As I visit churches, many sermons I hear lack practical application to our daily lives with demonstrable clear takeaways. They don't give biblically down-to-earth advice and admonition to guide the daily lives of Christians, to encourage and enable them to be as distinctive as were the early Christians.
In my church visits here, I recall hearing only one sermon full of practicality containing admonition for maintaining one's physical, mental and spiritual health. Obesity, diabetes and heart disease, for example, are on the upswing. Yet, many church dinners tend to be unhealthy, reflecting a lack of knowledge about the link between diet and disease. Why, for the most part, would churches remain silent on practical advice and knowledgeable practices to their flocks?
Last Sunday, I was treated to another practical sermon at The Crossing in Chugiak. Titled "An Honest Day's Work," it was given by Dave Lemaire, a layman with deep roots in men's ministry. A lifelong Alaskan, Dave has operated businesses and worked in a variety of positions in the transportation industry from the Kenai Peninsula to the North Slope. In July, I wrote about Dave and Michelle Lemaire's Copper River Float Ministry in this column.
Introducing Lemaire, The Crossing's senior pastor, the Rev. Brad Rud, said he'd invited Dave to speak about being a Christian and work. My first-ever sermon on this topic, it fascinated me.
Early in his sermon, Lemaire, holding up his Bible, repeated a frequently used statement at The Crossing: "This is my Bible. It is the word of God. In this book are the keys to an abundant life, a joy-filled life and eternal life. I will take God at his word. Amen."
Early on he cited Ephesians 2:8-10: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Lemaire stressed that we're "God's handiwork," his masterpiece. Other key texts used to support his talk were Colossians 3:22-4:1, Titus 2:9-10, 1 Peter 2:15-21, and 1 Timothy 6:1-2. Supported by this Scripture, he proceeded to provide a framework for employer and employee conduct and relationships.
Breaking down the day of the average American to 8.9 hours working, 7.7 hours sleeping, 2.5 hours of leisure, one hour on household needs, 1.2 hours caring for others and one hour of doing other things, Lemaire said work offers our best opportunity to affect more people for Christ than any other daily activity, adding our work should say much about our character.
If we're doing an honest day's work, people will see Jesus in us. Throughout his talk, Lemaire told of multiple work instances in his and others lives where employers saw honesty in their work habits, opening the door for employers to understand true Christians can represent Christ just by performing their work justly.
On the part of employees, Lemaire underscored the toll employee-theft takes on businesses — $20 billion yearly, while break-ins and thefts by customers' cost businesses — $13 billion yearly. He stressed employees should not steal, be dedicated to their employers and work with sincerity, as God is always watching, and others too.
In a past work life, I worked with businesses to address time-theft, estimated by many researchers to be 10 percent of what the average employee is paid. While not quantified specifically, Lemaire addressed time theft, time wasted on the job, texts, emails and other personal business at work supported by Scripture points.
Working responsibly during our work time, not wasting time, being responsible with employer resources, being obedient and respectful, giving our best, being loyal and letting our work point people to Christ were all Scripture-driven points Lemaire underscored.
He summarized the gist of being a true Christian in the workplace by this statement: "We make the message of Christ effective in the workplace without preaching the Gospel." Personally, I've worked for "Christian" employers who were anything but Christ-like in the workplace.
He stressed fairness in the workplace works both ways. Similarly, employers should treat employees in the same way employers themselves wish to be treated. This means being honest with them, paying them fairly and with integrity. Employees need to see employers demonstrating their own work ethic and making good business decisions. He cited the need for employer loyalty to employees, by not threatening them or always appearing to be looking for replacements.
Lemaire's sermon can be watched online at vimeo.com/187096414. Covering much ground in 33 minutes, he offered great advice for anyone. Think of it. If rightly followed, Bible studies, face-to-face witnessing, or personal testimonies would be of less importance if more employees and employers followed this advice. In an encouraging manner, Lemaire shared stories of employees expecting to be fired for making mistakes, but not losing their jobs when they honestly came clean with their employers.
This message needs to be heard at many more churches.
Beer and hymns this Sunday
Hymn singing at the "Beer and Hymns" events has proven to be a blessing to those who participate. Unfortunately, I've heard Anchorage pastors denounce this event as a beer bash; it's anything but. Rather, it's a coming together of people of faith to sing praises to their God and to show financial support for Lutheran Social Services of Alaska.
Participants pay for their meal and beverages, sing hymns for two hours and donate money. Between $6,000 and $10,000 are raised in this short time several times a year.
Event founder, retired Rev. Dan Bollerud, formerly of Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church, is the driving force behind it. Recently he said that, "With all the anger and rancor that we are surrounded with, as seen daily on the news, you might feel the need for a healing experience. The Gospels call us to reach out and care for the least, the lost and the lonely in this world. This time will allow you an opportunity to reach out to these children of God in the fellowship of friends."
If you like good food, great hymns and heartfelt fellowship, the last Anchorage Beer and Hymns evening for 2016 will be held 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday evening at O'Brady's in South Anchorage. I'll be there too.
Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who visits local churches and writes about his experiences and matters of faith on his blog, churchvisits.com.
The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.