Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Work and Worship BOOK CLUB

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

Drawing on years of research, ministry, and leadership experience, in this new book Matthew Kaemingk and Cory B. Willson explain why Sunday morning worship and Monday morning work desperately need to inform and impact one another. Together they engage in a rich biblical, theological, and historical exploration of the deep and life-giving connections between labor and liturgy. In so doing, Kaemingk and Willson offer new ways in which Christian communities can live seamless lives of work and worship.

Here are a few takeaways from the Foreword by Nicholas Wolterstorff

  • The question that concerns them (the authors) is this: How does a theological idea about work actually embed itself deeply in the life of a worker? Put another way, how does an intellectual theology of work become a lived theology of work?
  • After an opening section that the authors call “Foundations,” in which they develop the case for their approach, there is a section of six chapters called “Resources” in which they describe, in considerable detail, how work was integrated with worship in ancient Israel and in the early church.
  • In the final section on “Practices,” the authors consider ways in which the worship of the church today can become what they call “vocationally conversant worship.”

Introduction:

  • There exists a profound separation between work and worship in the lives of many Christians today.
  • By and large, most pastors and worship leaders deeply desire for Sunday morning worship to meaningfully connect with the Monday morning lives of their people. But does it? Our goal is to explore how these separated worlds of labor and liturgy might actually come to be reconciled.
  • We’ve become increasingly convinced that theologies of work need to be practiced, embedded and embodied in communities of worship. Theologies of work will never be sustainable if they remain theoretical.
  • Theologies of work matter, but they need to be sung and prayed.
  • The fabric of faith and work needs to be slowly and intentionally woven back together over a lifetime of prayer and worship.
  • Integration is more a habit to be practiced than an idea to be learned.
  • We had three specific types of readers in mind for this book: workers in the marketplace, worship leaders in the sanctuary, and scholars and students in the academy.
  • This book aims to articulate a vision for worship that is “vocationally conversant.” By “vocationally conversant” we 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. It rarely discusses unpaid vocations like parenting, marriage, volunteering, or political activism. This book is primarily focused on reexamining Sunday worship in the sanctuary.
  • Our primary goal is to explore how gathered worship on Sunday can help reconcile the modern divorce between faith and work.

Chapter 1: Worship That Forms Workers

  • 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.
  • Worship that is vocationally conversant is able to gather workers and their work openly and honestly before God. It gives workers the space and time, and the language and practices, to offer their whole lives and their whole work to God as a living sacrifice of praise, holy and pleasing to God (Rom. 12:1).
  • In worship that is vocationally conversant, both God and workers take turns speaking and listening, offering and receiving, acting and waiting.
  • Through worship, the work of God threatens to invade workers and transform their work. In worship that is vocationally conversant, our work is made open to God’s work.

Chapter 2: Worship That Fails Workers

  • Institutional worship does not commission or send the organic church into the world.
  • Immersed in this world of institutional worship, workers find it increasingly difficult to imagine that their work participates in the mission of God at all.
  • If faith is a private and personal journey, the task of integrating faith and work is going to be a lonely one.
  • 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.
  • Fueling worship convinces workers that the sanctuary is the only place where Christ can truly be Emmanuel—God with us.
  • Workers who spend extended periods of time in privatized worship can begin to build higher and higher walls separating their private faith from their public work.
  • Those who lead worship rarely consider fully what it means that worshipers are also workers.

Chapter 3: Workers in the Pews

  • 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.
  • In subtle and not-so-subtle ways the people in the pews are trained to check their work at the door.
  • Christian professionals today increasingly know their work matters to God. This is a wonderful development. But they don’t know how their work intersects with their corporate worship.
  • Pastors and worship leaders need to recognize that workplace rituals are forming and deforming their people all week long.
  • Pastors and worship leaders have a responsibility to develop Sunday liturgies that can confront and respond to marketplace malformations.
  • Intimacy with God at work can begin when a worker learns to bring their work to God in worship.
  • Intimacy with God at work is directly connected to how we enter the workplace.
  • The manner in which workers connect with God on Sunday is going to impact their connection with God on Monday.
  • Workers need to participate in Sunday liturgies that awaken them to God’s presence and power in all of life—not simply in the sanctuary.
  • From a theological perspective, pastors and worship leaders do not invite workers into the mission of God. The workers in the pews have been laboring within the missio Dei all week long.
  • The work of the people is integral to the mission of God, not incidental.
  • 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.
  • Workers (not pastors) are the primary agents of a church’s mission in the community. Likewise, the workplace (not the church building) is the primary locale of a church’s local mission.
  • 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.
  • Gathered worship must play a central role in the preparation and formation of priestly workers. As the Holy Spirit moves through song and sacrament, prayer and benediction, workers can slowly be trained to walk in the ways of the Lord.

Chapter 4: The Old Testament: The Integrity of Work and Worship

  • According to the Old Testament, a holy life is a life of deep integrity—a life in which holy work and holy worship are one.
  • Through a variety of songs and sacrifices, harvest festivals, feasts, and prayers, ancient Israelite workers praised and practiced their way into integrated lives of holy worship and holy work.
  • A “righteous” Israelite lived a life of deep integrity and integration. They walked in the ways of the Lord consistently—in the temple, the home, and the marketplace.
  • Holy workers do not run from the “worldliness” of the marketplace; they see holiness as a way to labor within the marketplace.
  • The songs that you sing in the sanctuary about God’s justice, generosity, and beauty should echo through your works in the marketplace.
  • Worship practices have the formative potential to shape economic behavior.

Chapter 5: The Pentateuch Bringing Work into Worship

  • God liberated Israelite workers in part so that they could offer their work as worship to him.
  • There is an innate human instinct to lift one’s vocational harvest up to God in an act of worship. This ancient and primal desire is still cultivated in the gathered worship of many agricultural churches around the world.
  • In a number of texts God is understood to be hovering over the farmer’s offering, inhaling the aroma of the work itself.