Ready to work

Greg Forster

“One of the things . . . as a Wesleyan I really want to see is [churches] developing the workforce, developing people that are on the margins.” – Patrick Eby, co-author of “How God Makes the World a Better Place”

“God’s work in and through economics and business is not only for the middle and upper classes. It’s for people at every level.” – Charlie Self, author of “Flourishing Churches and Communities”

When the economy is changing rapidly, those at the bottom of society can become disconnected from work. The cultural systems – family, schools, neighborhoods – that equip people with the mindset and social behaviors they need to work successfully are disrupted by economic change. The poor are the most likely to fall through the cracks.

Churches are uniquely designed to help here. Why? Of all modern institutions, only the church is able to minister to the entire human being. Churches can give people a “big picture” for their lives; they can also teach specific behaviors (from kicking addictions and staying away from payday loans, to showing up for work on time and taking satisfaction in a job well done) that bring that big picture down to ground level. A new movement is emerging in churches to reform how we serve the poor by focusing on developing people for work.

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Each major evangelical tradition has a track record of accomplishment in this area. The most famous and dramatic example may be the Wesleyan tradition, which helped many thousands of marginal workers adapt to the Industrial Revolution, reversing a set of serious trends toward non-work, debt, and alcoholism, and setting England on the road to nothing less than an economic miracle. In a talk at the November meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Chris Armstrong of Bethel Seminary described how the Wesleyan movement’s emphasis on developing people for virtuous and fruitful work created cultural conditions for the emergence of the modern economy.

During a recent panel discussion, Patrick Eby described how he has seen this tradition continue in his own Wesleyan church today. “How God Makes the World a Better Place,” co-written by Eby, David Wright, and others, explores this history in more detail. On the same panel, Charlie Self, author of “Flourishing Churches and Communities,” draws our attention to similar patterns emerging as Pentecostal churches spread rapidly in Central and South America. You can learn more by checking out the new series of books on faith, work, and economics in diverse evangelical traditions, published by the Acton Institute.

From Kern Pastors Network. Image: Jennifer Woodruff Tait.

About Greg Forster

Greg Forster is a program director at the Kern Family Foundation, where he directs the Oikonomia Network. He is the author of numerous books and articles including The Contested Public Square: The Crisis of Christianity and Politics and Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It.


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