As I mentioned yesterday, I had the joy of attending Saturate, a regional Acts29 Conference hosted by our friends of Apostles Church NYC. The day-long event provided a great venue to network with friends, make new friends, and strategize for the gospel in the city.
I was particularly encouraged by the breakout session I attended on how the gospel shapes the way we think about vocation. This is a topic I’ve given some attention to in the past, but certainly need to think through more carefully. The panel consisted of a pastor (JR Vassar), a teacher (Jamie Leahey), a government official (Lolita Jackson), and an entrepreneur (Will Haughey). The discussion was moderated by Chris Dolan of Redeemer’s Center for Faith and Work.
Here are my lightly-edited notes from the session:
On renewal (Vassar). Genesis shows us the way things were supposed to be, part of which is that humanity would work, reflect God as worker, and exercise dominion. But everything was tainted by the fall. As the gospel restores all things, we want to take part in seeing the ultimate restoration of the coming age increasingly come in the present age.
Brokenness in education (Leahey). The grass is not greener on either side of the public school-private school fence. Big problem: no goal in education, thus muddled purposes and methods. As the gospel transforms his approach to teaching, “it’s awesome to be in a place where my work becomes an arena of my worship.”
Brokenness in government (Jackson). One of the biggest challenges has been the way local government operates. On Wall Street decisions were made based on the merits of the arguments; in city government decisions are made based on what works politically. The Xian community isn’t very unified (unlike the Jewish community). She began a meeting of Xians every other Friday at noon. Another issue: separation of the faith community from the city government.
Brokenness in business/entrepreneurship (Haughey). Note Tegu’s statement of mission. The toys market is dominated by China. Honduras isn’t known for their manufacturing skills (beyond t-shirts, socks, and coffee), but is the third poorest country in the Western hemisphere. That means that Tegu currently has lower profit margins than other toy companies. That doesn’t help you raise capital from investors.
Helping people reimagine work (Vassar). Discipleship is not just about Bible reading, prayer, evangelism. It’s about bringing the entirety of their lives under the lordship of Jesus. Pastors need to disciple people for their public life, doing their work in such a way that puts God’s glory on display, develops a redemptive edge/redemptive results from their work. Apostles began hosting Industry Renewal Sessions for different professions. Let them dream together as to what it means to follow Jesus in their profession. How does the gospel change the way I treat my coworkers? my goals in this profession? If you do not help people see this, you create compartmentalization in people’s minds.
How pastors/churches can help congregants (Haughey). We want to hear from God. Cp. Rom 12.1–2. Invest time with the text, create contexts for the congregation to understand the word. Affirm your congregants in their profession by giving yourself to the word.
How pastors/churches can help congregants (Jackson). Use examples from Scripture to help people see how the gospel applies (e.g., Sanballat and Tobiah).
How pastors/churches can help coongregants (Leahey). Two influential factors: (a) a Christian worldview (what it is, why it is here, the fall creates brokenness, inc. broken institutions; and (b) our identity in Christ (we are kings and priests, the Spirit wants to be at work in our work, it’s not just a venue for evangelism, “my classroom is my kiln” [i.e., it's an arena of sanctification]). Be a church that requires people to follow Jesus in all of life.
How to do this in a small church (Vassar). Incorporate yourself with other churches. Partner with other churches. Don’t despise small beginnings. Combine some fields. Don’t hesitate to start.
How to do this in a small church (Dolan). Questions about scalability for CFW. We have 18 different vocation-based groups that used to meet at different places and times. But now we meet at a single time, with intentional teaching, then have breakout groups based on field.
Advice for people on Wall Street (Haughey). Teach people to embrace Sabbath. People on Wall Street love to work. It takes courage in that industry to take a sabbath. Jewish individuals honor the Sabbath, no questions asked. The seventh day for rest costs you something. But it’s a way of reminding ourselves that God is the Lord who will determine what resources we will have.
Advice for people on Wall Street (Jackson). Help people partner with other Christians in the community. Stress the Sabbath principle.
Final advice (Jackson). No matter what community you are in, get to know your local elected officials, neighborhood and block associations. Don’t wait until something bad happens.
Final advice (Haughey). I should be equipped within my church to be able succinctly and clearly to share the gospel. Establish a bedrock of gospel intelligence and truth.