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Why Work Matters—And Why Few Pastors Can Understand This

with 4 comments

Here’s a Dancing Boston Traffic Cop Who Digs His Job

Yesterday at a Bethel University “Work Matters Gathering” I heard Tom Nelson speak on why work matters, which also happens to be the title of his new book (Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work). Nelson’s book would seem to invite working people back into the conversation about how faith fits with everyday life. Several things I appreciated about the talk (I’ve not yet read the book, but it is on order) include the theological and historical underpinnings he identified. In particular: the central role of work in the Genesis creation story, the recognition that work is bigger than just getting paid—it has to do with how we contribute to the world, and that at several points in faith history we’ve had a far richer understanding (and praxis) of work than we do here and now in the US of A.

I was also pleased he cited Wendell Berry a good half-dozen times.

There’s much more to say about all that.

But one thing I wonder about: Mr. Nelson discovered that all of the people in his congregation actually spent most of their time at work, not at church. People who work—which is most of us—have known this for forever. People who work and have faith have largely been on their own to sort out how to build meaning into their lives of work and faith.

Pastors are just starting to realize it. I doubt many will realize it in any meaningful way. Here’s why: to equip people for works of service out in the world is to simultaneously detract from building the organization we commonly picture as a successful not-for-profit church. I honestly don’t mean this in a mean-spirited way: it’s just that the religious staff is incented to pull people in, not send them out as thoughtful ambassadors (that is, not just parroting religious words and proselytizing with pat answers but deeply engaged in transformational work).

Personally, I think there is a connection between people who love what they do and the creating/redeeming stuff God wants to accomplish in the world. And I’m starting to think people who love what they do can be far more potent than a year’s worth of sermons delivered to roomfuls of devotees. Not they these are mutually exclusive, though my experience is they typically are.

By the way: is the dancing traffic cop a kind of pastor in his own circular pulpit?

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Image credit: thebostonglobe

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Written by kirkistan

March 1, 2013 at 9:40 am

4 Responses

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  1. I really like this post, Kirkistan!

    rootbeerdan

    March 2, 2013 at 10:48 am

    • Dan–thanks for reading!

      kirkistan

      March 2, 2013 at 1:28 pm

  2. […] Sunday Worship to Monday Work at a Bethel University event. Reading his book confirmed what I noted after hearing him: that preachers often talk about work from an abstracted viewpoint that collects themes from the […]

  3. Reblogged this on Work and Keep and commented:
    Read this post for insights into the next book giveaway!

    marc mullins

    September 24, 2013 at 12:45 pm


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