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In die Skriflig

versão On-line ISSN 2305-0853
versão impressa ISSN 1018-6441

In Skriflig (Online) vol.49 no.3 Pretoria  2015

http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/ids.v49i3.1944 

ORIGINAL RESEARCH

 

Where is the church on Monday? Awakening the church to the theology and practice of ministry and mission in the marketplace

 

Waar is die kerk op Maandag? Ontwaking van die kerk tot die teologie en praktyk van bediening en sending in die markplein

 

 

Dion A. ForsterI, II; Johann W. OostenbrinkIII

IFaculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
IIBeyers Naudé Center for Public Theology, Unit for Innovation and Transformation of Church and Society, South Africa
IIICamino Consultancy, Organisational Development Specialists, South Africa

Correspondence

 

 


ABSTRACT

Recent research by the Call42 group has shown that South African Christians experience that they are not adequately prepared or equipped for Christian living and discipleship in the world of work - here called the marketplace. This article has argued for the importance of a rediscovery of a theology of work that can empower and equip the church and individual Christians for ministry in the marketplace. The article traces why such a theological deficiency exists in the South African church by considering areas such as an inadequate theology of work and mission, a dualism between faith and work, and an unbalanced emphasis on the role of clergy and a lesser focus on the role of the laity in the missio Dei. Having considered these challenges to the mission and theological identity of the church, the article discusses the three general theological views of the church in South Africa as presented by Smit and adapted by Forster. It considers how the church could become an agent of mission and transformation in the marketplace in each of these three forms. The article comes to the conclusion that the church will need to revisit its missional theology, refocuses its efforts on broader society, and empowers and equips its members for ministry in the marketplace in order to be faithful in partnering with God in the missio Dei.


OPSOMMING

Onlangse navorsing deur die Call42 groep het bevind dat Suid-Afrikaanse Christene ervaar dat hulle nie voldoende voorbereid en toegerus is vir die Christelike lewe en dissipelskap in die arbeidsmark - hier genoem die markplein - nie. Hierdie artikel poog om aan te toon dat 'n herontdekking van 'n teologie van werk belangrik is ten einde die kerk in die algemeen asook individuele Christene te bemagtig en toe te rus vir die bediening in die markplein. Hierdie artikel poog dus om die kwessie van die sodanige teologiese leemte in die Suid-Afrikaanse kerk na te vors. Terreine soos onvoldoende teologie van werk en sending word ondersoek, 'n dualisme tussen geloof en werk word uitgewys, en daar word aangetoon dat 'n oorspeling van die predikant se rol en 'n onderspeling van gewone kerklidmate se rol die kerk se betrokkenheid by die missio Dei benadeel. Met inagneming van hierdie uitdagings aan sending en die kerk se teologiese identiteit, bespreek die artikel drie algemene teologiese standpunte van die kerk in Suid-Afrika, soos deur Smit aangebied en deur Forster aangepas. Die artikel besin hoe die kerk in elk van hierdie drie bestaansvorme 'n agent van sending en transformasie in die markplein kan wees. Die gevolgtrekking word gemaak dat die kerk die missionale of sendingteologie moet heroorweeg, opnuut moet fokus op die uitreik na die breër gemeenskap en lidmate vir bediening in die markplein moet bemagtig en toerus. Sodoende sal die kerk getrou wees aan die medewerking met God in die missio Dei.


 

 

Introduction

This article wishes to honour the theological legacy of George Lotter by focussing on an important aspect of Christian life and witness. Work is an important part of contemporary life. Not only does it provide an opportunity for persons to earn an income to meet their survival needs, it can also be a source of great joy and creative expression, or of hardship and struggle. Moreover, if Christians were inspired and equipped to understand the potential that their presence, talents and abilities could make towards achieving the aims of God's kingdom in society, we could see a new missional thrust emerging within the church. Sadly, very few South African churches have realised the potential of a theology and practice of ministry for the church in the marketplace.

The marketplace,1 as seen in this article, includes those sectors of life where persons are engaged in tasks described as work. It includes tasks in education, production, the delivery of services, the arts and healthcare amongst others. The point is that this location is identified by the kind of activities members are engaged in beyond the life of the gathered, worshipping, congregation or church.2 The marketplace, in this context, is where church members are when they are not 'at church' for worship services, teaching or fellowship.3 This article investigates how the church as community, and also the church as individual Christians, is called to be active in the marketplace.

