Jeff Haanen

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Work

TheologyWork

Upcoming Faith and Work Conferences

Here are three upcoming conferences on faith and work that I’d highly recommend attending if you’re able to make it:

The Gospel at Work Banner

The Gospel at Work

When: January 11-12

Where: Gaithersburg, MD; Covenant Life Church

How much: $79 for early registration (ends Jan 7), otherwise $99

Synopsis from the website: “The Gospel at Work conference was born out of a desire to help Christians think and live differently in the workplace.  It’s designed to help Christians think biblically and theologically about their work.  What is God’s purpose for my work?  How does the gospel change my work? How does applying the truths of the gospel help me manage differently?  How does a Christian strategize and plan their career?”

Keynote Speakers: Os Guinness, author and social critic; Mark Dever, Senior Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church; Michael Lawrence, Senior Pastor, Hinson Baptist Church; Bob Doll, Former Chief Investment Officer, Blackrock; Eric Simmons, Lead Pastor, Redeemer Church

cgrva-logoCommon Good RVA

When: January 18-19

Where: Richmond, VA

How much: $55

Synopsis from the website: “A lot of Christians are confused about how the work they do Monday to Friday connects with who they are on Sundays. Yet the Bible views our work as central to our calling and a way that we can directly connect with the mission of God…Our city needs many more Christians who see their vocations as a way to advance the common good of Richmond. Together as lawyers, doctors, business leaders, electricians, artists, and stay-at-home parents, we will gather to explore what it means to see our everyday work as a meaningful part of our Christian calling.”

Keynote speakers: Andy Crouch, author and editor of Christianity Today; Dr. Amy Sherman, Senior Fellow at the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research, author of Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good

TGC13-BannerThe Gospel Coalition 2013 Post-Conference on Faith and Work

When: April 10, 1-6pm

Where: Orlando, RL; Rosen Shingle Creek

How Much: $235 (this includes the entire conference, from April 8-10)

Synopsis from the website: “Tim Keller and several other leaders in the church, marketplace, and broader culture will focus on a variety of issues related to the Christian faith and its role in our work and vocation.”

Keynote Speakers: Tim Keller, Senior Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, author of Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work

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CultureWork

William Faulkner on Work

William Faulkner once wrote,

“You can’t eat for eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day no make love for eight hours a day—all you can do for eight hours is work. Which is the reason why man makes himself and everybody else so miserable and unhappy.”

William FaulknerFaulkner gives two reasons here that illuminate the desperate need for more faith and work initiatives throughout North America. The first is a simple matter of time. Work is how we spend our lives. Eating, drinking, making love – one could add exercising, going to church, or watching football – all make up only a small fraction of our lives in comparison to work. If Christian discipleship doesn’t extend to our working lives, then it simply doesn’t touch the largest part of human life.

The second reason is more grave: work is the reason why we are so “miserable and unhappy.” I’m reminded of a quote by Dorothy Sayers on work:

“Far too many people in this country seem to go about only half alive. All their existence is an effort to escape from what they are doing. And the inevitable result of this is a boredom, a lack of purpose, a passivity which eats life away at the heart and a disillusionment which prompts men to ask what life is all about.”

Although I can’t substantiate this claim with research, I think I’m on safe ground saying that most people see work as something to escape from as soon as possible. For most, their careers or jobs are not their vocations, but simply a means to end, whether that end be money, leisure time, or another job. This desire to escape leads to “boredom, a lack of purpose, and a passivity which eats life away at the heart” – the core ingredients in Faulkner’s recipe for misery and unhappiness.

So the question is this: can we really claim to be shaping believers for Christian maturity if we never mention their work? Can we really claim to be equipping the saints for mission with an array of elaborate ministries if we ignore both where people spend the majority of their days as well as one of the great causes of frustration and unhappiness in human life?

Of course, I think Faulkner was missing a key element of work in his diagnosis, namely, hope. We are hope-shaped creatures, and the Christian faith gives us a supreme hope because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Discussion question: Do you think Faulkner is right, that most people’s jobs are a source of unhappiness? Also, do you know of intentional efforts in your neighborhood that seek to integrate faith and work in practical ways? If so, what are they? What has been helpful?

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ArtWork

Choosing to do meaningful work

 

We have to consciously choose to use our freedom well.  I’m aware of few authors who put this more pungently than Annie Dillard.

