Jeff Haanen

Category

Theology

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TheologyVocationWork

Audio Book Release and a Free Gift: Working from the Inside Out

Hey Friends,

Today we launch the audio book, narrated by yours truly, of Working from the Inside Out. As a big thank you for your support (and patience with my erratic posting on this blog), I’d like to offer the first four people who read this post a FREE copy of the audio book on Audible.

THE AUDIOBOOK IS: 

Working from the Inside Out: A Brief Guide to Inner Work That Transforms Our Outer World 

YOUR DOWNLOAD CODE(S): 

6MXTKU7GNWL3
PLB3C1RHEJW4
UXC0EFVYWAR3
XPSNZU30Q158

Note: Each code is one-time-use.  

HOW TO REDEEM:  

Your free audiobook(s) can be enjoyed via Audiobooks.com. Existing Audiobooks.com account holders can visit their My Account page to redeem, while new listeners can follow the below instructions. 

1Visit www.audiobooks.com/promo
2Input your promo code and hit “apply”
3Continue creating your FREE account and then hit “Start Listening”
4Download the free Audiobooks.com app for Apple or Android devices (see below for links), or listen on your desktop through Audiobooks.com
5Login and start listening! Your free audiobook(s) will be waiting for you in the My Books section 

Thanks again to you all! I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the audio book! If you think of it, leave a review on audible!

Jeff

PS. I’ll update this blog post as soon as I hear from you that all four free audible books are claimed.

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TheologyVocationWork

Launch Day! “Working from the Inside Out: A Brief Guide to Inner Work That Transforms Our Outer World” (IVP, 2023)

God is working, I believe, “from the inside out.”

Big day! Today InterVarsity Press is publishing my second book: Working from the Inside Out: A Brief Guide to Inner Work That Transforms Our Outer World.

The book comes from my 10 years of experience leading Denver Institute for Faith & Work and the deepening conviction that “faith and work” is not first about impact, success, or even a way to advance the Gospel in the world—it’s about who we’re becoming in the process of our working lives.

The idea of the book is to give us a place to start this journey of living in a relationship with God in all areas of life. First, I believe we need to focus not on the world’s problems but on our own hearts and minds, seeking deep spiritual and emotional health and theological truth. Second, inner transformation impacts our core relationships and work. And finally, I believe we’re called to engage culture not as conquerors, but as sacrificial servants. God is healing the world first through our interior life, second through our exterior life, and third through our civic life.

What’s the book’s unique value?

●  It’s a great intro on faith and work. Not sure where to start on all things faith, work, and culture? Here’s a good starting point.

●  It’s blessedly brief. We’re all busy! This book has 10 brief chapters you could get through in a sitting or two.

●  It offers a simple model for integrating faith and work. The book simplifies an otherwise esoteric and complex subject through five principles.

●  It’s written for any believer. The book isn’t targeted exclusively to business leaders or professionals. It’s for any believer, from maintenance technicians to journalists to teachers to recent graduates to managers.

●  It has 50+ stories and examples. The book is chock-full of examples, from working in restaurants and manufacturing to selling used cars and caring for patients.

●  It’s holistic. The gospel changes all of our lives—our hearts, the way we think, our relationships, the work we do, and how we engage with the needs of the world. This book is a simple, brief introduction to whole-life discipleship.

Also, a couple bonus points: I’m personally narrating the audio version so readers can hear directly from me—about all the mistakes I’m hoping others can learn from! And all future royalties will be donated to Denver Institute, so sales will help to spur on the faith and work movement.

You can grab a copy today: https://rb.gy/smc90x

And I narrated the audio book(myself!), which will be available on December 19. https://lnkd.in/guqWrGZA

Not ready to buy yet? Here’s an excerpt: https://lnkd.in/gZm8BtzQ

For a 20% discount (from Oct 1 through February), put in the code IVPHAANEN at check out at Intervarsity Press

What are people saying about Working from the Inside Out?

