Evangelism in ‘secular’ workplaces The Compassion Conduit What happens when work becomes a Calling: Cup from Above Fruitfulness On The Frontline Book Review
ISSUE 74 SUMMER 2016
One Caller, Many Callings
In this issue
From the Director
Officially, according to a 2015 report by the Bureau of Statistics, Australians in full-time jobs put in 38 hours per week. But the first detailed survey shows that most full-time workers surveyed put in more. The Bureau says 5 million of Australiaâ€™s 7.7 million full-time workers put in more than 40 hours per week. Of them, 1.4 million put in more than 50 hours per week. Around 270,000 put in more than 70 hours per week. For many of us, we spend more time at work than we do at church, except of course for those employed by the church. So what? I hear you say. Just this, how many of us would say our ministry is connected with our local church rather than focused on our workplace. The balance needs to be corrected. We need to refocus our missional activities in a way that embraces the reality that God is also at work in our places of employment. In this edition of PRAC you will find a collection of articles and a book review that focus on this issue of ministry in the workplace. Of course this is not an either or but rather a both, and...involvement in the missional agenda of my local church, as well as recognising my workplace as my mission field.
Keith Jobberns Director Crossover Australia
Follow us www.crossover.org.au facebook.com/crossoveroz twitter.com/crossoveroz vimeo.com/crossoveraustralia PRAC SUMMER 2016 | 02
One Caller, Many Callings By Murray Wright
For as long as I’ve been a follower of Jesus, the question of calling has arisen on a regular basis. “Have you responded to God’s call on your life?” the visiting speaker would ask. “I feel called into the ministry,” someone would declare boldly before heading off to ministry training. Or maybe the warning, “You don’t want to miss out on God’s calling,” from a concerned older Christian. While understanding God’s calling seemed a matter of some importance, discerning it was also quite a mysterious matter for an eager young follower of Jesus. Well, 45 years later, and looking back on the various contexts in which God has graciously placed me, I have the chance to reflect on what I have learnt about what it means to be called.
One Caller First, I have learnt (and have had to continually relearn) the priority of the One Caller on my life – that my response to the call to follow Jesus takes priority over everything else; that when, as a young 17 year old, I signed up, it was for 24/7, 365 days a year and would not come with a retirement option! Os Guiness puts it this way: “Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him and for him. First and foremost, we are called to Someone (God), not to something (such as motherhood, politics or teaching) or somewhere (such as the inner city or Outer Mongolia).” The challenge of course in the flurry of growing a family, developing a career and serving in a church community (not always in that order of priority) has been to keep that calling centre stage; to keep my primary calling foremost in my mind and see that every decision, every relationship, every perspective was subordinate to following Jesus.
Many Callings Second, I have come to understand that my subsequent callings will be many and varied and that each one is an opportunity to learn the way of Jesus. When Paul writes to the slaves in Colossae, he asks them to remember that, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters … It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24). Whatever you do - it covers a lot of territory. If ‘whatever you do’ applied to the work of a Roman slave, then surely it also applies to the factory floor, the worksite, the classroom, the hospital ward and the office. Acknowledging this all-encompassing vision of Christian discipleship (reflecting the sweeping vision of Christ’s lordship over all earlier in the letter - Colossians 1:15-20) seems fairly straightforward in family and church settings. But in the workplace, it is a more significant challenge. In my experience, few have a clear sense of calling to their daily work or workplace. Too few can clearly express a biblical understanding of work and vocation. Callings are contexts for discipleship: Third, I have learnt to see my various callings as contexts for discipleship. Neil Hudson defines discipleship as “Learning the way of Jesus in this context, at this time.” I would add to that, “with these people” because it is in relationships that we find our character tested most revealingly. What do I do when my boss is an overbearing tyrant with unreal expectations? How should I respond when I am asked to do something that is borderline unethical? Should I take that promotion that will certainly require more time away from my family but give me the opportunity to exercise greater influence? And if the job I’m in is just plain boring, uninspiring and dispiriting, should I be looking for a ‘higher calling’? Now, given that many people spend more than 40 hours a week in the workplace (maybe 100,000 hours over a lifetime) and have closer relationships with the person in the next cubicle or classroom PRAC SUMMER 2016 | 03
than the neighbours in their street, how are we helping them to follow Jesus in the workplace, at this time and with these people? Is there a gap between Sunday-Monday that needs closing?
