God’s Mission in the Workplace

McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc once said – ‘On Sunday I believe in God, family and McDonald’s – and in the office the order is reversed.’

When Christians adopt this approach to life, they exclude themselves from God’s missional agenda in the workplace.

Commenting on the Church of England report ‘Setting God’s People Free’, the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity wrote, ‘if you’re interested in seeing the 98 per cent of Christians who are not ordained envisioned and empowered for mission and discipleship in their Monday to Saturday lives’ then we need to see ‘two clear shifts in the core culture of the Church.’ 1. Prioritise the equipping of all followers of Jesus, not just those who are ordained or in full-time Christian service: ‘to follow Jesus confidently in every sphere of life in ways that demonstrate the gospel.’ 2. Recognise that laity and clergy are ‘equal in worth and status… and are equal partners in mission.’’

These two shifts also need to happen in mission agencies, among the churches we are connected with in East Asia, and be incorporated into our thinking about indigenous mission movements.

East Asia’s peoples will not be reached with the gospel if we rely on the traditional missionary model of full-time evangelist and church-planter. There are three reasons for this: 

1. The days of obtaining a visa for a traditional full-time missionary are largely gone

2. Even where such missionaries can be placed, it may not be the best way to connect with people, or provide them with an authentic model of whole-life discipleship

3. The sustainability of the financial models that have historically funded western mission agencies and their workers are being questioned.

For these reasons we need to see some change in mission agencies’ approaches. Here are three missiological moves that connect with the challenges highlighted by John Davenport’s article ‘Professional Missionary: Missionary Professional?’

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’
(Colossians 3:17).

1. Moving from strategies centred on the professional missionary to ones that better facilitate the equipping of professionals in mission.

This means recognising the work-place as a mission-place that provides a context for whole-life discipleship. Here, colleagues can see what it means to be a follower of Jesus in your profession. It may also provide more opportunities to be financially self-supporting, adopting the model of, for example, the Apostle Paul, the Moravians and William Carey.

2. Moving from fragmented to more integrated understandings of life, work and mission.

In his article, John explains that while at work you are close to those who need to see and hear the gospel, but it can be difficult to build relationships when trying to manage competing demands on your time in a different cultural context.

Such pressures can be greatly reduced if we adopt a more integrative theological framework. If we think that ‘work’ has little value in itself and the job we do is only a means of being in a country to pursue the so-called ‘real ministry’, then the pressures will only multiply. This fragmented approach to life and ministry is remedied when we see the continuity between creation and redemption, and recognise what it means to live in the way expressed by Paul (in contrast to the rule of life seemingly adopted by Ray Kroc): ‘And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’ (Col. 3:17).

Chris Wright perceptively asks:

‘Do you see your work as nothing more than a necessary evil, or only as the context for evangelistic opportunities? Or do you see it as a means of glorifying God through participating in his purposes for creation and therefore having intrinsic value? How do you relate what you do in your daily work to the Bible’s teaching about human responsibility in creation and society?’

3. Moving from seeing vocation as merely incidental, to understanding it as integral to God’s mission.

Living under the integrative lordship of Jesus in the workplace doesn’t necessarily mean a tidy desk and a smooth agenda. As John says, ‘wherever we work, we need to be open to God’s agenda, and be prepared for it to clash with our own.’ and if our overarching framework is the integrative lordship of Jesus, we’ll find ourselves better equipped to hold on to the truth that while our work agenda may be set by someone else, God will weave his over-arching agenda through it, – through our actions, words and responses.  Then we’ll begin to see, as the credo for the Washington Institute puts it, that ‘vocation is integral, not incidental to the missio Dei.’

We’d be delighted to hear from you if want to talk about finding ways to use your skills to earn a living in places where your presence would be a great encouragement to local Christians, or where open evangelism is difficult.

Dr. Peter Rowan
National Director
uk.nd@omfmail.com

References:

  1. Grinding it Out: The Making of McDonalds, Kroc with Anderson 1977; p124
  2. go.omf.org/liccgoodday (emphasis in original) and go.omf.org/cofegs2056
  3. Chris Wright, The Mission of God’s People, Zondervan, 2010; p.224.
  4. Steven Garber, Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good, IVP, 2014: p.155

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