The Table Podcast

Pastoral Practice and Whole-Life Discipleship

In this episode, Drs. Darrell L. Bock and Tom Nelson discuss faith and work, focusing on how those in ministry can practice whole life discipleship. Note: This interview was recorded before social distancing recommendations began in March 2020.

Timecodes
02:11
Nelson recognizing holes in ministry
07:30
Importance of whole life discipleship
10:31
Genesis 1 & 2 and the value of work
16:55
Work as stewardship
19:50
Work as restoring our original design
23:01
Human flourishing expressed in Scripture
26:27
Addressing the sacred-secular distinction
34:29
How to arrive at whole life discipleship
Resources
Transcript
Darrell Bock
Let me turn our attention to Tom (Nelson). Let me introduce him briefly. First of all, he is a Th.M, Master of Theology grad (from Dallas Theological Seminary). You majored in?
Tom Nelson
Biblical exposition.
Darrell Bock
Biblical exposition. But you love the Old Testament, right?
Tom Nelson
I love the Old Testament.
Darrell Bock
You also became like a Hebrew guy.
Tom Nelson
Almost, but I had a Greek professor named Dr. Darrel Bock who constantly reminded me of always observing the Greek texts. But I also observe the Hebrew texts.
Darrell Bock
That’s right. Nothing beats observing the Greek texts. Nothing, nothing at all.
Tom Nelson
I heard that many times. I heard that in my sleep. I still hear that in my sleep, it’s called PTSD. No, not it’s not. [Laughs] I love and appreciate it. I’m teasing.
Darrell Bock
So, he pastors in Kansas City at Christ Community Church. More importantly for us today he runs as president of Made to Flourish, which is a nationwide pastor’s network for the common good and dealing with what we’re going to be talking about today, which is kind of what we’re calling whole life discipleship. We’re thinking about the role of faith in work. And really the topic is how do I prepare pastors to think – I’ll say it this way – less about Sunday and more about Monday.

Okay? So, that’s our topic. And is our tradition that that you now have become used to, we have the microphones here. You can walk up and ask questions or you can text them in on the number that’s on the screen. And we’ll be doing that in about 15, 20 minutes, or so. So, let me get started. Let’s talk about this whole life discipleship and I’m going to have some fun. There are holes in the way the church teaches and preaches, which whole life discipleship is designed to fill. Fill in the blanks.

Tom Nelson
That’s a lot of holes.
Darrell Bock
That’s right.
Tom Nelson
Well, just a couple of things. First of all, thank you for the privilege of being here today and for Dallas Seminary. I’m grateful for Dallas’ investment in me. And the tools I got here I cherish. Yeah, when we think about the holes, there are holes. And so, I would say very briefly my own story – can I just for the audience be self-absorbed?
Darrell Bock
Yeah, sure. Go ahead.
Tom Nelson
But most people ask me. I’ve had the joy of serving and congregation now for 30 years. And on a good Sunday, it began with two of us in our apartment. So, when I left Dallas Seminary, we moved to Kansas City, my bride and I. And we’d been with Crew and led Crew Ministry at SMU and other places. So, love God’s Word. Taught it well.

But I came to the conviction out of a theological reflection that I was really not discipling people for the majority of their life. I call it the majority-minority disparity. That my emphasis as a pastor was really how well I did on Sunday. And again, as I say always, Sunday matters. If you’re pastor and leading God’s church that’s gathered, you do that well. But I realized that my framework about discipling or “ – equipping the Saints for the work of service” you know Ephesians, was deeply impoverished. And I’m not blaming my Greek professor or anybody else.

I’m just saying. So, all that to say that I had to make some pretty major changes about 25 years ago and realizing the holes. And I’ve used the language. You use sub-practice. I use malpractice – pastoral malpractice. So, I’ve been on journey out of theological and biblical conviction of the text to begin to align what I believe the text teaches from canonically, Creation to the maps, of how important all of life is and how the gospel profoundly transforms.

