Public Square

Why is Vocation Missing From Today’s Churches?

LinkedIn Email Print

Have you every heard someone say, “Did you hear about Jim Smith? He quit his job at the bank to go into full time Christian service.”

I would guess many of us have actually said something very similar. In the church today we still believe some jobs are more spiritual that others. And when it comes to understanding the integration of faith and work, in many ways the church is still in the Dark Ages.  Today we start a new series looking at the present state of the church in respect to the whole concept of integrating faith and work.

In her most recent book, Church on Sunday, Work on Monday, Laura L. Nash, senior research fellow at the Harvard Business School, states that many Christian business people experience a “radical disconnection between Sunday services and Monday morning activities, describing a sense of living in two worlds that never touch each other.”

Nash suggests that these disconnected business people receive little or no help from their pastors and clergy. She has found “a seismic difference in their worldview about the meaning of capitalism and profit. For the clergy, profit was a clear sign of ‘me-first’ self-interest, materialism and therefore not Christian. To the businessperson, profit was a result of actions that were partially others-oriented combined with a legitimate pursuit of self-interest, such as serving a customer, creating jobs, or donating part of the proceeds to charity.”

The disconnect between business and clergy probably explains the experience of William Diehl, a former Bethlehem Steel executive, as told in The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective by pastor and business professor R. Paul Stevens. Diehl shared:

In the almost thirty years of my professional career, my church has never once suggested that there be any type of accounting of my on-the-job ministry to others. My church has never once offered to improve those skills, which could make me a better minister, nor has it ever asked if I needed any kind of support in what I was doing. There has never been an inquiry into the types of ethical decisions I must face, or whether I seek to communicate my faith to my coworkers. I have never been in a congregation where there was any type of public affirmation of a ministry in my career. In short, I must conclude that my church doesn’t have the least interest whether or how I minister in my daily work.

Diehl is left with the same frustration which nags at many Christian business people today.  And as the chairman of the department of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Biola University Scott Rae suggests in a recent article, they feel they are in a support position for others who are “in the ministry,” and though they play an important role, they are not really where the action is for God’s Kingdom.

The integration of faith and work is misunderstood not only by the church members who sit in the pews but by those who stand behind the pulpit. Our vocation should be, as Tim McConnell, formerly of the Center for Christian Study, writes in a letter, “an element of Christian discipleship; a habit of the mind and heart of listening for and responding to the voice of the Lord.”

Yet this concept is noticeably missing from most of today’s churches.

Question: In your life, do you notice a disconnect between business and church? Leave a comment here.

Have our latest content delivered right to your inbox!

Further readings on Public Square

  • Economics 101
  • Public Square

All-consuming. Raucous. Rage-filled. Divisive. Whatever words you choose to describe an election year in the United States, virtually everyone recognizes…

  • Public Square

In a world where the role of government is a subject of ongoing debate, it is crucial to seek understanding…

Have our latest content delivered right to your inbox!