Jeff Haanen

Category

Theology

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Faith and Work MovementTheology

A Better Starting Point for the Faith and Work Movement, Part 2

 

In my last post, I mulled over all the times I buzzed around the topic of faith and work with pastors, only to bump into the screen door of misunderstanding time and time again. Sometimes I felt like a fly; other times like a mime trying to get my message across with frantic hand gestures.

Either way, I’ve concluded that the best place to start conversations around faith and work with pastors is this: Jesus’ death and resurrection begins the redemption of all of creation.

This doesn’t seem all that controversial, but I do think it is unique. Many of the theological voices I respect the most in the faith and work movement start with either Genesis 1-2 or Revelation 21-22. The idea is to regain both a knowledge of God as a Creator (and our identity as sub-creators and workers) or the fact that aspects of human culture (and work) will be in the renewed heavens and earth.  What’s central, they say, is to recover the “book ends” of Scripture.

Both of these themes and biblical passages are hugely important. We need to recover the grand biblical narrative.

But at the center of Christian faith is neither Genesis 1 & 2 nor the renewed heavens and earth. The center point of Christianity has always been the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If I share any common point with all pastors (and all Christians), here it is.

We are accustomed to thinking of Jesus’ death and resurrection primarily in terms of substitutionary atonement. And rightly so. But we are less likely to think of the events of Passion Week as a glorious beginning.

Let me try to explain myself by breaking the above statement into three parts:

  • “Jesus death and resurrection begins…” On Sunday morning, the first day of the week, as the morning sun dawned Mary found the tomb empty. She mistook Jesus for the gardener. But in a sense, the resurrected Christ was just the original Gardener: he was taking Mary back to the Garden of Eden. NT Wright makes the case that John’s account of the resurrection in John 20 is trying to point us to the creation narrative. Just as the Spirit of God hovered over the dark primordial chaos of Genesis 1:1-2, so the world was coming apart on Good Friday as dark clouds filled the air. And just as God spoke the universe into existence, so Resurrection Sunday is the beginning of the new world, the new creation.

First century Jews expected the resurrection to happen at the end of time, but in Christ, here is the resurrection in the middle of time. In a sense, because of the resurrection, heaven has already begun in this world.  In Christ, the restoration of the created order has begun, and his followers now are a part of that new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) in this age, in this fallen world.

  • “…the redemption…” In Al Wolters slim classic Creation Regained, he makes the case that the New Testament is loaded with words that begin with re-: re-demption, re-conciliation, re-storation, re-newal. Each has the connotation of going back to a prior healthy or whole state. Redemption is the recovery of freedom after having been enslaved; reconciliation is the making of peace between former friends who had become enemies; restoration is the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition. Jesus’ death and resurrection, therefore, means salvation is far wider and broader than my personal soul and spiritual destiny. He is the redeemer of the entire world (Col 1:15-20).
  • “…of all of creation.” Sin has infected everything: our hearts, our relationships, our work, our neighborhoods, our cities, and the physical world itself. But if sin is found all these areas, then Christ is in the business of bringing his resurrection life to all these areas as well. “He comes to make his blessings flow as far as the curse is found.” From golf course management to conservation efforts to the formation of government leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Church, which worships on the first day of the week, lives continually in light of the resurrection today, with a great and glorious hope hidden in our breasts, but soon to be revealed to all the world (Romans 8:19).

So what about work? If we think about “creation” in terms of plants, water or mountains, we’ve missed it. Creation is not just where we go hiking on Saturday. But even taking the example of plants, how do humans principally interact with plants? (1) Agriculture, and feeding the world. (2) Manufacturing, everything from pharmaceuticals to plastic bottles. (3) Conservation efforts, from Brazil to Africa. (4) Gardening! We make plants more fruitful for the sake of providing for human needs (including the need for beauty).

At each point, for better or worse, work is our human act of creation. The arena in which humans participate in, shape, and form creation is principally through work.

It’s a simple idea, but for those of us inside the faith and work movement, I think it’s centrally important to make the case that our message is central to the gospel itself.

If we can do this, we can ask bigger, broader questions about the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection for our calling, our work, our jobs, our neighborhoods, our economy, and all the industries, individuals and institutions that make up human civilization.  We may even convince more pastors to work together on sermons, songs, or Sunday school classes related to “theology of work” and calling.

In so doing we can continue the project that generations of Christians before us have begun – which today we now simply dub “the integration of faith and work.”

Photo Credit: The Empty Tomb, by George Richardson

This blog post first appeared on The Green Room.

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ArtCraftsmanship & Manual LaborCultureEconomyEducationFinanceMediaNonprofitPoliticsScienceTechnologyTheologyWorkWorld

Announcement: Launch of the 5280 Fellowship

Today is a big day.

Today my colleagues and I at Denver Institute for Faith & Work, in partnership with Gordon College, announce the launch of the 5280 Fellowship, a 9 month experience for emerging leaders beginning in the fall of 2016.

After years of planning, design and forging partnerships, each element of the program has fallen into place. And now what we are now offering is, I believe, one of the best faith-based fellowship programs in the US, and perhaps Denver’s premiere leadership experience for young professionals.

I know those are big claims. But I believe the 5280 Fellowship has the potential to deeply impact Denver for generations to come. And I’m not alone.

Some of Denver’s finest pastors – like Robert Gelinas (Colorado Community Church), Brad Strait (Cherry Creek Presbyterian), Rob Brendle (Denver United), Brian Brown (Park Church) and Hunter Beaumont (Fellowship Denver) – believe the Fellowship can be a life-changing experience for young professionals who want to deeply engage themes of calling, work, and culture.

Young professionals like Steven Strott (Cool Planet Energy Systems) and Amy Wofford (The Commons at Champa) see the value of connecting to a community of faithful leaders in Denver and articulate how important work is to the flourishing of a city.

And Dr. Michael Lindsay, the president of Gordon College who has deeply studied the world’s most effective leadership program, the White House Fellowship, believes this program, which has been modeled largely on his research, will give young professionals:

  • “deep relationships that span the city,”
  • a vision for how “the gospel provides a kind of connective tissue, helping us to see how does science and technology relate to the arts and entertainment,”
  • and a “catalyst in your career for the prospering not only of the wider culture, but also your life.”

Needless to say, if you’re asking big questions about the role of Christians in culture; if you’re interested in the relevance of the gospel to all of life; if you’re wondering about your own calling; and if you’re up for a challenge that could catalyze your career — then I encourage you to learn more at an upcoming info session.

