Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Church in the workplace

In another article on rev.org, Brian Proffit talks to Cyril Gowler, who is employed full-time as the corporate chaplain of all the plants and branches of All Weather Windows, and the way in which Gowler sees this company as both a 'mission field' and a 'church.'

Chaplains, of course, have been missionaries within the workplace culture for decades. Workplaces are still one of the few places where the word 'chaplain' isn't denigrated (although here in NZ, some of those who were called chaplains now go under slightly different names - workplace chaplaincy has become workplace support, for instance).

All Weather Windows has over 1,000 employees representing 46 different countries, so Gowler is working with people from different religious backgrounds as well as with those who have no spiritual upbringing. "We have Sikhs, Buddhists, and a number of Hindus. (The population of our plant is probably 20% to 25% Vietnamese, so a lot of the eastern faiths are represented, especially Buddhism.)"

While there is no 'proselytizing' allowed, Gowler has plenty of room to speak to people about faith issues when they arise. He uses his own Christian background as a base to discuss these issues, whether the people he's talking to are Christian or not.


Reg W said...

As a Workplace Support Chaplain in Wellington, I visited about 50-80 people each at MIS Technology and CAA, for an hour or so each Friday afternoon. Conditions and opportunities were similar to Gowlers with not quite the same proportion of other faiths. A surprising result was that I got to know those folk better than I did most of my own congregation, and only a very small percentage were practising Christians,

Mike Crowl said...

Why does your last sentence not surprise me? And perhaps it's yet again an indication that going out is more important then trying to bring in.

Cyril & Marj said...

Hi Mike,

I came across your site and thought I would add my 2 cents worth. I originally connected to Editor Brian Profitt after corresponding with him as a result of a previous item I read in "Smart Ministry", a part of Rev Magazine. A comment made by Rick Rusaw, a pastor in Colorado, USA, really caused frustration for me. He quoted a Barna research statistic which stated that the church in North America has upwards of 95% of its activity happening INTERNALLY, the sad reality is that means 5% of what we do as leaders in the church is EXTERNAL or out in the community! We must turn that around! Very simply, the process should, from what I understand of years of study of Scripture, have people coming into the church, being taught and discipled, (and baptized) then, according to Matthew 28:18 - 20, get out of the church and into the world! The problem seems to be that those who flock to the church don't leave - they hang out in the church rather than getting into the community and being obedient to the Great Commission given by Christ Jesus. We've programmed ourselves to death in the church, burning pastors and volunteers out completely, having them leave church altogether because of the burnout result, bitter and angered. Its a sadly unbalanced story that is not a reflection of what God's original intent was.
At the risk of mild provocation regarding your comment about "going out is more important than trying to bring in", I agree that it is critically important to GO OUT, however, Scripture also strongly supports the "filling up" of the church. I believe that the problem lies in the fact that far too many churches fill their buildings and don't teach people how to leave. That is when we deal with countless "sick" churches.
To summarize, all the passages like Act 2:42 and Hebrews 10:25 support the need to get people into the church but passages such as the end of Matthew 25, ("I was hungry and you fed me") and especially Matthew 28:18 - 20, tell us to get the job done in the church and then get those trained out of the church and into the community!

Bless you richly in your blogging Mike!

Rev Cyril M. Gowler
Corporate Chaplain, All Weather Windows Ltd &
Detachment Chaplain, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Mike Crowl said...

Thanks for your response, Cyril. Much appreciated. Ironically, we both agree with each other, although what I've said in a previous comment maybe doesn't make it appear so!
In our church we're currently in the process of reminding (and reminding) the people that once they're built up they need to go out. I agree with this. On the other hand, I also get very concerned that the emphasis seems to fall either one way or the other - seldom both. Yes, we have to go out, but we also have to make sure we care for those within; if there's little sense of community, little sense of being loved within the church (something we're struggling a bit with at the moment) then people don't stay in the church, and others won't come - why would they?
As you say, it's not an either/or - somehow both have to be in the mix.