People shouldn’t just go to church on Sunday. They should be the Church, everyday.
That was the essence of the message of speakers at an Evangelism Unit workshop entitled “Faith@Work” last month.
“You can’t go to Church,” said keynote speaker Paul Stevens, recently retired professor of Workplace Theology and Leadership at
He faulted some in the Church for not paying attention “to the realities of the real world.” Accordingly religion is often seen as irrelevant to business people – although there is a great deal of talk recently of “spirituality” in business circles.
He said that it’s not really helpful that in English the word “church” refers to both a building, and also to the body of believers. This creates a great deal of confusion – and also leads many to think that religion is something that takes place inside the building. There is a “disconnect.”
“We don’t bring God into the workplace,” he said. “God is already there.”
The Rev. John Oakes, chair of the Evangelism Unit and rector of Holy Trinity, Vancouver, where the gathering took place, pointed out that all but people like himself spend more time at work in their occupations than in church.
“Many of us have not seen our everyday occupations as the opportunities for evangelism that they are,” said Oakes.
Several workshop leaders led sessions exploring how one can “be Church” in the “real world.” The Rev. Marilyn Hames, honourary assistant priest at St. Philip’s, Dunbar, in Vancouver, a recently retired “worker priest” who worked as an engineer in mining and consulting companies for 35 years, spoke about “nurturing your spirit at work.”
She stressed the importance of devotion in the workplace – perhaps closing the door of one’s office before work begins or at lunch, reading the Bible for a time, and praying for one’s co-workers.
Other speakers were the Rev. Alisdair Smith, a deacon who is business chaplain at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, the Rev. Steve Bailey, a deacon at St. Laurence Coquitlam who worked in
All stressed the need to find a rhythm of engagement with the business world, and withdrawal in Christian devotion. Stevens said this was a pattern to Jesus’ own ministry – he engaged with the crowds, but sometimes withdrew to renew his strength.
“You ought to mingle the works of an active life with spiritual endeavors of a contemplative life, and then you do well,” said Smith.
As for evangelism, none thought Christians should bring up specifically religious topics in an imposing way, but that one should always be open to witnessing - conveying the message of the Gospel when asked or when people seem interested.
“I think that when people become Christians it’s the last link in a long chain. You might happen just to be there,’ said Stevens, “but be there and to be ready.”
The workshop was co-sponsored by the City in Focus organization, which organizes the annual BC Leadership Prayer Breakfast attended by nearly 1,000 leaders from throughout BC, and other events.