“Jeff Haanen is one of the foremost thought leaders of this generation on the topic of faith and work. In Working from the Inside Out, Jeff provides anecdotal and prescriptive insights that will inspire and move you to action. Jeff’s wisdom and perception are profound in helping readers bridge the sacred/secular divide. This book helps you understand how your work can serve as the most valuable tool Christians have to make a difference in the world. However, we must change internally before we can change the external world.

David Stidham, Vice President of Business Affairs and General Counsel for The Chosen

“I can’t wait to give this book to some important people in my life! As the title suggests, Jeff Haanen’s most valuable contribution is his focus on our inner spiritual life and the promise that a life attuned to the hope, love, and grace of the gospel changes us. Work is a crucible; it forms and shapes us—for better or for worse. Jeff’s five guiding principles (seek deep spiritual health, think theologically, embrace relationships, create good work, and serve others), developed and tested during his decade with Denver Institute for Faith & Work, offer a way toward work forming us ‘for better.’ Read with friends; take this journey together.”

Katherine Leary Alsdorf, Founding Director of Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s Center for Faith & Work

“You don’t need this book—if you love your job, live a balanced life, can’t wait to get up in the morning, and feel content in your relationships with people and God. If not, consider this collection of deep wisdom from an expert in the crucial, but often ignored, intersection of faith and work.” Philip Yancey, Coauthor of Fearfully and Wonderfully: The Marvel of Bearing God’s Image and Where the Light Fell: A Memoir

I cannot tell you what a blessing this book is. I cannot wait to be able to share this with others. The wisdom and guidance in this book is what I wish I would have had when I was graduating college and starting my career and starting out as a young professional. It is also the book that I, as a more seasoned business leader and fledgling entrepreneur, need to cut through the hardened layers that can calcify the soul. With every turn of the page, another piece was chiseled off, providing a fresh reminder for me of the calling I have as a Christian in the work God entrusted to me. I’ve been challenged, convicted, and blessed.

– Josh Rogers, Head of Operations, Leif

Free Study Guide

Considering reading the book with a group? Here’s a free study guide anybody can download, thanks to our friends at Denver Institute: DenverInstitute.org/Working-From-the-Inside-Out. The guide is a great resource for church small groups discussing the book.

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Faith and Work MovementTheologyUncategorizedWork

The Uncertain Future of the Faith and Work Movement (Christianity Today, December 2023)

Can it broaden its appeal beyond evangelicals in high-status professions?

Say it’s Thursday evening, and you sit down on your couch after dinner. Just before flipping on the TV, you pause, breathe, close your eyes, and reflect for a moment about your workday.

What do you feel? Do you have a sense of being anxious and overwhelmed? Of satisfaction and accomplish- ment? Of exhaustion or frustration from interacting with a coworker? Or does your mind blank out, avoiding thoughts of work altogether?

For some, perhaps, the wheel of ambition is still turning, and instead of watching Netflix you decide to flip open your laptop and keep working until bed. If that description fits, you might be what Andrew Lynn calls a “creative class evangelical.”

Lynn, a University of Virginia sociologist, is the author of Saving the Protestant Ethic: Creative Class Evangelicalism and the Crisis of Work. In the book, he surveys both this history and the current state of what some call the faith and work movement, which he describes as a “highly organized and well-resourced effort to renegotiate creative-class evangelicalism’s place and relation to power within the institutions and social structures that make up American society today.”

Lynn argues that the contemporary faith and work movement arose principally to meet the needs of a narrow niche of Christians: highly educated evangelicals seeking meaning in their work and a place within an increasingly secular culture. Beginning in the 1980s, as evangelicals attained college degrees and entered the knowledge economy in greater numbers than ever before, there was increasing talk of closing the “Sunday to Monday gap.” Rejecting the notion that work is merely a moneymaking necessity, a rising cohort of evangelical professionals wanted to make theological sense of their newfound success.

