By Kent Humphreys, Worldwide ambassador for the Fellowship of Companies for Christ International. Kent was a member of the Business as Mission Issue Group at the Lausanne 2004 Forum for World Evangelization. Read the Business as Mission Lausanne Occasional Paper (.pdf).
Kent Humphreys Today the church of Jesus Christ is facing perhaps its greatest challenge since Christ’s resurrection. And unfortunately, the only institution that can seem slower to change than the government is the church. On a given Sunday only 17% of the population attends church in the United States, closely following the pattern of Europe. Yet, the Spirit of God is creative and constantly doing new things among us in Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere. So the question is: “What in the world is God doing today, and what does he want us as leaders to do?”
I want to look at briefly at just one area where God is obviously at work in our day – The Workplace.
For the last twenty or thirty years we have seen God moving among his followers in the workplace, just as the church in many countries appeared to become more institutional. While many churches invited the “lost” to come in, many also seemed to keep members “inside and busy with programs,” except for occasional activities out in the community or around the globe. Although mission trips are more common than ever, many churchgoers continue to compartmentalize their lives into “the sacred and the secular”. The “priesthood of the believer” is preached but not always practiced. When Christians get really “spiritual” it’s sometimes assumed they’ll give up their regular job (and in some cases their relationships with the lost) and go on the staff of a church or para-church organization.
As marketplace organizations attract, train, and release workers back into the workplace to model Christ and live out their faith in their professions, some have found resistance from churches. What’s missing is a sense of trust between the church and workplace organizations, that efforts to equip Christians for marketplace ministry would actually give leaders back to the church, increase giving, produce more leaders, and open the doors to those who do not know Christ.
Will God have to bring a spiritual earthquake to get our attention?
While hundreds of workplace organizations have sprung up in the U.S. alone, until recently many of those organizations didn’t dialogue with the local church. I’m encouraged by the growing, healthy conversation that I see happening around the world between the church and workplace organizations. These conversations among leaders are allowing them to learn from each other and listen to each other, leading both groups to lay their control issues on the altar before God. My book (Shepherding Horses) encourages workplace leaders to build these bridges with their pastors and work together to reach their cities. I believe that when we get leaders out of their “silos” into the areas of the marketplace, education, government, arts, media, and the church, coming together in Kingdom unity, emphasizing relationships and community, then we will see transformation in our cities.
In a recent survey in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas, USA it was estimated that the average church budget costs US$25,000 per conversion, while the average workplace chaplain costs just US$1,700 per conversion. It has also been calculated that the average full-time workplace chaplain leads twenty-eight people to Christ per year, while sadly some churches do not lead one adult to Christ in a year. One part-time workplace chaplain led 750 people to Christ over fifteen years – what an amazing impact! Perhaps every church should consider turning a third of their staff into workplace chaplains, providing them free to the organizations in their community.
Jesus always went to the temple and we know the importance he places on the body of Christ, but we must also remember that he spent most of his time in the marketplace, with some rugged workplace leaders and hurting people. My prayer is that leaders in the Body of Christ will come together and turn the focus of our churches outward toward the lost in our cities, and begin to reap a harvest in the greatest mission field in this century – the marketplace.
Equipping believers to share Christ in their sphere of influence at the workplace offers a great opportunity to have a daily impact on those who do not know Christ and on the community as a whole. May we as leaders become equippers and encouragers of believers as they invade their workplaces with the Gospel of Christ.