The International House of Prayer (IHOP), a New Apostolic Reformation ministry in Kansas City, Missouri, now has a ministry devoted to the workplace. The Joseph Company encourages believers to "make an impact for Jesus" in the sphere of society in which they work. The ministry draws from Seven Mountains Theology, which preaches that Christians must shape society through one of the "seven mountains" of business, education, government, media, arts and entertainment, religion, and family. (For a closer look at Seven Mountains Theology, see this Talk to Action commentary or the Reclaiming the 7 Mountains of Culture
Joseph Company regularly hosts conferences on transformation in the workplace and related spheres. For example, the 2013 Marketplace Conference coming up in November focuses on "express[ing] the kingdom in all spheres of society".
"Changing seasons present global uncertainty, unrest, and changing values. At the same time the Lord is speaking with clarity, pouring out His power and transforming cities and nations. Gone are the days of the marketplace being viewed as secular and devoid of God’s presence. It is the great mission field for which God is raising up His servants to express the kingdom in all spheres of society, including business, government, education, family, arts, and media."To get a taste of the IHOP Joseph Company, I listened to some of the archived workshops from the Joseph Company's 2012 Marketplace Conference. Specifically, I was curious as to what the ministry wanted to Christians to do in the workplace. Would they merely encourage Christians to uphold values in their daily work, or would they encourage believers to proselytize and promote an agenda? At times, the messages were innocuous, encouraging listeners to express their Christian faith through integrity and honesty in the workplace. At other times, a fundamentalist agenda of societal influence and competition reared their heads.
Linda Fields, executive director of Joseph Company, presented a talk entitled "Impacting the Workplace for Christ from a Life of Prayer". Fields presented Joseph Company as a ministry informed by the values of prayer, intercession, holiness, and offerings to the less fortunate (both natural and spiritual). "In all of our teaching, we'll always bring that value [holiness/purity] back so that you can understand how in the workplace do I remain pure when I'm among ungodly people, when I'm in a corrupt society," she said.
Fields briefly described the origins of Seven Mountains Theology and the seven spheres. At the 15:38 mark, she described workplace evangelism in innocuous terms, encouraging Christians to live their values through displays of integrity.
"God has given you a congregation, if I might say, in your staff, in the coworkers, in the folks that are around you in whatever realm you're in, and so you might say, 'So am I going to go in and preach?' Probably not ... Most of the work of the ministry that's done out in the workplace might be done in a group of one or two or three, maybe in the coffee break room. Maybe it's by the way you're modeling your leadership with integrity. Maybe it's the way you don't gossip when everybody else does. Maybe it's the way you're a catalyst for change when people are grumbling and you come in and just don't participate and you stem the tide by bringing up something true and positive."
However, as Fields continued talking, she began to depict workplace ministry in terms of proselytization and power. She likened the seven spheres of society to classrooms in which Christians are to teach others and bring them to Christ. When Christians "occupy" a sphere, they should allow God to show them how to "steward" others in that sphere, she explained. At the 16:34 mark, she stressed the importance of Christians occupying leadership positions in different spheres.
"There's got to be a leader, so if the Christians are not stepping into leadership, that leaves room for those that are unqualified or that are the counterfeits to step in and deliver the message."
At the 26:58 mark, she waxed poetic about a world in which Christians have a plentiful presence in various workplace spheres.
"Life is lived in the context of the seven spheres of society. Nations, culture are shaped with this ... Right now there's a huge justice movement without Christ at the center. What's that about? All of these things have to be worked out in the context of the spheres of you stepping up to the plate to assume the role of the teacher in the classroom where God has called you. What would it look like if doctors were praying over their patients? What would it look like if the financial advisers were praying over their clients? What would it look like if the teachers were praying over their students? What would it look like in your sphere of influence if you knew you had praying people all around you?"
A more important question is whether people would want their doctors, financial advisers, and teachers openly praying over them. Would this create a welcoming professional setting for people who don't share the praying person's beliefs? Fields fails to realize that many people would find religious intrusion into the professional world inappropriate and uncomfortable.
Later in the talk, Fields revealed an eagerness to see conservative Christians in positions of power. Fields stressed the importance of creating leaders and support structures to reinforce evangelism efforts. She spoke of the merits of "top-down" evangelism, in which leaders (i.e., mayors, city leaders) are converted and subsequently influence others. At the 28:55 mark, she urged Christians to take leadership positions, lest "counterfeits" and Muslims take them.
"A lot of Christians have done this false humility thing, where it's like, 'oh, oh, no, I shouldn't have a position of power like that, no, I'm taking the low row.' You're abandoning leadership with a message of false humility that totally leaves all these leadership positions open to be filled by the counterfeit. A leadership vacuum will be filled. The question is, who's it going to be filled with? People say, 'I shouldn't have a lot of money. Oh no, that's not Christian, that wouldn't be right.' Well let me just ask you this. Who do you want to have the money? Do you want the Christians to have the money, or would you rather than the Muslims have the money? Somebody's gotta have it!"Fields pointed to the "gay agenda" and "Islam infiltration" as examples of the power of top-down leadership. Gays and Muslims gained positions of influence, then executed that influence over the rest of society, she alleged. The implication, it seemed, was that Christians needed to take leadership positions and promote their agenda so that Muslims and the LGBTQ community could not promote theirs.
On the surface, Field's talk was about Christians demonstrating their integrity and values in the workplace. Beneath the surface, however, is a push for conservative Christians to take positions of power and influence in various spheres, so as to crowd out gays, Muslims, and so-called "counterfeits".
In short, IHOP's Joseph Company is another example of the ambitions of Seven Mountains Theology. If Fields' workshop is any indication, Joseph Company seeks to bring Christian dominion to workplaces and positions of authority. For those of us who see the workplace as a secular realm that should be safe for people of all faiths or no faith, take note.