Jeff Haanen

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Work

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Work

What Is Denver Institute for Faith & Work?

The following is a brief introduction to my work at Denver Institute for Faith & Work that I gave at a recent fundraiser. It first appeared on the DIFW website.

It doesn’t take much to make the case that the world is deeply broken. 

Even as you read this, my guess is that today – in your own experience – you can feel the fallenness of our culture all around. From anger and fear in the news to our day-to-day experience of broken relationships, we know that something is amiss. 

As the executive director and founder of Denver Institute for Faith & Work, I, too, feel that something is deeply wrong with the world. I’m often asked by donors, “What problem are you at Denver Institute trying to solve?” Let me try to answer by briefly sharing about the why, the how, and the what of our mission at Denver Institute.

First, why? Take a moment to think about the ways you long for healing in our world today. We know that our society is deeply broken; loneliness, division, and economic disparity are growing. The Church in the U.S. is shrinking rapidly: today, there are 30 million more people who claim no religious affiliation than just 10 years ago, according to Pew Research. We live in a time of pain and uncertainty, not just for Christians, but for our entire culture.

Yet, as Christians, ultimately we live in a story of hope. We believe Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was not just for the salvation of our souls, but for the salvation of the world. This salvation includes my heart, but it also includes cities and cultures. Isaac Watts once wrote, “He comes to make his blessings flow as far as the curse is found.” At Denver Institute, we talk about the depth and the breadth of the gospel; we believe that if sin has infected both souls and systems, so can grace. 

But I think there’s a question we must ask about each of these: the pain of our culture and the breadth of salvation Christians embrace. What do these have to do with me?

This is where our daily work comes in. 

Our mission at Denver Institute for Faith & Work is to form men and women to serve God, neighbor, and society through their daily work. Why work? We spend one-third of our waking lives at work. Work is where we make culture, from legal systems to art to carburetors. It’s also where we come into contact with our pluralistic world through co-workers, clients, patients, and students. Work is central to God’s mission in the world to redeem both souls as well as systems and structures.

So, how does Denver Institute think about its own role in equipping the saints for works of service through their work (Ephesians 4:12)? Let me briefly share about our “how.”We believe in “transformation from the inside out.” That is, rather than first looking at the world’s problems, we must first look at our own souls.

We believe there are three major movements of transformation. First is the interior life. We believe change first happens as people seek deep spiritual and emotional health and as they learn to think theologically about their work. This is why we talk about spiritual disciplines, Christian theology, and a deep interior renewal as the basis for a whole life and Christian mission. 

Second, we believe faith also changes our exterior life. Namely, we at DIFW come alongside people to create good work and embrace redemptive relationships. The community needs your work. From investing to teaching in public schools, we believe work is an act of loving our neighbors. Rather than work only being about personal success or earning a paycheck, we believe the work we do and the relationships we form are central to God’s calling in our lives.

Finally, we at DIFW talk about civic life. The onset of the pandemic in March 2020 has made it clear that we are economically, politically, socially, and culturally connected. We believe that as Christians set their faces toward culture, the posture of a sacrificial servant – the way of the cross – is the way to show people the gospel through our deeds. We at DIFW deeply care about the pressing social issues of our day because we believe they’re a category of neighbor love. Indeed, “for God so loved the world… .” If God loves the world and sent his Son to save it, we too must commit to healing this fallen world as those sent by God the Healer. 

So, what on earth does Denver Institute do? I’m glad you asked! We’re an educational nonprofit and we do work in three primary categories: public engagement, thought leadership, and intensive formation. In the category of public engagement, throughout the year we host a podcast and we host events. Each year we do two larger events called Women, Work and Calling and Business for the Common Good, and we do smaller events on topics such as the sciences, arts and culture, work and calling, and poverty and opportunity. We want to engage the public with the meaning of the good news for our work and world.

Second, thought leadership. We create short courses, books, articles, and other educational resources that connect Christian thinking with the wide world of work. Resources such as Spiritual Disciples for Your Work and the Faith & Work Classroom help you and those at your church or in your place of work dive deeper into the radically transformative nature of Christian faith for our world today. 

And finally, intensive formation. We are now in our fifth class of the 5280 Fellowship, a nine-month program for emerging leaders in spiritual formation, professional development, and civic engagement. Years ago, we built a program around the idea of transformation from the inside out that has deeply shaped the hearts and careers of our fellows. For years, leaders in other cities have asked us to help them develop similar programs in their cities, and as we look to the future, we are prayerfully considering helping additional leaders launch fellows programs in their cities throughout the U.S. 