Darrell Bock
Okay. Let’s define the malpractice here because people may or may not understand.
Tom Nelson
It’s a little provocative.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. So, I’ve called it sub-practice, but that’s okay. So, what exactly are we talking about?
Tom Nelson
So, what occurred for me, and I trust that that’s not for you, I had not done enough time – I remember even Hebrew doing Ruth and Psalms. And this is not a critique of my curriculum. It’s just I needed more time in Genesis. Because as we’ve talked about, if we do not grasp the Torah, if we don’t grasp the foundation of the story, the other pieces often are not coherent or rich and connected. The fabric of canonical text.

So, I realized the more I studied, particularly the early chapters of Genesis, that I was missing some significant things. And we don’t have time to unpack all that. But I love the text and believe that every jot and tittle is inspired, right? In the original text. So, the more I studied the early chapters of Genesis, I began to realize, wow, I’ve been missing some really important things that profoundly are important in God’s redemptive enterprise and my role in it as a pastor.

So, my paradigm of pastoral vocation was impoverished and it needed to be expanded. And that led me to the conviction, rereading the reformers like Luther and Calvin, rereading the Genesis texts particularly, and then beginning to see all the connections all the way through the canon. That my equipping the Saints for service, my equipping calling was not just to help them be a good Sunday Christian. But to truly equip them for their Monday worlds, whatever that is.

And transparently our passion, preaching, language, benedictions, our Sunday, our Mission, our priorities, our budget, all of that was not deeply aligned with that. And I had to realign it. For example – and Eugene Peterson uses this language – languages are the artifact of culture. They carry our values. And I don’t mean this to be uncharitable, but I grew up hearing the word full-time Christian Ministry. And I understand the meaning of that. It’s not to diminish that.

But what that often is heard by those who hear it who are not in full-time ministry is that, I’m less important. So, there’s language changes I begin to make who I think were more integral. So, our language and culture began to change. Our pathways of discipleship began to change. And our pastoral praxis began to change. Preaching, we’re talking about illustrations, what I read, and one of the classic examples. 30 years ago, when I began in a pastoral – I made hospital visits. And I deeply believe in that today. To care for my parishioners.

But I had no framework theologically, or missionally, or vocationally why a workplace visit mattered so much to disciple my people. And that’s one example. And I’ll stop there. Workplace visits now are part of our praxis.

Darrell Bock
So, a part of the point here is that – the premise – most of the people in your audience spend the bulk of their product life in work from eight or nine to five, apparently depending on where you live in the country.
Tom Nelson
Paid or unpaid because work is contribution biblically, not just compensations.
Darrell Bock
That’s right.
Tom Nelson
Define it right.
Darrell Bock
But they are in this slot. And then if you think about the preaching that you hear, how much of the preaching that you hear actually addresses that slot of a person’s life.
Tom Nelson
Yeah, and I remember one of my greatest memories, since I’m home, is John Stott did a lecture here. And I had the joy – only five of us that had lunch with him. There was only like two hours with John Stott. But John Stott’s work of Between Two Worlds is really that, right? Taking God’s time was truth and applying it and connecting it without reductionism to that cultural context is our stewardship. But that world, right, I understood a little and I’m still unlearning and learning the biblical text. Right?

This is never ending. But the context of my listeners was deeply reductionistic and impoverished. I did not focus on their world, which is the majority of time Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Yes, I touched on relationships that mattered, but I just didn’t have the understanding of preaching, teaching, praying, equipping them for their world. I was between two worlds, but one world was deeply shriveled. Does that make sense?

