Jeff Haanen

Category

Theology

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TheologyWork

Looking Forward to Hearing Sandra McCracken May 19

 

This morning I woke up feeling a little sour. So I pulled out an old worship song I’ve loved, “Thy Mercy, My God,” only to see that it was originally written by Sandra McCracken, whom Denver Institute is hosting May 19 for it’s annual celebration. (And we’re also hosting a special gathering for pastors and worship leaders with Sandra that afternoon.)  I’m so looking forward to our time that evening, I thought I’d post some of my favorite Sandra McCracken songs on my blog this morning. Enjoy – and I hope to see you in a couple weeks.

 

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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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EconomyPoliticsTheology

Loving Faithful Institutions: The Building Blocks of a Just Global Society (From Comment Magazine)

 

Occasionally I’ll post on this blog an article I really like. And I really like this one by Dr. Jonathan Chaplin, who’s on the divinity faculty at Cambridge University. It’s about an unpopular topic that should be popular: the importance of institutions. One of my convictions at the founding of DIFW was that in order to change the conversation about faith and public life in Denver, we needed not just an event or a “network” – we needed an institution that can last for years, decades…generations. And that meant doing things like admin work, building a board, building long-term relationships, writing emails, and zillions of other unsexy tasks.  

Happy reading – and I hope you’ll commit yourself to building strong, healthy institutions as well. 

Postmodern Christians won’t get very far in transforming society until they learn to love institutions again.

Institutions and organizations are out; networks and relationships are in—or so goes conventional “postmodern” wisdom on how to transform society, at least among those who hold out hope that societal transformation is still possible, who resist the despair implied in a consistent logic of deconstruction.

Yet I want to propose that a credible twenty-first century Christian voice on the theme of economy and hope needs to affirm loving institutions as key building blocks in any constructive response to our current economic and political malaise. To complicate this thesis, I also propose that Christians need to reckon with the fact that all institutions are in some sense faith-based, and that Christians should be unapologetic both about working to shape existing institutions from within according to their own vision of hope or, where necessary, founding their own institutions.

The current narrative favoured by many Christian progressives isn’t very congenial toward these proposals. Institutions, so the story goes, are the classic instruments of social control generated by “modernity.” Shaped according to the imperatives of instrumental rationality and bureaucratic efficiency, they serve the interests of oppressive global capital—entrenching economic inequality, stifling human creativity, and suppressing dissent. They march toward their hegemonic goals regardless of the welfare of the people they purportedly exist to serve—those whom they promised to liberate from the supposed bondage, ignorance, and squalor of preindustrial society.

But many critics now observe that modernity and its leading institutional bridgeheads are beginning to teeter. They point to deep fault lines appearing on the smooth surface of institutional bureaucracies and to new social formations emerging in the wings. To many people, the cumulative and interconnected failures of modernity—economic, political, environmental, and spiritual—seem to herald the decline of institutions and the arrival of new models of social interaction rooted in open, dynamic relational networks. These networks, it is said, are flexible enough to adapt to ever-changing contexts, and spacious enough to allow human beings to continually redefine their identities and projects and to realize greater freedom and authenticity.

Read the rest of the article at Comment Magazine.

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TheologyWork

The Prayer of Awareness

 

Several weeks ago I sat down to breakfast with my friend and spiritual mentor Barry. Since Barry is the CFO of a publicly traded company, I’m always wanting to talk business. Turn arounds, strategies, stock price, leadership. Yet he continually takes the conversation back to a moment-by-moment relationship with Christ.

“My spiritual director shared with me a practice that I’ve found very helpful,” Barry said. “And it centers on the concept of awareness. The first step in this prayer is just this: (1) Recognize that Jesus is aware of you in this moment.”

Awareness. Interesting thought. One of my unspoken barriers to prayer is that Jesus is high, far off, and mighty – and that I need to get in the right room, position, or posture to pray. But the truth is that Jesus, who is with us to the very end of the age, is aware of me right now. At a computer. On the way to the bathroom. In a meeting. In the car. Putting on my socks. That means he’s aware of my body, my feelings, and my innermost thoughts.

“From there,” Barry continued, “simply do this: (2) Say to him one thing that’s important to you.” For example, it could be an email you’re waiting on from a prospective client, the stress of your kids not listening to you, or the pain of an ongoing addiction. It could be anything. But it makes sense: if Jesus is aware of me right now, the first step in a simple conversation between friends would be to share one thing that’s important to me.

