Covid-19 and Work in the Kingdom of God

“A billion people will lose their jobs over the next 10 years due to AI, and if anything COVID has accelerated that by about nine years.”

Gabe Dalporto, CEO of Udacity[i]

“I really think this is the new normal—the pandemic accelerated what was going to happen anyway.”

Rob Thomas, Senior Vice-President of Cloud and Data Platform at IBM[ii]

R. Paul Stevens

I write this in the middle of a pandemic, the most serious health hazard that has happened in the eight decades of my lifetime. Nobody knows whether we are in the late beginning, the middle, or a lull before the virus has a chance to infect many more of the earth’s billions. Epidemiologists say it may take three or more years to eradicate it from the planet even with a vaccine. Meanwhile for seasons at least churches meet on line or in small groups like “kingdom companions” (Rev. 1:9), hidden like yeast folded into the dough and salt seasoning the meat of society. Jesus himself said, “The coming of the kingdom is not something that can be observed” (Luke 17:20)—a fascinating text in the light of empty and largely unused church buildings. Alongside the almost universal “underground” church today there is work. And the effect on work, workers and the workplace is enormous. It may lead to a paradigm shift. Possibly it has already.

Workers, Work and Workplaces in a Pandemic

For workers there is massive unemployment with some governments offering subsidies to people and businesses which may require decades of taxation to repay, passing the debt down to the next generation. The hardest hit are the marginally employed, the hospitality and transportation industries, those in the gig economy, and the poor. For many in the world it means no food and no shelter.

For work the changes are enormous and perhaps not temporary. Meanwhile the front-line health and safety workers continue. They and other “essential” workers are wearing masks. In Vancouver where I live during the height of the pandemic for a whole month plumbers invaded our apartment to replace the worn out plastic pipes. These workers struggled to get enough oxygen for their vigorous manual work as they breathed through their masks. Some jobs will never be recovered. But new ones will be invented. Working alone will be very common. Higher order skills (technician etc) will be demanded. Flexibility will be an essential job requirement. Many will experience periods of unemployment or underemployment. In place of long term reliable positions there will be the scramble.[iii] Retraining and upskilling will be the normal, that, of course, means opening up another industry, much of it on line. But most of all entrepreneurial and creative skills will be needed. In his ground-breaking book, A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink notes, “Last century, machines proved they could replace human backs. This century, new technologies are proving they can replace human left brains…. Any job that depends on routines…is at risk.”[iv] Noting the emergence of 5G technology, AI and big data, Andre Chen, the CEO of Denham Jeans, recently asked a group of young adults, “How can you be better than a robot?”[v] It is a very good and important question to which we will return.[vi]

Then there is the workplace. All but essential workers are working at home amidst the clutter of family and domestic realities. But many will never come back to the office, or if they do, they will meet occasionally in shared office space, or in “phone booth offices” which provide noiseless privacy for meetings. Some massive office buildings may become ghost workplaces and may be repurposed. For many millions the workplace is currently their delivery van. Factories can be retooled, many with more robots. But can restaurants and pubs be profitable if social distancing is enforced? A local restaurant owner that has remained open advised me yesterday that he was, at the height of the “first wave,” down to 20% income and now is back to 50%.[vii] 

Is this a good time to think about the theology of work when there are so many unemployed, or underemployed, and so many wondering whether work itself has a future?[viii]

It is the best time ever. Why? First, we are forced to think about work. Work is an essential part of our God-given, image-of-God laden humanity (Gen. 1:27-28). We were created God-like to work and whether we work for money or as a volunteer we are designed for it, yes to work even until we die. Second, we now see that work is a practical way of loving our neighbour (and loving God). Our life purpose, if Jesus is to be believed, is to love God and love our neighbour. Our neighbour needs to be loved, even today, especially today when we maintain social distancing. Strangely for much of the world we love our neighbours by keeping away from them! In part at least. Third, while many people are now short of money, we are also experiencing a loss of meaning that comes from daily work. Daniel Pink says, that “meaning is the new money.”[ix] To be denied work is to be robbed of part of our life’s meaning. And finding meaning in our work seems more important than being remunerated well, at least in much of the world. The move at midlife from seeking success to seeking significance, so well documented, is witness to this.[x]  But there are spiritual reasons for the critical role of work in human flourishing and this our fourth point.

Work is, as Eugene Peterson famously said, “the primary location for our spiritual formation.”[xi] It is where we grow in faith and spirit.[xii] Fifth, especially in times of massive social disruption what is needed is innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship. This may be especially true in the continuing and post-COVID gig economy as well as in the large, and possibly government controlled enterprises. We must find new ways of producing products and rendering service. Human beings will continue to need to be served by human beings, possibly more extremely as robots and AI replace so many contemporary service functions. And this innovation of new work is something which the Christian way is uniquely capable of inspiring. The Christian faith inspires creativity and design. This is based on a great promise of God (leading to human flourishing), based on the revelation that the will of God is not merely a divine fiat but is an empowering purpose inspiring initiative, and, finally, based on the fact that humankind, in the light of God’s grace, is encouraged to embrace risk.[xiii] Surveying the social achievements of the Christian church a Canadian pastor, decades ago, noted that we have done our best work in history not as an ambulance for the victimized, though that is needed. We have done that well, especially today,[xiv] but our best work was done as pioneers. Writing in 1930 E.H. Oliver said:

The church must be a pioneer, and never cease to be pastor. It must seek out fields of helpfulness and have the courage to tread a new path of service. It must inaugurate and initiate. By all means it must avoid rigidity…. And it ought never to withdraw from any service whatever, without first making sure that it has left its spirit there to those who carry on the work. [xv]

 In this essay I want to briefly survey the faith and work movement globally, and I do so very candidly, without quantitative research, but with qualitative research based on decades of observation, interviews and extensive global traveling. I will then outline the various approaches that have been taken to the integration of faith and work. This is followed by a reflection on a kingdom approach to the theology of work. Finally I will return to the context in which we find ourselves and ask what it means to be workers in the kingdom of God today.  

The Faith and Work Movement

When did it begin? With tongue in cheek I say the movement began with Jesus! Possibly even much earlier. The Jewish world, unlike the Greek, prized work and most of the rabbis had occupations such as silversmiths or woodcutters. Work was prized and seen as a way of co-creating or partnering with God. The Bible opens with a vision of God working, not drinking ambrosia in heaven while the poor human souls are killing themselves to provide what is needed, as some ancient myths suggest. God, in the first verses of the Bible, is forming, sharing, dividing and filling with meaning. Not surprisingly, and yet it is dumbfoundedly amazing, that when God decided to reveal himself fully through a God-man (Jesus) he came as a person who was a tradesman, shaping wood to make door lintels and tables. And doing that hand-work while the world was falling to pieces![xvi] And at the end of thirty years of manual work—before Jesus had preached a sermon or worked a miracle for he had spent his time sanding and sawing wood—God the Father said, “I am well pleased with you.” Can we really please God with our work? And can our work be a practical way of loving our neighbours through the provision of goods or services?