There is a growing awareness that the great commission (as expressed in Mt 28:18-20) can only be successfully addressed in the environment where people spend most of their labouring and productive hours (Forster 2014a; Forster & Power 2011:70-71; Keller & Leary-Alsdorf 2012:19; Volf 2005;). Whilst South Africa has largely a self-identified Christian population - as high as 85.6% (Anon 2014:32) - actual church attendance in South Africa is not very high (Nieman 2010:37). It would thus stand to reason that a sensible strategy for mission and evangelism should not be focussed only on the gathered community of the church, but should also focus on locations and settings where the majority of the population is to be found: the marketplace. Therefore, the mobilisation of marketplace Christians is essential if the Sunday-Monday gap is to be bridged and the goal of world mission is to be accomplished (Le Bruyns 2004:10).

Furthermore, the Christian is not only called to make disciples, but also to be an agent of change (salt and light - Mt 5:13, 14) through whom the principles of God's kingdom such as justice, equity, human dignity, flourishing, et cetera, are to be established in society (Costa 2007:17-27; Forster & Power 2011:47-62; Greene 2001:4-8, 2010:17-23; Silvoso2006:104-121, 2007:15-26; Spada & Scott 2011:20-41; Van Der Merwe et al. 2010: chapter 8).

In addition to the above, globalisation is forcing the church to think about the concerns of broader society in more effective and creative ways. These challenges include economic inequality, corruption, political and economical instability, difficult and unfair labour practices, lack of social, economic and political integrity, unethical or destructive leadership, over-exposure to information, continuous change and turmoil, unemployment, poverty and hunger, HIV and environmental degradation and a host of others. Many of these problems find both their genesis and their resolution in the marketplace. Persons with strong values and a robust theology that is focussed on societal engagement have the potential to be agents for change. Sadly, the reverse is frequently seen: because of an inadequate theology of faith and work or a lack of skill or support for discipleship and witness in the world of work, Christians become part of the problem. There are innumerable scandals in which Christian individuals and communities are found to be complicit in social and moral decay, economic abuse and the degradation of the common good (Batchelor 2008).

In response to this, there has been a rise of para-church movements and ministries that aim to support Christians in the marketplace. Amongst the more prominent South African examples are Unashamedly Ethical (Anonn.d.a), Alpha in the workplace (Anon n.d.b) and HalfTime (Anon n.d.c).4 The rapid growth and social prominence of these movements in the last decade is evidence that Christians in South Africa are seeking guidance, support and information to sustain and deepen their faith in the world of work.5

 

The challenge and opportunity of ministry in the marketplace in South Africa

South Africa has undergone some radical social and religious shifts since the dawn of participative democracy in 1994. The adopting of the new South African constitution ensured religious equality and freedom for all people in South Africa. A consequence of that is that Christianity is no longer afforded protected or special status in society.6 Before 1994 it was possible to defer Christian education to the National Education System, or to assume that evangelism would take place through public media broadcasts, or even that social ills could be resolved within the legal system by appealing to Christian moral values. Many Christians and churches in South Africa continue to function with a theology and worldview assuming that the work of evangelism, social transformation and the establishment of the principles of God's just and equitable kingdom can be left to the state or private enterprise. What are the theological reasons that lead to such a perspective? In addition to this, what opportunity is there for Christians and the church to be more faithful and effective in society?

A poorly developed theology

One of the primary reasons why the church is missing the opportunity of mission and ministry in the marketplaces is because of ignorance. The most recent research on faith and work in South Africa has shown that pastors are not informed well enough regarding the challenges or the opportunities for kingdom work available to the members of their work environment (cf. Forster 2014a). The result is that members feel inadequately equipped for faithful Christian discipleship in the world of work. Rather, the research showed that the emphasis of most churches was focussed on equipping members to play a role in the local church's7 ministry. The result of this is that Christians lack the knowledge, skills and spiritual maturity necessary to function effectively as agents of God's mission and kingdom in the marketplace (Bosch 2011:67-70). Daily challenges such as economic corruption, sexual temptation, economic and social justice or the appropriate use of influence and power in the world of work are seldom dealt with from the pulpit, in church programs or in congregational prayer.

