Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a ministry of faith and work?
A: The desired result is to build a bridge between your personal faith and your work. The purpose of discipleship within the church is to nurture whole person Christians. We are to be followers of Christ in all our roles in life—as a parent, as a spouse, or as a worker. For much of life, a large part of our waking hours are engaged in work, a job, or a career. A faith and work ministry is focused in discipling Christians to understand work through a lens of 1) glorifying God (1 Cor 10:31) and 2) loving neighbor (Matt 22:36-40).
Q: Is there a theology of work?
A: Yes. Work is integral to the four part scripture story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration. In the very beginning of scripture we see how God was about the work of creating. In the creation of humans he said we are created in his image. Made in the image of God, said another way, is that we are to be his image-bearer and reflect (like a mirror) who God is to others in the world. Before the Fall, God gave Adam and Eve important work in the Garden of Eden. They were given the work of cultivating, developing and protecting God’s creation. Work is not a curse, but a gift from God given to us before the Fall. One result of the Fall, however, is that our work will at times be frustrating and difficult. God offered us redemption through Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Through faith and repentance we can have an eternal life. God has begun the process of restoration, and with Christ’s second coming, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth will be a reality. Our work is to be a part of our worship, and worship is not something limited to Sunday but occurs all week long. It is through our work that we are able to glorify God and demonstrate our love for neighbor. Think about it as Jesus being the CEO at your place of work. God’s plan is to create Heaven on Earth (hear what we say through the Lord’s Prayer) and our work is a means for us to be aligned with God’s plan.
Q: What is the purpose of work?
A: As God moves forward in his plan of restoration, he could transform all of humankind in an instant. But the plan He chose was to invite us to change from the inside out (to be reborn) and then to minister to others. It is through our work, where most spend the largest part of their waking hours, that we are able to glorify God and to contribute to the common good by loving others. It is in and through our work that the love of Christ should shine bright.
Q: Is there a difference between vocation, career and job?
A: First, work is not defined by a paycheck. Work is using your abilities, skills, life experiences for Kingdom purposes. Vocation is from the Latin verb, vocare, meaning “to call”. Our primary call is to embrace the gospel of Jesus and follow him, leaning into the power of the Holy Spirit, as a disciple. Our work is transformed when we acknowledge it is an expression of this primary vocation. Career originates from the medieval Latin noun, carraria, which refers to a road…we might say a career path. A career usually is associated with a certain occupation, like an attorney. A job is one’s employment and has associated with it a specific job description. When followers of Christ are clear about their primary vocation and as a result, do their work with excellence, in a distinctively Christian manner, they will have a profound impact on community and the world culture.
Q: Are some jobs, a CARTA bus driver or an accountant just as important in God’s eyes as a missionary or pastor?
A: Any work that is moral is pleasing to God. In the Roman and Greek culture, as well in pre-medieval era, work was viewed as of secondary importance to contemplation. From this evolved an unbiblical secular and spiritual distinction that unfortunately still exists today. The Reformation not only focused on salvation through grace alone, but also that all work is ministry, if our talents, skills, and abilities are used to demonstrate our love of God, to others, for His glory. When we live out a life of excellence through our work, our witness takes on a whole new authenticity. Those who are cynical about Christians, because they observe behavior at work not in alignment with faith, will understand the meaning of St. Francis of Assisi’s saying...”preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”
Q: Since The Fall there is brokenness in the world. How does that show up in people’s work?
A: On one end of the continuum work is often just a means to an end. For many is the price paid for the weekend and recreation…the TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday). Or work becomes simply the means to finance my needs and desires. On the other end of the continuum, work becomes an idol. It can be the place we devote unhealthy amounts of time. As an idol it provides a sense of power, prestige, self fulfillment, and personal accomplishment. We were made to work, but not for work; we were made for God. Because the world is broken, work environments can be broken places, where profits come before people, places of greed, environmental disdain, and bondage.
Q: Why faith and work ministry now?
A: Most agree that over the past 50 years the Church’s influence on American culture has diminished. If Christians lean into the theology of work, they will have a profound affect on the culture around them. For Chattanooga and the nation, 2017 is a time that we desperately need the gospel to be integrated with the workplace. First-Centenary has a rich history of being a beacon to light in a sometimes dark city. This is the time to equip, connect and mobilize those in our pews and seats…to glorify God and love their neighbor through their work…which will help our city flourish. Many followers of Jesus may live their entire lives under the distortion their work is not significant to God. That is not the case at First-Centenary.
Q: What might I expect to experience from faith and work ministry?
A: Initially an “introduction” program will be available to Sunday School classes or any small group. A variety of classes and curriculum on the integration of faith and work will follow in format ranging from 3-to-6 sessions. For high school youth, as well as those in college, equipping for better understanding of vocation and calling will occur. Vocational life planning support will be offered. The clergy members look forward to making short visits to people at their place of work (upon invitation) to affirm the intersection of faith and work. Down the road we plan to organize small vocational groups to connect people in like jobs to examine their work in light of the gospel. An empty nest small group will be started, to help those whose grown children are leaving home, to rethink the use of their time and talents. Given the history of First-Centenary’s engagement in the community, the ministry here can network with United Methodist churches in the district and other culture shaping organizations in the community. Since God desires our whole lives, we worship as the gathered church on Sunday and we worship (including work) as the scattered church the rest of the week.