Of Jesus’ 132 public appearances in New Testament, 122 were in the marketplace. Of 52 parables Jesus told, 45 had a workplace context. Jesus called 12 normal working individuals, not clergy, to build his church. And some of them had questionable professions (tax collector, zealot).

What happened after the death and resurrection of Jesus is a mixed story. For most of the first three centuries pastors and leaders of churches worked in society. Roland Allen in The Case for Voluntary Clergy shows how it is well documented that while a few church leaders were financially supported most were what we sometimes call “tentmakers” with two arenas in which they served God and neighbour—church and society.[xvii] Early church influencers were people who are today called “laypersons,” a term I prefer not to use.[xviii] Lydia (Acts 16:13-15), Tertulian, Cyrian, and Augustine were people who served God and neighbour in those two arenas—church and world. But the insidious dualism that assumes that some forms of discipleship are more holy than others seeped into the people of God, partly from the influence of the Greek world (partly, I must add, since Greek philosophy had nuanced approach to the connection of heaven and earth). But for most work was a curse. So the early church historian, Eusebius (about A.D. 315), noted that those who worked in the world, in contrast to pastors, nuns and monks, had a “secondary grade of piety.”[xix] The dualism that plagues the church today, namely that pastors are more holy than factory workers, homemakers or IT specialists has a long history. It is far too cursory to pass so many centuries with a brief note, especially when the Benedictine movement in the sixth century prized work as good for the soul and joined it to prayer (ora et labora). And the Eastern Church has long maintained the sacramental nature of everyday life, namely that heaven and earth are joined and that humankind lifts up its work and its life in the world as a sacrament of thanksgiving to God.[xx] But a great burst forward in reclaiming work as “doing God’s work” and “pleasing God with work” happened with the Protestant Reformation.   

Recovering Faith and Work in the Late Medieval Period

Martin Luther could write about believers: “Even their seemingly secular works are a worship of God and an obedience well pleasing to God.”[xxi] Luther went further.

Every [believer] in his occupation or handicraft ought to be useful to his fellows, and serve them in such a way that the various trades are all directed to the best advantage of the  community, and promote the well-being of body and soul, just as the organs of the body serve each other.[xxii]

One could hardly imagine putting another of Luther’s quotes over the entrance door of a contemporary theological seminary:

Therefore I advise no one to enter any religious order or the priesthood, indeed, I advise everyone against it – unless he is forearmed with this knowledge and understands that the works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one wit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about.[xxiii]

There is much that has been written about the Reformation surge in workplace ministry and spirituality, not least by Max Weber in his The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Protestants, he argued, embraced a worldly asceticism.[xxiv] What happened?

Maintaining the biblical balance of the equal dignity and doing God’s work perspective of all occupations is like keeping an airplane in the air: one must keep the engines going or gravity will take over. Over the centuries there have been renewal movements in which the dignity and ministry of the whole people of God including their work was recovered, some within the Protestant Church and remarkably in the Catholic Church through Vatican II. On the former, the Protestant Church, there are significant renewal movements well worth tracing:

  • German post WW ll (1940-50’s) lay academies (emerging from repentance for the collusion of the church with the Nazi regime) and the Stuttgard Confession (1945)
  • The Modern Missionary Movement, each propelled and energised by the laity. William Carey and his colleagues managed an indigo factory in India.
  •  The Christian Brethren (often, however, resulting in the clericalization of the male laity)
  • The German Kirchentag (church rally)
  • In Holland, the influence of Hendrik Kraemer (A Theology of the Laity) and  the Dutch Bible Society in Indonesia, in which the history and phenomenology of religions at the University of Leiden, had a profound influence on Lesslie Newbigin.
  • The World Council of Churches (WCC) with its “Laity Department” (1948)—First Ecumenical Institute at Bossey (Kraemer); WCC Evanston 1954 (Laity theme). But the laity department was closed in 1971.

The Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

In English a few books on the laity were written in the twentieth century that included examining the place and meaning of work listed in the end note.[xxv] The West saw the emergence of a “laity” movement of which the Laity Lodge in Texas, USA, is a kind of icon, started as it was by a major grocery executive. But a fascinating change took place in the West as the “laity” movement mutated into the theology of work movement. Several trends can be noted:

  • 1960s Vatican II within the Roman Catholic Church with an explosion of resources and incentives for lay ministry including on work. Formation of Regent College as a location for the integration of faith and life.
  • 1970s Spiritual Gifts Movement.
  • 1980s Small Group Movement and House Church Movement (Robert Banks 1989 authored and led in this area).
  • 1990s Wholistic church movements; Missional church; Seven Mountains.
  • 2000s  Faith@Work Movement, Business As Mission. Marketplace movement.
  • 2010s Theology of Work Project, Marketplace Movement including Institute for Marketplace Transformation and some church-based initiatives

But this raises two interesting and important questions. Has the laity movement been overtaken by the marketplace movement? And why has the marketplace movement largely bypassed the church? On the first question—the mutation of the laity movement into the marketplace movement—an unpublished paper from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity puts the matter starkly:

It is against this backdrop that we see the slow transition from the lay movement to the Marketplace movement. I would suggest that rather than the Marketplace movement being a natural heir and extension to the lay movement it actually marks its retreat.[xxvi]  

The author of these words is suggesting that Christian leaders have given up trying to “liberate the laity”[xxvii] and concentrated on something that is doable, namely integrating faith and work. This has been my own experience. Profoundly convinced from age eighteen that the whole people of God were ministers and that the church has no “lay” people in the usual sense of that word—untrained, second class, uninitiated—but is full of “clergy” in the true meaning of the Greek word kleros—appointed, blessed and commissioned, I too morphed into a proponent of theology of work. The reasons for this mutation are complex, not least I think is the fact that the implicit clericalism (in the usual sense of that word) of ministry could not be cracked without emphasizing what ordinary people were doing to love God and neighbour for most of their waking hours, namely work. So now, in North America there are hundreds of organizations claiming to integrate faith and work, mostly at the edge of the church.

