No, it’s not a leper colony or even the poorest side of town.
It’s the one place most western Christians spend the majority of their time: The Workplace.
It’s estimated that, in the U.S.A. today, 71 percent of all American employees are unchurched...nearly 3 out of every 4 people you might share an elevator with! That means people are going to work each day with the same strugges as the church-attenders. However - in a perfect world - if The Church were to minister to all the needs of her hurting attendees, the fact remains that 71% of our nation’s workforce population is STILL being overlooked.
Logically, The Church should be doing three things:
1) Make it a priority to equip and mobilize those who journey into the Corporate world for up to 70% of their lives - the rank and file spectating Christian, most of whom are itching for some purpose in their lives (explains why Warren’s “Purpose-Driven Life” was such a hit) - preparing them for Workplace Witnessing.
2) Make training available to all the retired and former ministers to prepare those who are so-inclined for workplace ministry.
3) Encourage Christian entrepreneurs to start businesses with a hidden agenda: to advance the cause of Christ.
Is Corporate America catching the vision of workplace ministry? A few corporations who’ve embraced the concept include Tyson Foods, Interstate Batteries, Sears, Coca-Cola Bottling, Chik-Fil-A, David Weekly Homes, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and American LubeFast. There are many more. One widely-reported comment comes from Austaco, a large Pizza Hut and Taco Bell franchisee corporation in Texas, which credits its chaplaincy program for reducing its annual turnover from 300 percent to 125 percent. Moreover, in the trucking industry, where 100 percent turnover in drivers is not unusual, Allied Holdings has a turnover of four percent, partly, they claim, due to their employee care programs like the Workplace Chaplaincy.
There are well over 4,000 Workplace Chaplains serving American business today. According to the International Coalition of Workplace Ministries, there were fewer than 50 workplace ministries in 1992; today there are roughly 1,200. Reflective of that trend is The Church @ Work (TCAW), which offers businesses the services of career Workplace Chaplains who combine their own secular workplace experience with ministry training.
A NEW THING? HARDLY!
Ministry in the workplace is nothing new. In fact, Forty-five of Jesus’ 52 parables were about work, while 39 of 40 divine encounters in the Book of Acts occurred in workplace settings.
Workplace Ministry can be found throughout the pages of Scripture. The word “work” is mentioned more than 800 times and the Hebrew word “avodah” is the root from which we get the words “work” and “worship.
The workplace is a mission field, and although church leaders will encourage their congregations to go out and reach it, rarely do they show them how to reach those whose company they keep for the majority of their lives. Sadly, just as the Christian world is a spiritual ghetto into which most people never stray, so the majority of Christians seem to have an aversion to mixing sacred with secular.
But that’s changing.
The Church @ Work (TCAW) is available to help churches train their Members to go out and be workplace missionaries or are actually endorsing people to serve in the workplace to minister as Workplace Chaplains. There are many other such groups springing up worldwide. For example, author Henry Blackaby, founder of Blackaby Ministries International, provides monthly conference calls and training sessions to corporate CEOs to help them learn to bring Christ into their corporate lives.
Michael Tummillo, Founder of TCAW, said, “While Pastors say God called them into the ministry, what about the guy or gal in the pew? What are they called to do? TCAW is on a mission is to teach churches how to sustain efforts to disciple that portion of their people that punch a clock. We define work the way God defines it...the essence of work, which is worship and Kingdom building...it’s not merely a place you go to earn a paycheck. People need to realize that we are all in the ministry, not just the ministers.”
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association started looking several years ago at the impact of evangelism training in the workplace, said Jack Munday, who oversees workplace ministry at the Billy Graham Training Center near Asheville, N.C. The BGTC started the Christian Executive Leadership Forum in 2003 which works with business leaders on biblical leadership in business.
“The first century church started in the workplace,” Munday said. “We needed to provide encouragement and engage leadership in business. We call it the sacred/secular divide.”
Tummillo said, “...retired ministers, or perhaps those who have left the Institutional Church for the rapidly-growing Simple Church expression, should contact us. We can endorse them and will even assist them in positioning themselves as the local workplace expert in their community and seeking out local businesses where they can serve.”