HOW WE GOT HERE IS ITS OWN INTERESTing tale, which begins with fundamentalism after the Civil War. When John Nelson Darby published the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909, a frantic concern for eschatology and saving souls took hold. Funding soul-saving ministries became a top priority, and work was simply a way to supply these funds, which, in the words of one writer, needed to be “exchanged” into the “current coin of heaven.”

Later evangelical leaders like Billy Graham abandoned many elements of this earlier funda- mentalism. But the remaining network of Bible institutes, summer camps, media outlets, and para- church ministries still focused on spiritual rather than earthly labors. Echoes of this mindset can be heard in Rick Warren’s 2002 book The Purpose Driven Life, which states, “The consequences of your mission will last forever. The consequences of your job will not.”

Along the way, however, several prominent Christian business leaders began wondering whether their actual work mattered to God, not just the money they made from it. As the inventor and engineer R. G. LeTourneau said at a Chris- tian Laymen’s Crusade in 1941, “We are going to sell laymen the idea that they are going to work for Jesus Christ seven days a week or not callthemselves Christians.” Subsequent decades saw the advent of organizations like the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International (1952), Laity Lodge (1961) and Fellowship of Companies for Christ International (1977). By the 1980s and 1990s, dozens more had been founded.

And from the mid-1980s to the mid-2010s, an explosion of books, conferences, and funders fueled a wave of Christians claiming that work itself—not just soul-saving—was import- ant to God. Out of this movement arose four frameworks for understanding how Christianity ought to influence our work. As Lynn describes them, each was embodied in a dis- tinct group.

The first was the evangelists, for whom faith at work prin- cipally meant workplace evangelism. Second were the achiev- ers. Prominent business figures like J. C. Penney and Henry Parsons Crowell, the owner of Quaker Oats, popularized the idea that business itself was endowed with spiritual value. Notions of “stewardship” and God’s “ownership” reframed work as an arena of holy influence.

The third group, which represents the most common framework within evangelicalism today, consisted of the inte- grators of faith and work. Thinkers like Dorothy Sayers and lesser-known figures like Marquette University professor David Moberg reminded evangelicals that being made in God’s image means being made in the image of a Maker. Work is valu- able simply because God works—and calls us to do likewise.

Lynn also identifies a final group of activists, who called for Christians to pursue the common good through their jobs. Their ranks were smaller than those of the integrators, in part because some evangelicals were skeptical of calls to view work as an engine of advocacy or social change.

But the integrators mainly benefited from larger trends in demographics. As more evangelicals earned college degrees and entered the knowledge economy during the 1970s and early 1980s, they were receptive to messages that affirmed their work as a form of service to God and neighbor.

And yet, whose work were we talking about?

Lynn notes that two groups were often over- looked in faith-and-work conversations: women and blue-collar laborers. It was business leaders, on the whole, who were credited with breaking down the sacred-secular divide, and attendees at faith and work conferences tended to be male, white, and college educated. Over time, the lan- guage of “calling ” and “vocation” became attached to entrepreneurs, lawyers, and other “creative” or high-status professionals.

Lynn also faults the faith and work movement for being too susceptible to influence from the polit- ical Right. He argues that organizations like the Acton Institute, the Kern Foundation, and the Insti- tute for Faith, Work & Economics baptized laissez faire capitalism, channeled evangelicals away from progressive causes, and even “lowered the ethical floor” of what qualifies as “dignified labor.”

But the movement largely succeeded in shifting evangelicals from postures of cultural separatism and embattlement toward a spirit of stewardship and production. Buttressed by Dutch theologian and statesmen Abraham Kuyper’s theology of public engagement, leaders like the late Tim Keller and his ministry’s Center for Faith & Work promoted this shift. D. Michael Lindsay’s 2007 book Faith in the Halls of Power highlighted evangelical involvement in the upper reaches of media, business, government, entertainment, and higher education.

LYNN ACKNOWLEDGES THAT FAITH-AND-work conversations face an uphill climb in an era of growing distrust for institutions. In such a climate, he writes, “inner-worldly asceticism mobilizing zealous participation in secular institutions appears to be a tough sell.” The problem is especially acute for Christians who work at the lower levels of these institutions and have little power to change them.