“Finally, after you’ve done this,” Barry said, “(3) Listen for one thing that’s important to Jesus that He wants you to know.” As I started to apply this to my own work day, this final step was surprisingly easy. “Trust me. I will provide,” was the answer I got to a lot of my own worries about money. I also felt like Scripture would pop into my mind from my time reading the Bible in the morning. “I am with you. Don’t be afraid. Bring your anxiety to me and I will give you peace.”

I’m just starting to practice the Prayer of Awareness. But there’s two reasons why I’m hopeful that this practice can grow my relationship with Christ:

(1) It only takes about 15 seconds. I can do it while pumping gas, nodding off on a conference call, or after a conflict with my wife. It works just as well walking to the bathroom at work as it does at home with my kids.

(2) It doesn’t require much holiness! Just honesty. Christ is aware of me right now, in this moment. I don’t have to do some kind of elaborate preparation for prayer nor find just the right words to pray. (Often, when I pray in groups, to be honest, only half of it is actual conversation with God. The other half is performance for others in the room.)

As I type this article, he sees, listens, and cares for me. Because this is true, I can share simply what’s important to me, and listen for what’s important to him, as anybody would do with a friend.

If you decide to practice this prayer this week, I’d like to hear from you. Contact me with your story, and, with your permission, I’ll share it here.

Photo: Walking to Work 

The Prayer of Awareness

  1. Recognize that Jesus is aware of you in this moment.
  2. Say to Him one thing that’s important to you.
  3. Listen for one thing that’s important to Jesus that He wants you to know.
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CultureTheologyWorld

Nine Quotes from Author Gisela Kreglinger on “The Spirituality of Wine”

 

On Sunday evening we had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Gisela Kreglinger (PhD in historical theology, University of St. Andrews) at Denver Institute for Faith & Work. She spoke on her delightful, powerful book The Spirituality of Wine (Eerdmans, 2016). Here are nine quotes from the event (posted on my Twitter feed ) that gave me new appreciation for God’s world and his good gifts – including the gift of wine (especially Pinot Noir!). (And here’s another article Joanna Meyer wrote on the book before the event).

Enjoy!

1. “The reason why wine is compared to the kingdom of God is because it’s vast and beautiful.”

2. “Exploring the spirituality of wine is a way to develop a theology for all of life – and a theology of joy.”

3. “Thirst for perfection is the death of joy,” (Alexander Schmemann).

4. “Reconnecting with ‘place’ – including where our food and drink come from – is a gift of God.”

5. “Attention, taken to it’s highest degree, is the same thing as prayer,” (Simone Weil).

6. “Holy intoxication can help us relax, be vulnerable, and take off our masks. Not alcohol abuse but communal feasting.”

7. “I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).

8. “Stop and smell, simply because it’s beautiful. [Referring to wine.] It’s God’s creation.”

9. “Wine is God’s way of kissing humanity.”

 

 

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EconomyTheologyVocation

The Miracle of the Reformers: Why Teaching Your Kids Hymns is Good for the Economy

 

Perhaps the songs we teach our children is one the most important legacies we can leave for posterity.

This morning I sat down to breakfast with my wife and four daughters. After eggs and sausage, we listened to the classic hymn “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.” My wife educates our kids (and really our whole family), and this year we’re memorizing classic hymns, with the hunch that our ancestors have new light to shed on our 21st century lives.

Amongst the sound of chattering kids and clanking forks and knives, my wife turned on the iPad at the breakfast table and flipped on the speaker.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Written in 1680 by Joachim Neader, a German Reformed Calvinist, I couldn’t help but notice that this song begins not only with worship, but by affirming that God is the King of all creation. He is provider for both our bodies (our health and material needs) and our souls (salvation).

It’s kinda funny to listen to my four-year-old Alice pronounce the Victorian English of the translation, so I kept listening while sipping my coffee.

Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Our desires have all been granted by “what He ordaineth?” Could anything be more different from the version of capitalism we see today, so well summed up by Andrew Carnegie: “The art of capitalism is turning luxuries into necessities.” Wouldn’t this Puritan view of God’s provision – even for our desires – lead to radical contentment? And even thrift, since we have all we really need and even desire in what God has given us?

