Do you feel that the only work that really has value in God’s eyes is “full-time Christian work”, such as serving in the ministry as a pastor, or as a missionary? Do you feel that there is both “secular” and “sacred” or “religious” work, and that secular work is a necessary evil, just to pay the bills, support your family and church, but having no real value in God’s eyes? This “secular vs. sacred” view of work is a false one, though many people, if not most, believe it to be true. Hugh Whelchel, in his book How Then Should We Work, states that “Scripture teaches no separation between the secular and the sacred. No church-related work or mission is more spiritual than any other profession such as law, business, education, journalism, or politics”, or I would add any white or blue collar work, volunteering as a retiree, or being a stay-at-home Mom. God values our work, as long as we are doing work that is pleasing to Him.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)
In their book Workplace Grace, Bill Peel and Walt Larimore write, “On Sundays, countless Christians walk out of church buildings and see no connection between their faith and their work. The next six days between Sundays seem like a spiritual black hole with little or no spiritual meaning.” J. Daryl Charles in his new book Our Secular Vocation, tells us “The tragic reality is that few people see their daily work as connected to the purposes of God and as a means by which to flourish.” He goes on to state that the church is largely silent about work, vocation, or the marketplace to which most of us are called, and most pastors and Christian leaders remain ill-equipped to offer counsel on matters of work.
What can we do about this? I have felt strongly about this issue for some time. I delivered a seminar for pastors at my church denomination’s General Assembly in Greensboro, North Carolina in June 2017 titled “Helping Our People to Connect Their Faith to Their Work and Callings”. In the seminar I shared several suggestions on things we could do to help those within our churches to see the value of their work and callings. Here are just a few of them that you could consider in your churches:
- Celebrate vocations within our churches. Commission people to specific vocations in the same way you would pray for pastors or foreign missionaries. For example, J. Daryl Charles writes in Our Secular Vocation “Why not commission carpenters, lawyers, businesspeople, accountants, social workers, educators, medical professionals, and IT personnel? Such an approach would reflect to all within the church family a proper understanding of work, vocation, and the marketplace.” I really like this idea.
- Ask people in your church about their work and callings. When you meet with members of your church be intentional about asking them about their vocations. This will help you to understand the significance of what they do throughout the week. Show them that you value what they do between Sundays.
- Engage with your church members at work. Visit your church members in their workplace. Visit their office, have lunch with them in their cafeteria, and meet their coworkers. This will help you to better pray for them in their work.
- Send a regular email to workers in their workplace (which will be at home for some), with a brief “thought for the day”. This wouldn’t take long, and would be an encouragement to your church members as they start their work each day.
These are just a few suggestions to help show those within your churches that you recognize the value of their work. What other suggestions would you add to this list?