Can Blue Collar and White Collar Do Church Together? Part One
The following is the first in a two-part abridgement of a sermon preached by Andrew Beddoe, MTS Blue Collar Developer.
According to the Bureau of Statistics, only 20% of Australians have a university education, meaning that the other 80% of Australian workers are likely in blue collar vocations. So why is the reverse ratio reflected in our churches?
As a young Christian 20 years ago, I had never considered whether blue collar and white collar people could feel at home in the same church. I took it as given. The gospel is for everyone, so church is for everyone, right? But after a summer mission in Gunnedah, I had to question my assumption.
Under God, we saw some local Gunnedah families become Christians, and most were from blue collar backgrounds. But as we encouraged them to join a local church, they struggled to feel at home. But people in these churches loved God and loved his word. They were welcoming and they were friendly. So I wondered, why weren’t these families settling into church? I also began to realise how few blue collar people were in my church and others I visited.
This all begged the question, can blue collar and white collar people do church together? Can the tradie, factory worker and truck driver do church with the doctor, teacher and lawyer?
There are two possible answers. Either blue and white collar people are fundamentally unable to unite at church. Or, we can all do church together, but there is something deficient in the practice of Australian churches that is causing a lack of unity.
If we consider what the Bible reveals about church life, we see a picture of a united church, one in which blue and white collar people serving side-by-side is possible. Galatians 3:26-28 explains,
“26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Believers are all one in Christ. Whatever once stood between us is now irrelevant to our new identity in Christ. These distinctions aren’t to divide the people of God.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul pours out encouragement to embrace diversity in the church. This description of the church as the body of Christ shows each unique believer to have a role in God’s church. Just as our bodies perform at their best when each part is carrying out its function, the body of Christ is at its peak when every part is present and active.
But with the gaping lack of blue collar people in Australian evangelical churches, do we resemble the amputee more than the athlete? The habits of our churches say to blue collar people, “We’d love you to mow that lawn or fix that leaking tap. Otherwise though, we’re good”. Yet blue collar people have so much more to contribute to ministry than this! We must open our eyes to the spiritual gifts God has given to all His people, not just white collar types.
With all this in mind, here are four ways that I think blue collar people could be making a positive difference to the church:
- Evangelical churches are great at getting their doctrine right, but can be poor at showing the practical love that ought to flow out of sound doctrine. Blue collar people can be less content just sitting and thinking. They are wired to work hard helping others by doing practical things with their hands.
- White collar people are prone to thinking deeply in the realm of abstracts. Blue collar people on the other hand are usually much more practical and concrete. What richness would come out of diverse teaching from blue collar and white collar preachers!
- Evangelical churches are seen as dry and emotionless. But it is right to feel awe and wonder at the God who loves a stubborn people like us. I have experienced blue collar people to be more in touch with their emotions. Their inclusion could help bring fuller expressions of joy to our churches.
- The people in evangelical churches can be superficial in relating to each other, failing to be real about their lives. There is often less of a façade with blue collar people. Perhaps sin and struggle could be dealt with more readily if blue collar people were able to influence a culture change toward honesty and openness.
These reflect just some weaknesses in Australian evangelical churches that blue collar people could help combat. By valuing the gifts of blue collar people, we would be bearing witness to the gospel’s power to break down barriers and prejudices. To make this happen, there needs to be a shift, one that sees our churches become more inclusive of our blue collar brothers and sisters.