In her book The Writing Life she reflects on her work as a writer.

“Putting a book together is interesting and exhilarating. It is sufficiently difficult and complex that it engages all your intelligence…It is life at its most free, if you are fortunate enough to try it, because you select your materials, invent your task, and pace yourself.”

The freedom to create something new is the heart of exhilarating work, a fact, I would think, not lost on the Creator himself. To dream up a project, bring it to reality, and see its affect on others – this is meaningful work.

Yet there is an ugly opposite to this creative work as well. Dillard writes,

“The obverse of this freedom, of course, is that your work is so meaningless, so fully for yourself alone, and so worthless to the world, that no one except you cares whether you do it well, or ever…Your freedom is a by-product of your days’ triviality.”

This quote struck me like a dull club. When I read this I thought about my relationship to email and to web surfing. There is no lack of triviality in our culture, and in our work there are mounds of tasks we could simply leave undone, and nobody would care.

I’m reminded of Jim Collins’ book Good to Great. He advises executives to not make to-do lists, but instead not-to-do lists. Hacking away at the trivial will do more to improve effectiveness than adding to the stack of the important.

I’m also reminded of Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission. At a Willow Creek Leadership Summit Conference several years ago, he pleaded with pastors to call out to God to, “save us from all that is petty.” Where is this plea today, in a world afloat with digital triviality?

One of the great verses used in faith and work circles is in the prayer of Moses: “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands – O establish the work of our hands!” (Ps. 90:17).

The context of the verse, however, is an extended reflection on the fleeting nature of human life. “Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—they are like the new grass of the morning: In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered,” (Ps. 90:6-7). In the scope of eternity, the prayer to “establish the work of our hands” is built upon a knowledge of the shocking brevity of life.

Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” So here’s the question: What makes work worth doing?

Discussion question: Do you intentionally choose which tasks you will and won’t do on any given day? What criteria do you use to make this decision?  How would you define “work worth doing?”

Work

Your work matters to me

 

 Today is December 1, 2012. Today something happened that I’ll never forget.

After the 6pm service at Colorado Community Church, Terri Powell, wife of Pastor Richard Powell, made eye contact. From across the hallway adjacent to the sanctuary, she pointed to me, as if she needed my attention.

I proceeded to make small talk: “How are the Powells doing?” A brief, polite, “Good,” was all she gave me. She had another purpose in mind.

“I have a word from God for you,” Terri told me. I didn’t know what to say. I just paused, and stared at her. I didn’t know whether to be “weirded out” by charismatic Christians or to pay rapt attention. My Lutheran upbringing didn’t prepare me for this. Since I was so unprepared, I may have given her a strange vibe – all that staring. But despite my awkwardness, she proceeded.

“God says to you, ‘Your work matters to me.’ He sees what you are doing. What you are doing matters to him.”

I began to break down in tears.

It was hours earlier my wife and I had a money melt-down. Budget time, and not enough to go around. I was once again wracked with vocational doubt, and a tinge of anger. How did I get here? Why am I spending all my extra time trying to build this new faith and work organization? Will it even work, or is it just dream? I was defenseless, and I once again crumbled to pieces in my office.

But now, this lady in her late fifties had a “word from God” for me. She was sent to tell me, “Your work matters to God.” God sees my nights in this office; he sees my plans. He sees my writing. He sees all of this, and he says, “This is for me. Keep going.” What as serene joy. He knows my name, sees my labor, and he says, “This is precious in my sight.”

Terri prayed for me – as I wept in the hallway, filled with confirmation, and hope.

I’ve only had one other experience like this in my lifetime. At a conference in Quito for pastors and missionaries, several pastors laid hands on me and I had a vision. I saw a vision of the heavenly city, and a great expanse of darkness between here and there, with only a lamp at my feet. It was my call to Christian ministry and a reminder to keep my eyes focused on his kingdom…and only the next step. That day, I knew God had called me into ministry. (Little did I know the odd paths I would take from that day.)

And now God speaks to me through Terri Powell, and says that I’m on the right path, that my labors are not unnoticed, and that this is important to Him, the great Creator God. Today I heard God speak to me.