May God encourage and equip you to help the people in your circle of influence understand and embrace their callings as they listen to the One who has called them to follow him.
Callings are contexts for mission
Murray is the Director of Malyon Workplace, a project of Malyon College which aims to help workplace Christians to integrate their work and faith. Amongst Murray’s prior workplace callings have been as a maths/science teacher, a Scripture Union staff worker, high school principal and senior local government manager. Email: info@malyonworkplace,org.au;
Finally, I have come to see the contexts where we work out our callings as the primary context for mission. Mark Greene, Executive Director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC), suggests that there are two basic approaches to evangelism and mission adopted by church leaders/ communities: Strategy 1: To recruit the people of God to use some of their leisure time to join the missionary initiatives of church paid-workers Strategy 2: To equip the people of God for fruitful mission in all of their life. In my experience, Strategy 1 is deeply embedded in church culture – a focus on church paid workers, the church building and special events. Strategy 2 requires a radical rethink of who does mission, where mission happens, when we do mission and how we equip, encourage and empower disciples for that task. Strategy 2 sees all the contexts where God has placed us, and particularly the workplace, as contexts for faithful and fruitful Christian witness. Followers of Jesus need to see witness as more than either not stealing the company biros or somehow jamming Jesus into every smoko conversation. As Mark Greene puts it, we need, “the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world … [rather than] … a small percentage of the church taking a partial gospel to far, far fewer people than are actually known by the Christians in our congregation.” One caller, many callings: So how can you as a church leader help your church community to catch a vision for their calling in their context – to grow a vision for what God might already be doing in the places and spaces they spend much of their time, where God has placed them and where he might want to use them to bring a foretaste of the kingdom?
Here are three practical suggestions: •
Take a few moments in your Sunday gathering to interview a member of the congregation – ask them three questions: What will you be doing this time tomorrow? What is the best part about being a Christian there? How can we pray for you? And then pray for them and others with a similar calling.
An ‘aha’ moment!
From Sam Jackson, a local church Pastor Something very simple had a profound impact on me recently. I had finished preaching about work – about making good work – about working as if you were working for Jesus (Colossians 3:23,24). And I asked everyone to stand and to face the place that they would be at that same time (10:57am) tomorrow. Literally 360 degrees – all parts of our city – were ‘faced.’ But it wasn’t that sight that impacted me most of all…It was the realisation that these 250 people would encounter literally thousands of people in the next six days – people who would NEVER set foot in a church building. People who have little to no understanding of Jesus and His gospel. People who don’t own Bibles. People who don’t pray…or do pray, but to no one in particular. People in desperate situations. People without hope. Literally thousands of people. People who I hoped would come one of these Sundays….wait a minute! As I stood there looking at this 360 degree outlook into our city, I realised I had two options. One: continue with the planning, preparation, and promotion and pray that the crowd would come. Or two: focus my energy on equipping those who were standing – those who had the relationships with the crowd I longed to draw.