Mark Greene (2001:4-8) points out that a flawed theology of work has resulted in a distorted view of both work and economic production. This flawed theology is characterised by two views of the world of work as an ontologically corrupt and evil domain of life. In such extreme views, wealth and economic production are regarded as products of greed, mammon or evil. Any pleasure or profit derived from the world of work is thus evil and not in keeping with the will and purpose of God. On the other hand, extreme work is seen as a necessary burden to be endured and survived - it is an evil to be escaped in favour of the holiness of spiritual living that takes place in and through the life of the church.

There are of course those Christians who have a less binary view of faith and work. There are numerous examples of pietistic Christians who will hold prayer meetings, Bible studies or evangelistic outreaches at their place of work or amongst colleagues within working hours. However, since they lack a robust and well-rounded theology of work, they return to 'business as usual' (Hillman 2005:45) once the activity is concluded.8 These dualistic and sometimes pietistic practices can be criticised harshly by sceptics - even from within Christian circles. Moreover, they are seldom framed within a broader understanding of the missio Dei (Bosch 2011:363-364).

In recent years there have been some instances of 'full time' ministry workers such as corporate chaplains, working in businesses.9 However, such workers are very few and far between. In addition to this, it is questionable whether such practices are missiologically responsible and economically sustainable in the world of work. As in the local congregation, Christians may stand back from ministry, considering it as something to be done by an appointed professional, rather than being the task of every disciple in their particular context.

The point is that millions of faithful Christians across the world are inadequately nurtured and supported within the local congregation with a robust theology of discipleship and mission in the world of work. Even fewer are adequately supported, nurtured and equipped for faithful mission and discipleship in the world of work itself. A great gap exists between what takes place on Sunday or within the ambit of the local congregation, and what members do with the rest of their time. Keller and Alsdorf (2012) write:

A job is a vocation only if someone else calls you to do it and you do it for them rather than for yourself. And so our work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests. (p. 19)

A lack of creative and practical skill for ministry in the marketplace

The Call42 research on faith and work in South Africa shows that a majority of Christians have questions about their calling and role in the world of work (Anon 2013b; Forster 2014a:3-4). However, the majority also indicated that they did not feel effectively or adequately equipped to respond as Christians to the challenges and opportunities they encountered in the world of work (Anon 2013c; Forster 2014a:3).

The Call42 research shows that while pastors and church leaders believe that their members should be using their skills, network of relationships and location in the marketplace to bring about transformation in society, their theological and discipleship focus is most frequently not in that area (Anon2013c). Rather, the research shows that members are trained for functions and tasks related to the 'gathered church' such as congregational leadership, prayer ministries, leading groups within the congregation, sacrificial giving, worship and biblical interpretation. However, they are seldom taught how to deal with conflict, pressure, temptation, discernment or ethical dilemmas in their church life (Greene 2001:4-8; 2010:5-16).

On the other hand, Forster's research shows that companies and businesses, identifying themselves as operating from a Christian belief and value system, often address matters of social concern whether through Corporate Social Investment, or caring for the practical needs of their staff, or the communities in which they work (Forster 2014a:5). Yet, very few of these companies have a vision of the opportunities for exercising systemic influence in the realm of policy, ethics development or the generation and development of products and services, which have a social benefit that is in line with the values and ideals of God's kingdom as expressed in terms of the church's holistic mission (Bosch 2011:415-418; Johnson 2011:171-174; Keller & Leary-Alsdorf 2012:19).

Simply stated, it is essential for the church to rediscover a theology that can shape faithful worship and witness for every place and every day of the week. The contemporary church operates far too frequently with a dualistic theology that emphasises it as a gathered community in opposition to the kingdom of God, which covers all spheres of society. This is not a new debate as John Howard Yoder reminds us. The World Council of Churches spent many hours debating the deficiencies of an ecclesiocentric missiology, rather than a kingdom centred missiology (Yoder 2013:282). In recent years there has been a rediscovery of the somewhat radical views of Johannes Hoekendijk, which became prominent after the 1952 World Missionary Congress held in Willingen, Germany. On that occasion he argued that the dominant missionary theology of the 1900's, which was based on church planting and mission as an extension of the gathered community, needed a correction, namely that mission should be refocused on the biblical understanding of God's kingdom. This meant a less institution centred missional focus and paved the way for a more kingdom minded approach to God's mission in the various spheres of society - both through the gathered and scattered church (Anderson 1999:297; Bosch 2006:177-178).