Some of you may also be interested why we built the program as we did. On this blog, over the next several weeks, I’d like to peel back the veil on the principles underlying the Fellowship and why we built the program as we did. Blog posts will cover topics like:

  • Why Some Doctors Read the History of Opera: Leadership and Liberal Arts Thinking
  • EQ: Why Being a Good Conversationalist Might Be More Important Than an MBA
  • Why Nothing Before Age 20 Matters (And Why Your 20s-40s are the Most Critical to Career Success)
  • Calling: Learning to Listen to the Caller
  • Spelunking, Cave Formations and Culture Change
  • Our Common Longing: Meaningful Work
  • The Church in the World: Reformation, not Revolution
  • The Future of Higher Education: Friendships and the Information Deluge
  • The Golden Web: Mentors, Networks, and the Hidden Leadership Curriculum
  • Mission: Larger Than A Two Week Trip Overseas
  • Scattered: Being the Church Monday-Saturday
  • Significant Work: Developing a Taste for Tackling Big Problems

The launch of any new educational experience is really just the beginning of a conversation. This is a conversation on what it means to be fully human in this time and this place. I’d like to take the chance to invite you into this community.

I’d love to hear any and all feedback as the conversation grows. I hope you’ll consider joining me on this adventure into our own souls, the life of our city, and the heart of God.

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CultureTheologyWork

What Greg Thompson Can Teach Us About Living as Christians in Cities

Occasionally you meet somebody that shines with such virtue that you are, perhaps for the first time, made aware of your own poverty of spirit.

When I met Greg Thompson during our Thriving Cities symposium in late October, I almost immediately felt the weight of his glory. Before speaking to the crowd, he almost desperately asked me to let him know if there was anybody I knew at the event who had a particular hurt or pain that he could pray for. Unlike my concerns (Will the event be a success? Will people “like” the evening?), it seemed to me that his vision for the renewal of cities was almost completely driven by an other-worldly love.

It’s rare that I go back over a talk that a DIFW speaker has given several times to take notes, underline, and to pray. But when Greg spoke about our “shared wound and shared calling” to reimagine what a virtuous civic life might look like, it was not just my mind, but through sitting under his teaching, quietly my heart was drawn to the beauty of his vision.

Here are six movements Greg Thompson encouraged us to make as Christian people living in cities today. 

1. We need to move from a posture of victimhood to servanthood.

“It’s true, of course, that [Christians] are in fact an increasingly marginal people, a trend that looks to continue for a really long while — like a hundred years probably. And it is true that simply by virtue of having moral norms that we cling to, we can be seen as a moral threat to the aspirations of our nation. But it’s also true that Christ is risen, and that while we may be marginalized, we can never be victimized, for heaven’s sake. And to the contrary, we don’t live in this world either as masters or as victims but as servants.”

Fear is rampant in American culture, says Pulitzer-Prize winning author Marilynne Robinson. And I’ve felt this fear too. Just saying you’re a Christian can be a recipe for career sabotage or becoming socially ostracized.

But fear is not a Christian habit of mind  love is. Even as Christians are losing public influence and public voice, Greg reminded me that night at the event that we may be pushed to the margins, but we need never adopt a mentality of victimhood. We are here neither as “culture-shapers” (masters) nor culture-defenders (victims)  we are simply servants.  Those who have a deep, abiding hope in the risen Christ, and a enduring reason to love those with whom we live.

2. We need to move from hostility to hospitality.

“One of the most painfully evident aspects of the Church’s life  at least in public  is our fear and our contempt of those who differ from us. It is true that we do have and we must have deep differences with our neighbors. That’s what it means to have convictions in a pluralist age. And it is true that some of our neighbors are going to be hostile to us because we’re Christians… But it’s also true that God loved you and me while we were enemies. Our neighbors, every single one of them, is made in his image and they have an irreducible dignity. And we have to be the people  the poets  who can recognize the beauty where it is and welcome them in.”

As Greg said this, I was convicted. Do I assume that I’ll be persecuted for my faith in a secular city, and is that why I’m always defending myself before a conversation has ever begun? Why is it that as a shrinking minority I feel the need to assert my “rights” to live a Christian? How might I simply open my workplace, my office, my dining room table and share my life with those that disagree with me? This is what Christ has first done for me  yet what I also find so uncomfortable in the reality of my Tuesday mornings  and Saturday evenings.

Yet inviting in the stranger is perhaps one of the most powerful things people of Christian faith can do in this pluralistic age. 

3. We need to move from competition to collaboration.

One of the most disappointing afflictions in contemporary Christianity is the way that we seem more eager to build a brand for ourselves than to build a common good for us all…

“It is actually as we join together that we grow up into what [Paul] calls the full stature of mature, Christian personhood. And because of this, we’re called to labor diligently to situate our gifts not simply in relationship to our own personal sense of calling, but to our brothers and sisters — to not simply get up in the morning and ask ‘What do I want to do?’ but ask ‘What needs to be done?’ ‘Who’s doing it?’ and ‘How can I join them?’”

I’m guilty of this. We all are. Brands must be built  it’s the only way we can market our products in a noisy world. I get this. But can the boundaries between brands and competitors melt a bit? Can we find ways to work together with rival schools, rival tech companies, rival businesses  even “rival” churches  for the good of all? (Could we even find ways to bless our competitors?)

Finding a way to live in distinctive conviction yet humble collaboration is a huge challenge for the church today. And for me personally as I try to walk the narrow path of both conviction and compassion.

4. We need to move from an emphasis on the individual to the institutional.

Social healing in a disintegrated age cannot  it literally cannot  be a product of focusing on individuals, or even of focusing on individuals in aggregate and hoping by some math it will add up to a transformed society. It doesn’t work that way.

“We have to have an institutional horizon to our love. And the reason for this is because the social order that we inhabit and all the individual lives that we have are inescapably institutional in nature. We are formed by institutions at every point, and so if we’re going to be a people who reimagine a civic ecology, we’re going to have to take institutions very serious and learn that it’s not unspiritual to do that.”

Government employees, professional service providers, waitresses, nurses, engineers and even pastors are formed not only by individuals, but by the shared values, ethos and pathos that grow up in groups of people. Renewed cities require renewed institutions.  Perhaps if we begin the counter-cultural work of thinking institutionally, our witness and service to the city start to take hold.

5. We need to move from the merely political to the public.

Politics does not in fact create [culture change], but actually expresses a larger cultural system of which it is a part. And so politics emerges out of this larger network of interpenetrating institutions that I’m calling the ‘public,’ or economics and politics and art and medicine and religion. All of these things together are forming an ecology. And because of this, we have to renounce our obsession with merely political change, because that is not how social healing works.”

Politics is downstream from culture. Because this is true, efforts to change the culture through electing the right officials will nearly always fail. Instead, culture springs up from an ecosystem of work  oil & gas, health care, finance, education, religion, restaurants and hotels.