However, these organizations, institutes and not a few schools tend to integrate faith and work in a very partial segmented way. A full integration involves the following (adapted from a chart in the extraordinary PhD thesis and subsequent popular book, by David Miller, documenting the growth of the faith and work movement in North America):[xxviii]

  • Mission (outreach): work and workplace is a platform for evangelism (and sometimes expressed to be part of God’s mission on earth)
  • Mysticism (spirituality): work and workplace are arenas where the distortions and twists of human sin get revealed and where the fruit of the Spirit can bring spiritual maturity to the worker. It is where spiritual growth takes place.
  • Morality (ethics): work and workplace is where, in the complexities of everyday commerce, ethical decisions must be made and ethical work accomplished.
  • Meaning (theology): work and workplace must be understood biblically as well as culturally in order to grasp the meaning of work and God’s purpose for human enterprise.

To that end some extraordinary things have happened in the last forty years, not only in the west but globally. A single theology of work course given in Seattle at Bakke Graduate University, a decade ago, resulted in empowering a small group to scatter into much of the world to teach, model and empower. The result has been that some many thousands of people, if not millions, in Africa, South America and Asia have discovered that what they do from Monday to Friday (or Saturday) is pleasing to God and is “full-time ministry.” The English reformer, Tyndale put it this way: “There is no work better than another to please God; to pour water, to wash dishes, to be a souter [cobbler], or an apostle, all are one, as touching the deed, to please God.”[xxix]  Microeconomic workers in the Philippines have been empowered with this transformative  perspective. Whole church denominations in Africa are now requiring all their pastors to take a theology of work course for five days, empowering them to teach and encourage their people for their work-life. In Malaysia the Graduates Christian Fellowship has for decades been emphasizing work, alongside of other global manifestations of this movement. Even schools have been affected.

Regent College in Vancouver, Canada began in the late 1960s, early 1970s with the vision of empowering ordinary people to integrate their faith and life, including their work and enterprise in the world. A smaller version of Regent, but in some ways more focused on work and marketplace, is Biblical Graduate School of Theology in Singapore. Hong Kong has several agencies doing similar educational and empowering efforts, including some universities and seminaries. In Europe the World Evangelical Fellowship is undertaking faith and work efforts in that part of the world. In South Korea some seminaries have included faith and work courses and Bang Sunki has laboured for his lifetime in the Business Ministry Institute on this subject, while the Korean VIEW programme in Vancouver is similarly preparing people to return to Korea with this wholistic view of life, ministry and mission.[xxx] The Institute for Marketplace Transformation, started in Canada but now in Hong Kong, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia is committed to empowering work, workers and workplaces.[xxxi] In the UK the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, started by John Stott, has laboured for decades in England with the kind of life-giving penetration to business leaders and churches that only a sustained effort can bring. But in all this there is a conspicuous omission.

The Missing Link

There are institutes, schools, curricula, films, books, able communicators, conferences, on line resources, certificate programmes, even degrees in marketplace and theology of work, but while there is at this moment a global movement of integrating work and faith going by many different names it has left the church largely untouched. There are some notable exceptions. Redeemer Church in New York (Tim Keller) and Tom Nelson’s fellowship in Oakland Park, Kansas and the Made to Flourish network of hundreds of churches in the USA are wonderful models. There is even one contemporary Christian music group, Porter’s Gate, which writes songs for worship based on the work experience. In South America there is a continent-wide Certificate programme that is church-based called CETI (Community for Interdisciplinary Theological Studies) which provides education on church, work, family and society.[xxxii] In Hong Kong the Imagine Network was created bringing pastors together to empower their congregations for workplace ministry. The London Institute, mentioned earlier, is doing something similar. But why in general is this swirling activity and seminal thought happening around but not in the ecclesia?

There are many reasons, not least the embedded clericalism, tradition, and the overwhelming sacred secular dualism that is embodied in most local church life. And where has the dualism come from? It has come largely through the transmission of the Old Testament view of prophet, priest and prince into the New Testament church (where there is, in contrast, the priesthood, prophethood and princely rule of all believers). The influence of some Greek thought (in which the body is an evil shell to house the precious immortal soul) permeated the church almost from the beginning. In Asia there are additional cultural factors that enhance the dualism: shamanism, Buddhism and Confucianism.[xxxiii] There is symbolism that enhances this pernicious dualism.

In most churches the people who get prayed for (apart from the sick) are visiting clergy, young people going on a short term mission, people heading to seminary to become pastors and the Sunday School teachers and elders. It would be transformative to take five minutes each week, as a few churches do, to bring up to the front an ordinary member, ask them what they will be doing at this time tomorrow, what are the issues they face in their work, what difference their faith makes, and how we can pray for them in their full-time ministry of work.  What would happen if every seminary had over its entrance the stunning words of Luther quoted above:  “Therefore I advise no one to enter any religious order or the priesthood, indeed, I advise everyone against it – unless….”?

So what can be done about it, this glaring absence of faith and work integration in the church? Certainly theological education can be reformed, as it is in some places. And perhaps the pandemic will crack open the opportunity for theological education on line for millions of ordinary Christians who will force the academy to deal with life issues and work issues. These people will not be removed from the world of work. This is already happening. But not only the pandemic but the high cost of residential theological education is forcing the consideration of ways to make theological education flexible, accessible and affordable. It can cost up to a quarter mission dollars US for a person to get a two year theological degree in the old residential way if you include not only tuition, housing, food, transportation but also add lost salary. By studying on line people can remain in the workplace and gain a Christian worldview, receive help in spiritual formation and integration of faith and work. They can even do this in a community of learners.[xxxiv] But there is something else that can be done.  

Ordinary Christians can make a nuisance of themselves in the church. They can pester the pastor to preach on the passages in the Bible that would help them with their work life (as Jesus did). They can invite pastors to visit them in the workplace, even to spend some hours there. Pastors can undertake to take a half-day each week to spend time in the workplace of a member, listening, observing and over coffee discussing issues and affirmation. The pastor can also pray for the member while there without folding hands or closing eyes. Every local church can offer seminars on theology of work. This can be part of the adult education and youth programmes of the local church and there are resources for this, some of which are available through the Institute for Marketplace Transformation (IMT), mentioned above.[xxxv] But there is, in my view, a very significant and biblical way of inciting people to view their work life as a spiritual offering to God (Rom. 12:1-2) and it is this: recovering the good news Jesus preached. This is not simply the good news of soul salvation and a ticket to heaven. It is a taste of heaven now.

The Good News of the Kingdom of God

“The most striking feature of contemporary culture is the unslaked craving for transcendence.”

