Vocation

Five Reasons to Preach a Series on Work

In my five decades of attending Bible-preaching churches I’ve heard precisely one sermon series on work. It was my own, and was pretty weak.

It’s possible that the topic has been receiving systematic attention all over the place all these years, and I’ve just managed to miss nearly all of it. But I think not.

For whatever reason, work is a neglected subject, not only in topical preaching and teaching, but, in my experience, also in the applicational portions of expositional sermons. Often, when the workplace is referenced at all, the focus is solely on “being a witness” or “having a good testimony,” as though work couldn’t possibly have any other important purposes in a believer’s life.

So the topic seems not only to be underrepresented in pulpit work, but also to be poorly understood.

For several reasons, our ministries should include systematic teaching on work. Some of these reasons also point to the bigger picture of why work is important in the lives of Christians.

1. It’s OK to do topical work sometimes.

For the benefit of those who highly value paragraph-by-paragraph expositional preaching (as they should) and are hesitant to include any topical work in the mix, a few observations:

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Study: How do millennial Christians approach faith, work, and calling?

“In Christians at Work, which is based on a new study from Barna … . Christian millennials emerge as distinctly optimistic and ambitious, whether in the ‘tangibles’ of their daily work and spiritual growth or in their general awareness of how or whether to apply their God-given gifts.” - Acton

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Women, Work, and the Home: What Is a Biblical Measurement of Success?

"Mothers are invested in this process [of bearing and rearing future workers] for only a segment of their adult lives. Most women will have sixty years as an adult in which to create value through their own labors. The challenge is how to do that wisely in a culture that largely requires parenting and income generation to be done in separate places." - IFWE

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From the Archives: The Dignity and Vanity of Labor

I’ve always preached that all honest work is God-glorifying and that the opportunity to engage in labor and reflect God’s character through it is a great privilege. Over the years, I’ve also emphasized that if you’re doing the work God wants you to do, however “secular” it may be, you shouldn’t stoop to do anything else. Even vocational ministry is a demotion if it’s not what God wants you to do.

As a pastor, these ideas were relatively easy to affirm. The logic is simple. The best thing any man can do at any time is to obey God. Therefore, if God wants him to sell soap, or make pizza, or drive truck, or mop floors, that activity is the best thing he can do. And if that work is best for him, all other work is inferior.

But when you’re post-pastoral, these principles can be a bit harder to hold with conviction—especially if you loved your pastoral work, prepared thoroughly for it for almost a decade, and still believe it’s what you do best. But sometimes even guys with seminary training and clear evidence of giftedness for ministry can find themselves facing clear direction from God to “do something else until further notice.”

And when that happens, they struggle to see meaning and purpose in the work they find to do.

So on this labor day, I’m talking to myself and to any of the rest of you who sometimes feel that your work is a bit wanting on the scale of importance, meaning and enduring value.  (It’s also a holiday, so I’m not going to work too hard at this. Please enjoy the irony.)

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