Politics is important. It always has been for people of Christian faith. But being people of Christian faith in cities does not start in Washington D.C. It starts at work.

6. We need to move from a focus on cultural triumph to a focus on the common good.

“One of the saddest features of our current cultural setting, which is definitely on grim display during the political season, is our tendency to think of the goal of all of our labors is actually the goal of conquest. To think that we’re trying to win. This aspiration is to defeat our neighbors in a high-stakes culture war…

“But listen: It is true that we serve a king  King Jesus  who right now is enthroned on heaven. Right now. Ruling all things. And as an expression of his reign sends light and wind on the righteous and on the wicked alike. He’s giving gifts to people who are opposed to him.

“And what that means is, if that’s true of him, if we seek to inhabit his kingdom, where we seek the good not simply of ourselves, but of our neighbors… We are not trying to win; we are trying to love. Because of this, as we think about what it means to engage the city and to reimagine a civic ecology, we have to remember that our goal is not cultural conquest; it is to seek the common good.”

We are not trying to win; we are trying to love.” This is what I meant earlier by the beauty of Greg’s vision. He’s on to something  a way of civic responsibility, yet also one of deep peace and deep joy.

In the end, the way of love is the path toward a renewed city.

This post first appeared on denverinstitute.org. 

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Theology

A Prayer of Praise

Oh Lord, in you are waves of pleasure, oceans of joy!

But our hearts seek pleasure in created things, rather than the Creator. Yet, we still long for a lasting satisfaction in the depths of our souls. Our hearts are restless, until they find rest in You!

Draw us, Redeemer, Maker, Love Almighty, into the song of the universe!

Oh planets and stars, corners of darkest space, be filled with His light! May your rotations and orbits be a timbre or praise! O supernovas, shine for Him!

Oh angels, join me with shouts of praise! Together let’s serve him, the sweet joy of our hearts!

Oh demons, you who scorn your Creator, be filled with terror, for the fire of his holiness is dread to you, but mercy to us! For one day, he will burn away our iniquity and we shall see him, the bright Morning Star, face to face!

Oh mountains of Colorado, oh oceans of the Far East; oh mighty trees of the Amazon, oh sands of Africa: bow down to Christ, your Maker, through whom all things were made!

Oh presidents and prime ministers, oh venture capitalists and CEOs; oh moguls of Silicon Valley, oh scholars of renown; oh social activists, oh wandering artists: open your eyes! Come awake from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!

Oh universe, know that sin will soon be demolished, and that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will draw you back into himself, a Triune river of Life!

Oh you image bearers of the earth, look to Jesus! He is the author of life, the Savior of souls, the Desire of Nations!

Oh Lord, in you are waves of pleasure, oceans of joy!

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TheologyWork

Why Work Is at the Heart of God’s Mission

Almost every Sunday morning at church, as we finish the final songs and benediction (and I prepare to pick up my crew of girls from Sunday School – now four!), I find myself asking the same question: What is the Church sent into the world to do?

This is a question that my friends in pastoral ministry think about often. They do so because it’s so foundational. The “why” of Christian mission, I think, is far less in question: our motivation for ministry is the gospel of Jesus Christ, his atoning death for our sins and his resurrection for our salvation. The free gift of new life in Christ is the spark that ignites the heart of his global people.

But what, then, is the church to do about it? In a previous post, I noted that John Stott, the framer of the Lausanne Covenant and best-selling author, saw a unity between service and witness as central to the church’s mission. Both were at the heart of why God sent Jesus himself into the world.

I recently picked up a book that I hadn’t read in ages that agrees with this view of mission. The authors of The Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (edited by Darrell L. Guder), like Stott, go to the mission of Jesus’ own mission to represent the Kingdom of God. “The church’s own mission,” they write “must take its cues from the way God’s mission unfolded in the sending of Jesus into the world for its salvation.”

They find a three part structure to the church’s own mission: “In Jesus’ way of carrying out God’s mission, we discover that the church is to represent God’s reign as its community, its servant, and its messenger.”

That is, the church is sent:

  • first to live under the reign of God as a distinctive, covenant community;
  • second the church is to represent “the reign of God by its deeds” and as a “servant to God’s passion for the world’s life;”
  • and third it is to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ with words, inviting all people to enter the Kingdom by way of the atoning sacrifice of Christ.

What impressed me about this formulation was just how many other “missional thinkers” and leaders in the 20th century missions movement have seen the same structure:

– In the 1950s, Hans Hoekendijk and Hendrik Kraemer articulate the church’s mission in three parts: kerygma(proclamation), diakonia (service), and koinonia(fellowship) 

– In 1961, the New Dehli Assembly of the World Council of Churches organized around the three themes of witness, service and unity

– In 1981, Tom Sine in The Mustard Seed Conspiracy used the themes of “words of love, deeds of love, a life a love” to explain the church’s mission

– The 1972 book Who in the World? presented at Christian Reformed Church conference, organized the church’s mission around truth (message), the life (community) and the way (servant)

My question is this: What if our daily work is the central place that the scattered church (the church throughout the week, Monday through Saturday, cf. 1 Peter 1:1) embodies the gospel in daily living, bears witness to the truth of Christ in all of life, and serves the needs of the world? 

What would change if the daily work of men and women was the center point of how all churches understand their own mission to their community?How would this change the church’s preaching, teaching and programming?

I’m not the first person to ask this question. Elton Trueblood, the great 20th century theologian, said in his little-known book The Common Ventures of Life, “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.”

Similarly, the great missionary, apologist and theologian Lesslie Newbigin said, “We need to create, above all, possibilities in every congregation for lay people to share with one another the actual experience of their weekday work and seek illumination from the gospel for their secular duty. Only thus shall we begin to bring together what our culture has divided – the private and public. Only thus will the church fulfill its missionary role.”

For Newbigin, in a culture like ours (the modern West, which is a pluralistic society ruled in the public realm by a secular vision of the world), work is the context in which the church bears witness to Christ, the Lord over all of life, OR retreats in the private sphere without a word of hope for the public life of the world.

The obvious tension, at least for me, comes when I attend so many churches. I hear the gospel. Praise God. I hear lots about ministries involving kids, teens, young marrieds, men, women and singles. Again, praise God. And I often hear about “mission activities,” which primarily means volunteering. But where is work? 

Where are the efforts to bear witness to Christ in corporate board rooms, public schools or the vast medical complex of late modernity? And where is the equipping of the saints for deep acts of love and service in the manual trades, manufacturing, the service industry or accounting? Is this too, not the opportunity we have to serve? Is this not where all those people listening to our sermons spend their weeks – and their lives?

