Do We Understand Faith and Work – by Hugh Whelchel
Have you ever heard someone say, “Did you hear about Jim Smith? He quit his job at the bank to go into full-time Christian service.”
I would guess many of us have actually said something very similar. In the church today, we still believe some jobs are more spiritual than others. And when it comes to understanding the integration of faith and work, in many ways, the church is still in the Dark Ages.
In her book, Church on Sunday, Work on Monday, Laura L. Nash states that many Christian[s] experience a “radical disconnection between Sunday services and Monday morning activities, describing a sense of living in two worlds that never touch each other.”
Nash suggests that these disconnected [Christians] receive little or no help from their pastors and clergy in connecting their faith and work. The disconnect between business and clergy probably explains the experience of William Diehl, a former Bethlehem Steel executive, as told in The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective by pastor and business professor R. Paul Stevens. Diehl shared:
In the almost thirty years of my professional career, my church has never once suggested that there be any type of accounting of my on-the-job ministry to others. My church has never once offered to improve those skills, which could make me a better minister, nor has it ever asked if I needed any kind of support in what I was doing. There has never been an inquiry into the types of ethical decisions I must face, or whether I seek to communicate my faith to my coworkers. I have never been in a congregation where there was any type of public affirmation of a ministry in my career. In short, I must conclude that my church doesn’t have the least interest whether or how I minister in my daily work.
Diehl is left with the same frustration that nags at many Christian[s] today. As Christian ethics professor Scott Rae suggests, they feel they are in a support position for others who are “in the ministry,” and though they play an important role, they are not really where the action is for God’s kingdom.
The integration of faith and work can be misunderstood not only by the church members who sit in the pews but by those who stand behind the pulpit. Vincent Bacote of Wheaton College writes that the church needs to view discipleship as encompassing all of life, including our work:
Christian disciples are people who pursue all of life with and under the Lordship of Christ. The fact of Christ’s Lordship does not equate to churches micromanaging the business affairs of congregants, but it should mean that churches are helping businesspeople have an increasingly greater vision for how their “business life” is an expression of the rich life of discipleship.
Yet this concept is noticeably missing from many of today’s churches.
Although CLS has been addressing these issues for over 50 years, many of us have experienced or struggled with the same issues. Please join us in prayer that the church would recover the biblical meaning of work for the glory of God and the advancement of his kingdom – and that lawyers will understand their “calling” and the Lord’s vision for their daily work.
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Hugh Whelchel is Executive Director of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (www.tifwe.org) and author of How Then Should We Work?: Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work.
CLS occasionally works ith the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE) to provide thoughtful and inspiring devotionals to CLS members. IFWE is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) Christian research organization committed to promoting biblical and economic principles that help individuals find fulfillment in their work and contribute to a free and flourishing society.