Exploring Common Practices for Faith and Work in Local Churches

How will the Church in the 21st century “equip the saints for works of service” (Eph. 4:12) for the vast challenges we face in the world today? At Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation we have been endeavoring to equip leaders to move from Theology to Praxis in this important work for over 40 years. While it can seem overwhelming at first blush, it often starts with some small and simple new practices that can shift entire systems. After all, God’s people are touching every area of our cities through their daily work, and it’s the Church’s privilege and responsibility to send them to be agents of healing through their vocations, for the flourishing of all.

I recently had the privilege of learning from Matt Rusten, Executive Director of the Made to Flourish Pastors Network. On a call for other leaders and practitioners in the faith-and-work movement, Rusten and Jeff Haanen, executive director of Denver Institute for Faith & Work, discussed the possibility of leaders and churches agreeing upon a set of minimum standards for the integration of faith and work in local congregations. They discussed that “faith and work” isn’t an “add on” ministry, but instead a vision for the sending of God’s people that should be integral to every church’s philosophy of ministry.

Rusten presented a compelling list of four practices that I believe could be a common starting point for churches that embrace historic teachings about vocation. As presented by Rusten, the four practices intersect with four distinct areas of congregational life: corporate worship, pastoral practice, discipleship/spiritual formation, and mission/outreach.

Here’s a brief summary of each of the four practices:

Four Common Standards for Integrating Faith and Work in Local Congregations

  1. Corporate Worship: Pastoral Prayers for Workers (1x per month)
  • Pray specifically for congregants’ working lives.
    • General liturgical prayers
    • Vocation-specific prayers
    • Commissioning prayers
  1. Pastoral Practice: Workplace Visitation (1x per month)
  • Visit parishioner’s workplaces.
    • Onsite – non-participatory
    • Onsite – participatory
    • Offsite
      • Meetings
      • Sermon prep
  1. Discipleship/Spiritual Formation: Vocational Interviews in Small Groups (regularly)
  • Interview congregants about their daily work. (Use the following sample questions.)
    • Give us a picture of a day in the life of your work.
    • What unique opportunities do you have to love your neighbor through your work?
    • Where do you experience the brokenness of the world in your work?
    • How can we pray for you?
  1. Mission/Outreach: Asset Mapping Exercise (annual)
  • Conduct a congregational survey about the varying assets a congregation has that can be deployed for community benefit.
    • Physical/space assets
    • Financial assets
    • Networks
    • Human capital
    • Community
  • If you’d like a peek into the conversation that I get to have with leaders like Jeff and Matt, here is a link to the presentation. Matt Rusten’s comments run from about 4:18 to 19:00.
  • For the readers out there, this is the accompanying transcriptof the City Gate call.
  • here’s a simple asset mapping survey that local churches can use.


Also find a video transcript of the entire presentation https://vimeo.com/32085529 5

We at Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation heartily commend each of these practices in our network, and eagerly look forward to working with local churches to better equip the saints for works of service.

Building for His Kingdom,


JPro2019 Sli.do question: Can we get better lighting so we can see the speaker? A spotlight perhaps? (13 likes)

Jubilee Professional 2019 was the largest gathering of people to attend Jubilee Professional and most likely the darkest (lighting wise) to date. While it was not our intention to elicit the response we got from Dave Moore, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Urban Christian School, he did put what could have been a negative aspect of the conference into a new light (literally and figuratively). Read his thoughts on the darkness in the room. Please know, for those who attended Jubilee Professional, we saw your question about the lighting and we addressed it as quickly as possible and to the best of our ability.

 (If having no spotlights on the stage was intentional…) My aversion to Christian conferences, and to the Christian Industrial Complex at large, is mostly because of the way they impact the local pastor’s ability to do his job.  In the Protestant movement, orthodoxy and orthopraxy are defined not by any Pope or College of Cardinals, but by the loudest voices who speak under the brightest lights to the largest audiences.  “My pastor’s a nice enough fella, but (fill in the blank TV preacher) has such a large following, so he must be doing something right.”  I speak from experience – in the minds of many, I should have forsaken seminary and attended the Willow Creek Summit, or read more John Hagee.

So the no-spotlight call was hugely symbolic.  It felt, from the seats, that you were asking us to actually turn our eyes off and listen, which, for me, is when God grabs my mind and takes it in His direction.  It de-emphasizes the speaker while emphasizing what is being said.  Hugely risky, creative call.  I closed my eyes, watched the painter, or stared at the ceiling while I listened.  I heard the words that were spoken and unspoken.  I never would have done that with the spotlights on.

