Yes–I sat up too when I read that headline over at the Kern Pastors Network blog. It was a sincere question asked to pastor Tom Olson who was recently participating in a forum on faith, work, and economics. He goes on to unpack the question–and his answer:
During a Q&A session, one man who was really wrestling with the topic asked the speaker, “Are we just putting people on a nicer plane to hell?”
It was shocking terminology – but the question, to me, was not surprising. As someone who identifies himself within the “gospel-centered” movement, I truly have struggled with some form of this man’s question. But typically, I find the question takes the form, “Yeah, but what about the gospel?” Or “Yeah, but what about evangelism?” For at first blush, discussions of faith, work, economics, human flourishing, and the common good seem important, but not nearly as important as the core gospel ministries of discipleship and evangelism. Besides that, as pastors, our plates are full with preaching, counseling, and hospital visits.
So is this whole discussion on faith, work, and economics really worth our time as pastors?
Tom goes on to offer seven reasons why the discussion of faith, work, and economics is worth pastors’ time….and all of our time, in fact:
1) It’s about obeying God’s Word.
One of the first commands God gives is to work – to “fill the earth and subdue it.” Faith, work, and economics integration is not a bunch of Christians participating in a theological fad. Rather, it’s the earnest attempt of earnest Christians to obey one of the first commands of Scripture.
Most pastors don’t spend a lot of time thinking about where the rest of us spend most of our time–at work, not at church. Discussing faith and work helps open up more lines of communication.
3) It’s about discipleship.
When pastors talk to people about these issues, Tom says,
We are helping them become disciples of Jesus Christ not just when they’re at home or at church, but all through the week!
4) It’s about loving your neighbor.
We’ll help our people not only see the value of their own work in service to Christ, but how their work is given to them to serve others! That’s the economy – our work working together!
5) It’s about healthy disciples.
Seeing work as service, Tom says, helps us not to begrudge doing it and makes for a more holistic life.
6) It’s about a “winsome witness.”
When our people understand how their work matters to Christ, they will enjoy their work, find more purpose in it, love their co-workers more, and work harder; as such, they will be winsome witnesses for Christ in the workplace. Let me be clear: I expect that as our congregations live out the faith, work, and economics vision, their co-workers will come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
7) Finally, it’s about Christian unity.
Tom says that discussing these issues has helped him cooperate with Christians across boundaries:
The core principles from God’s Word – obeying the commands to love your neighbor and fill the earth and subdue it – are principles that we ALL can gather around.
You can read more, email Tom to discuss this, and check out a lot more resources on the KPN site. Or comment here!