Jeff Haanen

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Faith and Work Movement

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“God of the Second Shift: The Missing Majority in the Faith and Work Conversation” (Christianity Today Cover Story)

By Jeff Haanen

The following is the cover story for the October 2018 print issue of Christianity Today. To access the full article for free, click the “friends and family” link below. Also, if you’re not a subscriber, please consider subscribing to Christianity Today to support their work. Here’s an excerpt of the story.

Our group was white, college-educated, and passionate about helping people find meaning in their careers. We looked at Josué “Mambo” De León, pastor of a bilingual working-class congregation called Westside Church Internacional, eager to hear his thoughts on a recent “faith and work” conference. 

“For us, work isn’t about thriving,” Mambo said. “It’s about surviving.” 

Between bites of salad, it slowly became clear who the man in a red baseball cap, World Cup T-shirt, and jeans really was: an emissary from another world. 

“You start with the premise that you have a job and that you feel a lack of purpose,” he said. “But that doesn’t resonate with us. How are you supposed to find purpose and flourish when you don’t even have opportunities?” 

On my way home from the office of the nonprofit I run, Denver Institute for Faith & Work, I stewed over Mambo’s comments. They reminded me of a similar conversation I’d had with Nicole Baker Fulgham, president of an educational reform group called The Expectations Project. Baker Fulgham, an African American working with low-income kids, asked me bluntly: “So when do we start talking about faith, work, and life for fast-food employees?” 

In the past decade, the faith and work movement has exploded. Hundreds of new conferences, books, and organizations have sprung up from San Diego to Boston. But there’s a growing anxiety among Christian leaders that our national vocation conversation has a class problem. 

A hundred years ago, partnerships between clergy and labor unions flourished. Yet as the forces of industrialization transformed the trades in the late 19th century, and vocational education and liberal arts schools parted ways, a new mantra for the college-educated took root: “Do what you love.” The late Steve Jobs, in a 2005 Stanford commencement speech, stated, “You’ve got to find what you love. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Work done out of necessity was devalued, and eventually conversations about Christianity and work applied the word vocation mostly to college kids contemplating work they would most enjoy.

Today, when American evangelical leaders talk about work, the working class—which is two-thirds of the American workforce—is largely absent. What are we missing? 

Daily Meaning or Daily Humiliations?

Years ago, I started Denver Institute after reading Studs Terkel’s 1971 classic Working, an oral history of working-class Americans. Work, Terkel says, “is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.” 

Of course! I thought. This fit well with my graduate school angst (and growing boredom with my assignments). I liked the quote so much that I put it in my email signature. 

But somewhere along the way, I forgot that Terkel also believed work was centrally about “violence—to the spirit as well as the body. It is about ulcers as well as accidents, about shouting matches as well as fistfights, about nervous breakdowns as well as kicking the dog around. It is, above all (or beneath all), about daily humiliations.” 

This didn’t sound like the workplaces I was used to. But the tension between Terkel’s two statements has started to resonate with me. In the past five years, we in Denver have hosted thousands of doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and other young professionals at our events. But there’s been a conspicuous absence of home care workers, retail sales clerks, landscapers, janitors, or cooks. 

Calvin College philosopher James K. A. Smith—who once pulled 10-hour graveyard shifts on an air filter assembly line—observes, “The bias of the [faith and work] conversation toward professional, ‘creative,’ largely white-collar work means that many people who undertake manual or menial labor simply don’t see themselves as having a voice in this conversation.” 

It may be time to do some soul-searching. Have we, by which I mean myself and presumably many of this magazine’s readers, seen the culture-shaping power of work but been blind to the “daily humiliations” of those whose work we depend on each day? Have we been interpreting Scripture through our own professional class bias and failed to ask how working-class Americans think and feel about their work? 

The Great Divide

“Because hard work was such a high value for our family, it was also demoralizing,” says pastor Jim Mullins of Redemption Church in Tempe, Arizona. “One of the most difficult aspects of growing up was not the lack of money but the shame that would come with not having opportunities. That shame would boil into anger. I think a lot of the drug use and alcohol [use] that we experienced was a sort of numbing of the shame.”

Mullins’s story echoes the stories of millions of working-class Americans who have seen life deteriorate over the past 50 years in nearly every economic and social category. (I use the term “working-class” to mean those without a four-year college degree.)

The growing body of research is astounding…

(Read the rest of the article at Christianity Today.)


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Faith and Work MovementWork

Stephen Blankenship to Join Denver Institute as the New Director of Scatter

Well, today is a good day. Big news: Stephen Blankenship is the new director of Scatter, Denver Institute for Faith & Work’s new learning platform designed to equip the Body of Christ to serve God in all areas of life.

 

Stephen is one of the first graduates of tech stars, a startup accelerator in Boulder, and was the co-founder and former CTO of the DailyBurn, a fitness website now with an estimated 2.5 million members.

