Why Faith & Work?: A Question and Response Dialogue

The Faith & Work Ministry started 18 months ago. As we enter “season 2” of Faith & Work, we think it is important to ask: “Why do we have a Faith & Work Ministry?” 

Why do we have a Faith & Work Ministry?
Jesus announces his gospel saying, “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand.” The phrase “Kingdom of God” indicates the entire world order is being reclaimed for renewal, including work. The Faith & Work Ministry exists because work is on Jesus’s agenda. 

Our church has a lot going on already, why a separate work ministry?
Work in our time is broken. While personal experiences vary, fractures in work are widespread. Work is a poignant personal and cultural need in our time: Christianity has unique resources to offer in response, but most lack equipping & formation in this area: special attention is required.

Why should I participate in what this ministry offers? 
Work is an act of worship, ultimately. As David Foster Wallace said

“In the day-to-day trenches of adult life… there is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” 

Worshipping Jesus in your work will bring full flourishing. “Pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive”... in the long run. What worship animates your work? Can we serve two masters? Everyone sees our worship, but it is hard to see in ourselves. This unspoken witness is especially important for parents, whose children will likely imitate them, to their benefit or peril. This ministry helps us direct our worship at work. 

That’s direct. It is difficult to know the long-term consequences of our current ways of working. I guess it is a matter of faith. What other barriers to participation do you see?
(1) Busyness, (2) a self-assessment that one currently has a pretty functional approach to work & life, and (3) a desire to forget work and focus on comforts. These challenges are pervasive in the Christian life: in a sense, everyone know the “answers” here. We’ll merely say, “Come join us for a few events and ‘taste and see that the LORD is good.’” 

I want to go back to something you said earlier. Work in our time is “broken” and “fractured”? Why such strong language?
We see the fractures and breaks everywhere. A few observation will perhaps be helpful: 

  1. 2017 Gallup poll indicated 66 million of the 100 million strong American workforce are not engaged in their daily work. Because work matters, this is alarming.
  2. Increasing financial strain is making work more stressful. This pressure is immense for people with high student debt, but everyone worries about having enough for retirement. 
  3. Higher connectivity and longer hours are adding additional stress. To cope, some withdraw. Others just dream of retirement. 
  4. Many in revered and crucial professions are saying they would not recommend their children follow them into their field because the work has been distorted beyond repair.

In sum, we feel work in our time and place is a spiritual need the Church must serve. 

OK. Some of that resonates. Anything to add from a uniquely Christian perspective?
At one point Christians spoke of seven deadly sins:  lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. All of us likely agree such sins cause problems in any setting, but don’t they seem almost normalized in our work culture? Idolatry at work is also widespread and accepted. 

So, brokenness, fractures, and sin, and work is no exception. I guess I’m also bothered by the hollow feeling my work doesn’t matter, ultimately. 
That is a key concern. Across our culture, people want more meaning and purpose in work. No-one wants to be a mere cog. Working merely for money is not noble enough for the human spirit: we desire fruitful, true, and good work. Other spiritual challenges persist as well: we all grieve for friends who feel defined, demeaned, trapped, enslaved, or addicted by their work

How does a Faith & Work Ministry address these issues?
The Faith & Work Ministry brings the power of the gospel to bear on work. Work’s original goodness and purpose is being restored by Jesus: fractures will be healed, brokenness replaced by wholeness, freedom and dignity restored. We desire a community animated by the gospel in its work; one humbled and sacrificially bearing the cross. After all the gospel is only for the humble, the weak, the thirsty, the sick, the sinners. Jesus said “Those who are well have not need of a physician.” When we maintain our work is “just fine” and doesn’t need the active presence and power of Christ, then we are in danger.  

Is the Faith & Work Ministry primarily about serving individuals?
No. We feel God is moving in our time to renew work itself through the hope and broad justice of the gospel. The Church must participate in his mission. God can bless our city through a renewal of work. The task of the Church is to follow Jesus: he is at work... on work.

The church is almost 2000 years old. Why do you believe God is focussing on work now?
Great question. The timing is mysterious. Work was a concern in the Reformation, but, generally, work hasn’t been a central concern of Christians. “Why now?” is the question. To offer a parallel: Why did God wait until the 18th and 19th centuries to tackle slavery? Why did William Wilberforce and crew awaken to slavery’s evil just then? I think it was a unique combination of cultural developments (slavery had grown into a major economic force) and a re-reading of the Bible in light of their own times.