If you are a pastor, visit people in the workplace – no agenda, no list of church matters to discuss, just ask questions and listen. Ask them to tell you about their work; to describe the challenges they face as a follower of Jesus in their context? Where they have seen God at work in their workplace? Preach a series on work and vocation or host your own Transforming Work: One Caller, Many Callings conference – there are plenty of ideas on the Malyon Workplace website (http://malyonworkplace.org.au/) PRAC SUMMER 2016 | 04
Evangelism in ‘secular’ workplaces By Darren Cronshaw and Kim Hammond
Have you ever thought about going to a nudist beach? We have never enjoyed the fresh air at any of Australia’s 52 nudist (or officially labelled “legal clothing optional”) beaches, let alone thought of going regularly. We imagine we would be welcome. We do not judge those who do go. Maybe one day we might go to one, as a dare, or to see what all the fuss is about. But we don’t spend our waking moments thinking about what we are missing. We don’t honestly think we have a “nudistbeach shaped vacuum” in our life. Many people in the Western world think about going to church in the same way we might think about going to a nudist beach – it’s simply not on the radar. This is part of the challenge of evangelism today in our workplaces, neighbourhoods and networks. Many people are not interested in God. Even more are not interested in church. Charles Taylor describes our era as “A Secular Age” (Harvard University Press, 2007); and discusses the place faith has (or does not have) in people’s imaginations today. His basic question is why and how belief in God has become merely one option among others: “Why was it virtually impossible not to believe in God in, say, 1500 in our western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy, but even inescapable?” (p.25) Taylor argues that “exclusive humanism” and fostering meaning in life without God
has become viable because people no longer see nature pointing to something beyond itself. It is not that we live without God in an age of disbelief, Taylor says, but people have learned creative new options of believing otherwise. We cannot simply say that science has disproved God, or reason replaced belief, or the secular overtaken religion, or immanence displaced transcendence. But these things are in a constant tug of war, and most people default to not revolving their life around God and faith. So for most people the idea of going to church to find meaning is as foreign and likely as us going to a nudist beach for a full-body suntan. A guidebook to Taylor’s A Secular Age is James K A Smith’s How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor (Eerdmans, 2014; reviewed by Darren in Witness: Journal of the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education 2016). It helped us to understand why secular colleagues and neighbours aren’t asking the questions or looking for the answers we might think about. Their interest in God or the afterlife is minimal. They construct meaning from a host of other projects and quests for significance. Yet even agnostics feel like there might be something more. Our secular world is more appropriately called “post-secular”, and is haunted by the transcendent. So how do we practice authentic evangelism in secular places where we work and play? We suggest a few hints from our reading of Smith.
1. Celebrate the relevance of faith for everyday life and work Christianity in its essence is a faith about God incarnate – embracing the world. Part of the problem of modern Christianity is we have allowed it to be excarnated. Michael Frost wrote Incarnate (IVP 2014) to urge engaging the world rather than separating ourselves from it or seeing the value of Christianity only in heaven. Part of the good news about Christianity, especially for a secular age, is that God is interested in everyday life and the concerns of this world. The so-called “secular” is not off limits for God. Let’s celebrate a faith that relates to work and play, friendship and family, money and sex – and to the complex and pressing issues of social justice and environmental care. Smith writes: Many evangelicals reacting to the “dualism” of their fundamentalist heritage that seemed to only value “heaven” and offered no functional affirmation of the importance of “this life.” Their rejection of this finds expression in a new emphasis on “the goodness of creation” and the importance of social justice. (p.49) Many who have no interest in church are passionate about work that makes a difference, especially for justice and the environment. We want to help people understand how faith in the God of the Bible is integrally related to everyday life and work, especially caring for creation and advocating for a more just world. PRAC SUMMER 2016 | 05
2. Offer mystical experience Authentic evangelism in a secular age will engage closely with this world, but still needs to point beyond. One of the fascinating things about so-called secularisation is that people do not totally dismiss the mystical. They suspect and respect that there may be something more than what we see with our eyes and touch with our hands. Part of curating worship is to invite people to really experience God. We give priority to engaging Scripture so people might hear the Bible as the voice of God for them. We also invite people to get a real taste of Jesus with communion, and by exercising gifts of the Spirit, and by setting up a worshipful vibe and contemplative space. In recent decades in attempts to be seeker friendly church architects have given us more factories for churches, but we suspect secular people appreciate the ambience of more traditional worship spaces. We want our churches to be relevant to life, but also offer mystical experiences of God – in worship and in the midst of the everyday. We hope our ministries will lift people’s eyes beyond their immanent frame and open them to the transcendent. Part of evangelism, as Smith explains, is to help secular people who value “authenticity” and making meaning understand that the supernatural is possible, and that pursuing something beyond human flourishing is imaginable. Olivia Smith was talking to a close school friend who told her she was losing her faith, because of studying evolution. Olivia offered to pray. The friend teased her: “who are we going to pray to?” Olivia said she still had her faith in an awesome God, and prayed “Show this friend that you are here.” Then she opened up the Bible to a random verse, and their eyes fell on Psalm 73:2: “But I had almost stopped believing. I had almost lost my faith.” They were both amazed that was an exact verse the friend needed to hear. It is significant that it was an experience of God’s encouragement, not apologetic argument, which encouraged Olivia’s friend to persevere.
