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The Faith at Work Movement: Opening "The 9 to 5 Window"
Pat Rainey is arriving at work today at 7 a.m. It's not because her administrative assistant position requires her to do so. It's because she's part of a handful of women and men who regularly meet to pray for the company. They've been doing this for more than a year now, believing that this is an assignment God has given them.
And they have been encouraged to see how their prayer is impacting the company. Over the last twelve months Pat has seen at least twelve people come to Christ in her 225 employee insurance company in Atlanta. She has seen people get physically healed in meetings and she has seen God confirm key corporate decisions. In short, she has seen the supernatural: the Lord is moving in her company.
As you probably know, for years Christians have sought to evangelize a largely unreached people in what is called "The 10/40 Window"the area of land between the 10th and 40th parallel north of the Equator, spanning from Africa through east Asia. But what you might not know is that there's another window that's opening to allow Christians to introduce people to God: "The 9 to 5 Window." And it's a window of opportunity that's just as exciting.
You see, Pat Rainey's story is not just an Atlanta story. It's a story that's being recounted in hundreds of organizations around the globe this very day. Quietly but persistently, God is revealing Himself to the world through the workplace.
An Overview of the Faith at Work Movement
In November 1999, Business Week magazine noted that "five years ago, only one conference on spirituality and the workplace could be identified; now there are hundreds. There are more than 10,000 Bible and prayer groups in workplaces that meet regularly." Two years later, Fortune magazine confirmed the existence of a movement in a cover story on "God & Business," reporting the marketplace presence of "a mostly unorganized mass of believersa counterculture bubbling up all over corporate Americawho want to bridge the traditional divide between spirituality and work." The article went on to say: "Historically, such folk operated below the radar, on their own or in small workplace groups where they prayed or studied the Bible. But now they are getting organized and going public to agitate for change. People who want to mix God and business are rebels on several fronts. They reject the centuries-old American conviction that spirituality is a private matter. They challenge religious thinkers who disdain business as an inherently impure pursuit. They disagree with business people who say that religion is unavoidably divisive."
In the wake of these articles, the Christian media has also highlighted the movement, with stories appearing in New Man, Charisma, Christianity Today, and Decision magazine. Christian leaders, too, are acknowledging the trend. "I believe one of the next great moves of God is going to be through the believers in the workplace," said Billy Graham. His son Franklin put it in the present tense: "God has begun an evangelism movement in the workplace that has the potential to transform our society as we know it." And Henry Blackaby (author of Experiencing God), who meets regularly with CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to discuss what it means to bring Christ into a corporate environment, observes: "I've never seen the activity of God this deeply in the business community as I do right now."
Kent Humphreys, a businessman and the president of Fellowship of Companies for Christ, a ministry devoted to serving executives and CEOs, wholeheartedly agrees with such assessments: "Leaders in the workplace from every part of the country are experiencing a hunger to be involved and they're searching the web to find those who are of like heart. Those who are a little further along in the movement understand the principle, but are now more anxious for training and practical helps of what it looks like in their workplace."
And the movement is not just an American phenomenon. Brenda deCharmoy, a business consultant from South Africa, remarks: "I am beginning to see more and more people and churches becoming aware that the workplace is a key area for God, and we should give it more attention. I think the tide has built quite a lot this last year. There is more questioning by workplace people of the issue of God in their 9 to 5 time. I also see more leaders realizing that going to church and then leaving God behind does not work in the end."
Surely it does not, and people in myriad places are appreciating that daily. In fact, in 1998 I began writing a daily email devotional called TGIF, Today God Is First. It has now grown to more than 70,000 subscribers. What I have learned from the feedback to my devotional is that people are hungry to know how to effectively integrate their faith life with their work life, and they are energized by the call. One subscriber summed up well what God is doing through TGIF: "I never really considered my secular work as a ministry until I read your (devotional)
Now I feel I have as much a ministry as my pastor. I simply have a different mission field."
Let's look more closely at that mission field, that "9 to 5 Window." In several strategic ways, the window is opening wider every day.
The Movement in Major Companies
Larry Julian, a business consultant and author of God Is My CEO (which has sold more than 75,000 copies), says he has found an incredible receptivity in corporations to hear what he has to say. "I am seeking more ways to bring my Christian faith into the corporate world where I have spent much of my life. There is an openness that has not been there before."