Now Cora is rocking back and forth to the tune, Sierra has paused from eating her hard-boiled egg (she won’t touch those blasted scrambled eggs), and we sing the third verse:

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee;
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

“Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee.” And here’s the miracle of the Puritans: the doctrine of vocation. All of life is to be lived for God, even our “secular work.” And when our work leads to prosperity, and even wealth, it’s a gift from God. It’s evidence of his daily “goodness and mercy.”

This is truly an incredible view of creation, money, work and contentment.

Some have argued that Reformed theology led to a magical combination: hard work, wealth creation, thrift, honesty created the explosion of wealth from 1500 to today. It was Christian theology that led to excess wealth (who needs to spend more if you’re content with what you have?), which led to capital investments, and, eventually, capital markets that built the modern economy.  Not all agree with that view. But some do.

Listen to this perspective from a Chinese scholar.  Dr. Peter Zhao Xiao is a high ranking economist in the Chinese Communist party. In 2002, he was sent by his superiors to the United States to research why the American economy had been so prosperous. After visiting the USA for months, he concluded that the secret to the American economy was their churches.

He penned an essay entitled “Churches in the Market Economy”, which would subsequently be read by over 100 million people.

“Americans are not idiots,” he wrote to his Chinese countrymen.

“Their need for churches is overwhelming, and churches provide something in answer to their call — there is definitely some principle at work. During my time in America, the relationship of churches with America’s economy, society, and politics became the issue that most often occupied my mind…At its heart the problem could be stated as a comparison between market economies with churches and market economies without churches.”

So what was his conclusion? Christians who attend church drive the market economy because their faith encourages them to spurn idleness, be honest, and discourage “injury” (cheating, lying, stealing). Here’s the logic of his argument:

  • A market economy alone may encourage industriousness, but it also might encourage industrious lying, cheating, and stealing.
  • This is (as of 2002) the problem with the Chinese economy: Getting wealthy by any means necessary creates collusion between government and business rather than accountability. Personal profit rather than doing what’s right damages everything from upholding contracts to funding businesses that extract wealth rather than create it.

The problem? It’s one of faith, says Dr. Zhao Xiao.

“These days Chinese people do not believe in anything. They don’t believe in god, they don’t believe in the devil, they don’t believe in providence, they don’t believe in the last judgment, to say nothing about heaven. A person who believes in nothing ultimately can only believe in himself. And self-belief implies that anything is possible — what do lies, cheating, harm, and swindling matter?”

  • Market economies with churches, however, tend to uphold the rule of law and ethics like integrity and honesty.

“It is people who turn their eyes to church spires who generally respect financial norms and integrity… Puritans, though they may be called the most fervent people in the world in their drive to accumulate wealth, nevertheless do not pursue wealth for personal benefit but rather ‘to the glory of God.’”

Divine reward and punishment caused Reformed Christians not only to create wealth, but to also be honest, thrifty, and committed to the public good rather than merely private benefit.

  • Zhao Xiao’s conclusion: “From the perspective of human society, the most successful model is church + market economy. That is to say, the happy combination of a market economy that discourages idleness together with a strong faith (ethics) that discourages dishonesty and injury.” As you can imagine, coming from a high ranking Communist party economist, this perspective was wildly controversial.

Going back to “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation,” you can see how this kind of theology might create a society of both honesty and prosperity.

(1) God is King over all of creation, including the natural world, the social world, and our economic affairs.

(2) God provides for the needs of his people, which means they can be content with what they have. It also means we’re accountable to God for how we use what he’s given us, including our wealth.

(3) Work is a gift of God, and so are the fruits of our work, such as profit. As such, wealth is to be used for the public good, and not only personal benefit. And our work should be dedicated to living for “God’s glory” rather than personal success.

It’s unfashionable today to say that the market economy is fundamentally dependent on the ethical system derived from Christianity. But there’s strong evidence that this is the truth – and that economies are fundamentally dependent on ethics like trust for growth.  There’s also strong evidence that a secular economy, like we see emerging in Europe and America, is weaker and more stagnant. (See for Harvard President Larry Summer’s “The Age of Secular Stagnation.”)

On a personal level, there’s also strong evidence that teaching my kids reformation-era hymns is not only good for their souls but also for the world. A brief point of application: Let’s start sharing songs that affirm God’s activity in creation, his provision for our needs, and the gift of work. Here’s a good place to begin.

