The Other One Percent… and A Math Problem

The Other One Percent… and A Math Problem March 22, 2016


Do the Math:  Here are 2 math problems for your local church.

  1. Most people will never be in paid “ministry” work. Less than .4% of US workers are in church or ministry work. Less than .4% of professing Christians and less than 1% of active church goers are in vocational ministry work.   This means that 99% of the people of faith will never do “full-time Christian work.”
  1. Church Engagement is on the Decline. Almost 60% of Americans claim to have a faith commitment to Jesus. Yet only 20% of Americans attend any church given Sunday, and “regular attendance” is now considered 2x per month.   Like the decline of other institutional loyalties (See Robert Bellah’s Habits of the Heart), church engagement is on the wane.


Do the Math:  Here is a math problem for you.

If you’re an average American, you spend on 47 hours per week, or 202.1 hours per month, at work. If you’re an over-achiever at church, an always-there volunteer, you spend 20 hours a month at your church. That means you spend at least 10 times more time at work than you ever do at church.


The Math Problem

If your church implies that real work of God is the work of those called to full-time ministry or the exclusive activity of the church, it is diminishing the work of 99% of her people.

If your church is silent or disconnected from your work reality, everyone is missing a huge opportunity to do the math with regard to where you will invest most of your time.  And there could be more at stake here than the allocation of hours.


Could the Math Problem be a Reality Problem?

“In nothing has the Church so lost Her hold on reality as in Her failure to understand and respect the secular vocation. She has allowed work and religion to become separate departments, and is astonished to find that, as result, the secular work of the world is turned to purely selfish and destructive ends, and that the greater part of the world’s intelligent workers have become irreligious, or at least, uninterested in religion.” (See Why Work by Dorothy Sayers).


Problem Solved

This post is part of a series on The Vocational Divide that tackles the separation of the departments that Sayers mentions above. It is a separation lived out by individuals and reinforced by institutions, particularly the inattention of the local church to the work lives of her adherents. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Pastors can tune in to the realities of the workplace and begin to support their people for the real struggles of the work-a-day world. This is a way for Pastors to leverage the primetime pursuits of the church with the primetime reality of their parishioners. My experience and research have proven to me that a mere shift in pastoral attention can drive very significant transformation of people, churches and workplaces. Join me in bridging the divide.


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Faith and Work Resources: I keep a current and curated list of great resources related to the faith and work conversation follow this link: Resources on Faith and Work

About the Author:  Dr. Chip Roper writes Marketplace Faith from New York City, where he is the director of Marketplace Engagement at the New York City Leadership Center.  Chip is convinced that a central piece of God’s plan for any city or community is the work that people do each day.  You can learn more about him here. Chip is available for speaking, consulting, and coaching engagements. Inquire via email:


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