Participant nominations for the Global Workplace Forum are underway. During this exciting time, I am reminded that the Lausanne Movement envisions a world where the gospel has kingdom impact in every sphere of society. But what does this mean, exactly—and why does it matter?
As a young Christian, I was taught in church to use the bridge diagram and the Four Spiritual Laws to explain the gospel. After Sunday worship services and gospel rallies, I was always humbled and walked away with great gratitude for the infinite price and sacrifice of Christ on the cross and for my salvation from sin and death, from eternal damnation. But often, I also walked away with a gaping question: ‘What do I do between now and when I die (or when Christ comes back)?’ Jesus had saved me from sin and death. But what had he saved me for?
I spent most of my days working, and I knew deeply by the Spirit that there was a purpose for my work in the world, but this truth was never taught or communicated to me in my experience as a young believer. The gospel I encountered had become too narrowly defined; an understanding of salvation focused only on individual persons, instead of all of creation, seeing only part of the picture.
Today in many of our churches, there is still an implicit prioritization of ‘ministry work’ and speak of the primacy of the proclamation of the gospel over social action. Social action—in line with Lausanne’s vision of kingdom impact in every sphere of society—has always been seen as secondary, because it is perceived as a means to proclaiming the gospel and evangelism. So naturally, with limited resources, the focus has leaned towards proclamation and evangelism while everything else, such as community, family, and work, have been seen as but a means to an end.
Dorothy Sayers puts it well through these prophetic words penned more than sixty years ago:
In nothing has the church so lost Her hold on reality as in Her failure to understand and respect the secular vocation. She has allowed work and religion to become separate departments, and is astonished to find that, as a result, the secular work of the world is turned to purely selfish and destructive ends, and that the greater part of the world’s intelligent workers have become irreligious, or at least, uninterested in religion. But is it astonishing? How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life? The church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays.
‘How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life?’ writes Sayers. Sayers’ question is not merely theological but also missiological. For the 99% of us who are not church-paid workers, we spend most of our lives in workplaces, schools, homes, and communities. Yet not much has been said about how we should live and who we should be in these places. A proper understanding of work, worker, and workplace (be it paid or unpaid) thus has everything to do with the cross and gospel of Jesus Christ, and the mission of his church. It has everything to do with the question of what we are saved for in this life.
Through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, he is reconciling all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven (Colossians 1:19). The gospel of reconciliation then is not only to reconcile people to Christ, but also all that is fallen and marred by sin—the injustices, the broken systems of this world— through creation care, businesses, financial systems, product designs and services, education, policy-making and so on. God cares about all these! He is Lord of all these! We cannot ignore the power of the cross in restoring all these arenas to align them with the kingdom of God.
This is precisely why the upcoming Lausanne Global Workplace Forum is so important. We must gain a more robust understanding of God’s reconciling ministry, especially in the arena of work. Would you consider nominating people whose lives embody this holistic vision of work and ministry?
Nominations for the Global Workplace Forum will be closing on 30 April 2018. All are welcome to nominate qualified candidates for consideration through this open process.