The Table Podcast

The Pastor and the Business Person

In this episode, Dr. Darrell L. Bock and Tom Nelson discuss work and the pastorate, focusing on the churches relationship to the business world.

Timecodes
00:15
Nelson’s background integrating a theology of work with ministry
03:30
How the concept of faith and work entered Nelson’s ministry
06:30
The importance of Genesis to biblical theology of work
11:45
How did understanding a biblical theology of work affect your ministry?
21:50
The history of Made to Flourish
23:40
Challenges for pastors entering into the work place as ministry
31:38
The connection between edification and outreach
34:55
Nelson describes Christian leadership
35:55
Equipping congregants for spiritual life beyond Sunday
41:00
Developing relationships with those different from us at work
43:40
How to be productive rather than merely busy
45:35
Nelson explains how Made To Flourish works
Resources Made to Flourish
Transcript
Darrell L. Bock
Welcome to the Table Podcast where we discuss issues of God and culture, and my guest today is Tom Nelson who pastors in Kansas City and the name of the church is?
Tom Nelson
Christ Community Church.
Darrell L. Bock
Christ Community Church. That is a good name for a church.
Tom Nelson
It’s a really good name.
Darrell L. Bock
And he’s also responsible for an organization, a new organization, called Made to Flourish, right?
Tom Nelson
That’s right.
Darrell L. Bock
And so this is a ministry to pastors encouraging them with regard to faith and work matters, that’s correct right?
Tom Nelson
That’s correct yeah. We’re trying to help pastors connect sunday to Monday wealth.
Darrell L. Bock
Well that’s good. I called 9 to 5 the great black hole in the church.
Tom Nelson
It is and we need to do something about that.
Darrell L. Bock
That’s exactly right. So we’re here to the relationship between business people and pastoral staff in the church. How in the world did you get into this gig?
Tom Nelson
I was extruded into it [laughs], kicking and screaming.
Darrell L. Bock
Extruded?
Tom Nelson
Extruded that’s the word.
Darrell L. Bock
Now that’s a word I haven’t used in the last day.
Tom Nelson
Forces beyond you know [crosstalk] [inaudible]
Darrell L. Bock
Okay.
Tom Nelson
You know, it simply is after Seminary I started a church in Kansas City, and wanted to be faithful and wanted to be fruitful and had a collision of intellectual dissonance on what the scriptures taught, what the reformers taught, and how I was doing pastoral ministry. I spent the majority of my time in a small sliver of equipping God’s people for a very small minority of their life. I call it the majority-minority disparity.
Darrell L. Bock
Okay.
Tom Nelson
And I had to make some adjustments to try and live an integral life, so we’ve been on quite a journey and making some change.
Darrell L. Bock
So this is kind of like, let’s do this like those weight ads, before –
Tom Nelson
Before-
Darrell L. Bock
And the after, alright? So before you’re pastorate looked like?
Tom Nelson
Well, I would say that I was deeply committed to teach the word of God, exposit it well.
Darrell L. Bock
That’s a good thing.
Tom Nelson
I was trained well by a certain professor who will remain nameless.
Darrell L. Bock
That’s right.
Tom Nelson
But yeah, I was committed to teaching the word, to helping people walk closer to Jesus in their own private walk with God, and helping them with their families and their relationships. That was my primary discipleship paradigm, but that’s where I focused before. And I missed some pretty significant aspects of being a faithful and fruitful pastor and equipping people for the majority of their life which is for most of us, whether we’re paid or not paid, in our workplace.
Darrell L. Bock
That’s right. And I like to say when we divide up life that way, and we never speak into the space where people spend most of their time, we actually end up supporting unconsciously supporting the secular sacred divide in many ways.
Tom Nelson
We do in that sort of platonic dualism and that kind of dualism not only violate scripture, it violates how we were created to live a more seamless God glorifying life. So to break that up in pieces is to violate the very nature of how we were made and how we were redeemed in Christ. And yet it’s very easy to default into a compartmentalized world, this is my church world, this is my spiritual world, this is my work world.
Darrell L. Bock
And Gods here, and God is here, and I am still trying to figure out why God is there and how that works.
Tom Nelson
Yes.
Darrell L. Bock
And the roots of this change I take it went back to, I mean, was it kind of, did you stumble into it, or were you doing a series at one point in time, or did someone confront you? How did you sense the dissonance?
Tom Nelson
Well, mostly in life, I stumble. The question is whether its backwards or forwards (laughs), but some intentionality. I mean, I was taught since I was a boy, certainly at Dallas seminary while I was here, take seriously, the text. So my particular interest was in Hebrew, in particular, a group of words called the tamim word groups. There are many old testament, word groups in Torah that kind of frame the trajectory of the biblical story. So this tamim idea is that life is meant to be integral, a seamless idea. And yet I was finding myself in a very bifurcated and compartmentalize ministry. So I began to re study particularly Genesis and some of this Hebrew foundation of the life God designed for us that is redeemed in Christ. I began to reread the reformers. I mean, I read them in church history class, but I began to go woah, I’m really missing something.
