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Tim Keller on the need for churches to equip believers to integrate faith and work:

Most American Christians have been taught to seal off their faith-beliefs from the way they work in their vocation. The gospel is seen as a means of finding individual peace and not as a ‘world-view’–a comprehensive interpretation of reality that affects all we do. But the gospel has a deep and vital impact on how we do art, business, government, media, and scholarship. Churches must be highly committed to support Christians’ engagement with culture, helping them work with excellence, distinctiveness, and accountability in their professions and in ‘secular work.’ Developing humane, yet creative and excellent business environments out of our understanding of the gospel can be part of the work of restoring creation in the power of the Spirit. Bringing Christian joy, hope, and truth to embodiment in the arts is also part of this work.

Christians, he argues, need at least the following from their churches:

First, theological education about how to ‘think Christianly’ about all of life, public and private, and about how to work with Christian distinctiveness. They need to know what cultural practices are ‘common grace’ and can be embraced, what practices are antithetical to the gospel and must be rejected, and what practices can be adapted/revised for use by believers.

Second, they need to be practically mentored, placed, and positioned in their vocations in the most advantageous way. They need cooperation with others in the field who can encourage, advise, and advocate for them. They need help to do their work with excellence and in a way that really helps others and strengthens social cohesiveness rather than weakening it.

Third, they need spiritual support for the ups and downs of their work and accountability for living and working with Christian integrity.

Some helpful works on vocation (and work) include:

In 2001, Gene Veith wrote a six-part series of articles in the Lutheran Witness that serves as a nice introduction to some of the key issues:

(Thanks to Matt Heerema for help in tracking down these links.)

You can also watch below as Tim Keller, and then a panel, look at redefining work at The Gospel Coalition’s 2013 Faith at Work Post-Conference:

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4 thoughts on “The Church, Faith, and Work”

  1. This message seems geared at functioning inside a conundrum. That is, there are people who feel a call to ministry who simply need to stay at their “secular” job… except that some are actually being called into the ministry.

    It’s similar to the question about working in the power of Christ instead of your own power. If you have to be admonished, then you don’t know that you aren’t working in the power of Christ. The question then is epistemic: How do you know whether you are operating int the power of Christ or not?

    So do we have a problem with too many people feeling called into the ministry? Do we have too many people with healthy ambition trying to minister and failing that we have to tell them that they aren’t working in the power of Christ? How do we know they are failing when we don’t know the future impact of our actions?

    I think Tim Keller’s direction in the second quote for what churches need to be doing is on the money. I don’t see it happening, largely because most people aren’t spiritually mature enough to desire that kind of direction but also because most people who are considered spiritually mature enough won’t serve as a mentor.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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