Andrew Delvanco[xxxvi]

Jesus did not preach the gospel of soul salvation. His message was not this: if you accept me and believe that what I will do on the cross is sufficient for your salvation your soul will be saved and you will go to heaven when you die. Remarkably the former pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger, commented on this truncated good news in his book What It Means to Be a Christian (2006) “Christian theology… in the course of time turned the kingdom of God into a kingdom of heaven that is beyond this mortal life; the well-being of men became a salvation of souls, which again comes to pass beyond this life, after death.” This tendency of spiritualization, Ratzinger said, is not the message of Jesus Christ. “For what is sublime in this message,” he stated, “is precisely that the Lord was talking not just about another life, not just about men’s souls, but was addressing the body, the whole man [sic], in his embodied form, with his involvement in history and society; that he promised the kingdom of God to the man who lives bodily with other men in this history.”[xxxvii]

By my reckoning Jesus spoke of the kingdom 129 times in the gospel narratives while he spoke about the church 3 times. It was his first public message on earth (Matt. 4:17) and the last message he communicated to his followers before ascending to heaven (Acts 1:3). Most of his parables are about the coming now and also “yet to come” kingdom. It is like yeast folded into dough, salt penetrating meat, seed thrown into various soils, like a wonderful wedding celebration, and a treasure hidden in the field for which, when discovered a person will sell everything to get it. But the term “mystery” is sometimes used to describe the kingdom. And the term suggests that the kingdom requires revelation.

The kingdom is God’s new world coming. It is a comprehensive renewal of all things, the beginning of this to be experienced now and to be completed when the end has come (Matt. 19:28; Rev. 21:5). It is the thin edge of a life-giving, renewal-bringing wedge driven into this age with the full brunt to be revealed and implemented when Christ comes a second time. And best of all, the kingdom is embodied in the person and work of Jesus whom early church fathers called “the kingdom of God in his own person” (autobasileia).

So when Jesus returned to his home synagogue in Nazareth and read from Isaiah 61 where the poor hear good news, the blind see, the captives are released and people find favour with God he summarized his sermon in one sentence: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21)—meaning, “I am it.” He forgave people’s sins; he brought Sabbath rest to the souls that were laden and burdened; he restored people to community; he grappled with the powers (mainly the religious ones); he brought about an economic revolution when he entered Zaccheus’ house. This tax collector repaid fourfold what he had cheated and gave half of everything to the poor (Luke 19:6). And Jesus died and was resurrected to bring about harmony with God for all people.

The kingdom story starts in the book of Genesis where God says to Adam and Eve, in effect, “You implement my rule as you care for creation, raise a family, fill the earth with my glory and make everything flourish—and I will help you. Join me in my work.”[xxxviii] Then God called Abraham to build up a people that would embody his rule as a spiritual-social-political reality with God as king. Eventually the people wanted a human king “like all the other nations.” God wove his purpose into this human demand in a project that both failed and succeeded. The project failed because the human kings generally did not represent God’s life-giving rule; but it succeeded in that the monarchy produced one spectacular king, David, and through his family tree a Son of David that would embody God’s rule on earth, namely, Jesus. Some of the prophets, notably Daniel in exile with his failed nation, envisioned the passing of all human kingdoms and the coming of the kingdom of God, a kingdom that would bring eternal shalom and human flourishing. Later in the story, now in the New Testament, John the Baptist announced the coming of Jesus and the kingdom (Matt. 3:2). John bore the radical message that people who already thought they were in God’s kingdom because they had been circumcised, were not really in the kingdom unless they repented, were baptized and waited for the Messiah, the anointed one. So John disenfranchised the entire Jewish nation. Then came Jesus with his life-giving news: the kingdom has come—or actually has begun to come. How is it possible that this deliciously wholistic message could be reduced to soul salvation and a ticket to heaven? 

The kingdom is not a territory of land, such as the so-called “Holy Land,” but a territory of life that is actively under the persuasive and renewing rule of God.[xxxix] It is a rule—an active and redemptive power—and not just a positional reign usually accompanied with a throne, palace and a title but with little or no actual sovereignty. Queen Elizabeth of England serving in a parliamentary monarchy is an example of the difference: she reigns but does not rule. So God through the kingdom actively brings renewal and flourishing. Sometimes the gospels and letters, especially Matthew, call this reality the “kingdom of heaven” but more frequently, it is described as “the kingdom of God.” Many English translations have been offered for the Greek word basileia: “God in strength,” “God’s actual exertion of royal force,” “saving sovereignty,” and “divine government.”[xl] But using four words may help: “God’s new world coming.” Why these four? Because they suggest that it is more than spiritual, a world that is material, human, spiritual, creational, social, cultural and personal. And, further, the word “coming” has the nuanced meaning that this new world is on the way but not fully here, irrupting now but not yet fully implemented. Not surprisingly Jesus gave this nuanced reality a special name.[xli]

“The Mystery of the Kingdom”

Here is why it is so complicated. The New Testament declares that the kingdom is not merely a future ideal.[xlii] It is now. So when Jesus cast out demons with “the finger of God” he said “the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).[xliii] At the same time Jesus taught that the kingdom awaits a final consummation when he returns and brings the whole human story to its wonderful conclusion.[xliv]  Lesslie Newbigin expresses this wonderfully:

The gospel is vastly more than an offer to men who care to accept it of a meaning for their personal lives. It is the declaration of God’s cosmic purpose by which the whole public history of mankind is sustained and overruled, and by which men without exception will be judged….

Newbigin continues,

It calls men [sic] to commitment to a worldwide mission more daring and more far-reaching than Marxism. And it has—what Marxism lacks—a faith regarding the final consummation of God’s purpose in the power of which it is possible to find meaning for world history which does not make personal history meaningless, and meaning for personal history which does not make world history meaningless.[xlv]

The last book of the Bible, the Revelation, contains the triumphant declaration: “The Kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).  But we are not there yet! So, on one hand Jesus through his death, resurrection and ascension has been enthroned as the heavenly king but he has not yet returned to bring his kingdom to complete consummation.[xlvi] Living with the tension of “here and not yet here” and “now and but also coming” is indispensable to healthy faith. We must never live and serve as though the kingdom were a dream of utopia in some distant day. But neither must we live and serve as though the complete kingdom can be realized in our present experience.  We live in the overlap of the ages, the old and the new world. Until Christ comes again we will experience the reality of both ages, but we must choose to live in the light of new age. The thin wedge of God’s rule has been driven into this age as we wait for, and “speed” the consummation of the kingdom when Christ will introduce a new heaven and a new earth. 

There is a stunning passage in a South American book on the kingdom of God, words which I will try to apply to the present context:

Jesus meant that the kingdom cannot be ensured by faithfully observing rites and ceremonies in the Temple of Jerusalem, as the priests and Sadducees claimed [or as is common today, by becoming a religious functionary]; it cannot be earned by strictly observing the law and its rabbinic interpretations, as the Pharisees taught [or by obtaining a deep personal spirituality with disciplines and religious practices]; it cannot be secured by fleeing from the world to a secluded life of ‘purity’ in the wilderness, as the Essenes attempted [or by withdrawing from the world into a monastery or spending most of our discretionary time in church activities]; it cannot be conquered by the piercing swords of the violent rebellion against Rome, as the Zealots pretended [or by engaging in social revolution and civil disobedience to secure rights]. The kingdom of God comes as grace, and it has to be received as a gift.[xlvii]

And the reception of the coming kingdom as a grace and gift, surprisingly, involves our witness and work.

