Tag Archives: cynicism in the workplace

Is the Gap Between Pulpit and Pew Narrowing? Latest Research from LeTourneau University

Is the Gap Between Pulpit & Pew Narrowing? Read about the Latest Research

Dallas TX: New research conducted by the Barna Group for the Center for Faith & Work at​ LeTourneau University shows a substantial uptick in the number of pastors who say they preach on work. However, most church-goers still doubt the significance of their work to God.

“While American church-goers hear more sermons on work these days, there’s still a gap between what’s preached from the pulpit and what’s grasped by those in the pew,” says Bill Peel, Executive Director.

The research revealed that 70 percent of Christians do not see how their work serves God’s purposes, and 78 percent see their work as less important than the work of a pastor or priest.

Jim Mullins is a pastor who’s been pondering this breakdown of communication between the pulpit and the pew. In an insightful article, Mullins tells how one of his parishioners—a biomedical engineer who developed devices to help doctors detect early-stage cancer—was considering a career change to become a pastor or missionary. He told Mullins, “I don’t want to waste my life. I want to do something that has real significance, where I can glorify God and actually love people.”

Mullins says this faulty perspective was not for lack of hearing sermons on God’s view of work. He writes,

At our church, we preach the lordship of Christ over all aspects of life, offer classes about the theology of work, and repeat our favorite phrase every Sunday: “All of life is all for Jesus.”

After mulling why the message about the broad scope of the gospel and its implications for work wasn’t getting through to the engineer, Mullins had a revelation.

I realized that the issue wasn’t with what he heard, but with what he saw. He frequently heard teaching about the importance of vocation and all-of-life discipleship, but he never saw anyone’s work—apart from pastoral, missionary, and nonprofit work—publicly celebrated.

Pastors are awakening to the importance of helping people integrate faith and work. But it’s going to take more than sermons and classes to inculcate a biblical theology of work. Like the engineer, most of us need not only to hear that our work is important to God, we need to see it honored and celebrated as well.

Over the past four years, Barna Group research commissioned by LeTourneau University’s Center for Faith & Work has uncovered some important trends.

In 2011 our research …

  • Nearly all (93 percent) of pastors said that helping people integrate faith into daily work is “very important.”
  • Two-thirds (68 percent) of those pastors questioned their understanding of workplace issues.
  • Only half (49 percent) of churchgoing, employed Christians “strongly agreed” that their church provided information, guidance, and support to live out faith at work.
  • One in four (26 percent) of pastors said their sermons addressed faith at work.
  • Fewer than one in ten (8 percent) of pastors said they provided prayer support for workplace issues.
  • Only a fraction (3 percent) of pastors reported visiting their members at work.

Fast forward three years and note increases our new research reveals.

In 2014 …

  • Over one-third (36 percent) of senior Protestant pastors say they preached a sermon on what the Bible says about God’s view of work within the past month.
  • An additional 36 percent say they have preached on work in the past six months.
  • In all, 86 percent of pastors have preached a sermon within the last year that focused on what the Bible says about God’s view of work, and specifically on how one’s faith should impact one’s work.

According to Peel, “These findings indicate a significant surge in the attention pastors are giving to the importance of faith and work—an encouraging trend indeed! However, there’s a still a gap between what parishioners are hearing about the importance of their work to God, and they are seeing.”

The new research shows that, apart from pastoral and missionary work, little attention has been paid to publicly celebrating the work most parishioners do between Sundays.

  • During the last year, fewer than one in five (18 percent) of churches publicly dedicated or commissioned their members to serve God in the places where they work.

“I believe that this gap between what is preached and what is celebrated continues to cloud how people assess the value of their work to God,” says Peel.

  • Over two-thirds (70 percent) of Christians still cannot envision how the work they do serves God.
  • Almost four out of five church-goers (78 percent) doubt that the work they do is equal in importance to the work of a pastor or priest.

