If you followed church historian Chris Armstrong's blog posts about the most recent Redeeming Work event, you may be disappointed that the massive muffins he refers to are not included in the slide show below. You will, however, be delighted to see the images that faithfully detail the day and provide illustration to Chris's thought-provoking recaps.
On Thursday, June 12, Leadership Journal held the second event, this time in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Redeeming Work events aim to explore what contemporary Christians, theology, and the Bible say about vocation and work. They also discuss ways to improve churches and their programs "to foster an environment of vocational validation" for all.
Some pictures in the slide show include CT executive editor Andy Crouch's favorite part of the day: When attendees divided into groups of 10 to list the most difficult obstacles in getting the church to recognize the importance, or calling, of everyday work. They were then asked to consider "what new questions the church could ask about its ministry in light of a deeper theology of faith and culture." Andy wrote in an e-mail, "It was so great to see an intergenerational group of lay people and leaders, ranging from teachers to corporate executives and youth pastors to church planters, dig in so enthusiastically and deeply to the question of how to make work much more a part of the life of the church."
While the message and purpose remain the same in Redeeming Work, the events vary a bit. "Each city and venue brings its own flavor," Skye Jethani, executive editor of Leadership Journal, said in an e-mail. In meeting at the Art House North, the Groves family brought a special focus to the role of artists. Sara Groves, who led worship, founded the Art House North with her husband, Troy, in 2012. "Sara and Troy Groves exemplified the kind of integration of beauty, excellence, and plain hard work that is the mark of faithful Christian work in the world," Andy said. Sara and Andy—who is also musically gifted—closed the day as they "shared about the unique call of artists to cultivate beauty in the world." The subject brought forth a challenge for churches to especially encourage and disciple artists.
Besides discussing the roles of artists, Andy also spoke on the culture of vocation. Chris wrote a post highlighting one of Andy's "provocative" thoughts: "We are missing chapters of our Bible." Christians have difficulty seeing the "spiritual significance of everyday work," seeing how we forget the beginning (Creation) and end (new heaven and earth). Instead, we focus on the Fall (how our labor is our punishment for sin) and the lake of fire (where we think that all our work is futile, since everything will be destroyed).
Others spoke throughout the day. Skye noted that he enjoyed hearing Tom Nelson. Tom, senior pastor of Christ Community in Kansas, "is a wonderful Bible scholar with a shepherd's heart," Skye wrote. "He spoke in depth about God's design for humanity in Genesis 1-2 around work. I think he uncovered many of our blind spots and assumptions, and he shared about how this study of Scripture practically impacted his ministry. Tom really incarnates what Redeeming Work is all about."
Chris also blogged about Tom's discussion of Genesis 2, saying it's "about how humans fit in as image bearers with the work of God in the world." Man needs a helper, not an animal to work for him. Chris explained, "When we help, we help to DO something, to accomplish a task. God creates humans male and female to be productive (and procreative) TOGETHER," otherwise known as "collective collaboration." Humans are supposed to be "cultivating and keeping creation."
Tom spoke on how we forget that Jesus worked; how he actually spent much of his life working as a carpenter. "What does it mean that Jesus was incarnate with holy sweat on his brow, dealing with difficult customers, with economic realities, without sin?" Armstrong wrote. "We must hear the whole story." Tom displayed a painting of the crucified Christ and then one of Joseph and young Jesus working, asking what the portrayals "say about God's work."
The next Redeeming Work event will be held in Denver, September 9 and again feature Skye Jethani, Andy Crouch, and Tom Nelson, as well as other new contributors yet to be announced.
Elissa Cooper is assistant editor of Christianity Today magazine.