Alongside the risks of resistance or indifference goes perhaps an even greater risk: the lure of cultural accommodation. Lynn wonders whether the faith and work movement might serve as its own “gravedigger” as it “shuttles evangelicals from subcultural institutions centered on evangelical distinctives into full admission within mainstream societal institutions.” There’s a historical warning here: In the latter half of the 20th century, mainline churches were full of educated elites who enjoyed leadership roles across society, but this didn’t spur revival within those churches. It would be a shame to watch the faith and work movement launch believers into positions of leadership, only to see them changed by the world rather than changing it for Christ.

Despite these warnings, however, I remain hopeful for the faith and work movement. Chris- tians will keep working, and they’ll keep asking what their faith means for their work. And yet, as someone deeply involved in this movement, I have three suggestions.

First, knowledge-class evangelicals should commit to using their power for the vulnerable, not only in society at large but also within their own workplaces. And they should give greater weight to the concerns of organized labor. Evangelicals could work to rediscover Catholic social teaching on this topic, or at least remember the days when Wesleyans, Free Methodists, and Salvation Army groups championed the rights of workers.

Second, continuing to affirm that work matters to God, we should recognize the extent to which workers are feeling anxious, stressed, and bur- dened. The faith and work movement has been geared toward power and cultural influence, but the future of the movement, I believe, will be rooted in spiritual formation. Work is not only about suc- cess, influence, or even gospel impact—it’s about who we’re becoming as followers of Christ. Indeed, Puritans like John Cotton, who helped shape the Protestant work ethic, warned that making one’s labor “the chiefest good” would only lead to selfish materialism. Lynn (and others) are right to regard a spiritual vibrancy as the foundation not just for work but for all of life.

Finally, the future of the faith and work move- ment depends on deeper rootedness in local church communities. Lynn helpfully points out that non-Anglo churches have excelled at creating communal bonds and “collective identities that resist some of the excessive pulls of capitalism and careerism.” Indeed, one historic distinctive of the Protestant ethic is congregations that provide ref- uge and solidarity to workers facing dangerous con- ditions, punishing demands, or economic volatility. At its best, Lynn remarks, the church draws people “toward forms of social relations not determined by status, wealth, or achievement.” What would it look like to center our identities on our local congrega- tions rather than our professional titles?

In sum, building a faith and work movement that appeals to a broader swath of Christians means a renewed emphasis on justice, spiritual formation, and the church. Perhaps, then, we can sit on our couches after a long day, close our eyes, and breathe in the lasting peace of knowing we have spent a day simply working with God.

This book review was first published in the December 2023 print issue of Christianity Today.

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BusinessTheologyWork

The Emotional Journey of the Entrepreneur

At some point in our entrepreneurial journeys, we need to not only ask What am I accomplishing? but instead Who am I becoming?

I spent 10 years building an organization I truly loved, from the early founding days in an office by myself to an exit and transition to new executive leadership. After I was finished, I realized, however, that the journey took an emotional toll. The process of entrepreneurship had changed me emotionally and spiritually.

As I shared my story with friends and other founders – and listened to theirs – I found that entrepreneurs often experience four phases in our spiritual and emotional journeys.

The first phase is the launch. This is fun. Entrepreneurship at its inception is filled with casting vision, convening investors, building a product, growing a team, iterating a prototype, raising capital, and seeing your dream become a reality. Customers, employees, revenue all materialize, it feels, from an entrepreneur’s wild idea. The overriding emotion here is exhilaration.

The second phase is trial. This is much harder than I thought. Now the entrepreneur experiences real difficulty. The product line doesn’t fly; capital begins to dry up; employees quit; investors start pressing for outcomes. At this point, the entrepreneur doubles down and works twice as hard. Stress becomes as normal as breathing, and many times it’s here that entrepreneurs develop unhealthy habits to cope. The overriding emotion now is anxiety.

