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Chapter 4: The Mainstream Work Model


IN THIS CHAPTER, you will discover:

·   The tenets of the Mainstream Model of work.

·   The relevance of the Great Commission to this view.

AS A RESULT, you will be able to:

·   Determine your own work model.

·   Fulfill the Great Commission at your work.

The Mainstream Work Model

Key Scripture: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19).

Adherents of the Mainstream view take the Great Commission very seriously. In fact, they believe that all of life should be seen in light of how it contributes to evangelism. Today’s world makes it very difficult to build relationships, especially with non-Christians. On the job, however, Christians have direct access to unbelievers. Therefore, people who adopt the Mainstream Model as a lifestyle, in reality, redefine their job description – becoming evangelists in the workplace. In other words, work serves as a platform from which they can declare their faith. It is a necessary means to the greater end of evangelism.

Determine if the following statements are T (True) or F (False) in light of your beliefs:

  • A secular career is valid but should be seen primarily in light of its evangelistic usefulness.
  • Time at work should be limited in order to maximize evangelistic efforts.
  • All career decisions should be based on how they will impact evangelism.
  • Pastors and missionaries hold the most significant positions in the kingdom of God.
  • The work of God in the world today is primarily evangelistic.
  • God meets the needs of people merely to sustain them so that they can either hear (for non-Christians) or share the gospel (for Christians).

If you responded “True” for most of the statements above, you belong to the large group of Christians who adhere to the Mainstream Model. The outstanding attributes of this view are that it: (1) honors the New Testament emphasis on evangelism; (2) helps the church to recapture its sense of priority for evangelism; (3) recognizes the importance of contact with unbelievers on the job; and (4) supports the need for Christlike models in the workplace.

Inadequacies of the Mainstream Model

The one thing that makes this view outstanding is also its downfall. Life must be seen in light of the whole of Scripture and not just the Great Commission. There are three basic reasons why the Mainstream Model is inadequate for a believer:

First, the Great Commission is broader than evangelism. The Great Commission is primarily about discipleship, but discipleship first includes a response of faith to the gospel and then a response of obedience to Christ’s commands. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) Jesus taught that obedience involves every aspect of life, including work. Is the Great Commission then the greatest commandment? Jesus answered the question this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matt. 22:37-38).

Second, life if broader than evangelism. The Mainstream Model offers too narrow a view of life. According to Paul, evangelism is not the only purpose for the believer. Three times in the first chapter of Ephesians he said that God’s purpose in saving us is that we should live to the praise of His glory (1:6, 12, 14). This means that everything we do should be done to the glory of God. By solely taking up the cause of evangelism, we ignore other important arenas God wants us to be engaged in.

Third, work is more than just a platform for evangelism. The Mainstream Model demeans the dignity of everyday work by its premise that the only purpose for a job is to pay the bills. By perceiving work in such a narrow way, it destroys a precious gift from God – your work. Because Christ in interested in your work, you should put as much excellence into your job as you would into any evangelistic strategy among your coworkers (Eph. 6:5-8).
Unfortunately, the Mainstream Model, like the Two-Story view, is sub-biblical. Certainly, Christians need to use work as a platform for evangelism. But God intends for your job to be much more than that. As you read the following situation, evaluate the Mainstream Model of work in light of what you have already learned.

“Uh, oh, let’s get back to our desks. The boss just drove up. I’ll get back to you later. Keep these tracts, and when he goes back out, I’ll explain exactly what salvation means.” Maryanne fairly glowed – Joy, her young coworker, was on the brink of accepting the Lord. If only the boss hadn’t picked that time to show up. Well, it would have to wait. She had plenty of work piling up, so she didn’t have to pretend to be busy.

As her supervisor Mr. Dean walked into the office, he asked, “Do you have that report ready, Maryanne? I need it for the meeting at three o’clock.” As he turned to walk away, he added, “Bring it now so I can familiarize myself with it before I face the Board of Directors. I have to be on my toes today…or else!”

Maryanne panicked. She had been so busy witnessing to Joy that she had completely forgotten to finish the report. Her heart began to pound, and her hands felt icy. What could she say? Mr. Dean would never understand that making disciples for Christ was the most important thing in the whole world to her. Why, he wasn’t even a Christian! Should she try to explain? Perhaps she could say she did not have the time – which was really the truth. Thoughts tumbled through her brain. “This could mean my job,” she said to herself. “But, if fulfilling the Great Commission means suffering for Jesus’ sake, then I’ll just have to suffer.”

What kind of witness did Maryanne have in her workplace? Should she have expected her boss to understand her predicament, and was her possible suffering really for the cause of Christ? It is very easy for a person who loves the Lord to get caught up on constant evangelizing. While Jesus requires you to share your faith, he also requires you to be an excellent, faithful employee in your company. Evangelizing during working hours (unless at lunch or during a coffee break) is really taking time away from your employer. And stealing time is not looked upon favorably by God or your employer. God is looking for excellence, enthusiasm, and ethics in his workers. Furthermore, coworkers and employers will be more willing to listen to what you have to share if your “walk” matches your “talk.” Step aside and listen for the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit to direct your witnessing. He may lead you away from work to a social setting where your coworker would be more comfortable.