And you think something similar is happening now?
Yes. Work has changed. Before the Industrial Revolution, 97% of the workforce was connected to food production. Now it is less than 2%. Formerly, most work was done with our hands and we could see its fruits, but not anymore. The Industrial Revolution, the Information Age, and a growing cultural obsession with work and the economy have paradoxically demeaned work and alienated workers. Even greater change is on the horizon. The cultural setting is primed for an inside out reconsideration of work.

That is the cultural shift. What is the new understanding of the Bible?
Two developments over the past 40 years, or so, have made work a core Christian concern: 

  1. People are reading the Bible as a single, unified narrative from Genesis to Revelation. This approach reveals work as a central theme from Genesis 1&2 to Revelation 22.
  2. Many are taking the resurrection and the physical, eternal destiny of the New Heavens and the New Earth seriously. This renewed physical world will require work to flourish.

The implications of these new perspectives are just now unfolding in churches and seminaries.

Any last thoughts? 
I’m thankful for this discussion. Our call as Christians is twofold: (1) Listen to God speak in his Word and in our circumstances, and (2) to step forward in obedience. When we read the Word, we’re convinced that rediscovering meaning and purpose and combatting brokenness and injustice in work is a crucial act of obedience, a path to freedom and flourishing. We’re humbled by this calling. 

Commissioned for Work: Joseph Chang

Portraits of Grace is a snapshot into the lives of the people at King's Cross Church. As "kingdom minded, kingdom people," we recognize God's work in every detail of our lives. We invite you to meet the people of our church.

I grew up being told by people (who were miserable at their jobs), "just do something you love." I think a lot of us interpret this kind of advice to mean that our career, occupation, job (whatever we want to call it) has the ability to satisfy us and provide us with an identity. We also want our work to positively impact the world (even if we don't know what that means, exactly). Further, we're taught that there should always be a separation between church and state, or in this case, professional life. Somehow no-one tells you to bring faith into dialogue with work: the silence says a lot. In sum, we are always seeking for work to "work for us." 

Through the Theology of Work course, I've learned that work, even the insignificant and mundane aspects of our work, is significant to God. In our work, we are being called to co-create with Christ in establishing His kingdom right where we are, for example in our broken work environments. Even if we don't have our ideal, fulfilling "career job" in hand (I struggle with this a lot, I mean, I studied engineering and I feel like my mind is wasted in doing mostly manual labor in my lab), God still calls me to be an ambassador of Christ in all situations and, oddly, through heeding this call I end up participating in that world impacting work we all desire.   

My struggle with not having my "career job" has shown me that God is not most pleased with me when I finally land that job which gives me an identity. Instead, in the Gospel, He has given me a higher identity as His son and in this identify I find my way in following Jesus. 

For me, giving my work to the rule of Jesus means that I need to image Jesus in seeing others, including my co-workers, as fellow humans, as creations-in-the-image-of-God. In the current climate of my lab, that means taking a priestly role in interceding and mediating between people with years of bitterness toxifying their interactions and restoring those who've been persistently devalued.  

I've been told to always cultivate professional relationships into a network, and while I don't mean to downplay networking, in this calling as a son of God I've received a challenge to go beyond seeking my own good out of relationships. I am learning to not just help co-workers because, eventually, their work will become my work, but to genuinely support them as a friend so they can find rest, feel cared for as a human being, and have a voice.

People ask, "Do you find joy in what you do at work?" For a long while my response was no. But over time, as I began to understand my partnership with God in His redemptive story, I've come to see what I do at work differently. In accepting God's call for my current work, I can look upon the relationships I've developed at work over the past five years and find reason to rejoice because some of my co-workers are interested in a Gospel that puts our faith into actions. And I can rejoice because God has shown me the value and goodness of being a trustworthy friend, wherever my work takes me.

I don't have it all together, but just as baptism is an outward sign and seal of God undertaking an internal change, denoting a beginning of the Christian life, being commissioned to work is a beginning of further accountability and transformation in walking with Jesus where once I did not know he had a role to play and life to give.

