More Christians are talking about the importance of connecting faith and work, and a growing body of resources helps you think through these topics.
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 all of their lives. But what does that look like, practically? How can I encourage the business owner, store manager, educator, retiree or stay-at-home parent to integrate faith with their vocations? If you’re a pastor, teacher or small group leader, perhaps you’ve asked such questions, too.
As I’ve reflected on this question, four principles have emerged:
1. Apply the Bible to people’s workplaces.
As I prepare my sermons each week, I spend extensive time meditating and praying through how the passage applies to people’s lives. My first instinct is to connect the truths to people’s inner lives or their life within the church. For example, if I’m preaching the Beatitudes, I may first consider how Jesus’ teaching shapes a person’s relationship with God or the church.
Clearly, we must 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? I must intentionally push myself to reflect on how the passage addresses people’s work life. For example, I could explain how those same Beatitudes can transform someone’s work ethic, workplace attidue and relationships with co-workers.
Fellow teachers, we must force ourselves to consider how a biblical passage applies to the all of believers’ lives — in the workplace, at home and in the community. Thinking through these applications may take extra time, but it will be time well spent.
Instead of encouraging workers, cluttered church schedules further exasperate them.
2. Give occasional talks about faith and work.
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, like me, don’t have time to address this topic fully in a Sunday morning sermon or Sunday School lesson, consider scheduling 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. Be wary of cluttering the church schedule.
Every Christian should commit to 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, to be blunt, some churches try to do way too many things. 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. As a pastor, I know how tempting it can be to judge our church’s faithfulness by the fullness of the calendar.
But most church members work 40 hours per week. They have families to take care of, lawns to cut, meals to cook, homework to assist with, soccer practices to attend. And no matter how much they try, they simply don’t have time to do everything in their lives — much less everything 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).
A cluttered church schedule ends up stressing out workers the most. Instead of encouraging workers, cluttered church schedules further exasperate them. Instead of breathing life into workers, cluttered calendars burn them out.
Simplifying a church calendar is immensely difficult. I too feel the pull and attractiveness of busyness. But we as church leaders can seek to empower church members to minister in their workplaces, not just in the four walls of the church building.
4. Talk to your church members about their 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.
Perhaps you don’t have the bandwidth to make such a commitment, but you can still ask your church members questions:
- 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:
- Truck driver, you have an incredible opportunity to love people the church often neglects.
- Teacher, you can uniquely model Jesus’ love to children who arrive at school from broken homes.
- Construction worker, you are manipulating God’s creation to make something new and wonderful.
- Waitress, you can glorify God by modeling a servant’s heart to your customers.
- 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 work as business owners, care givers, teachers, photographers, accountants, administrative assistants or podcasters. Plus, your concern will make you a better shepherd.
What other steps would you suggest?