The third phase is divergence. Can I really keep this up? At this point, the organization has reached some kind of scale, and many entrepreneurs experience a divergence between their external and internal lives. Externally, they project confidence to investors, employees, and customers. “We can do it!” they say. We have to. Internally, however, they face real doubt. They’re not sure if the company will survive. And though their community has placed the entrepreneur on a social pedestal, they now seriously doubt their own gifting. They genuinely wonder if they can make the transition from Founder/Entrepreneur to CEO/Manager. And they feel trapped because they’ve made promises that they now must keep, though they don’t know if they can.

This phase is the most dangerous because here the entrepreneur gets used to being two different people: the confident, risk-taking, leader in the spotlight, and the chaotic, uncertain, stressed, frustrated, even fearful individual who wakes up at 4:00 a.m. solving problems. Sometimes entrepreneurs here start to believe their own legend and disconnect from reality. This is when friendships and family relationships begin to suffer. They also can be drawn into the face-paced speed of entrepreneurship, and find it difficult, if not impossible, to slow down, rest, and truly pay attention to others. The emotion in the divergence phase is doubt. Not far behind is often shame, knowing there’s now duplicity buried in their character.

The fourth phase is reckoning. Who am I becoming? is the question that quietly rumbles under the surface. Generally, before or during an exit (deciding to sell the business), the question of burnout arises. They look for a way out. After putting so much into their business, they often ask daunting questions. What have I sacrificed? What habits have I developed? What is worth it? Did I demand too much from others? Will they love me when I’m gone? Who have I become? 

Externally, people wonder why the now-wealthy entrepreneurs who’ve sold their businesses aren’t ecstatic. They lived the entrepreneurial dream. But internally, they often feel lost. Am I now better off than when I started? What will I do next? Who am I if I’m not leading this business?

Our work forms us – and deforms us. Of course, not all entrepreneurs experience these four phases. But I’d argue most do. We might ask ourselves: How might a relationship with God influence the emotional and spiritual journeys of entrepreneurs? And secondly, What practices might help entrepreneurs lead more emotionally and spiritually healthy work lives? 

But for now, we need to acknowledge that entrepreneurs don’t just change the world; they themselves are being changed by the world around them. This move toward self-awareness is the first step toward living healthier emotional and spiritual lives as entrepreneurs.

This post first appeared at the Center for Faithful Business at Seattle Pacific University.

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Spiritual FormationTheologyVocationWork

“A Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation” – A Sermon on Exodus 19-20

I recently had the chance to preach at my home church, Wellspring Anglican in Englewood, Colorado. I spoke on Exodus 19-20 and focused on God’s promise to the new nation of Israel in Exodus 19:5-6: “Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

In the sermon dive into what it would have meant to be a “kingdom of priests” and how Israel was called to be a “holy nation” in both their personal and public lives. I also ask some hard, personal questions about how – if it’s even possible – we might become holy.

I hope you enjoy listening. I’d be glad for your feedback below in the comments section.

“A Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation” – A Sermon on Exodus 19-20

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BusinessTheologyVocationWork

The Pearl of Vocation: Why I Bring My Whole Self to Work, Including My Faith

When I was in elementary school, my mother took my older sister and I to Lake Itasca State Park for summer vacation, located in the cool northern woods of Minnesota. A life-long teacher, she would glory in making the outdoor visit into a lesson: spotting the diving loons in search of breakfast, explaining the history of old-growth red pines towering over the landscape, and proudly declaring that we were looking at the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River.

My sister and I, however, were more concerned with the number of times we could skip a rock across the glassy surface and the tiny creatures we discovered on the lakeshore. Barefoot and with a cool breeze in my curly blond hair, I would spend afternoons hunting for tadpoles or grabbing tiny oysters to crack them open, in search of treasure. Though I never did find a pearl in those oysters, the shell’s rainbow iridescence, shimmering in the sunlight, hinted at a joy embedded deeply within creation.