Faith @ Work 4/15 Gathering

On April 15th, the Faith & Work Ministry hosted its third Faith @ Work Gathering inviting church members from Living Faith Community Church and King’s Cross Church, regular attendees, friends, and family to join the conversation of Faith @ Work and answer some pressing questions: Why do we work? Can our respective industries be redeemed? What would work look like, in a biblical context? How do we apply biblical knowledge and help our industries thrive? What is a “calling”?

While work can be grueling and each field with its unique pain points, coming together to explore how work can be redemptive filled the room with hopefulness. There were dynamic and fruitful conversations taking place in every corner of the venue leading everyone to pray for one another and each other’s workplace. 

15 different fields of work, 21 groups, and 2 hours later, we walked away desiring to further this conversation of work and dedicate ourselves to the mission of being salt and light in our workplace and the world.

So where does this all lead? 

Ultimately, we are seeking to unlearn broken perceptions of work. We want to continue addressing questions about work and what God always intended it to be through classes the Faith & Work ministry offers, alongside with the continuation of regular large gatherings. With the understanding of the Great Commission - go and make disciples of all nations - it is our desire to see brothers and sisters empowered to go into the workplace, fully supported by the Church through a Commissioning by sending them into the workplace and homes with hope and encouragement.

Theology of Faith: The Place of Work in the Story of the World

We asked some of our recent Equipping The Church (ETC)  class participants to share their reflections after a 4 week study on “The Place of Work in the Story of the World.” We hope this will help encourage you, connect you with else has been going on at King’s Cross, and help you consider if you’d  want to take the next round of classes when we offer them again in the near future!

“Prior to the Theology of Work class, my view of work was something that was necessary to complete, and to complete well. There always seem to be hurdles to pass when it comes to work satisfaction, employee fulfillment, and professional relationships that prevent us from enjoying work. A study of Genesis 1 and 2 presented work in a new light, and revealed the original intention of work and for people created in the image of God. Work in the context of the Gospel was meant to be good and sacred; a view that I had not thought of before for my own work. When the purpose of work is detached from God, work transforms from a sacred act into toil. Reflecting on this the past month, I realize that work is performed in a way which often glorifies people over working for Christ. While we are not able to ourselves make work good as it was originally intended, our posture and purpose working for Christ is what we need to re-focus ourselves on.”

-Belinda Leung

“It was a treat for me to share what I’ve learned about the theology of work and facilitate an insightful, informed, and passionate group in exploring these truths. I found the group’s hunger to learn about our Father’s world and its faith in the goodness of knowing his ways to be inspiring. Lastly, thanks to this time together, I gained a clearer picture of the gaps in my own understanding and faith, and how necessary it is to see and practice the rituals which will connect the knowledge of the Kingdom to our lived lives.”

-Ben Nicka

“Taking this class laid an exciting ground work for me to have a little more clarity in regards to what it means to ‘glorify God in our eating and drinking.’ I appreciated the time used for us to connect and share one another’s hearts through the unique work that God has given each of us, and the careful time spent as we worshiped, prayed and repented together. My heart felt so full after each Sunday, and I feel I am leaving, better equipped to discern how my own heart has viewed my work and world.”

-Robert Calabretta

“I was thankful to learn that work was not meant to be crushing, as a means to survive, or a way to make money. It was refreshing and gave me a shift in perspective to see work in light of God’s story. It was also immensely empowering to be reminded who we are in the grand story with Him as our Father and King (even in work)!”

-Rebecca Park

“What does ‘work’ mean in this temporary life on Earth and what role does it play in my walk with God? For a while, I’ve been struggling with how to view ‘work’ as a Christian. I don’t think I realized that I had an unhealthy view of work until I took this class. I realized that the reason for my repeated cycle of being disappointed, let down, and frustrated by my job/work was because I was idealizing work over and over again. My job/work never meet the standard I had. I was wanting a job/work/career that fueled my purpose in life. I was longing for the next job to fulfill the deepest passion and joy I was missing in my current job. In a way, I was idolizing work as my personal savior. I wanted work to fill the void I constantly felt. What I was missing was not the ‘perfect job’ that fulfilled my purpose in life. What I was missing was realizing that this kind of ‘perfect job’ does not exist. God has already fulfilled my purpose in life already. I don’t need to have a job/work that proves my worth or fuels my joy constantly. This class reminded me that God is the first and foremost source of joy simply for who He is, and nothing on this earth will satisfy me more than Him. Once I have that straight, I can start having a healthy view of work.”

-Stella Choi