At least in America, evangelical churches have largely neglected the subjects of faith, work, and calling. We tend to focus on salvation, evangelism, or basic personal discipleship (Bible reading, prayer, fellowship) but ignore what most people do 40, 60, or 80 hours a week.
When I read the following quote from William Diehl’s book, Christianity and Real Life, it jumped off the page at me:
I am now a sales manager for a major steel company. In the almost 30 years of my professional career, my church has never once suggested that there be any time of accounting of my on-the-job ministry to others. My church has never once offered to improve those skills which could have made me a better lay minister, nor has it ever asked if I needed any kind of support in what I was doing. There has never been an inquiry into the types of ethical decisions I must face, or whether I seek to communicate my faith to my co-workers. I never have been in a congregation where there was any type of public affirmation of a ministry in my career. In short, I must conclude that my church really doesn’t have the least interest in whether or how I minister in my daily work.
When I first read this quote many years ago, I didn’t know any churches that were attempting to address this deficiency. This issue remains even today in many quarters. Gabe Lyons offers this anecdote in an interview with TGC:
Andy Crouch tells a story about a lady in Boston who taught Sunday school at her church for 30 years. She was also responsible for cleaning up the whole Boston Harbor, which was a nightmare for the city. But the first time she was brought up in front of her church was to talk about how she had taught Sunday school for 30 years. They never mentioned that she had been responsible for helping the entire city by leading this huge project.
There isn’t anything wrong with recognizing someone’s faithful service to the church. However, we’re much more likely to recognize those types of service rather than someone’s faithfulness to their vocation outside the church. Fortunately some churches and organizations are beginning to wake up to this need through their public teaching. But there is much that can be done to implicitly address these topics as well. G. K. Chesterton said, “Education is implication.” We often remember not what is explicitly said, but what is implied.