Three decades later, with a wife and four daughters of my own — and nearing forty years of age — I now spend more time landscaping behind my mortgaged house, cleaning dishes, and checking email than I do whimsically searching for marine treasures. Yet amidst the ever-present responsibility of directing a nonprofit, paying bills, and supporting family, I’ve found that my daily work has become the central arena in which I sense the magic of the Creator’s handiwork in my own life.

Like the refracted light of a rainbow, faith shapes the breadth of my human experience, including the one-third of my life I spend working. When I feelthe neck-tingling stress of hitting financial goals or the sadness of a coworker who’s lamenting singleness, I pause to pray. When I discuss future office space needs with my COO and the wild uncertainty of our current cultural moment, I draw on the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation to think through the problem. When I lose motivation to knock out my task list on a long, hot afternoon, I draw fresh inspiration from Christian authors like Dorothy Sayers, who remind me, “We are made in the image of a Maker,” and my work is a part of my humanity. When I read a news story that recounts the millions of women who’ve lost jobs due to the pandemic, I rework plans for our largest annual event, Business for the Common Good, to reflect God’s own concern for the vulnerable (Exodus 3:17). There is simply no extracting faith from my daily work. My working life is spent at the intersection of my human experience. If I was to remove faith from my working life, it would make me not just less Christian, but less human.

Why should we bring our whole self to work, including our faith? Well, for the Christian, there is no other option. The very oldest Christian confession is, “Jesus is Lord,” (1 Corinthians 12:3). For the early church, calling Jesus kurios (“lord”)was a challenge to Caesar’s claim to that same title. Both Jesus and Caesar claimed ultimate allegiance, forcing early Christians to make a choice. The early church chose the name ekklesia tou Theou (“church of God”), refusing the official protection of “private cults” by the Roman empire, precisely because an ekklesia was a public assembly to which all people in the empire were summoned to discuss the public affairs of the city. The followers of Jesus were making their own self-understanding clear: the church would not be merely a “private religion,” but would instead be public assembly by which all humanity is summoned, called by God himself.

Today, our modern notions of a strict divide between public and private, sacred and secular, faith and work trace their ancestry originally to Greek dualism, and more recently to Enlightenment thinking, which places the individual human at the center of the universe. Indeed, the idea that people could be “religious” at some times and “secular” at others is a relatively new notion. (Peter Berger’s The Sacred Canopy and Charles Taylor’s A Secular Ageare helpful here.) Yet it is that awkward but unspoken expectation of fencing off our deepest convictions that still dominates most government, corporate, and nonprofit entities today. And so, millions of men and women across faith traditions are forced to ask, how am I supposed to be fully human at work, but ignore the very source of my humanity for the majority of my waking hours?

In my own tradition — I am a Presbyterian drawing from the rich well of historic American Protestantism — there has been much handwringing about this question, especially in the context of a changing culture. Pew reports that in just the last 30 years, the percentage of U.S. adults who identify as Christians has declined from 87% to 65%, whereas the number of adults who claim to be “religiously unaffiliated” has swelled from 8% to 26%. That’s 30 million more “nones” than just 10 years ago.

As culture has shifted from a Judeo-Christian social consensus to a secular one in the last 60 years, I lament that the Christian response has largely been around the politicization of faith, the privatization of belief, or the accommodation to culture. In one camp, the culture wars rage on and faith is politicized in a battle for control over the future of America. Others largely retreat from culture, content either to restrict faith to “just my private belief” or live in evangelical subcultures neatly removed from mainstream culture. Yet, by far the most common response is Christians accommodating to popular culture, adopting whatever social, cultural, or economic practices are popular in the moment. Each of these play out as Christians try to answer the question: what does faith mean for my life, my work, and the world I live in?

At Denver Institute for Faith & Work, we believe that work is a way to love God, serve our neighbors, and demonstrate the gospel. We believe vocation is first a call to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27; Matthew 22:37-40). Vocation is our response to God’s voice in all areas of life, including our work.

