A theologian, a worker and a pastor sat down for a chat… sounds like the start of a bad joke, but it really happened. In preparation for a conference, I sat down with a serial entrepreneur and a church planter to talk about faith–work integration. Here is an excerpt from that conversation.
Q: How do each of you identify your role in the body of Christ?
Theologian: All of us are theologians insofar as we are seeking to understand knowledge of God and communicate to others. My role is to speak, write and encourage Christians in the workplace to understand the biblical view of their work.
Pastor: I have to navigate as a theologian, but also get in the mind of the worker, and communicate and somehow have a message that isn’t just purely theological but applicable, and not so whitewashed by the world’s ideas. I partner with the worker, to work out how we can do it well.
Worker: We’re all theologians and pastors. In the work I do there is opportunity to share the word of God and pastor or care for people. I see my role as being God’s hands and feet in the community and bring light.
Q: Can you be a mature Christian if you are NOT a pastor or a missionary, or putting all your spare time into church ministry?
Worker: Absolutely! Over the journey of my life as a Christian, having been to many churches where the focus has been on head knowledge, the thing that has struck me over the years is that the messaging from the church body, subtly, is that your service as a Christian is measured by your service to the church, on a Sunday or through the events of the church. As I’ve journeyed there has been a sense of guilt whenever I have a tension or pull of relationships at work. The reality is that I don’t even have time to meet up with non-Christians because I have to serve, and then I have meetings about the serving, and meetings about the meetings…
We need to ask what is the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’? I’ve been stepping back and asking God what he wants of me, and de-compartmentalising my life, and seeking more integration… It’s not so much service as a Christian is just on Sunday, but my whole life is an act of service to the Lord.
Q: How can the pastor help the worker?
Worker: I think mentorship and recognition of the value of our work, and help workers see there is value in what they do, to the point that a pastor says, ‘If your primary calling is to the marketplace then I want you to prioritise that over service on a Sunday to the church.’ That shift in narrative will take a lot of pressure and guilt off. With the removal of guilt, you can start to dream. If I know that my pastor is celebrating who God has made me to be, then I can reflect and be sensitive to what God has put on my heart. I want my Pastor to say, ‘I want you to flourish as a believer in your context, how do I help you do that?’
Q: How can the theologian help the pastor?
Pastor: I think within the church context, to dream of pastors that have a wonder-filled view of work; that they would be gripped by the notion that we all work for the Lord, whether in the church or in the marketplace; gripped by the notion that he has work prepared for us, that he cares for us. Theological colleges need to see this as foundational: theology of work is essential for the formation of a pastor, any leader for that matter. It is so beneficial for the kingdom, and it would create a lot more joyful Christians, and that is what Jesus died for. Joyful Christians evangelise, they are attractive, people want to be around them.
Theologian: I’m hearing a worker feeling like he is lacking legitimacy in his work in the eyes of the pastor and the theologian; and a pastor who is worried about how they keep the church going when there are other temptations; and I am scared that pastors will keep doing their thing and not embrace a theology of work. But if we don’t look at the negatives and focus on the positives then it is so much better: a pastor who gets it and wants help with resources, and a worker who has vision from God for their work and comes alive to that and finds joy in their work.
To see the full conversation, go to https://transformingvocation.org/the-conversation-continues/
About the author
Kara Martin lectures in leadership in the Business faculty at Alphacrucis College, and is the author of two books: Workship: How to Use your Work to Worship God, and Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work; as well as co-Editor of Transforming Vocation: Connecting Theology, Church, and the Workplace for a Flourishing World.