Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work
Wheaton, Crossway Books, 2011
221 pages, pbk.
There is a tendency for Christianity in some circles to be a leisure activity. We are encouraged to pray, evangelise, worship, study our Bibles in our spare time. Sadly, the 40 hours per week, for forty or so years don't seem to matter - or at least if you looked at the content of most Sunday sermons from the pulpit. It has long been my contention that pastors should every seven years or so take a sabbatical and work in an office, educational establishment, retail outlet or such like. This will help them connect with the everyday pressure those in full-time work experience. Hopefully, it will help them in their discipleship programmes and in what they preach.
Christianity is a whole life activity, despite the implicit denial of this from many pulpits. This book, however, provides a refreshing look at whole life Christianity. It's key message is that work does matter.
Nelson uses many everyday experiences - including discussions in coffee shops and vignettes from those who have considered how Christianity impacts their work life.
Illustrations come from films such as Narnia, WALL-E and Mr Holland's Opus. He also draws upon a wide range of sources Paul Marshall, Os Guinness, Tim Keller, Tom Wright, Miroslav Volf, Luther and Gideon Strauss are all mentioned. He utilises the neo-Calvinist/ Kuyperian framework of creation, fall and redemption to good effect.
At the end of each chapter is a short prayer and then several questions for reflection and discussion which makes this book ideal for church small groups.
The final chapter 'The church at work' is particularly good. Here he draws upon Lesslie Newbigin's notion that 'the congregation has to be the place where its members are trained, supported, and nourished in the exercise of their parts of the priestly ministry in the world'. he offers some excellent ideas and suggestions how this can be developed. The role of church leaders is to 'prepare the saints for work of service' (Eph 4:12). Too often this gets narrowed down to church-related activities, here Nelson shows with examples that it doesn't have to be that way. Ideas include 'embracing a new vocational paradigm' as he puts it:
A primary work of the church is the church at work. Our work not only forms us spiritually; in and through our work, Christ's gospel mission is advanced in the world. (p. 190)
Many churches employ youth workers and ministers - maybe one day we'll also see work and vocation ministers too. That will certainly need a paradigm shift. Nelson's eminently readable and accessible book may well help towards that.