions to give targeted talks on faith and work. Men’s and women’s meetings, Wednesday night Bible studies or other teaching times may give you more flexibility in the topic and format.
You could even consider a special one-night event to give this subject the attention it deserves. We scheduled such an event at my church, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Workers came away encouraged to discover they they could honor God with their work.
3. Don’t clutter the church schedule.
Every Christian should be committed his or her local church. Every Christian should join in corporate worship, serve the church and reach out to the community. The New Testament demands nothing less of the redeemed people of God.
But, let’s be honest: Some churches have way too much going on. They have multiple services, weeknight Bible studies, early morning fellowship, service projects, kids’ events, youth trips and more special trainings. Such churches seem to believe that the busyness of their calendar is directly proportional to their faithfulness to God. The more stuffed the church calendar, the better.
But most Christians work 40-plus hours per week. They have families to take care of. They have yards that need trimming. They have meals that need cooking. And no matter how much they try, they simply don’t have time to do everything in their lives — much less everything that the church puts on a calendar. To make matters worse, we church leaders often make them feel guilty about it (whether we intend to or not).
When you have a cluttered church schedule, the people you’re stressing out the most are those who work. Instead of encouraging workers, cluttered church schedules further exasperate them. Instead of breathing life into workers, cluttered calendars burn them out.
I understand that simplifying a church calendar is hard to do. But we as church leaders should seek to empower church members to minister in their workplaces, not just in the four walls of the church building.
4. Ask questions about your church members’ workplaces.
I know of a pastor who visited his church members’ workplaces. He spent the entire day with them. He watched them do their jobs. And he did this for every worker in the church. This pastor’s decision required an immense time sacrifice. But he knew exactly what his church members did in the workplace, the unique challenges they faced and how God’s word applies to them.
Maybe you don’t have the bandwidth to make such a commitment. But you can still ask your church members questions, such as:
- What do you do in the workplace?
- How does your job challenge you?
- What do you most enjoy? What’s most frustrating?
- How can I pray for you?
Once you know about their jobs, you can then encourage them in specific ways, such as:
- Truck driver, you have an incredible opportunity to love people the church often neglects.
- Teacher, you can uniquely show Jesus’ love to children from broken homes.
- Construction worker, you are fulfilling the cultural mandate by manipulating God’s creation to make something new and wonderful.
- Waitress, you can glorify God by modeling a servant’s heart to the customers you meet.
- Stay-at-home parent, every dirty diaper you change is an investment your children’s lives.
Your concern for your church members’ work will be deeply meaningful, whether they are business owners, care givers, teachers, photographers, accountants, administrative assistants or more. Plus, your concern will make you a better shepherd.
What practical steps would you suggest?