 

A software engineer by trade and entrepreneur by experience, having Stephen take the helm at Scatter bodes well not just for DIFW, but for the millions of men and women seeking to serve God and their neighbors Monday through Saturday, scattered into every corner of culture.

 

Plus, working with somebody with that kind of beard game, who wouldn’t be excited?

(Official press release is here.)

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Faith and Work MovementWork

How To Start Your Own Faith & Work Institute

 

Over the years, I’ve often received the question How did you do that? That is, how did you start Denver Institute for Faith & Work? The founding of DIFW was a one part grace (both God’s and other’s), one part luck, and one part perseverance. The great thing about our story is that we didn’t need anybody famous to make it work. We prayed, we convened, we planned, we executed, we failed, and then we tried again.

Are you interested in starting your own Faith & Work Institute? Here’s a few practical steps on how to get started:

1. Make a plan.

You can’t get anybody on board without a plan — with deadlines. A simple 2 page document is enough. Include measurable goals, action points, and deadlines, and hold yourself to them. Include goals for programming, fundraising, administration, and communication. This will be how you recruit your board.

2. Form a strong board.

Your board members are your best cheerleaders, strategic advisors, donors, and, early on, co-workers. Recruit a board that (1) Follows Christ, (2) Believes in your mission, (3) Gives generously and (4) Contributes a particular skill set you need, and (5) Connects you to a key part of the city.

3. Draw in pastors / industry leaders in an advisory role.

At the outset of DIFW, I found that our church advisory council and our advisory board did two things very quickly for us: (1) They built public trust in our new organization, and (2) They helped to form the programming we designed for our market. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.”

4. File for 501(c)3.

If you’re not an independent 501(c)3, you need to file ASAP. Legitimacy in the nonprofit world depends on this little note from the IRS. Find a friend who’s a lawyer, and get it filed ASAP.

5. Initiate branding, website, and communication rhythms early.

Even before we initiated our first program, we got an identity package (logo), worked on a simple website, and started sending monthly newsletters. This is key to starting the long road to building trust in your mission.

6. Get a public event on the calendar.

Do it early. Even before you’re ready. I recommend an event because it’s easy to pull off, gets your name out to the community, and is easy to communicate to donors what you did. (Make sure to video record it.) This will be your next step toward legitimacy.

7. Fundraising: Share your vision with everybody.

Coffee is cheap. So go an have coffee with anybody and everybody who will meet with you. Do only 50% of the talking, but be sure to share the nut of your vision. Ask for permission to stay in touch. Year-end giving and your board will be the core of your early revenue streams.

8. Start new programs, learn from your mistakes, change, and start again. 

Entrepreneurs make mistakes. Lots of them. The secret is to do it often and cheaply.  Put the plans for a program together, get it out to the world, humbly accept feedback, make changes, and try again. Be courageous. Your identity is not at stake.  And put your idea out there .

9. Embrace institution-building and becoming a generalist. 

Building a new organization is tons of work. What is a website widget? I’ve never read P&L statements before! Do I really have to do board reports? So much of your work is not just administration – it’s building a new institution. One you believe can last for generations. You’ll have to start learning to do things way outside your expertise. That’s ok.  The work of an institution-builder is the work of a generalist.

10. Make the Entrepreneurial Leap: Put in your notice and start as the full-time Executive Director. 

This takes courage. And trust in Christ. But once you have 3-6 months of your salary in the bank, give your notice, and do this work full-time. It’ll seem nuts. But this will also motivate you. If this is where God has called you, then don’t turn back. God is with you.

11. Pray, show gratitude, and give the glory to Christ.

Launching a new organization – and having a measure of success — is a gift of grace. Thank God often in your prayers. Thank your board, thank your donors, thank your program participants. Gratitude is central to building a lasting institution, and it is what gives our work a lasting and deep joy.

Since DIFW started in 2012, God has been at work in other cities. Check out what other Faith & Work Institutes have been popping up around the US: Nashville Institute for Faith and Work, Los Angeles Center for Faith & Work, Chattanooga Institute for Faith & Work

Need some help getting started? Contact me. 

 

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Faith and Work MovementTheologyWork

7 Ways to Pastor Working Men and Women in Your Church

 

Here’s a recent presentation I gave at recent event for pastors in the DIFW article. This article appeared originally in the DIFW blog. I hope it helps you think about to ‘equip the saints for works of service’ in the rhythms of your church. Here are the slides. 

Pastoring Professionals_Presentation

Living out our faith at work looks different for doctors, lawyers, accountants, and professionals in various industries, and ministry leaders often struggle to fully understand the challenges their members face in the workplace. At a recent event for our Church Partnership Network, Jeff Haanen shared seven practical ways to disciple the professionals in our pews.

1.   Visit your members in the workplace.

“Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

One of the easiest ways to learn how church attendees spend the majority of their time is to visit them where they work. It’s also the best way to understand the challenges they face in their respective jobs or industries, which will enable ministry leaders to pray for and encourage them in relevant and specific ways.

Frequency: 2-4 times per year

2.   Host a commissioning service for church members in the workplace.

“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)

Many churches formally commission missionaries and mission teams prior to field assignments. The same attention can be given to lay members of the congregation as they go “out” to their work.

Frequency: Annually

3.   Use workplace illustrations in your sermons.

Most of us spend about 90,000 hours at work, but only 5,000 at church on Sundays. Relate to church members with relevant examples and sermon illustrations from their jobs or industries that connect with each week’s teaching. Even better: use examples right from your congregation.

Frequency: Weekly

4.   Pray for people in different industries.

“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field…” (Matthew 9:38)

If we believe in the power of prayer, why not pray specifically for church attendees during tough or busy times? Pray for teachers in the fall, retail employees during the holidays, etc.

Frequency: Seasonally

5.   Feature worship music that affirms work and creation.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Church attendees will experience a deeper sense of connection when they see their work affirmed through corporate worship. Check out the new Porter’s Gate: Work Songs album, or attend our upcoming workshop for pastors and worship leaders to learn more about bridging work and worship.

Frequency: 1-2 times per month

6.   Select small group curriculum that focuses on work, calling, and culture.

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37­–39)

Many believers struggle with feelings of isolation at work. Address this growing frustration through industry based small group curriculum that explores issues of calling, cultural engagement, and the challenges unique to a variety of industries. Take a look at Scatter and download a free lesson plan to get started.

Frequency: 1-2 times per year per group

7.   Host “all-of-life” interviews in your worship services.

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 5:13.

Find an attendee who is fully living out the gospel in their unique work context and share their story. Redemption Church in Tempe provides a great example.

Frequency: Monthly

For more resources for churches and ministry leaders, take a look at our Church Partnership Network.

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The Internet’s Best Place to Start Learning about Faith & Work

 

Ok, maybe that blog post title is hyperbolic. But it’s not far off from the truth.

For the past four years, Denver Institute has amassed tons of articles, videos, blog posts, curricula and other resources on work, calling, culture and various industries. When our team looked at these, it was kinda overwhelming. Even for us!

So we decided to make our resources easier to navigate, find, and use through our new “Learn” page.

Here’s what we did. (1) We organized the page below into topics/industries. From there, pick something that piques your interest, like calling or health care or business.

(2) Inside of each page, we teed up 2-3 featured blog posts as a great place to start thinking about that industry/topic, along with a couple of recommended videos.

(3) For those with really curious minds, we have our own short courses linked on the bottom of these pages on our (forthcoming) content platform, Scatter.

Of course, I’m biased, but for those who care about what faith means for our work and our world, I think this is one of the internet’s best resources.

(Do you have a killer article, book, or resource we should feature? Send it our way: [email protected])

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Making a Permanent Impact on American Society?

 

“Dealmakers: Episode I” – Pete Ochs

I often imagine what collective impact between business leaders, churches, government, nonprofits and ministries might look like. What would it look like for us to partner together to make a permanent, generational impact on American society?

When it comes to work, in many ways, our society is hemorrhaging. The labor participation rate for men age 24-55 is at its lowest point since the Great Depression; 10 million men are either unemployed or looking for work; today there are 70 million Americans with a criminal background, many of whom can’t find a good job due to their past.

What if the Christian business leaders we all know decided to hire the millions of men and women with barriers to employment? Could the Church step up to meet a critical need – and develop the knowledge, best practices, and vision for loving our neighbors through good jobs?

This is a big task – maybe too big. But I feel like things are changing.

TC Johnstone, a friend and filmmaker, has done an incredible new documentary that gives us a beautiful, compelling case for doing just this.

In the first episode of “DealMakers”, a new documentary series, he highlights Pete Ochs, the founder of Capital III an impact investing company “committed to social, spiritual and economic transformation.” The film tells the story of Pete’s journey to starting a manufacturing company…inside a maximum-security prison. Here’s how TC describes the film,

Pete OchsA Triple Bottom Line Business. Pete had a crazy idea. What would happen if we put a manufacturing business inside a maximum-security prison, pay employees fair market wages, and help them find their purpose? What started out as a crazy idea turned into reform, relationships, profit and ultimately transformed lives.”

Though Pete is wonderful in the film, it’s Louie Gutierrez, who spent 25 years behind bars, who really shines. Pete gave Louie another chance through employment; Louie gave Pete a renewed purpose for his own work.

You may want to think about screening the film in your church, business or home. If you’re a leader, you might think about having Pete and Louie come and share at a conference or event. Pete not only hits all the theological essentials in the story, but their story of learning from each other is just as powerful.

This film is an excellent illustration of the real-life impact that all this conversation about faith and work can have on real lives. I commend this film to you and those in your church or business. (For $25 off the price of a screening, use the discount just code: DIFW, and click on this link: https://www.dealmakersfilms.com)

I believe the “good jobs” conversation is the natural intersection between Christians who care about justice and those who care about work in America today.  I also believe stories of redemptive employment can galvanize Christians in positions of influence to have deep spiritual, social and cultural impact on a society in need of grace…especially from the church.

To use Louie’s words: I tell you what, I’m not super religious. But if I were to ever say that I met a Christian in my life, it’s more than definitely Pete.”

Happy watching.

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Faith and Work MovementTheologyWork

Collective Impact: The Missing Piece of the Faith-Work Puzzle

 

What will the faith and work movement look like in 2067? What are we doing today that could genuinely last for 50 years, and even reshape American culture?

These are tough questions. Not only because 50 years is such a long time, but it forces us to think not only of our own organizations, but the larger networks across the US involved in this space, and the institutions that can outlast individual personalities.

It also forces us to think: what, specifically, are the long-term goals shared among overlapping networks of churches, businesses, universities and nonprofits involved in spreading a Christian message about the far reaching effects of Jesus’ death and resurrection for our work, culture, economy, and world?

After pondering this question, I’ve come to believe something rather disconcerting. The single biggest problem with the faith and work movement today is fragmentation and the absence of shared goals.

In April of this year, Jeffrey Walker penned a provocative article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Solving the World’s Biggest Problems: Better Philanthropy Through Systems Change.” “It’s one of the perennial questions facing the nonprofit world,” Walker writes, “Why, despite the sector’s collective resources and best efforts, do so many social problems remain so persistent?”

The gap between outcomes and intentions has long drawn attention from America’s largest foundations trying to solve social problems. And today, more funders are growing wary of the creation and growth of life-long organizations with ever growing budgets and staffs (or, in the faith and work world – with ever new efforts that come today and vanish tomorrow).

Walker writes, “Perhaps what we need instead, according to the emerging line of thinking, is an emphasis on what is called ‘systems change’—on identifying the organizations and individuals already working on a problem, and helping to join forces to achieve their common goals.”

The idea is simple: instead of focusing on creating new organizations and multiplying social entrepreneurs, we need to think about creative collaboration, or on funding “systems entrepreneurs” who can bring together diverse actors and act as a facilitator and negotiator between network leaders, with the objective of finding common goals that can produce collective impact.

I think fragmentation is the single biggest challenge today for those leading institutions committed to the integration of faith, work, and life – and for key funders in this space who want to see long-term, systemic social and ecclesiastical change. According to David Miller at Princeton, the faith and work Movement certainly qualifies as a genuine social movement. But it is an enormously fragmented and disjointed social movement. Dizzyingly so. Without even mentioning the organizations themselves, here’s just a sample of the organization types in this space:

  • Business as mission organizations
  • Churches
  • Church-based centers
  • Chaplaincies
  • Gender-specific organizations
  • Businesses
  • Speaker consultancies
  • Bloggers
  • Poverty alleviation and job training
  • Think tanks
  • Evangelistic ministries
  • Institutes
  • Universities
  • Fellows programs
  • Christian universities
  • Seminaries
  • Conferences
  • Capital/Finance groups
  • Professional groups (e.g., Christian Legal Society, Christian Medical and Dental Organization)
  • Generosity or moneyrRelatedgGroups
  • Spiritual formation organizations
  • Community development organizations

Years ago, I read an entertaining article by my friend Lukas Naugle entitled, “The Faith-Work Frankenstein’s Monster.” Frankenstein, indeed.

Just before I started Denver Institute for Faith & Work, I drafted an article for publication (just for my own sanity) on how people were using language in the faith and work arena. After putting these organizations in seven categories – faith and work, “work matters”, work and business, work and economics, work and vocation, work and the common good, and work and mission – I gave up. The article was over 20 pages, and didn’t begin to touch on all the issues being addressed in these diverse language circles.

I said to myself, “This thing is an octopus. I’m sure it’s all connected to a single head (Christ himself), but all I can see is a bunch of arms flailing about wildly.”

We’re so fragmented, how might we go about finding common goals amongst networks this disjointed? Whereas in Walker’s article he could mention aligning groups that all care about, for example, human trafficking, they all had a clear definition of the problem. When I talk to my peers and friends in thefaith and work movement, I’m actually not sure we agree on either the problem or the solution. Some would say it’s workplace evangelism and others job creation for the poor; some a healthy economy, some all-life discipleship; some cultural renewal, others cultural conquest, and still others cultural retreat (thank you, Rod Dreher).

So what can be done? Here’s my view: we need to take manageable slices of this Frankenstein monster called the Faith and Work Movement, and begin to work on shared goals, and thus, collective impact. For example, City Gate 2017 which begins tomorrow in San Diego.

