Pastoral Perspectives

Be a Minister of God in your Workplace

I accepted an invitation to speak in September 2018 at a Chinese Church for their missions Sunday. The topic is “Marketplace and Missions”. For my preparation, I decided to do a little research. Surprisingly, many terminologies surfaced: Tent-making, Bi-vocation, clergy and laity, etc.

In my April SQ trip, I met up with staff from Operation Mobilisation (a mission agency) and one of their concerns is the Marketplace ministry – helping Christians to be “Christ” in their workplace and also educating non-believers in work ethics. This kept me thinking if I were to be given a chance to do church all over again, what would I focus on?

Paul Stevens, Professor Emeritus of Marketplace Theology at Regent College, Vancouver, said: “Equip the church and the church will equip the world! How are we equipping people to flourish in the complexities of our world?” As Christians, we are called first to ‘be’ in relationship with God through Jesus, and then we are called to ‘do’ by following Jesus in all of life, including our daily work. Therefore, discipleship cannot be divorced from our work, but rather a call to follow Jesus in all our daily activities—housework, voluntary work and church work, as well as our employment. Our calling is not just about our job. It is about our whole life’s work, becoming a follower of Jesus in all that we do.

The basic question is: “Where are our people during the week?” Working men and women spend 45% to 70% of their waking hours in work related activities—outside the walls of the church. It is critical that we shepherd, support, and equip them to walk with Christ in the dominant segment of their lives.

People go to work each day to earn their living. Most churchgoers are part of that workforce but many are not exercising their calling. They are not effectively using their gifts and the call God has given them to transform their workplace into an environment where God can move freely and change lives.

Henry Blackaby said: ‘ The people who go out into the workplace are the church. The pastor needs to read his congregation and know his congregation from one end to the other. And see where they are spiritually, see where they are physically. Then ask God, “How do I organize the church to help equip members to function where God has put them in the marketplace?” Most of their time is not spent in the church house. It is spent in the world. And so Jesus said, “Father I don’t pray that you take them out of the world, I pray that you keep them in the world and keep them from the evil one.” ’ 

There should be no distinction between sacred and secular work. In God’s design, there is no such dualism. Simply put, we are to be disciples and witnesses for Christ in and through our work or business. A similar approach is having the attitude of being a full time minister in the workplace. In these workplaces, we bear witness both by deed and word.

We have been wrongly taught that our gospel mission advances most when we become a pastor or missionary or para-church worker, or when we recruit others to do the same. But Paul commends gospel incarnation and proclamation in the primary context of Christian vocation. Our gospel mission advances when we faithfully embrace our vocations, whatever and wherever they may be. As God’s redeemed people, we are called to live ordinary lives in ordinary places as bold witnesses of an extraordinary gospel.

On Sunday mornings, the Church gathers corporately and communally under the name of Christ. We sing together, we pray together, we sit under the authority of God’s word together, we lament together, and we give together. This is our corporate worship and our corporate gathering in Christ as His people, His body, His church. In this gathering, our awareness of membership with one another is heightened, our perspective of the communal nature of the church of Jesus Christ is calibrated, and our conjoined submission to and instruction from Christ is enjoyed.

Fully 98% of a believer’s time is spent in pursuits that take him away from the church building. The believer does not cease to be the church when he is away from the building – he is simply the church in a different dimension, the church scattered. Throughout the week, the Church Scattered serves as bankers, plumbers, homemakers, construction workers, transporters, caregivers, and a host of other things – all in the name of Christ as well. In varying ways, Christians serve Christ and their neighbour through the use of their individual gifts, talents, and resources. When a Christian serves someone by nobly giving away her time and treasure in the service of another, the recipient may rightly understand that he has been served by “the church” –  the Church Scattered. The church gathered is a vital institution, and the church scattered is a vital organism.

Do the work you are doing with excellence. Your work has eternal value as service to our Heavenly Father, our King. “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Ephesians 6:7) There are some people who may be difficult to work with, especially bosses. Remember to work as unto the Lord in all situations, but especially in these kinds of situations. Extend grace to those who do not deserve it, because this is what our Saviour did for us. Most of all, love God, seek Him first everyday, and love your neighbour as yourself. (Matt 22:37-39) When we live out our faith in the workplace, lives will be touched, and communities will be transformed. Do you know that the 9-5 window, or the time that you go to work each day is one of the most important mission fields in the world today? Be a minister of God to the people in your workplace!

Rev Tan Cheng Huat

June 17, 2018