But for now, what is Denver Institute for Faith & Work? An educational organization? Yes, but not only that. We are a network of people.We are a community of people who care deeply about our faith in Christ and our work, and our commitment to engaging the needs of the world while staying rooted in God’s love.

There it is: an answer to the question, “What is Denver Institute for Faith & Work.” 

But don’t click away quite yet. I want you to find a co-worker or family member today and simply share your own dreams for what gospel impact might look like in your work and community. Where is God calling you into his great story of redemption?  

To learn more about Denver Institute, sign up for our monthly newsletter.

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PoliticsWork

How Should Christians Think About Politics? 11 Insights from Reinhold Neibuhr

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It’s hard to find the right metaphor for our current political moment. Are we in an echo chamber with megaphones? Are we, like a nuclear reaction, splitting atoms and roasting all our opponents? Or perhaps we’re more like vikings on social media: we land ashore, pillage and plunder all who oppose us, and then sail off once again to hang out with our village people.

Whatever the metaphor, we’re in an election season, and the weight of pandemic-soaked culture is turning up the dial on every debate. How should people of Christian faith think about and respond to the politics of our day? 

There are as many answers to that question as there are people, yet few have more insight than Reinhold Neibuhr. His book, Christian Realism and Political Problems, first penned in 1953, is a hidden gem. In his chapter on “The Christian Witness in the Social and National Order,” he masterfully diagnoses our situation, turns a critical eye toward secular society and then the church, before landing the plane with a beautiful, yet uncomfortable, answer to the question of Christians in politics. 

Here are 11 insights from Reinhold Neibuhr on the question of how Christians should respond to politics.

11. Don’t blame those “godless” people for all our problems. That’s too easy. 

“The natural inclination of the convinced Christian, when viewing the tragic realities of our contemporary world, is to bear witness to the truth in Christ against the secular substitutes for the Christian faith which failed to anticipate, and which may have helped to create, the tragic world in which we now live.”

Neibuhr starts by saying that it’s just too easy to blame the “secular substitutes,” like many of the ideologies prevalent in Neibuhr’s day and the idolatries present in our own, for our current political mess. He starts at a better position: have we brought “the word of God to bear upon the secular roots of our present predicament?” Rather than simply blaming, have we actually done the hard work of thinking through how Christian faith challenges the broader secular culture that we live in?

10. The real problem is that our culture thinks “sin” is an outdated notion. 

“The liberal part of our culture thought that the Christian idea of the sinfulness of all men was outmoded. In its place it put the idea of a harmless egotism, rendered innocuous by a prudent self-interest or by a balance of all social forces which would transmute the selfishness of all into a higher social harmony.” 

First, we traded the idea of sin for mere selfishness, which we thought was more of an inconvenience than a fundamental human condition. Others thought that we could overlook sin and simply call people to be socially conscious and virtuous through their own good will. The problem: our will actually is the problem. 

Niebuhr doesn’t hold much hope that capitalism can save us, but he doesn’t think much of Marxism, either. Marxists believed “in the revolutionary destruction of property” and promised “redemption through the death of an old order and the rise of a new one.” But this idea was not the promise of life through death in the Christian gospel; it was the promise of “new life for us through the death of our foes.” Sound familiar? 

Secular visions of the fall have fallen short, and so have secular versions of redemption. Both are rampant in politics today. 

9. Both Right and Left have grains of truth, yet when they are the only frame of reference for our politics, they plunge us into a never-ending battle that cannot be won. 

“Perhaps it is because there is a little truth and so much error in both secular alternatives to the Christian faith that they have involved the world in such a hopeless civil war in which each side had enough truth to preserve its sense of high mission and enough error to frighten the other side with the possible consequences of its victory.” 

One side, represented by a totally unregulated capitalism, minimizes the state in hopes that the free market will save us, only to find grueling injustices spread throughout our country; the other side, exemplified by a totally planned economy (such as in Marxism), minimizes individual liberty and the free market with the hope that the right technological or policy solution will bring about a just republic. Both contain hints of truth, yet neither system can save us because there are sinful people inside of both systems. So we live in fear that “the other side” will finally take control and we might one day live under “their authority.” 

Progressive and conservative visions of political life may be inevitable, but they both incomplete and need a larger frame. 

8. But Christians shouldn’t be too quick to throw darts at secular culture: the Church is far too implicated in this current mess to wash our hands of politics. 

“Society in both its liberal and Marxist variety came into being partly because of the deep involvement of Christianity in the social sins of our day and in the stubbornness of the social injustices.” 