Two years ago I asked, who is broadly trying to do similar work as the Denver Institute for Faith & Work in American cities? And how would I define our work in contrast to the multitude of other organizations? Here was what I came up with: The purpose of City Gate is to create a relational and strategic space to start and grow institutions focused on (1) the integration of faith, work and life by those with (2) a shared commitment to the church, (3) a particular region or city, and (4) the far reaching effects of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the world.

This is a very specific group. But the specificity, I believe, allows to us begin on the same page, and ultimately, to learn from one another and perhaps agree upon shared goals. This year, attendees include the following organizations:

  • Jeff Haanen, Denver Institute for Faith & Work
  • Geoff Hsu, Flourish San Diego
  • Missy Wallace, Nashville Center for Faith & Work
  • Lisa Slayton, Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation
  • Travis Vaughn, The Terminus Collective
  • Mark Roberts, Max DePree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Matt Rusten, Made to Flourish Pastors Network
  • David Kim, Center for Faith & Work
  • Jim Mullins, Surge Network
  • Chris Lake, Vere Institute
  • Case Thorpe, The Collaborative Orlando

And we’re also blessed to have four start-up “city hubs” join us:

  • Ryan Wall, Watermark Community Church (Dallas)
  • Tracy Matthews, The Call to Work (Chicago)
  • Steve Lindsey, Los Angeles Center for Faith & Work
  • Clark Taylor, Chattanooga Center for Faith & Work

Alone, Denver Institute for Faith & Work is a relatively small organization: with 4 full-time staff and a budget of $650,000/yr, we reach about 1,000 people a year through programming and work with 25 churches. Yet together, the combined budgets of organizations at City Gate are $60 million/yr. We reach 15,530 per year through programing, work with 329 different churches, and function in (at least) 15 different cities.

This community now allows us to reexamine questions of impacting American culture in 50 years because we’re now dealing in systems. And because we’re all peers, and no one organization is calling the shots, we can openly discuss collective impact through shared goals.

Hurdles exist, clearly. Exploring alignment, open communication among partners, discovering workable models, measuring impact. Most importantly is relationship. Can we remain in community, and even develop friendship among pseudo-competitors? But minimally, we’re setting down early tracks for long-term systemic impact on both the American church and our secular culture.

For a nonprofit executive director of a small organization like me, it’s tempting to think, “If only we had enough money, we could change everything.” But one line from Walker’s article on systems change has been enduringly encouraging for me: “Let’s not kid ourselves: Money is not the only resource in limited supply. In fact, cash is positively abundant compared to other, more abstract necessities like hope, imagination and social cohesion.”

Hope. Imagination. Social cohesion. Perhaps that could last for 50 years…

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Faith and Work Movement

Work, Profession, Job, Vocation, Occupation, Career or Calling?: Getting Clear on Language About Work

 

“I think I’m gonna quit. I just don’t feel called to this anymore.”

“You don’t just have a job, you have a vocation!” Really? It feels more like I need a vacation.  

“Some people have a calling,” my father said to me. “But most of us just have a job.”

“Profession? Sounds like what rich people do. ‘Round here, we just work.”

This is just plain confusing. Work, profession, job, vocation, occupation, career and calling. What exactly are we talking about here?

Does vocation and work mean the same thing? When is a job a career, or just a job? Am I working if I’m not getting paid? Do I really have to be called to every task I do at work? Or is it ok to be called to something completely different than my 9-5? Why does it feel like the hardest work I do is at home, and I go to work to rest?

The language we use around work – especially among Christians – can be mystifying. And a mist in the pulpit usually means a fog in the pew. Defining terms would help. But Webster can’t tell us how we use these terms in relation to one other.

In this short video (6:16) I take a stab at trying to get clear on both how we actually use these terms, and how we ought to use language around the idea of work based on Christian revelation.

My friend is fond of saying, “Change the language, you change the culture.” That’s hopeful. Maybe we can at least get a little less confused.

Work, Profession, Job, Vocation, Occupation, Career or Calling? – Getting Clear on Language About Work from Denver Institute on Vimeo.

(The text below is a transcript of the video above.)

Let’s start with the basics: vocation and calling. These two words mean the same thing. Calling comes from a Greek word, kaleo, and vocation comes from a Latin root vox, meaning voice. Each was intended by Protestant Reformers to point to an entire life lived in response to the voice, or call, of God.

Clear enough.  But there are two confusing parts: one secular, one religious. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, when American culture began to secularize, vocation became divorced from reference to God, and vocation become synonymous with work, particularly manual labor and the rise of “vocational education.” So for most people today, vocation and work mean the same thing. But this isn’t necessarily true for Christians, who see these ideas as overlapping, but distinct.

The second confusion: inside of Christianity, generally there are two meanings behind ideas of vocation or calling. The first order usage is the “call” to love God and love your neighbor. This is the highest calling and is common to all people in all places. The second is specific: God’s call to specific people to do specific tasks at specific times. This is generally where we use the word in relation to work, though not exclusively.