Let’s not stop volunteering. Don’t get me wrong. We NEED volunteers, and we NEED nonprofits. Society crumbles without those stepping in the gap to care for the poor on a volunteer basis. But isn’t job creation in business (work!) central to economic development, too? Isn’t upholding the rule of law absolutely central to protecting and serving those in need (cf. Gary Haugen’s The Locust Effect). These are all dependent on how we do our work, whether that be of a police officer, lawyer or entrepreneur.

The challenge for the Church in the 21st century, and for the myriad of faithful pastors in North America and beyond, will be whether our vision of mission includes the world of work or overlooks work in its preaching, teaching and programming.

This is the challenge for the Church in a post-Christian society. And this is the call of God, who has sent His covenant community into the world to faithfully live, witness and serve. 

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Theology

10 Steps Toward Becoming a Culturally-Engaged Church

We’ve made huge strides in the past several years on bringing the topic of work to church. But I’ve noticed an ongoing tension. It’s a tension between what we say about work on Sunday and what we do (or don’t do).

On the one hand, talk of “faith & work” and cultural engagement have been popping up across the evangelical landscape. From Lecrae waxing eloquent on the sacred/secular divide at Liberty University to the forthcoming publication of a Faith and Work Study Bible, it’s becoming blessedly normal to embrace the importance of work for Christian cultural engagement.

But on the other hand, painfully few churches actually do anything on a regular basis to equip their own people for works of service in their daily work. Most church services and weekday programs have gone untouched. This leaves many folks sitting in the pews feeling a bit like Van Gogh’s Starry Night – a city full of light, but a church that has gone dark.

This is really perplexing considering the sheer scope of programming some churches can offer.  Ministries for every life stage are common: kids, students, 20s and 30s, college & career, young marrieds, men, women, singles, and so on. Add in short-term missions, volunteering on Sunday, and church-sponsored basketball leagues, and we’ve hit nearly every interest area. Or have we?

More than once many of us have asked, “What about the other 45 hours of the week?” Nurse, school teacher, app developer, accountant, home-maker, small business owner, barista, engineer, city council member. If work is where culture is made, what would it look like in the practical day-to-day structures of Sunday services and weekly programming for church leaders to equip the diverse Body of Christ for witness and service in and through our work?

In addition to Work “Rhythms” for the Local Churchhere are 10 practical steps pastors can take toward becoming a culturally-engaged church. 

On Sunday Morning

1. Host a commissioning service once a year for laity celebrating their work. 

There are several ways to do this. LeTourneau University has an easy to follow formatincluding prayers and benedictions for the people of God who serve Christ across various sectors and professions.

At DIFW we encourage churches to do something even more simple. As a part of the church partnership program, we create short videos of men and women serving Christ in their work. From there, churches take that video of somebody in their own congregation, play it in a service, interview her about her daily work, and then pray for the whole congregation as they serve Christ in their daily work.

2. Pray for people in their work; consider doing so by season. 

Sometimes these prayers will be formal, like this affirmation of our labor found in Book of Common PrayerBishop Slattery’s Prayer for the Work DayMoses in Psalm 90 (“Establish the work of our hands, O Lord!”), a Prayer for All Christian’s in Their Vocation (by Steve Garber) or a even personally written Prayer for Work.

Other times pastors may want to pray for people in different professions according to season. For example, pray for teachers in August as they go back to school; business leaders, managers, and those in retail in November or December around busy shopping season; farmers as they harvest the crops in the early fall; accountants in March and April; and chefs, servers, and restaurant managers on Mother’s Day – America’s favorite day to go out to eat. Just put these seasons on your annual church calendar, and remember to cover the saints in prayer during these key times of the year

3. Select songs that affirm the value of God’s creation. 

Far too many of our worship songs seem to be only about “me and God” or my own personal heart or feelings. Unfortunately as we sing “When the things of this earth grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace…” it leads us to a view of culture that effectively ignores work and our cultural engagement because it doesn’t “matter” compared to individual salvation and the next life. (Ironically, in my experience, when I became a Christian the things of this earth grew strangely bright and exciting in the light of his glory and grace!)

Instead, consider songs that affirm love for God’s world – both in nature and in human society. Everything from “You make beautiful things, from the dust, out of us,” to “The universe declares your majesty” to “All thy works with joy surround thee, heaven and earth reflect thy rays” affirm the original goodness of God’s creation. I also like Isaac Watts’ riff on Psalm 23: “Oh may thy house be mine abode, and all my work be praise.”

The point isn’t in ignoring a personal relationship with Jesus. This is the foundation of a life of faith! But we can push against the individualistic and privatized faith of our current age by affirming how God works among us, in our world, and is drawing all of his creation (from mountains to machines to the work of mechanics) to himself.

4. Hang work-affirming art in the physical space of your church. 

From painting to photography, most evangelical churches could use a dash of heart-expanding beauty in the foyer. (For that matter, so could most businesses!) For example, The American Craftsman Project is both utterly beautiful and affirming of the manual labor of small businessmen across the US.

You’ll need to decide which types of work you would like to feature based on the professions represented in your own congregation. Churches in New York could highlight finance or drama; in Boston the academy; Texas, the energy industry; and in Denver a huge mural of REI employees and ski lift operators!

Doing this is a lot more simple that you think. Hire a photographer or local artist and find out what the Body of Christ does every week – the great, the sad, the beautiful and the broken. Bring this art back to the actual walls of your church building, and let your congregation’s social and vocational imaginations blossom.

5. Use the word “ministry” to refer to the priestly service of  all Christians. 

Too many  well-meaning church leaders share stories of men and women who left the business world to go into “ministry” – quietly suggesting that only paid church workers are in “ministry.” But the word ministry in the New Testament is also translated “service,” such as in Ephesians 4:12. Here, it’s the particular job of pastors, evangelists, apostles and prophets to “equip the saints for works of ministry/service” in all walks of life – not only those in 501(c)3 nonprofits with an explicitly faith-based mission.

My church, Colorado Community Church, does this well. Their task as pastoral leadership is to “disciple every member to be a missionary.” Since obviously not every member is a missionary overseas, that means every member is called to be a missionary – that is a servant and a witness – in all of life, including family, recreation, and work.

Having said this, there’s no need to ignore differences between the work of pastors and, say, landscapers or lawyers. It is a noble thing to desire to be an overseer (1 Tim. 3:1). And we should encourage more young people to choose to become pastors, not less. Yet we can do this as we affirm that the work of all the saints can be a genuine act of neighbor love.

(Pastors: here’s a quick summary of the different sectors of the American workforce. It can be helpful reminder of where “ministry” is happening on any given week.)

6. Do a sermon once per year on theology of work or vocation; use workplace illustrations in every sermon. 

A regular commitment to preaching on work or vocation goes a long way. And in the past few years, the number of quality sermon ideas are out there have multiplied: Tim Keller on workWork as Worship by JR VassarFive sermons by John Piper; a collection of sermons put together by the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture; a collection of my own sermons on work.

