At Work & Theology 101

Is Evangelism the Sole Reason for Our Work?

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But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

 – 1 Peter 3:15

As I read and hear much of what is being produced in the current “faith and work movement,” one of the emerging themes revolves around the idea that the workplace is a mission field. At work we have the opportunity to share the Gospel through what we say as well as what we do:

  • “Workplace ministry will be one of the core future innovations in church ministry.”   – George Barna
  • “God has begun an evangelism movement in the workplace that has the potential to transform our society as we know it.” – Franklin Graham
  • “God is marshalling his people in the workplace as never before in history. God is up to something. The next spiritual awakening could take place in the marketplace.”  – Henry Blackaby

I certainly believe this is true, and we should always be prepared to give an answer to our co-workers who ask us the reason for the hope that is within us.

But we need to make sure this is not the sole reason for our work.

My concern is that this emphasis on evangelism in the workplace will overshadow the truth that your work has intrinsic value to God in and of itself.

In the opening chapters of Genesis we read, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). In Genesis 1:28 God gives Adam and Eve their job description, what is known as the cultural mandate.

This cultural mandate also calls all Christians to partner with God in his work. From the beginning, God is prepared to entrust the Garden to humankind. He is prepared for us to become his co-workers.

Our stewardship role is a call for man to work with and for God. The significance of our work is directly related to its connection with God’s work.

Nancy Pearcey expands on this idea of the cultural mandate when she writes in her book, Total Truth:

The lesson of the Cultural Mandate is that our sense of fulfillment depends on engaging in creative, constructive work. The ideal human existence is not eternal leisure or an endless vacation – or even a monastic retreat into prayer and meditation – but creative effort expended for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

Her words are pertinent to this discussion of work and evangelism:

Our calling is not just to “go to heaven” but also to cultivate the earth, not just to “save souls” but also to serve God through our work. For God himself is engaged not only in the work of salvation but also in the work of preserving and developing His creation. When we obey the Cultural Mandate, we participate in the work of God himself.

Work was instituted before the Fall, before the need for evangelism. There is intrinsic value to our work.  It is what we do to bring about biblical flourishing, to give others a glimpse of the way things were and are supposed to be.

I agree with John Stott’s excellent definition of work: “Work is an expenditure of energy in service which brings fulfillment to the worker, benefit to the community, and glory to God.”

Should we be doing evangelism in the workplace? Of course. But we should not forget the main reason we are called to work.

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