One of the challenges of pastoring people in a city center, is the amount of time people spend in their workplace. Unlike other parts of the country, people seem to live at their places of work. Rather than becoming frustrated that people are not available to serve in our church programs, we should see the time spent in a place of work as an opportunity to see the kingdom of God leave the confines of traditional church programming, come to the workplace, begin to do its work of industry and city renewal.
In order to move toward this vision, our church has been hosting industry roundtables for the last year for so. These roundtable discussions are designed to bring people from various industries together and help them form a theology of kingdom renewal for their respective career fields. Some of the questions we ask at these luncheons are...
What drew you to your industry?
What do you love about your industry?
What do you struggle with in your industry?
What ethical dilemmas do you often run into?
To what scripture do you turn to formulate a theology of your industry?
What are some of your doubts and uncertainties about how God could move in your industry?
What do wish that we as your pastors/leaders, knew about your industry?
How can the church help you live more missionally in your industry?
What is our church doing that is hindering you from being able to bring the kingdom of God to bear in your workplace?
I have been surprised and overwhelmed by the response of people in our church to these events. People have felt empowered, encouraged and have been given a new vision for what they do all week. Many of them now sense that it is making a vital difference in the world, and that it is important to God. I have also had several people comment on how good it is to hear that the church has a vision for something outside of itself, and how good it is to know that a pastor "gets" what they do Monday through Friday.
I have found that having an awareness of what it is people love, struggle with, are tempted by and need encouragement in, makes me a more effective pastor. My counseling is more empathetic, my preaching more informed, and the word of God more contextualized to do its work. I am not simply projecting my life and wishes onto their work-week, but am able to help bring the gospel to bear on the temptations, trials and joys they live in every day.
In order to really see a movement of the gospel through a city, it is going to take the equipping of our people to live and share the gospel where they spend most of their time: the workplace. Hosting an industry roundtable is a small step in that direction, but also an important one to see a local congregation begin this work.