Depending on your preaching schedule and rotation, it may make more sense to preach once per year on the topic, or, for example, do a series of three sermons every three years. The key is to make preaching and teaching about work a regular habit. Our work and cultural engagement is too important a topic to do a single sermon or series and then be “done” with the topic. (Work isn’t ever “done” for any of us.)

I’ve also seen many pastors do an incredible job of integrating illustrations about work into every sermon. Tom Nelson at Christ Community Church in Kansas City does this well; some pastors have a preaching checklist they go through each week which includes illustrations about work. Often this doesn’t mean changing doctrine, it simply means applying it in a way that is understandable to lay people who spend a significant portion of every week at work.

Again, this is not as hard as it sounds. Preaching on the image of God? Illustrate how teachers or cabinet makers reflect the imago dei when they create new lessons or kitchens. Grace? Illustrate how the manager took the fall for his employee’s mistake. Justice? Speak about the work of International Justice Mission or the unnoticed work of law clerks who labor to provide the information needed to undergird the justice system. The cross?  Illustrate how easy it is to find our identity in our work or success, and how Christ calls us to die to ourselves that we might live for others.

You get the idea. Let your imagine move the truths of Christian doctrine in the daily fabric of our lives.

During the Week

7. Visit the workplaces of people in your congregation. 

This is really simple. Here are two ways you could do this:

1. Have lunch with your congregants at their workplaces. Go to the workplace of, say, Peter who works at EvoSnap, an online payment processor. Have lunch and ask him about his work and the latest opportunities and challenges in credit card processing. Get a tour of his workplace and get to know both what he does and some of his co-workers. End it by requesting to pray for him. Pray 1 Peter 4:10 over him and his work: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” Watch at the amazement of your own people at the great love their pastor has for them!

2. Have a church staff meeting at the workplace of one of your elders or deacons. Not only will this be a welcome break from the weekly routine, but seeing the world of finance, education, or manufacturing will open the eyes of your staff to the lived reality of your church’s own leaders. When you see first-hand both the opportunities and challenges of living out the gospel in post-Christian America, conversations about “being missional” change naturally.

8. Organize a retreat on vocation or a “community vocation dinner.”

Nearly everybody is saying to themselves two things about their job: “What is my calling?” and “It can’t be this!” It’s not just for young people. Boomers ask it just as much after they retire and the thrill of golf and margaritas everyday has lost its thrill. Provide space during a weekend retreat to pray, ask hard questions in community. Read,  laugh and explore foundational themes of discipleship and calling. Experiences like this can be hugely effective in helping laity hear God’s voice for their work.  Andrew Arndt at Bloom Church is organizing just such a retreat in a couple weeks. Chris Ditzenberger has done these retreats at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal.

The ever-brilliant Steve Garber has long suggested vocare dinners: gatherings of believers in similar fields – like business, education, healthcare or politics – to discuss a life “implicated” by the love of God. At DIFW, we organize vocation groups – monthly meetings of men and women in similar fields who want to understand their work in light of the Christian faith and find ways to creatively serve others with the skills and talents God has entrusted to them.

Either way, make time to set the table for the Spirit to speak to us. Word, food, and community go a long way to opening minds and hearts to the Call of God.

9. Host a class or small group on work, calling or culture.

There are all sorts of resources out there for you. Check out this list of vocation resources for the local church for a (biased!) perspective on the best books, video curriculums, small group curriculums, and websites that speak to work, calling and culture. Some of the best resources for small groups are, in my view, the ReFrame CourseFor the Life of the WorldEvery Good EndeavorWork Matters, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good, and the Public Faith Curriculum.

Again, I recommend one per year.  I would disagree with Jack Black who, in School of Rock, exclaimed, “One great show can change the world!” I love Jack Black – but he’s wrong here! Change happens  through developing the right small habits over time. (For proof, check out The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.)  It is through daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly habits that shape people to serve others.

10. Find opportunities for your congregation to donate their vocational skills to local nonprofits or neighborhood outreach projects. 

Amy Sherman’s four pathways of vocational stewardship should be printed on a big poster and pasted on the door out of the church each Sunday. She encourages Christians to (1) bloom where they’re planted in their jobs, (2) donate vocational talent to local nonprofits, (3) start social businesses and (4) adopt a block.

If pastors do the previous nine steps to becoming a culturally engaged church, “bloom where you’re planted” will happen naturally. In addition, churches may to follow Sherman and John Stott’s advice in Christian Mission in the Modern World to create “study and action groups”: groups that learn about a particular challenge such as joblessness or teenage pregnancy and then commit to serving the community in tangible ways. Since Sherman’s book is loaded with examples of this, I’ll simply recommend picking up her book Kingdom Calling. But encourage your congregation to use the skills God has given them to benefit local charities serving the poor, marginalized, left out or forgotten. The inbreaking of God’s shalom into our communities is a sure sign your church has left long-faced religion far behind and have become a culturally-engaged church.

Summary: 10 Steps Toward Becoming a Culturally-Engaged Church

On Sunday Morning

1. Host a commissioning service once a year for laity celebrating their work.

2. Pray for people in their work; consider doing so by season.

3. Select songs that affirm the value of God’s creation.

4. Hang work-affirming art in the physical space of your church.

5. Use the word “ministry” to refer to the priestly service of  all Christians.

6. Do a sermon once per year on theology of work or vocation; use workplace illustrations in every sermon.

During the Week

7. Visit the workplaces of people in your congregation.

8. Organize a retreat on vocation or a “community vocation dinner.”

9. Host a class or small group on work, calling or culture.

10. Find opportunities for your congregation to donate their vocational skills to local nonprofits or neighborhood outreach projects.

Find this helpful? Consider a donation to support the work of Denver Institute for Faith & Work.

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TheologyWork

Video Release: Eugene Peterson on Vocation

On New Years Eve, 1868, Andrew Carnegie sat alone in his room in the St. Nicholas Hotel in New York. Only 33 years old, he had already been successful beyond his wildest dreams. That year he made $56,110 and had accumulated $400,000 in assets. But his heart was restless.

New Years Eve was a time of sober reflection for Scottish Calvinists. Though an atheist, Carnegie the Scot picked up a pen and wrote that night, “To continue much longer overwhelmed by business cares and with most of my thoughts wholly upon the way to make more money in the shortest time must degrade me beyond hope of permanent recovery.”

Though he delayed in taking action, that night he committed to get a thorough education, take part in “public matters especially those connected with education and the improvement of the poorer classes” and “choose the life which will be the most elevating in character.”