That openness is partially evidenced by the number of Christian affinity groups that have been birthed within the past decade. The Coca-Cola Christian Fellowship was formed in 2001, with 275 people attending the first meeting at their world headquarters in Atlanta. Across town, at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Angie Tracey launched the first government-approved Christian association in an agency, The CDC Christian Fellowship Group. Similar groups have been established at American Airlines, Intel, Texas Instruments, and Sears. In fact, the Christian fellowship at Sears even has its own choir and has produced a professionally-recorded CD, underwritten by the company.
The Movement in Academia
Whereas Christian colleges once primarily focused on liberal arts education, today there are almost 100 business programs in Bible-believing colleges around the world, teaching the next generation of business leaders what it means to lead and manage from a Christian perspective. Moreover, the Christian Business Faculty Association has grown from its humble beginnings in 1980 to boast more than 400 members and its own academic journal, the Journal of Biblical Integration in Business. But the academic movement is not limited to intentionally-Christian schools. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) has launched and/or supported Christian fellowships in dozens of the best secular business schools in the world, including Harvard, Duke, Columbia, Dartmouth, MIT, Michigan, Northwestern, Chicago, Wharton, Virginia, Yale, and the London School of Business.
The Movement in Publishing
Whenever there is a move of God, people write about it. The faith at work movement is no different. In 2000, Pete Hammond, an executive with IVCF, identified 79 books in the faith at work category. However, in 2002, approximately two dozen books a month were being published in this category, some focusing on leadership and management, others speaking to issues faced by Christian workers generally.
In recent years, some have also founded magazines for Christians who want to understand the faith-work nexus. Among these resources have been Life@Work, The Christian Businessman, Business Reform, and Regent Business Review.
The Movement in Ministries
The International Coalition of Workplace Ministries (ICWM) and Scruples.net are two ministries that serve
the movement and track its growth. "Ten years ago, we could identify only
twenty-five national or international non-profit workplace ministries. Today we
can identify several hundred," says Mike McLoughlin with YWAM Marketplace
Mission. In fact, a new International Faith and Work Directory now
features more than 1,200 listings of ministries and organizations that have a
focus on integrating faith and work. (You can access this directory online or
purchase a copy at www.icwm.net).
Among these proliferating ministries, some of the larger ones are the Christian Business Men's Committee (www.cbmc.com), the International Christian Chamber of Commerce (www.iccc.net), Fellowship of Companies for Christ International (www.fcci.org), the C12 Group (www.theC12group.com ), and the Christian Management Association (CMA, www.cmaonline.org). Growth in CMA is indicative of the experience of many of these ministries, accelerating from a handful of members in 1976 to now over 3,500 CEOs, business owners, middle managers, pastors, and church administrators representing more than 1,500 organizations.
Whereas these larger ministries seek to provide a full-service training and fellowship experience to members, many other faith at work ministries are primarily event-driven, usually offering occasional prayer breakfasts or a speaker series. Typical is Bill Leonard, a real estate executive, who decided to reach out to the hi-tech community by sponsoring a once-a-year "High Tech Prayer Breakfast" in Atlanta (www.hightechministries.org). Every October, leaders in the high-tech community come to hear an inspirational talk that usually has a salvation message integrated into it. Table sponsors bring business associates as a means of introducing seekers to Christ. More than 2,000 were in attendance at this year's event.
The Movement in the Local Church
George Barna, in his book, Boiling Point, says: "Workplace ministry will be one of the core future innovations in church ministry." He made this assessment several years ago and it is now just beginning to be
realized. But Doug Sherman, author of Your Work Matters to God, cautions that the local church has been slow to embrace this message. "Our surveys reveal that 90 to 97 percent of Christians have never heard a sermon relating biblical principles to their work life," says Sherman. I can vouch for those statistics. When I speak to groups and to local churches, rarely do I get more than a few raised hands when I ask an audience whether they have been trained to apply biblical faith in the context of their work life.
Over time, though, I expect to be seeing more raised hands. Doug Spada's California-based His Church at Work ministry (www.hischurchatwork.org) is one of the pioneering efforts to equip the local church to focus on faith at work issues. Spada's ministry does this equipping by actually putting the ministry in place in the local churchby creating the infrastructure for a sustainable work-life ministry. His ultimate vision is that churches will be sending out members to minister in the workplace, just as missionaries are sent out to foreign lands. "We help people launch full-blown ministries within their church," Spada explains. "This isn't, 'Hey, let's meet for breakfast.' This is more embedded ministry, just like a men's ministry or a women's ministry or a youth ministry" (see Spada's article on launching a work-life ministry in this issue of RBR).