Discussion: Would you leave your favorite creation-affirming or work-affirming hymn or contemporary song in the comments section below?

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BusinessEconomyTheologyWork

The Quiet Unraveling of Work in America

 

On July 16-19, I will be presenting a brief paper at the Christian Economic Forum in San Francisco entitled, “The Quiet Unraveling of Work in America: Three Economic Challenges and What Christian Leaders Can Do.” The CEF Leadership collated the conference papers into a book, and kindly provided a PDF of my paper for distribution. The content of the paper is below, and the PDF can be accessed by clicking the link above.

The Quiet Unraveling of Work in America

Three Economic Challenges and What Christian Leaders Can Do

On August 1, 2007, the I35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis looked like any other bridge in America. Commuters stuck in rush hour were waiting impatiently, talking on their phones, and assuming they would get safely to their destinations. Yet at 6:05 p.m., a strange noise was heard underneath the bridge. Suddenly it collapsed, sending 111 vehicles and 18 construction workers plummeting 115 feet into the river. In total, 13 people were killed and 145 injured in an unexpected tragedy.

In the same way, on the surface the American economy looks healthy. The Dow Jones is now over 20,000, unemployment rates are low, and economic growth is strong. But there are signs that the support system under the bridge of the American economy is beginning to wobble.

There are three worrisome signs that our economic support structure–the American workforce–is beginning to unravel:

  • Prime age men are exiting the workforce at historically unprecedented rates.
  • The “precarious” economy has made work for millions more part-time, less stable, and less connected to a coherent career-path.
  • Work is now defined by a narrative of individual achievement rather than service, which puts stress on businesses, levels of public engagement, and our pension system.

This essay briefly explores each of these three challenges to work in America, in addition to what Christian leaders might do to heal these fissures in American life.

Men Without Work

There is a silent army of able-bodied men in America who have dropped out of the workforce. Nicholas Eberstadt’s new book, Men Without Work, shows that from 1948-2015 the percentage of prime age men in the workforce dropped from 85.8% to 68.2%, a rate lower than it was in the 1930s during the Great Depression.[i] Today there are 10 million men ages 25-54 who are either unemployed or have stopped looking for work altogether.[ii]

Perhaps more overwhelming is the fact that these men tend to have no college degree, no wife or children, and live in economically depressed parts of the United States such as Appalachia, the Rust Belt, or the Deep South. Books like Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America from 1960-2010 show that the white working class is no longer the virtuous “blue collar America” of political lore. Murray notes that less than a third of children grow up in households with both biological parents, men claim disability benefits at alarming rates, and church-going rates have plummeted.[iii]

J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family & Culture in Crisis has pulled back the veil on what it’s like to live in white working class America. Raised by his Mamaw (grandmother), Vance grew up with a host of father figures, a drug addicted mother, and in a culture of hillbilly honor, often retaliating at every slight, especially toward outsiders.

Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, notes that among America’s white working class–many of whom were the key swing voters for Donald Trump–suffering and resentment is rampant. Among this group, cirrhosis of the liver is up 50%, suicide has increased 78%, and drug and alcohol poisonings have skyrocketed 323% since 1999.[iv]

“There is indeed a gap in this country, and it has now led to a political revolution, a significant realignment in American politics,” Brooks writes. “But the relevant gap wasn’t income.” For blue collar America that has seen manufacturing jobs go overseas and real wages decline, the relevant gap was a loss of dignity.

The Splintered Career

Another factor impacting the American economy is that the age of working for a single employer for a career is long gone.

Today, we live in the “gig” economy. In 2015, freelancers in the US labor force numbered an estimated 54 million, or as much as one third of the workforce.[v] Researchers have dubbed this the “precarious” economy as they describe the massive shift toward temporary, part-time, or contract work. Today, the average job tenure is less than 4 years (and closer to 18 months for millennials) and a young worker can expect to have 11-12 careers over a lifetime.[vi]

Both low-income and middle class workers have entered new territory. The challenge for the poor is trying to cobble together a variety of part-time jobs to support their families, most of which pay no benefits. Sociologist Allison J. Pugh found that many low-income families struggle to stay afloat financially as they try to navigate constantly changing social ties, relationships, and employers.[vii]

For the middle class, the challenge is to “reinvent yourself” constantly, learning new technologies and skills throughout a lifetime. A college degree 20 years ago is no longer enough. The job you prepared for at university may no longer exist today. Technology is transforming the professions as much as it is the trades.

