I was recently asked the following question by the pastor of a large church:
How do you know when a church is lacking in the teaching of the integration of faith and work?

Jesus tells us clearly, “you will know them by their fruits” [1]. So a broad question to ask is this:
Where do you see bad fruit showing up in the church and to what degree is that bad fruit impeding their ability to make disciples in their city and among the nations? 

Some examples of bad fruits:

  • Do professionals feel a twinge or more of guilt, because they are working their jobs and are not “doing ministry”? This indicates a lack of valuing that all work brings glory to God.
  • Is bifurcated language spoken throughout the church culture (words like: “full-time Christian worker,” “full-time ministry,” or language that exalts clergy in an unattainable way for the average person, etc.)?
  • How is mission talked about and practiced? Does it connect with the average professional in ways that they would walk away thinking they are just as included in outreach as those working for the church or parachurch?
  • What is the proportion of professionals volunteering to reach the nations through their work/profession compared to those that volunteer to go traditional ways? A healthy church realistically should have many more professionals “sent out” compared to the number of traditionally supported workers they send.
  • Is the sacred/secular divide challenged from the pulpit and throughout the culture of the church?
  • Do church leaders invite the spiritual wisdom God has poured out in the business community to come into the building up of the church? Or are the church leaders operating as the authority figures in most religious conversations?
  • How are pastors and elders discipled? Is it purely theological training? Is it primarily a methodology? Or is it a relationship?
  • Are professionals being commissioned to serve in their workplaces just as church workers and missionaries are?

When church leaders are unaware of the kingdom potential the business world has to win and make disciples, the church is severely handicapped. For example, how much emphasis is placed on inviting your friends and co-workers to church as opposed to equipping the saints to do the work of the church themselves?  The difference between these things may expose an underlying belief that winning souls and making disciples is really the responsibility of religious professionals rather than of all believers.

Some good questions to ask church members:

  • How often do you ask Jesus for help in the challenges of your vocation? (Meaning the actual work of baking pies or managing a department, building a website, etc.)
  • How often do your co-workers/bosses/employees/customers/etc. comment or ask questions about your faith?
  • If I interviewed your co-workers, how many of them would know you are a follower of Jesus?
  • What are 3 names of people you are regularly praying for at work?
  • Do you have a plan for making disciples at work? How is it going?
  • Who do you think is better equipped to make a spiritual impact in your workplace, you or your church leaders?

A Barna study suggests that a lack of vocational discipleship in churches is responsible for many children in the church walking away when they go to college. At what rate are the students in your churches staying loyal to the faith they were raised in? If the percentage of them walking away is high, it may be evidence of bad vocational discipleship because they have not been discipled in how to integrate their faith with all of life as a student/employee/etc.

If you need help waking up your church to the need to integrate faith and work, there are several organizations that provide good training and accountability to assist churches to grow in this area. Drop me an email, and I’ll put you in touch with one of them.

[1] Matthew 5:16

 

PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for other 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.