Monday, July 18, 2022

A Theology of Housework

This past week, the DML team, BAM Global, and GACX members were privileged to have some time with Mark Greene, former Executive Director for the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC), author, and current mission champion.  He spoke at Lausanne in Cape Town in 2010 and said that, "the church has been using an inadequate mission strategy around the world, wherein the essence has been to recruit the people of God to use some of their leisure time to join the mission activities of church paid workers."  He went on to say that "98% of Christians who are not employed by a church are not being equipped to live missionally for 95% of their waking lives."  

In our meeting with him, he used the words "tragedy" and "outrage" to describe the fact that so many people die without knowing their calling.

Then, during the course of our interview, he talked about a "theology of housework."  For those of us who have a love/hate (okay...really a hate/hate) relationship with housework, my ears definitely perked up.

We serve a working God, who continues to work today (John 5:17:  My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I am too.) He described five different impacts of God's work and compared it to housework.

1.  God's work brings order.  We see this throughout creation.  Housework also brings order to the home.  Things get put back into place so that we can find them again.  Cluttered spaces get a chance to breath as they are straightened.

2.  God's work generates provision.  Housework also generates provision.  Provision of a clean bed and room for very important sleep.  Provision of hygienic bathrooms and kitchens for healthy bodies and healthy food.  Provision of safe spaces for thinking, creating, playing, and learning together.  And so much more!

3.  God's work brings joy.  While I am not saying that housework IS joy, it does indeed bring joy!  Think about the feeling of being in your home AFTER the cleaning is done.  It smells fresh.  Nothing is sticky.  Everything is in its place.  You feel joyful and proud to have people over.  

4.  God's work brings beauty.  Housework does too!  The beauty of sparkling sinks.  The beauty of clean windows to see the outside world.  The beauty of clean, pressed clothing that brings out the inner beauty of the person wearing those clothes with confidence.  

5.  God's work releases potential.  Ah.  Here's the best one.  Housecleaning releases the potential for new creativity and new work.  This was always the struggle for me!  I would finish cleaning the house, only to have the family come home and turn it upside down again so quickly.  But a clean kitchen invites cooking or baking.  Cleaned up toys invites children to play in new ways.  Fresh clothes invite us to dress with confidence and go into our other spheres of influence.

We can ask ourselves these questions about the other work that we do as well.  How does your work bring order, provision, joy, beauty, and release potential?  

The work that we do brings about these things because we are the hands and feet of Jesus, involved in the good work of our original creation (Genesis 1:28 and 2:15), and now involved in the restoration of creation until Jesus returns again.  We are to bring the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, every day, a little at a time, through our work.

But a mental shift is needed to see it this way.  And sometimes it starts with our language.  I no longer say, "I'm going to weed the garden."  I say, "I'm going to subdue the earth."  It reminds me that this work (that I really don't enjoy!) is fulfilling an aspect of God's command, and therefore it is a good and holy thing!

And then we can do our work with joy, as Colossians 3:23 says, "Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters."  Amen!

Monday, July 11, 2022

The Hunger of First-Generation Christians

I just returned from a three-week trip to a country that is persecuting Christians and Muslims, seeking to make itself a religious state by imposing that religion on all citizens.  It reinforces my thoughts that faith is something that people are invited into, not something forced upon.  

But it also showed me a church in action that is different than what I have seen in both Christian and post-Christian places.  There is a passion and hunger in person after person that I met who called themselves a "first-generation Christian."  They didn't need to be reminded that they are the Church from Monday-Sunday - they hungered for others to receive the love and the hope that they had found in Jesus.  They are planting house churches, and as one leader said, they encourage pastors NOT to have church buildings but to continue meeting in homes.  This leader said, "Once you have a church building, you go into maintenance mode - we want to stay in disciple-making mode - ever seeking and searching to establish new faith groups."  

While they are doing this, they are finding their workplace to be a natural place to share the love of Christ, as in these stories below:

1.  He worked in a soda factory and didn't like the work.  He didn't make much money, had no hope of change, and was suicidal.  Then someone shared about the love of Jesus, and everything changed.  He realized that many people in his workplace probably felt as hopeless as he did.  He began to reach out to others and a church was eventually planted in the factory.

2.  He was a carpenter and a first-generation Christian.  He was asked to do some carpentry work in the home of a wealthy woman who served other gods.  Because he did that work so well, she asked him to help build something specifically for the temple that she had on her property for these other gods.  He wondered what he should do, and after praying, he decided to accept the job and ask God for an opportunity to share about Jesus with her.  That opportunity came and over the course of time, they had a number of conversations about faith and religion.  One day, close to the end of the project, the woman rushed to meet him when he arrived at work.  Jesus appeared to her in a dream the night before, showed her His hands, and told her to "Follow me."  She did.

3.  Two church planters had been trying to find an entry way into a village where there were no Christians or church.  For three years, they tried unsuccessfully.  They realized it was time to find a new approach and they decided to try to enter by finding a need the community had as it related to business.  This village was in a remote area, and no-one was selling cloth for clothing, so began to bring cloth in to sell.  However, they quickly realized that if they sold the cloth outright, they would only have one point of contact with the residents, and because this was a rural and cash-poor community, it might be good to offer the cloth to be paid in installments.  This means that they could meet with each person four or five times.  There were times when people could not make their payment and it gave the opportunity for them to pray for them, that God would provide.  It didn't take long for relationships to form and grow, and a new house church was formed.

Despite this hunger and desire to help others find the hope that is within them, that hasn't stopped a sacred/secular divide to enter in.  Many of the leaders we spoke to said that they had bought into the notion that work is only done for pay.  Work can be done for mission.  But that work itself is not mission.  Many of them had left their businesses, believing that pastors cannot do "worldly" work of business.  And now many of them are realizing that business is not only a means to doing work as worship, but it is also a way to fulfill the Great Commitment (Gen 1&2), Great Commandment, and Great Commission.  

When all members are equipped to be the church every day of the week, you see the impact in places that might feel unexpected.  

We thank God for these stories we heard in these past few weeks and will continue to process what the church can look like in a pre-Christian, Christian, and post-Christian environment!