Sitting in a breakfast meeting last week with a small group discussing Faith @Work I became greatly stirred up in my spirit (John 11:33; Acts 17:16). The speaker described his journeying around the world to visit a host of Faith and Work Centres that God is using to equip Christians to bring his kingdom into the work space. This is good news, but the discussion highlighted certain limitations. The serious biblical research in this arena is dominated by the Evangelical-Reformed pole of the Church with a lack of Pentecostal-Charismatic presence. Additionally, this quote promoting a Faith and Work Conference exposes the dominance of the middle class, “Artists and educators, designers and technicians, homemakers, engineers, managers, entrepreneurs, doctors, and everyone in between are invited to help us celebrate the remarkable reality that work matters.” In Faith @Work discussions the world of tradies, council employees, taxi drivers and manual labourers is almost always forgotten. This is hardly a biblical balance e.g. 1 Cor 1:26-28. Without either dumbing down Faith @Work discussions or intellectualising workplace spirituality we need to find a way forward in this vital arena which inspires all the people of God. This Way must involve a greater revelation of Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Gal 1:15-16; Rev 1:1).
Of First Importance
In listening to our breakfast speaker one attendee spoke up with alarm; “How could the Church miss something so important for so long?” But the Church “missed” justification by faith, the power of the Holy Spirit and many other great truths for centuries. The obvious problem blinding us to great spiritual truths is a clergy dominated model of, an elevation of sacred space over secular life and the reduction of discipleship to certain inward disciplines. This is however only symptomatic of a deeper problem. Efforts to redefine “church” keep us within a paradigm that marginalises God’s interest in culture, and launching “parachurch” organisations committed to workplace transformation does not get to the root of our malaise. We need to start and end all our thinking with Jesus. King Jesus sent his followers on a mission to disciple all nations, and in this dynamic of going a Church was created that penetrated the Roman world (Matt 28:18-20; Acts). Jesus>mission>church is the order of God. Should we then, as one brother put it, “Take Christ into the workplace?”
Rediscover the Logos
Unlike us the Early Church Fathers would not debate the faith-work connection from within a perspective framed by the gathered church. Unlike us they thought “in Christ” because they understood Jesus as the all-encompassing Logos (Word); “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made…. and the Word became flesh….all things were created through him and for him… and in him all things hold together.” (John 1:1-3, 14 ; Col 1:16-17 cf. Heb 1:3). The classic understanding of the early theologians that Jesus is the Logos through and in whom all things exist has total implications for our perspective on Faith@Work. The compatibility between the structure of the mind of the engineer and the world that enables him/her to build a bridge has been pre-implanted by Christ, the creativity of the artist is a participation in the infinite imagination of Christ as the Generator of all things new, the manual dexterity of the tradesman flows from him who fashioned the world by his hands etc. (Ps 19:1; 119:73; Prov 8:22-31). Recognised or not, all true wisdom and knowledge in the world of work and derives from the Word of Christ. The presence of the Logos of God is much bigger than the reading and preaching of scripture.
Is Your Church Too Small?
Sometimes advocates of marketplace Christianity are perceived as “church bashers” whose unresolved frustrations flow from unsuccessful efforts to persuade pastors to integrate the importance of work into the programmes of the local church. The way out of the gridlock between marketplace zealots and clergy enculturated in a narrow paradigm of Church is a greater vision of the true identity of the Body of Christ. Scripture correlates the magnitude of Church to that of Christ; “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all things in every way…..Christ ascended…that he might fill the universe with himself…he gave gifts …to equip the saints for the work of ministry…to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ..” (Eph 1:22-23; 4:10ff). God’s ultimate goal in creation is to fill the cosmos with the presence of Jesus through his Church. Monday to Friday Church means bringing the image of God in Christ into the workplace by allowing the Spirit to “re-incarnate” Jesus’ wisdom, knowledge, compassion, power, love, peace etc. in every sphere of culture (Matt 5:14; John 8:12). This is Christ-centred high-Church vision is suited to discipling the nations as Jesus’ commanded (Matt 28:19). The release of this vision requires not only a reformation of theology about Faith @Work but a revelation from heaven.
Christina leaders need an epiphany of the cosmic Christ so that we can see in the Spirit; ““There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” ” (Abraham Kuyper). Only a revelation from heaven of the magnitude of the glorified Christ in us (Gal 1:16) can release us from the sort of small mindedness that paralysed even Jesus’ ministry; ““Is not this the carpenter…and he could do no mighty work there…” (Mark 6:3, 5). The residents of Christ’s home town in Nazareth could not believe he was Messiah because they failed to discern the indwelling Father. Today we have held back the power of Faith@Work because we have failed to discern Jesus in “Artists and educators, designers and technicians, homemakers, engineers, managers, entrepreneurs, doctors, AND everyone in between” (John 14:10). The dimensions of such a revelation of Jesus@Work are illimitable (Rev 21:24).
As a pastor-teacher I was once almost totally enculturated in a small church-centred vision of ministry. Then after a week of prayer I had a vision of Jesus in heaven restoring order to all the spheres of human existence (Acts 3:20-21)1)http://cross-connect.net.au/jesus-and-the-marketplace-of-all-things/. Through a revelation of Jesus@Work a radically new perception of Faith@Work was born in my heart. Can anything less than such an epiphany for all the people of God in their vocations, from minister to mechanic, prevent us from commodifying what the Lord is releasing across the globe in our day? The rediscovery of Faith@Work holds the promise of a new reformation spanning all our old denominational divisions and interlacing the earth for the glory of God. Such a move should involve us all; yet without an accompanying renewal of a prayerful Christ-centred faith I fear Faith@Work may simply be another wave that never reaches its God intended shore.
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