Faith and work. It is a hot topic today in certain Christian circles. I’ve attended workshops, read Tim Keller’s book and had countless conversations with friends questioning if and how our non-ministry work matters. But for all the time I’ve spent thinking about it, I haven’t heard it preached much from the pulpit.
I recently caught up with Jonathan Wu about why that might be. He’s the Executive Pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles, and he also serves as a City Network Leader for Made to Flourish. Meeting in 33 different cities, Made to Flourish’s primary vision is to equip pastors and their congregations for the integration of faith, work and economic wisdom for the flourishing of their communities.
“One area where many struggle to make a connection, and where pastors often don’t know how to equip their congregations, is integrating the Christian faith with work and economic wisdom,” said Wu.
What sets Made to Flourish apart is that their organization is a network of pastors, not marketplace leaders, who may not have been shaped by the theology of work. “They may not have thought through what a work and faith theology can be that could unleash the spiritual potency of the congregation throughout the week.”
For some, the confluence of faith and work is not a new concept. But for many pastors and their congregations, this is a unique conversation that Wu and Made to Flourish hope to foster. “We take seriously that God calls us to a faithful life, in all areas of life, not just on Sundays,” states Wu.
This network exists not just to tackle difficult questions, but also to provide a place for pastors in a given city to gather and experience community. “I think that pastors need a place where they can convene together with peers, so fellowship is an implicit value we have,” said Wu. “It is fun to explore and broaden our reach slowly.”
They meet 10-15 times per year, for lunches and seminars, and attempt to tackle a different topic each time. According to Wu, at times they try to meet in the churches of the various pastors because “it is wonderful to be in their context, to learn about their mission as a church and how they participate in the kingdom.”
In a recent gathering in which they focused on faith and work, the things pastors were wrestling with varied greatly depending upon their context. For example, within some immigrant communities, most of the pastors are bivocational and their congregants often work in trade professions. This topic was “totally enlightening and engaging for some of these pastors personally,” said Wu. They also learned how to communicate these principles to their congregants, some of whom are recent immigrants for whom this conversation takes a very different shape than those in more white collar occupations.
While Made to Flourish has not reached every pastor across the LA area, they are slowly building avenues to provide formative thinking.
According to Wu, “we believe pastors have a key role to play in the faith and work movement because Christians miss out on something crucial when their church does not support them in this integration.”