Pastoral Perspectives

Where is the Church on Monday?

      As a continuation of my last perspective on “God at Work”, I ask the question “Where is the church on Monday?” Do you realise that your work takes you to places your pastors can never go? Your work puts you in touch with people whom your pastor may never meet. That’s how the Mennonites Brethren and the Moravians Movements went about influencing the world in the marketplace.

      I cannot walk into the bank and start preaching but if you work in that bank, you are the pastor and preacher assigned to that workplace. From there you minister and carry out your ministry of reconciliation. We are all “full-time” servants of the living God! The only difference is the way God funds our ministry. Whether we work in the church or the marketplace, we should ask ourselves: “Is our focus on things eternal or things temporal? Are we working for Kingdom advancement or purely for earthly gains?  Do we recognise that God has placed us in this office, clinic, school, factory for the eternal purpose of bringing God’s love and presence into the hearts of lost humanity?” 

      Whether you are a pastor, a lawyer, a doctor or a mechanic, your workplace is your pulpit. Your workmates are your congregation. Your work is your platform to do kingdom’s work.  In light of this truth, if our work is divorced from our witness, we are missing the point! The great commission (as expressed in Mt 28:18–20) is being lived out in an environment where people spend most of their productive hours. Therefore, the mobilisation of marketplace Christians is essential if the Sunday-Monday gap is to be bridged and the goal of world mission is to be accomplished. However, there is an inadequate theology of faith and work or a lack of skill or support for discipleship and witness in the marketplace.

      The reason why the church is missing the opportunity of ministry in the marketplace is because of ignorance. Most pastors are not informed well enough regarding the challenges or the opportunities for kingdom work available to the members in their work places. The result is that members feel inadequately equipped for faithful Christian discipleship in the world of work. In fact, most churches focus on equipping members to play a role in the local church’s ministries. The result of this is that Christians lack the knowledge, skills and spiritual maturity necessary to function effectively as agents of God’s kingdom in the marketplace. Our members are trained for functions and tasks related to the ‘gathered church’ such as congregational leadership, prayer ministries, leading small groups within the congregation, sacrificial giving, worship and biblical interpretation. However, they are seldom taught how to deal with conflicts, pressures, temptations, discernment or ethical dilemmas in their places of work.

      Simply stated, it is essential for the church to rediscover a theology that can shape faithful worship and witness for every place and every day of the week. The contemporary church operates far too frequently with a dualistic theology that separates Sunday from the rest of the week. This means that regardless the vocation we are in, we are carrying out an act of ministry where the kingdom of God is established through the presence and work of the scattered church membership throughout the week.

      The challenge is to equip, mobilise and support church members to fulfil their calling as ministers and kingdom ambassadors in the marketplace, everyday and everywhere. Therefore, the lay-clergy gap needs to be bridged. We need to change our basic image of who we are from ‘Church’ with a minister or two, referring to the Sunday gathering, to the People of God, who are all ministers, both gathered and scattered, Sunday and Monday and the rest of the week.

      Missiologist, Ed Silvoso, (Silvoso, E., 2006, Anointed for business, Regal Books, Ventura, CA.) believes that there is some nuance in terms of the awareness and ability of Christians to do ministry in the world of work. In this regard he distinguishes between four types of Christians in the marketplace.

  1. Survive at work. Many Christians find themselves in this position – perhaps they are not in a ‘dream job’, or find themselves in a conflict ridden, dull or unfulfilling work environment. Such a perspective on work is not likely to have a missional view of work and therefore will have little or no effect for Christ in their workplace.
  2. Strive to live by Christian principles, yet their faith is largely a private matter with little or no impact on social, economic or political systems. Often persons in this category cannot see how their work life could be a means of faithfulness to Christ or a participation in the missio Dei.
  3. Seek to discern the will of God for their entire life (including their work) and so seek God’s guidance and direction in their work. Such persons will often seek to live faithfully and intentionally as Disciples of Christ in their work life.
  4. Seek to transform the society in which they live to match the values and ideals of God’s kingdom (Silvoso 2006:148–150). Such a person may even choose to take on work of a certain kind in order to be able to transform or influence a social or political reality, or may stay in a position of work in spite of conflict or a lack of stimulation in order to obediently participate in the missio Dei.

       The challenge that our church faces is to equip Christians to live their lives along the lines of the third and fourth type of Christians.

      Our churches today will need to revisit and rediscover its missional theology, refocus their efforts on the broader society as well as empower and equip their members for ministry in the marketplace in order to be faithful in partnering with God in the missio Dei.

Rev Tan Cheng Huat (Non Resident Missionary)

October 14, 2018