Darrell L. Bock
So you got reformed on the reformers?
Tom Nelson
Well, I knew the solas. But I didn’t understand the central thread of recovering vocations. You know Martin Luther a classic example, I would love to meet him. Maybe I will some day or so I hope. He would say the lowest caste worker is the milk maid. Think of the person and O’Hare airport cleaning the bathroom next to you.
Darrell L. Bock
Right, right, right.
Tom Nelson
And the priest, doing the sacred sacramental function of the Eucharist is done unto God as the same value of worship.
Darrell L. Bock
right.
Tom Nelson
And the priest, doing the sacred sacramental function of the Eucharist is done unto God as the same value of worship. I’m like, woah. So yeah the reformers really got this, not only the priesthood of believers but the importance of Monday. And worshipping God and being formed in Christ and living out the gospel on Monday. So yeah I became more and more convinced that I was, I’d embraced an impoverished biblical theology and an impoverished pastoral paradigm. And I needed to make some adjustments to be faithful.
Darrell L. Bock
So if we’re going to talk about discipleship, we’ve got to talk about discipleship as is applies all the time, which includes that 9 to 5 Monday to Friday slot.
Tom Nelson
Yeah, and again, I hadn’t thought about the primacy of the work as it relates to the Imago Dei and the image of God. And certainly Jesus as a carpenter and how that fit into the story. So yeah I just if you’d asked me 25 years ago, if I was discipling people for Monday, I would have said yeah. But it probably would have been more focused on marriage and their relationships and their own walk with God, which is important or maybe some evangelism in the workplace, but I didn’t have the fullness of what that meant.
Darrell L. Bock
Yeah, we’ll come back to this because this is an important theme. Let’s talk about the importance of Genesis. Quickly explain to us how you see Genesis one and two feeding into all of this.
Tom Nelson
So we see this scripture is having one ultimate author I trust. And having one author there is coherence as I think you say, well, narratival or canonical coherence. So I spent more time in my sort of interpretive framework and looking at the whole landscape of scripture, so certainly honoring the individual pericopes and the individual sections of scripture, but that’s where I started in genesis and looked more carefully in genesis and really began to see things I had not seen before. I know you don’t suffer from this but a great danger, rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said that the danger in life is to see what we know rather than know what we see. So I slowed down and looked really carefully at what the text said. Somebody taught me that well. A professor that’s sitting next to me.

So when I went back to Genesis with fresh eyes, not novel eyes, I began to see how central that work was to the image of God and to the biblical story and to fruitfulness and the cultural mandate. And then I began to see that was Genesis one it was this sense of fruitfulness, both pro creativity and productivity. And then genesis 2 came into focus. The language of helper. But helper for what? Of course, there is marriage, but then there’s work, work is central. And then I saw Genesis 3 for the first time that made so much sense to me, that when sin and death entered the world there’s this not only vandalization of shalom, there’s this vandalization of this tamim idea, that the Imago Dei is vandalized both in procreativity and productivity. Because what do you see first? The curse to the woman is parah, this sense of pro creativity that she has pain in childbirth, but also there is curse on productivity because there’s thorns and thistles. I had not seen that before, the cohesiveness and coherence of Genesis one, two and three, and then I think we see that then we begin to see how central this idea working for the glory of God is and I think we see how central this idea is of work and worship are designed to be and how the gospel restores that.

Darrell L. Bock
The word I just come from San Francisco talking to Young millennials, and I told them the word that has become more and more and more important to me the longer I study scripture and it’s a word that wasn’t in my lexical register very much with my study is the word stewardship, being good stewards, managing the garden well. The call is to manage this creation that God has given us, and that stewarding involves all kinds of levels of service and engagement in which we help one another function in a big society. And the part of shalom is when that, is when those cogs turn nicely, right? And sometimes that doesn’t happen.
Tom Nelson
That’s exactly right.
Darrell L. Bock
Oh and another thing I like to say is we talk about marriage we’ll talk about our community will talk about our schools we’ll talk about our politics you go through the list what’s happening from 9 to 5? A lot of silence.
Tom Nelson
A lot of silence.
Darrell L. Bock
Yeah.
Tom Nelson
Deafening silence.
Darrell L. Bock
And to the point where I tease our pastoral ministry department now and say, rather than saying don’t use sports illustrations, maybe you should use some illustrations from 9 to 5, but keeps this sports illustrations.
Tom Nelson
Once in a while.
Darrell L. Bock
Okay so, so that was the before. And then you realize this. And what did you do next?
Tom Nelson
Well, I realized it, I prayed some out of desperation. I had some conversations with elders and leadership around the text. It has to flow from a theological conviction, and when my leadership team looked at the text with me and said yeah. So what are the implications, right? What are the practical implications? And that set us on a journey of changing and adjusting local church culture. It’s not just a program. It changes some of the artefacts of language, priorities –
Darrell L. Bock
You’re injecting a fresh set of values and making the point that we want you to live and breathe this.
Tom Nelson
Yes exactly. So I’d say the most definitive moment is when I stood before my congregation out of my own, I guess stupidity and also hope integrity and ask them for forgiveness. I mean, I stood before my congregation and confessed my malpractice, I called it pastoral malpractice. It wasn’t financial embezzlement or sexual impropriety or anything thankfully, but it was very gracious in the sense that they had trusted me to be faithful to my vocation and out of my theological ignorance I had not been faithful. So I asked them to forgive me and I said from this day we’re going to focus our discipleship on equipping you for the majority of your life. And there was kind of a little bit of pin drop silence. Like –
Darrell L. Bock
Where did that come from?
Tom Nelson
We can’t trust you to teach the word well. But there was enough I think trust to say this is what the scripture teaches and we want to live more fully into that. And we’ve always said that the gospel speaks into every nook and cranny of life. We just weren’t living it out in local church.
Darrell L. Bock
Okay.
Tom Nelson
So it was a little bit of pin drop silence.
Darrell L. Bock
Ok, so now we come to the after. So what does after look like? Where did you start with this? Where did you begin?
Tom Nelson
Yeah, I started with our elders and leaders, and then I did a preaching a sermon series. It was called curse of the cubicle. And we actually in our we now have multiple campuses we originally And we actually, in our we now have multiple campuses, on our original campus, it’s this situation where we had a cubicle, a workplace cubicle as a prop when I preached this sermon series. And it was an 8 week series on work.
Darrell L. Bock
And you just sat there and you didn’t do anything?
Tom Nelson
I sat there some. The no I think I mostly stood, but it communicated and brought Monday into Sunday. It’s not just about connecting Sunday and Monday, it’s about bringing Monday into Sunday. And that was, you know we could say that as a preacher was transformational and the spirit of God had worked in people’s lives and people would come up to you and say I’ve always felt like a second class citizen, this is the first time a pastor has even cared to talk about this. And now I’m seeing it in scripture. I am seeing it in terms of Christ being a carpenter, I’m seeing the connections and I’m understanding my workplace much differently. So that said our church, I think that sermon series. And then, out of that sermon series, we wrote the book Work Matters. People came to us and said we need to do this so that began, and we began to think about discipleship and language, and Sunday morning benedictions and our liturgy adjustments and things like that, and pastoral prayer began to change.
Darrell L. Bock
Did you, because I know some churches do this, did you also do some different kinds of commissioning, service is probably too long a word, but commissioning actions to affirm people in the various roles that they have in their work?
Tom Nelson
Right we began to live that out as the priesthood of believers and on a Sunday morning, sure we would commission a short term cross cultural missionary, because we value that, or someone going to seminary, but we also commission people who were going into education or business, blue collar kind of workers and we do that periodically still. We call it this time tomorrow. And churches around the country are increasingly doing this. It’s a brief interview with a member of the congregation and we ask 3 questions. And the questions are, what do you love about your work? What do you find most meaningful? What do you do? What do you find most challenging? And how can I pray for you? And you would not believe how the congregation, when sometimes they yawn during my sermons, sad to say, or their phone goes off, everybody is locked in on that moment in a worshipful posture like a bird dog. It’s just it’s amazing how people connect with fellow parishioners who are trying to live their faith out on Monday. It is transformational.
Darrell L. Bock
Yeah, I just did a little consulting time with Dallas county sheriffs. And my first question to them was, as we were talking about team building and that kind of thing, was explain to me what motivates you to do your work other than the fact that you’re earning a check. And it was amazing. The thought people gave to why they were doing what they were doing, and, of course, you know a sheriff is in danger. I mean, they, you know one of the guys had some to jail so all the bad guys show up in his neck of the woods. You know one of the women just came out and said I view it as my service to God. And wonderful, articulate, African American lady just stepped forward and said this is my ministry. And saw it very much in those terms. And so you get a sense that there are a lot of very dedicated people out there who are actually looking to the church to help them think through that part of their life and that part of their day.
Tom Nelson
I agree. There’s just a longing to have their faith connect and their church community life connect with where they spend the majority of their time. That God has called them there to worship him and serve others.
Darrell L. Bock
So another thing that you did I understand is you began to venture out from your own cubicle. Right?
Tom Nelson
Yes.
Darrell L. Bock
You’re still studying the word and preparing these messages because you are committed to the text. But you were using the other parts of your day differently. How did that work?
Tom Nelson
Yeah, I think that’s one of the biggest practical changes because if our vocational paradigm adjusts to make it more theologically robust then our on the ground praxis changes. So I would say a couple of things. One is I began to pray differently for my congregation or more comprehensively, that’s probably a better word to say. I was more aware of their needs and what they were facing across their vocational spectrums. Part of that came out of I hope from a greater humility and curiosity and less vocational insularity that led me to a praxis that our staff are deeply imeshed in, just like a hospital visit was workplace visits. Workplace visits became not an abnormal routine of the week but a normal part of the week for our pastors. So that workplace visit was probably the most practical, tangible, schedule change during the week and it profoundly changed our staffs’ preaching, prayer, our relationship with our parishioners, and I would say that was the number one thing that changed.
Darrell L. Bock
And what do those look like? I mean, do you go for lunch and then hang around or go and then have lunch? Do they take different forms?
Tom Nelson
Yeah. They do take, they take different forms. There has to be the proper protocol of asking permission. You don’t drop in on someone wherever that workplace is and there’s often security or like in medical HIPPA rules. So you have to be respectful. So you set it up ahead of time, you ask permission of your parishioners. Sometimes you can actually go in the workplace. Sometimes whether it’s a factory or something, you need to have coffee with them in a lunchroom or near there, but go near there. But a lot of work places you can actually visit if you set it up ahead of time. And there’s a proper protocol to doing it well. Come with that teaching attitude, humble attitude, a curious observation. See often parishioners think we’re the experts, we think we’re the experts on everything we’re really not. We have a small layer of expertise so it’s beautiful in the priesthood of believers to seek out their expertise and learn.
Darrell L. Bock
Right.
Tom Nelson
So it is assuming the posture of a humble learner and getting permission, and I can tell you all kinds of stories about parishioners visited with in the workplace. But it is profoundly transformational In your discipleship relationship with that parishioner.
Darrell L. Bock
Because you’re seeing how they live and what they are all about that kind of thing.
Tom Nelson
Yes, and you know how to pray for them. There’s a deep bond for many that you have as a pastor that you would never have if you only focused on their relational life or their physical health or their spiritual life.
Darrell L. Bock
And I guess this is an interesting question to raise at this point and that is you took the initiative to do these, but it’s another way to get there would be for proffessionals to invite staff to do this.
Tom Nelson
Yeah, churches around the country, some things have foot here, and the spirit of God is working to renew his church, I think, the churches around the country are increasingly having things like take your pastor to work day. Like you hear about, take your kids to work day, which is a great idea.

As Christians, we should care about our work and our parents work as kids. But things like that where congregational members can take the initiative to expose their staff or their pastors to their world. So there are many times when it’s reciprocal. One of the interesting things is, I’ve had parishoners. Once I visited their workplace, they want to come and see how the Christ Community sausage is made during the week.

So –

Darrell L. Bock
I’ll trade you-
Tom Nelson
There are times-
Darrell L. Bock
Draft choices to be made later.
Tom Nelson
I had a cardiologist came and I spent 4 hours with his staff. Brilliant guy and I didn’t faint when he was doing procedures, but he said, ok now it’s my turn. So he sat in a whole day of meetings, sermon preparation team and it was fascinating to see him evaluate our work. First of all, we were doing work. But that’s another way to help parishoners enter your world as a pastor.
Darrell L. Bock
And so we’ve been in the faith and work thing, both of us for some time trying to crack the mystery of what’s going on here, and when we come back on the other half, what I want to kind of focus in one is Made to Flourish and the way it’s stepping into this space and consider the obstacles that come in too. What makes a person slow or a pastor or pastoral to go here? And you have hinted at it. Why don’t we set this up for the second half? What are some of the obstacles you’ve seen to get in the way? I know one of the ones that we have identified is, is that a pastoral staff get so consumed with the programs of the church and what it is doing that this seems like a distraction in some ways. You are shaking your head.
Tom Nelson
We’ll talk about it when you want to talk about it. I agree.
Darrell L. Bock
And so part of the challenge is to break that mentality and think through how you view this activity. The way I like to say it is churches go through a lot of efforts of ingenuity to try and think about how can we gear up for evangelism, and how can we do our outreach? And my point is it’s already set up. And it isn’t an expensive program it’s already paid for and everything else. Is that a good first step in thinking about this?
Tom Nelson
Yes, that’s a good first step. But let’s talk about the obstacles because there are great opportunities and there are sizable obstacles for us being more fully invested here.
Darrell L. Bock
And your challenge we’ve got a little bit of time still your challenge here is with Made to Flourish is to try and encourage pastors in this direction. Is that right? Is that what it’s designed to do?
Tom Nelson
We are deeply committed on two fronts in Made to Flourish to help pastors to be more spiritually whole and that’s an ongoing journey in our own formation, our own sanctification. But then, also as a part of that is being more effective in our pastoral mission in equipping people for Monday. So both we call it a sense of encouraging wholeness but also pastoral effectiveness for both faithfulness and fruitfulness. Because to be faithful, we are to be fruitful biblically, so how do we enhance the fruitfulness in our pastoral work I think is really, really important.
Darrell L. Bock
And so and part of doing that fruitful exercise is invigorating the life of the parishioner in those locations that God has them basically is what we’re talking about.
Tom Nelson
It’s shifting from almost exclusively, I will say that confessionally, for pastors especially at a larger organization you serve from running Sunday and making sure Sundays good which is important to shifting our primary focus to Monday.
Darrell L. Bock
And the rest of the week.
Tom Nelson
And the rest of the week. That is the big shift not to diminish the gathered church’s stewardship, pastor has stewardship. Sunday matters. It’s just often for us. It matters at the expense of Monday. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday ,Friday, Saturday.
Darrell L. Bock
Has the Kern Family Foundation help to underwrite Made to Flourish?
Tom Nelson
Yeah, the history of Made to Flourish is that the Kern Family Foundation and Christ Community church came together about 18 months ago in an institutional partnership to launch Made to Flourish. And the Kern family is deeply invested in renewing the church and culture. So they are deeply invested in Made to Flourish.
Darrell L. Bock
That’s great. So let’s talk about how this worked. So, what are the obstacles? I kind of give in the big overview of out the church gets consumed with making sure Sunday works. If I can say it that way and then they forget about work the rest of the week.

That saying it harshly but in one sense, it’s probably pretty true in terms of probably the way things get addressed. So what are some of the obstacles that you see?

Tom Nelson
There are sizable ones Darrel. See I think first of all, when I first made my transition and found myself extruded in this national conversation about, let’s just say this Sunday to Monday gap –
Darrell L. Bock
Extruded again, man-
Tom Nelson
Exactly I was pushed, I was extruded into it. I didn’t go running to it.
Darrell L. Bock
I’m going to go home and use my word of the day. My word for the day is extruded and my wife is going to be like did you just insult me?
Tom Nelson
Well, it just seems the right word.
Darrell L. Bock
I love that word.
Tom Nelson
I wasn’t like charging at it, I felt like I was pushed into it. So I thought first of all that the greatest challenge of the Sunday to Monday gap using that language would be in the pews. You know the chairs. And then, over time I began to realize that as I was across tribes that the greatest challenge and obstacle is the pulpit. I’m one of those guys who have failed greatly, and so I’m humbly appealing to my pastors, my brothers and sisters that I think the greatest obstacle is us. And on a couple of fronts. First of all, at least, for me, I don’t want to project, is that we need to stay very teachable in the text. None of us have it all figured out, right? And we need to be in the text and let the text speak to us and be open and teachable to hear what the text says and maybe adjust some of our thinking. Some of us think that we’ve got it all figured out because we’ve been trained. So I’m just saying for me it was to keep staying curious and humble and listen to the text and then to wrestle with what the implications were, so when I have a, the greatest obstacle to me as a pastor is a theological obstacle. That we don’t see, many of us, what the text says, from creation to consummation, and wrestle with the implications for our own vocational faithfulness. I’m just saying I always start with teaching a robust theology. And I think that’s the biggest obstacle is our lack of engagement with the text, we tend to see what we know rather than know what we see there, at least that was for me.
Darrell L. Bock
I want to elaborate on this because I think this is something that had bothered me a long time and that goes something like this: we think we teach theology when we get the ideas of the text right, but we actually don’t teach theology until we get the values and the relationships in the text right. Is that a fair distinction?
Tom Nelson
I think that’s a good distinction.
Darrell L. Bock
And so my point would be if you get that distinction that we actually end up teaching and preaching half of what the bible is about and the sad part is, although it’s the framing half of what the bible teaches, which is crucial, it’s not the delivery part of what the bible teaches, which is also quite crucial.
Tom Nelson
I’m with you, at least in my experience, I don’t want to project it on others, but I had a strong value of systematic theology that brings what I call sort of logical consistency in our limitations as humans in our interpreting the text, but I didn’t have that canonical coherence that helped shape that hermeneutical process. And then I didn’t have the kind of marination in the spirit and rest and reading others to say, what are the implications of this on the levels of value and relationships and praxis? So I was, not to spend too much time here, but I think, I as a pastor, the last thing I’m looking for I feel like a goalie in a hockey net. The more complex your organization is there are so many pucks coming at you, and most of the pucks are driven by marketing, and I’m not diminishing that, and church growth strategies. So many of us-
Darrell L. Bock
Actually, you’re trying to connect to people –
Tom Nelson
And many of us like what’s the next thing? I am sick of it. And that’s an obstacle if see this faith, work an economic conversation through sort of a church growth strategy or an addendum. Where we have to go is to see how central, it is not the only thing, but how central this theological thread is throughout all of scripture, and if we have that conviction, then it begins to not be something we adding on, faith, work, and economic integration, it is something that can be woven through our ministry, what we’re already doing and begins to change us. Does that make any sense?
Darrell L. Bock
Yeah, let me try another metaphor because I think this is important. The local church is like a hub. The business of the hub is not about the hub, the business of the hub is to be a hub. The hub is supposed to work outwards, if you will, and work into other places you come here and so when you’re just focused on the hub you are suffering from nearsightedness. You’re so focused on what’s going on in here, you forget this is supposed to be a generative place that is sending things out. And now the metaphor I have of making cotton candy.

(Crosstalk)

Tom Nelson
It’s terrible for you. All that sugar.
Darrell L. Bock
Now come on.
Tom Nelson
I’m sorry Darrell.
Darrell L. Bock
Just enjoy it. Your under 10
Tom Nelson
I’m trying to track with you on metaphor here.
Darrell L. Bock
Your under 10 all right? And that machine is just throwing this stuff out. You know? And it gathers. And finally you have this wonderful piece of cotton candy and you’re going, oh, that was cool. I mean, I remember standing at the cotton candy machine, even after I was all messy saying that is really an interesting machine. I wonder how it works. And so that’s the way I think of the church. In some ways it’s this generator is this hub in some ways and it’s supposed to be sending out light and aroma to use biblical metaphors into the world. And if we don’t do that, then somehow we’ve missed it.
Tom Nelson
Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. We have a role, I like the word gathered scattered church, but in a pastoral role our primary focus again, for most of us, is the gathered church. We rate ourselves by bodies, buildings, bucks, not that metrics don’t matter. But most of our focus, our peer evaluation, our reviews are about the metric health of the church usually in terms of the number of bodies on Sunday morning, the size of our buildings and budget. Those do matter institutionally, so I’m not diminishing that, but we’re not evaluated and prayerful and passionate about Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday at other people’s places of work. We’re excited about our place of work, but we’re not focused there. Yeah, that’s the power of the transformation.
Darrell L. Bock
I have had conversations with pastors where they will say things like, well, we’re about it and we’re deeply committed edification. we want our people to be edified. And they do it in this, in the way I was talking about earlier which is this, you know, we’re delivering ideas, we’re getting them to think about the scripture that kind of thing, but that other layer it’s sort of often missing, and particularly what’s interesting, is when the focus becomes so focused on edification, you lose your focus on outreach, and I want to connect these two while I’ve got you here. And I’m going to try to set it up this way. I tell people that the way they do their work matters, one because their work does matter
Tom Nelson
Itself
Darrell L. Bock
Okay itself that’s important, but also the way in which they do their work builds their credibility with the people they work with, which sets up everything else that is, to some degree, everything they care about which is eventually to have those conversations with the people they work with and the people they care about that focus on spiritual things. And actually there are texts that say this. If you’re poor in managing the earthly things who’s going to give you the spiritual the things to take care of?
Tom Nelson
Exactly. And what I would say is that when I appeal to my fellow 501c3 leaders, in that world, if we do not intentionally, passionately, prayerfully connects Sunday to Monday there are five crucial things at stake. Let me highlight those very briefly. Firstly, the worship of God is at stake because worship was meant to be a 24/7 nanosecond relationship with God in everything we are, everything we do, everywhere. Not just Sunday
Darrell L. Bock
Right.
Tom Nelson
Secondly, the spiritual formation of God’s people are at stake because a good amount of our formation happens not just on Sunday preaching, it happens on Monday suffering and difficult and opportunities being filled with the spirit is working with the spirit, so spiritual formation is on the line. The third thing which you were alluding to and I think was brilliantly is the plausibility of the gospel. The gospel needs to often be seen as it is heard or before it’s heard.
Darrell L. Bock
Right.
Tom Nelson
That’s what you’re getting and I think it’s like in my workplace where the world comes together today and many will never step in the church, the Christian witness, the plausibility of the gospel is lived out in the workplace more than any other place in the world.
Darrell L. Bock
You become the only Bible some people will ever read.
Tom Nelson
It’s exactly right. It doesn’t mean we don’t proclaim the words, but plausibility leads to proclamation. So what’s at stake is not only the plausibility of the gospel but also the proclamation of the gospel, because that’s the place where the vast majority of people that we serve are going to have the opportunity to boldly credibly passionately share their faith to someone who’s never heard it, and then the last thing at stake is the common good. God the spiritual formation of God’s people the spiritual formation of the gospel itself the plausibility of the gospel and its proclamation and the common good all five of those and there are more are at stake when we if we focus on the minority of people’s lives rather than the majority.
Darrell L. Bock
I think this is so profoundly important because I do think that actually, if you think about it, the second half of this is of course, is that when you view it this way when you see people who are out there as part of the extended mission of the church, then who needs an evangelistic program? It’s already designed. It’s already there. I mean God has already done it. Why do you need to add something on top of it? And so you want to equip people for the places and spaces where God already has people.
Tom Nelson
Exactly. And that way the local church, we do have programs. We have intentional pathways for spiritual growth but it’s not a program driven. It’s a mission focused and culture reinforced. A culture you create. I think one of the most important parts of leadership that comes back to the garden of cultivating and keeping the garden. Two Hebrew infinitives, to cultivate and to keep. That’s part of a steward, right. And that we steward and organization and a local church and we nourish that culture of cultivation and protection. And in that we find this trajectory of a powerful The mission that God has already put in place in every nook and cranny already there. So at Christ Community, for example, or one example we have some programs, but we don’t have a faith work and economic program. We don’t have a faith work and economics center. Now some churches do, and that’s fine, but I’m saying it’s woven in, cradle to grave, in our discipleship.
Darrell L. Bock
You’re not going to miss it, that’s the point.
Tom Nelson
Our preaching, our prayers and then we’re unleashing the church.
Darrell L. Bock
Okay, let me deal with two other issues that I think are important and you may have others. First, is this you already talk, alluded to this a little bit and that is people are only in the church getting equipped for a short period of time.
Tom Nelson
Very short.
Darrell L. Bock
In comparison to all the other cultural influences that are pounding on them on a regular basis. So if you actually don’t equip them to think through how they spend that time in that space and how they engage, by default, then the culture will overwhelm them.
Tom Nelson
Yeah, and one of my great blessings in life, one of my great privileges is I spent a lot of time with Dallas Willard, the late Dallas Willard. And Dallas Willard would say, over and over again, we are being spiritually formed all the time, and the question is and I’ll use Aristotelian language, is are we being more formed into vice or into virtue? So we are being formed, the question is which direction are we heading? And if we do it we do not equip our congregants to be spiritually formed in what they do every day then they are going to, it’s not a neutral zone as far as I can see. It’s just the deeds of the flesh, the deeds of the spirit. We’re going one or the other direction, so I’m just saying we equip them to move to greater Christ likeness and I love the virtue language of second Peter in the text, we are equipping them. we have to do that.
Darrell L. Bock
And you use the word virtue and when I’m talking about values and relationships that that’s what those virtues apply to them in such a way, I like to say if you take a really close look at the fruit of the spirit, it’s actually pretty real relational stuff. It’s designed to bring the shalom the peace that God wants in relationships our relationship that we have with him is designed to changes the way we’re relating to others, so that’s why you get the great commandments, all those kind that’s all an ethical base. You know we talk about the creation, fall, redemption, consummation story, but there’s another story that’s running through scripture that’s pretty important and that is the way in which our love and security that we get from a relationship with God drives our love and security and the way we relate to others.
Tom Nelson
yeah I need to know you know as well from Augustine to Aquinas this disordered love is at the heart of vice and ordering our loves, right to love, rightly is so deeply embedded in that story and obviously it has to be in Christ and the power of the Spirit.
Darrell L. Bock
The curve ball that I always think of is the passage that leads into the good Samaritan where the scribe and the religious lawyer if will, ask Jesus, you know, what do I have to do to inherit eternal life. And Jesus, as he often will, he has a question back, how do you see it? And, at least in the Lucan version this is the way it goes, and the scribe says love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. And I find myself asking that question on an exam in soteriology class, I don’t think that’s the answer I would get from students and I don’t think that’s the answer I would give if I were asked the question. And yet Jesus turns around, he says, you’ve answered rightly. Do this and you will live. And for years I couldn’t figure out what was going on there, and then all of a sudden it dawned on me, you know what Jesus was telling the scribe? This is the way life is designed to be lived. And if life is supposed to be lived that way, then this is a pretty important thing, it’s called the great commandment for a reason. And so we worry about how we fall short and don’t get there but if you want to know what the target is that’s the target, in terms of values and relationships. And so it transformed the way I read scripture. Because all of a sudden I’m not in a world of ideas. I’m in a world of relating. I’m in a world of connecting with people. I am in a world of trying to understand and become more sensitive. Turning that arrow that tends to go Inward and moving it outward that kind of thing. And I think that’s what the church has to do. It has an arrow that’s pointing inward towards what’s happens on Sunday and it needs to have an arrow that points outwards towards what happening all around them that they’re actually equipping people for the bulk of the time.
Tom Nelson
Well the thread of relationships are so central to scripture. Even to know Hebrew is to know someone not just something. So I’m just saying the thread of relationships and John Kilmer said this well, but the image of God, the salem, is both connection and reflection. So that deep sense of relation, I’m just saying that relational thread is so central to a good and beautiful life, of the great sort of Aristotelian virtue ethics and Jesus talks about that on the sermon of the mount. And even Peter, II Peter, this great text of we are partakers of the divine nature, this gospel text goes from where in his virtue language? It goes from faith to love. It builds to love, so I just want to I just absolutely that since of increasingly loving what Jesus loves is such a part of this journey of Greater Christ likeness and again it matches the virtues of the good, true, and beautiful life.