What do we do when work is difficult, confusing, and fruitless? What do we do with vocational uncertainty? The Psalmist says, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (27:14). He will speak when he’s ready. Just wait.

Discussion question: At what point in your career has God spoken to you?

Work

Welcome To My Faith and Work Blog

Welcome to my new blog on faith, work and culture. denver performing artsBetween reading Michael Hyatt’s great book Platform and starting a new faith and work organization called The Denver Institute, I’m rearing to go to write a great blog. Since the topic “faith, work and culture” can be a bit broad, let me clarify my blog’s focus.

  • What. This blog is about the integration of faith and work. Specifically, I’ll try to focus my posts on one of two categories:
  1. The “Why” of integrating faith and work. That is, Why should anybody care about integrating faith and work? This question will lead me into theology, as well as history, culture, and contemporary society. I hope exploring the “why” of faith and work will both illuminate the rationale behind faith and work ministries and equip readers to more faithfully engage culture through their work with a redemptive perspective.
  2. The “How” of integrating faith and work. If we eventually become convinced that God is calling us to serve Him through our work, then what does this actually look like? Honestly, since I’m relatively ignorant of so many lines of work, I’m excited to explore this topic alongside of you. In these posts, I will try to translate large ideas about theology and culture into practical insights for the workplace. They will be particular, action-oriented and hopefully useful. If nothing else, I hope they stimulate good conversation.
  • Who.  Who am I? Well, I’m white, middle class, American, fairly educated, and the father of 3 girls. There’s nothing wrong with that, but at the outset of a new blog, it’s not a bad idea to claim my biases. (Here’s more info about me in case you’re interested.) I write from a certain historical and social location – and my own family and work influences my thinking. But the better question is, Who is the blog for?
  1. Pastors and theologians. I hope my posts will be thoughtful enough to engage pastors and theologians with the essence of the gospel that ultimately affects all of human life. I imagine the “why” posts will be of most interest to them.
  2. Laypeople. As a layperson myself, I hope that this blog encourages, informs, and equips laity to engage in creative, other-oriented work infused by the hope of the resurrection. The “how” posts will hopefully be of most use to those actually “on the ground.”
  3. Both Christians and Non-Christians. I intend to write both for Christians and non-Christians. If my lingo is unintelligible to secularists, Muslims or agnostics, feel free to let me know.
  • When. I plan to blog 2-3 times per week, which is often enough to not get bored and lose interest, but not so often you feel inundated with posts. So, if you decide to subscribe to my blog via email or RSS feed, you know how much you’re signing up to receive.
  • What (2). A couple more thoughts on content:
  1. I’ll organize my posts in 10 categories: theology, culture, work, science, politics, economy, technology, education, art, and world.
  2. I’ll try my best to produce original, interesting content! I’ll try to keep idea recycling to a minimum (though I reserve to right to post the occasional ridiculous YouTube video).
  3. Most posts will be 500 words or less.
  4. Although most of my posts will be text and a photo, I hope to add videos and podcasts down the road.
  5. I pledge to write quality content! The blogosphere is flooded with silliness. My goal is to produce quality writing and analysis on faith, work and culture. If I fail on this front, again, I trust you’ll let me know.

As I grow older (passing 30 and 3 kids), and continue to collect years at the office, three convictions that led to this blog continue to grow in my life.

  1. Jesus is Lord. If Jesus is really Lord (and Caesar, therefore is not), as the early Christians believed, he must be Lord of all of life, and not just a narrow, privatized religious experience. Anything less is out of step with the historic Christian faith.
  2. Our work and culture desperately needs the gospel.  From my study, prayer, and experience, I’ve come to believe that there is no more urgent project than applying the gospel to public life. Our institutions and organizations need the good news, especially at a time when so much of modernity seems to be unraveling. Work is where this happens.
  3. Tidal waves of joy await those who integrate faith and work. When I once shared this idea with a pastor, he said, “It’s not often you hear the words ‘joy’ and ‘work’ in the same sentence.” I agree. But the Bible tells the story of a God who works rejoices in His work, and causes others to rejoice as well (Job 38:6). Joy lies in creative, self-less work. It awaits those who seek the One who created all things out of sheer delight.

I’m looking forward to the journey. A last word: I intend to end most posts with a question. So, here’s my first one: What has been your personal experience of bringing faith to work?

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