Wineskins Archive

February 10, 2014

Heart of Worship: A Call to Inaction (Mar-Apr 2003)

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by John Ogren
March – April, 2003

I am blessed to be in community with people who live generously and courageously for Christ in their places of work. One has led a Bible study at her office. One is a man of peace and integrity in the midst of profanity, rivalry, and strife.There are others: a builder who bases his company on the golden rule even when it costs him money, a mother who leads other moms in prayer for their children and their schools, and an architect who led a group of coworkers in prayer on September 11th. Rather than bill accounts early so a superior could make a bonus, one friend left his job, trusting in God to provide for him and his family. An accountant I worship with respectfully confronted a partner in his firm and won him over to a fairer treatment of employees.

Each of these Christians provides an alternative way to their co-workers—a way of truth, peace, grace, faith, integrity, and justice—the way of Christ. And what will sustain this type of Christian witness, this alternative way, but the grace of God and the renewal and encouragement of an alternative community? But where is this alternative community to be found? At times it seems the main thing the church has to offer is another slate of activities and odd jobs. How helpful is this to working Christians, and how appealing can this be to the unchurched when they see how often it runs our own people ragged? A friend, a successful executive, recently told me that Sunday is the hardest day of his family’s week—they’re exhausted when it’s over.

Most of the people I know work hard. Many of them work too hard. Forty-hour weeks are more rare than reformers of the past century had hoped. Saturdays are spent running errands and working around the house and in the yard. Sundays are often hectic and filled with church activities and meetings. When do God’s children get off the treadmill? When are they renewed and replenished for the life of vibrant Christian witness in the workplace that the Bible and this issue of new Wineskins envision? And without that renewal, how well and how long can this witness be sustained? Thankfully, the Bible not only offers us a vision of faith and work, but a vision of faith and rest—most clearly seen in a forgotten old treasure called the Sabbath.

Issues related to a Christian view of the Sabbath are complex. Depending on your hermeneutic you may be convicted that the Sabbath is on Saturday, or that the Lord’s Day is the Sabbath, or that one day in seven is a Sabbath, or that in Christ we find our true Sabbath rest and in him all days are holy. I do not believe that the Sabbath of the Mosaic Law can be bound on Christians (see Romans 14.5-6); however, I am drawn to the wisdom of the Bible’s Sabbath vision: a day devoted to God, to worship, and community; a day of rest for all and justice for the poor and oppressed; a day of release from activity and striving; and a day of finding identity, joy, and courage in fellowship with the one true living God and His people.

Here are a few modest proposals toward a recovery of Sabbath wisdom—a call to inaction. What if church leaders set aside Sunday as a day of rest and, apart from times for worship and fellowship, planned no other activities or meetings on that day? What if church leaders gave Bible school teachers and nursery workers a month off—say July—each year so that they could be refreshed and renewed
for their demanding (and often under-appreciated) roles of service? What if elders, deacons, and ministry leaders took periodic sabbaticals from their work so that they could seek spiritual renewal? Each of these proposals would require teaching on the biblical vision of Sabbath rest, and each of these proposals would likely meet with well-intentioned opposition. However, none of these ideas are new, and all are already in use in some churches.

A commitment to Sabbath rest will be counter-cultural. It may even be controversial in churches that value doing over being and where many are addicted to work and activity. Keeping Sabbath will go against the grain of our culture’s ceaseless striving. A Sabbath rest will undermine our unconscious attempts to be God. It will call us to self-control and present us with dilemmas that are sometimes painful. Would it be easier to just stay on the treadmill? God, give us faith at work, and give us the faith to stop working. Give us the confidence in you to let our minds, our bodies, our families, and our churches rest.New Wineskins

Contact John: John Ogren serves the South MacArthur Church of Christ in Irving, Texas as the Communities of Faith Minister, coordinating adult education, small groups, and church planting. Formerly, he served in the same congregation leading worship and ministering to young families. He has been married to his wife Wendy for eight years. They have two boys, Isaiah and Nathaniel.

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