For many of us, New Years is a time to examine our lives and make plans for next year. Many of us have questions about our work. What am I called to? If it’s not just making money – what’s the purpose of my work? What if I don’t like my job? These are tough questions for any of us. Many of us need a guide.

Today, on New Years Eve, we release four short interviews of Eugene Peterson’s wisdom on work and vocation. If you find yourself with a moment of quiet reflection before 2015, watch these brief videos and ask yourself the questions below. Take time to write in a journal your answers and what you might change in 2015 about your work, your family, or how you spend your time.

I wish you a Happy New Years, and a heart that finds its rest ultimately in Him.

The Role of Work in the Plan of God from Denver Institute on Vimeo.

  • Peterson says that taking a Sabbath “activates” and renews our work. How does weekend rest and worship influence your motivation to work on Monday?
  • In what way is your job “creation work” – work the participates in the creative work of God himself? Could your work next year be more creative?
  • Peterson mentioned that many people feel like they don’t have any worth unless they’re making money. Have you ever felt this? If so, why do you think this is?

 

Cultivating Vocation from Denver Institute on Vimeo.

  • Peterson said that some write poems, but others are poets; some have jobs as doctors, but others are doctors 24 hours a day. What has God made you “24 hours a day?”
  • Do you have mentors in your life who speak truth you need to hear? Are you mentoring others? 
  • What practices can you integrate into your weekly rhythm in 2015 that help to cultivate a sense of vocation or divine calling? What activities hinder your ability to hear God’s call? 

 

Suffering in Work from Denver Institute on Vimeo.

  • Peterson says: “Not many people have the ability or the opportunity to have a job that fits them.” Does this describe you? Are there ways to be faithful to Christ in your work even when you’re suffering?
  • Peterson’s dad was a butcher. Though he didn’t particularly enjoy his work, he had “contempt for the hackers who just wanted to get through the day as fast as they could.” Have you felt this way before? Is there a way to serve with excellence even in a job you don’t particularly enjoy? 

 

Busyness, Sabbath, and Work as a Gift from Denver Institute on Vimeo.

  • Do you find yourself so busy that you feel like you don’t have any control of your life? Why is this?
  • What role does technology play in our busyness? What does a truly restful Sabbath look like for you?
  • Peterson says, “Work is a gift.” How might your attitude change toward your work if you truly believed that your daily work was God’s gift to you? 
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TheologyWork

Four Sermons on Work

In the past several months, I’ve been honored to give four different sermons on work in the Denver Metro area. If you have some time this week, download them onto your iPhone or iPod (remember those?) and listen on your way to or from work. I’d love to get your feedback.

Here they are. I’ve included the title, time & place, biblical text, description, brief outline, and highlights for your scanning pleasure. Happy listening.

“The Gospel as Public Truth”

Listen Now: The Gospel as Public Truth

Date: July 27, 2014

Location: Fellowship Denver Church

Key Text: Acts 25:23-26:27

Description: Why does it seem like the public worlds of business, politics, technology or art seems so isolated from the world of church? In this sermon, Jeff Haanen explores Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa and Festus in Acts 25-26 to find a model for cultural engagement for our modern culture. Based on Paul’s own call, Jeff explains what it means to be a witness and servant of the gospel of grace in our work and culture today.

Brief Outline:

I. My Story: Does God also care about the public world?

II. Paul testified to the gospel publicly before King Agrippa

III. Modern culture – like ancient Rome – divides public truth from private values

IV. Living out the gospel as public truth: What Jesus didn’t do in his culture

V. Living out the Gospel as public truth: Servant and Witness

Three Highlights:

“Before King Agrippa, Paul testified to the gospel in the most public of places.”

“The early church believed Jesus’ message: Repent, believe the good news. The kingdom of God is near. They refused to privatize their faith because they believed that the first and final affirmation they made about all of reality was that Jesus is Lord.”

“When engaging culture, Jesus didn’t choose the path of the Essene or the Zealot…He chose a third path. That of servant and witness.”

“Wisdom and Work”

Listen Now: Wisdom and Work

Date: July 6, 2014

Location: New Denver Church

Key Text: Ecclesiastes 3:9-13

Description:  With growing student debt, nagging unemployment, and an epidemic of workplace disengagement globally, how should we understand our work? Qohelet, the author of Ecclesiastes, could see the futility of seeing work only as a means to accumulation, ambition, or self-actualization. But he could also see that work was a gift from God, and a way to “do good” while we live. In this sermon, Jeff Haanen unpacks the wisdom of the sages and applies it to our work lives today.

Brief Outline:

I. Globally the world is disengaged from their work

II. Qohelet – the author of Ecclesiastes – saw the futility of accumulation, abmition, and self-actualization through our work

III. Work is a gift.

IV. Work is an opportunity to serve.

Three Highlights:

“Money is not nothing. It’s important. But if it’s the driving factor in work choices, we’ll have found ourselves exchanging the hours of our lives for cars, houses, trips, and REI camping gear that we’ll leave to somebody else.”

“Do what you love. We’ve said it for so long to graduating college seniors it’s become almost gospel. Do what you love. Do what you’re passionate about. Don’t settle for just a job. Follow your dreams. But is this wisdom or just hot air?”

“The door into God’s will for our work is not my talents, my opportunities, or even what the world needs. It is gratitude.”

“Sheep and Goats: Loving the World Through Work”

Listen Now: Sheep and Goats: Loving the World Through Work

Date: November 23, 2014

Location: Littleton Christian Church

Key Text: Matthew 25: 31-46

Description: The parable of the sheep and the goats is one of Jesus’ most well-known calls to justice. Yet what is he talking about when he said “I was hungry, thirsty, and in need of clothes” and you cared for me? In this sermon, Jeff Haanen connects this parable to daily work – the way we serve the needs of others every day. In it he notes the difference between sheep and goats today, and draws lessons for our modern success-oriented culture.

Brief Outline:

I. In this parable, Jesus is not just talking about isolated acts of charity, but instead our work.

II. Goats serve themselves – and ignore the needs of others.

III. Over a lifetime, we actually become either sheep or goats.

Three Highlights:

“What does it take for just a single loaf of bread to feed my hunger? … The difference between me going hungry and me being satisfied by just a loaf of bread is the work of dozens – if not hundreds – of other people. It was people working, serving the needs of others.”

“I believe those whose work is the home, with kids and household work, each of these needs to met almost everyday! I’m hungry! I’m thirsty! I’m sad and lonely! I need clothes on! I’m in prison! Ok…maybe not in prison literally. But certainly in the chains of original sin that must be disciplined regularly.”

“As we take a look at judgement, let’s not be afraid, but also let’s not be arrogant. C.S. Lewis once said that we had spent far too much time and energy thinking about who gets into heaven and who doesn’t. The better way to think about it is who’s walking toward God and who’s walking away from him.”