Darrell Bock
Yeah, sub-practice.
Tom Nelson
However you want to say it, Boss. So, I think I’m with God’s Grace as a pastor becoming more integral, faithful, and fruitful in what I do now than how I approached my vocation 30 years ago.
Darrell Bock
So, whole life discipleship then is the idea of when I teach and preach, I need to be addressing and speaking into every space and place that a person lives in.
Tom Nelson
Correct, because I think if we have a rich Creation theology, we have a richer redemption theology, and richer consummation theology. So, I do want to have a deep understanding of the value of the moment now. The embodied incarnational temporal reality now, not to minimize the future. So, if I do have that conviction theologically, biblically, then I am unpacking. Making the connection of the sacred text and the gospel, how it speaks into that nook and cranny. That that nook and cranny matters. That the gospel speaks into that moment.
Darrell Bock
God has you there for a reason.
Tom Nelson
Yeah. And his presence, this empowerment of the spirit, the role of being filled with the spirit and walking with the spirit is not reductionistic. It’s profoundly pervasive moment by moment. As for an example in a workplace. What does it mean to “Take your soul to work” as Paul Stevens has written in a book? Or what does it mean to be filled with the spirit? Or walk in the spirit in that workplace where the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light collide, right?

Where sin is evident, right? The brokenness of Genesis 3. So, I’m just saying the richness of theology. I cannot emphasize the value of what we’re doing here is unpacking the biblical text, learning it, deepening it. But then applying it to a cultural context, which is what the Hendricks Center is doing so well. But that has to be a great translation enterprise.

Darrell Bock
Okay. So, let’s do a theological snapshot here on Genesis 1 and 2.
Tom Nelson
Okay. Let’s do that.
Darrell Bock
What is at the core of understanding the value of work? Because when some people here faith at work they think, oh, you’re talking about doing evangelism at work. Okay, which is a part of what we’re talking about, but that’s not the major part of what we’re talking about. So, let’s fill in that gap.
Tom Nelson
So, can we just have a moment in the text? I’m just saying the application – I know we want to go there and it’s really important, but what drives me on my knees before our holy God is the sacred text that I work through. But when we look at Genesis, there’s much we could say. Eugene Peterson, I think has said it perhaps the best that, “Fundamentally, the early chapters of Genesis are a journal of work.” Now there are theological and exegetical reasons for that because God introduces him as a worker. We hear bara. God creates. God is a worker.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, he was busy creating.
Tom Nelson
Especially in revelation, there’s so much of God that’s inexhaustible. He could’ve unveiled much about himself before he even got to what he did. Can I use that kind of language?
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm.
Tom Nelson
So, God is a worker. And that’s significant that bara frames the Torah and biblical text. But when you walk through, you see God’s working in Creation. And there’s all kind of – if you want continental assonance going on in all of that, I think, in the Hebrew text where you hear these verbs echo. But God creates and then we hear God bless. And there’s all kinds of dynamics with barcah, baruch, right?

Blessing. Blesses the birds and the animals, and then blesses humans. And he gives us after the Imago Dei, which is tselem and demuth, the likeness and the image, which is a major category of human anthropology. Then following, 25, 26, 27, we have now 28. So, I’m just saying we can unpack too a lot because they all go together. But 28, you have five Hebrew imperatives called the cultural mandate. I could say this can’t I? We just ran into it at the library – it was odd – Dr. Richard Averbeck who is a prof at Trinity, another good school by the way.

Darrell Bock
He got his doctorate there.
Tom Nelson
He’s an Old Testament prof. And we were just having this conversation briefly about the uniqueness of the five Hebrew imperatives stacked together. In English, it’s be fruitful, multiply, fill the Earth, subdue, and have dominion. All that to say there’s so much here, but this language of fruitfulness and human job description that is built out chapter 2. It’s that work is a very important part of the Creation story.

First of all, in imaging God as I think brilliantly said by John Kilner is this idea is connection reflection. So, the connection we talked about is deeply relational. A Trinitarian God being an image of how we are deeply relational creatures. But we’re also reflectional creatures and a big part of the Hebrew text is that we reflect God immediately in the context. We do it in many ways as it’s unveiled through progressing revelations. But it is work.

If you just take the context of how the narrative builds, it’s work. And how this builds out also in Chapter 2 because parah is fruitfulness. It has both in Torah procreativity and productivity. And I don’t want to get too dense here, but it’s really important to understand that the narrative in Genesis is not just about having babies. That’s the parah of procreativity. That’s be fruitful and these four imperatives follow and they accent both of the elements of parah. Be fruitful, right?