3. Tell an alternative story The other clue about evangelism in secular times is that it is not so much superior scientific argument that will convince people about God, but an alternative story that has potential to capture their imagination. Smith wrote: Taylor suggests that those who convert to unbelief “because of science” are less convinced by data and more moved by the form of the story that science tells and the self-image that comes with it (rationality
= maturity). Moreover, the faith that they left was often worth leaving … the Christian response to such converts to unbelief is not to have an argument about the data or “evidences” but rather to offer an alternative story that offers a more robust, complex understanding of the Christian faith. (p.77) A generation ago “Evidence that demands a verdict” was all the rage, as evangelists such as Josh McDowell articulated intellectual responses to any objection to the credibility of faith. We spent hours talking to our friends in high school along these lines. But today it is more about the “Story we find ourselves in”, as postmodern evangelists such as Brian McLaren invite people to see the narrative of God’s work in the world and God’s invitation to people to join in on fostering God’s dream for the world. The story God invites us to become part of is not just about getting our tickets for heaven, but joining with God in bringing heaven to earth – the Kingdom of God. That is a story worth revolving our lives around!
4. Recognize the difficulty of belief Faith from some angles is simple. Yet faith does not come easy for many people. We have had numbers of people come to our churches who describe themselves as atheists because they say they simply do not see the evidence for God or have not yet had a convincing experience of God. Others have wanted to experience God, but God still seems distant to them. Faith and belief are not straightforward for everyone, and perhaps for most of us. Anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann asks in When God Talks Back: “If you could believe in God, why wouldn’t you?” but concedes at the same time: “It ought to be difficult to believe in God.” Smith discusses this tension and suggests that to live in a secular age is to inhabit just this space and tension (p.6). Our evangelism needs to be honest about the difficulty of belief. Rick Richardson, evangelism professor at Wheaton, comments, “In the past, being an expert and having the answers were what built credibility and a hearing. Today, having the same questions, struggles and hurts is what builds credibility and gains a hearing” (Evangelism Outside the Box, IVP, 2000, 48). If we can be honest, even about our own difficulties and doubts, we are more likely to be able to come alongside and help others who are on a journey towards faith.
We can never presume that faith sharing is one way speech. We have to start with questions to understand where people are coming from and where they have already experienced God. We listen to others for their stories, and then share our story of God. It is a conversation of mutual interest in identifying and pursuing a life-giving spirituality. Smith comments that evangelism in a secular age must be a form of conversation and that unapologetic “witnessing” involves attentive “listening”: Taylor insists that, while he believes a Christian “take” can account for aspects of our experience that an exclusively humanist “take” cannot, he is not primarily interested in winning an argument. Rather, his concern is to foster a “badly needed” conversation. (p.120) This is the posture that has been so transformative at CityLife Casey. The church supports St Kilda Gatehouse, a safe place of advocacy and hospitality for prostitutes. By listening to the stories of the women, Gatehouse identified that sexual exploitation of them as girls is what usually started them on the path to prostitution. Gatehouse started an outreach in Dandenong for young girls, and volunteers from CityLife and elsewhere listen to the stories of the young women as they cook and share a meal together, without judgment or Bible bashing. The conversations have helped the team understand where the girls are coming from, and what they really need. Connecting effectively with people from any sphere of society, and at any stage of faith, starts with a conversation. It recognises the difficulty of belief, shares an alternative society not just a logical argument, and invites people to a mystical experience of God as well as celebrating the relevance of faith for everyday life and justice. Kim Hammond is Forge’s International Director and serves as Pastor of City Life Casey, a campus of the second largest church in Australia with 10,000 people across four sites. Darren Cronshaw serves as Pastor of AuburnLife, a small but vibrant multicultural community, and Mission Catalyst – Researcher with Baptist Union of Victoria. They wrote Sentness (IVP 2014), and this article is an excerpt from their next book Sharing Life (IVP, forthcoming 2018). Write to them via firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Invite conversation The most important framework for evangelism in a secular age is conversation. PRAC SUMMER 2016 | 06
The Compassion Conduit By Bec Vallee
About 4 years ago I was working on a surgical ward as a fairly young and fresh registered nurse. We had a patient come in who suffered from dissociation disorder – previously known as split personality. She was a frequent presenter to hospital for serious and graphic episodes of self-harm, which naturally required strong pain relief. I approached a senior nurse, voicing my concerns that this patient was in a large amount of pain and asking would she please counter sign some morphine I wanted to give the patient. The nurse’s answer? “No. If she is going to be so stupid as to self-harm and inflict pain upon herself, she can suffer alone in that choice.” In six years of full time clinical nursing, that remains one of the most heart breaking moments of my career. The word compassion in Latin literally means to suffer with. To bear with those who are suffering. In every vocation we see the works of God demonstrated, the thoughts of God demonstrated and the heart of God demonstrated, from creative designers, to His artists and to His teachers. Each of us is bringing God’s form and order into this world by what we do and of course how we do it. This story shows that being in the medical field means nothing for how compassionate you are. Where ever you are, where ever you work, study or do life – we can all suffer with those who are around us. This is our calling as Christians regardless of where we find ourselves. So I want to share with you a very simple concept I call the compassion conduit.