Preparing Yourself to Witness

Perhaps you are a Christian who wants to share your faith. But you want to be absolutely sure that your testimony is the truth and that your witness is guided by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, you may lack the boldness that you feel is necessary to witness effectively. Whatever your stumbling block, it can be overcome if you…

…commit to keeping your walk with the Lord intimate and fresh. “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8).

…pray for boldness. “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7).

…are willing to look foolish. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27)

…consider what will happen if you don’t share your faith with your friend. “How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matt. 23:33).

All Christians are called to be evangelists – to share the light of Jesus with a dark world. “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:15-16). Letting your light shine includes the workplace where you spend so much of your time. But as Christ’s follower, you must: (1) be guided by the Holy Spirit; (2) fulfill your obligations to the company and your boss; and (3) be sensitive to the place, the timing, and the readiness of the individual. (For specific steps to witnessing to a coworker, see the Life Applications at the end of this chapter.)


For those individuals who personally want to participate in fulfilling the Great Commission, there is a way to sue their secular occupation to underwrite a ministry on the foreign mission field. Modern tentmaking, which is evangelistic strategy. Tentmakers use their vocation as an entrée into some culture that would ordinarily be closed to Christian missionaries. These very special missionaries have either established or maintained “pockets of Christianity” all over the world. The apostle Paul, Priscilla, and Aquila were the original tentmakers who traveled from place to place spreading the gospel while plying their trade.
Paul’s tentmaking ministry is cited as the prototype for this variation of the Mainstream Model. However, Paul’s situation was quite different than that of the average believer. He was single-minded in his focus on the ministry, but he had specific call from God. Nowhere in his letters did he encourage people to slight their jobs in order to devote themselves to evangelism. Indeed, he did just the opposite. Paul pointed out three reasons why he maintained his secular job of tentmaking.

First, he did not want to be a burden to his hosts. “We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you” (2 Thess. 3:7-8).

Second, he wanted to serve as a model for the disciplined lifestyle that should characterize Christians. “We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow” (v. 9).

Third, he wanted to avoid accusations of profiting from the gospel. “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit” (2 Cor. 2:17).
Tentmaking is an important and valid ministry today, but it must be done for the proper work motivations.

Life Applications:

A. Compare the five versions of the Great Commission recorded in Scripture (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:7-8). Correlating these account, what does Jesus want his followers to do with their lives?


B. Read Peter’s description of the Christian’s lifestyle and testimony in 1 Peter 1:17-25; 2:13-17; and 4:12-19. According to Peter, what should be the link between our lifestyle and our testimony?


C. Identify Christians who appear to do a good job of integrating faith with work. Ask them how to present the gospel on the job. Next ask a non-Christian coworker how they felt when Christians have presented the gospel to them. If you desire to share your faith with coworkers but don’t exactly know how, follow these four steps suggested by Doug Sherman:

1. Pray for your coworkers. Also pray for an opportunity, for the right words, and for boldness to speak. Remember that coworkers are not won over in one encounter; it may take months to build a relationship.

2. Get to know them socially. Take them to lunch or a ball game.

3. In the midst of a social time, ask, “Would you mind if I shared with you the most important thing that’s ever happened to me?” Share your testimony.

4. At some point in your relationship, ask “Has anyone ever taken the time to show you from the Scriptures how you can have eternal life?” With their permission, begin, “There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that ‘all have sinned’ (Rom. 3:23) and ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Rom. 6:23). The good news is that ‘Christ died for us’ (Rom. 5:8), and ‘by faith’ you can receive him (Eph. 2:8-9). Do you have any questions? Can you think of any reason why you would not put your faith in Jesus Christ?” Pray a sample prayer. Ask them to pray individually.


Take the quiz

Quiz Instructions

Test your knowledge by taking this short quiz which covers what you just read in chapters 1-4. Select the correct response based on the lessons and concepts.

1. The message of hope and significance that Christianity offers permeates the workplace.



2. __________ is now setting the rules for Christians at work.



3. Some Christians embarrass the cause of Christ through their inconsistent lifestyle on the job.



4. A __________ is someone who exalts work to a sacred level.



5. The church today has grown virtually silent on the subject of work.



6. Success __________ be measured by a person?s material wealth, professional recognition, or positional status.



7. One should believe in God, but for self-confidence it is most important to believe in oneself.



8. __________ is designed into the workplace.



9. Careerism has become the main work ethic of our age.



10. The __________ view of work expects more of work than it can deliver.



11. In Ephesians 4:11-12, "saints" refers to __________.

The clergy

All believers

12. In the __________ view, being a missionary is more spiritual than being a mechanic.



13. In the __________ view, eternal and temporal activities are equally important.



14. The Bible assigns dignity to everyday work and to the worker.



15. In the __________ view, God is more interested in our soul than in our body.



16. __________ use their vocation as an entree into cultures ordinarily closed to Christian missionaries.



17. Discipleship in the New Testament primarily concerns evangelism.



18. In the __________ view, work is a platform from which you can declare your faith.



19. The Great Commission is broader than evangelism.



20. The Mainstream view is based on the Great __________.



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