“The Creator”

Listen Now: The Creator

Date: October 14, 2012

Location: Littleton Christian Church

Key Texts: Genesis 1:1-3, 2:2-3; Psalm 104:31

Description: Why is it that we spend so much time and effort at work, and yet find it difficult to speak about our daily work at church? This need not be. God’s own work of creation is a model for human work. From creating skyscrapers to manufacturing silly putty, we are “made in the image of the maker” and to work as an expression of the image of God in us. We were not designed to merely go to work, get money, buy stuff and die. Work is part of our creative calling, and the way in which we offer ourselves to God.

Brief Outline:

I. Why talk about work at church?

II. God’s work is creative.

III. We are made in the image of the Creator.

IV. Too often our work today is defined only by making money, consumption, and then trying to escape from the job.

V. Creativity is a paradigm for shaping culture.

Three Highlights:

“God said in Exodus 20: ‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall do all your work…’Why should we rest one day a week and not work? Because that’s what God did. His rhythm of work and rest must become ours.”

“Every week we humans make skyscrapers, sirens and spaghetti dinners. Dorothy Sayers was right: ‘Man is a maker, who makes things because he wants to, because he cannot fulfill his true nature if he is prevented from making things for the love of the job. He is made in the image of the Maker, and he himself must create or become something less than man.’”

“What would it look like to start gather with other Christians in your field, to talk about your work, talk about your creative calling, and needs you see around you, and begin to serve God through your vocation?”

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TheologyWork

Saving the Three “E”s

 

I think we’ve been a bit too hard on the three “e”s.

Here’s how the argument often goes. In a past generation, those interested in “faith at the workplace” stressed the three “e”s: excellence, ethics, and evangelism. Each of these are “good but insufficient.” We need people to actually see the value of the work itself, and not just get people converted or be nice to co-workers.

Now, I sympathize with this line of reasoning. I was recently at a Christian business conference, and one man gave his testimony of how he lives out his faith at work. As the owner of a company that produces dental products, he proudly noted how he begins staff meetings with prayer. What he failed to mention, however, was that producing artificial teeth for his clients was itself an act of neighbor love and a way to provide for the needs of the world.

Indeed, for many of us younger folks interested in faith/work integration, we react against a highly individualistic view of Christianity that understood the core expression of “faith at work” was “ethics” in the sense of being kind to co-workers so that they would come to a prayer meeting or Bible study at the office. In our evangelical fervor, we often forgot about the value of the work itself – and that the world needs education, legal systems, restaurants, component parts, and works of art to flourish.

Indeed, work itself can be an act of neighbor love and should always be an act of worship, a living sacrifice offered to Christ the Lord (Romans 12:1-2).

Got it.

Having said that, we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. In emphasizing the inherent value of our work, whether that be making tables, providing childcare care, or serving in the military, we don’t want to overlook the centrality of the three “e”s to a Christian understanding of work. 

I’ll give you an example. My friend Bill Kurtz exemplifies excellence in his work. He’s the founder and CEO of Denver Schools of Science and Technology (DSST). In a recent email newsletter, he reported that DSST has 5 of the top 6 schools in Denver (out of 181 schools). With a 100% college admission rate for his student, most of whom are from a low-income background, DSST has drawn national attention. Why does he do it? This is what he says,

“We know that despite our success, we have a long way to go to be the system of schools we need to be. We still aren’t meeting the needs of every single student; students with special needs, students learning the English language, students at the lowest proficiency levels—we need to serve these students better. We must get better. Not because of rankings, but because these extraordinary results remind us of what can be accomplished for all students.”

Why is Bill so incredibly committed to excellence? He’s driven by an undying desire to serve – and to provide an excellent education for every single student.

Secular people, Jews, pluralists, Muslims, and Christians alike have to take note of Bill’s work. He’s literally changing the charter school landscape in America. Because he does work at such an incredibly high caliber, people ask, “Who is this? What drives him?” Indeed, in an article I wrote about Bill for Christianity Today, he confesses that he believes it is his vocation, his calling from God, to serve the needs of students and build these schools.

My friend Matt Turner, who’s the CFO of Morning Star Senior Living in Denver, also exemplifies this type of excellence. In the past five years, he has helped Morning Star go from 5 to 12 properties, each with an acute attention to excellent service of their residents, and the inherent dignity of the elderly in America. (And publicly proclaiming that their work “honors God” to boot.) As a result, the Denver Business Journal recently highlighted Matt and asked him about his work.

Doing excellent work is a testimony to the God who creates. And it allows Christians a voice in a secular culture that they don’t have when they do sloppy, half-hearted or incomplete work. Doing work well, as if we are doing it for Christ himself (Col. 3:23), is an important aspect of living out our faith through our work.

Or take the example of ethics. I can see why so many have criticized the highly individualistic  (and reductionistic view) that sees all  the historic Christian faith can offer to us at work is not cheating our clients or working with integrity. (Don’t our secular friends believe the same thing?) If we mean by “ethics” only how we treat co-workers, then I agree with this critique. We can’t just reduce the world-altering power of the gospel to not sending nasty emails.

However, if we take a look at ethics in the bigger sense, and look at the essentially moral questions that shape and form values in organizations, our interactions with the broader community, and the moral framework that sits at the basis of all “professions” (long ago we used assume that “professing” a set of ethical standards was the basis of many industries such as law, banking, government or the manual trades), ethics needs to be at the core of the faith and work movement.

Let me illustrate. Two weeks ago I had the chance to visit Duke University to attend a round table discussion on “Reimagining Medicine”, which is a part of their program in Theology, Medicine and Culture. It was hosted by Duke Divinity School and led by people like: Warren Kingshorn, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist; Jeff Bishop, a doctor, philosopher, and author of the ground-breaking The Anticipatory Corpse; Rich Payne, a former cancer doctor at Sloans Kettering (one of the nation’s finest cancer centers), and Dr. Ray Barfield, a pediatrician and philosopher at Duke University. As ministers, academics, doctors, and administrators, we gathered to discuss topics like: historical Christian views of the suffering and ill; time and the pace of life for physicians; justice and health equity issues; the mechanization of the dying process; the vocation of nurses and chaplains; and ways congregations can partner with health care institutions.

Upon reflecting on the event, I was struck that every single conversation was essentially debating a vision of “the good.” That is, each was inherently ethical. And in many ways, we were debating competing values, and not merely good or bad, but a better harmony of many “goods.” For example, when many leveled critiques at secular medicine’s unwillingness to acknowledge that we are indeed human and will will actually die (!), nobody took the view that the advances in medical care in the last century didn’t have value! No, instead we sought a more humane way of understanding palliative care and end-of-life issues, acknowledging that despite the powerful tools of modern medicine, we cannot relieve the human condition.