“Clearly, increased preaching and teaching about faith and work is a positive, praiseworthy step, but much more is needed. Churches must become fully engaged in shaping people spiritually for the workplace. A powerful next step is to schedule time in worship services to publicly celebrate all kinds of work that advance God’s creation,” advises Peel. “This simple action can help people connect God’s truth with their work in life-changing ways.”

Find ideas for conducting a commissioning service by clicking here.

ABOUT THE RESEARCH

The 2014 data about pastors originated through research conducted by Barna Group of Ventura, California. The questions were commissioned by the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University. The PastorPollSM included 602 telephone interviews conducted among a representative sample of senior pastors of Protestant churches from within the continental U.S. The telephone interviews were conducted from June 3 through June 13, 2014. The sampling error for PastorPollSM is +/-4 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level. The cooperation rate in the PastorPollSM was 96%.

The 2014 data about church-goers originated through research conducted by Barna Group of Ventura, California. The questions were commissioned by the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University. The OmniPollSM included 1,036 online surveys conducted among a representative, nationwide sample of adults ages 18 and older.  The online interviews were conducted from September 2 through September 10, 2014. The sampling error for OmniPollSM is +/-3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The participation rate in the Fall 2014 OmniPollSM was 95%.

The 2011 data about pastors originated through research conducted by Barna Group of Ventura, California. The questions were commissioned by the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University. The PastorPollSM included 646 telephone interviews conducted among a representative sample of senior pastors of Protestant and Catholic churches from within the 48 continental United States. The survey was conducted from May 26, 2011 through June 20, 2011. The sampling error for this PastorPollSM is +/-4% at the 95% confidence level.

The 2011 data about church-goers originated through research conducted by Barna Group of Ventura, California. The questions were commissioned by the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University. The OmniPollSM included 1,007 telephone interviews conducted among a representative sample of adults over the age of 18 within the 48 continental states. The survey was conducted from August 1, 2011 through August 14, 2011. Only those adults who self-identified as Christian or Catholic, who attended church in the past six months, and who were employed full-time or part-time qualified to participate in the module of questions for LeTourneau University. In this study, a total of 350 adults qualified to participate. The sampling error for a sample of this size (n=350) is plus or minus 5.2 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level.

– See more at: http://www.centerforfaithandwork.com/node/804#sthash.ndE6cXFa.dpuf

Unemployment it’s especially hard during the holidays. Enjoy the holidays, but on Monday try this

I have developed a heart for those dealing with unemployment. I worked in corporate finance for twenty years and went through my share of. Corporate challenges  I do know the drill. If you are dealing with this I am sure you have been working hard, doing all the things that are recommended and still keeping a great attitude. I would certainly encourage you to keep trusting in God, looking for His will and trusting that he is moving you where you should be.  I truly hope that you will take your foot off the pedal for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Keep a positive attitude, keep regular hours do what you can do but take time to enjoy family and friends to let a group like ours give support, for your pastor to encourage and give comfort. I know how you’re feeling and you need to stop beating yourself. This time of year is particularly tough for two groups, those who have lost a loved one and those who are unemployed. Please be with brothers and sisters in Jesus and enjoy their support. If you are in the York, Pa area and we can provide support of clothing, food, fellowship, please don’t hesitate to contact me at bm2driskell@aol.com.

Now something to think about for next week, maybe you’re kind of in a rut so try this. This is something we suggest to people in the group we facilitate, but now it is backed up with professional opinion. The following is from “Men’s Health” Jul/August 2014 page 20:

“Donating your time really will help you get ahead. In a study in the “Journal of Career Assessment”, unemployed people who volunteered weekly were far more likely to have a job within six months than those who didn’t lend a hand. Even those who volunteered less than two hours a week had a better shot at being hired elsewhere, says Varda Konstam PhD, the study’s lead researcher. The key word here is “elsewhere”. The ability to ladle out soup doesn’t mean you’re qualified to work only in a cafeteria. Interviewers are increasingly viewing such basic skills as indicators of broader skill sets. That means serving soup isn’t about serving soup; it shows that you’re good at customer service and work well with others. Try telethons to show off your sales and marketing tactics  or find another opportunity in your area at volunteermatch.org ”

i have seen at least two people in our group end up with really great positions by following this advice. One other note we are more and more seeing ages forty and over with this group. Either they’re the only ones taking the initiative to be part of such group or it’s hitting older workers. I’d be willing to be a combination of both. Any discussion on that would be appreciated we would like to get better in this area and input would be appreciated. Again Happy Thanksgiving and God bless.

