Ten Red Flags Indicating Ephesians 4 Might Be Turned Upside Down at Your Church

I don’t think my pastor understands what I do or believes my work and ministry matter.

This oft-repeated, sad comment reveals bad theology and, more sadly, the neglect of church leaders. How can we ignore the ministry and work of so many people, often leaving them to believe their lives, work and ministry are less important than the paid staff?

I just returned from a weekend retreat to discuss “vocation” with Steven Garber of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture. We discussed this issue at length and why the church still has so far to go in valuing people’s work and calling in the ordinary everyday world.

Garber’s work addresses the whole range of what it means to be alive and engaged in the world with our whole being. Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good.  He says “vocation” includes our occupation, but is so much more. It includes “also families, and neighbors, and citizenship locally and globally” and that “faith shapes vocation, and vocation shapes culture.”

Speaking specifically about our occupations, Garber mentions friend and pastor Tom Nelson, author of “Your Work Matters,” as one who gets it right, a leader who needed to repent before his large congregation of his ignoring their work and not supporting their ministry.

Here’s a few minutes of his story and why he wrote the book.

Does your work matter to your church leaders?

Here are 10 red flags suggesting there is a problem and that maybe Ephesians 4 has been turned upside down.

1 – The staff consistently pleads for more volunteers to help them do their work.

2 – You are asked to give more money so “we (the staff) can get more ministry done.”

3 – Announcements are filled primarily with “what is happening here” and “how you can get involved and serve here” with the ministries “on campus.”

4 – “Success” is measured primarily by attendance at services, dollars donated, buildings completed, and how staff members have met their ministry goals.

5 – When there’s more ‘ministry’ to be done, plan A is hire more staff who recruit people to their team.

6 – You hear more about the staff members’ lives and work (often the pastor’s family, ideas, vision, writing, travels, etc.) that vision, ministry, lives and callings of people in the church. (We hear, ‘pray for pastor as he travels…’ yet there are so many members who travel the world each week for their work. Who prays for them? I wonder what they think when they hear such a plea.)

7 – The “pastoral prayer” almost never includes a blessing or intercession for people who labor in the name of Jesus each week in their daily work, except maybe on Labor Day weekend.

8 – “Ministry” is defined primarily as that which is done in programs officially sponsored by the church.

9 – Reports about “how we are doing as a church” are limited to updates about finances, building programs, or peak attendance at holiday services.

10 – High capacity people and influential community leaders (particularly the wealthy who “have the gift of giving”) are only viewed as potential board members or donors, not as people to partner with as they use their vast influence, skills and experience to impact to shape our world for the gospel. (One executive said, “Basically, the message I get is, ‘leave your work at the door, but be sure to bring your wallet.’” – Yikes!

Turn This Around

To turn this around leaders and members alike must recover a biblical understanding of vocation, work and “ministry.” And we must pray with and for those who labor in their ministry – their calling—every day, everywhere.

God of heaven and earth, we pray for your kingdom to come, for your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Teach us to see our vocations and occupations as woven into your work in the world this week. For mothers at home who care for children, for those whose labor forms our common life in the city, the nation and the world, for those who serve the marketplace of ideas and commerce, for those whose creative gifts nourish us all, for those whose callings take them into the academy, for those who long for employment that satisfies their souls and serves you, for each one we pray, asking for your great mercy. Give us eyes to see that our work is holy to you, O Lord, even as our worship this day is holy to you. In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. (by Steve Garber, Visions of Vocation, p. 239)

LEADERS: For one pastor’s journey into this transformation that helped him reframe how he viewed his calling and the work of the congregation, please read this short article in Christianity Today.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Donahue

Bill’s vision is: “Resourcing life-changing leaders for world-changing influence.” Leaders and their teams need a clear personal vision and a transformational team strategy. This requires work in 3 key areas: Maximize Leadership Capacity, Sharpen Mission Clarity & Build Transformational Community. Bill has leadership experience in both the for-profit and non-profit arena. After working for P&G in New York and PNC Corp. in Philadelphia, Bill was Director of Leader Development & Group Life for the Willow Creek Church & Association where he created leadership strategies and events for over 10,000 leaders on 6 continents in over 30 countries.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

sufferingservant — 02/03/15 8:12 pm

Great content and perspective that complements marketplace and career ministries.

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

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