The local church should be a Holy Spirit training outpost for equipping God’s people to be kingdom warriors of love and servanthood on earth and to destroy the works of darkness. Instead, the local church is often operating more like a cruise ship instead of a battleship designed to equip an army.
I first met pastor Fred Hartley about five years ago when I was invited to be on a city transformation leadership team in Atlanta. Fred pastors a midsize congregation in a suburb of Atlanta and is also the founder of the College of Prayer, an international equipping ministry. Fred has written several books on prayer. He knew little about my work, but as we began getting to know one another, he took more of an interest in what I did. I shared a few of my books with him, but it was almost two years before Fred caught what I was doing and how it could impact his own local congregation. He wrote me this letter:
I had the most amazing experience in church on Sunday. I wish you could have been here. Let me explain. During this last module of the College of Prayer, I was convicted as Vanessa Battle was teaching on marketplace ministry and my lack of prayer support for our marketplace leaders.
During worship, I sat the people down and confessed that while I had recruited over 150 prayer partners for myself, I failed to pray for them in their marketplace, though their prayers are equally as valid as my own.
I asked them to write their name on a piece of paper and underneath that to put down their employer and their position. Then I asked them to write down the name of their boss and the CEO of their company so I could pray for those in authority over them as well as praying for their marketplace.
You would have not have believed the response. It was overwhelming!
Our people flocked forward with their slips of paper. When I then led in prayer for everyone who responded, the place erupted in applause.
Our people are praying people, but they have never responded like that before. When I asked God to tear down the dividing wall between the sacred and the secular and led us in a prayer to declare our marketplace holy to God, the place just about erupted. I sensed the pleasure of God in the moment at a very profound level. The people felt validated! I told them we are going to take the nine-to-five window, as Os Hillman describes.
Thanks for being a good example to me, Os.
—Pastor Fred Hartley, Lilburn Alliance Church, Atlanta, Ga.
Many church members simply do not feel validated for the work they do five days a week. They often feel like second-class citizens. One schoolteacher commented, “I was called up to the front of the church to commission me as the teacher for the school-age children for the year. Later I wondered why I have never been recognized for teaching kids five days a week as a ministry.”
A Church Growth Expert Recognizes a Movement
C. Peter Wagner has been watching movements in the church for more than 50 years. A former seminary professor and church growth expert, Wagner now leads the Wagner Leadership Institute and Global Harvest Ministries in Colorado Springs, Colo. He also heads up the International Coalition of Apostles. He began watching the faith-at-work movement in the late '90s and saw that it was an important move of God that he felt was impacting the church at large and the local church. He began to draw a distinction between two types of churches—the nuclear church and the extended church.
He explains it this way: “Biblically, the word for church, ekklesia, means, ‘the people of God.’ God’s people are the church, not only on Sunday when they gather together for worship and teaching (the nuclear church), but also on the other six days when they find themselves in the workplace (the extended church).”
Wagner indicates that it has become increasingly clear that not only do these two forms of the church really exist and that each is truly the biblical church, but also that they are quite different from each other, despite the fact that they contain largely the same people.
While simply acknowledging that there is a difference between the two might seem rather innocuous, Wagner states that the situation becomes more complex when we begin to explore the breadth of the gap between the nuclear church and the extended church. Wagner points to some respectable research that reveals the gap turns out to be much larger than most people might think. He says, “The nuclear church and the extended church each has a distinct culture, and each culture, as cultures do, operates according to its own rule book.”
Most extended church leaders understand both rule books because they not only function in the workplace, but are also active in a local church. However, Wagner points out that most nuclear church leaders understand only one rule book. He states, “This can and does cause some of them to feel very uncomfortable with the notion that their own members customarily function, behind their backs, in a different church with different behavior patterns six days a week.”
Wagner believes it should go without saying that God’s desire in this new season of the faith-and-work movement is that all His people move forward in harmony. It would be a severe setback to the kingdom of God if nuclear church leaders decided to condemn the rule book of the extended church for whatever reason and thereby widen the gap.
What Happens When Church Members Feel Validated and Affirmed?
Many times church leaders feel that if church members have a ministry outside the four walls of the local church, there will be a decrease in volunteerism, giving and general support for the local congregation. That has proven to be false; it actually is the exact opposite.
Giving increases and volunteerism increases, because the member, for the first time in his or her life, feels validated by the leadership for his or her specific calling. This validation draws members to a greater commitment to the local church, because it is serving them where they most need it—in their work-life call. Churches need to consider that every member is a potential change agent in the making and recognize the privilege that church has to invest in their lives.
Several years ago, we introduced an equipping tool for churches, marketplace ministries and businesses. We call it our TGIF Co-Branding Program.
We found that men and women love my TGIF: Today God Is First devotional. So what we decided to do was create a version of TGIF that organizations could use to build their own subscriber list using TGIF and brand it with their name on it. They totally control the subscribers. We added an article content website with articles on 24 different subjects men and women deal with daily in the workplace. We also branded that site with the organization’s name. We added our affiliate bookstore, TGIFBookstore.com, to allow the organization to earn money from a branded store.
The TGIF Co-branding Program has been very effective as a support to what the local church or other organizations might want to do to better equip men and women in the workplace. It frees the local church pastors from having to know everything about workplace topics and gives their members a resource to get more in-depth teaching on various subjects related to their work-life calling.
Equip Change Agents
How do we reclaim the church mountain to fulfill its mandate to equip change agents? How can a congregation better affirm and mobilize its pew-sitters in ministry within their jobs? The following ideas and strategies can help you begin to mobilize men and women to see their work as a calling and ministry from God.
For additional insights, read my book Faith and Work Movement: What Every Pastor and Church Leader Should Know, available at tgifbookstore.com. For information on the TGIF Co-branding Program, go to marketplaceleaders.org and click on TGIF Co-branding Program under TGIF.
This is Part 2 of the series, “Can the Church Still Impact Today’s Culture?” It is excerpted from the book, Change Agent: Engaging Your Passion to the One That Makes a Difference and Faith and Work Movement: What Every Pastor and Church Leader Should Know, by Os Hillman. Click here to read Part 1.
Os Hillman is an international author and speaker on faith and work. He writes a free daily email devotional, TGIF: Today God Is First, that is subscribed to by 200,000 people worldwide each day. www.TodayGodIsFirst.com