That Christians should integrate their faith and their work isn’t really an idea as much as a mandate. The Christian faith, after all, is nothing if not all-encompassing. But that in no way means Christians always know what integration looks like — or how to do it. Sometimes that ideal remains just an idea. That’s precisely why we went looking for pastors who are implementing faith-work initiatives at the local church level, to learn from them what works (and some of what doesn’t). Here’s what we learned from them.
Be a (Marketplace) Missionary.
To separate biblical principles such as creativity, human dignity, and stewardship from the workplace is to set our cities up for failure. As a church planter, I am a missionary among businesses and entrepreneurs. In order to close the “Sunday to Monday gap” between the church and the marketplace, my husband Michael and I planted an entrepreneurial church in January 2016 that has a business incubator to reach people in their occupations. Now Real Life Church and Real Life Center for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Excellence in Midlothian, Virginia, is a unique model of church that trains de-churched people in leadership, entrepreneurship, and faith praxis.
We bridge the sacred and secular divide through three priorities: fostering faithful next-generation creativity, integrating faithful work in the economy, and facilitating faithful business training. We integrate faith in small-business incubation, entrepreneurship, and leadership education. Real Life makes a real difference in our local economy by offering coworking spaces, business consultancy, networking, workshops, and next-generation entrepreneurial training.
At Real Life Church, we serve our neighbors by unleashing human potential so we can co-create beautiful cities with God.
Svetlana Papazov is the founder and CEO of Real Life Center for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Excellence.
Find a Partner.
Kimberly Deckel is the pastor of mission at All Souls, a church plant in Phoenix, Arizona, where she works to help her congregation catch a vision for living on mission. She also works for Surge, a local network of pastors working to put Jesus on display in her city partly through a faith and work initiative.
What are you doing to integrate faith and work at All Souls?
Our church partners with an organization called Surge and has access to the work Surge does around faith, work, and economic wisdom. We also integrate this into our Sunday teaching and dinner and discussions.
What have you found effective?
A multifaceted approach has worked well in Phoenix so far. We do our best to use different mediums (i.e. podcast, teaching, seminars, blog posts, etc.) that all address faith, work, and economics.
Have you tried something that wasn’t effective?
I think the biggest area I see a need for improvement in is around bringing this conversation to the blue-collar sector and others who are often left out of conversations like this. We’ve started brainstorming what this looks like in Phoenix, and our prayer is to move forward faithfully in implementing faith-work integration conversations for all of God’s people.
Pray (Like a Lot).
Stacey Croft is a pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville.
What are you doing to integrate faith, work, and economics in your church?
On Sundays, we incorporate vocational prayers and illustrations throughout the service. We want to make sure first that our worship is leading people into Monday. Our particular location sits at the epicenter of three of the major industries of our city. We meet right by Music Row and have several connections to the music and entertainment industry. We are blocks away from two of the major universities and the hospitals. So our church is uniquely situated to need to talk about these.
What have you found effective?
Our specific vocational prayers have been well received as they both honor and encourage people in their places of work. Also, we have put on lunches for groups of 15 in order to create opportunities for people to discuss their work and their struggles through the lens of creation, fall, redemption, and glory. These have been very vulnerable times for people in all sorts of industries to share their stories.
Eric Stortz is a pastor at Summit Church, Durham, North Carolina.
We have a program, Sent to the Workplace. It’s an eight-meeting intensive that exposes young professionals to many ways to live out their faith in Christ in their workplace. We pull from different Bible passages and lean heavily on readings from Timothy Keller, Amy Sherman, Kenman Wong, Tom Nelson, and other helpful resources to provide a full picture of how professional lives of believers can serve Christ’s kingdom. Participants benefit from peer discussion, the guidance of a mentor, suggested next steps, and the curriculum to develop their own six-month and 10-year plans for using their vocation to serve God’s mission.
In our pilot program, 23 of 25 surveyed said they can now explain how their faith and work can be integrated more than when they started. Most Christians are working in increasingly secular work environments and have consistent interaction with non-Christians that I could never have as a pastor. If they do work that is honoring to God, and as a genuine service to their co-workers and customers, they can earn the right to be heard about spiritual matters, too.
