Skye Jethani’s Church-365: Assist in cultural flourishing through vocation-based discipleship

Skye Jethani’s recent posts at Out of Ur (part 1, part 2, part 3) are a clarion-call for churches to re-imagine their purpose and function. He calls the posts Church365,  challenging the church to move away from the Sunday-centric model (Church52) that pushes church leaders into a job of ensuring the perpetuity of their institutional church rather than on empowering and equipping people to bless the world.

In this five-part series (all of them are available at SkyeJetani.com), Jethani is talking my language. I am in the middle of starting a non-profit for the purpose of equipping believers in the exact ways that he articulates here, to encourage discipleship by and through believers’ vocations.

Jethani writes,
“We come to believe that programs rather than people are the vessels of God’s Spirit and mission in the world. When this occurs we begin to honor people for their involvement in, or service for, the church. But what they do with the remainder of their time gets little attention. When this assumption is reinforced over decades, a hierarchy of importance is established with church leaders (pastors and missionaries) at the top. Others are then only celebrated when they behave like pastors or missionaries, or when they leave their ‘worldly’ professions to devote themselves to ‘full-time Christian service.’”
What Jethani is asking the 21st-Century American church to do is to rediscover the Reformation’s deep theology of vocation.
“It was understood that all callings were valid before God, and each glorified him and provided a critical service in the world. In other words, the life of the painter, politician, or podiatrist is just as God-honoring as that of the priest when done in communion with Christ and for the benefit of others.”

Jethani says what I've been saying for years here at VanguardChurch.com, that churches should be offering commissioning services for everyone in every line of work. Every Christian is in "full-time ministry," no matter what they are doing, no matter what it says on their business card, no matter if they punch a time clock or are on salary, no matter if they are doing technical work or people work, no matter if they are paid or a volunteer, no matter if they work for their boss or for their family as a housekeeper.

He then interacts with David Kinnemann of the Barna Group (author of the new book, You Lost Me: Why Young People are Leaving the Church…And Rethinking Faith. In this book, Kinnemann insightfully states,
“For me, frankly, the most heartbreaking aspect of our findings is the utter lack of clarity that many young people have regarding what God is asking them to do with their lives. It is a modern tragedy. Despite years of church-based experiences and countless hours of Bible-centered teaching, millions of next-generation Christians have no idea that their faith connects to their life’s work. They have access to information, ideas, and people from around the world, but no clear vision for a life of meaning that makes sense of all that input (You Lost Me, page 207).”
I’m grateful that for the last six years, I’ve been doing ministry with the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO), a ministry that sees our mission as primarily that of equipping college students with discipleship that takes seriously how their vocations will be their way of living for Christ for the sake of the world.

Now, with my future NPO, I will be doing that coupled with the task that Jethani advocates here:
“(This is) going to be highly relational. It’s going to require an older believer in finance to mentor a younger one. It’s going to require church leaders to function as match-makers linking people of similar callings together for support, encouragement, and equipping, rather than imposing their pastoral calling upon all of the sheep.
It also means seeing local businesses, clinics, schools, parks, and studios as discipleship outposts of the church. Consider my friend Walter in Phoenix. Walter works in real estate development, and his heart is to help young Christians who are called into the marketplace to engage their work with Christ. He’s created opportunities over the years to mentor younger business leaders in his office. Walter’s business is a discipleship outpost.
As church leaders, our role should be to visit Walter at his business to encourage him and see how we might equip him to do his work better. This is 180 degrees from what most churches try to do--which is to get people like Walter out of their offices and into the church facilities with more regularity to support its programming. Again, its the difference between Church365 and Church52.”
I met Skye Jethani at this year’s Q Gathering in Portland, where we talked about his previous book (The Divine Commodity – one of the best books I read this year) and his new book (With: Reimagining The Way You Relate To God). His presentation at Q was my favorite (and that’s saying something, since this event was packed with excellent presentations). Check out his musings at SkyJethani.com.