My church is unusual. My pastor makes it point to do so.
But I know my church is the exception not the rule.
Why do pastors preach so rarely, if at all, on the subject of work?
After all, their church members will almost certainly spend more time working than they will ever spend at church, in small groups, or ministering to others combined. Work is the primary reason we obtain an education, and it is something we will do until we retire and often into retirement. It is what we do the majority of our waking hours. And yet, when is the last time you heard a sermon on what God expects from you at work, or why your work matters, or what it means to be a Christian employee or employer?
I’m speculating here to a certain extent because I have not seen any studies on the issue, but I suspect there are four principal reasons pastors choose to ignore the subject of work from the pulpit:
- Lack of experience. Many, if not most, pastors have never worked in the so-called “secular” world, have not done in a long time, or for any significant period of time. Consequently, it is not a subject on which they have, or feel they have, much experience or much to offer.
- Lack of knowledge. Many pastors simply have never thought much about a theology of work or why work matters beyond providing a source of financial support for the local church or a mission field for evangelism. Let’s face it, it is not easy to tell one’s congregation they should work harder so they can give more to the church. And there is always an underlying tension in preaching about workplace evangelism because deep down we all know employers are not paying employees to evangelize but to work.
- Lack of motivation. This may sound a bit harsh, but local churches live on free, volunteer labor, and whether pastors consciously avoid preaching on work, they certainly know that the more they encourage their members to work and find fulfillment at the secular jobs they less time they will have to volunteer or be involved at church.
- Lack of an eschatology. Maybe I should say, “Lack of a positive eschatology” because that is really what it is. If your pastor thinks the world is going to hell why encourage you to contribute to it through your work. Why polish brass on a sinking ship? Better to spend your time loading up the bus to heaven.
Given the importance of work to the kingdom of God, it should be one of the most preached about topics. But as long as those in the ministry lack in these four areas, sermons on work will probably continue to be a rare event in most churches. GS