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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) | Home | Poltergeist at Night »

A Review of God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement by David W. Miller (Section 4)

By Mark D. Roberts | Friday, January 18, 2008

In the series: God at Work: A Review of the Book by David Miller
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Yesterday I began examining David Miller’s recommendations for clergy in his fine book, God at Work.

Here is Miller’s second recommendation for clergy:

Clergy who wish to equip their people to integrate faith and work will also need to develop a ministry of public preaching and prayer that intentionally and constructively addresses all dimensions of the Four E’s of ethics, evangelism, experience, and enrichment. Sermons and pastoral prayers play a vital theological role as part of a ministry of integration to those in the business world, helping people to discover their vocational identity, resist splitting the sacred from the secular, navigate difficult ethical questions, and gain comfort for personal needs and hurts. (p. 147)

Again, I agree with Miller, though I wouldn’t put it quite that way. It’s not so much that clergy need to “develop a ministry” as that they need to include within their ministry of preaching and prayer the issues that Miller raises. We’re not talking about starting new ministries here so much as about adapting and expanding existing ministries. If preachers and prayers began to think about the implications of their content for the workplace, then they’d find it natural to preach and pray about faith in this context.

Miller suggests three other ministries that clergy need to develop:

a ministry of teaching that includes all dimensions of the Four E’s (p. 147);

a ministry of spiritual integration that ensures that laity are trained to utilize personal prayer and devotional study in their daily lives (p. 148);

a ministry of gatherings for businesspeople to help address the Four E’s (p. 148).

Again, I agree with the substance of Miller’s suggestions. I’d only quibble about the language. Clergy don’t so much need to develop new ministries as they do to expand and enrich their existing ministries.

In fact, most pastors I know are deeply committed to helping their people live out their faith in the world. If they would only follow the first of Miller’s suggestions by visiting people in their workplaces and by listening to people talk about their work, then most pastors would more or less automatically begin to incorporate FAW emphases in their existing ministries.

I actually believe that lay people could do a great deal to advance this agenda. If they want to have their pastors equip them for their ministries in the workplace, then they need to say so. Part of what helped me to do this very thing was when people in my congregation would meet with me to share their challenges at work. I couldn’t help but become aware of this cutting edge of their discipleship. And, therefore, it wasn’t hard for me to incorporate such concerns in my preaching and praying. Of course I realize some pastors are not responsive to the needs of their people, and others might be threatened by workplace ministry because they feel inadequate to address it. But I think the strong majority of pastors would work hard to speak to the needs of their people. (Photo: The lay people of Irvine Presbyterian Church on my last Sunday.)

It may be, however, that many (most?) working people wouldn’t think to ask their pastors for help because they tend not to integrate their faith with their work. Hence we might find ourselves in a no-win cycle, in which pastors don’t help lay people to realize that their faith should be expressed in their workplaces and lay people don’t ask pastors for help because they don’t think to do it. Mutual inattention encourages more mutual inattention.

Yet there is plenty of hope, I think, in that it doesn’t take a majority of a congregation to influence a pastor, or a year’s worth of preaching on FAW for a pastor to influence a congregation. Even one or two lay people who are willing to share their challenges and concerns with a pastor can make a tangible difference. And if a pastor begins on a fairly regular basis to speak of workplace discipleship, this can also make a tangible difference.

What’s the one major thing I would do differently if I were a pastor again? Actually, it wouldn’t be in the areas of preaching and prayer. Rather, I’d make a stronger effort to encourage lay people to tell their own stories: in worship services, in classes, in church publications, etc. The power of a lay witness cannot be understated here. If a teacher shares with others how he tries to live out his faith in the classroom, if a lawyer shares her struggles and victories with others, and so on throughout the professions, this would have a huge impact on the church, clergy and laity alike.

Topics: God at Work |

4 Responses to “A Review of God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement by David W. Miller (Section 4)”

  1. Joe Arnett Says:
    January 18th, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Your series on David Miller’s book, “God at Work”, has touched an area dear to my heart. I am a retired machanical engineer by profession and have been a Presbyterian church member about 46 years. I have served as deacon, elder, and other positions over the years. I have struggled all my life as to how best to live out the Christian wittness in the workplace. I think pastors make an effort. For instance, in my own church bulletin where the staff is listed, the first item is: “Ministers - You-and every Member of the Church”. However I feel there is room for everyone to improve here. I think both pastors and lay people need to address the issue more intentional. Guess I’ll have to read David Miller’s book!!
    I could ramble on here, but suffice to say I appreciate your blog and wish you well in your work at Laity Lodge.

  2. Mark Roberts Says:
    January 18th, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Thanks, Joe. Yes, many churches and pastors are trying. But I think we could do much better.

  3. Bill Peel Says:
    January 21st, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Mark, I think you’ve hit on the major problem in equipping men and women to live their faith at work–inattention. It’s not so much that we need new programs devoted to the workplace as it is for the workplace to make it onto a pastor’s radar screen. Whether it’s a theological misunderstanding that dismisses work as unimportant to God or just the busyness of the work of “running” a church, pastors don’t talk, pray, or make much public mention of the workplace in the natural course of their ministry. Couple this with the negative view of work held by some Christians and its no wonder the average church-goer doesn’t connect the dots that what he does between Sundays matters much to God. But God shows up there every morning, not just to be honored and obeyed to aid, help, advise, and empower. Having spend half my worklife working at churches, I know how easy it is to focus on church work and be inattentive to the worklife of people sitting in the pew. Pastors who take time, a couple of lunches a week, to meet with people at their workplace to get to know their world would go a long way toward breaking this inattention. And church member who took it upon themselves to “educate” their pastors by inviting them to their workplace couldn’t help but correct this problem also. I’m incredibly thankful for a title attorney who did that for me thirty years ago.

  4. Mark D. Roberts Says:
    January 21st, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Bill: Great comment. Thanks for your input.


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