Faith changes everything about your work - 1
From an article on Redeemer City to City
Redeemer City to City is a non-profit organization co-founded by Tim Keller that prayerfully recruits, trains, coaches and resources leaders who cultivate gospel movements in global cities primarily through church planting. It is based in New York City and works in over 75 global cities throughout Africa, Asia, Australia, North America, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe.
Here is an edited version of a podcast of an interview with Missy Wallace, Director of Global Strategic Services, City to City who encourages churches to equip every individual to be Christ in their various spheres of work and influence.
A way of thinking about the public sphere would be anytime you leave your house, when you are out in public, working alongside, leisuring alongside, interacting alongside people that aren't related to you that you didn't necessarily choose to interact with. To me, nearly all workplaces could be considered the public sphere not because you have chosen to work for a particular organization but you probably haven't chosen everyone that you're working alongside.
At certain times in the past, people could arrive at their workplaces assuming that they were influenced by Judeo-Christian values, whereas that isn't necessarily true in the West anymore. It is very important for churches, pastors, and marketplace leaders to understand is that work has become one of the most important aspects of human life. Everything needs to be carried out through the lens that people care deeply about their work. So if you're a pastor, if you're a church, if you're trying to help people understand the promises of Christ, if you are trying to impact your city, you need to do that through this lens. Their work now becomes an on-ramp for people to understand the promises of the gospel through the work of Christ's redemption.
If you think about how much time you have left after you go to work all week, after you take care of kids, after you eat well, after you sleep well, after you try to work out, how much time do you really have to give to your city and try to create change? How much space do you have to try to do things for the common good of your city? It’s maybe a marginal 1% of your time. But if we can take people to the most important place they're spending their time - their work, and help them understand how their faith impacts that for bringing change to their city, we may get some momentum.
It does change the programming of the local church. We have to disciple the worker to understand what their faith means to the sector they work in - education, advertising, finance, etc. How do they understand their career in light of creational good? What about education or advertising or finance shows God's character? Churches do need to take the role of equipping the individual to go into their industry.
A church doesn't need to know all about finance; they don't need to know all about advertising or all about plumbing or all about manufacturing or all about mowing lawns, but they do need to know how to help and disciple the people that attend their church to take frameworks back into their own world to help them think through what being a Christian means in those spaces. That is the role of the church if they really want to be missional. It needs to take the congregation that it sends out five to six days a week and teach them what it means to love people, places, and things right where they are.
I'll give you an example of what I would suggest would be an effective method of evangelism. I know someone that had been discipled by my church around faith and work, and he worked on a manufacturing line for the tape on diapers. He noticed that the way the line workers were scheduled did not appreciate the work-rest balance. They were switched back and forth between day shift and night shift on such a frequent basis that they never had healthy sleep cycles. They couldn't get reliable childcare. They constantly felt like they had jetlag. So he initiated a project completely out of the blue, based on the fact that, theologically, he didn't think the rest-work balance was right for the workers. There was a union involved, and it was a whole process of talking to management, but here's the interesting thing—the project actually failed. It didn't go through. The scheduling was not changed. But he said that no less than four people came into him and said, "Can I sit down? What motivated you to initiate that project outside your lane? Your bosses didn't ask you to do that. What motivated you?"
By seeing something broken and trying to care for a group of people impacted by that brokenness, that act of love in the workplace led to a very natural evangelism conversation where he could share that it all began because of the beliefs he has as a Christian and what's in the scriptures. That's a very interesting evangelism conversation and is much more natural and lends you a lot more credibility than, “Hey cubemate, have you heard of Christ?”
To me, faith and work is the holistic view that the gospel changes everything about your work. We use a triad called heart/community/world:
First, your heart, meaning your faith should be a place where you are in deep conversation with the Spirit and you are being sanctified. It is a place with a great vertical relationship between you and Christ, but it is also a place with a horizontal relationship with your community where out of that thankfulness and gratitude and love of what Christ has done, you can love the people around you. You can love your competitors. You can think about how to interact with people no matter what your sphere of influence is. Your sphere of influence is the group of people you're in community with. Then, the third part of the triangle is the world. Thinking further about what you know about the world to be true, you know that your industry has some creational goodness. How can you think about what is good in your industry? How can you look for the broken systems in your industry and push against them? It’s important to think about faith and work with all of this in mind.
It is natural evangelism. It is ethics and behaviours. It is how you impact your community. It is how you impact your world. It's how God uses your workplace to develop you. Our response should be using our role in our work to bless others and to push against the darkness.
It also helps us understand the concept of common grace. Just as the image of God is in every human being, every human being's work that is good is of God, whether they accept it or not. You can go back to the question of, “If you had a brain tumour, would you want the best, non-Christian brain surgeon or the not-so-great, Christian brain surgeon taking out your tumour?” You would want the best brain surgeon, right? So this thinking allows us to be excited about the good work of humans. It allows us to take the view that the image of God is in that human, and, therefore, they have the ability to do good work. It allows us to work in a more loving, arm-in-arm way with our neighbours who may think differently than us. Understanding these thoughts around common grace was a very empowering experience for me, just to be freed up to love the good work coming out of everyone, regardless of their beliefs.
I heard a talk about Jeremiah 29:7: "Go out and seek the welfare of the city where I sent you into exile." I think we have a lot to learn about seeking the welfare of the city we are in, regardless of the beliefs of those around us, like God asked his followers to do in Babylonia. Rather than expecting everyone to assume Christian based values, what does it look like to assume you're the stranger? Oftentimes we operate under the assumption that if you don't like what your neighbour is doing morally, you need to call them out on it before showing hospitality or forming a relationship, because they are the “stranger” in that context. But what if we began to live like we were in exile instead of assuming that we were living in a Christian-based world?
Part 2 is here.
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