The challenge for both groups is to find a sense of vocational identity and social location in a community amidst constantly changing careers. “What do you do?” is now a hard question to answer at a dinner party. Even harder is trying to figure out what you might do for a paycheck tomorrow.

The “Big Me” Culture

A final worrisome sign of trouble in American workforce is that we now live in a work culture that prizes individual achievement and personal gain over sacrificial service.

“We have seen a shift,” says The New York Times columnist David Brooks, “from a culture of humility to what you might call the Big Me.”[viii] In his book, The Road to Character, Brooks explains that since WWII America has shifted from a culture that was realistic about sin and personal limitation to one of self-centeredness, personal achievement, and “belief in yourself.”

As the positive psychology movement advanced in post-war America, the doctrine of sin was replaced with a doctrine of self-esteem. Today, fueled by social media, we tend to see work as the chance to make a mega impact or to build our LinkedIn profiles. Humility has become a lost virtue.

This view of work tends to have three economic consequences.

First, sustainable businesses (and economies) are built on trust and the ability to serve the long-term needs of their customers. Business practices fueled by short-term thinking and personal gain can damage entire economies, as we saw in the Great Recession of 2007-2008.

Second, healthy economies need a robust civil society to provide for core social needs apart from government aid. In The Great Degeneration, historian Niall Ferguson shows that numbers of volunteers have plummeted in the past generation, putting more pressure on governments to pay for socially beneficial programs.[ix]

Third, our aging American population is fast becoming an enormous economic liability. As Baby Boomers retire yet live longer–often for 20-30 years drawing on pension benefits–the economic stress on state and federally funded pension plans is fast reaching a tipping point.[x]

In each of these circumstances, when work is about personal benefit rather than contribution to the community, we see increasing stress put on the wobbly beams of our economic bridge.

Three Tasks for Christian Leaders

Considering these three trends–men without work, the splintered career, and the culture of the Big Me–what can Christian leaders do? I believe three things will help rebuild the structures of our shaky economic bridge.

  1. Recovery of Dignity (and the Doctrine of the Image of God) – The Bible teaches that all people are made in God’s image and have inherent dignity (Gen. 1:27-28). Moreover, meaningful work is a gift of God and a way we express our God-given value (Gen. 2:15; 1Pet. 2:10). In a culture of “men without work,” we must not only praise the work of men but also work to provide quality jobs that allow them to provide for their communities. This needs to be the basis for new educational and workforce development programs across the US.
  2. Recovery of Mutual Responsibility (and the Doctrine of the Church) – We need each other. Management and employees, customers and suppliers, products and producers: we depend on one another for our housing, our food, our laws, and our well-being. Calvinist reformers saw social organization in terms of the Body of Christ, where members depended on one another. Christian leaders must resist seeing employees as mere “human resources,” but seek ways to provide good jobs with meaningful work to men and women across industries. Projects like Zeynep Ton’s The Good Jobs Strategy show that profit and compassion (business success and investing in employees) are not contradictory but can be complementary.[xi]
  3. Recovery of the Doctrine of Vocation – “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give himself as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Work is about service, not our own career success or quarterly shareholder reports. Just after WWII, theologian Elton Trueblood said, “A Church which seeks to lift our sagging civilization will preach the principle of vocation in season and out of season. The message is that the world is one, secular and sacred, and that the chief way to serve the Lord is in our daily work.”[xii] Vocation is a summons to service–of God and neighbor. Here is the elixir to our economic woes, and the quiet strength still present in the American people.

 Photo credit: Union Workers.

 

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[i] Nicholas Eberstadt, Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis (West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press, 2016).

[ii] Derek Thompson, “The Missing Men,” The Atlantic, June 27, 2016, accessed at: http://theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/06/the-missing-men/488858/

[iii] Charles Murray, Coming Apart: The State of White America from 1960-2010 (New York: Crown, 2012).

[iv] Arthur Brooks, “How Donald Trump Filled the Dignity Deficit,” The Wall Street Journal, November 9, 2016, accessed at: https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-donald-trump-filled-the-dignity-deficit-1478734436

[v] Louis Hyman, “The Rise of the Precarious Economy,” The Hedgehog Review, 18, no. 1, (Spring 2016):18-32.

