Last week I talked about how I had mistakenly spent my years in the Shiloh pulpit trying to think of strategies to reach the unchurched. After I stepped down from the pulpit, it occurred to me that Tyler was mainly comprised of overchurched people, not unchurched people. “Now what?” I thought.
About two months ago, a friend mentioned to me that Interstate Batteries had a corporate chaplain located at their headquarters in downtown Dallas. I had never heard of a corporate chaplain and was curious. I could not find any information on their website, so three weeks ago last Thursday, I decided to drop by their offices while in Dallas. The receptionist could not have been nicer, but the chaplain was in meetings all morning, so she promised to have him call me.
He did and we had a good visit by phone. He later sent me their corporate policy on chaplaincy. However, in that moment I was still curious, so I went to the largest bookstore I knew of in downtown Dallas. I searched for information about corporate chaplaincy or chaplaincy in the workplace, but the store had nothing in print on the subject. I went to the coffee shop, fired up my laptop, and began researching online. I discovered that a movement of chaplaincy in the United States had been at work for quite a while.
Business Weekly, Fortune, The New York Times, and other media sources have all reported on the concept of offering spiritual care to employees in the workplace–and occasionally outside the workplace.
Some people interviewed spoke of facing a crisis such as the death of a loved one, and not having a church home. They needed someone to help them with their grief and to conduct the funeral. Who better to turn to than a chaplain?
My mind spun back to my days living in West Texas. I had officiated a number of funerals there for people who had no church affiliation and I found it a wonderful opportunity to minister to hurting people. Many of those people had been overchurched. Occasionally, these opportunities opened the door for people who wanted to hear about the Lord or to return to him.
Returning to the present, I began to ponder the possibilities regarding workplace chaplaincy. The concept definitely appeared to reflect the scriptures. For example:
1. Work is important to God. The second commandment God gave to Adam and Eve involved a job–take care of the earth. He told them again to work in Genesis 2:15. He further commanded Adam to work in Genesis 3; only it was after the fall. Consequently, God told him the work would prove much harder.
2. God often provides images of workers to describe him in Scripture i.e. “builder” (Proverbs 8:27-31, “metal worker” Isaiah 1:24–26…)
3. Paul tells Christians they ultimately work for Jesus (Colossians 3:22–23.)
The biblical ideal sees work as a sacred endeavor. This is good news, for we spend approximately ¼ of our adult lives (before retirement) working.
In previous decades, Christians and non-Christians have harbored a view that work was a compartmentalize task, separated from the spiritual part of the Christian life. In early 2000s, Princeton University established a think tank dedicated to uncovering the connection between spirituality in the workplace.
I believe a chaplain entering the workplace can bring the presence of Christ and assist workers in the spiritual pursuit of serving God through work. Indeed, by reconnecting the workplace with the spiritual, workers can further maximize their potential. This will in turn assist employees in reaching their potential. All of this affords the bosses and owners of businesses and corporations their best chance to earn profits for themselves and their shareholders.
I am commencing today with the chaplaincy service to the East Texas area. I am assuming that I will be addressing overchurched employers and employees, who don’t want to be sued by the ACLU or any other special interest group. My approach will be holistic—I am addressing the spirit while others address the needs of the mind and body. I think I am going to call my service:
WorkEdge as in:
(Quick! If this is a bad idea—tell me… before I print up my cards!)
As I mentioned, I have been researching for over three weeks this subject. I have related a few of the reasons why I'm excited about serving in this manner in the Kingdom of God.
All things considered, I see this as the best way yet for me to witness to the power of the gospel to an overchurched community. Let me emphasize, the mission of workplace chaplaincy is not evangelism. It is to provide spiritual care to the employees. However, a byproduct of that relationship could very well be evangelism. In addition, I would certainly welcome that opportunity. It would have to be at the employees’ request—not mine. Yet, it is inevitable, if I minister to enough people, some will want to know the Lord better.
I think this is an opportunity from God, and I will find out soon. I don't plan to borrow money. If God is not behind this, I will have to do something else before too long.
I pray God blesses this ministry so much that I have to ask others who are qualified to assist me. I would be pleased pay good money to these Christians gifted by God for this ministry–men serving men and women serving women—in the marketplace.
I have been reading recently H. W. Brands’ new biography of Ulysses S. Grant. During the early part of the Civil War, various Northern generals squandered opportunities to win the war. Grant on the other hand, was dealt the tougher challenge from the beginning. Yet, he established a pattern of winning through persistence. If one strategy did not work in Vicksburg, he would attempt another… and another… until he won the victory. He used the same strategy of perseverance in Virginia in the later stages of the war.
Grant to this day is known as a great general. His genius lay mostly in his relentlessness, a quality few generals had.
I think we Christians, especially those of us in overchurched locales, need the courage to remain relentlessness. We try a strategy; if it does not work, we try another.
We try relentlessly.
That is my aim when it comes to reaching out to the overchurched.