Everywhere you look, Christians are talking about the importance of re-connecting faith and work. You can find a growing body of resources to help you think through these topics.
But I often still wrestle with the question of how. As a pastor, I know that connecting faith and work is important, but practically how can I do it? 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. Specifically apply scripture to people’s workplaces.
When I’m writing my sermon, my first thought is to apply God’s word to people’s inner lives or to their life within the church. For example, I might discuss how the Beatitudes shape their own relationship with God or with the church.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with applying Scripture in this way. Yet my church members spend the majority of their time outside the four walls of the church building. Surely Scripture influences how they live that part of their lives as well, right? For example, those same Beatitudes can influence their work ethic, their humility in the workplace and how they relate to their co-workers.
As a result, 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.
2. Give targeted 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 greatly benefited from discovering a biblical framework for vocation — that work was good at creation, that it was distorted by the fall and that Jesus will eventually redeem it. I bet 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 often give you more flexibility in the topic and format. You may even consider scheduling a special one-night event to give this subject the attention it deserves.
3. Don’t clutter the church schedule.
There’s no doubt about it: 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.
However, can I 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. Such churches believe the busier the church calendar, the better.
But most Christians work forty-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, they’re often made to feel guilty about it.
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, they make them feel more burnt out.
I don’t have a simple solution. Maybe you’ll have to work with your church leaders to simplify the church schedule. Maybe you’ll want to set clear expectations about what your church expects of members. Most importantly, though, you’ll want to strategically empower your church members to minister not merely within the church walls, but also in their workplaces.
4. Learn about your church members’ workplaces.
I once heard a story about a pastor who visited his church members’ workplaces. He spent the entire day with them, watching them do their jobs. And he did this for every worker in the church. This pastor’s decision required great sacrifice, but you can bet he knew exactly what his church members did in the workplace, the unique challenges they faced and how he could help.
Perhaps you don’t have time to make such a radical 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 take additional steps to offer specific encouragements. Consider the following:
- Truck driver, you have an incredible opportunity to reach out to 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 have so many opportunities to glorify God by showing a servant’s heart.
- Stay-at-home parent, you are changing your kids’ lives by humbly serving them.
Whether your church member is a business owner, painter, teacher or accountant, your concern for his or her work will be deeply meaningful. Even better, your concern will make you a better shepherd.
What practical steps would you suggest?