Pastor Post | Fixing the Divide
Over the past year I’ve been studying the integration of faith and work. I still have many questions, but I think this is a key and overlooked biblical teaching by pastors – especially me!
A leader in my church wrote this to me after I shared with him some of the resources on work and faith integration. “To be blunt, at our church at this point we have a huge gap in this area.” I’ve been the sole pastor at my church for more than five years, so I take responsibility for much of this division.
Realizing that this separation exists in my teaching and in my church, I have begun to practice some of the basic applications recommended in many of the books and articles on this subject. Here are four that any pastor can easily implement.
If you have not purposefully engaged and theologically wrestled with how work and faith fit together, begin to now. Made to Flourish is helping by supplying, through a variety of means, a diverse collection of educational resources in this area. Although there is not a complete consensus on the integration of faith and work, the overall emphasis is that they should be integrated. I believe the initial step of seeking the biblical basis for the integration of work and faith can, in and of itself, begin to narrow the divide that likely exists between the two in your ministry and church.
Speak to all Vocations
In “Learning in War-Time,” C.S. Lewis wrote, “Before I became a Christian I do not think I fully realized that one’s life, after conversion, would inevitably consist in doing most of the same things one had been doing before, one hopes, in a new spirit, but still the same things.” As pastors, we need to be clear that all may not be called into vocational ministry, but all are called to be faithful in whatever vocation God has placed them. To do this, we must do more than just encourage people to witness to their coworkers. We must teach how Christians can faithfully live out their faith at work, whether as missionaries or as carpenters.
Tell Work Stories
It’s easy for us to talk about what we know. That’s why everyone can always talk about the weather in conversations – it is common to us all. As a pastor, I am always hearing about other pastors and missionaries and, consequently, coming across great quotes and stories about them. I naturally share these all the time in my preaching and teaching – but the work of vocational ministry is not common to most!
If, as pastors, we want to avoid reinforcing the division of faith and work, we should intentionally speak into the work lives of our people. Unlike the topic of weather, unless you work with a very specific demographic, there is not a common vocation at your church. Consider the vocations of the people you pastor. Do your illustrations and stories reflect what they are familiar with, or just the work you know? Let’s be purposeful to tell a variety of stories so the homemaker, the truck driver, and the salesperson might find something in common when we speak as pastors.
Go to Work
If you want to speak into work, familiarize yourself with the work of your people. A pastor does not need to be bi-vocational to be able to do this. Many pastors do this when they make visits to hospitals and nursing homes, or partner with law enforcement and emergency services as chaplains. Those who pastor in smaller towns or communities probably engage in this naturally as their day-to-day life overlaps with their parishioners. Also, many who pastor in rural towns will do this as well as they ride along during harvest, or jump in to lend a hand during a busy day on at the farm. Purposefully seek out ways to visit your people at work. One simple way to do this is to limit meeting people at coffee shops or restaurants and instead, set up times to meet at their work locations.
As a pastor, these are a few of the ways I’ve found are successful in reducing the division between work and faith. I’ve been encouraged by the progress I’ve observed, but I know there is much more work ahead to narrow the gap between faith and work at my church.
Aaron Brockmeier is the senior pastor of Saint Luke’s Church in Fairbault, Minn. Brockmeier received a master of divinity from Denver Seminary, and has spent the last seven years in full-time ministry.