The Church, Faith, and Work
Tim Keller on the need for churches to equip believers to integrate faith and work:
Most American Christians have been taught to seal off their faith-beliefs from the way they work in their vocation. The gospel is seen as a means of finding individual peace and not as a ‘world-view’–a comprehensive interpretation of reality that affects all we do. But the gospel has a deep and vital impact on how we do art, business, government, media, and scholarship. Churches must be highly committed to support Christians’ engagement with culture, helping them work with excellence, distinctiveness, and accountability in their professions and in ‘secular work.’ Developing humane, yet creative and excellent business environments out of our understanding of the gospel can be part of the work of restoring creation in the power of the Spirit. Bringing Christian joy, hope, and truth to embodiment in the arts is also part of this work.
Christians, he argues, need at least the following from their churches:
First, theological education about how to ‘think Christianly’ about all of life, public and private, and about how to work with Christian distinctiveness. They need to know what cultural practices are ‘common grace’ and can be embraced, what practices are antithetical to the gospel and must be rejected, and what practices can be adapted/revised for use by believers.
Second, they need to be practically mentored, placed, and positioned in their vocations in the most advantageous way. They need cooperation with others in the field who can encourage, advise, and advocate for them. They need help to do their work with excellence and in a way that really helps others and strengthens social cohesiveness rather than weakening it.
Third, they need spiritual support for the ups and downs of their work and accountability for living and working with Christian integrity.
Some helpful works on vocation (and work) include:
- Gene Veith, God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life
- Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life [at time of writing, the Kindle edition is on sale for $2.84]
- Tim Keller with Katherine Leary Alsdorf, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work
- Tom Nelson, Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work
- Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger, The Gospel and Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs (coming soon)
- Matt Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (coming soon)
In 2001, Gene Veith wrote a six-part series of articles in the Lutheran Witness that serves as a nice introduction to some of the key issues:
- God at work [Every Christian has a particular calling from God]
- The masks of God [God works through you in your vocation, whatever it may be]
- Family vocation [God works through us in our callings as parents, spouses, and children] (See also Veith’s book, co-authored with his daughter, Family Vocation: God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood)
- Calling [We don't choose our vocations; God chooses us for our vocations]
- Citizenship [America is caught up in feelings of patriotism and national unity; Is it really OK to "wave the flag"?]
- The gospel and the local church [Christians, both laypeople and pastors, have a vocation in the church]
(Thanks to Matt Heerema for help in tracking down these links.)
You can also watch below as Tim Keller, and then a panel, look at redefining work at The Gospel Coalition’s 2013 Faith at Work Post-Conference: