Work as Witness
Often our first ideas are the most clear. Writing a book, drafting the design for a new cell phone case, mapping out a family vacation – often the foundational work comes in a short flurry. Last fall, this is what happened to me as I imagined the reason for a new faith and work nonprofit. I quickly wrote down five goals that would address the six tragedies of modern public life.
Five Goals For Our Work
- Our work should be a sign and foretaste of the Kingdom of God. I’m not sure work can “transform” the world, nor do I think we can “redeem” culture. But as Christians live in God’s reign now, so each element of the Christian’s life can be a sweet foretaste of the world-to-come. Writing a book, designing a shopping mall, or teaching a lesson can all point to God’s kingdom when Christians can articulate the reality of God’s reign, and connect theologically how the work of their hands points to the authority and majesty of King Jesus.
- Because most of us work in “public,” work should be the place where we make public witness to the Gospel. Our work can and should be a witness to the gospel when we connect revelation with our daily deeds. Question whether that ad accurately portrays the product you’re selling – and do so with the knowledge that our work bears our image, and we reflect the image of the God of all truth. Construct buildings that draw the heart to beauty, and are not only focused on the bottom line, for God himself is the author of all beauty. Work is the place where we can potentially have the greatest influence for the gospel, both by our words and our deeds.
- We need a new framework for our fields based on God’s revelation in Jesus Christ as elements of the Enlightenment project deteriorate our shared public life. The West, and nearly all global cities that call themselves modern, share a very similar culture, which is based on thought that comes out of 18th century Europe. Today, the underlying Christian roots of modernity have been increasingly pushed out of public life, and what’s left is an ever-critical, individualism that doubts nearly all authority and people who live, as Maslow has said, increasingly for “self-actualization.” The way to give public life a rejuvenated moral fabric and sense of purpose is by re-imaging our respective fields in light of the gospel, a story that both challenges other gods and casts down idols, and lifts up all that is good, true and beautiful in the world, whether it comes from the hands of Christians or non-believers (for it all comes from the hand of God). The task before us is to create spaces for Christians to ask how the gospel influences their work in community, and do it with the desire not to conquer, but to speak truth in humility and to serve the needs of our neighbor.
- We need the vocational resources of the Christian community to be unleashed for serving the common good of our cities. A city well-served and deeply loved; this is the task of nearly every urban church, but far too few see the inherent power of equipping the saints not just for volunteer opportunities once a month, but for using their God-given skills to advance the common good 40-50 hours a week.
- We should strive for creative, joyful work. God worked with joy, and he created simply because it was good. So should Christians be known for craftsmanship, doing a thing well simply for its own sake. Become lost in your task, adorning society with your art. Be filled with wonder and use your mind and hands to bring a smile to the face of another. It is in this self-forgetfulness that we unwittingly sow the seeds of cultural renewal.
Photo: Urban Architecture