(This post first appeared here at the blog of the Hendricks Center for Christian Leadership and Cultural Engagement.)
In this installment of our series featuring resources on Faith, Work, and Economics, we recommend Flourishing Churches and Communities.
In his book, Charlie Self specifically challenges Pentecostal believers, calling them to a level of discipleship that integrates faith, work, and economics so that believers view their work in light of God’s design for flourishing their communities. The first half of the book develops five principles of integrating faith and work through Scripture. Self’s greater and more unique contribution is the latter portion of the book where he develops how this integration is expressed both individually and through the local church. He specifically challenges the local church to engage all realms of society, including business, education, social justice, medicine, the environment, and the arts.
Listening to Other Voices
Despite my own Pentecostal background, this book convicted me of my personal skepticism in approaching the book. Although Charlie Self does take a Pentecostal approach to topics such as spirit baptism, spirit-filling, and speaking in tongues (see a brief discussion of these topics below) his book is balanced. His work is carefully nuanced to avoid extremes in Pentecostal theology and practice (e.g. prosperity theology, over-emphasis on supernatural signs, etc.) and brings an important voice to the faith-work conversation.
Integrating Faith and Work: Better Criteria for Success in the Local Church
“Integration is the aha moment that happens when God’s people realize they are directly connected with the current and future flourishing of the world around them and that such goodness is an integral part of the Great Commission.” [page 120]
Once we integrate work into our personal faith and the local church, Self affirms we must change how we define success in the Church. Of course we maintain traditional marks, such as depth of discipleship and new believers. But we must also ask other questions. How healthy are the families in our church? Are our business men and women bringing more jobs to the community? Are we helping our schools flourish? Do we have a positive relationship with the local government? Integrating faith and work will transform how we view the mission of our church and how work contributes to the church.
Practical Ways to Integrate Faith and Work in Your Life
Integrating faith and work is more than a 5-step process. Integration is a lifestyle. The last three chapters and conclusion of Flourishing Churches and Communities provide a starting point for this lifestyle. While this in no way encompasses the scope of integration, here are some ideas inspired by these chapters and personal experience to make this integration more concrete in your own life:
- Gratitude. When you and your family pray a blessing over a meal, thank God for all the workers who contributed to your meal –the farmers, truck drivers, factory workers, chefs, etc.
- Justice. Take a stand for justice in your work environment. Whether silencing gossip in the break room or ensuring your business does not take advantage of the vulnerable, graciously take a stand.
- Integrity. From honestly recording work hours to being willing to forego a promotion requiring unethical practices, be a man or woman with a reputation of integrity.
Charlie Self’s book Flourishing Churches and Communities makes a significant contribution to the faith and work conversation. Although the intended audience of the book is Pentecostal, Evangelicals from other traditions have much to gain from the book if they recognize that the primary audience is Pentecostal and critically engage the brief references to Pentecostal theology. By providing new criteria for measuring success, Self challenges churches to view work as more than “a secular means to a sacred end.”
Read the Book
Self, Charlie. Flourishing Churches and Communities: A Pentecostal Primer On Faith, Work, and Economics for Spirit-Empowered Discipleship. Biblical Faith, Work, and Economics Series. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian, 2012.