In preaching, there is always a move from the “what” of the text (exegesis), to the “so what?” of the text (hermeneutics), to the “now what?” (application) for our lives. What is the text saying? So what? Now what?
A similar move is necessary when churches seek to help people connect faith to everyday work and the economy. Scripture gives us clear direction about the “What?” and the “So what?” of God’s purpose for work and the economy. In brief summary:
- God, the worker, creates humans in his image, and calls us to the work of cultivating and keeping his good world (Genesis 1-2). Because we were created with relationship in mind, with differentiated gifts, our work is always a part of a larger economy.
- In a fallen, broken world, both the worker and work itself are vandalized by sin (Genesis 3). Work is now filled with toil, frustration, and exploitation. We regularly turn work into a tool for our seeking our own glory instead of God’s (Genesis 11).
- God in Christ is setting the world to rights. In relationship (covenant) with the triune God, we are invited and called to participate in the renewal of all things, which involves the everyday work of our hands (whether paid or unpaid). Though we live in an already-not-yet reality, followers of Jesus can bring foretastes of God’s kingdom to their work and the economy, where peace and love and justice reign.
- In participating with God’s renewal of all things, our work can be done for God’s glory, and is itself an act of worship.
And of course, there is much more we could say about these things.
But even if we believe these ideas, an important question remains. Now what?
It’s a question that I hear from many pastors who are pressing into these theological truths. If this is what the Scriptures say, how might they inform life in the local church? How do 30,000 foot theological concepts get translated into practical help for teachers, lawyers, engineers, entrepreneurs, retail workers, and cooks, so that they are better equipped to follow Jesus in their vocations? In other words, now what?
As we have talked with leading churches across the country who are seeking to faithfully live out these ideas, we have found four key areas of church life and pastoral ministry that are impacted:
1. The weekly corporate worship gathering: How might these ideas play out in sermons and songs and prayers and stories with liturgical regularity?
2. Everyday, pastoral practices: How might these ideas shape the weekly rhythm of pastoral tasks like counseling, prayer, staff leadership, and interactions with congregants?
3. The discipleship pathways in the church: How might these ideas play out in classes and seminars and small groups and curriculum and other formation pathways in ways that transcend a siloed approach to ministry?
4. The community outreach endeavors of the church: How might these ideas affect the ways we look outward and “seek the prosperity of the cities in which we live?” How can we move beyond handouts at Thanksgiving and Christmas and partner with others to expand opportunity?
In the month of June, we will be exploring these questions and categories in more depth. We will point to dozens of ways churches can answer the question, “Now what?” In many cases, we will point to some of the best practices we have heard from pastors and churches in the Made to Flourish network. We hope these examples will spur your own thinking in how you might tangibly take steps to help your congregation connect Sunday faith to Monday work and the economy.