Darrell L. Bock
Here’s a second one, and this may seem like a bit of a curveball-
Tom Nelson
You throw curve balls a lot.
Darrell L. Bock
That’s right. It’s this. That and thinking about these relationships are not thinking about the relationships that are easy. We’re not just thinking about the relationships with people who are like us. We are actually being pushed to think about stepping into relationships with people who are different from us. We’re talking about relating to some degree of connecting with cross-culturally in our jobs. One of the beautiful things about the workplace today is that it is a demographic mix, and we are, we have the potential, this is important, we have the potential to step into those kinds of spaces and to walk into that kind of world, but our instinct is not to go there. So one of the challenges, it seems to me, that the church seems to have is to challenge people to go there in the context of the workplace, in the context of the job they do and getting to know the people they work with to really think through getting to know the people they work with who are different than they are.
Tom Nelson
Yeah it’s a marvelous way God designed the world isn’t it? The nations of the Great Commission that God is caring about all the nations and all ethnic groups, all that great diversity. And we live in a time of great pluralism and great diversity and there’s many opportunities there, so yeah. I want to say this is a great opportunity for us to enter a space where we have the need for humility and good listening and love and understanding and to find that common ground, the Imago Dei, the image of God that common grace, and it is in that common grace, that fertile soil, where saving grace often finds root. So we don’t just love people because they’re going to find Jesus right? But because they’re made in God’s image.
Darrell L. Bock
They aren’t a project, they’re people.
Tom Nelson
And they’re precious in God’s sight but it’s interesting when I see how common grace and saving grace work together in Scripture, that there is a corollary of loving and serving the just and the unjust but in that the gospel message finds great traction.
Darrell L. Bock
And also mirroring something that I think is fundamental and that is never forgetting where you came from. That God approached you, and not because you were entitled to be approached, but specifically because you weren’t entitled to be approached and yet he by his goodness and grace reached out to you, so we are to share this capability to reach out to others.
Tom Nelson
Yeah and I think it’s a posture of gratitude we tend to get into comparisons instead of celebrating their life and the value they bring so yeah I find that very much it’s all a posture it’s also taking the initiative of love. Love seeks to build up, it takes the initiative and again it’s back to your relational love categories.
Darrell L. Bock
Okay so that’s kind of on the list of my obstacles that I say and some of the challenges that are in front of anything we left out that constitutes another obstacle we need to think about?
Tom Nelson
I think it’s just like many of our parishioners an obstacle again is finding our self filled with lots of activity and confusing activity as fruitfulness or accomplishment.
Darrell L. Bock
Productivity.
Tom Nelson
So I think most of us have to have good places of assessment, good critique from others to say am I being busy, am I having lots of activity or am I being faithful in my vocation and not frenetic? so I would say that a big obstacle I would say from a pastor’s point of view we can do so many things and get quote so busy and so active that our own relationship with God and others suffers and then the mission is not advanced because we’re not active in the right places we’re busy but not productive. I think that’s a big obstacle
Darrell L. Bock
And the potential for just the amount of information flowing that we have access to which can be overwhelming there’s no way to keep up with it at all you have to prioritize it can be so overwhelming that you can get lost in that sea of activities / information that you’re trying to gather and in the process disconnect from people while you’re collecting your facts if you will.
Tom Nelson
So I say I think it’s personal management, personal impact that other people speak into your life and that’s one of the reasons why we have a network. Picture pin us and we sharpen one another and faithful discipleship that’s what word doing with the maids of flourish each other
Darrell L. Bock
Now we’re really tight for time, but do you connect pastors or someone another? How does Made to Flourish work?
Tom Nelson
Yeah, Made to Flourish is a network, where we have a website and it allows people to come and get all of the resources so wherever you are in the world you can come to and have all of the best resources to help you be more effective and connecting Sunday to Monday. We also have learning communities in different cities and we are having an increase in our network. Right now we have 20 cities and so pastors can now look at our website. But in many cities there’s already a network building and you can go on our website and find where those networks are and get involved. We have lunch and some different things and people are helping each other.
Darrell L. Bock
Well thanks Tom for coming in and talking to us about this. We’ve talked about this a lot, just personally and it’s something that we both care very, very deeply about. We think that it makes for effective ministries, effective of pastorates, effective of churches, and it actually helps to accomplish one of the things that Jesus did ask the disciples to do which we call affectionately, the Great Commission, so we go for it. So, I thank you for coming in and being a part of our time, and we thank you for being a part of the table and we hope that you’ll join us again soon.
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Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than 40 books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
Tom Nelson
Dr. Tom Nelson is president of Made to Flourish. He is also the senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Kansas City. He has served on the Board of Regents of Trinity International University and is on the leadership team of the Oikonomia Network.
Theology
Dec 12, 2017
David K. LoweryDavid K. LoweryMikel Del RosarioMikel Del RosarioTerri MooreTerri MooreDarrell L. BockDarrell L. Bock
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Theology
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