You say Christians in America actually helped to create this mess? How so? Read on…

7. Christians have often “sanctified” the social evils of our day, making them even harder to change. 

There is no social evil, no form of injustice…which has not been sanctified in some way of other by religious sentiment, and thereby rendered more impervious to change.” 

How can that be? Wasn’t it Christians who abolished slavery? Yes. But it was others who used Christianity to tighten the stranglehold of slavery. Wasn’t it Christians who led the civil rights movement? Yes again. But it was other Christians who resisted desegregation in the name of “order.” 

Christians have been reformers, but if we’re honest, we must recognize that others clung to the unjust, broken status quo to protect themselves and their own interests rather than to seek biblical justice. 

6. Other times Christians have declared politics irrelevant to religious life, deepening secular ideologies and helping them to grow. 

A part of the Church, fearing involvement in the ambiguities of politics, has declared the problems of politics to be irrelevant to the Christian life.” 

When the Church is “neutral,” it more often than not is “an ally of the established social forces,” like the ones we are so apt to criticize. 

If we say that faith has nothing to do with politics or with our culture, how can Christians complain about what’s happening to politics or to our culture? 

5. “Just be nice” isn’t very helpful. 

A part of the Church, facing the complexities of the political order, has been content with an insufferable sentimentality…It has insisted that the law of love is a simple possibility when every experience proves that the real problem of our existence lies in the fact that we ought to love each other, but do not.” 

Just be nice. Love each other. Do random acts of kindness. 

The Church has often succumbed, both in Neibuhr’s day and our own, to a “sentimentality” in our praise songs, our bullet-pointed sermons, and our attitude toward politics that calls people to “be nice” but often overlooks the harsh truth that our wills are depraved. We should be nice, but we can’t; we are in bondage. 

And though Neibuhr points the finger at the Church here, I’d also say this is even more prevalent in the slogans, hashtags and bumper-sticker wisdom of our consumeristic, secular society than in churches. In most churches you’ll get hints, at least, of a divine drama that involves good, evil, and the fallenness of our own hearts. You get very few of those hints in the never ending newsfeed of our society today. Many articles or tweets are bubbling with a respectable disdain for “the other side” that just doesn’t get it. Our culture would still have us believe the problem is in others, not me. 

Efforts at communal and political reform without acknowledging the devastating sinfulness of humanity will always fall short. 

4. Still other parts of the Church have turned faith and politics into a never-ending scheme to legislate righteousness into every part of our society.

“A part of the Church, conscious of these perplexities, has been ready to elaborate detailed schemes of justice and of law for the regulation of the political and social life of mankind, below the level of love and of grace. But it has involved itself in a graceless and inflexible legalism. It does not know that all law can easily be the instrument of sin; that inflexible propositions of justice, particularly in the rapidly shifting circumstances of modern technical development, may hinder rather than help the achievement of true justice.” 

Neibuhr says that because this is true, we need to put laws in their place, “recognizing that none of them is sacrosanct as some supposedly Christian or secular system of law has made them.” 

Galatians warns that when our freedom devolves into legalism, the law itself becomes a “power and principality” that sets itself up against the ultimate authority of the living Christ. We must not absolutize passing the right laws as the only goal to which Chrisitans in politics are completely committed. Laws are good servants, but bad masters. 

So, what hope does the Gospel offer politics?  

3. Christians must first recognize that the promise of new life is both for individuals as well as nations, and that if sin affects systems, so can grace. 

“Positively our task is to present the Gospel of redemption in Christ to nations as well as individuals…It is possible to live truly if we die to self, if the vainglory of man is broken by divine judgement that life may be truly reformed by divine grace. This promise of new life is for individuals; yet who can deny its relevance for nations and empires, for civilizations and cultures?” 

Without faith there is only sorrow. Without faith, says Neibuhr, there is only despair and meaninglessness and confusion. Yet with faith, grace makes possible both a new life individually, but also collectively—but only after we acknowledge our individual and collective sinfulness We are all subject to judgment, but, as James says, “mercy triumphs over judgment.”

The biblical notion of shalom – commonly translated as peace – carries broad connotations of inner peace, peace with God, and peace between others, even in the complex relations of nations, states, classes and culture. 

Christians cannot be so pessimistic about politics that we block the flow of divine grace through us as his Body into the cities, states, and nations that we call home. 

2. A faithful Christian engagement of politics cuts against both parties and our personal interests in a way that is often offensive because God’s kingdom is the aim, not this present political order or our personal comfort. 

Must we not warn powerful and secure nations and classes that they have an idolatrous idea of their own importance…and must we not remind those who are weak and defrauded and despised that God will avenge the cruelties from which they suffer but will also not bear the cruel resentment which corrupts their hearts?”

“Must we we not say to the rich and secure classes of society that their vaunted devotion to the laws and structures of society which guarantee their privileges is tainted with self-interest; and must we not say to the poor that their dream of a propertyless society of perfect justice turns into a nightmare of new injustice because it is based only upon the recognition of the sin which the other commits and knows nothing of the sin which the poor man commits when he is no longer poor but has become the commissar?” 

How these two statements from Neibuhr offend us!

When the gospel confronts our political life, we all have reason to be uncomfortable because it confronts us.  How easy is it to criticize and condemn the other party and wish for real reform, and not recognize that if we were the ones in power, the world may indeed be worse off than it is now! 

We err when we too closely align with one ideology, and we also err when we too closely identify our personal identity with a political party. The Christian is forever a citizen of another heavenly country, and this gives her the freedom to look squarely at injustices in the world that mirror the injustices within. 

Humility is the key. 

So what is left? Is there anything that can be done?

1. Christians must make their peace with “proximate justice” and do our small part in taking the next step toward the health of our communities through our vocations and through the political process. 

“There is the promise of a new life for men and nations in the Gospel; but there is no guarantee of historic success. There is no way of transmuting the Christian Gospel into a system of historical optimism. The final victory over man’s disorder is God’s not ours; but we do have responsibility for proximate victories. Christian life without a high sense of responsibility for the health of our communities, our nations and our cultures degenerates into an intolerable other-worldliness….Only a small leaven is needed, only a little center of health can become the convalescence for a whole community. That fact measures the awful responsibility of the people of God in the world’s cities of destruction.” 

In short: the way forward is clouded, difficult, and riddled with potholes. And our hope is ultimately not in this world, but in the next. And yet, because of the love of neighbor and the call of God to be His Body in the world, we must do what we can. We must take small steps in the right direction and do what we can to bring healing to our communities and our countries. 

It would be nice if we could say that God condemned the world and washed his hands of it all, but instead, we must listen once again to the apostle who wrote, “For God so loved the world that he gave…”

Image credit.

BusinessFaith and Work MovementWork

Business for the Common Good On-Demand

Today at Denver Institute we are launching Business for the Common Good On-Demand, a resource we are giving away to you for free. The videos and discussion guides address questions like:

How do you determine if a business is successful? Is it reflected in a positive balance sheet, gleaming customer reviews, or a charismatic CEO? What if God measured success by a broader standard—by the way businesses help every employee, supplier, consumer, or community they touch to thrive?

Business for the Common Good On-Demand features keynote presentations and panel discussions with industry leaders from finance, technology, sales, and the nonprofit sector.

Featured presentations include:

  • Work is a Way to Love Our Neighbor: Katherine Leary Alsdorf
  • How Faith Shapes Business: Jeff Haanen
  • My Life as a Christian, Investor, and Business Leader: Robert Doll
  • Generous Business Practices: Aimee Minnich, Alan Barnhart
  • Whole-Hearted Leadership: Lisa Slayton, David Park
  • Faith-Driven Investing: Panel
  • Selling Christianly: Panel
  • Artificial Intelligence: What Every Business Leader Must Know About New Technologies: Becker Polverini
  • The Challenge and Opportunity of Global Business: Panel
  • The Future of Colorado’s Workforce: Hanna Skandera, Bill Kurtz, Renise Walker, Rico Mun

Above is my introduction of the event content and how I think about how faith shapes business. Enjoy and share with your friends.

Faith and Work MovementTheologyWork

What does it really mean to integrate faith and work?

At Denver Institute, we have a straightforward answer to this question: our five guiding principles. Here’s how we measure effectiveness, plan programming, and organize our culture.

I also think they’re helpful frameworks to help you think through just how your own deepest convictions might play out in your heart, mind, relationships, work, and involvement in culture.

1. Think theologically.

Embracing the call to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of Christ, we value programs that enable men and women to verbally articulate how Scripture, the historic church, and the gospel of grace influence their work and cultural engagement.

2. Embrace relationships.

Embracing the doctrine of the Trinity and the incarnation, we value convening face-to-face conversations, building long-term friendships, and investing in deep relationships among individuals, organizations, and churches.

3. Create good work.

Embracing God’s own creation and the hope of the resurrection, we value programs that lead to Spirit-filled action and significant new projects that serve as a sign and foretaste of God’s coming Kingdom.

Embracing the parable of the talents, we value programs that provide measurable returns.

4. Seek deep spiritual health.

Embracing Christ’s call to “come follow me,” we value listening to the Holy Spirit, practicing the classic spiritual disciplines, confessing our sins, submitting to the reign of God, and doing our work in a redemptive manner.

5. Serve others sacrificially.

Embracing the call to costly discipleship, we value high levels of commitment, acts of sacrificial service, and courageous public witness among program participants, staff, board, and volunteers.

Embracing the call to justice, we value programs that serve the needs of the poor and marginalized in our work and communities.

Embracing the call to be the Body of Christ for the life of the world, we value programs that address our most pressing contemporary problems and adopt a broad, interdisciplinary perspective in solving complex and systemic issues.

To learn more, visit denverinstitute.org.

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NonprofitWork

What we’re learning from SharetheStimulus.org

Due to the pandemic and the federal government’s response, about 150 million Americans are eligible to receive stimulus checks. Yet when my wife and I found out we were going to receive a check we started to ask: do we really need it all, or might we know somebody who needs it more?

Several weeks ago, two friends and I in Denver hopped on a call to explore what we could do to help. After some back and forth, we decided to start a website called SharetheStimulus.org.

The idea is simple: we’re asking people to make a pledge to give a portion of their stimulus check to any cause or person in need, go and make a donation, and then share the story with us. And it’s getting some traction. Here’s a story 303 magazine did about the movement.

We’re now about 3 weeks into this project and here’s what we’ve learned.

(1) People like giving in community rather than alone. As we reached out to individuals, churches, businesses and nonprofits, we found that it was really pastoral leaders who took this idea and ran with it.

One pastor, Jim Bergen of Flatirons Church, asked his congregants to consider whether they needed all of their stimulus check, and if they didn’t, give 50 percent away. Just in their church, as of April 28 they had 521 people give a portion of their stimulus checks. Woodmen Valley Church in Colorado Springs had 395 givers give nearly $200,000 in just two weeks.

What we learned was that it was far more effective to ask people to give alongside trusted community, like a church, than it was to give individually. Churches are critical avenues of generosity and trust in a time of need, and as unemployment benefits drop at the end of July, they’ll be critical support systems as the recession deepens.

(2) People like giving locally. What have people given to? People have given to all sorts of charities, like food banks, rescue missions, or organizations caring for immigrants. But they’ve also been really creative: one person gave a writing desk to a person who was out of work to finish her novel. One person gave his stimulus to cover the medical bills of neighbor. One family made a list of single people they knew and did a circuit of dropping off meals and homemade cards.

When it comes to giving, many feel alienated, like it’s only something for the affluent. One man said, “‘Generosity’ is normally something commended to upper-middle class and wealthy people. But this felt like a ‘generosity for the rest of us’ idea. We can all realize our affluence and identify others with greater needs than we have.”

This movement of giving in the middle is a powerful force, not only for economic impact, but for creating social capital and real relationships in a time of isolation.

(3) Widespread giving is a powerful tool for social and personal renewal. In Yuval Levin’s A Time to Build he said that social reform and the renewal of our institutions requires personal renewal. Thinking about my own experience sharing our family’s stimulus check, I think this is right.

Last weekend our family had fun sharing our stimulus check by putting together an elaborate gift package with goodies for our grandma who was shut into her nursing home. As we drove by in a family parade in front of her nursing home and cheered on Grandma Alberta, I felt this deep sense of joy wash over me. It really was more blessed to give than to receive.

Ryan Streeter mentioned in a USA Today 0p-ed that perhaps now is a time for a national tithe.  Perhaps forms of local generosity – even something as small as giving a portion of an unexpected check to a neighbor – may be just what our hearts, and society, need most.

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NonprofitWork

List of Colorado Charities and Nonprofits: Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Pueblo

Not sure where to give to or what charities to support?

Here’s a list of nonprofits along the Front Range that are serving the spiritual, economic, and social needs of Coloradans.

Denver

Colorado Springs

Fort Collins

Pueblo

Don’t see your favorite Colorado charity on here? Drop me a line by contacting me and, as able, I’ll add it to the list.

This post first appeared as a part of SharetheStimulus.org, a campaign to encourage widespread generosity to both individuals and causes affected by the recent pandemic.

CultureTheologyWork

Known By our Love? | 2019 DIFW Annual Report

Hi Friends,

As we were preparing this year’s annual report, we could have never predicted that three weeks in March would change everything. A virus spreads, millions are out of a job, and as the economy shuts down, nearly everybody’s daily work has changed. This is a time to lament. But at Denver Institute, we also believe it is a time to love. 

In this year’s report, I ask: are Christians in our society today known for their love? At Denver Institute for Faith & Work, our mission is to form men and women to serve God, neighbor, and society through their daily work. Leaning on Jesus’ Great Commandment, we believe our daily work is an opportunity to love God, serve our neighbors, and demonstrate the gospel to an unbelieving world. 

We live in uncertain times. However, as you’ll see in this report, there are reasons for hope:

  • Angela Evans, a 5280 Fellowship alumna and journalist at the Boulder Weekly, shares about her vocation to highlight vulnerable communities through her writing;
  • Last year, over 1,000 people came to events last year covering topics like “God, Energy and the Environment” and “Teaching Character Formation in Public Schools”;
  • Denver Institute was even mentioned by the New York Times as a thought leader in the national faith and work movement.

As we move into 2020 and beyond, would you consider financially supporting the Denver Institute community? Your gift goes directly toward creating more podcasts, short courses, events, publications, and transformative experiences. Your giving forms a community that can respond with grace, truth, and love to the greatest challenges of our time through their vocations. 

Thank you for your generosity. As the nations are in an uproar, my prayer is that we might, “Be still and know that I am God…The LORD Almighty is with us” (Psalm 46). 

With deep trust,

Jeff Haanen

Founder and Executive Director

PS. You can give by returning the enclosed envelope or by visiting denverinstitute.org/give.

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Work

A Letter to the Denver Institute Community

Dear Friends,

In the last four weeks, our work and our world have changed dramatically. Millions are now unemployed, nearly 3.5 billion people are confined to their homes, and each of us is trying to adjust to what feels like a different world. 

Two weeks ago, when I drove down Denver’s 17th Street, I was reminded of the prophet Jeremiah’s lament, “How deserted the city lies, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who was once so great among the nations! … The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to her appointed festivals. All her gateways are desolate, her priests groan, her young women grieve, and she is in bitter anguish” (Lamentations 1:1, 4). 

In the last month, I’ve been on calls with dozens of people in our community. Business owners are shocked that they must shutter the doors of what they’ve worked to build for a lifetime; young professionals have been fired from what seemed like promising careers; families buckle under the pressure of school, work, and isolation. All of us are bewildered by uncertainty. Last week, as I walked through King Sooper’s and saw empty shelves and people wearing face masks, I wondered: what is happening to our world? Anguish is the right word.

But it is not the final word. 

Here at Denver Institute, we remain committed to forming men and women to serve God, neighbor, and society through their daily work. Our call — now more important than ever — is to love God, serve our neighbors, and demonstrate the gospel through our vocations.

As we think about this task, and each of us seeks to listen to God’s voice amidst such pain, it is my conviction that we must first begin not with society, but with ourselves. We must look squarely at the fear and anxiety clouding our senses, and then redirect our eyes toward Jesus, who is the Bread of Life (John 6:35). Each day, we must practice soul care for uncertain times and learn to give our anxieties to God, who cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). The Living Water is ever present to each of us, if only we will drink. We must first learn the spiritual practices and adjust our daily rhythms that will allow us to firmly rest in God’s unchanging love and care for each of us (Matthew 6:25).

Second, we must care for each other. As we all struggle with isolation, now is the time to be present, be vulnerable, and be hopeful. Whether it’s a coworker, a mother-in-law, or a single friend, we need each other. At Denver Institute, in the next 90 days, in lieu of events, we will host more online gatherings for business leaders, for women, for the brave souls in health care, and for those who work in a variety of industries. 

Third, to the best of our ability, we must keep working. We were designed for work. And though we are confined to our homes, and many of us are struggling with grief over work that has been lost, we recognize that work is good for our souls. As such, each day provides opportunity for paid and unpaid service to the common good. Searching for a new job, delivering food to a neighbor, doing homework with children, and doing sales calls — all are needed. The economy — and our neighbor — needs us to inhale the peace of God and exhale the creative goods and services that this brave new world needs the most. Though it feels like we’ve been carried into exile, now is the time to “build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce” (Jeremiah 29:5). 

Also, as we are bombarded daily with haunting news, we must aggressively limit our intake of media and learn to think theologically about our work and cultural moment. What is most needed in a situation without easy answers is wisdom. At Denver Institute, will continue to publish content and courses that reframe our work and our world in light of the biblical story

Finally, now is the time to serve. Now is the time to double down our generosity toward the causes we care most about; now is the time to serve others while physically distancing; now is the time to find innovative solutionsto serve our coworkers, neighbors, and family members. 