Instead of channelling water, you are channelling compassion. Conduits however, don’t just act as a channel. Conduits also do something very crucial in our everyday functional lives that prevent our houses, offices, streets and schools from major catastrophe. That is the role of protection. They buffer things like electrical pipes from touching gas pipes and so on. So what is our job? What is our calling? No matter where we are…We are called to channel and to protect. You might think that working as a nurse makes it easy to show compassion – people are sick. Some people are easy to suffer with, to desire to help and others certainly are not! Some clients, co-workers or whoever you are working with can be really, extremely, beyond description difficult. Or the attitude of my co-worker in the earlier story was that the patient had to deserve her help. Compassion does not deny the issue of right judgement. No one is asking you to pretend that your clients or your co-workers are the easiest little angels in the world. Compassion is what God follows through with in the face of reality. When a women caught in adultery was about to be stoned, Jesus didn’t deny the judgement deserved nor the sin at hand. He acknowledged reality and chose to enter into that reality – offering compassion. That is of course what God has done with us in redemption. Our judgement has not been removed; His compassion has clothed us in the face of our deserving justice. Currently I case manage the sickest 300 or so people in the district, in an attempt to take the burden of health off the hospital. The sickest people in a community are not the most socially “elite”. My job is mostly trudging through drought stricken farm lands, caravan parks, homeless shelters or
department of housing. Most of my patients are alcoholics or drug addicts, obese, noncompliant, facing state penalisation. We know they are vastly suffering due to their own choices. Offering compassion doesn’t deny the judgement these people are facing – the reality they are living. Working in alignment to the heart of God, however, means I enter into their reality. I work to help them, heal them and give them quality of life. The second element of being conduits is the role of protection. I don’t just mean protecting a patient from harm or death, I mean protection by compassion. I work with a girl who is not the easiest person to work alongside. She is socially awkward, clinically needs a lot of supervision and so on. Truly I find myself at times wanting to lash out at this person, to tell her exactly what is on my mind! However being called to a life of compassion means I don’t say those things. Compassionate behaviour protects people. It protects them from a life of rejection, hurt or confusion. Compassion should drive us at times to open our mouths, but more often to close it. The compassion conduit should have us channelling compassion and in doing so, protecting the hearts that are directly linked to us. What Jesus demonstrated as a man, we are to demonstrate in the wholesale activity of life. Working as a nurse is more than a job, this is the stage upon which I act out my calling as a follower of Jesus. Bec Vallee is a clinical nurse who has worked across most areas, recently specialising in Cardiac Intensive Care and community management. She is married to Pastor Ryan Vallee and attends Kenmore Baptist Church, QLD. She has spoken at conferences & high schools, and loves engaging with people exploring what this wild adventure of life and faith is all about. PRAC SUMMER 2016 | 07
What happens when work is a Calling Cup from Above
By Adam James with Stan Fetting
On a busy six lane arterial route through Brisbane’s north, traffic races past an ageing row of shops. The strip of shops has seen better days, with many of them vacant and little prospect of them being leased out. Amidst the decay there is a little jewel. It’s a café called Cup From Above. The walls are covered in graffiti style artwork, and a wrought iron gate is suspended by chains from the ceiling. An open lock hangs from the chain – more of that later. Walk through the back out into a courtyard and you’ll find more street art, some gardens growing produce for the shop and a chook house that provides eggs for the quiches. When I say it’s a café that’s only partly t rue. It began as a café but has now morphed into a charity that has a mission to “love & connect our community”. Cup From Above originated accidentally after