I’ve been thoroughly enjoying a book called Work and Worship: Reconnecting our Labor and Liturgy by Matthew Kaemingk and Cory B. Willson. In fact, I like it so much that DML is going to use this book for our next book club book!
They tell a story of two nurses and two pastors.
One nurse goes to her pastor with laments over work and theological questions about illness and death. Pastor tries to answer, faltering a bit as he’s never worked in the health field. He gives her a book on faith and work, and looks up another on theology and health care. Then he tells her about a faith and work Bible study that she can attend and bring fellow nurses to.
Second nurse goes to her pastor (a different one) who makes no attempt to teach about
faith, work, or health care. This pastor listens and asks questions about the nurse’s work and workplace joys and heartbreaks. Then asks if he can meet with her and five other nurses from congregation for lunch at the hospital, and asks even more questions about their work – victories, failures, challenges and frustrations, prayers for their colleagues, doctors, and patients. The pastor takes notes, commends them, prayers for them, and then invites them to worship on Sunday morning rather than to a class. That Sunday, the pastor asks the nurses to come forward. Elders lay hands on them and the pastor prays a prayer that has been specifically composed for them. Following the prayer the congregation stands and commissions the nurses. The pastor sends out the nurses with a blessing and a charge for their ministry to their patients.
In the first scenario, the church is understood as a place you go for theological answers. It is a place of theological training. In the second interaction, the church is a place where workers can carry out their questions, pains, and praises to God in community. It may not always have the answers, but it can provide a set of practices and fellow workers who can bear the weight of work together, week after week.
These authors talk about how the integration of faith and work is not an intellectual concept that one has to grasp – rather it is more like a craft or a skill that needs to be practiced and honed. The integrated life of faith and work is not an intellectual achievement or a theological discovery. It is a cloth that has been torn into pieces and needs to be intentionally woven back together. It is a habit to be practiced.
These are the words to which my heart cries “Yes” and “Amen.” There are many books on the theology of work, which is good! So much discussion about business as mission, which is also good! But there is so little practical application for the nurse, or the factory worker, or the gas station attendant, or the receptionist for how to live this out on a daily basis.
Realizing that much of our formal worship when we are gathered – our preaching, our songs, our prayers – have very little to do with how we spend most of our week makes us long to find intentional ways to weave this together. Because much of our worship when we are gathered is passive (consisting of reclining, listening, and absorbing) rather than active, our “liturgical muscles” are weak and can atrophy. That makes it difficult to carry the worship forward to Monday, let alone know how to weave it into our daily challenges and opportunities.
Realizing how ill equipped our members are to know how to weave our work and worship together is still a challenge that we face as the global church.
This past week, we hosted a meeting with some of the Business as Mission Global Congress folks on how to integrate the Church into the Business as Mission movement. For the most part, this exciting movement has done great things with Christian business owners but has done the work outside the church. I was disappointed with the turnout for this meeting as well as the lack of clarity on how to move this forward, but we are going to keep trying. Please pray along with us for this!
And at the same time, DML is writing a series of five booklets moving from the theological to the practical. This month, I am writing the booklet on Living out the Quadruple Bottom Line. We are trying to weave together the practices of work and worship for every Christian in their workplace. If you would continue to pray that these writings may be God-breathed, we would appreciate it!
As you go into your work this day and this week, may God give you eyes to see how your work is an act of worship! And if you have stories to tell me of how you make this happen, I would love to hear from you! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.