If the church were to rediscover and adopt such a view of mission, it would necessitate that Christians are prepared, equipped and inspired for ministries of service, transformation and influence in a variety of contexts in society. Being a teacher, doctor or lawyer could be a vocation of service, an act of ministry where the kingdom of God is established through the presence and work of the scattered church membership throughout the week.

The opportunity

As pointed out in the previous section, a kingdom focussed missiology understands that the church has a witness and work that extends beyond a particular building or certain times of the week, - which are frequently the predominant focus of the gathered congregation. Since God is active in every aspect of creation, the missional church should participate in themissio Dei [work of God], and thus also be active in bringing healing and transformation in all spheres of society. Missional theology has become increasingly aware that the church is already present and active in ministry in just about every aspect of society, as church members go to work, live in their communities and live out their faith in their everyday lives (Bosch2011:400-402; Forster & Power 2011:53-55). The challenge is to equip, mobilise and support its members to fulfil their calling as ministers and kingdom ambassadors in the marketplace, everyday and everywhere (Greene 2010: 17-23).

Therefore the lay-clergy gap also needs to be bridged (Greene 2010:1-3). In the words of Le Bruyns 2004):

To bridge the lay-clergy gap we need to change our basic image of who we are from 'Church' with a minister or two, referring to the Sunday gathering, to the People of God, who are all ministers, both gathered and scattered, Sunday and Monday. (p. 23)

According to Preece, Miyast and Kotiuga (2012):

there is huge potential for church growth in the next generation in the form of those who hunger for meaningful relationships in the workplace. Increasingly, multi-ethnic work environments in the West offer opportunity to enter into the lives of people from all nations. Two things need to happen if the church-work divide is to be bridged: rethinking the role of the church in supporting our workplace emissaries, and rethinking the role of work in motivating emissaries. (p. 3)

There is a growing awareness for the great need for spiritual and ethical guidance in the marketplace, but for this to happen individuals, companies, churches and marketplace ministry leaders have to be theologically formed, shaped and equipped for ministry in the wider world. They also have to be mobilised and sent for such work.

Ed Silvoso (2006) considers the reality that there is some nuance in the awareness and ability amongst Christians for ministry in the world of work. In this regard he distinguishes between four types of Christians in the marketplace. The first type he calls 'survivors' whose primary objective is to survive at work. Many Christians find themselves in this position - perhaps they are not in a 'dream job', or find themselves in a conflict ridden, dull or unfulfilling work environment. Such a perspective on work is not likely to have a missional view of work and therefore will have little or no effect for Christ in their workplace. The second type of Christian strives to live by Christian principles, yet their faith is largely a private matter with little or no impact on social, economic or political systems. Often persons in this category cannot see how their work life could be a means of faithfulness to Christ or a participation in the missio Dei. The third type of Christian seeks to discern the will of God for their entire life (including their work) and so seeks God's guidance and direction in work. Such a person will often seek to live faithfully and intentionally as a disciple of Christ in their work life. The fourth type of Christian takes their discipleship one step further and purposefully seeks to transform the society in which they live to match the values and ideals of God's kingdom (Silvoso 2006:148-150). Such a person may even choose to take on work of a certain kind in order to be able to transform or influence a social or political reality, or may stay in a position of work in spite of conflict or a lack of stimulation in order to obediently participate in the missio Dei.

In light of the argument being made in this article, the challenge that the church faces is to equip Christians to live their lives along the lines of Silvoso's third and fourth type as discussed above.

 

Considering the different forms of church in the marketplace

Up to this point this article has argued that the church should be awakened or re-awakened to a theology of work with a missional orientation towards the kingdom of God that has an impact upon every aspect of life. Leslie Newbigin (1991) captures this concept very clearly and succinctly when he writes:

It should become part of the normal work of the Church to equip its members for the exercise of priesthood in the many diff