Beyond that vision, Spada said, there's a broader reason for the local church to be creating work-life ministries: spiritual renewal movements, particularly in Western culture, are almost always birthed and driven by the less successful, less affluent segments of a society. Karen Jones, director of workplace ministry at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, agrees: "I believe it is a move of God. I believe it's cutting edgethe next mission field."
This year, Southeast will launch its own work-life ministry, which is based on Spada's model. Jones said her early goal is to involve at least half of Southeast's members. With 20,000 members, the impact in the community could be huge. "Statistics say you have a sphere of influence of about twenty-five," Jones comments. "So we could be influencing people
through 250,000 touches a week very quickly."
The 5,000 member Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, is another church that has adopted Spada's process. Geoff Bohleen, outreach pastor for Wooddale, says workplace ministry allows his church to reach out to people they never would reach otherwise. "There's no way our pastoral staff is going to get into all those offices, but our people do," he said. "Our pastoral staff is so limited in terms of the connections, the relationships (and) the friendships we can have with people who need Christ. However, we've got 'Wooddalers' all over the place."
A Catalyst for Revival
"There is truly no division between sacred and secular except what we have created," says Dallas Willard in The Spirit of the Disciplines. "And that is why the division of the legitimate roles and functions of human life into the sacred and secular does incalculable damage to our individual lives and the cause of Christ. Holy people must stop going into 'church work' as their natural course of action and take up holy orders in farming, industry, law, education, banking, and journalism with the same zeal previously given to evangelism or to pastoral and missionary work."
That message is getting through, as the faith at work movement sweeps across the land. And the potential is great for it to effect genuine revival across the culture.
Peter Wagner, noted church growth expert and former professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, foresees this revival, too: "I believe the workplace movement has the potential to impact society as much as the reformation did. I have read 64 books on this movement and have 54 pages of handwritten notes. It is what the Spirit is saying to the churches today."
There are other signs the movement is that consequential. New Ventures, a division of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), was established to identify trends in the body of Christ and to determine how they could come alongside ministries to help leverage the resources of the BGEA to these moves of God. They first looked at 53 different categories of ministry and then narrowed it down to twelve. Eventually, they narrowed the list to three, with the workplace movement as one of the three areas where they are now focused.
Consequently, earlier this year, New Ventures teamed with my organization, the International Coalition of Workplace Ministries, to host a workplace conference at The Cove in Ashville, North Carolina. Almost 300 workplace leaders, workplace ministries representatives, and pastors were in attendance. And among the many exciting initiatives and visions to come out of this historic meeting, I have compiled the following list of what we can expect to see in the next five years as a result of God's move among believers in the workplace:
- We will see intentional training in the local church to help men and women conceptualize their work as ministry, with practical application.
- We will begin to view churches as equipping centers that will support Christians in their workplace calling.
- We will begin to see a movement similar to Promise Keepers, with major events around the faith at work theme.
- We will see the men's movement integrate this message into their focus.
- We will begin to see corporations take a more proactive acceptance of faith at work issues.
- We will see prayer impact the workplace even more.
- We will see our first cities transformed because those in authority will become active and passionate about their faith where they work.
- We will begin to see more faith expressed in government agencies, in the entertainment industries, in educational institutions, and in corporate workplaces.
- We will see many people come to Christ as more major ministries embrace this move of God and integrate it into their operations.
- We will hear of miracles in the marketplace because of new wineskin Christians who are willing to move, in faith and obedience, into arenas that the religious leaders have believed heretofore taboo.
- Pastors will be the last to embrace the movement, but will ultimately be responsible for the greatest influence once they do embrace it. It will be the breakthrough for which many pastors have been looking.
There is a revival coming, revival that is returning us to our roots to understand what the early church understoodthat work is a holy calling in which God moves to transform lives, cities, and nations. "Someone recently said that the 'First' Reformation took the Word of God to the common man and woman; the 'Second' Reformation is taking the work of God to the common man and woman," notes Tom Phillips, vice president of training for the BGEA. "That time is now. The greatest potential ministry in the world today is the marketplace. Christ's greatest labor force is those men and women already in that environment."
Indeed, we live in historic times. Using the collective hands in companies, ministries, colleges, the media, and the local church, God has suddenly and providentially created a 9 to 5 Window. Let us not miss this opportunity to fill it with stained glass.
Os Hillman is president of Marketplace Leaders (www.marketplaceleaders.org) and director of the International Coalition of Workplace Ministries (www.icwm.net). Os is the author of seven books, including Faith & Work: Do They Mix?, and he writes a daily email devotional called TGIF, Today God Is First (www.freetgifsubscription.net). You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2004 Regent Business Review, Issue 9. Used by permission.
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