Our identity is in Jesus, not in our job title/description

AJ Sherrill is the pastor of Trinity Grace Church in Manhattan, NY. In an earlier post I wrote about New York City being the unhappiest metropolitan area in the country. I haven’t seen any research, but NYC is the hub of those who seek to make their fortune. Let’s face it only so many are going to do that, the vast majority are going to fall short. When you’ve staked everything on achieving what only a few will realize, the result will usually be unhappiness, or however else you want to characterize the despondency associated with “failure”.
May sound a little harsh and I’m not saying that is my perception, but it is the perception of many in the world, particularly those people that supposedly “matter”. When we have staked everything on our “success”, it leaves very little room for anything else in our life; family, integrity, self-fulfillment, God.
Pastor Sherrill quotes Abraham Kuyper (Leadership Journal Summer 2014 p84), “the 20th century Dutch journalist, theologian and politician. His famous proclamation, ‘There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine!” “…is the reminder that should resound in the ears of every Christian in the workforce.”
Let’s face it, that is not the case. As soon as most of us hit the threshold at church, we have to beat the Baptists to “Country Buffet”, get home for football and then try to relaxe before we get back to the “real” world on Monday. Hey I’m not disputing that you have to work hard and focus on your career. I’ve never said you shouldn’t, but when you become so immersed, may I even say obsessed, you lose your identity in the Body of Christ and you become your job title/description. “…far too many are over-identified with their work as the context to achieve identity rather than express identity. When our identities are not settled in Christ, we subconsciously put them up for negotiation – and that negotiation is usually based on our ‘success’ or ‘failure’ we experience in the marketplace. Am I good enough? Is my future secure?”
When we lose our identity to anything/one, other than Christ we are already at risk to being dragged back into the cares and temptations of the world. We trust in God’s providence and sovereignty in our life, not how the workplace treats us. My experience in the corporate and military world has been that as a Christian you’re often not going to be treated “fairly”. It’s not necessarily an issue of success and failure, you may be marginalized because of your faith. So what does that mean? You give up? As Pastor Sherrill points out: “Unitl Christians in the workforce find freedom from over-identification they will only view work as meaning, while never getting around to approaching work as mission.” This is Christian integrity, I’m certainly not telling you can’t be all you can be in your vocation, you should be. As I’ve discussed before working for your “master” as if you are working for Christ. But to maintain your integrity, your identification has to be in Christ. You can be a good/great Indian chief, but being a great Indian chief in Jesus is what we strive for.
Pastor Sherrill quotes Richard Rohr: “When you get your ‘Who am I/” question right, all the ‘What should I do’ questions (begin to) take care of themselves.” Perhaps in terms of how I can be a great Indian chief for Jesus, instead of just great for my own fame, fortune and personal fulfillment.
This is a challenge we face in all our areas of life, how to be a Christian, father, husband, child, employee, citizen, but the workplace is what dominates so much of our life and is probably the area that encourages us to shed our Christian identity. It’s as if the workplace is not what Kuyper says, Jesus only can claim ‘mine’ to the time outside of the office. Of course that erosion continues to the point where we only see ourselves as Christians on Sunday morning and for only a few hours then. Jesus lived a life of integrity and sacrifice. What we presume to offer back two, maybe three hours at a church where we think we should be comfortable and entertained. This is for the men, speaking to you I’d like to say this is not being the strong man of integrity. This is an attitude of entitlement and frankly presuming to think that it’s all about you and that you are in control. If you are at any point of being a mature man, you know that you are not really in control. When we know that God is in control, that He does love us, but He also expects us to step up and be strong, courageous, and to act with Christian integrity in all of the areas of our lives. There is no integrity in the attitude where you throw Jesus some crumbs, expecting that it really results in your comfort and pleasure, especially when we remember what He did for us.
Let’s keep talking about it, Wednesday mornings 10 am at First St Johns, we have coffee and some sort of pastry, good discussion, we’re still going through Dr Gene Veith’s book, and a way to break up the week to be built up and restored in Jesus. 140 W King St, park right behind the church.

