A young pastor walked up to me at our Made to Flourish booth at a recent national conference where we were recruiting pastors. He perused the resources we had laid out for our table display and with curiosity across his face, he pointed to each of our denominational primers saying, “Baptist, Lutheran, Reformed, Wesleyan, Pentecostal…why do you have so many denominational resources?”
We believe that pastors across denominational lines are called to help their people see how important their work is, and how to do it in a gospel-centered, God-glorifying way. Yet given the history of our faith, we know that the approach to the faith, work, and economics (FWE) conversation is often nuanced depending on one’s denominational lens.
To help us understand a bit of these differences, we asked some of our City Directors to make observations of their own denominations.
What barriers does your denomination face when integrating faith, work, and economics?
For the most part, the PCA would all ascent to Kuyper’s claim that “Christ declares, ‘Mine!’ to every square inch of creation”, and that would certainly include our work. Yet, we have a tendency to get caught up in working out the proper theology of “cultural renewal” and “transformation” before we are able to move forward.
The Baptist tradition respects and affirms the witness, service, and work of each person as an expression of their commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Yet at the same time, we value the separation of the church and the state and this has profound implications in the realm of FWE practice. We struggle with the perpetuation of the sacred-secular divide. We live with the tension of the autonomy of the local church and the need for corporate engagement and collaboration to speak to and address social issues today (racial divisions, immigration, social-economic disparity, globalism and polarization). Pastors sometimes feel ill-equipped and under-resourced to form and equip disciples to live out their faith in daily life.
Barriers the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination faces include competition with the self-interest of church attendees who hold little interest in integrating faith with work. This means that we face what a lot of denominations face – discipling our congregants towards an integrated life, not one where faith and work are siloed off from each other. From an economics perspective, we have many upper-middle class congregations who are used to giving money to a missional cause rather than their time and service.
What is happening (FWE-wise) in your denomination that are you excited about?
Largely because of the reformed perspective, FWE seems to be taking off within the PCA, especially with its implications for disciple-making. FWE is not only being discussed at the local church level, but has made its way to church-planting training, regional conferences, and even our affiliated seminaries.
There are hopeful signs in the Baptist tradition that vocational calling is being understood as for all people of the church, the capturing of the priesthood of all believers. Wherein many have served God’s purposes in and through their local church, more are embracing the vision of seeing God’s Kingdom increasingly visible and present in their workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods. The conversation that MTF has begun is a significant boost toward greater passion and courage in embodying Jesus at the center of all of life.
We are seeing great efforts made in the “E” of FWE in the C&MA. We’ve seen churches cultivate a micro-economic development team that has empowered successful business members to help businesses start-ups and small business owners, and we’ve seen a sewing collaborative graduate their first class of refugees who completed an eight-week sewing program that resulted in employment. Over the last five years, we’ve seen our churches learn how to embrace humility, mutual transformation and holistic ministry in ways that bridge the divide between the church and the community. They’ve seen individuals and families, trapped in poverty, find their way out, into abundant community with Jesus Christ and the church. They’ve found credibility and presence in their community.
So why do we have so many denominational resources? Because these types of resources help us learn the language of our brothers and sisters from different denominational tribes, so that together we might understand one another and be better equipped to work together for the common good.