The title of this post is a play on words with a double meaning. God is at work in and through our work. In other words, God is at work as he unfolds his providential plan, and God is at our work, which means that as believers living under the Lordship of Christ we do our work by and for God. Our relationship with the Lord is not only a Sunday reality and experience but an everyday reality and experience which profoundly forms and shapes everything we do and the manner in which we do it.
Often we refer to this as faith and work. This can portray this as two different things. Rather, our lives lived by God’s grace and for His glory means that God works (cf. Phil. 2:12-13) in and through our work (cf. Gen. 2:15; Col. 3:17, 23-24), which means it becomes a way we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and how we love our neighbors as ourselves (Lk. 10:27).
There has been a deficiency among pastors in equipping God’s people to live all of life to his glory. We have often done a good job of this as it relates to instructing God’s people to engage fully in the life of the church with the community created by God. But we have not done as well when it comes to instructing God’s people about how to engage fully in the work of their hands with the gifts, talents and passions he has given to them, those hours they spend in their respective vocations.
So, how does a teacher, a baker, a mechanic, an engineer, an accountant, a farmer, etc., live their lives by God’s grace and for God’s glory Monday through Saturday? We heartily affirm the truth of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” But what does this mean in practice? How do we help others to live this out in every day of their existence in and through the various callings/vocations to which God has called them?
When Tom Nelson realized he had not equipped God’s people in this way, he confessed his pastoral malpractice (video). He and Christ Community Church have been on a journey since. Tom has written a book about this (Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work), and now oversees a ministry with a focus on helping to bridge this gap: Made to Flourish.
Tom has helped many EFCA pastors and leaders to think through these important matters. Recently we spent a few days together with another group of pastors and leaders that proved to be extremely helpful. Of course, the hope and prayer is that these truths will make a difference in the lives of God’s people in all of these local churches represented.
As we began the collaboration, I shared a few thoughts about the connection between faith and work. The awareness of and commitment to address this has been growing among pastors, which is reflected in their preaching. In 2011, 26% of the pastors surveyed stated they addressed faith and work in their sermons. According to Facts and Trends, In 2015, those who had preached in the past year about the biblical view of work had increased to 86%.
However, we know just because something is taught it does not necessarily mean it is learned. Even though a significant majority of pastors preached on a biblical view of work/vocation, 70% of laypeople/congregants do not “see how their work serves God’s purposes,” and 78% “see their work as less important than the work of a pastor or priest.”
This indicates that pastors are growing in their understanding of and implementation of the priesthood of the believer and that all vocations under God are sacred, with no sacred/secular divide. But this also indicates there is much yet to do so that this message is heard, understood and lived among the laypeople/congregants.
One of the key statements made during our days together was the following: when people connect faith and work, work moves beyond merely remuneration to contribution. We are still remunerated for what we do, which is necessary to survive. But that does not become the end-goal. Rather, it is the means to a greater end of contribution – bringing glory to God and good to others in God’s greater oikonomia.
These are my reflections having recently completed another Faith and Work collaboration with a number of our EFCA pastors and leaders.
In order to help you to think about this in the context of the local church, please read Church, Faith and Work. There are also other resources that are available on our website, including recordings and notes from a three-part training from this past summer’s EFCA One conference.