owner Adam James found himself with the small café after a business partnership went sour and he was fleeced of a considerable sum of money. In difficult circumstances Adam began working to make the café work, armed with a passion for good coffee and the gospel and a heart for people. Adam’s background before accidental business owner was in social work; working with some of the worst cases, especially youth offenders and serious criminals. Adam grew up in Aspley in a house that bordered one of its less salubrious landmarks: the notorious Aspley Acres caravan park. The police are frequent visitors to the park due to serious assaults and a number of recent homicides. The park is a receptacle for a lot of people who find themselves living on
society’s margins, not least thanks to the scourge of crystal meth. The café started morphing into much more thanks to the warm welcome and helping hand locals found in Adam. Help was extended to the homeless by way of food and accommodation, to street workers, drug addicts and anyone who was hard up. Adam began pulling help in from a range of sources and the beginnings of a significant ministry on the frontline of a tough suburb took shape. Adam’s health has suffered thanks to the exhausting daily rhythm of trying to run a shop selling high quality coffee (ranked 17 on Beanhunter for Brisbane), training disadvantaged people in the art of coffee making, meeting the needs of permanently and temporarily homeless and all the typical social issues that people living in low socioeconomic areas present with. Adam now has eighteen churches working alongside him and he’s recruited café chaplains to help with the tremendous need that presents daily through the doors. Adam’s simple but effective approach to people with need is to ask what their ‘miracle’ would be. He then prays with them (inside the café often) and simply asks God to deliver the miracle. Sometimes the miracle comes through advocacy and contacts but often it appears to be genuinely miraculous.
To evaluate the effectiveness of this venture Mark Greene’s book Fruitfulness On The Frontline provides a useful outline consisting of the ‘6M’s’:
Modelling Godly Character Making Good Work Ministering Grace & Love Moulding Culture Mouthpiece for Truth & Justice Messenger of the Gospel Cup From Above is a study in all six elements. Modelling Godly character is done each day through the multiple contacts that Adam and his team have with people of all walks of life but especially those in need. The charity has clear aims and objectives and a solid culture built around kingdom principles. Making Good Work is demonstrated through the passion Adam has for first class coffee, food and service. The training dimension of the café (which began unofficially) shares those principles of excellence to people who initially have little to offer the world of work. God isn’t just honoured through the ‘ministry’ aspect of the charity, but through everything that it does. PRAC SUMMER 2016 | 08
Ministering Grace & Love happens each day through the involvement in the lives of people who live on the margins of society and who present with a diverse range of needs from disability through to drug dependency and domestic violence. There are even activities for returned service veterans suffering from PTSD. Local homeless people enjoy first class food prepared by a chef delivered to them. Customers and locals are invited to purchase vouchers so that disadvantaged people can enjoy a free coffee and also a nutritious meal. Moulding Culture is achieved through the growing reputation and awareness of the charity. The involvement of 18 local churches helps engage Christians deeper in their community and invites them into a â€˜go to themâ€™ incarnational approach to ministry.
Adam also has people on his team who do not identify as Christians but support the vision of the charity and recognise the value of what they do. Being A Mouthpiece for Truth & Justice is achieved through their advocacy for the disabled and disadvantaged. Work opportunities and training are provided to help people get jobs. Help and intervention is provided for women and children in domestic violence situations. Messenger Of The Gospel is achieved through an unrelenting belief that the biggest need people have ultimately is Jesus. The wrought iron gates suspended from the ceiling with an open lock serves as a metaphor for heavens gates being open, and many have taken the step to enter through them.
