Why we miss the workers
I was given Your Work Matters to God around 1990, and it was rapidly placed in my 'to read, maybe' list, where it currently resides.
Here is the reason: I was at university, and I was being empowered in the gospel. I was knee deep in evangelism. I was in the process of 'diverting my career' to full-time ministry (not that I had a back-up, mind you). We had great teaching tracing the word 'work' throughout the Bible, at the very point in which 'work' (or a particular kind of work) was farthest from my mind.
It got me thinking again about our churches:
"¢ We reach 5-to-12-year-olds, because the kids grasp the stories of the Bible.
"¢ We reach 12-to-17-year-olds, because (hopefully) they find a place to belong.
"¢ Together with AFES, we reach uni students, because some are mesmerised by a gospel worldview, while semi-detached from career.
"¢ We may be missing the 25-to-40-year-olds: those 'too old for Youth Church, and too young for Family Church'.
"¢ Our churches gain some traction again with families, who want a safe space for their kids to grasp the stories of the Bible.
This analysis has been discussed for many years. There are many groups (like City Bible Forum) and churches working on workers, for which we are thankful. We certainly lose workers in part through 'the worries of life'; in part, through the idolising of career; in part to sin and unholy relationships.
But we also lose them because churches haven't 'drawn the dots' for them: the dots between work and faith; between church and life.
Katoomba's Engage Conference is one of the groups trying to address workers as workers. In preparation for speaking in 2007, I met with a classic NYC professional: a finance worker and a Bible study leader. I went to ask him about being a worker at work. But half-way through our conversation, I realised that I was talking to him about being a worker at church. And as I spoke, there appeared a glaze over his eyes, and he said:
"Honestly, church is fine. It's all good, but I'm not really thinking about it. Tomorrow, I've got to sack my entire team."
I was wondering about his leading a home group, and he was thinking about sending employees home without jobs.
We were missing each other. A friend of mine says: "Churches are answering questions that workers aren't asking."
Let me have a stab at what it might look like to connect, from a secular news article. In Jobless Rate Hits 5.8%, comes this interview with Adam Rowson (the Managing Director of RecruitmentWorks):
‘‘I have a number of candidates - and it breaks my heart - writing emails saying ‘I’ll do anything’.’ For longer-term job-seekers “their own self-image is taking a battering’’ in the current environment, Mr Rowson said." I get one candidate who sends me one email a week,’’ . said Mr Rowson. The longer-term unemployed risk “starting to doubt themselves’‘. Going without a job for an extended period leaves perspective candidates in a “fog’‘, he said, which makes them less likely to come across well when they do get interviews.
And another example of connecting: one which connects work with marriage stress: In Dump the Toy Boy for a Lasting Union, comes this observation:
Being poor, unemployed and feeling financially stressed, is a deadly trifecta for marriage stability. About 20 percent of those unemployed at the start of the survey later separated compared to 10 percent of those who had a job.
These two articles are an attempt to understand the pressures of life in the current work force.
I am hoping that we churches can draw the dots too, by truly understanding and speaking to those who get up and go to work in the secular workforce.
(Disclosure: I'm on the Engage Committee. And they tell me that if you buy 10 Engage tickets in one transaction, you will receive 2 complimentary tickets. You can use your 2 free tickets to reduce the ticket price for everyone, or to help out people who are doing it especially tough financially at the moment.)