First, with kingdom-consciousness the line between “sacred” and “secular” is erased. [xlviii] All things are within the sphere of God’s sovereignty. Gone is the idea that if you are really serious about following Jesus you will become a pastor or missionary. All human occupations and all good work are ways of doing kingdom work. Watering the flowers, preaching a sermon, making a deal or a meal, all can be done with kingdom-consciousness serving God and neighbour. That work purged of sin amazingly may find its place in the new heaven and new earth as Paul says in First Corinthians 15:58: “Your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Lesslie Newbigin comments on this with great depth:

Everything—from our most secret prayers to our most public political acts—is part of that sin-stained human nature that must go down into the valley of death and judgement, and yet knowing that as we offer it up to the Father in the name of Christ and in the power of the Spirit, it is safe with him and—purged in fire—it will find its place in the holy city at the end.[xlix]

The sacred-secular dualism is finished. But there is more to our work that merely meeting a social, physical or spiritual need. There is ministry.

Second, ministry is broad, much wider than church work, broader than evangelism. It is all the ways we serve God and neighbor in which we may be anointed by the Spirit of God, whether we are aware of God’s touch or not.[l] We minister wherever we are, at home, workplace, church gathering, or as we care for the environment as stewards. This means that concerns about evangelism and social justice are necessarily united.

Third and finally, we live and work with hope for the final triumph of God’s reign. We are not without conviction about a worthwhile end to which the travail of history might lead. We and all creation have a guaranteed future. It has to do with what is technically called eschatology, the truth about last things. Eschatology, as Jurgen Moltmann says, is the most pastoral of all disciplines. Biblical eschatology shows us that we are not set in this age at the dismal end of the human story but at the dawning of a new age. It is pastoral because it cares for our souls, nurturing hope and giving energy for practical heavenlymindedness.

Heavenlymindedness is not failing to live energetically in this world. This was briefly the case of the early disciples when they were watching Jesus ascend to heaven, having their heads in the clouds. The angel said, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” (Acts 1:11) As John Stott said, “It was the earth not the sky which was to be their preoccupation. Their calling was to be witnesses not stargazers.”[li]

Only heavenly-mindedness can save us from living totally in the past—attempting to find hope in what used to be, or from living totally in the future—dreaming of a future while not attending to the present realities. So, ironically, heavenlymindedness equips us to live fully in the present because the present is secured in the future. So, we pray and work with Jesus in the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 5:10).     

Witness and Work: Announcing and Implementing the Kingdom of God

The critical question to be faced by people wanting to live and work in and for the kingdom is this:  can human beings bring in the kingdom by their work and ministry? Or, is it entirely God’s gift, in which we have no part? Or is there a symphony of wills and initiatives?

The primary scripture texts in relation to the kingdom are “receiving” and “entering.” So it seems the kingdom comes by God’s direct action and God’s evocative invitation. We receive and enter. But we also have a part to play in that shalom-bringing, flourishing of life and creation. It is God’s work and our work combined. This is shown us through the whole grand narrative of the Scripture from Adam to the New Heaven and Earth. And, as we will see, our part has multiple dimensions.

First, and primarily, the kingdom is advanced by us through the proclamation and persuasive arguing of the good news of the rule of God. As South American theologian Mortimer Arius says, “We are not sent to preach the church but to announce the kingdom.”[lii]  So the first disciples were commissioned to preach that the kingdom had come near.[liii] They were also called to pray that the kingdom would come.[liv] This news of the coming kingdom came as a word or seed to be received in good soil, which surely means responsive lives.[lv] Philip found this good soil among the Samaritans.[lvi] Later the apostle Paul tried to find that good soil as he argued persuasively about the kingdom in the Jewish synagogues[lvii] though he later added speaking to Gentiles including people gathered in the Mars Hill forum in Athens for discussions and debates.[lviii] Summarising his ministry Paul told the Ephesians that he had preached the kingdom of God widely. Even when Paul was under house arrest in Rome, he explained the kingdom to the Jews. [lix]  And how does this message relate to Jesus? The keys to the kingdom are given to the person who confesses Jesus as Son of God.[lx]

So all people of the Way—the earliest name given to Christians—are called to be witnesses. Where we have opportunity we can put in a good word for Jesus and the kingdom he is bringing. This witness is expressed both in word and deed, as was the case with Jesus and the early apostles who cared for whole persons, addressed the powers influencing people’s lives and demonstrated through signs the reality of the new world coming. Indeed this stunning witness in word and deed has brought human flourishing through the ages. It is simply untrue that “the church has never done the world any good.”[lxi] And because this message is the long standing purpose and action of God and the people of God in history, kingdom teachers are instructed to bring out new treasures as well as old.[lxii] It is as old as Adam and as new as Jesus. But it is this very thing we must now do as we explore the part we have in the coming of the kingdom.

Second, the kingdom comes in part through human enterprise and work. Augustine in the fourth century wrote, “God without us will not, as we without God cannot.”[lxiii] Is it really that simple?  More recently New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has written: “[Christians] are not just to be a sign and foretaste of [the] ultimate salvation: they are to be part of the means by which God makes this happen in both the present and the future.”[lxiv] The emphasis in this sentence is on the word “part.” The reason why this is not a simple question has to do with the way Jesus taught about the rule and reign of God.

Do we autonomously bring in the kingdom through social programmes, righteous business practices, environmental stewardship, and through caring for the poor? No. Can the kingdom come without these? Yes and no. Yes, God is able to bring in his new world without our human effort. No, it is usually a divine human partnership. We are “coworkers with God” as Paul cryptically says in First Corinthians 3:9. This is particularly evident in the final vision of the Bible where believers “will reign with [God] forever and ever” (Rev 22:5). Read it this way: “We will work with God forever and ever and ever.” In this matter both biblical testaments witness to this co-creation or sub-creation, this divine human partnership.  

So what does this mean for everyday work, whether in the home, factory, shop, office, clinic or school? Can we do kingdom work in a business or educational institution that does not claim to be a kingdom business, when there is no public mention of Jesus as Lord? If the first dimension of divine-human partnership is witness, the second dimension is work.

Kingdom Work[lxv]

Kingdom work advances and improves human life. It seeks to bring God’s shalom into the world. It alleviates poverty. It welcomes God’s life-giving rule in the world and in people (this brings about new birth and new life). Kingdom work is not secular work but it is not religious work. It is work that actually advances the kingdom of God in this world. How is kingdom work different?