Adam never set out to create what has arisen. What started accidentally has led to a small cafĂŠ that makes an enormous impact in its local community. The future vision is to establish similar ventures in the 21 roughest suburbs of Brisbane. When you view your workplace as a calling the sky is the limit. Cup From Above is a registered charity that operates a social enterprise cafe through which assistance is given to people in crisis every day. www.cupfromabove.com.au
PRAC SUMMER 2016 | 09
Fruitfulness On The Frontline by Mark Greene Book Review by Stan Fetting
There’s only one profession within the ranks of Baptist church members that enjoys recognition by way of a prefix: ‘pastor’. We do not address anybody else with a title in our churches. Accountant John is simply John, Human Resource Manager Jane is simply Jane, truck driver Doug is simply Doug. That is mainly due to the fact that the honorific title of ‘pastor’ betrays that we do not regard it as a mere job (that’s what the rest of us do) but a vocation and a calling.
which summarise the various aspects of work as a calling and evangelism as something wider than a killer apologetics argument at the water cooler:
In other words God ‘calls’ people into the pastorate but simply ‘provides’ other jobs for those who are not ‘called’ into ‘full time ministry’.
The chapter on ‘Good Work’ will come as a revelation to many who may have a dualistic worldview and subsequently may see little value in what they do. It is understandable that a supermarket checkout worker will not view their work on the same level of significance as they would a pastor. Greene writes “most of us don’t really believe that what we do day by day are important to God, never mind part of his big purposes in time and eternity.” This chapter goes on to outline a deeper understanding of why work matters to God.
What would it look like if Christians understood their ‘jobs’ through a different framework and instead saw it through the lens of a vocation and a calling as well? What would happen to the evangelistic potential of Christians if they understood their workplace differently?
Modelling Godly Character
Making Good Work
Ministering Grace & Love
Mouthpiece for Truth & Justice
Messenger of the Gospel
Greene holds that “vast numbers of Christians don’t believe that they are being fruitful for God, because fruitfulness has been narrowly defined as evangelism” (p. 31). On the contrary, he explains, fruit in the Bible is a metaphor for all right living which honours God and brings glory to Him.
Witness in the workplace has since time immemorial been a goal of many faithful believers. A lot of this is centred around the rare opportunity of a water cooler chat where Christians are somehow able to get an opportunity to ‘witness’.
For those who have a fear of any verbal forms of witness the chapter on ‘ministering grace and love’ provides a deeper understanding of the important ways this can be demonstrated in workplaces.
Mark Greene’s book helps explode the myth of how many Christians see through a sacred secular prism and instead encourages an understanding of work as a calling, and witness as a multi-faceted process.
Greene has a keen sense of humour that comes through as you read the book which is filled with illustrative stories, practical steps and biblical insight. Mostly unpacking the 6M framework.
With the overarching theme of the need for believers to be fruitful, Greene has developed a framework called the 6M’s
Greene writes “Of course, this set of questions isn’t comprehensive but it covers quite a lot of biblical ground. It
includes our attitudes, our actions, our work and our words. It includes a concern for the individuals we meet and for the organisations, families and nations we are part of – the culture we are in. It includes a concern for personal salvation and for global issues of justice. And it’s a framework that can be embraced by apprentices and retirees, kids and stay-at-home parents, office workers and people who are unemployed. In fact it applies whether the context is brimming with people who already know God or a context where noone apart from you does.” Many Christians feel a sense of defeat when it comes to the question of evangelism. This book helps Christians find a fresh understanding of our daily life on what Greene calls the ‘frontline’ and of the various ways we can be fruitful, thereby giving witness to God to those around us. A church filled with people who embrace their calling through a fresh understanding of the significance of their ‘work’ will be a church that is evangelistically potent. This is a great resource for churches who are keen to liberate their people from a diminished and incomplete understanding of their daily activities. There are accompanying resources which can be downloaded from LICC website that include: • • • • • • •
Discussion questions Sermon guide Promotional video 40 Day fruitfulness prayer journey Children’s work resource Youth work resource Prayer cards
Check out www.licc.org.uk Stan Fetting is a gym and fitness club owner & trainer, also working part time as Crossover Operations Manager.
PRAC SUMMER 2016 | 10
For many of us, we spend more time at work than we do at church, except of course for those employed by the church. So what? I hear you say....