We are hurtling into the future like never before. The change makes us anxious about whether we can keep up and makes us less likely to take risks, since the whole world seems risky. Just keeping the house together can feel like a challenge. For instance, all the Pathmarks are shutting down as part of the A&P’s bankruptcy and the consolidation of regional supermarket chains into giant multinationals. Our Pathmark in Gray’s Ferry was across the street from a new Bottom Dollar, so we had two stores for a while. Then Aldi bought Bottom Dollar (it’s rival) and Pathmark went bankrupt. ACME (pronounced akamee, if you’re new) bought a few Pathmarks but not ours. So now we have no stores and have to travel somewhere else for food.
The workplace is no less challenging for many of us. For instance, one of the blessings and curses of new technology is that work is mobile. I am writing on the laptop I took on my weekend away — I was never far away. Work is so demanding and we are so afraid of the forces that will take it away from us, that we give it total loyalty at all times. Social observers say that the workplace, mobile or otherwise, is the dominant place where people work out life now; it replaces family, friendship circles, church and other organizations that used to be the major ways people found an identity.*
An example of an all-encompassing workplace is what many people say is the best place in the country to work: Google. An employee reviewer says, “The perks are amazing. Yes, free breakfast, lunch, an dinner every weekday. Aaaaaamazing holiday parties (at Waldorf Astoria, NY Public Library, MoMA, etc.); overnight ski trips to Vermont; overnight nature trips to the Poconos in the summer; summer picnics at Chelsea piers; and on and on and on. The company is amazingly open: every week Larry Page and Sergey Brin (right) host what’s called TGIF where food, beer, wine, etc. is served, a new project is presented, and afterward there’s an open forum to ask the executives anything you want. It’s truly fair game to ask anything, no matter how controversial, and frequently the executives will be responsive. * No, nobody cares if you use an iPhone, Facebook, shop with Amazon, stream using Spotify, or refuse to use Google+.“ There’s no reason to leave.
So let’s say you want to build the church and have a mission to the 10,000+ 18-35 year olds that move into Philadelphia every year. If home life is hard that is one thing. But who can compete with Google or with every other employer that thinks they are doing you a favor by making it possible for you to never leave work and making work like your family? Doesn’t the church want you to be under the umbrella of its family (since God is our father and Jesus our brother)? Isn’t Jesus the leader who calls us to work in his “harvest field” since the night is coming when the work of redeeming the world is finished? (see John 9). Doesn’t just bringing up that sense of competition make a few of you readers squeamish or resistant? Don’t leave yet, let’s try to talk about it!
What if you feel like “I already gave what I have to give at the office?” Or “I’ll let you know what I feel right after I answer this call; it’s about work?” Maybe you’re thinking, “I have a hard enough time seeing my children and now you want me to be like family with a bunch of other people?” Yes we do.