Be fruitful and then it says, what? Multiply, fill. Those two imperatives enhance parah of procreativity. Right after that is have dominion and subdue it, which is the productive aspect. In Moses we use the language of fruit of the womb and fruit of the land. So, my point is that is the fruitful language, being fruitful. And Rabbi Jesus will say, by this is my father glorified by, what? That you bear much fruit. When you follow this fruitfulness it’s a really important part of being human.

Darrell Bock
So, you’re saying productive not just in route production, but productive in what we’re doing?
Tom Nelson
But in the work of our hands. And lastly, I would just say just briefly since this is a place of theology and biblical exegesis I trust. I know it is. Is that you have a different Hebrew word in Genesis 2 than Genesis 1. In Genesis 1, you know it as bara. It’s very loaded and unique, right? Three times in the picture of the image of God and man. But then you have yatsar. You have God forms the man from dust. And you know that that is a delicate architectural design.

So, think about just the fact that we are embodied creatures. Using your hands. We’re talking about the free solo, Alex Honnold who did El Capitan. But think of how God designed humans, embodied humans. Designed them with something in mind. Think of your human brain.

What distinction? Why did God do that? Why are we so powered for brain work? Or why do we have our hands like we do? Well, it’s tied to our job description in 2
15. So, I’m just saying there’s so much. It’s not that we worship our work. That’s very dangerous, right?

It can be an idol. And there’s a very Great Atlantic monthly article by Derrick Thompson just out on work-ism. We don’t worship our work. That’s a danger of idolatry. But work is a vital part of our worship. It’s an essential part of image-bearing. And again, it all connect to me in terms of how Jesus was a carpenter and how Paul unpacks it.

But theology does matter here. It has to be theological conviction. This is not like a little program. I’m going to have a faith and work initiative. The point is is that the biblical text leads that work is really important. And I would suggest however you understand the continuity-discontinuity of the now and the not yet, which Christian tradition has wrestled with, that I have more of a sense that Jesus taught more continuity. So, the work we do now will have impact on the work we do later in the New Heaven and New Earth.

Darrell Bock
And in fact, in some senses it previews what it’s about. It’s supposed to.
Tom Nelson
But I think so. And I think … more dignity. Even the work is now thorns and thistles. There’s something really significant. So, theology matters.
Darrell Bock
And at the core of work is service. Let me bring up another word.
Tom Nelson
Thanks for letting this go a little.
Darrell Bock
Sure. The other key word here that I think we have to think through is the word stewardship. That work is something that we steward. So, let’s talk about what’s involved in that idea.
Tom Nelson
So, let’s go back to the foundation again. Dr. Bock, you’ve really championed this word and it’s really important. And it’s important in the New Testament, but its framing is in the Old. So, let’s just take Genesis 2:15. These two Hebrew infinitives. To cultivate it to keep the garden.

That captures the human job description—abadah and shamarah. Of nurturing creation and culture and protecting it. So, humans fit in the creative order as stewards, not owners. Because we are the created, not the creator. And that’s why the Psalmist says the Earth is the Lord’s and everything it contains. Not question who owns it, who designed it, who built it.

They own it. Or he owns. Or however we bring that into Trinitarian framework. But I’m saying I love that stewardship because it’s more explicit in the New Testament. The stewardship language and parables, and so forth. But it’s woven into the foundation of the Genesis text and human anthropology.

That we fit in the creative order. Notice also if you want to look more carefully, you have a negation too of there’s no bush. Look how it frames. No bush, no spring, no plant, no rain, no man. And then notice the modification. Only placed there to what? To work the ground.

So, I’m just saying the stewardship piece is woven into the very fabric pre-fall and it builds all the way through. Think of Jesus’ parables. So, I’m saying the stewardship language is explicit in the New Testament, but it’s vital to see all of life as a stewardship. That we will give an account for, right? It’s Jesus’ parables.

Darrell Bock
Right. So, the point here is that if we were asked the question what is humankind designed to be and why does it exist? It’s to steward the place where God has us well in mutual cooperation with one another. Image of God is male and female. And to work together, not in competition. And of course, what messes this up is Genesis 3, The Fall. Which I don’t want to spend a whole lot of time on because I think we all know the effects of The Fall and what that means.
Tom Nelson
We sure feel it every day.
Darrell Bock
That’s exactly right. But it doesn’t change what we were designed to be.
Tom Nelson
No. In fact, going back to the Genesis text again. If you just start there when they’re sent out of the Garden, out of grace and all that mystery. The language of to work the ground continues, doesn’t it? And even Noah, the one who’s going to bring favor or comfort in Genesis is one who is going to relieve the work of our hands. Watch the text. So, the work, the cultural mandate continues even though it’s corrupted. So, I’m just saying in there it’s very, very evident.
Darrell Bock
And the work of Jesus is the work of restoring that capability that was originally designed so we don’t leave it even after we go through the process of salvation.
Tom Nelson
Yeah, and again, just how I understand it is – my level of understanding is that when Rabbi Jesus was Jesus the Savior, when he states brilliant statements, it’s the most brilliant Being. In John 10:10 for example, the thief comes to kill, and steal, and destroy. He brings that contrast of the evil one. “But I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.” That summary of the good, true, and beautiful life that is so deeply stoic and Hebrew in The Sermon on the Mount is a picture of we’d say human flourishing.

Living life as God designed it in the fullness of embodied creation. So, I just think that’s the picture that – we use the language salvation from. And that’s really important. We must never forget that. We have been saved from eternal peril and death. The challenge for me is I also want to say, yes, that’s foundational.

But once we’re saved from – right – the great justification text – Tim talked about that last night – then we’re saved for and we’re saved to. So, the idea of salvation biblically is profoundly transformational in all aspects of human experience.

Darrell Bock
And reconnects us to those early chapters in Genesis and what we’re created to be.
Tom Nelson
That’s how I see it. The more I study scripture, and pray, and listen, and read, I see such – and again, here I’m going to throw my bent. Systematic theology matters and it helps bring – at least how I see it – it attempts to bring logical consistency to the whole canonical text. And it matters. But what biblical theology does – if I may use that distinction – it brings canonical coherence. We’ve talked about narratival or canonical, however you say it because you’re the scholar, and I love you for that.

So, the canonical coherence also matters. So, my hermeneutical enterprise – and I’m using the language because you’re theologians here- the hermeneutical enterprise I think has to balance both those intentions. Jeremy Treat did a brilliant book called The Crucified King where he brings kingdom and gospel language around the crucifixion. Both biblical theology and systematic theology mutually inform each other in a respectful way.

So, I’m saying the more I try to be an apprentice of Jesus and follow the biblical text, I have a greater … it’s more important for me to also bring that whole canonical framework within that pericope or that section. So, both are important, but I guess I want to raise also the importance of the biblical theology. How it fits into the canon. And I think again, if I believe in inspiration of the whole text, and one author ultimately the text, I think all the texts are important in that hermeneutical enterprise.

Darrell Bock
Okay, let me come to one other idea and then we’ll turn to questions. Human flourishing – one of the phrases that you hear a lot in this conversation particularly when you think about work and how we function in culture, that kind of thing. And the first reaction people have is, “Well, where is that word in the Bible? I can’t think of that specific term.” And yet, obviously in this conversation, it’s an important landing place. So, help us with that. How do we think about human flourishing in the way it is expressed in scripture?
Tom Nelson
Okay, well I would say a couple things. One I would say is that I’m not sure whether it’s Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic. There’s an exact correspondence to that English word. So, I’ll defer to some of those who spend every day focusing on that. But the ideas, the English idea, flourishing, comprehensively are all over the script. I’ll take three Hebrew words to start with. Let’s just start from the beginning.

So, you have a picture in God’s design of revelation and creation. The first foundational Hebrew word that captured human flourishing, and design, and desire is shabbat. God resting. So, great scholarship on Shabbat, or rest, is fundamentally not just passivity or the lack of work. Not the antithetical, but the engagement of delight in relationship. Because to flourish is to be rightly related to God, to Creation, and to others.

And this is why Brian Fikkert and others describe poverty as fundamentally a relational poverty, not just a material poverty. After that you have the ton tamid word group, which is whole, wholeness, integralness. Very important idea through all of scripture, being integral. And then you have shalom later in 15. So, let’s just take shalom since it’s the most common. Shalom has a sense, whether it’s Jeremiah 29, Shalom has an idea of a comprehensive sense of peace. A wellbeing of wholeness.

Relationship vertical in Jewish contexts, horizontal, and materially. God’s wellbeing on humans. So, whether we argue about exactly flourishing as an exact word, maybe you mentioned it’s kind of like the Trinity. Not to put it on the same level, but we don’t exactly I don’t think have a correspondence of an explicit Trinity word. But the trinity is all over the text. So, I would just say flourishing as I understand it, comprehensive human flourishing that clearly finds its source in God, its redemption in God, its ultimate fulfillment in God. Not in a humanistic way that we’re going to do. It’s a foundational biblical vocabulary.

Darrell Bock
And I think as you’ve mentioned and you alluded to this earlier, the whole idea of an abundant life is another idea of expressing the same kind of idea.
Tom Nelson
That’s how I see it.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. So, let me see if there are any questions and then I’ll also check the texts here, which I haven’t done. So, let me get organized. Len? Go for it.
Audience
I’m just a Christian Ed guy so I’m just going to use English words.
Tom Nelson
You’re just a what?
Audience
I’m just a Christian Ed guy so I’m just going to use English words. No Hebrew here. No Greek.
Tom Nelson
This is a seminary. That’s where I’m talking.
Darrell Bock
Well, welcome to the mic, Len.
Tom Nelson
This is not my Sunday morning conversation.
Audience
In the couple of seasons in my life of ministry where I had more direct relationship connection with the whole faith and work issue, one of the challenges – a lot of this comes out of being on staff with InterVarsity Christian fellowship for a number of years at different universities. And being familiar with L’Abri, but also the reformers like Abraham Kuyper, Doyer, Cornelius Van Til, Institute for Christian Studies. I don’t even know if they’re still around in Toronto. Brian Walsh, all of those various people.
Tom Nelson
The Transforming Vision. Yeah.
Audience
Now one of the things that was being attempted was to draw out, to tease out, in as significant a way as possible the intrinsic connection between any particular discipline or profession and spirituality. So, you get up on Sunday morning or whenever you teach the Bible or read the Bible, you do whatever Bible, spiritual. And therefore, preaching, teaching, spiritual. Intrinsic connection.

But I feel like the lack of that in our professional understanding in faith and work has perpetuated this sacred secular dichotomy. Now maybe you’ve already addressed that and I just didn’t catch it. But a lot of times it just seems to me we end up trying to spiritualize work by talking about doing all you do heartily as onto the Lord and having a Bible study at work. And various ancillary things that are not actually intrinsic to the work and the discipline itself.

Because I think in people’s minds, they are making this distinction. Whether it’s right or wrong, they have this paradigm fixed in their head and it takes a lot of work to get over that. So, just wondering how you would respond.

Darrell Bock
It takes a lot of work to understand work.
Tom Nelson
No, I just appreciate how informed you are. And I’m aware at some level of all the conversations that you’re talking about, the people that wrote in that area. I’ll just say a couple things. I don’t know what Dr. Bock wants to say on that. This is why to me in conversations so we don’t get to reinforce the sacred/secular heresy. Or primarily people to go out on Sunday afternoon, go to Monday work, think of it as a utilitarian function only.

But I’m not minimizing the utility of it as it relates to the biblical text, which we just wrote a book on the Economics of Neighborly Love. Because there’s a utility in our work that adds value to others. Whether it’s monetized or not that I want to make a strong case for. We talk as Christians a lot about the “one anothers” of Scripture, of brotherly love and sisterly love. And that’s important. We don’t talk enough about neighborly love.

So, I’m not diminishing what you’re saying. I’m saying yes, there’s a utility factor particularly theologically. I think tied to Creation and to the Jesus teaching in Luke 10 and the great commandment. However, that’s why we need to have a constant diet of the biblical text that has a rich Creation theology and biblical anthropology that sees work tied to the image of God as our very essence of who we are and what we’re called to do. We just have to define work, avodah, and biblically not English because most of us in English, work is what we get payed for. And I’m not diminishing that.

You talked about, when did you stop working? It’s like, God designed us to work from cradle to grave, not to get payed for it. So, I’m saying we have to have definition. But I would just go back to say – and I’ll stop and let Dr. Bock respond – helping people understand who they are made in the image of God that they are made to contribute. And that contribution or that co-creation with culture has intrinsic value, not just utilitarian value. So again, the workplace is a place where I reflect God’s image, as well as love image bearers, as well as empowered by the Spirit, as well as love my neighbor through the value I bring in a global economy.

So, I agree with you. I would just say part of it is not a rich creation theology that sees image bearing as intrinsic to who I am. And a vital part of that image bearing is not only relational connection – this is John Kilner’s good work on Dignity and Destiny – but also reflection of God. That I reflect God as a co-creator, not from nothing. I wouldn’t use that language, ex nihilo, but I am working with him and honoring him in the very nature of what I do that that has value. But it is broken today still. That’s a good question.

Darrell Bock
And think about the importance of the idea of service in Christianity. Who is the greatest among us? The one who serves. And then think about the core nature of work. The core nature of work is when it’s profitable work, it’s beneficial. It serves. And it serves at a variety of levels.

The doctor serves in one way. The accountant and the lawyer serve in another way. I like to joke about this. Even the guy holds the sign saying stop and go on the highway, who’s controlling traffic while the road is being worked on serves in another way. These acts of services are a reflection of the way in which God cares for us. That’s intrinsic in the labor that we do. It’s often that we lose sight of it.

I like to illustrate it like this. One of my favorite illustrations to bring this out is to say, how many people did it take for you to have a bowl of Wheaties in the morning? Just think about that for a second. You can think about it from the grain level. You can think about it as the transport of the grain level. You can think about it at the processor level. You can think about the company that makes the boxes and wrappers at the level. You can think about all the people who work at the grocery store.

By the time you’re done, it’s like the end of a movie. All of these credits are going by. All these different roles that people have played that you just take for granted. You don’t even think about it. You just take for granted. Now you’re aware of the actor, you’re aware of the director, the photography, that kind of thing in a movie. But there are a whole series of other categories.

Yeah, what does that guy do? The jib operator. What is that guy? And yet, the way in which the film is presented to you and its photography is related to the jib operator. So, there is this intrinsic service in work that is a reflection of the way in which God has created the world and works for us. He works for us, you know?

He’s given us a place to live and he’s given us the responsibility of stewarding it well. That’s the intrinsic part of work. And so, when we talk about a theology of work and making people value their work, and appreciate why “thank God it’s Monday.” That part of life. That’s in the mix in terms of what we’re talking about. I think those are two elements of what we’re talking about. And the theology of work is rich. But we don’t have a course on workology, so we don’t think about it. And yet, it’s there for us to reflect on.

Tom Nelson
Good comments.
Darrell Bock
Let me take up some of the questions that are come of the text here. Is there more to whole life discipleship than just teaching and preaching changes?
Tom Nelson
Yes, there is. Here’s the big shift. Based on theological conviction, if you are called to serve a 501©(3) reality, church parachurch. That equipping people for the majority for their life involves clearly relational coaching on marriage, relationships, all of that, rest, recreation. But since work, paid or unpaid, is such a central aspect, to really equip people in that world knowing their world, then you have to enter their world.

So, yes, preaching changes. Prayers change. Liturgies change on Sunday. You know they connect Sunday to Monday. You bring Monday back into Sunday because what you celebrate is what you value. But you will need to take a posture of epistemic humility because many times as pastors or leaders, we are the experts when people come to our place of work. Can I use that language? We are the experts in a certain area, and we should be. We’re worth our salt.