[vi] Josh Bersin, “The Future of Work: It’s Already Here – and Not As Scary As You Think,” Forbes, September 21, 2016, accessed at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2016/09/21/the-future-of-work-its-already-here-and-not-as-scary-as-you-think/print

[vii] Allison J. Pugh, The Tumbleweed Society: Working and Caring in an Age of Insecurity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

[viii] David Brooks, The Road to Character (New York: Random House, 2015).

[ix] Niall Ferguson, The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die (New York: Penguin, 2013).

[x] Tyler Durden, “’This is Going To Be A National Crisis,’ – One of the Largest US Pension Funds Set to Cut Retiree Benefits,” April 20, 2016, accessed at: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-04-20/going-be-national-crisis-one-largest-us-pension-funds-set-cut-retiree-benefits

[xi] Zeynep Ton, The Good Jobs Strategy: How the Smartest Companies Invest in Employees to Lower Costs and Boost Profits, (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2014).

[xii] Elton Trueblood, The Common Ventures of Life: Marriage, Birth, Work, Death (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1949).

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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…

TheologyWork

Work Makes the World

 

Note: The following is a speech I gave at the January 13, 2017 fundraiser “Work Makes the World.” To make a donation to Denver Institute, go to our give page.

Thank you for coming tonight. Thanks for Jim Howey and Steve Hill hosting us at Blender Products, and thank you to Cañon Catering for the delightful meal. And thank you to our table sponsors.

And in case I don’t get another chance: a huge thank you to Joanna Meyer, our Program Director at DIFW, for organizing this tonight. Incredible work.

I’m often asked by friends and donors why I started Denver Institute for Faith & Work (DIFW) in 2013. Seems like a strange thing to do in the evenings while working a full-time job that barely paid the bills!

I’d like to share with you tonight three reasons why I started DIFW back in 2013.

I want to camp on the question of why because What we do is easier to explain: we’re a Denver nonprofit that provides theological education on issues of work, calling and culture. Or put in other terms: through our programming we provide a continuing Christian liberal arts education for business leaders, doctors, engineers, pastors, lawyers, creatives, craftsmen, and other professionals in the day-to-day challenges of their careers.

But why grow and build an institution committed solely committed to Christian faith and what it means for our work? Why invest in such an endeavor?

When asked that question, I generally respond that “I started Denver Institute because of three growing convictions in my heart about: (1) the mission of the church, (2) Christian cultural involvement, and (3) the transformative effects of responding to God’s call.”

Conviction #1: Work is critical to the church’s mission in the 21st century. 

About 10 years ago I went to seminary.  This means I learned how to diagram sentences of Greek grammar, defend the doctrine of the hypostatic union, and play Frisbee golf.  I also learned, especially in the years after seminary, that the best theology lessons usually happen at Jake’s Brew Pub in Littleton, Colorado.

In some of these conversations with my friends, I began to digest theologians like Lesslie Newbigin, N.T. Wright, C.S Lewis, and Dorothy Sayers. I came to believe that our daily work was essential – not tangential — to the mission of the church.

Take for example, John Stott. He was an Anglican priest and many see him as the leader of the Evangelical movement in the latter half of the 20th Century. I picked up his book Christian Mission in the Modern World, written in the 1970s. What, he asks, is the mission of the church?

Earlier in his life, he would have pointed only to the Great Commission: Go, make disciples, baptize. But later in his life he came to believe that just as Jesus was sent into the world as a servant, it’s the church’s mission not only to proclaim the gospel but also to serve the needs of the world.

Here’s what he says: “Jesus Christ calls all his disciples to ‘ministry,’ that is, to service. This much is certain: if we are Christians we must spend our lives in the service of God and man. The only difference between us lies in the nature of the service we are called to render.” Some will be pastors. Beautiful. Others commerce, law, education, medicine, manufacturing or farming, government, or homemaking. This is their form of service, their part in God’s mission.

In the years after seminary, this solved a puzzle for me. I felt a strong desire to serve God, but I failed gloriously at being a pastor – every church I applied to rejected my application. A being a lifelong overseas missionary never felt right. Had I missed something? Since I wasn’t in “ministry”, had I failed?  I’ve had this conversation with hundreds of men and women: Aren’t I supposed to be doing something more spiritual than this job?

