In 1995, David Miller, at the age of 38, left his dream job in London as a partner in a private equity firm to study theology and see what it had to do with the business world. When he announced his attentions to all his executive contacts and business acquaintances around the world, he was stunned at how deep a chord he had struck. One phone call that he remembered particularly vividly went like this:
I have worked hard to reach the pinnacle of my profession. I have more money than God, yet I am unfulfilled. My marriage is a shambles, I hardly know my kids, and when I look in the mirror, I wonder where the man went who so idealistically graduated from college 30 years ago and was ready to make his mark on the world. I’d like to talk to my pastor, but he has no clue about my world and the pressures I face. Let me know what you find at seminary. I’d like to talk with you.If you work in corporate America, this man’s story may sound sadly familiar. The so-called “Sunday-Monday gap,” whereby believers’ spiritual lives are compartmentalized from their workday lives, is unfortunately an all-too-common scenario. Lay Christians seeking guidance on how to integrate their faith into the workplace often feel that they have no resources to turn to, with clergy seemingly not caring, or at least not understanding, their needs.
Barton, a layperson and successful advertising executive, discovered in Jesus all of the leadership attributes of a successful business executive. Barton bemoaned that the church had distorted the image of Jesus, portraying him as sissified, sorrowful, meek, and lowly, whereas his reading of the Gospels revealed a vibrant, strong, life-enjoying, and popular leader. He noted that Jesus “picked up twelve men from the bottom ranks of business and forged them into an organization that conquered the world.” Barton wrote The Man Nobody Knows to “tell the story of the founder of the modern business,” in hopes that “every business man will read it and send it to his partners and salesmen” as a means to spread Christian culture throughout the world.Miller regards World War II as marking the end of the first wave. In addition to its obvious disruptive and disillusioning effect, the war inaugurated a new era of rapid technological progress and change in social norms. Anti-institutionalism and anti-establishmentarianism affected people’s attitudes toward the church, and led to an increased focus on the ministry of the laity.
While several factors combined to affect the midcentury FAW movement, four were predominant: the emergence of strong leadership figures; the development of a theology of the laity; the rise and decline of a focus on lay ministry by the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey and the WCC [World Council of Churches]; and the parallel influence of and dialogue with Roman Catholicism. As regards leadership, three individuals consistently championed the ministry of the laity: J. H. Oldham, a theologically trained Anglican lay leader; Hendrik Kraemer, a Dutch missionary and scholar; and Hans-Ruedi Weber, a Swiss Reformed theologian and self-described “disciple of both Kraemer and Suzanne de Dietrich.”Influential writings from this period cited by Miller include A Theology of the Laity by Kraemer, Salty Christians by Weber, and several Catholic documents coming out of Vatican II: Gaudium et Spes, the section on the Laity in the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, and the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laypeople. I was interested to learn that the Presidential Prayer Breakfast (now known as the National Prayer Breakfast) was initiated by Abraham Vereide during this period (specifically in 1952). Most interesting to me is Miller’s analysis of why this “second wave” apparently petered out. Among the reasons suggested by Miller are that the institutional church was more concerned with perpetuating its existence and training the clergy (and so diverted the energy of the lay movement toward that end), and the influence of liberation theology and related ideas that led many “to conclude that participation in the marketplace was unpleasing to God, making money was evil, and life in the economic sphere was somehow intrinsically tainted.”
In the almost 30 years of my professional career, my church has never once suggested that there be any type of accounting of my on-the-job ministry to others. My church has never offered to improve those skills which could make me a better minister, nor has it ever asked if I needed any kind of support in what I was doing. There has never been an inquiry into the types of ethical decisions I must face, or whether I seek to communicate the faith to my co-workers. I have never been in a congregation where there was any type of public affirmation of a ministry in my career [as a sales manager]. In short, I must conclude that my church really doesn’t have the least interest in whether or how I minister in my daily work.While the situation in my own church is not nearly as dismal as Diehl’s apparently was in 1976, it is certainly true that the kinds of issues mentioned by Diehl are relatively far down the church’s list of priorities. A few years ago, someone in our congregation tried to start what might be called a FAW support group, but it did not gain much traction and is no longer active.
Magazines and periodicals have also recognized the increasing interest in religion and spirituality in the workplace. The venerable business publication Fortune magazine ran a July 2001 cover story entitled “God and Business: The Surprising Quest for Spiritual Renewal in the Workplace,” and more recently in 2007 Fortune Small Business had a cover story, “Jesus at Work.” Another well-regarded business magazine, BusinessWeek, ran a 1999 cover story on faith in the workplace entitled “Religion in the Workplace: The Growing Presence of Spirituality in Corporate America.” Even Newsweek Japan had an article reporting on the American phenomenon.Miller also gives a long list of books and special-purpose groups that have burgeoned in the decades since the 1980s. This third-wave movement seems not to have been spearheaded by the church per se, but rather by lay Christians who have taken matters in their own hands to meet the needs that they perceive the church to have neglected. Miller notes that many well-known companies, such as American Express, Bear Stearns, Ford Motor Company, and Coca-Cola Company have become “faith-friendly” in the sense that large FAW affinity groups have formed and flourished at them. He also points out that workplace chaplains have increased in popularity.
One Tyson Foods plant manager, for instance, was originally deeply skeptical of the concept and did not want his already thin profit margins to have to absorb the “nonproductive” costs of a workplace chaplain. That same manager today will jokingly say that only over his dead body will he allow you to remove his chaplain. Another vivid example came from Robert Pettus, vice chairman of Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated. … Pettus shared that some union employees—who happened to be a group of single mothers—approached him and said that, if tough economic conditions meant the workplace chaplaincy program might have to get cut, they were willing to give up other benefits instead so as to keep that one. In thirty years of work in human relations, he had never heard such an offer.In addition to providing a thorough historical and sociological survey, Miller also offers a conceptual framework for thinking about the issues that the FAW movement is concerned with. He calls it the “Integration Box” (since he sees the third wave of the FAW movement as emphasizing the desire of lay Christians to integrate their faith with their work) or the “Four E’s”: Ethics, Evangelism, Experience, and Enrichment.
With a few notable exceptions, most theologians do not develop interdisciplinary competence nor seek to understand the complexities of modern global economies and develop a constructive theology of work. Some of these exceptions include homiletician Barbara Brown Taylor, pastoral care theologian Don Browning, theologians Miroslav Volf, James Childs, and Richard Mouw, and social ethicist Max Stackhouse, to name a few.Specific books include Volf’s Work in the Spirit: Toward a Theology of Work and Mouw’s Called to Holy Worldliness.