What is your organization’s spiritual perspective

Yeah in my kumbah-ya, everyone sitting around the work campfire, everyone all on the same page, spiritually speaking and of course, especially in this day and age that’s just not realistic. In addition I kind of thought of a Christian business in terms of Chik Fil A, Hobby Lobby etc I really didn’t take into account that management might do some window-dressing to enhance the business mission, but not really take it seriously. In his book “Business Courage”, Fr Nkwasibwe lists out the motivations that might be driving management to allow, implement or encourage opportunities to build spirituality into their organization. 

I do want to emphasize that there is no doubt that organizations have their unique missions, the church is  the church and whether you are a commercial organization, government, not-for-profit, you have your own mission. I would like to think that any organization that implements, allows or encourages spirituality in the workplace is doing it with altruistic motivations. I am sure that even the most dedicated Christian or other type of believer is doing this in order to enhance the mission of their organization. I don’t have a problem with that, even if it may be a sort of cynical attempt to exploit something that they feel might enhance production, results. I certainly don’t condone it, but let’s face it man’s motives are never going to be completely altruistic and I trust that God is going to take even our most cynical offerings and make them at least somewhat glorifying and God-honoring.

Fr Nkwasibwe’s first example is “Workplace Spirituality as a crafty device for Leadership effectiveness”, as I said just an entirely cynical effort to exploit something in the organization to enhance the mission of the organization, could kind of think of it as “using God”. No it’s not good, but it may be just the point that God does use to glorify Himself, or that this is where someone really needs to meet God and He has initiated the whole idea in order to reach that person. Hey He’s God, He’s going to work it out the way He needs/wants to. What better way to the glory of God to take an imperfect vessel such as a cynical attempt to exploit God and He takes it and uses it to really reach someone or a few someones?

I’m going to let Fr Nkwasibwe describe this next possibility: “To this group, workplace spirituality has become a form of workplace battlefield of proxy wars between the military of the rising secular fun morality and philosophy and the garrison of the deepening religious thought, philosophy and strict morality. Workplace spirituality is seen as a venue and battle of dominance of religion versus irreligion in the workplace, just as there is a competition for more salary between the humanities/arts and science professions in the workplace.” (p 227)

Uhhmm wow. I never really imagined this type of scenario, but I am reminded that Fr Nkwasibwe is from Africa, the interaction between different beliefs, especially Christian/Muslim, in those terms you can imagine profound conflict, I’d be willing to bet that there has been conflict. In the U.S. I can see it more in terms of sniping, cliques, lack of cooperation etc. I can certainly imagine situations that might get out of hand. I see the question as; do you want to implement something that will enhance the workplace environment, or is it a case where it’s allowed without any real way to really control it? (not control in a way to decide what will or won’t, but in terms of function in terms of not interfering with the normal functioning of the organization and will not result in conflict or distractions.) This is certainly something that should be considered if organizations do want to implement/encourage this kind of opportunity.

This next one, as a Christian, especially a pastor, is kind of a burr under my saddle. Especially in terms of being a Lutheran, which emphasizes what God does through us, being “good”, being “moral”, “ethical”, in terms of conduct is so subjective, and not really what I’m talking about in terms of our relationship with Jesus. Our “goodness” or lack thereof, however defined, does not earn us a way to heaven. It’s so subjective and it’s done only in terms of a relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit guides us in all aspects of our life. We can never be “good” enough to earn our way to heaven, it’s only through Jesus’ sacrifice, His propitiation of our sin, His righteousness do we become part of the Kingdom, here on earth and for eternity. So when we start talking, as Fr Nkwasibwe, does saying: “They equate spirituality with morality. Spirituality is merely seen as a principle for promoting cultural and religious sensitivity and practicing a reasonable accommodation in the workplace in order to address the problem of social justice…they see workplace spirituality as the means to strengthen the practice of social justice, to eliminate the mental and social effects of workplace discrimination and to apply ethics in theory and practice in the workplace…seen as a bridge between religion, ethics and the law.” (pp 227-228)