We are still here for you. If you have a need of any sort, please reach out to us. We are actively praying through how our programming might expand to better serve our city. In this season, we will commit to calling, praying, thinking, networking, teaching, learning, and finding ways to serve you in an unprecedented moment in our nation’s history.

This is a time to lament, but not to panic; a time to pivot, but not to stray from our core convictions; a time for public concern, but also a time to trust that Jesus is the savior of the world, and we are not. 

As we head into Holy Week, I’ve chosen to fast on Good Friday as I pray for our city, our country, and our world. Yet on Easter Sunday, my family and I will also go outside to our front porch, dial into “zoom” church, and sing a song of resurrection as the sun rises.

The world has changed, but our joy is unchanging. 

Your friend,

Jeff Haanen,
Founder & Executive Director
Denver Institute for Faith & Work

This letter first appeared in an email to the Denver Institute community. If you’d like to receive more updates from Denver Institute on articles, events, educational resources and other opportunities, please subscribe to the monthly newsletter.

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Work

Rethinking My Daily Rhythms

Just like you, in the past two weeks I’ve had to rethink my daily rhythms. I’ve also realized that my emotional and spiritual health is the top priority right now. The cascading anxiety and panic of our society is something that I can easily internalize. And when that happens, I can experience paralysis, and actually damage those around me, rather than love and serve.

When I step back a look at the things I can’t control, and look squarely at the things I can control right now in my life, I can re-engage my family, friends, and my work. And, as it turns out, though the news makes me feel powerless, I actually can impact much of my life and daily choices.

Last weekend my wife and I sat down to think through – first individually, and then as a couple – what we need to be healthy right now.

Here’s what I came up with. I post it here in case making a simple “rule of life” right now may be the right next step as your endure this strange quarantine.

As the flight attendant always says when boarding the plane, first put the oxygen mask on yourself, and only then put it on others.

Healthy Rhythms for the Haanen’s (Jeff)

Daily Routine Essentials

  • Spiritual Health – Prayer and silence at 830am, with DIFW staff; noon, prayer for others (before lunch); before dinner, play one worship song with family
  • Physical Health – Outside every day with the family on walks/gardening; 3-4x/week sweat @ 4pm.
  • Marital Health – Kiss my wife. 🙂 Play tennis on Saturdays (have fun)
  • Emotional/Mental Health – Limit news intake (don’t check until 330pm each day); read books from 8pm-10pm (no internet or phones); call friends/family regularly
  • Family Health – Be 100% mentally present with my kids from 5pm-8pm; Take them outside at 4pm exercise time; piano with Sierra & Alice after dinner each night
  • Neighbor Health – Pray daily for a neighbor/friend/family/co-worker who has needs/lost a job (prayer before dinner with family)

Weekly Essentials

  • Financial Health – Cut non-essential expenses right now in family budget; use our regular income to contribute to savings; Use other income toward car debt and giving
  • Work Health – Stay focused on key projects, relational presence with our community, wise decisions and strategic pivots, and small “wins”
  • Refocus Each Week: (1) What can I control?, (2) What can I influence? (3) What can I not control, and needs to be released?

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Work

Designing Workplaces to Be More Human

Designing Workplaces to Be More Human

We spend about a third of our waking lives at work. And yet, for the majority of people, work is not much more than a paycheck. We feel lonely, especially men. We feel like there’s a gap between our job responsibilities and our own potential. We often feel exhausted and question whether our work is making any meaningful difference.

How might we reimagine what it means to be fully human in our working lives?

Here are five aspects of what I think it means to be human, and, as a result, what I believe we need to focus on if we’re going to build workplaces that really invest in human potential.

Humans are emotional and spiritual. It’s tough to avoid it. Fear, anger, joy, surprise, sadness, disgust, elation – every day we’re a mix of emotions. My guess is that today, before leaving for work, you experienced at least a few of these emotions. One philosopher has made the case that fundamentally, we are creatures of desire. Dostoyevsky said it well: we crave nothing so much as something to worship. Our emotional and spiritual lives are woven tightly together.

Yet how many workplaces really acknowledge – and embrace – the fact that that we feel, we believe, we worship? Even rarer: who really takes the time and effort to invest in the deep emotional and spiritual health of their employees?

We see the cost when our co-workers are unhealthy – disengagement, addiction, distraction. A full 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year. But do we deeply care about facing our own shadows honestly and creating workplaces where our hearts experience deep peace? 

