Monday, July 30, 2012

Work as Ministry - a broader perspective

Over the past 30 weeks or so, I've been writing to you once a week to encourage you to think about how you can be a minister in your world, wherever you may be on a regular basis.  We've talked a lot about how to pray for those around you, how to have natural conversations about faith, and how to share your story with your friends when the time is right.  We could probably throw most of these discussions in a category and call it personal evangelism.  If we were going to put it in the context of work, we might call it "ministry at work."

I spent last week hanging out with a bunch of evangelism leaders from North America, and my working group of 12 people explored how to use business as ministry or missions.  In my preparation and my discussions with them, I came upon 2 other categories of ministry at work that I want to share with you.  These really challenged me to expand the boundaries of my own thinking about how we can be doing ministry through our work each day.  Personal evangelism is important, but it's just one part of how our work can be used in God's great plan to reconcile and restore the world.

Another category might be called the "ministry of work."  This goes back to the idea that every thing we do can (and should) be done to the glory of God.  So whether I'm working on a factory line, working as a waitress, or working as a lawyer, what I'm doing when I'm working is helping to bring order, service, humanity, and God's presence through me to that space.  This is the idea that all work is God's work, and we can bring glory to the name of Jesus when we are doing it in his name. 

In my world, this is the perspective that legal work is a part of God's plan for reconciliation and restoration because I get to be a part of bringing justice to the oppressed and marginalized.  I get to be the human being on the front lines who treats the indigent criminal like a human being rather than a monster.  I get to show God's love in a million different ways to hundreds of people just by being someone who asks God to move through her on a daily basis through her work.

The third category might be called "ministry to work."  This is the idea that sometimes in our work we are called to bring a different attitude, atmosphere, and value system into our place of business.  If we have some sort of management authority, it might be to structure our management principles to value human beings and not just transactions.  If we are just a regular worker on the line, then it might be doing whatever it takes to stand up for justice and fairness and other godly values that are sometimes lacking where we are.

For me, this is probably the hardest and often most-discouraging category.  I see a lot of injustice caused by the system.  Our laws are written by the majority or by the powerful minority.  That means that entire cultures are devalued and their cultural values are often in conflict with our code of laws.  Many times they have to walk away from who they are in order to comply.  Even more often, I see people being put in a position where they have no good options and have to choose from 2 bad ones.  Many times they are unable to seek truth or justice in an effort to minimize potential consequences.  I have seen even innocent people plead guilty to things just to avoid the possibility of a horrible, undeserved punishment.  It is a constant struggle for me to figure out how to be a part of making the system better.

So my questions for this week are these:  Do you see your job as something you are doing to bring glory to God?  How would a change in your perspective change your approach to your work?  What are the structural and value issues that come up in the work you do?  Is there a way that you can seek justice and mercy within that framework?  Are there things that need to change to bring the structure of your work into line with Christ?

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