John C. Knapp is founding director of the Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership at Samford University and author of the forthcoming book How the Church Fails Businesspeople (and What Can Be Done About It). In this post (the first in a three-part series), he discusses the “dangerous chasm separating the worlds of faith and work” that compelled him to write the book.
Many Christians struggling to make their faith relevant to their daily work find the church oddly indifferent to their lives on the job.
I have become increasingly aware of this phenomenon over the last twenty-five years, first as a consultant to an array of business and professional clients, and more recently as an educator of both business and seminary students. I have known countless believers who say the church does little or nothing to equip them for faithful living in the settings where they spend most of their waking hours and productive years.
How the Church Fails Businesspeople (and What Can Be Done About It) was written to shed light on the cultural, historical, theological, and educational influences that have led to this situation. Throughout the book, I incorporate real-life anecdotes and examples, many drawn from interviews with 230 Christians actively seeking to bridge their Sunday church and weekday work. These interviews were conducted mostly by working pastors in a doctoral course I taught, and they involved a diversity of respondents, from corporate CEOs and elected officials to barbers and bookkeepers. They included active members of Protestant (nine denominations) and Roman Catholic congregations in all regions of the United States.
Their compelling stories and perspectives portray a church that seems preoccupied with the private sphere of life — family, health, and individual relationships with God — yet disinterested in the spiritual and ethical stresses of weekday work. To be sure, not everyone has experienced the church in this way, and some emerging ministries are effectively challenging older ways of thinking about the relevance of faith to work. But such ministries are most notable as exceptions to the rule. Other readers may simply reject the premise that equipping Christians for the workplace is a responsibility the church should accept or take seriously. If you are among these, I invite you to read the book so that we may explore these issues together.
Beyond analyzing the problem, the book suggests a tentative theological framework for Christian life in the workplace, and the last chapters look at the recent faith-at-work trend and consider some promising models for ministry.
The issues addressed by this book are not new, but they have never been more pressing. It is time for the church to come to grips with its neglected responsibilities. It is time to close the dangerous chasm separating the worlds of faith and work.
Click here to order John C. Knapp’s How the Church Fails Businesspeople (and What Can Be Done About It).