The motive is different: it is for love of God and neighbour with faith, hope and love. The means is different: kingdom work brings the best out of people, does not use people as tools. The goal is different: kingdom work participates in some measure in the inbreaking of God’s beautiful rule on earth. The end is different: the ultimate goal is the new heaven and new earth.[lxvi] So kingdom work has intrinsic as well as extrinsic value. It engages powers resistant to God’s coming shalom. Speaking to this South American Rene Padilla says:

All human work that embodies Kingdom values and serves Kingdom goals can be rightly termed as Kingdom ministry. Gospel work and so-called “secular work” are actually interdependent. Biblically we should speak of a single mission rather than prioritizing evangelism and social action/stewardship of creation.[lxvii]

It is worth asking whether, alongside the false hierarchy of holiness with the missionary and pastor at the top and business person at the bottom, there is another false hierarchy within business and enterprise possibilities in the world. The hierarchy might look like this and is worth pondering (with the top being the presumed most “kingdom” and the bottom being the least “kingdom”).

  • Not-for-Profit Christian charity
  • Business as “mission”— the enterprise exists for evangelism
  • Christian Social Enterprise – the business exists to meet a human need
  • Kingdom Business—runs on Kingdom principles and values
  • For profit business that accepts Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • For profit business that offers good services and products

Kingdom companies (put here in the middle of the so-called hierarchy) move beyond ad hoc faith integration and seek to institutionalize faith and work connection into the DNA of the company in such a way that it will survive the tenure of the founder. The company exists to glorify God in all that it does and to that end, embraces multiple bottom lines. These points are understood and agreed upon by all of the company’s significant stakeholders. Business leaders in kingdom companies view the kingdom of God as more than soul salvation. The kingdom is wholistic, the dynamic rule of God in all of life: spiritual, social, personal, cosmic and economic. Thus kingdom companies integrate kingdom values and actions into its corporate life, its service and product development, relationship to customers and civic responsibility. But can you do kingdom work in a non-kingdom company?

Yes! And some non-kingdom companies—that is, they do not consciously intend to advance the kingdom—are actually doing kingdom work, bringing shalom and human flourishing. Can you do kingdom work as a homemaker, raising children and making meals? As a police person? As a garbage collector? As a check-out person in a supermarket? As a retiree who volunteers in the local community centre? Yes! But this raises an interesting question about the influence of values.

Kingdom Values

Values are cherished ways of behaving. They express beliefs and create meaning. Kingdom values are salty. That is, they preserve and produce flourishing. They make everything taste better. They make a difference in a community or an organization. Significantly Jesus said: “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves” (Mark 9:50).

Some salty kingdom values include forgiveness and accountability—giving people a second chance, going the second mile;[lxviii] integrity in word and deed—letting your yes be yes, inner and outer life in synch, transparency;[lxix] fairness and justice—doing the right thing in compensation, purity of product, handling of money;[lxx] extraordinary service—going beyond duty;[lxxi] stewardship—treasuring the gifts of others, caring for creation, developing an empowering organizational culture;[lxxii] empowerment—based on the image of God in each person, enabling each person to make decisions, to express their gifts and talents, to make a contribution to the common good;[lxxiii] shalom and being socially responsible—neighbour love personally and socially;[lxxiv] and finally, joy—experiencing a God-infusion of exuberance and well-being that is not dependent on circumstances—some have called this “fun” in the workplace.[lxxv] But there is a problem with stopping at values.

Values do not have opposites. “You have your values and I have my values” is sometimes said.  But virtues are different. They have opposites—vices. If values are cherished ways of behaving, virtues are positive ingrained character traits. And so Scripture encourages the development of the virtues of faith, hope and love. These three so-called “theological virtues” encapsulate the classic Greek virtues of peace, patience, wisdom, justice, courage, moderation, and compassion/magnanimity. In encouraging these virtues the ancient Greek world thought they could be gained by moral education. And the early Christian faith essentially adopted the catalogue of virtues as an expression of the kind of character traits which are desirable in the people of God – but insisted that they come not (exclusively) by moral effort or moral education but by the Holy Spirit indwelling.[lxxvi]

So when it comes to serving in the kingdom we are coworkers with God, kingdom companions and we live by the values and virtues of the new world coming even in the mess and dirt of the old world. And this is done with difficulty, even suffering. There is a cross to be taken up in this life even as we work to bring human and societal flourishing. Barnabas and Paul speaking in Derbe (modern Turkey) said, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22)—a note conspicuously missing in the contemporary Christian messaging.

 But we witness and work in the certain hope that the kingdom will come fully on that day when, as Revelation says, the kingdoms of this world have “become the kingdom of our Lord and his Messiah” (Rev. 11:15). Until then we will not always know what will last of what we do, or even whether what we did was actually part of the kingdom. This is especially true in the context of a pandemic.

Some Final Considerations on Covid-19 Kingdom Work

Earlier we considered how we are made to work, called to work and blessed by work. But what if remunerated work disappears for us during or after the pandemic? Of course looking for work is work. But if we do not find remunerated work we are still called to work as a volunteer. There is always a way to love neighbours practically. This is especially true for retirees many of whom have a decade or two of energy left for working purposefully for the glory of God and the good of neighbour (and in the process their own good). Here is a glorious opportunity to be entrepreneurial, innovating and creating good ways of improving human life and the environment.

Further, since many kinds of work have and will be replaced by a robot, there is even greater need for human relationship. Social distancing is physical distancing but it may not mean relational distancing. Not only what we call “essential workers” (medical, repair people and food suppliers) will be needed but all services that express dignity and help and love to our neighbours will still be needed, more so than ever. There are many things robots can do, and do so helpfully. Indeed as a friend said a long time ago, “If a job can be replaced by a machine it may have been an inhumane job.” Robots can clean big stores, patrol borders, vacuum our floors, serve as security alerts, harvest some of our agricultural products—all well defined tasks. But, as an article in National Geographic notes they have not been able to “master humans’ ability to multitask or use common sense.”[lxxvii] The term robot is exactly 100 years old, dreamed up by the Czech writer Karel Capek in a play in which robots act and look like people.[lxxviii] But what was foreseen in science fiction is now. Robots can recite Scripture and answer questions (some of them at least) with seemingly human voices. But they cannot pray. Robot dolls can even meet some sexual needs but not our deeper need for intimacy. They can do some of the things friends do for us but not meet our need for friendship and love. Education, counselling, pastoral care, community services, prayer ministry and the simple ministry of offering common sense to an inquirer requires the human touch, the human spirit, the human heart.

