This just in: new research shows that most pastors fail to support their congregation's integration of faith with work.
Well. We probably didn’t need a research study to verify what we already knew, but it’s nice to have back-up.
The study, commissioned by LeTourneau University's Center for Faith and Work, found that while 93% of pastors agree they should help their members integrate faith with daily work, over two-thirds of them admit they fall short. According to Bill Peel, Executive Director for the Center for Faith & Work, “People work more, and better, when their labor carries a sense of calling. But most employers can’t give it, and most pastors don’t.”
That just about sums it up.
However, the bigger story here may be the collective shrug coming from those who bear the brunt—namely, the working population within our churches: “What? You’re telling me my pastor doesn’t care much about my job? Well, duh!”
The church has not done much to prepare us for our “secular” careers. Sorry, church, but it’s true. That loud sucking sound you hear is the enormous spiritual vacuum created by our religious institutions for those of us in the workforce. When was the last sermon you can recall that inspired you to pursue your job as a means of furthering God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven?
I thought so.
This doesn’t make sense, since a career identity is pretty much a consuming force of life. We want to make a difference. We want to have influence. We want to find out what we’re good at and what kind of work we might like. And then we spend most of the week doing that work. I would think that God, being the one who created us to do good work in the first place, would be the biggest cheerleader of all. Sometimes I can almost hear his voice echoing behind me:
Great job today!
Keep pressing on!
Don’t worry, another opportunity is just ahead.
You are making quite an impact!
Yet the church remains fairly silent on this subject. The sad consequence is that very few of us know how to experience God in our jobs. Can you imagine the spiritual awakening in store for those who truly believed an infinitely loving God was accomplishing His purposes through them at work?
Perhaps a massive wake-up call is in order.
Come on, now, pastors. Get with the program and get on board with the money-making members of your flock. Stop avoiding our world. We’re starving for some spiritual attention to help make sense of the business life we live in all week long. We also want a little respect for the honest work that we do. Besides, we’re the ones who are paying your way, right?
Good. Then that’s settled.
So, what should pastors do? The ideas are only limited by your imagination, but here are some starters off the top of my head:
1. Publicly acknowledge the spiritual value of work from the pulpit.
2. Offer sermons on work-related issues on a regular basis, using examples from real-life job situations.
3. Send people off into new jobs just as you would send a missionary into the field.
4. Organize book studies on the topic as part of your adult education or small group discussions.
5. Tell your congregation about The High Calling site.
6. Visit your parishioners at their workplace.
7. Start a faith-at-work library and resource center.
8. Set up a career counseling center.
9. Take a business class or two.
10. Publicly celebrate your members' new jobs, promotions, or professional accomplishments.
Imagine, pastors, the impact you can have! Come back and tell us what you’ve done.