We should view every workplace interaction as an opportunity to spread Christ’s love.
As a sending church, our theological identity as Nazarenes is lived out in tangible expressions. A theology that never moves beyond abstract ideas into real-world living is a theology that merely becomes a mental exercise. We might agree with the notion that God cares about what we do and yet find ourselves struggling to discover how our daily work has meaning in the Kingdom of God.
Many people feel discouraged and perplexed about how to find God’s will for their lives.
Trying to figure out which road is going to lead us to the destination of God’s perfect will, we can become paralyzed with fear that we might make the wrong career choice. Frustration can easily set in as we struggle to understand how the theological ideas we hear at church have anything to do with our work.
Some think the only purpose of their job is to increase profitability and satisfy shareholders. Some stay at home parents wonder if theirs is really a job at all. Does God really care about our employment?
Pastoral Care in the Workplace
In a webinar entitled If I Ever Pastor Again, Dr. Dan Boone shares that, if he were to pastor again, he would do fewer house visitations and more work visitations. He articulates that his desire would be to enter into the world of the people in his congregation so that he could begin to discover the challenges they encounter on a daily basis. This would include learning about any ethical dilemmas they may face, relational struggles they may have with colleagues or clients, and what opportunities might benefit from a redemptive presence.
Creating space for God-centered redemption in our workplaces requires new paradigms that move us beyond only equipping for ministry within the church building. It requires equipping that empowers people to actively imagine new ways to express God’s love in their vocations. Inherent in the character of God is a loving presence that is actively at work to partner with us in redeeming and restoring all of creation.
All of creation. Along with the people sitting next to us in the church pews, this would include salespersons and clients, students and teachers, business owners and employees, and even parents and children. We can further God’s mission by practicing bringing the presence of God into our sales presentations, board meetings, classrooms, and homes.
In a webinar Dr. Richard Parrott did for The Discipleship Place, he reminds listeners that, because Wesleyans believe in the free will of individuals, our role in discovering the will of God is to become partners with God. With this understanding, he offers one simple question we can all ask in order to invite the Holy Spirit to help bring awareness about ministry opportunities in our vocations: “What shall we create out of this day, this problem, this tragedy, or this opportunity?”
While Jesus was confronted with problems and tragedies, He created something out of loaves and fishes, a man born blind, a stormy night on the sea, a cross, and an empty tomb.
Asking this simple yet profound question, “What shall we create out of this opportunity?” honors our theological tradition and helps establish a theological identity that can inform our life routines.
Our identity and worth will be shaped to the degree that we understand what it means to be created in the image of God. When we embrace this, our vocations become secondary identities that are surrendered to our core identity. Our core identity as people created in the image of God will free us to engage our work in ways that do not enslave us. In other words, the knowledge of the root of our identity can help bring proper perspective to our vocations, so we are not destroyed by the trappings of ‘workaholism’ on one extreme or sloth on the other extreme.
Nurturing our Calling in the Workplace
I recall a time when several men used the Lay Ministry courses at DiscipleshipPlace.org to help each other grow in their faith. They each spent 15-30 minutes each week working through the course, lesson by lesson. Then, they met as a small group each weekend and used the discussion questions to facilitate conversation. They would also consult their pastor at times when they felt they needed additional guidance. This experience encouraged the men to put their faith into action in the marketplace with a sense of mutual accountability and companionship.
Regardless of the exact process used to shape our lives around a stronger theology of vocation, the essential step is to begin the process.
The Kingdom of God is both the here and now and the not yet. As we go to work in this world, may we do so with a keen awareness of God’s presence and a recognition that, regardless of job titles, our vocations are sacred.
John Comstock is the coordinator of Discipleship Place, a ministry of Sunday School and Discipleship Ministries (SDMI), Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, May/Jun 2018.