Rev. David H. Kim is the executive director of the Center for Faith and Work and pastor of faith and work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He holds an MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary and ThM from Princeton Theological Seminary.
Rev. David H. Kim is the executive director of the Center for Faith and Work and pastor of faith and work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He holds an MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary and ThM from Princeton Theological Seminary. Church Health Reader’s managing editor Susan Martins Miller posed questions for how congregational conversations about faith and work connect to greater wellness of both individuals and faith communities.
Q: Churches tend to focus on ways people can serve within the congregation or in a community outreach effort. Why should churches also be talking about vocational issues beyond serving in a church program?
A: The work of Christ extends far beyond the walls of the church. The book of Revelation talks about God redeeming all things. All work needs to be redeemed as much as ministry and health. Churches need to equip people for life outside the church as well inside the church. This is part of understanding the scope of the gospel and our belief that God is renewing every part of our world. Each sector of society reflects different aspects of glory of God. When we help people see work as manifestation of God’s glory, the church realizes the task in bringing out the glory hidden or latent in the industries that God’s people are working in. We desire to see the glory of God known in wider expression than what people are used to thinking about.
When we help people see work as manifestation of God’s glory, the church realizes the task in bringing out the glory hidden or latent in the industries that God’s people are working in.
Q: For many people, what they do for a living or how they serve their families is held separately from their faith lives or how they engage with their faith communities. What conversation points could congregations introduce to integrate work with faith and other parts of a balanced life?
A: In the past, people were happy to compartmentalize faith lives and work lives separately. This is changing with the millennial generation, who demand that the gospel and faith be meaningful in the whole of their lives. This is a good message for the church. We live lives of integrity in the sense that our beliefs are permeating the whole of our lives. For most people, we spend most of our waking hours working, whether as a stay-at-home parent or in roles more traditionally recognized as work. When God sees us, and thus when the church addresses people, it has to be as whole people and not as partial people. This is also part of the dilemma of a lot of churches that are losing their younger people, because faith hasn’t been presented in a way that addresses the whole of their lives. At the center of faith and work issues, it’s not a matter of if you bring your faith to work, but which faith you bring to work. When churches don’t address this, we allow unintended belief structures to enter into something as important and consuming as our work. Often people are not aware what belief structures are informing their belief and practices about work. The church has an opportunity to change that conversation.
Q: What are the implications for our overall well-being when churches are places that help us understand the ways that faith and work intersect? And when they are not?
A: When the churches are these kinds of places, we see new excitement about the faith. Individuals see meaning of the gospel when it pertains to their lives. They hold it dear. It integrates in meaningful ways with how they approach their work. When integration happens, there is power and vibrancy that goes beyond lip service.
On the flip side, look at the sheer numbers of hours people are working—50–60 hours per week, typically. There is a brokenness of work. The power of the gospel doesn’t penetrate, and there is a loss of hope and encouraging motivation. Work becomes a fulfilling prophecy of drudgery rather than the power of God to transform the world.
Q: How is discovering the intersection of faith and work also a glimpse of God’s redemptive purpose active in our lives?
A: We were created by glory for glory. Our deepest expressions of our yearnings are tied to these concepts of glory. Without this, work becomes a means by which we pursue our own glory. This leads to destructive practices, such as pride and sloth in work place. When we see the glory, we know an integration of our spiritual lives as well as our work lives. While our faith doesn’t make work easier, it does bring deeper meaning to our sense of calling and purpose as people of God. When people adopt this view, their growth as Christians happens as much in the workplace if not more than in typical church programs.
Work in Your Life
Do I see a wall between my faith and my work, or do I see my work—whatever it is—as an arena for the values of my faith to be active? What changes should I consider making that would give me a healthier perspective on my work?
In what ways do I see God renewing the work dimension of my life?
How could my church help me carry the power of the gospel into my work place? How can I help others see that the gospel matters when they go to work?
How can my attitudes toward my work, and its place in the balanced life, be an experience of God’s glory?
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