I’m sorry but this smacks of the organization trying to play God, it certainly is entitled to implement rules, regulations, and discipline, but if it’s trying to do it in a way that smacks of Big Brother, I would say there are other issues at play here and the attempt is going to be perceived as manipulation and it will inevitably cause conflict and fail in its attempt to control. If you want to do something to promote some kind of social justice/welfare, do it, but don’t try to make it as some kind of works righteousness or to manipulate the response of the members of the organization. It is always a faith journey, in this particular situation, the faith is in your own judgment and really does nothing more then what you would already do. If you truly want to be guided by God, go for it, but do it in faith and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Anything else will be an embarrassment and will fail.

Fr Nkwasibwe’s next description is probably the best description of what I would see as a Christian environment in the workplace and what I would buy into, understanding that it will probably be a work in progress:

“Inspired by the Spirit of God, a devout group of people associate the practice of workplace spirituality with a means to perfection, wholeness and salvation. Here, it is seen as a bridge that links the natural world with the supernatural life. As such, spirituality at the workplace constitutes an opportunity for conversion and growing in holiness. Progress in holiness is the utmost level of expression of spirituality and religiosity because it consists of perfecting in one’s life that sanctification that he or she has received from his or her God.” Christians always understand that our righteousness is through Christ, we are saved through the Gospel, not through hoops and rolls, a lot of rules or practices. Yes Christians have a set form, but in the final analysis, it’s not about what we’re doing, it’s about the faith that we are given in relationship with Jesus. Our only progress in spirituality, per se, is what we stop resisting and what the Holy Spirit guides us to and strengthens us in, all about Him, nothing about us.

“…They consider the practice of workplace spirituality to be a private and public protocol for responding to a call to holiness. This is believed to be achieved by a reflective conversion of mind and heart to embracing a God-centered culture and a way of life. In this way, spirituality is a practice that supports the making of a stance to become our authentic selves while irrevocably trust in God who is all truth and whose love surpass the furthermost expression of the human yearning.” (pp 228 – 229) Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism have profound differences, hey that’s the whole reason for the Reformation, but I can accept this quote in terms of the understanding that what we do is in faith, it is God honoring, our intent is to be in God’s will, not our own. There is nothing anymore special about our work environment that should restrict our relationship with the Lord, it’s God’s plans and by definition it has to be infinitely better then ours.

Finally Fr Nkwasibwe describes what is probably the typical contemporary workplace environment: “…one side of individuals wants a non-interfering religion or a religion that dialogues and conforms to the voice of the world while guaranteeing them enjoying life in total autonomy. On the other hand, another side of individuals wants a religion that guarantees freedom with a caveat that this freedom does not simply mean enjoying life in total autonomy…” Hey let’s face it, that’s the way the world is today, I’m doing what I want, when I want, how it affects others or negatively affects them, and for some bizarre reason the rest of the world is supposed to buy into it, no matter how negatively it affects others and my church should buy into whatever I want, because I’m a “good” person and deserve it. Yea, right, you keep believing that. You’re “god” and God is supposed to just facilitate the life you want. Hey it works for Joel Osteen right? Doesn’t work for God’s revealed Word, but hey, people are going to do what they’re going to do.

Yes, I guess it’s kind of a weighted discussion, but it is the way it is. What should your organization look like compared to these examples? Are you moving that way? Are you taking into account the possibilities. Certainly my perspective is toward being faithful to God’s leading and trusting His infinite knowledge and that He only wants what is best for me, in Christian maturity, not according to my plan.