Of course, this is just one example among literally thousands. I wrote last year about the severely toxic environment of investment banking in New York City. As a summary of Kevin Roose’s book Young Money, a portrayal of eight young investment bankers, I wrote:

“If we were making a laundry list of everything that can be depraved about human work, Young Money would hit nearly all the highlights:

  • Boring, Repetitive Labor. “Many entry level bankers conceive of themselves as lumps of body mass who perform uncreative and menial work, and whose time can be exchanged for labor at any moment.”
  • Measuring the Worth of Employees With Dollars. “In Jeremy’s little corner of the trading world, all that mattered was a person’s P&L and a related number, called ‘gross credits’ (or just “GCs”), which measured revenue generated by a single employee.”
  • Isolating your Morals from Your Work. “Many of the Wall Street analysts I’d met were thoughtful, robust ethical thinkers in their private lives. But professionally, they were foot soldiers.”
  • Loss of Freedom. “‘It’s not the hours that kill you—it’s the lack of control of the hours,’ one analyst told me. ‘My life doesn’t belong to me anymore.’”

Now, I’m just pointing out the obvious here. But each of the problems here are essentially ethical. That is, it’s wrong to pile debt onto a struggling company and profit off their demise; it’s wrong to make people work from 9am to 5am in the morning; it’s wrong to reduce people’s worth to a numeric value of how much money they make for an investment firm.

If we reduce ethics to simply how we treat co-workers, then I agree, this view of “good but insufficient” is spot on. But if we open our eyes to the moral purposes of the institutions of which we take part each day, and boldly stand for the good, and expose the evil (both individual and systemic), then conversations about “ethics” are exactly what those of us in the faith and work movement must be doing on a daily basis.

Finally, evangelism. In recent decades, the workplace was seen merely as the venue for personal evangelism – or possibly a way to gain a platform to tell  co-workers about sin and the need for personal salvation at the water cooler. The criticism here is that they’re not looking at how the Christian faith actually informs the work they do, but instead see the workplace only as an opportunity to share one’s personal testimony. And in the process they assume that daily work is just a way to make money, fund “ministry,” or invite people to church.

Again, I can understand the criticism. This view of “faith at work” essentially views the structures of our shared life – whether that be the corporate values of Google or the principles of design for a new apartment complex – as either neutral or simply unimportant. Or it can’t seem them at all, and assumes that “winning one individual at a time” is the only path for fulfilling the great commission.  This, clearly, is a mistake, as the Scriptures see sin as both a personal issue and a systematic power or “principality” that keeps men and women in bondage in unjust structures.

But again, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. First, all Christians clearly do have the responsibility to share their faith in private and in public, when they get up and lay down, when they walk to the board room or when they eat lunch on a construction site. We never, ever want to deprecate personal evangelism. This has always been a part of Christian mission, and always will.

But if we understand evangelism more broadly, the “good news” that through Jesus’ death and resurrection he has been made the King, the Lord of all creation, then we need to be “evangelists” all the more! If Christ is really Lord of all, and everything was made for him and through him (Col. 1:15-20), then we should seek ways to testify to his creative and redeeming work as we consider how to handle a bankruptcy case, how to craft a story for a newspaper, or how to put together a chemistry curriculum. Testimony, here, is both for the sake of personal salvation, and for the sake of co-laboring with Christ in his work of restoring the created order.

Mission always goes forward in both word and deed. I’ve written about this previously on this blog. So for now, I’ll just say that we really can’t have a full, robust understanding of Christian mission without both evangelism and service, a clear verbal proclamation of the gospel and a humble self-giving love manifested in whatever we do, including our work.

Just look at Christian history. Augustine was obviously powerful in word, but he also sought the freedom of slaves in North Africa as a pastor of a congregation. Catherine of Siena too was a strong verbal witness – but she also got involved in politics, and had some very clear words for the pope regarding his involvement in the crusades. Martin Luther King Jr thundered truth from the pulpit and led freedom marches to right the historical wrongs of racial segregation. Evangelism (broadly understood) and service are two sides of the same coin.

To say that our work has value to God simply because we are image-bearers, and we reflect the one who worked for six days and rested for one, is good. But we begin to depart from our historical roots when we say things like, “Let’s just recognize that work has inherent value.” Of course it does. But what makes Christians unique is this message which infuses our work with a sense of purpose and excellence, as it’s done for Christ; a commitment to moral action, as it’s done in response to God’s grace; and a deep love for our neighbors, as it was God who first loved us; and a commitment to justice and shalom, as we follow the Lord, the Prince of Peace.

Well, that was an egregiously long blog post just to say, As we affirm the inherent value of work, let’s not forget to embrace the three “e”s: excellence, ethics, and evangelism.  For many of us, we’ll need to expand our view of each of these, but nonetheless each is a worthy contributor to bringing the gospel into our world. Plus, the alliteration is awfully catchy.

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Theology

A Prayer for Work

 

O Lord!

May all my work today be for you, and you alone!

Teach me to see my daily labor in the piercing light of your Truth. Open my ears to hear the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before me, that I might walk in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake.

Stir my heart to speak and embody your gospel of grace to all, employees and co-workers, bosses and clients, patients and students – to all that all might have life, life, eternal life!

O Christ of the cross, in the pain of my work, give me the courage to sacrifice for the good of others, all the while pointing to you, he who suffered and died, and overcame death! May I not turn back from the plow, but may the sweat of my brow bring the first fruits of new life!

O incarnate King of Heaven, show me where I might draw close to others as you draw close to us, that the human family might truly become a community, as you are Community, Triune Creator and Redeemer!

O Savior who has even called us the Body of Christ, may we too give our bodies, our very flesh for the life of the world!

When darkness and death overwhelm, may we be as bold as lions, and stand against evil in our work, and in our world! May sin not rule over us, but may you reign, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Lord of life!

Lord of all wisdom, teach us to be innocent as doves yet wise as serpents as we seek to solve intractable problems and unyielding difficulties. Fill our minds with your unsearchable wisdom!

Defender of the weak, open our eyes to the poor and marginalized in our midst. Teach us to not just to serve the poor, but to see the poor. And may we too become poor, as you became poor, that we all might be filled with the riches of heaven.

Lord of the Vine, I can bear no fruit apart from you. Draw near to me, Savior, as I draw near to you. And by your mercy, bring abundant fruit and everlasting life from my labor this day!

Lord, may each word, each email, each meeting, each idea, each product, each service, each goal – May all that I am and all that I have be consecrated to you, my sweet reward, my secret joy, my firm hope.

O Lord!

May all my work today be for you, and for you alone!

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