Humans are relational. From our very first breath to our last, we are surrounded by people. Relationships are both the greatest sources of joy and pain in our lives.

The ability to relate well to others – what workforce development professionals call “soft skills” – is consistently the most important skill employers are looking for. Emotional intelligence also happens to be the skill needed for high level leadership.

Yet, how difficult it is to work alongside other human beings! The inability to deal with conflict, our own lack of self-awareness, and a growing loneliness epidemic in America all contribute to the deep challenges we face in our families and workplaces.

Yet each of us longs for community; we long to know others, and be known. We weren’t designed to be alone. 

Humans are makers. From the earliest recorded history, humans made things. Tents, musical instruments, tools, weapons, pots, homes. “We are made in the image of the Maker,” says dramatist and playwright Dorothy Sayers. Work is, and always has been, a fundamental part of what it means to be human. Culture is made by what we make, and the meaning we derive from what we’ve made.

In the modern world, we’re constantly surrounded by other people’s work. Coffee cups, drywall, iPhones, books, concrete, electrical outlets, mops, pacifiers. Though some may imagine a day when machines take all of our jobs, history just doesn’t bear it out. Every time technology displaces jobs, we find other things to create. We are creators by nature.

Yet again, there’s so much that hinders our ability to do good work. Distraction, lack of autonomy, insufficient time, low wages, unequal access to opportunity.  To make things worse, professionals especially have nearly divinized work as our sole source of worth and identity. 

Who are the employers who invest in people’s ability to do excellent work, while holding work in its proper place alongside family and community?

Humans are thinkers. As young children, each of us were naturally curious about the world. We wanted to know. We wanted to learn. And now, as adults, we are in a constant state of debating what is true and good. Ideas matter.

In the circles I run in, it’s now out of fashion to acknowledge that we’re intellectual beings. But any cursory reading of history shows us that ideas matter. Just a review of the wars of the twentieth century – what some have called the age of ideologies – shows this to be true. Those who claim they just want “practical action steps” and don’t care much for “heady matters” are often the most controlled by the ideas of those who’ve gone before them.

In a global economy that changes so quickly, none of us can afford to stop learning. Yet in our jobs, more often than not, we become technicians. We become good at one thing – like processing mortgages or writing marketing copy – yet often are in the dark about the majority of the world. It’s hard to find opportunities to become generalists, and recover the range that we delighted in as children.

Where are the workplaces that encourage curiosity? Where are the organizations that ask employees to read outside of their field, listen to lectures on a regular basis, and really encourage broad, diverse thinking?

Humans are city-builders. This, too, is ancient. Not only do we work, but we work together. And as soon as we work, we form companies. And when we form companies, we realize that we need governments to safeguard those companies, and the rights that underpin them. We also need systems of education to form the next generation of workers and citizens. We need doctors to heal, craftsmen to build, and salesmen to sell. Before you know it, we have built cities.

As much as I’d like to avoid politics, we really can’t. Humans naturally form a polis when we work together. We must find ways to understand each other, live alongside each other, and provide for the needs of each other. “All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny,” said Martin Luther King Jr. “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Aristotle once said, “Man is a being best suited to living in a polis [city].”

Humans are intrinsically civic creatures. So, we’re forced to ask questions about not just our own needs, but also the needs of others. What does it mean for us to build just systems? What is a good society? And a question I often ask myself: are our workplaces a part of that answer, or are they a part of the problem?

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At Denver Institute for Faith & Work, we built our five guiding principles around each of these five elements of what it means to be human. We also designed the educational program of the 5280 Fellowship around each of these principles as well.

Here’s a brief video overview of our Five Guiding Principles at Denver Institute.

My question for you is this: are you thinking theologically, embracing relationship, creating good work, seeking deep spiritual health, and serving others sacrificially?

Though in a secular workplace, you can’t always use theological language, you can take a look at your work environment or company and ask good, honest questions, such as:

  • Do we invest in deep emotional and spiritual health?
  • Do we encourage real friendship and relational wholeness?
  • Do we create conditions for people to do their best work?
  • Do we stimulate broad thinking about the key issues of our day?
  • Do we really care about our city, especially the vulnerable?

Sometimes integrating faith and work can seem overwhelming. But you do have a choice. You can shrink back, or you can act. You can accept the status quo, or you can choose to be motivated by doing your small part in the healing of God’s broken world. You can assume “work is work,” or you can imagine, in community, what might be.

You could even print these five questions and bring them up at your next team meeting. It may just convince them that work can be more than a paycheck.

This article first appeared on the Denver Institute blog.

Photo credit.

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