“I’m prepared to contend that the primary location for spiritual formation is the workplace.”
This remarkable statement is by Eugene Peterson, in his recent book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. Peterson is the author of The Message (the Bible in present-day English), who served as a Presbyterian pastor for several years.
I’m curious to know when Eugene Peterson developed this contention that the workplace is “the primary location for spiritual formation.” If he held this conviction while he was a pastor, his church must have been very unusual.
Not many churches have a budget line item directed toward spiritual formation in the workplace. Not many churches have programs that specifically help people integrate their faith with their work. Marriage? Yes. Parenting? Yes. Foreign missions? Yes. Evangelism? Yes. Music? Yes. Community service? Sometimes. Workplace? No.
In 2005, I interviewed twenty senior pastors in the greater Seattle area, asking them about their own church-related beliefs and practices regarding faith in the workplace. 20 out of 20 indicated they believed the local church should play a role in influencing the Monday-through-Friday workplace. A strong majority felt the church should be training, equipping, encouraging, instructing and/or supporting its members in this endeavor.
But when I asked what their level of satisfaction was with how their own churches were doing in this regard, the average response was 4.58 on a level of 1-10 (10 being the highest).
Twelve pastors (60%) gave themselves a 5 or lower. Six pastors (30%) gave themselves a 3 or lower. 80% of the responses were 6 or lower.
About 75% of the pastors felt that having classes at church that focused on how to specifically apply Christianity to practical matters in the workplace would be a positive thing to do. However, only one pastor indicated that such classes had ever been taught in his church.
When I mentioned the idea of publicly commissioning professionals and trades-people during Sunday morning services for the service of Christ in the workplace during the week, most pastors liked the idea. But hardly any had done so.
A couple of pastors indicated they had Sunday service prayer for teachers, police officers and firefighters. Apparently, accountants and car mechanics are off the radar.
My intention is not to be critical here. Churches have enough criticism directed toward them. But why is there such a disconnect between Sunday and Monday?
If you haven't viewed the video of the month yet, take a moment to hear Paul Stevens' thoughts on the role of the church in equipping saints for workplace service: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4jLkPzdkuc