Faith and work are often seen as separate but the integration of the two can be an important component of engaging with the community, says Christian academic, Kara Martin.
Kara Martin is a lecturer at Alphacrucis College, Adjunct Professor with Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston, US, and also the author of Workship: How to Use your Work to Worship God and Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work.
She said that while it’s often discouraged to mix faith and work, Ms Martin believes it’s wrong to separate the two.
“We’re actually created to be whole people, so to say that someone can go to work and not bring their spirit and their soul is just a ridiculous concept,” she said in an interview.
The split between sacred and secular has made it difficult to hold these conversations at work, according to Ms Martin.
“We’re actually created to be whole people, so to say that someone can go to work and not bring their spirit and their soul is just a ridiculous concept.” – Kara Martin
“At the moment, there’s a sense of faith being a private thing and something that shouldn’t enter into the public workspace,” she said. “But in terms of history and the Bible in history, that’s actually not the way that God sees it.”
In Isaiah, God is unhappy with the way His people are oppressing workers and, even though they are continuing with their rituals, religious activities, fasting and prayer, it does not please Him.
“The idea is what you do outside (the church), what you do in the workplace, actually really matters to God,” Ms Martin said.
“And He will ignore what we do in the church context if there’s not a straight line between those things, if there’s hypocrisy or if we’re not actually living out our faith in the workplace.”
Reshaping expectations about church
The workplace looks very different to church and we can develop a “natural defensiveness” as a response, so we need to learn different ways of speaking about our faith, Ms Martin said.
Christians are often taught to respond to the question of “what did you do on the weekend?” by talking about church, but Ms Martin said this is not always the best approach.
“In my experience, that’s the quickest way of shutting down a conversation,” she said. “But if, on Monday, what we said was, ‘well, on Sunday, I heard this really interesting talk by this guy who was talking about poverty in the world,’… (that) actually invites questions.
“What you do in the workplace, actually really matters to God.” – Kara Martin
“(It) invites the possibility of talking more generally about these sorts of topics that enable you to go deeper into the questions of faith and the deep things that move us in what we’re passionate about.”
Another way to integrate faith and work is praying with colleagues and praying for our workplaces.
“In my experience, I don’t think anyone has ever said ‘no’ to me when I said ‘would you like me to pray for you about that?’… I think that’s seen as something that’s a compassionate thing to do,” Ms Martin said.
She believes there is a need to “shatter” the assumption of Christians “taking God to work, like we’re the token Christian at work”.
“We need to realise that Jesus is sovereign over the whole world… so actually God is already at work in the workplace.
“In my experience, I don’t think anyone has ever said ‘no’ to me when I said ‘would you like me to pray for you about that?” – Kara Martin
“I think a better way of looking at it is to actually pray ‘God, how can I join you and what you’re doing in my workplace? Show me where your fingerprints are already there’.”
Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.