By Larry Peabody, reprinted from The 313.
R. Paul Stevens is professor emeritus of marketplace theology, Regent College, Vancouver, BC, and chairman of the Institute for Marketplace Transformation. He has written widely on everyday life themes and the workplace in particular, including The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity, Taking Your Soul to Work (with Alvin Ung), Money Matters (with Clive Lim), Work Matters, The Other Six Days and Doing God’s Business.
The title of Stevens’s recent book, The Kingdom of God in Working Clothes, takes us by surprise. Right up front he explains his first reason for writing it. “The kingdom,” he says, “is the missing dimension in most presentations of the gospel and the marketplace. And yet it occupied Jesus fully.”
At a church event I attended recently, the speaker came in jeans and a flannel shirt – working clothes. (The business attire depicted on the cover of Stevens’s book belies the broad approach to work he actually envisions). Why did this surprise many of us? Because we rarely associate everyday work with church or the kingdom of God. In this, his latest in a long line of workplace books, Stevens skillfully fits workdays and work-ways into the kingdom-now/kingdom-yet-to-come context.
Stevens recovers kingdom responsibilities for so-called “laypeople” long sidelined by religious traditions. Working people, he says, act as kings, queens, prophets, priests, agitators, mediators, and motivators in their nine-to-five tasks. Not content with merely labeling these roles, Stevens details how each of them fits into the workplace environment.
For those in the workplaces of the world, this book answers several vital questions:
- What does God’s kingdom look like out there in the world of work?
- Do we have a part in bringing the kingdom? Or does God do it all?
- What are we to prize and strive toward as we serve in our daily work?
- How can working in the world contribute to our maturing spiritually?
- Will the work we do now in some way survive into the age to come?
Beginning back in the 1970s with Stevens’s book, Liberating the Laity, I have read one after another of his books for Christians in the workforce. But this one, The Kingdom of God in Working Clothes, gathers his seasoned and ripened insights into one easy-to-read volume.