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March 24, 2017
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What Is Workplace Ministry?

Os Hillman • Theology of Work
An interview with Os Hillman, director of the International Coalition of Workplace Ministries. For more facts and figures visit www.icwm.net

 

How would you define workplace ministry?
 

Workplace ministry is an intentional focus of equipping men and women in all spheres of work and society to understand and experience their work and life as a holy calling from God.

 

Is workplace ministry an evangelism program? Not in the sense of what most people think about evangelism. Workplace ministry is a holistic approach to bringing Christ into our work lives. When we do this all aspects of life and work are impacted. Associates at work become the primary source of building meaningful relationships that can lead to salvation. However, we must go beyond that. We must allow God to show us how to work well,, how to gain ideas and strategies to succeed, how to love our fellow workers, how to experience the power of God in a workplace context so that they see a difference in us. That is what changes the world.

 

Is workplace ministry part of most local church ministry today?

No. Consider this statement by Doug Sherman, author of Your Work Matters to God. "Our surveys reveal that 90-97% of Christians have never heard a sermon relating biblical principles to their work life." Most church members have never been intentionally trained to apply their faith in their work life where they spend 60-70% of their waking hours. When a survey is asked of the average congregation, "How many of you have been intentionally trained to apply your faith in your work life, very few hands are raised. Church leaders are often surprised because they feel they are equipping their people. The disconnect is because the teaching they receive is often not relevant to the level of application most Christians desire and need to apply it in their workplaces.

 

What is the best model in the scriptures of workplace ministry? Jesus was our best model. He spent more than 50% of his life as a carpenter. Of 132 public appearances in the New Testament, 122 were in the workplace, of 52 parables He told, 45 had a workplace context. Of 40 divine encounters in the book of Acts, 39 were in the workplace. That is where most ministry took place. It wasn't in the synagogue. More than 75% of the characters in the Bible were working people who did ministry as part of their work. Work in its different forms is mentioned more than 800 times in the Bible, more than all the words used to express worship, music, praise, and singing combined.

 

Should workplace ministry be another ministry like men's ministry?

No. Workplace ministry is simply returning to the early foundations of the church which focused on equipping every believer to be a minister where they are. It is the priesthood of every believer. However, in the early 300s the Greeks began to create the sacred/secular divide and pluralism came into the faith. This created a spiritual hierarchy that God never intended. Workplace ministry should be part of the DNA of every church. It should be the core message that affects all other areas. If it becomes just another program only those who are executives will participate. Workplace ministry is for moms, students, executives, secretaries, government workers, nurses, and vocational ministry workers, etc. We all work. We all need to learn what it means to take Christ's presence into our workplace.

 

 

In what ways is the local church failing to do this? This is done in several ways. Here are just a few:

 

  1. There is an unspoken word that says workplace believers are second class citizens spiritually by the words and actions we communicate in our churches. It is a sin of omission.  When we use terms like "I am in full-time Christian work" it alienates those in secular work.
  2. When we commission missionaries in public services without ever commissioning workplace believers as having equal importance, we are sending a message to the average Christian that his ministry at work is simply less spiritual and not as important as the overseas missionary.
  3. When we view workplace believers primarily for their monetary contributions we are validating them for only one purpose.
  4. When we equate ministry with their activity in the local church, we are saying the rest of the week at work is not ministry.

 

There are many other ways we alienate the average worker.

 

Isn't men's ministry considered a form of workplace ministry?

No. In fact, most men's ministry does not address this important area and in my opinion has been a major oversight of men's ministry today. "If Christ is not Lord of my work, He will never be Lord of my family" says Doug Sherman, author of Your Work Matters to God. I believe this quote from Doug is true because most men get a great deal of self-esteem needs from their work. If Christ is not part of that, I would agree He will not be a part of any other aspect of his life. This is why men's ministry would be wise to incorporate the importance of men experiencing Christ in their workplaces and resource them.

 

What can churches do to equip and release their people into their workplace as missionaries? We need to consider the workplace as the major "9-5 window" for missions today. This is where real transformation can take place because the workplace is where authority is in the cities. We thought we could change cities through pastors and church leaders and prayer walks.  This is not true. Church leaders don't have the authority in the cities. We need to equip and affirm the apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists and pastors in the workplace. We need to think about church planting in a different way. "How many churches can a local church plant in the workplace this year?" That is how we need to think. We need to think about building the Kingdom of God in the workplaces in our cities - prayer groups, bible studies, prayer breakfasts, outreach luncheons, etc. We have a complete list of ideas churches can do .  And we can help direct churches to other ministries who specifically are working with churches today as this new move of God is emerging.

 

Finally, we need pastors to do what they are called to do - equip their people to be effective where they spend 60-70% of their waking hours - the workplace. In order to do this it has to be intentional,  long term and foundational to the church. The pastor must totally buy into it.

 

For more read our Faith & Work Fact Sheet and 26 Actions Steps Churches can do. Other related articles  How One Pastor is Doing It, Are We on the Verge of a Workplace Transformation.

  

 
 Click on TGIFBookstore.com link to the right of this page for more resources by this and other authors.

 

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