Darrell Bock
So, we’re experts on the Bible?
Tom Nelson
Yeah. I mean, we should be. If we’re not, we should be growing experts, right? That’s part of what we do. But we enter a whole range of God’s callings in a congregation. Plumber, CEO, stay at home spouse, retiree, and we want to enter their world. That means we enter with a posture of humility and curiosity, and learn from them.

This is why workplace visits and things like that are so vital in a church for Monday. A church for Monday and a church for Sunday are very different creatures. And yet, I want to suggest to you that God has called us to be a church for Monday. But that looks different. I’m just saying, priorities, pastoral praxes. That doesn’t mean we don’t preach well. We preach a bit different.

We handle the texts with integrity and depth. But we apply it and the language we use changes. So, language changes. For example, benedictions changes. Can I say about This Time Tomorrow? It’s an example. This Time Tomorrow is a liturgy that many churches are using around the country that affirms the priesthood of believers. I hope we all believe in that deeply.

And we do preaching, singing. But every now and then like at Christ Community where I server – and we’re not the perfect church or anything – but let’s say once a month or a couple times a month, we have a community segment called This Time Tomorrow. And This Time Tomorrow, there’s graphics and all that sort of thing. And everybody knows about this moment and the congregation is locked on.

An individual in the congregation asked ahead of time comes up and is interviewed for five minutes by a clergy person. A paid person that serves the church in that work space. And they ask them three questions. It’s the most amazing thing for five minutes. Tell me or tell us where has God called you this time tomorrow? Notice the language.

Maybe a stay at home spouse changing diapers, in a pickup line, or running a company, or anything in between. And we interview all kinds of people in their vocational hats as you think about it. Then they talk about their world and … about their world. The second question is what are the joys and challenges of being a follower of Jesus in that calling. It’s a Genesis 3 world. Ecclesiastes lived out.

And then lastly, how can we pray for you? And then often, the clergy person or paid person will have people stand or raise their hand that have a similar vocation, a similar This Time Tomorrow, and they participate in that liturgy by identification of God has called them – educational river. And then everybody stands and we pray. And then clergy person anoints, and blesses, and commissions this person for their Monday world. I have to tell you; there’s no time in our cooperate worship service. And we love singing and I think the preaching is pretty decent most of the time. [Laughter]

It’s really good when my associate who’s younger than me preaches. I’m telling you. Sometimes I get to do a decent job. But when we do This Time Tomorrow, I look around the congregation, the auditorium packed, everybody’s locked on. Nobody’s on their cellphone. So again, that’s just one example. And I’m not saying we do it all right. We’re not a perfect church.

But 30 years, I didn’t have a theological conviction that led to liturgy and praxes that made that the normative of a gathered church service commissioning its people. See what I’m saying. It’s like day and night. Profoundly transformational.

Darrell Bock
And the result of the original model is that people feel disconnected when they come to church because some of their life is addressed, but some of their life is left unaddressed.
Tom Nelson
Sure. And we still commission missionaries. We’re devaluing the 501©(3) world. We value that. But we also value other callings and that’s the difference. But people even newer to the congregation go, this church speaks to my world. And then intrinsically, we are saying the gospel we cherish that we love and build our life on speaks to every part of my life. And it’s like, yeah, that makes sense to me. So, anyway – I get a little teary. We can do this better with God’s glory.
Darrell Bock
Well, thank you for coming in and discussing this with us.
Tom Nelson
Yep, thank you guys.
Darrell Bock
Thank Tom for his time.
Audience
[Applause]
Darrell Bock
Let me close on word of prayer. Father, we know you are a wonderful God who created this world that we live in. You serve us. You serve us with the rain. You serve us with the grain. You serve us with the cross. And you ask us to image you.

As we think about the ministry that we have, the preaching that we do, the teaching that we prepare for the ministry and discipleship that one day we hope to lead even though we’re not leading it now, our prayer is that we might do so in a way that encourages people to see you in the whole of their lives. In every space and in every place. And that in that and through your spirit, we might reflect your goodness, your care, your service, your work, your love for us. We ask these things in Jesus’ name.

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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 forty 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.
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