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Theology Isn’t Enough to Shape Workers

Worship services — not just our theology — should form workers to push against darkness in the broken areas of politics, manufacturing, art, finance, education, and all of the fields in which they engage.

Several years ago, a Gallup poll that surveyed people from 160 countries uncovered what people across the globe wanted more than anything else was a good job. The global dreams of people only 100 years before had been for peace, freedom, and family. But a dramatic shift occurred, and work is now a real pain point for much of the world.

In the U.S. in the last two years, COVID-19 has made that pain point even more acute, and accelerated some dramatic changes to our work. Even as vaccines have brought normality back to large areas of the country, recent studies show that work is a source of strain in new ways. Forty percent of human resource leaders say they are seeing more mental health issues in their employees. Another survey revealed 71 percent of workers said they experienced burnout in 2020. And a high number of women have left the workforce as they try to navigate childcare or schooling changes caused by COVID-19. Not to mention hybrid working models for offices that are presenting new challenges for employees. 

Our churches now have to shepherd their congregations through these realities. We must enter these places of pain and upheaval, apply the truths of the gospel to them, and cast a vision for what our cities would look like if work could bear more fruit. 

The necessity of worship for our work

In their book Work and Worship: Reconnecting Our Labor and Liturgy Matthew Kameingk and Cory B. Wilson argue it's not enough to equip Christians with the theological truths around work, but rather they must be trained through prayer and worship in our churches. 

If we tell the overextended nurse that God cares about her work and it holds value, that is important. But moving that reality from head knowledge into her heart in a way that allows her to work with the Spirit’s presence sustaining her is a matter of prayer and worship. The father who is working from home and navigating Zoom school for his children simultaneously may know intellectually that God is a perfect father who can equip him with what he needs to parent. But processing his frustration in the stress and attuning his heart to God in those moments of frustration will be done in prayer and worship. The truck driver who is fearful of losing his job to automation in the future may know intellectually that God is in control of his life, but having a heart that is at rest against the fear is a matter of attuning his heart in worship to the Lord. 

Specific prayers for specific work

The Global Faith and Work Initiative recently partnered with six churches in the United States and Latin America to create Prayers for Work: Industry Prayers for the Church and its People as a resource to help churches activate those in their pews to intertwine their work into their prayer and worship realities. Industry by industry, these prayers are written by workers who acknowledge God’s creational goodness of a field while also recognizing the depth of the fall in the brokenness of every person and every system in a given industry. 

As we pray through God’s possible purpose for an industry and lament its divergence from the good, we can also begin to envision pushing against the darkness in our spheres of influence one day, one workplace at a time. What could it look like for Jesus to reign as Lord?  Can we move one step closer to heaven on earth in our work?  

Our hope is that the prayers, covering 18 industries, will help pastors and their congregants with four things: 

  • Experience their work as part of God’s unfolding plan for the world
  • Understand the innate goodness and mourn the brokenness in their industries and work
  • See the opportunity as the priesthood of all believers to shine light on darkness
  • And find ways for their industries to represent God’s goodness

Prayers for different industries is one way to begin forming the hearts of our laity to be a restorative presence in their work. What creational goodness exists in your industry? What broken systems have emerged? What temptations exist? And how might we transform it in the power of Christ’s love? 

Through their jobs, relationships, and communities outside the four walls of a church building, Christians are Christ’s witnesses — cultivators of creation and renewal in various occupations, industries, and organizations. Our worship services should form workers to push against darkness in the broken areas of politics, manufacturing, art, finance, education, and all of the fields in which they engage.

Editor's note: This article was written and published in partnership with Redeemer City to City and the Global Faith and Work Initiative.

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