Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Can Such A Vision Be Restored?

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a pastor, a missionary to Native Americans, and the third President of Princeton University. Among his descendants have come scores of pastors and missionaries, 120 college professors, 110 attorneys, 60 authors, 30 judges, 13 college or university presidents, 3 congressmen, and one Vice President of the United States.

But there's more to the story.

While doing eight years of Ph. D. research on Jonathan Edwards, Dr. David Scott discovered something remarkable:

“One day…I came across the discipleship curriculum that the puritan pastor Jonathan Edwards had been trained in by his church in how to have a God-filled work life. They even had a name for it…'technologia,' a Latin term for their little-known method of teaching the art of God-centered work.... Edwards and his fellow students—future pastors and merchants alike—were tested in it in order to graduate from early Yale. The Puritans knew what it meant for the church to purposely pastor people in their work. We do not.”

The above is from an article published by WorkLife, Inc. (formerly called, "His Church At Work"), an organization founded in 2003 by Doug Spada for the purpose of helping churches to be effective in worklife discipleship today.

Dr. Scott, who is now a history professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary, goes on to say: “If you asked an engineer in one of our churches what designing computer components has to do with the kingdom of God, my bet is that he or she probably could not pass the test. The reason is that we modern evangelicals have no functional equivalent for the systematic work life discipleship teaching that Edwards took for granted…”

The former custom of teaching people "the art of God-centered work" is no longer customary. For the most part, worklife discipleship has gone the way of men's powdered white wigs.

I'm glad the wigs are gone. But somewhere between Jonathan Edwards' day and our own, we lost something really vital: a systematic method for training followers of Christ in God-centered work. All kinds of work. As the English Puritan Pastor George Swinnock put it, "The pious tradesman will know that his shop as well as his chapel is holy ground."

This concept of work held by the Puritans was passed on by design, being systematically built into the mind and habits of "pastors and merchants alike."

But the vision to "purposely pastor people in their work," as Dr. Scott put it, has vanished, not only from formal education, but from nearly every church and home in the country.

Can such a vision be restored?

I'd like to think out loud with you about this in the weeks to come.

I highly recommend that you read Dr. Scott’s full article, at http://filemanager.silaspartners.com/dox/hischurchatwork/AnotherGreatOmission-WorkLifeandtheChurch.pdf

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  1. How can such a vision be restored? A great question. Perhaps part of the answer lies in getting Christian campus groups at both high school and university levels to develop and offer training in the theology of work to believing students about to step into their careers.

  2. You have a great suggestion, Larry.

    I was the principal of a Christian school for fourteen years. During those years it never occurred to me that we should provide instruction in theology of work for our students, or teach our students what designing computer components and manufacturing airplanes has to do with the Kingdom of God.

    It amazes me to look back and realize this was totally off my radar. What was I thinking?

  3. In response to Larry, how can we inspire and equip existing campus ministries to bring this "theology of work" into their thinking?

  4. I'd like to hear what others may have to say about your question, but in the meantime, I'm wondering if it might be possible to start a national after school "club" organization for public high school students, much like Future Farmers of America, except with a different emphasis.

    Maybe it could be called, “History Shapers."

    At any rate, it would be specifically for future leaders in all fields of endeavor who want to know how to integrate their Christian faith with their future work, and would be motivated by the way others are currently doing so in their respective fields.

    As far as I know, it is legal for after-school clubs with a "religious" purpose to exist if a teacher on staff is willing to be the advisor. (I may be wrong in this. If I am please let me know.)

    Do you think this idea has any possibilities?

  5. The 3 main molders of my Christian ideals in the workplace were a) my father and his circle of friends, b) Intervarsity Christian Fellowship during university in Chicago area, and c) working under and around the brass section of Chicago's orchestra.

    My father 'fleshed out' Jesus in the business world.

    IVCF showed me how to study/tear apart the Bible, how to share Bible study in one's profession, and the importance of being in that profession, as a believer.

    The eight, or so, strong believers in the CSO brass showed striving for excellence as praise to the Lord, and showed the positive influence that they had, both in orchestra, and in the exteded field. And each did not second rate his faith.

    So -- DO I indeed exude Jesus to those around me? I hope so. I strive at least a little so. Hopefully heaven will show.

    Chuck in Mill Creek

  6. Chuck from Mill CreekNovember 29, 2009 at 6:52 AM


    I got interupted at the end of my (just) blogging. My thought was not of my influencing, but of my being influenced.

    The beauty of the 'body' aspect of the 'church' (Jesus Christ's body), is it's multiplicity. What has shaped me and my walk, is not just the programs of the formal church (organisation), which has been important, but also, the people of the (overall) church/body.

    My parents and their nucleus of believing friends. The serious (and believing) professionals by whom I was (directly or indirectly) mentored. Those who set their lives for and those who volunteered in (college/university/etc) ministries. These have been used (by the Lord) my shapers.

    There is ministry of shaping for the purpose of being in the work/business world. We as a church body need to be purposeful in shaping ourselves for the work/business world. And, yes, there also needs to be restoration in the teaching in the church about how to be in the work/business world.


    God/Bible/Jesus (we need to keep that name lifted high) / prayer/... all need to be integral in every part of our lives and world. Yes, it/they are and have been pushed out of our day to day practical work/ professional / business lives. There has been a purposefulness in dividing our faith walk out of day to day lives. [Having Jesus / God as integral, is a very important aspect of our daughters' education.]

    Yes, restored vision, purposing, needs to 'be happened' before it is lost - kind of like marriage in the 70's and 80's got so blown apart, especially in the church/body. ...

    Chuck from Mill Creek

  7. Thanks, Chuck, for your excellent comments and reflections.

  8. I contacted The Rutherford Institute about the question of public school clubs with a distinctively Christian purpose, and they sent me a very informative document on the "equal access" laws.

    See http://www.rutherford.org/Resources/Briefs/B01-EqualAccess.pdf