(OR, If having no spotlights on the stage was unintentional…) Man, I’m impressed with y’all just getting up there and going.  1:00pm on. the. dot., Jim strolls up there and just goes.  We’re all waiting for the spotlight.  Is there a short?  A bulb out?  Does the light guy know Jim is talking?  Is he a member of Local Spotlight 302 and on break until 1:15?  Here’s the beautiful thing: no matter what the reason, Jim just keeps going.

Maybe there’s a strict light budget, and they’re not wasting it on the local guy.  Here comes Tom Nelson.  Jim might not have noticed, ’cause he’s used to Pittsburgh being cloudy all the time, but surely this guy, who flew in from a sunnier clime, knows that the spotlight isn’t on.  Surely now… but no!  And he just keeps going.  OK, maybe Dr. Wallace will save this.  Jim and Tom are too nice, but Dr. Wallace seems like the kind of take-charge guy who can speak Truth.  But nothing.  Wow.

So, if this was unintentional, everyone did such a flawless job of rolling with it, that it made sense.  For more thoughts on the impact of this happy accident, see above

Everything is OK, or Not.

October 28, 2018. Sunday afternoon in the ‘Burgh. Gray skies with the occasional peak of blue. 48 degrees and a bit of wind. Battling my usual fall change of season sinus infection. “Stillers” are up at the half against the Browns 14-6.

Just a normal fall day in our corner of the country in Southwestern Pennsylvania? It is NOT a normal fall day. It is a horrific day. The gray skies above seem like a pall that has been draped over our city symbolizing our sobriety and our wound because our city, the city of neighborhoods, experienced a mass shooting yesterday inside a synagogue. As worshippers were gathering to celebrate the Shabbat 11 precious souls were taken from their families, taken from their community, taken from our city. A man spewing anti-Semitic vitriol and armed with 4 weapons entered this holy place and began shooting, killing these 11 and injuring 6 others including 3 law enforcement officials.

Mayor Peduto called this “the darkest day in Pittsburgh’s history.” He is right. Tree of Life synagogue, located in Squirrel Hill, is in the heart of the tightly-knit Jewish community here in our city. A community that cares for its own and serves others freely. Generations have lived here and are pillars of good for our region. Today they are shattered and grieving. And we are too, with them.

We can ask why this kind of gratuitous violence happens. We can ask what brings a man to such a state of mind, that his only solution is to take the lives of others in such a vicious manner. But I am not sure we will ever get good answers, other than to know that it is overwhelming fear and enormous pain—physical, emotional, mental, spiritual—that brings out the very worst evil in a human being.

There will be much speculation and politicization of how this happened. In this polarized and hostile election cycle, there will be blame and shame cast widely from all sides, and this will be used for political expediency. This is not at all helpful, but it will happen just the same. I wish it wouldn’t but I know it will.

So, what are we to do? We grieve, we lament, we mourn and we come together. Even as the community reeled, young people organized a vigil. Held outside the Jewish Community center at the intersection of Forbes and Murray Avenue hundreds, maybe thousands, gathered last evening, Saturday. And tonight another, larger interfaith vigil is planned at Soldiers and Sailors in Oakland.

In the shadows behind the interfaith vigil, loomed Sixth Presbyterian Church, where Fred Rogers worshipped for many years. He gave us some of the best words to remember in times like this,

“My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

At the essence of this message is love. The apostle John taught us that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) Perfect here does not mean faultless, for we are all with fault. It means wholeness. To love whole heartedly, without fear. We saw evidence of that love yesterday, and more love will come. To the families of the slain, to the mourning community.

As we enter our week, let us show up with love. Love for the loveable, but also for those with whom we differ, those who view the world from another perspective or those who stand on the opposite side of something for which we feel strongly. In doing so, we will drive out fear.

And, as we drive out fear with acts love, let us join with our Jewish brothers and sisters, in their mourning custom of “sitting Shiva”, the week-long mourning for the dead. Let us lament this horrific event. Let us respect this age-old tradition that allows the grieving to adjust to the loss, however devastating. Let us respect the customs and observations that help to make meaning out of death.

Though we have hope that the world will be made right one day when Jesus brings his kingdom into its fulness, Every thing is NOT OK in Pittsburgh today. Today, let’s choose to be with one another, bear one another’s burdens, grieve with one another, care for one another.

Pittsburgh will never be known for God until we are first known for our love for Him and for our neighbors.


Grieving and praying,
Lisa, Jim, Rick, Herb, Katie, Erin and Jay

The PLF team