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A Review of God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement, by David W. Miller (Section 3)

By Mark D. Roberts | Thursday, January 17, 2008

In the series: God at Work: A Review of the Book by David Miller
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So far in this series I’ve examined some of the main ideas in God at Work by David Miller. In my last post I focused on Miller’s criticism of the church’s failure to help working people see their workplace as a context of ministry. In this post I want to explore Miller’s recommendations for the church and the theological academy.

These recommendations are found in Chapter 8 of God at Work: “The Future of the Faith at Work Movement.” Miller believes that change needs to happen if FAW is to thrive, with the end of church and social transformation. His proposals begin this way:

A logical starting place for change is the place where clergy are trained. Seminaries and divinity schools should recognize anew the theological, practical, and pastoral importance of the workplace with a view toward training pastors to minister more intentionally and effectively to their parishioners in the business world and other workplaces. (p. 144)

This will be especially challenging, Miller notes, for seminary professors who, especially in mainline seminaries and divinity schools, almost always assume that capitalism is necessarily evil. One practical suggestion Miller makes is for seminaries and denominations to “expand the conception of clinical pastoral education (CPE) and field education programs from the traditional realms of hospitals, prisons, and psychiatric wards to include internships in local businesses and workplaces” (p. 144). This is a phenomenal idea, in my opinion. But I can only imagine the responses of many who have vested interest in the status quo of CPE and internships, and who couldn’t imagine pastoral training happening in the context of what they would think of as godless capitalism.

Though Miller has more suggestions for theological academies, he offers several challenges for churches and clergy as well:

Pastors and churches that wish to respond seriously to the Sunday-Monday gap will need to develop new strategies of equipping laity for a ministry of integration that connects the Christian faith to the workplace in meaningful and constructive ways. (p. 146).

Miller believes that the church has strong potential to make a difference in this regard. But it requires more than just the addition of a special class or sermon series. According to Miller, “this attitude needs to be evident in all dimensions of ministry” (p. 146).

Clergy bear a significant burden in Miller’s envisioned future of FAW. He recommends, for example:

Clergy who wish to equip their people to integrate faith and work effectively will first need to develop a ministry of presence and listening in the work sphere. Clergy should go to their parishioners’ places of work for short visits as regularly and naturally as they make hospital and home visits. (p. 146).

I agree with Miller on this score. In fact, I expect that I spent more time with people in their places of work than I did in the hospital, partly because I had other pastors who did the lion’s share of hospital visitation. I loved to see where my church members worked. One highlight of my ministry at Irvine Presbyterian Church was visiting a church member who happened to be our congressman in his place of work. But, throughout the years, I visited schools, law firms, accountants offices, building sites, and dozens of other kinds of workplaces. (When I was an associate pastor in Hollywood, I once visited the workplace of a Hollywood set designer, and got to stand on the stage while they were filming part of the Brady Bunch Christmas Special. Think of that!)

Topics: God at Work |

2 Responses to “A Review of God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement, by David W. Miller (Section 3)”

  1. Bill Goff Says:
    January 17th, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    I am an ordained Presbytrian minster. For the last 23 years I have served as an IRS employee. I am currently what’s called a Revenue Agent. I do audits of all kinds of small businesses. When people have questioned how a minister could work for the IRS, I ask them to reflect on the Gospels. Who related better to Jesus: ministers or tax collectors? In light of the political situation of his day, Jesus’ friendship with tax collectors was astonishing, scandelous. Paul was no less positive about tax collectors. I think it is in Romans 12 that Paul refers to tax collectors as God’s servants. The Greek word he uses for servants is litergoi, the same word used for those who conduct worship services, litergies.
    I regard my work in the Internal Revenue Service as a service for God as much as my preaching and teaching in the church.
    I welcome an understanding of ministry that validates ministries in the workplace and not just in church.

  2. Mark Roberts Says:
    January 17th, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Bill: Thanks for your comment. It’s right on. What you do with the IRS can be ministry just as much as what you do in the church. Way to go!


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