I think many people, including much of corporate America, see this view and feel concerned that bringing your faith to work will cause conflict between people of divergent beliefs. But in my experience, the opposite has been the case. Pete Ochs creates and runs Seat King, a company that manufactures car seats inside a medium-security prison and gives prisoners a fair wage, “life lessons,” and a newfound sense of dignity. Young professionals tackle the challenges of social media, innovate new HR benefits for refugees working in pallet company, and highlight the plight of undocumented immigrants in local newspaper — all as an expression of their faith. From tech workers advocating for better family leave policies to investors humbly admitting they have an anger problem and recommitting to emotional healing, faith in the workplace can be a powerful force for good.

Of course, Christians also sin, and as such, “bringing your whole self to work” can also mean bringing greed, lust, pride, envy, prejudice, and laziness to the workplace as well. I myself have been a fine example of many of these vices to my coworkers and family. Yet, it’s in moments of being drawn to addiction, self-aggrandizement, or brute selfishness that I need God in my own work all the more. Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn once wrote in The Gulag Archipelago, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart….” I think many of us are tempted to believe that the problem with our world today is “them.” But daily I’m reminded that the greatest problem our world faces beats within my own breast.

Two millennia ago, when Jesus was being crowded by throngs of admirers, he hopped in a boat, pushed off from shore, and began to teach. Voice echoing off the water’s surface, he told the story of a farmer who found a treasure buried in a field. Wild with excitement, he sold all he had to buy the field, knowing that in the end he was getting an incredible deal. Similarly, he told the story of a merchant in search of pearls. When he found one, overcome with joy, he too sold everything he had just to possess that single treasure (Matthew 13:44-45).

When I was a boy, strolling along the shores of Lake Itasca and hunting for oysters, my work was simply to delight in the world around me. Now as an adult, nonprofit leader, husband, and father, my work now is to allow that same pearl of God’s grace to permeate my daily life. For me, like the headwaters of the Mississippi River, God is the Living Water who has given me new life (John 4:14-16). If everybody worships, as the late David Foster Wallace claimed, is it such a strange thing to acknowledge that source of life in our working life?

So why faith and work? Like a merchant finding a pearl — or a child finding a shell on a lakeshore — the answer for the Christian is simple: joy.

This post first appeared at Denver Institute.

TheologyWork

Reflections: 2020 Annual Report

The following is an introductory letter for our annual report I wrote to our supporters at DIFW. If you’d like a physical copy of the report, visit this page.

Dear Friends,

Annual reports have a way of being sent, paged through, and put in the recycle bin rather quickly. We know this because we’ve done it so many times, too. 

This is why Denver Institute for Faith & Work created a unique annual report this year that doubles as a personal reflection guide for your own walk with Christ in 2020. 

After a painful, jarring year, we at DIFW reflected on all the changes in our own lives and work. Our reflections centered around four seasons:

  • Celebration: We launched 2020 with our largest event ever.
  • Lament: In March 2020, the world abruptly changed with the arrival of COVID-19, deepening personal, professional, and social tensions.
  • Redirection: Our work abruptly needed to change to adjust to a new reality.
  • Gratitude: As we ended 2020, we were left with a deep and unexpected sense of gratitude. 

We structured each section of this annual report as narrative reflections on our own work at DIFW, and intentionally left space for you to journal, reflect, and pray through your own story in 2020. 

This annual report is meant to be an invitation to pause and invite the Lord into your memories, allowing him to heal wounds and grow his life within. I hope you’ll put this year’s annual report next to your bed and spend some time reflecting on the presence of the Spirit in pain, the goodness of God in seasons of change, and hope of the resurrection of Christ for the year to come. 

I want to thank you again for your generous giving to the formation of men and women to serve God, neighbor, and society through their work. Your prayers, financial support, and participation in our mission continue to make an impact.

Grateful,


Jeff Haanen

Founder & CEO
P.S. You can make a deeper impact by becoming a monthly donor. Visit denverinstitute.org/give to give today. Thank you for your continued support.

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CultureTheologyWork

Easter is More than a Metaphor (Op-Ed for the Denver Gazette)

When I think of Easter, I think of the pink crabapple trees blossoming in early April along the north side of Caley Avenue in my home town of Littleton. 

