Tom Nelson, pastor of metro Kansas City’s Christ Community Church and author of Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work, talked a lot at the Redeeming Work event about the robust theology of everyday work his congregation has tried to cultivate….and you can read about it in my two previous posts on his talk, here and here.
But that’s not the only way they try to bring Monday back into Sunday at Christ Church. They aim for a regular liturgical emphasis on work–in worship.
Language matters, Tom says. If you take everyday work seriously, your language will change. As Christ Community has spoken positively of work in worship in everything from testimonies to benedictions, and shown it positively in the visuals of weekly worship, Tom has found that people come up to him and say “I have always felt like a second class citizen before”; “Pastor, thanks for telling me my work really matters.” He reminded us of the way Psalm 90 ends: “Lord confirm the work of our hands.” That psalm is in their worship repertoire: from the gathered to the scattered church, in our vocations, confirm the work of our hands. What a transformation in our congregation, he said, just because of that.
Tom went on: Our pastoral paradigm, practices, and language have all changed from Christ Community 25 years ago. His my language, reading material, and illustrations were all different. But most importantly: “25 yrs ago I visited hospitals a lot – I still do, but it’s just as common now for our staff to visit workplaces.” (Murmur in audience).
One of the things that gives me greatest joy, he said, is an email like one he recently got from Nathan Miller, pastor of Christ Community’s Olathe campus. We are a “teaching hospital” at Christ Community, Tom said: we have a pastoral formation program – a residency for young pastors. When one young pastor, Tim, arrived for their fellows program, Nathan and the staff oriented Tim to pastoral life, and to ministry in their church…and beyond. Here’s what Nathan’s email said:
As a pastor I ask people to visit me in my place of work at least once or twice a week. It’s so easy not to know their work at all. Is what I do so much more important? So when Tim joined our staff, we began talking about how to orient him to what we’re about. So we went to the largest business in the parish, and visited as many people in the parish as possible. We brought goodies, church mug, snacks, and a personal note to each, thanking them for good work, including the Sayers quote: “The only Christian work is good work well done.” They lit up. The lead executive changed his schedule to see me that day. It said to them loud and clear: my pastor and church care about me and believe what I do matters. I know how to love them, preach to them better. I pray for them differently, more intensely and actively, I picture them at their disks, aviation monitors, cubicles. It makes me a more faithful pastor. Maybe, just maybe I need to spend less time in my office, worrying about how many people show up to visit me in my place of work, and more time loving them in theirs. What would that do for our communities and our world?
Tom: I pray for a new generation of leaders like this.