Friday, June 15, 2012

“I’m ‘Just a Layman’ . . .”

Yesterday I joined a Facebook dialogue that began with a statement, “84% of Christian 18- to 29-year-olds admit that they have no idea how the Bible applies to their field or professional interests.” That statistic didn’t surprise me – I would have thought the percentage might be higher.

Since 1999, I’ve written and edited a weekly e-mail workplace meditation called “Monday Manna” for CBMC International, a ministry to business and professional people. This one-page commentary on everyday workplace issues, with accompanying discussion questions, has grown incredibly, now translated into more than 20 languages and going to an estimated two million recipients around the world. I take no credit for its growth, but think it shows the desire people have for learning how the Scriptures apply to the world of work.

It’s sad the great majority of young believers can’t connect biblical teachings to their work, but I think there are four primary reasons for this:

They don’t learn it in many churches. Many pastors do a wonderful job of dissecting the Scriptures, teaching context, meaning, and even application to personal life. But many of them, having gone from college to seminary to pulpit, don’t know much about the real world of work. Anything they might impart, therefore, would only be theory. There’s a saying, “You can’t teach above where you’re living.” Just as I couldn’t teach someone to do brain surgery, most clergy have little familiarity with the challenges of meeting sales quotas, juggling deadlines, handling inventory, or making payroll. 

The false two-tiered view of people. Early on, the institutional church adopted the view there were two classes of Christians (or followers of Jesus). There were the paid professionals – that is, priests, ministers and missionaries; and then there were the “laymen.” Someone has described the former as “paid to be good,” the latter as “good for nothing.” Unfortunately, that view has persisted into the 21st century. We often hear of individuals committing their lives to preach, or to go on the mission field. But when was the last time you heard – and celebrated – someone that declared, “I’m committing my life to serving Christ in business”? Too often I hear people say, sheepishly, “Oh, I’m just a layman.”

Not recognizing the sacredness of work. When we hear of corporate scandals – Enron, banks, investment firms – it’s easy to dismiss the business world as “secular,” or even worse, as evil. But Jesus recruited His followers from the work world – fishermen, tax collectors, etc. A physician authored the gospel of Luke. The Bible teaches no distinction; in God’s view, everything is considered sacred. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).

Failure to glorify God in the workplace. Too often observers see no meaningful difference between how professing followers of Jesus and nonbelievers conduct business. By pursuing our job responsibilities with excellence, integrity, quality, compassion, and the highest ethical standards, we can demonstrate God’s Word can and does work in the workplace. As Jesus said, “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

In case you’re interested, you can check out “Monday Manna” at and scroll to the link on the left.

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