In the same National Geographic article Scott Campbell, speaking to his son who is getting into construction robots, makes an important statement: “What is important about work is not what you get for it but what you become by doing it.”[lxxix] And what are we becoming? While having jobs done perfectly, repetitively and safely is attractive to industry and even some professions, there will always be need for adaptability, flexibility and common sense in the world and the workplace. Yes, there will always be a need for taking risks. In his fascinating book on the philosophy of driving Matthew Crawford says, “As we become ever more administered and pacified in so many domains of life, I want to explore this one domain of skill, freedom, and individual responsibility—driving—before it is too late. For self-driving cars to realize their full potential to reduce traffic and accidents, we can’t have rogue dissidents bypassing the system of coordination that they make possible.”[lxxx] So, in one sense the pandemic and its aftermath will produce a massively increased rate of using robots and AI. But it will, at the same time, produce a massive need for the human touch. Can that happen, that human touch, on the internet?

Speaking to this with great depth a business consultant in Malaysia describes his experience with working with people on Zoom. On one hand he admits Zoom is gloom and it is hard to be attentive to God, let alone the neighbour:    

It’s hard to be attentive to God when so many things clamor for our attention. To facilitate online, I use multiple screens and devices to keep track of Zoom gallery view, Zoom chat, Powerpoint, speaking notes, WhatsApp, Web and online documents. As I glance at my face – am I properly framed in the box? – a dozen heads in square boxes stare back at me. It’s uncanny. My brain goes into hyper-drive as it decodes hundreds of facial gestures per second emanating from the mosaic of pixilated heads. At the same time, I’m staring at the glowing green dot on the laptop camera to establish eye contact. It’s hard to relax. The “continuous partial attention” tires the eyes.[lxxxi] 

But then Ung reflects on how Zoom can be an instrument of neighbor love. He quotes Caroline Ong, the CEO of Leaderonomics, Malaysia: “What’s true in-person is largely true online.” He then draws on Scripture and the Desert Fathers of the early church.

Perhaps the apostle Paul could serve as our biblical guide for navigating Zoom. He zoomed about in Asia Minor in a slow boat but he didn’t blame the boat when it sank and nearly killed everyone. He used the things at hand for the sake of the gospel: tents for work, baskets for escape, garments for healing, homes for preaching. The biggest detriment to Paul’s ministry would have been prison because physical confinement kept him speaking and worship with his beloved churches. Stuck in his prison home, Paul harnessed the latest technology of his time (ink and vellum) to connect with the saints scattered in remote places. If Paul can do this, so can we…. And so we pray: Lord, how might we keep company with you in Zoom?

So whatever happens to work, the workers and workplaces, and however we live, work and worship through the coming major economic recession with all the attendant belt-tightening and creative initiatives, God will be God, the kingdom will come and we will find a way to contribute to the kingdom of God through witness and work.

Catholic monk Thomas Merton has some salient words on this subject in a letter written to a young activist that applies equally to a homemaker, the busy CEO or the factory worker, the person working on line or with Zoom, all wanting and working towards the kingdom coming. 

Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on…you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all…. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the result but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself…. The big result are not in your hands or mine, but they suddenly happen, and we can share in them, but there is no point building our…lives on this personal satisfaction, which may be denied us and which after all is not important. You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work, out of your work and your witness…that is not the right use of your work. All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love. Think of this more and more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it…. If you can get free from the domination of causes and just serve Christ and truth, you will be able to do more and will be less crushed by the inevitable disappointments…. The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of our works in some way we cannot see.[lxxxii]

[i] Quoted in Alana Semuels, “Fewer Jobs, More Machines: In the Pandemic Economy, Humans are Being Left Behind,” Time, August 17-24, 2020, 71.
[ii] Semuels, “Fewer Jobs,” Time, 66.
[iii] “The most thoughtful consumer companies say, ‘Employee for now, customers for life.’” Rachel Carlson, CEO of Guild, quoted in, Semuels, “Fewer Jobs,” Time, 71. 
[iv] Daniel H. Pink, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005/6), 44.
[v] Reported in a Zoom interview August 13, 2020.
[vi] The Canadian Broadcasting System (CBC) has posted on the web several articles on work during the pandemic including “Working from home: How COVID-19 could cause a new digital divide,” “Teens struggle to balance school, family, work amid COVID-19,” “Pandemic threatens to wipe out decades of progress for working mothers,” and Post-COVID-19 economy will put people back to work, but it won’t be in all the same jobs.”
[vii] Only U Café, Vancouver.
[viii] Earlier Jeremy Rifkin wrote on this theme about the displacement of human labour in The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era (1995). More recently Daniel Susskind of Oxford University has penned, A World Without Work: Technology, Automation and How We Should Respond (2020).
[ix] Pink, A Whole New Mind, 61.
[x] Bob Buford, Half Time: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994).
[xi] Eugene H. Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), 127.
[xii] See R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung, Taking Your Soul to Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Work Sins (Grand

 Rapids: Eerdmans 2010), available in Chinese, Korean, German and Mongolian.
[xiii] This is implicit in the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30) and the Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:11-27) and magnificently explained in Peter L. Bernstein, Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk (New York: John Wiley and Sons, Ltd., 1996/8).
[xiv] The Asian Theological School in Manila organized staff, faculty and students to take essentials (food, masks, soap and disinfectants) to people in the local prisons where these essentials were missing.
[xv] Edmund H. Oliver, The Social Achievements of the Christian Church (Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 1930/2004), 176. Oliver in the final section on “The Present Trend and the Present Issue” outlines (1)[The Church] must exercise its age-long prophetic vocation and serve as conscience to Society. (2) It must educate and inspire. (3) The Church must be pioneer, and never cease to be pastor. (4) The Church must study, and it must seek rather to prevent than to cure. (5) The Church must transform the helped into helpers. 176-177.
[xvi] For a wonderful reflection on “hand” work see Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (New York: Penguin Press, 2009).
[xvii] See especially the appendices, Roland Allen, The Case for Voluntary Clergy (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1930), 277-284.
[xviii] See R. Paul Stevens, The Abolition of the Laity: Vocation, Work and Ministry in Biblical Perspective (Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press, 1999). It is noteworthy that the American Publisher thought this too negative a title and reprinted it as The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work and Ministry in Biblical Perspective (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 24-29.
[xix] Eusebius, Demonstration of the Gospel 1.8, quoted in W.R. Forrester, Christian Vocation (New York: Scribner’s, 1953), 43.
[xx] Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1988).
[xxi] Martin Luther, Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, and Daniel E. Poellet, Luther’s Works Genesis Vol. 2 (Saint Louis, Mo: Concordia Publ. House, 2000), 348.
[xxii] Cited by Cyril Eastwood, in The Priesthood of all believers: an Examination of the Doctrine from the Reformation to the Present Day (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1962), 12.

xiv Martin Luther, Luther’s Works. American Edition, 55 vols., eds. Pelikan and Lehman (St. Louis and Philadelphia: Concordia and Fortress, 1955), 36:78.

