The Church universal is an institution that attempts to do the Work of God. Among the number of specifics the Church does, there are at least four areas of the Work of God the Church engages in: healing, guiding, sustaining and reconciling.
However, doing the Work of God is not the same thing as doing God’s Work.
Take the four areas of the Work of God and consider how God’s Work is related but distinct:
- Healing (Work of God) —- Resurrecting (God’s Work)
- Guiding (Work of God) —- Influencing (God’s Work)
- Sustaining (Work of God) —- Abiding with (God’s Work)
- Reconciling (Work of God) —- Transforming (God’s Work)
For example, the work of God is to be about healing, which is why the Church participates in hospitals and funerals. Healing is not the same as curing, which is why the Work of God is not about curing for there are things that will happen. The Work of God is toward healing (not curing) and God’s work is resurrection. The Church trusts that death does not have the last word and the Church trusts that God will do God’s work to bring resurrection.
Guiding is also the Work of God, which is why the Church participates in teaching and preaching. Guiding is not the same as directing, which is why the Church values mystery and questions. The Work of God is to guide and God’s work is to influence. God does not coerce or threaten. God’s power is expressed through vulnerability and thus God’s work is to influence creation toward Shalom.
Sustaining is also the Work of God, which is why the Church creates small groups and fosters community – in order to sustain us through the dark times. Of course there are times when the Church fails at her job and we abandon one another (see Jesus’ trial). The Work of God is to sustain and God’s Work is to abide. Because there are times and places that the Church is not able to be in and with, the Church trusts that God will abide with everyone – even when the Church fails. God’s presence to abide with everyone at all times (omnipresent) is something that the Church can strive to do, but is never fully able to achieve.
Finally, reconciling is the Work of God, which is why practices of repentance, confession and forgiveness are critical to the Church. While the Church can work toward reconciliation, there are some cases where reconciliation may not be possible because of the depth of the wounds. The Work of God is to reconcile and God’s work is to transform. It is by God’s grace that we are transformed and where reconciliation was once impossible it is transformation that makes reconciliation possible.
Being a part of a Church is to engage in the Work of God, it is not to do God’s Work.