I think of Easter egg hunts on budding green church lawns packed with girls in pastel dresses and boys in clip-on ties, carrying baskets filled with eggs, chocolate, and plastic green grass (that ends up on my carpet). I think of Easter brunch: fruit, egg bakes, and mimosas. And I think of leisurely walks through garden centers, smelling fresh soil, fresh seeds and new beginnings. 

Yet for me at least, the metaphor of Easter as a mere symbol is falling short. This year was simply filled with too much pain. 

This last year, I remember looking into a hazy, yellow sky and feeling the ash fall on my face from raging Colorado wildfires. I remember a friend of mine telling me about the piercing anxiety he felt as he watched from his balcony the dumpster fires move closer to home after the George Floyd protests. I remember walking along Civic Center Park and running my fingers along the splintered plywood now covering the windows of the old Denver Post building on 101 West Colfax. I remember the ghostly feeling of walking through an empty 16th Street Mall on a sunny April afternoon. I remember the tears my daughters cried when I told them their summer swim team, the Franklin Fish, had been canceled.

And this week, I remember the 10 lives lost in the Boulder King Soopers shooting, opening yet again the 20-year-old wound of Columbine that casts a shadow over our “best-state-to-live-in” reputation. 

Springtime sentimentality is no match for the harsh finality of death. 

And yet, Easter is not a metaphor. 

American poet and novelist John Updike once wrote:

Make no mistake: if He rose at all

It was as His body;

If the cells dissolution did not reverse, the molecules

Reknit, the amino acids rekindle

The Church will fall.

In other words, the Christian church and faith rests on a single, historical event: the resurrection of Jesus’ physical body. 

Updike writes, “Let us not mock God with metaphor, analogy, sidestepping transcendence,” alluding to the categorization of Christian faith as myth. The resurrection was not like a spring garden nor a parable of well wishes. Christians assert, “the same valved heart / that – pierced – died, withered, paused, and then / regathered out of enduring Might.” 

The early apostles struggled to believe in an actual, physical resurrection. Thomas famously said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my fingers where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” John the apostle reports Jesus’ reply: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 

The New Testament authors were making a clear claim: Jesus was no ghost. He could be touched. He ate food with his disciples. He had a body. Here was no ancient mythology of life, death and rebirth. Death itself was being unraveled by the Author of Life. 

Denver can feel like a polarized place, like the rest of our country. Yet on Easter morning, men and women across the city declare a single truth with a rare unity. 

From the Episcopalians at Saint John’s Cathedral to the evangelicals of Fellowship Denver Church; from the multicultural worshippers at Colorado Community Church to the Pentecostals at Potter’s House; from the Anglicans at Wellspring Church in Englewood to the Wesleyans at Trinity Methodist tucked between skyscrapers at 18th and Broadway; from the professionals at Cherry Creek Presbyterian in the Tech Center to the homeless at Denver Rescue Mission to the online worshippers quarantined in their homes from Northglenn to Castle Pines — for one morning, each echo the words of an angel, “Do not be afraid, for I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see.” 

So what? What does the resurrection mean for a city still aching with emptiness, loss, and pain?

I believe it means three things. First, it means death is not the end. Second, it means that Christ has come not just to give meaning to life after death, but to bring his life to this world. His bodily resurrection is the beginning point of a new way to be human. And third, it means that the hard work ahead of reopening restaurants, helping students catch up, and rebuilding our economy is indeed work worth doing, because God seems to think this world is worth saving (John 3:16). 

Easter may not be a metaphor, but it is a new beginning. It reminds us that today is a time to plant, to hope, and to begin new projects that can bloom, like a budding crabapple blossom lining the streets of a waiting city. 

Jeff Haanen is the founder of Denver Institute for Faith & Work and the 5280 Fellowship, a nine-month experience in spiritual formation, professional development, and civic engagement for emerging leaders in Denver. This op-ed first appeared in the Denver Gazette.

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