Clear as mud. But let’s at least agree, that vocation and calling is the biggest category, and encompasses the entire life of the Christian, whether that be career, family, hobbies, or friends. Each of these activities belong to God, and should be done for him and with him.

So, then, what is a career? For most, it’s your life work, or the aggregate of all or your jobs or occupations. This is why I chose it as an umbrella category.

However, people see their careers very differently. Some see their life’s work as series of jobs or occupations (which, I think are the same thing). Both jobs and occupations are a set of tasks I do for money.

Others, see their career as a profession. This word has a rich heritage. A profession can be seen as a community of people who profess and uphold a set of moral standards that hold together their industry. Generally, we think about doctors, lawyers, or business professionals here. But the point of this word is about disinterested service to others, not just personal gain.

Fair enough. In today’s economy, where people change jobs on average every four years, it may be tough to describe what your career is. But most do their work as either an occupation or job, or a profession.

Great. Then what on earth does the word work mean? Well, that depends on who’s asking! I think there are three basic options:

  1. Work = Job = $. The question “Where do you work?” means for most “What is your job?” Who pays your bills? This is the probably most common view.
  2. Work as defined by Christian faith. Two examples are definitions from Dorothy Sayers and John Stott.

Dorothy Sayers says, “[Work] should be the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.”

Now, John Stott says this: “Work is the expenditure of energy (manual or mental or both) in the service of others, which brings fulfillment to the worker, benefit to the community, and glory to God.”

What’s interesting about both of these definitions of how influenced they are by the Protestant vision of vocation or calling.  Work may be what you get paid for. But the emphasis is on service of others, fulfilling our role as co-creators, and giving the credit to God. This is what I call “the heavenly view of work.”

  1. Work = Non-rest, Any task. Here, work is basically everything you’re doing, or any task you define as work, as long as you’re not sleeping. (Even watching TV could be work if your job is a TV critic.)

I think this definition is too broad, and makes life about work, rather than about God. Work is not just a job, but neither is it everything! When Joseph Pieper says that Leisure is the Basis of Culture (he’s wrong of course – work is!), he’s responding to this totalizing view of work, which was nearly salvific in Marxism. But that’s beside the point here…

So, of course, I opt for definition #2, which means work could be paid or not paid. The vocation-infused definition of work is where we ought to aim.

The challenge is, of course, The Fall. For most people, work sometimes seems divine, but more often is toil. Work is hammering away in the factor or at the task list, and just something I need to do for money. Occasionally it’s a profession, but in an age “beyond good and evil,” agreeing on the moral codes guiding, say, law or health care, can be tricky business – and is often hotly contested.

So, work is caught between Genesis 1 and Genesis 3, with echoes of heaven but often laced with the pain of hell. Sometimes job, sometimes calling, always work. The key is to draw even the “jobs”, with all of their pain, into a sense of vocation. The magic isn’t in an ideal career, job or profession – the magic is in our motivation.

So, work, profession, job, vocation, occupation, career or calling? Well, that depends if it’s raining, and which umbrella you choose to pull out for the day.

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Faith and Work MovementVocation

Should We Create More Vocation-Specific Faith and Work Resources?

One topic that continually comes up among faith and work leaders is this: should we create more vocation-specific materials? That is, instead of creating resources broadly about, say, work, Sabbath, calling, or caring for the poor, should we create experiences, books or small group studies specifically for those in, say, law, business, architecture or nursing?

The topic came up at the Faith & Work Summit, where we asked the question about going from 101 “introduction to faith and work” activities to 201 or 301 activities –  hosting specific conversations on retail, manufacturing or education, and the cultural challenges believers face in those sectors. It also came up when talking with my friend Alistair Mackenzie at the Theology of Work Project, as they noodle on next steps after creating an incredible biblical commentary and set of resources for pastors, laypeople and scholars on work.

The question is tough for at least two reasons.

First, there are many of us inside the faith and work movement that are suspicious (or at least wary) of Kuyperian transformationalism and its attendant idea that each sphere of human social activity (i.e., field of work) is directly responsible to be lived out coram Deo, before the face of God. Clearly, Christ is Lord. But the grand project of “this is what all of law or finance ought to look like in God’s economy” is a slippery target.

Fields like law and finance are not static, and neither are the Christians within them who desire to honor God with their work. Writing a 10-volume set on a comprehensive theology of law may be (1) pressing the Scriptures for questions they weren’t meant to directly answer for our cultural moment, and (2) woefully out of date by the time of publication, since law – and all of culture – is constantly changing. Fields of work and arenas of cultural activity are less like light bulbs, clearly defined and illuminated, than they are like lava lamps, in constant motion.

