Working it out: review of Fruitfulness on the Frontlines

9781783591251A review of Fruitfulness on the Frontline: Making a difference where you are by Mark Greene. Published by IVP.

How much of your daily life matters to God? Obviously time spent reading your Bible and praying does. And God undoubtedly takes an interest in your Wednesday night Bible study and church on Sunday morning. But what about the rest? The ordinary, everyday, nitty gritty of life – paying the bills, commuting to work, dealing with clients, securing the deal – how do they feature in God’s plans and purposes? They’re not part of the main game, the “frontlines” of His work in the world…or are they?

Fruitfulness on the Frontline: Making a Difference Where You Are is the new book by Mark Greene (Executive Director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity). His thesis is that those seemingly ordinary, everyday, nitty gritty aspects of life matter incredibly to God, that they are the “frontlines” where we live out the Christian faith, they are the “frontlines” where God is fulfilling His plans and purposes for the world.

Greene opens his book by seeking to broaden our understanding of Christian fruitfulness. “Vast numbers of Christians don’t believe that they are being fruitful for God, because fruitfulness has been narrowly defined as evangelism” (p. 31). On the contrary, as Greene explains, fruit in the Bible is a metaphor for all right living which honours God and brings glory to Him.

Greene goes on to outline six key ways – six Ms – of living the fruitful life in our ordinary, everyday frontlines such as the home, the neighbourhood, the gym, the supermarket, and the workplace. Modelling godly character, making good work, ministering grace and love, moulding culture, being a mouthpiece for truth and justice, being a messenger of the gospel – this is what fruitful living looks like.

Of most interest to me was the second one – making good work. In this chapter Greene explains how significant our everyday work can be in God’s plans and purposes for the world. Through our work we can love our neighbour and “serve God by serving others” (p. 88). I particularly appreciated the way that Greene affirmed the good work that non-Christians can do – “Christians haven’t cornered the market on excellence in any field” (p. 92). What difference then does the Gospel make to how Christians work? The Gospel provides a new motivation for all our work: “Godly work is good work, done in a godly way for God”. We are working for a new Boss, “for His glory, and in His strength” (p. 92). Working in this way also means that all our daily labour can take on a missional significance: “The most mundane action can carry the fragrance of Christ” (p. 94).

If you’re looking for a weighty theological treatise outlining the Biblical teaching on topics such as justice, mercy, fruitfulness and mission you won’t find it in Frontlines. But if you’re looking for incredibly practical teaching on everyday Christian living, peppered with real stories of real people trying to honour God in every aspect of their daily lives then this is the book for you. And that’s a book worth reading.

Andrew Laird is the director of Life@Work, an initiative of the Melbourne City Bible Forum, which aims to help Christians think through how their faith intersects with their work.