[xxiv] See R. Paul Stevens, “The Spiritual & Religious Sources of Entrepreneurship: From Max Weber to the New Business Spirituality, Crux, Vol XXXVI, No 2 (June 2000), 22-33; reprinted in Stimulus: The New Zealand Journal of Christian Thought and Practice, Vol 9, Issues 1 (Feb 2001):2-11.
[xxv] Hans-Ruedi Weber, The Layman in Christian History; Martin Gibbs, God’s Frozen People, and God’s Lively People; Larry Peabody, Secular Work is Full-Time Ministry (1974); R. Paul Stevens, Liberating the Laity (1977); Joshua Slocum, Maximizing Your Ministry (1986); Hendricks and Sherman, Your Work Matters to God (1990); Stevens, The Abolition of the Laity (2000).
[xxvi] Unpublished discussion paper from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.
[xxvii] The title of my first book.
[xxviii] David Miller, God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith and Work Movement (Oxford University Press, 2006).
[xxix]. William Tyndale, “A Parable of the Wicked Mammon,” (1527) in Treatises and Portions of Holy Scripture (Cambridge: Parker Society, 1848), 98, 104.
[xxx] See my survey in Brian C. Stiller, Todd M. Johnson, Karen Stiller and Mark Hutchinson, Evangelicals Around the World: A Global Handbook for the 21st Century (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, World Evangelical Alliance, 2015), 175-181.
[xxxi] See also
[xxxii] For information on this contact the Academic Dean, David Nacho (
[xxxiii] See R. Paul Stevens and Clive Lim, Money Matters (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, forthcoming 2021), chapter 4. 
[xxxiv] Regent College has developed a MALTS degree (Master of Art in Leadership, Theology and Society) that involves online courses, mentoring and some community experience for people who do not live in Vancouver.
[xxxv] Institute for Marketplace Transformation has two films with study guides (subtitles in Chinese and Korean) that can be accessed free through as well as resources for Certificate programmes, seminars and books. See and In addition there is a course on the Theology of Work with subtitles in Korean.  
[xxxvi] Andrew Delbanco, The Real American Dream: A Meditation on Hope (Harvard University Press, 1999), 113, quoted in Daniel H. Pink, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005/6), 35.
[xxxviii] Gen. 1:28-30; 2:15.
[xxxix] Luke 19:12, 15; Rev. 11:15; 1 Cor. 16:24.
[xl] B.D. Chilton, Beasley-Murray, R.T. France. For a detailed analysis of options for interpreting basileion see Ernest Best, “1 Peter 2:4-10—A Reconstruction,” Novum Testamentum 11, No. 4 (1969), 270-293.
[xli] Mark 4:11.
[xlii] Luke 4:17ff; 10:23ff; Matt. 12:28; 21:31; 23:13.
[xliii]  R.T. France, Divine Government: God’s Kingship in the Gospel of Mark (London: SPCK, 1990), 29.
[xliv] Matt. 25:31ff; Mark 14:25; Matt. 8:11; Matt. 24; Mark 13.
[xlv] Lesslie Newbigin, Honest Religion for Secular Man (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1966), 42.
[xlvi] France masterfully analyses Jesus’ use of the “son of man” language in the gospel of Mark and concludes that while there is not a complete divorce of enthronement and parousia language in relation to Daniel 7, the primary meaning of Jesus’ statement about the coming of the Son of Man is to his own enthronement at the inauguration of his kingdom rather than its completion at the time of his second coming. Thus France proposes we view the coming of kingdom as a process rather than a simple event. France, Divine Government, 75-84.
[xlvii] Mortimer Arias, Announcing the Reign of God: Evangelization and the Subversive Memory of Jesus (Lima, Ohio: Academic Renewal Press, 1984), 17.
[xlviii] For a development of how dualism emerged and how Scripture demolishes it read R. Paul Stevens and Clive Lim, Money Matters: Faith, Life and Wealth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2021 forthcoming), chapter 4, “God and Caesar: The End of Dualism.”
[xlix] Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 136.
[l] See Miroslav Volf, Work in the Spirit: Toward a Theology of Work (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).
[li] John Stott, The Spirit, the Church and the World: The Message of Acts (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 51.
[lii] Mortimer Arias, Announcing the Reign of God (Lima, Ohio: Academic Renewal Press, 1984), 118.
[liii] Matt. 10:7.
[liv] Matt. 6:10.
[lv] Matt. 13:19.
[lvi] Acts 8:12.
[lvii] Acts 19:8.
[lviii] Acts 17:16-34.
[lix] Acts 20:25;28:23-31.
[lx] Matt. 16:19.
[lxi] See the extraordinary volume tabulating what the people of God has done through history in good times and bad, E.H. Oliver, The Social Achievements of the Christian Church (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1930)
[lxii] Matt. 13:52.
[lxiii] Quoted in Amy L. Sherman, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2011), 238.
[lxiv] N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: HarperOne, 2008), 200.
[lxv] For a full treatment of this subject see Ben Witherington III, Work: A Kingdom Perspective on Labor (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011). See also R. Paul Stevens, The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work and Ministry in Biblical Perspective (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), and Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), chapters 17-20.
[lxvi] 1 Cor. 15:58.
[lxvii] C. Rene Padilla, “The Mission of the Church in the Light of the Kingdom of God,” Transformation 1.2 (April-June 1984), 19 (16-20).
[lxviii] Matt. 18:21-35; Matt. 5:41.
[lxix] Matt. 5:37.
[lxx] Col. 4:1.
[lxxi] Luke 17:7-10.
[lxxii] Matt. 25:14-30.
[lxxiii] Eph. 4:11-12.
[lxxiv] Matt. 22:39.
[lxxv] Phil. 4:4. See Dennis W. Bakke, Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job (Seattle: PVG, 2005).
[lxxvi] See the following articles, Iain Benson, “Values,” in Robert Banks and R. Paul Stevens, eds. The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 1064-1066, and Iain Benson, “Virtues,” Banks and Stevens, The Complete Book, 1069-1072.
[lxxvii] David Berreby, “The_Robots_Are_Here,” National Geographic (September, 2020), 40-73. 
[lxxviii] Berreby, “The Robots,” 61.
[lxxix] Berreby, “The Robots,” 73.
[lxxx] Matthew B. Crawford, Why We Drive: Toward a Philosophy of the Open Road (New York: Harper Collins, 2020), 7.
[lxxxi] Alvin Ung, “Called to Zoom: Encountering Christ in a Remote Place,” unpublished but available through IMT:
[lxxxii] Quoted in The Hidden Ground of Love: The Letters of Thomas Merton on Religious Experience and Social Concerns, ed. William H. Shannon (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1985), 294-297.

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