As is, most of us in the the church today see mission merely as a two week trip overseas or a volunteer activity downtown.

But what if mission included these things, but touched a much broader swath of human life?

I started to ask, what if the church was sent out into all of creation, including fields like manufacturing, retail, the trades, business or health care? What if work was at the heart of all-of-life discipleship; to bringing the good news of Jesus to every area of our secular culture; and to humbly serving the needs of our world, from providing good paying jobs to America’s working class to caring for terminally-ill patients?

My first conviction that led to the founding of Denver Institute was that a renewed focus on work was necessary to carry out a broader understanding of the gospel, one that sees the death and resurrection of Jesus renewing every corner of the world.

This is core to the church’s own mission – yet so often overlooked.  In the words of Steve Reinemund, former Pepsi CEO and Dean of the Wake Forest Business School, “The workplace is the greatest mission field there is.”

Conviction #2: Work is at the heart of Christian cultural engagement.

The values we bring to work and the products and services we make at work form the unspoken heart of our civilization. As go our businesses, hospitals, government institutions, schools and workplaces, so goes our world.

Let me give you an example. In December, I had the privilege of profiling Robin John, the founder of a mutual fund company called Eventide Funds, for Christianity Today. One of his first jobs after graduating from college took him from Boston back to India, the land of his birth, to train new employees. One day, staying in the guest house of an Indian firm, he asked the housekeepers where they slept. He discovered that in the four-bedroom house, they slept in a closet behind the kitchen on the concrete floor, with just a mat and rags for a pillow. Outraged, he notified his company of the housekeepers living conditions – but the two men begged him not to pursue the the matter or they’d lose their jobs and be back in the slums.

When Robin returned to the US, the air of his bank’s home office was also heavy with tension. Outsourcing to India meant cutting jobs in the US. Now his American co-workers would also plea with them: “If my job is going to India, you have to let me know. I’ve got a family.”

Robin had an “Aha” moment. “I started realizing that work is not just work. People’s lives are being impacted.” Work was shaping the culture around him – and shaping people’s lives.

Today, we gather together at Blender Products, a local metal manufacturer, to say “Work Makes the World.” Work makes our buildings, our schools, our clinics, our laws, our art, our policies, and our wealth.

And Christians have been at it for centuries: Fourth century Bishop Basil of Caesarea created the first public hospital; Italian merchants set the foundations for capitalism in the 12th century; Bach wrote symphonies, signing them Soli Deo Gloria; Ministers created the majority of American universities in the early republic well before they secularized in the late 19th and early 20th century; Martin Luther King led the civil rights movement as a Baptist preacher and Francis Perkins advocated for labor rights. Work not only makes the world, it makes – or breaks –  civilizations.

Yet it stands today, and really for the last half century or so, many Christians have felt that the only way to influence culture is through electing the right political leaders in Washington. As we can see in a fractured republic, this has not worked out well for us. Our witness has been comprised by aligning ourselves with political ideologies, and the church has less influence than ever in America history. Washington is important, but it cannot solve the great moral crises of our day. We cannot pass the buck any longer; it is our responsibility to care for our neighbors.

There’s a better way:  No need to wait until the next election to influence culture – the chance to shape culture is staring us in the face every Monday morning. The choices we make daily in health care, finance, philanthropy, science, education, raising families — this is where we can best shape culture.

Conviction #3: Men and women who respond to God’s call in their professional lives have a transformative impact on those around them.

When I began to see this, the phrase “Faith and work” for me became synonymous with St Irenaeus famous statement: “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

Example abounded. Bill Kurtz, spurred by a sense of God’s call, founded Denver Schools of Science and Technology over a decade ago, whose students now perform in the top 5% of DPS schools, and 100% of whom have been accepted to a 4-year college. One of our guests tonight, Barry Rowan, financially turns around a publicly-traded company, saving hundreds of jobs – and doing so as a response to the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Two of our Fellows, whom you’ll hear from tonight – Banks Benitez and Rachel Moran – start social enterprises around the world and defend racial minorities in court from systemic discrimination.

The historic response of Protestants to God’s call on their lives and work laid the foundations for global capital markets, the spread of literacy, and better health care, and higher volunteer involvement in nongovernmental institutions throughout the world.

University of Virginia professor James Davison Hunter, In short, fidelity to the highest practices of vocation before God is consecrated and in itself transformational in its effects.”