On the other hand, the pastor in me says we absolutely must speak to specific circumstances in people’s lives. The reason, for example, Alistair got into the Theology of Work Project is because as a pastor, his younger congregants would ask tough, honest questions about what it meant to be a Christian when faced with the day-to-day challenges of living and working in a secular age. I fully agree: in the past three years I’ve heard stories from electricians, investors, artists, entrepreneurs, public school superintendents and general contractors. And I can honestly say that my work at Denver Institute for Faith & Work is the most pastoral work I’ve ever done. Abstractions don’t fly when doing this work on the ground. People are longing for answers to real questions, solutions to real problems, and resolutions to real tensions.

So can we speak to the specifics of people’s industries without either trying to give a dizzying, comprehensive theology for a specific sector norignoring the real-life experiences of the people we’re called to serve? Or coming at it from another angle: how can we continually engage a larger percentage of the population in the faith and work movement when “faith at work 101” is starting to lose its luster?

Here’s what I think is the solution to this quandary: start with individual stories. Here’s what I mean. For the past couple of years, my friend Chris Horst and I have been writing profiles of Christians serving God and their communities through their work for Christianity Today. Mica May, founder of May Designs, a notebook company; Cathy Mathews, owner of a pay-what-you-can restaurant; Bill Kurtz, the CEO of a high performing charter school network; Jim Howey, the business development officer at a small manufacturing company in Denver; Dave Collins, who emerged from addiction and homelessness to serve travelers as a housekeeper at a Marriott. In each case, their stories illustrate the complexity of human life, and how important it is think broadly about our work in vocational discipleship.

Take the story of Karla Nugent of Weifield Group Electrical Contracting. I profiled her originally intending to write about the work of her apprentice program, which is employing men coming out of addiction or incarceration as electricians. Simple enough, right? Wrong. The “faith and work” topics covered ranged widely when we pay attention to the specifics of her life. For example, they included:

  • Workplace evangelism. Two of her co-founders, and numerous employees, have come to faith through her gentle, humble witness over the past 15 years.
  • Social justice. Her apprentice program is a pioneer in Denver’s workforce development community, providing good jobs and a new narrative of hope that would make our friends at the Chalmers Center drool.
  • Generosity. Weifield Group is a leader in corporate philanthropy, and gives money and employee volunteer hours to serve the less fortunate, women & children, veterans, and heads of household in the Denver metro area.
  • Workplace culture. Weifield is continually ranked as a top place to work in Denver, due largely to the workplace culture that gives opportunities for advancement, engages employees in community service, and does the best electrical work in town, including the new Union Station that the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado.
  • The dignity and intrinsic value of work. Many of her electricians see their work not just as wires, but as art. They feel proud of what they do, and see its intrinsic value beyond even what they’re paid to do the job.
  • Sabbath. Being one of Denver’s most networked women, Karla has to stay aggressive with turning off all media on Sundays – but she does so to the great benefit of her family and co-workers.
  • Women and leadership. As a woman in an almost-all-male field, Karla embraces her role as a woman, and uses it as an opportunity to have honest conversations with peers and employees that would be hard to get to in a “tough guy” culture. She’s also honest about the challenges between raising children and caring for her “work” family, too.

I could go on. But here’s the point. Would a “theology of electrical engineering” help Karla? Maybe a little. But my guess is that it would end up on the bottom of a pile of papers on her desk. What would help is to provide the emotional and relational context to speak about the real issues she faces in the context of Christian faith, in all of its wonderful variety and life-giving diversity.

So, should we create more vocation specific resources? Well, it’s worth mentioning that hundreds of these vocation-specific resources already exist written by laity in their fields. It might be that pastors and biblical scholars are not the best socially-placed to write these resources.

Here’s what the church can do to encourage vocation-specific conversations:

  1. Convene men and women around the workplace challenges and contemporary issues we face in the complexities of modern culture. We learn first through imitation. Gathering people in similar lines of work (and thus cultural worlds) has born tremendous fruit for us at DIFW in the last three years.
  2. Do a lot more story-telling. In so doing we’ll be able to touch on the topics surrounding the faith and work conversation in a way that is relevant, honest, and beautiful. We are shaped by the stories we believe and cherish. If we can do more storytelling – and do it well – we may even be so lucky as to contribute to the formation of men and women into the image of Christ, Redeemer…and carpenter.

This post first appeared at the Green Room Blog. 

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Faith and Work MovementTheologyWork

Broader, Not Deeper

 

What will allow more pastors to see the importance of work for their church and its mission? How might the faith and work movement help pastors and seminaries to embrace ministry models that equips men and women to serve Christ in the wide array of professions in our culture today? And why is this so difficult?

Last year, I interviewed Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College, about his new book View from the Top. One of the lasting highlights from our conversation was about his research on the White House Fellows, a leadership development experience that had shaped a significant majority of the 500+ “platinum” leaders in his study. The vast majority of these leaders had experienced a “broadening education” during their time as White House Fellows. Fellows had candid, off-the-record conversations with everybody from zoologists to members of the President’s cabinet. Through this experience, they developed a taste for seeing issues in society broadly, not only from the perspective of their own field,  but from the perspective of others as well.

