Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Kingdom Outposts In a Broken World

We spend most of our waking hours in the marketplace (schools, factories, offices, hospitals, homes, farms etc). How could we encourage fellow followers of Jesus to connect our faith with our work?

How can we help our faith communities see that marketplace living for the kingdom is key to people seeing and hearing whole life discipleship being lived out in front of them?

Well, the church service is the gathering of God's people around the gospel for worship, nourishment, instruction and then... they are sent out out as ambassadors of the Kingdom in the marketplace. If these values are not integrated into what happens during the worship service, it would not be perceived as a priority. 

Here is a practice that we have found helpful: 

We conduct a Faith and Work conversation with various members of the congregation on a regular basis with these simple questions:

- What is Monday (or a work day) like for you? What is your role /responsibility in the office/family/factory/school?

- What are some opportunities/challenge that you face?

- How does your faith in Christ help you address these issues?

- How can we pray for you?

(Usually it is done at the same time as the announcement/church news/events segment of the worship service but it doesn't really matter if a different slot works better for you )

Over the years, I had the privilege to hear powerful stories of God's kingdom outposts in the world. How discipleship works out in the world when people are transformed by the gospel.

For example, a neurologist who chooses to work in a public hospital rather than the more lucrative private practice because here, he can serve a multi-racial community especially those who cannot afford going to a private hospital. Or a psychologist graduate who went on to Teach for Malaysia because of her hope in a better Malaysia by educating the next generation.

It's costly, of course but they don't complain because love is an even greater motivation. They are purposeful because of their calling. And their call drives their mission(s).

From a small congregation of about 70 people, it's encouraging to know and to pray for a sister who, as part of her work, is researching for ways to treat cancer or a brother driven by creation care convictions chose to work for World Wildlife Fund. If only we could see that their "job" is part of God's creation mandate for humanity - to be faithful stewards and compassionate rulers of the created order.

Sometimes, you hear raw and honest stories of struggles and doubt... And that's perfectly beautiful as they are occasions to show pastoral care and a safe space to bring these questions before God. For example, it is a privilege to pray for a pediatrician struggling over the death of her patients or a teacher facing ethical issues in his school.  

These are opportunities for the whole congregation to stand in solidarity and pray for God's help in dealing with these challenges (which we probably see reflected in our own lives as well), seek Scripture for guidance on ethical issues that confront us and commission these followers of Jesus as signs of God's presence in our community.

Songs that we sing during worship also shape our thinking and feeling profoundly. Here are my favorite examples of songs that have a deep theology of creation mandate and work as spiritual formation i.e. The Worker's Prayer and God of the Poor

Would love to hear from you if there are other songs and practices that integrate faith and work!

The Worker's Prayer

Before You I kneel, my Master and Maker
To offer the work of my hands,
For this is the day You've given Your servant;
I will rejoice and be glad:
For the strength I have to live and breathe,
For each skill Your grace has given me,
For the needs and opportunities
That will glorify Your great name.

Before You I kneel and ask for Your goodness
To cover the work of my hands,
For patience and peace to shape all my labour,
Your grace for thorns in my path.
Flow within me like a living stream,
Wear away the stones of pride and greed,
'Til Your ways are dwelling deep in me
And a harvest of life is grown.

Before You we kneel, our Master and Maker;
Establish the work of our hands,
And order our steps to seek first Your kingdom
In every small and great task.
May we live the gospel of Your grace,
Serve Your purpose in our fleeting days,
Then our lives will bring eternal praise
And all glory to Your great name,
And all glory to Your great name.


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