Changing work, changing times, abiding opportunities

On the 25th Anniversary of his landmark book, “Thank God it’s Monday”, (and publication of a new edition) Mark Green reflects on change in work and society, and the opportunity for mission.

Thank God it's Monday-ADScroll back to 1994 in the UK: no iPhone, no Facebook, no Uber, no Skype, no PayPal, no delivery drones, no Strictly, and no Starbucks– what on earth did we do all day? Society has changed, work has changed.
People entering today’s job market are likely to have six, seven, eight entirely different jobs in their working life, and many of the jobs they start out doing won’t even exist in twenty, ten, five years’ time. And the number of people in the gig economy, the number of people on zero-hour contracts, the number of people working into their seventies is rising. Artificial Intelligence is humming along, reshaping working practice across pretty much every sector – from transport to law, even counselling. And the robots are coming.
The result is that there’s anxiety in the air. It has been there for most of the last 25 years, except now it feels more pervasive, cutting across social and economic strata. Employment is up but many of our jobs are less secure. We are less confident that we could easily get another one, and less sure that our pay will keep pace with the cost of living. This generation will be the first since World War II to be worse off than their parents.
Yes, things are changing. And in this context the Christian’s role in our workplaces is even more important. In a time of anxiety, we are called to model the peace that comes from the prince of peace. In a season when fear can lead to short fuses we are called to patience and compassion. In a period, when some may feel pressured to cut corners, to treat team members as rivals, we are called to integrity and generosity and compassion. And in a time when wisdom is required, we are called to seek it and find ways to offer it.
It is after all in our workplaces where many of the decisions that affect our daily lives are made. If we, as followers of Jesus, want to make our contribution to the peace and prosperity of the land that we’re in, to the way children and young adults are educated, to the kinds of housing we build, the projects that our scientists focus on, the output our media produce, the care of the old and dying, the way we treat our prisoners, the way we treat each other at work, yes, we will indeed need to pray. But, as Jeremiah 29:7 makes clear, we will also need to ‘seek’ it, to be proactive, to do our bit in the very places where the decisions that shape the way we treat one another and interact with one another are made.
Back in 1994, there wasn’t that much teaching on work at all. Far too many Christians thought that work was the thing they did to pay the bills, support the church, and try to have evangelistic conversations. But progress was made. We saw a flurry of books, a flurry of conference activity, and the emergence of a number of gifted workplace teachers and speakers. For a season, work was on the agenda of the national church.
But it didn’t stay there.
Work became a church-approved special interest, not something central to the disciple-making and missional goals of local churches. Overall, local churches focused on church-based neighbourhood and community mission – with much good fruit. Praise God for it all. But churches rarely had a vision for the 95% of time that the 98% of God’s people who aren’t ordained spent away from church activities. Yes, people might pray for each other’s work crises but not for each other’s daily mission in and through their work, not for the work itself, the bosses, the organisation’s ongoing prosperity, the salvation of individuals known by name.
In the last ten years, there’s been a shift in that. A growing number of church leaders have grasped the need for whole-life disciple-making. And more and more are seeking to offer Sunday worship and praying and preaching that integrates the opportunities of scattered Monday to Saturday life with the concerns of the gathered church community. Still, you won’t find many churches where the sixteen-year-old going for their first holiday job at the COOP is taught a theology of work. You won’t find many churches where people going to work have a biblical vision for God’s purposes for them there. Marriage prep has become a natural part of church life but preparing for the challenges and opportunities of fifty years of work hasn’t.
That’s why we’ve revised Thank God it’s Monday for a new generation. All through the last 25 years, I’ve seen its impact on individuals and, more broadly, I’ve seen the transformative impact Christians can have when they have a vision for work, when they pray into it, when others get behind them. It’s good news for the work, it’s good news for their co-workers, and it can be good news for their organisations.
Vitally, quite apart from those benefits, there’s the deep reassurance that comes when we know that we are his ambassadors in it all, that he is with us, whether our workplace is toxic or joyous. And there’s the sheer joy and sense of purposefulness that we experience when we know that this work we do, this task, is important to God, that it contributes to his purposes in time and eternity, that it can be done for his glory and in his strength, and offered to him in humility and love.
Ours is a high calling, however lowly the job.
So I’m praying that this new edition will give a new generation a fresh vision of the worker God, his purposes for them, and presence with them in whatever they do – for the blessing of millions, and the salvation of many in our needy land.

Mark Greene

Mark Greeneis the Executive Director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and first published this article in the Baptist Times. The 25th Anniversary edition of Thank God it’s Monday, is available from Muddy Pearl Publishing.