The reason, says Lindsay, this is so important for leadership development is that most of our career tracks drive us to becoming technicians, not generalists. We go through school and our early career, perhaps get a professional degree, and then get technically proficient at a single thing – whether that be creating pitch books or operating on a L5 vertebrae. And usually, these jobs are handsomely remunerated. The problem is that we have less and less of an incentive to see the broad world outside of our field, and what those kinds of work mean for building a good society. We may start off with a liberal arts education, but we very rarely cultivate a liberal arts lifestyle.

For example, Lindsay interviewed John Mendelsohn, who just stepped down as the head of MD Anderson Cancer Center. Mendelsohn was a top-flight scientist at a prestigious research institution. When Lindsay interviewed him for View from the Top, he asked Mendelsohn what book was on his nightstand. Surely a book on cancer research, or science more broadly. Right? No. The history of opera. Mendelsohn was reading about the history of opera before falling asleep! Why? Because he wanted to know more about the world he lived in.

This practice of broad learning, not deep, is core, says Lindsay, to a kind of leadership that is good for society in general. I’d also argue that it is core to helping more ministry professionals see the world of work outside the walls of a church.

So often, when we teach about professional growth, we go further and further into our own disciplines. More management theory for executives, or more biblical commentaries for pastors. But more often than not, the deepest growth happens at the intersection between fields and the relationships of people leading in vastly different sectors. (This idea has also influenced the formation of the 5280 Fellowship.)

Within the faith and work movement, we often ask the question: how will more leaders of God’s church start seeing the centrality of work to God’s restoration of his creation? We typically do what most professional development programs do: get more people to see it our way. Ask them to read Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor or Tom Nelson’s Work Matters.  Or come to a conference where Steve Garber or Amy Sherman are speaking. These are all good things to do. Tim, Tom, Steve and Amy are incredible human beings, and we should read more of their work.

But I don’t actually think that an initial step further into theology is the right move. What’s lacking for most is not good theology but good anthropology. Many pastors are wonderful theologians, correctly exegeting Bible passages, expounding gospel-centered ministry, and speaking of God’s kingdom and His redemption coming to all aspects of the world. What we can’t actually see, often, is the world and what human beings are actually doing in that world. We see elders, youth ministry workers, deacons, and volunteers, but it’s hard to see executive coaches, cashiers, community college administrators, nurses, and homeschooling moms filling the pews.

Most men and women need to learn only one other field to grow in the integration of faith and work: theology. Pastors, however, need to not only know theology, but all the fields their people work in: something of finance, K-12 education, health care, retail, manufacturing, agriculture and the social sciences. For starters.

What practices can help church leaders to see the world in which we live, and what Christian faith means for that world? To begin with, I’d say to temporarily put down the Bible commentary, and start to look broader, not deeper.

Here are three places to start:

  1. Broad Reading. Drawn to reading Tim Keller or James K.A. Smith? Read American history or the Wall Street Journal Drawn to Fox News? Flip on MSNBC. Love reading systematic theology? Me too. But just to toss in a curve ball, consider 18th century literature, or classic psychology. If you’re stuck, ask a friend about their work, and try to read one foundational work in that field before the year’s out. This broad reading will allow us to see a bigger view of “the city” we so often like to talk about renewing – and all the thorny, complex, and beautiful issues and industries in that city.
  1. Broad Listening. I’m so guilty here. Generally speaking, when I feel out of my league after the inevitable “What do you do?” question, I steer the question back to a topic I’m a pro in. It’s easier that way, and I don’t feel stupid when my friend is speaking about pharmaceutical sales or loan underwriting. But what if we simply dove further in, and became more curious about the work of others? I’ve experimented with this, and it’s just like learning a foreign language as an adult: you have to concede that you’ll sound like a kindergartner. But when you do, your imagination for what redemption might look like in physics research or ceramics production grows exponentially. This is really a practice in pastoral ministry – the shepherding of God’s flock for their formation in the pastures that God has placed them.
  1. Broad Relationships. We tend to hang out with people just like us. Again, guilty as charged. Most of my friends are white Christians that work in an occupational ministry-related field, many of whom live in suburban Colorado – like me. But what if we all made a commitment to having lunch, coffee, or dinner with people vastly different than us – ethnically, socio-economically, or vocationally? We would be able to see a far wider perspective on the world. Also, many of our biases against “those” people might be put to rest if we simply listened to their stories: where they grew up, the pains they suffer, the longings they harbor. Here we might be able to find common ground even with our enemies, thus making Jesus’ command to “love our enemies” a bit easier to do..

Perhaps these, not another faith and work conference, are the best next step for a broader cultural engagement, and a church that embraces its missionary role in the world.

This post first appeared on The Green Room. Photo credit.

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