As it is today, though, we have two enormous problems facing us at work. One one side, we undervalue work. Gallup polls show that only 13 percent of employees worldwide are “engaged” in their jobs — that is, they are consistently emotionally invested in, and focused on creating value for, their organizations. 63 percent are not engaged and 24 percent are actively disengaged.

Perhaps even more concerning is that the labor participation rate in America has steadily been dropping for the past 50 years. Today, about 10 million prime age men (25-54) are either unemployed or have dropped out of the workforce altogether — not even looking for work. Our attitudes about work have drifted significantly from historic ideas about calling.

On the other side, many of the upwardly mobile nearly worship their work. It becomes our primary source of meaning and value – until one day our hearts tell us the pursuit of mere career success has left us spiritually empty.

But there’s a middle way between undervaluing or overvaluing our work. For those who see their work as a gift from God and chance to serve their neighbor – that is, as a vocation – social, economic, and cultural ripple effects leaven entire communities. Tonight, we’ll have the chance to hear one of those stories right here in Denver, that of Karla Nugent, co-founder of Weifield Group Electrical Contracting.

Those were my three convictions that led to the founding of Denver Institute: the mission of the church, Christian cultural involvement, and the power of responding to God’s call.

Yet as I’ve been doing this work for the past four years now, a fourth reason has emerged. It’s invisible, yet it’s become the most important one for me.

Let me tell you a story about the Haanen family dinner table. I think we were arguing about asparagus. I had just sat down to dinner with my wife and daughters and amidst the noise and food flying to plates, I started to eat. I love asparagus. I really do. But when I waited until half way through the meal to put in on my plate, my wife made a comment, I retorted, and before I knew it, we were arguing about asparagus.

It had been a long week. She went downstairs and I started clearing the table, bewildered at what just had happened. My three girls were silent. So, in a vain attempt at humble confession, I said to our 6 year-old, “Sierra, there’s sin in the world. One day Jesus will come and wipe away all of our sin. You know what sin is, right Sierra?”

She replied. “Oh yeah dad. Like when you put Denver Institute in the place of God.”

I froze. In the weeks prior, I realized I had made work an idol. I realized at that point something critical: Because of my own sin, I might be causing just as many problems at DIFW as I’m solving. I need to change, grow, and mature – and I find this incredibly hard to do.

In 1910, a London newspaper sent out a question to their readers: “What’s the biggest problem in the world?” As you can imagine, they got a wide variety of responses: war, poverty, lack of education, access to health care, corruption. GK Chesterton, the famous author, wrote back a short response to the question “What’s the biggest problem in the world today?” He wrote to the editors, “Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely Yours, G.K. Chesterton.”

He knew we can’t solve the world’s problems and forget the central problem: the sin in our own hearts. Christians have what Immanuel Kant called “a crooked timber” view of humanity. We’re bent to the side. Sin shows up even in our best efforts to serve the world.

The challenge: we live in an age of what philosopher Charles Taylor calls “exclusive humanism,” the view that we humans can solve whatever problems we have without need of God.  And we’ve all seen this. We’ve been to fundraisers for every social issue under the sun and read daily about new technologies or companies that will make us live longer, happier, and healthier. It feels like our culture has said that God is unnecessary for our public life.

But as I take a look at even myself in the last week, the times I lost patience with my kids or was short with a co-worker, I haven’t even lived up to my own standards. I am bent. I am often overwhelmed, and filled with anxiety. I can’t even fix myself! I need God.

I need a community that can help me to find and serve God in my working life. That is what I hope Denver Institute for Faith & Work will become.

When I think of the future, I’m filled with hope and gratitude.

We at DIFW can’t solve all of our city’s problems. But because, as the old hymn says, “Our hope is built, on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness”, I have a deep hope for what God might do through us in the coming years. And so I dream.

What might it look like to build a gathering of business leaders in Colorado committed to a deep walk with Christ, strong theological thinking about wealth creation and business practices, and to serving the key social needs of our state? What might it look like to leverage the power of the internet to equip the global church in the area of faith, work and culture? What might it look like in 10 years, when the 5280 Fellows are leading in industries across Colorado, and do so with a deep humility?

I’m grateful you’ve come tonight to join us on the journey. You have my deep gratitude. I hope you enjoy the evening we have planned.

 

Thank you.

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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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