Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Work and Worship: Reconnecting Our Labor and Liturgy by Matthew Kaemingk and Cory B. Willson

Work and Worship: Reconnecting Our Labor and Liturgy by Matthew Kaemingk and Cory B. Willson. Baker Academic. 304 pages. 2020

This well researched volume is unlike any book I’ve read previously. I’ve read many dozens of books about integrating our faith and our work. This is the first book I’ve read about integrating our work with our worship, and the authors tell us that there exists a profound separation between work and worship in the lives of many Christians today. Their goal is to explore how these separated worlds of labor and liturgy might actually come to be reconciled. They write that theologies of work matter, but they need to be sung and prayed.

The authors state that in light of the modern West’s struggles with worship and work, their research intentionally looked to other times and other cultures for wisdom. To this end, they primarily draw insight from premodern, non-Western, and nonurban contexts to learn from their collective wisdom. Ancient Israel, early Christianity, and the global and rural church serve as the primary guides throughout the book.

As Reformed scholars, the authors worked hard to highlight important insights from Catholics, Pentecostals, Anglicans, Baptists, and Eastern Orthodox. They also sought to learn from racially and culturally diverse worshiping communities across the United States and around the world. The purpose of the book is to explore how faith and work can be reconciled through gathered worship. The book aims to articulate a vision for worship that is “vocationally conversant.” By “vocationally conversant” the authors mean forms of worship that engage work and workers in a divine dialogue. Worship that is vocationally conversant facilitates an honest exchange between workers and their God. This book is focused on paid work, and is primarily focused on reexamining Sunday worship in the sanctuary. The author’s primary goal is to explore how gathered worship on Sunday can help reconcile the modern divorce between faith and work.

While rethinking Sunday in the light of Monday is the focus of the book, the authors also included a short, but helpful Epilogue “Rethinking Monday”. I also enjoyed the helpful side bar articles and examples included throughout the book.

This book will be most helpful for pastors, church leaders (elders, etc.) and worship leaders. The book is not a quick read. It covers much ground. Take your time with it. Read and discuss it with others. You will find that to be time well spent.

Below are 30 of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • Worship gathers workers so that they might offer their working lives to God and so that God might offer his work to them. Worship scatters workers, transformed by the work and Word of the Lord, throughout the city to be salt and light wherever they have been called.
  • Worship scatters workers so that they can extend Sunday worship into Monday work.
  • Worship does not cease come Monday. Disciples continue to worship God in a new way through their daily work.
  • A worker who does not practice being an active and responsible priest in the sanctuary will find it difficult to actively assume this role in the workplace.
  • Pastors and worship leaders need to cultivate a hungry curiosity about their people’s work. Learning about their careers and callings will improve the sermons they write, the prayers they pray, the benedictions they offer, and the songs they select.
  • It is important for pastors and worship leaders to regularly investigate the joyful and heartbreaking vocations that workers carry into worship.
  • The more that pastors and worship leaders immerse themselves in the working lives of their people, the more responsive and conversant worship can become.
  • Many workers sitting in the pews honestly believe that the cares and concerns of their working lives are not welcome in the sanctuary. They do their level best to suppress thoughts of work while they sit there.
  • Intimacy with God at work can begin when a worker learns to bring their work to God in worship.
  • The manner in which workers connect with God on Sunday is going to impact their connection with God on Monday.
  • All Christian workers, in all industries, are invited to participate in the multifaceted mission of God.
  • The workplace is a critical (if not the critical) space in which workers will either learn to follow Christ faithfully or walk away from him.
  • The church’s mission is embodied in the diverse work of the people all over the city—and the church’s worship should name and reflect this.
  • All work, when done in faithful service to both God and neighbor, is a priestly act of worship.
  • God does not simply mandate human work; God delights in human work. God accepts it with joy, not as mere obedience but as worship.
  • Human work must be responsive to God’s work, and that is why worshipers must continually rehearse God’s works in song.
  • Within today’s faith and work movement much is made of carrying the biblical lessons of Sunday into Monday. The psalms enable the opposite. They give the worker an opportunity to carry their raw emotions of Monday into Sunday.
  • Contemporary forms of worship can sometimes feel like a one-way conversation. Workers sit in the pews and are the passive recipients of sermonic monologues directed at them. The psalms, however, initiate a dynamic conversation, a vocational dialogue between the sanctuary and the streets.
  • Work without integrity leads to worship without integrity.
  • Work cannot be an afterthought in worship, an ancillary issue, a necessary evil. Work and how workers worship matter deeply to God.
  • What would it look like for contemporary pastors, elders, and small-group leaders to actually know the workers they disciple and the industries they engage?
  • Workers must carefully examine their work and their week before they approach the table.
  • Corporate worship, therefore, must be intentionally designed to encourage workers to humbly offer their work and their whole lives as sacrifices—holy and pleasing—to God.
  • Corporate worship can and should gather workers’ vocational requests and petitions. Through prayers and petitions offered in the sanctuary, workers can slowly begin the practice of dialoguing with God about their work.
  • Worshipers who regularly carry their life and work to God in the sanctuary are being formed to carry God’s life and work back into their workplaces.
  • The sanctuary’s ability to shape and scatter workers is critical to the health and mission of the church.
  • The worshipers’ knowledge that they are not alone, that the community prays with and for them, can have a profound impact as they disperse toward Monday. It is from a prayer-filled community that they move toward a prayer-filled vocation.
  • Workers need spiritual guidance on how to habitually draw near to God, listen to God, and faithfully worship God in and through their daily work. This requires spiritual wisdom and practice.
  • Empowering the vocational mission of the laity in the city through the ministry of the word and sacrament is the pastor’s mission.
  • In order for church leaders to serve the priesthood of believers, they will need to become more conversant with the working lives of people in their communities.