Start a (Wait for It) Biznistry.
Chuck Proudfit leads a work life ministry in Cincinnati called At Work on Purpose, which guides working Christians to integrate faith and work. Proudfit pioneered an approach to this kind of integration.
In Cincinnati, we have pioneered an approach to faith-based enterprises that we call “biznistry” — the full integration of business and nonprofits. We have more than two dozen of these enterprises operating at Grace Chapel, with the goal that someday 100 percent of the operating costs of Grace Chapel are covered by the profits of these enterprises (we are currently at 20 percent, and continuing to advance).
Collectively, over time, these biznistries have enabled us to give away a half-a-million dollars in profits to ministry. We are also working with six local churches in the Cincinnati/Dayton corridor to create biznistry campuses on their facilities, so they are actively ministering in their communities seven days a week (six days through products and services, with worship services on Sundays).
Recognize the Real Center (for Better or Worse).
Chip Roper serves as director of the VOCA Center in New York City and as a pastor at Manhattan Community Church. From an early age, Roper watched his dad, who worked as a scientist, connect faith and work, which helped Roper as he grew into his ministry in New York City. As a pastor, Roper realized the church is not the center of the universe for most people, and as he visited them in their workplaces, he saw the gap that exists between faith and work for most people is vast.
Central to Roper’s mission is what he calls the “Calling Workshop,” which is a quarterly event in Manhattan, led by VOCA, where pastors meet professionals for an evening focused on the “how” of faith and work through teaching and an interview with a noteworthy Christian professional.
Stop in for Lunch.
More than 10 years ago I began visiting people in my church at their workplace, and I was struck by how much these visits meant to people — how a pastor showing interest in their work helped them make deeper connections between the Bible, what I was preaching on Sundays, and the joys and difficulties of their work Monday to Friday. These initial workplace visits solidified in my thinking that a central part of my calling as a pastor is preaching and encouraging a biblical vision of work for the flourishing of our city.
Justin Buzzard is the lead pastor of Garden City Church in Silicon Valley.
Cast a Vision (That People Can Catch).
Kirk Lithander, outreach pastor of Fairhaven Church, Centerville, Ohio, says through the efforts of his church, he’s seeing some members really click with what he’s trying to do.
Two of my church members, Andrew Simms, CEO of Dayton Realtors Association, along with Greg Blatt, HER Real Estate broker, both attended a faith and work forum in June. As a result of the forum they were both inspired and challenged to leverage their influence and social capital among the realtors association both locally and regionally in Ohio. The Holy Spirit impressed upon both of their hearts the need for affordable housing in Dayton. Andrew and Greg strategized on how to expose, enlist, and engage their business colleges from the private sector to begin to help solve the issue of affordable housing.
They are doing this together by leveraging their huge regional social networks and engaging the private sector in addressing this major issue in our region.
See the Goodness in An Alley-Oop.
Jim Mullins is the pastor of vocational formation for Redemption Church in Tempe, Arizona, and he also helps lead the Surge Network, particularly its Faith, Work, and Rest Initiative.
What caused the faith and work connection to click for you?
Basketball, mainly alley-oop dunks.
About 10 years ago, I was living in Turkey and attempting a career as a basketball scout. I was enthralled with the sport and wondering how something like basketball fits within God’s story. Contemplating the merit of spending so much time watching jump shots initiated the process of thinking about the value of other facets of life. I sensed that there’s an inherent goodness to things like alley-oop dunks, well-ordered business plans, fruitful gardens, compassionate nursing, and wise parenting. However, I had such a limited theology that couldn’t make sense of the goodness of creation.
My friend, Chris Gonzalez, a pastor in Arizona recommended an article called “Delighting in God’s Good Gift of Competition and Sport” by Michael Goheen and the book Creation Regained by Al Wolters. These started me on a journey of understanding the importance of the doctrine of creation and its implications.