Archive for April, 2009
Yesterday, I attended a program offered by Faith and Work Life in Orange County. The guest speaker was Marketplace Ministry Mentor Paul Stevens. The primary audience was pastors. I want to share a few gems that might be helpful to pastors as they consider how to help their congregations think about issues of faith and work.
1. Use symbols from the work world in presenting our worship. For example, at Thanksgiving, in addition to the produce from the land that we bring to the alter, bring produce from the marketplace (a spreadsheet, a product, a lesson plan, an advertisement, etc.).
2. Interview people who work in the marketplace (anywhere exchange takes place) every week for 52 weeks. Churches that have done this have seen people’s lives transformed and people come to Christ by seeing the connection to God in their everyday lives. Ask them these simple questions (give them to the person in advance, of course):
a. What do you do for a living?
b. What is the biggest issue you face in your daily work?
c. What difference does your faith make in how you deal with those issues?
d. How can we pray for you and your ministry in the workplace?
3. Pray for and commission people for their service in the marketplace. For example, commission teachers, lawyers, farmers, service provides, etc.
4. Offer vocational counseling and discernment through the church.
5. Have marketplace Christians teach and preach.
6. Use marketplace terminology in sermons.
7. Teach the theology of calling. Integrate into small group curriculum.
8. Offer occupation related support and prayer groups.
9. Minimize church obligations so people are freed up for service in their home and communities.
“We work in our day job in order to make money to support our vocation.”
These are the words I heard recently in a sermon about work.
“I’m thinking about quitting my job so I can go into ministry and do the Lord’s work.”
These are the words I heard recently from a participant in one of my small groups.
“It seems like your real passion, Michele, is the issue of faith and work and what you are doing here working in marketing is just a job.”
These are the words I heard recently from one of my coworkers.
These three statements have a common flaw. They assume that our daily work, be it hammering nails into a wall, conducting a science experiment, writing ad copy, is not an essential element of our call to be like Christ. Our daily work is a reflection of the very nature of the Almighty God. In Genesis 1, God created the heavens and the earth. In the beginning of Genesis, we also learn that God created us in His image.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Gen. 1: 26-28
The works of our hands, the very nature of work itself, reflects the call on humanity to care for and rule over the earth. Work does not pull you away from sacred activities like mission trips, Bible studies, and evangelism. Work itself is sacred. Work itself is noble. You are not a cog in a wheel. You are an essential element of the story God is telling. A story that brings dignity to your life. A story that gives your life meaning.
You may be thinking, “But my work does not feel very noble. I’m unmotivated, bored, and just plain tired.” Have you checked your heart lately? Are you working as unto the Lord? Or are you just viewing your job as a way to pay the bills? Be honest. Passion and desire will be ignited as you begin to connect your faith and your work. It’s no longer about you. It’s not even about the specific tasks you are doing. It’s about that bigger story. It’s about a broader calling on your life.
If you hate what you are doing for work right now, maybe, just maybe, God has you where you are for a reason. Maybe you are learning a lesson or learning what you don’t love to do so you can better recognize your heart’s desire when you see it. Or maybe you really are not where you are supposed to be because you took your job for the wrong reason (like to impress others). It’s not too late to begin considering your place in the larger story.
The bottom line is that the work you are doing right now matters to God. Stop thinking about what counts as “Godly activities” and realize that we don’t need to compartmentalize Godly and secular activities. Every activity is an opportunity to be Christ in the world.
Pat Lencioni, author of such bestselling books as The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Death by Meeting, recently wrote a guest blog for BusinessWeek entitled Rediscovering Work. In his post, he suggests that we might be moving back down Maslow’s pyramid, away from “the importance of finding deep meaning and fulfillment in a job.” He points out, and I agree, that one positive thing coming out of this current crisis might be people finding “a new appreciation for the simple gift that is work.” I was reading recently that after the Great Depression, people were so relieved to have a job that they placed a high value on work itself. No longer was work seen as a curse; it was a blessing. If this is an outcome of this crisis, I will be thrilled.
His blog post pointed out that people who never landed their dream job will feel better about themselves now by just having a job at all. Even people who did land that dream job and found it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be “can find a little relief and reset their expectations.”
While Lencioni’s post had some interesting insight, I was left wanting. Wanting to know: what are the eternal truths about work that weather any storm? Climbing Maslow’s hierarchy seems a little too simple of an explanation for what’s going on here. Were self fulfillment and fulfilling potential really what was driving people these past 20 years as Lencioni suggests? Or was it something deeper.
As a Christian, I am certain that it has to be something more.
When I read in Jeremiah 29:11 that God has a plan for me and in Psalm 139 that He created my inner most being, my inspiration does not come from a sense of wanting more personal fulfillment. I begin to see work as worship. It’s not about my potential, it’s about what I was created to do and be. It’s eternal.
Maybe the problem is that people are seeking to find identity in their work instead of understanding their vocation. So often, we create a mission statement or envision something special we will be doing with our lives 10 years down the road, and we think that success is tied to a certain job title.
Take me, for example, several years ago, I applied for a job at the Center for Life Calling and Leadership at Indiana Wesleyan University. It was shortly after I had been inspired by my mission to “unleash the dreams of others.” Job title: Lead Life Coach. In a million years, I would not have imagined a more perfect job title. It seemed so meant to be that I was willing to move from San Diego to a tiny town in Indiana. I had the phone interview and they declared that of the hundreds of applicants, they wanted me. They would fly me out for an interview, but it was “just a formality.” (I should write another job post about not counting your chickens until they are hatched!) Long story short, they met me, and I was not the relational personality they had been expecting. The introvert in me shone bright that day.
So what did I do? Well, I started looking for opportunities to fulfill my mission in unconventional ways. I became a better manager. I started volunteer keynote speaking. I counseled people one on one. Heck, I even bought the stepson who wanted to be a vet a beagle and the stepson who wanted to be a pilot flying lessons! My dream did not die. My passion was not tied to my job title. It was tied to my inner most being.
So I do hope Pat’s right and that people do rediscover work amidst this crisis. Actually, maybe what I’m hoping for is a transformation on how we view work. On how we view purpose. And on how we view God.
I work in marketing at Point Loma Nazarene University. I was thoroughly amused last week when while browsing archive.org, I discovered creepy organ music playing in the background of the 1996 version of our homepage. Remember back when lots of Web sites would play distracting music that just kept looping?
I often find myself thinking, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Just because you can turn the university logo hot pink doesn’t mean it’s a good plan. Just because you can make a hot dog fly through your powerpoint presentation doesn’t mean… well you get the point.
I was recently given an opportunity and I need to make a decision. So I’m writing this blog post to help me process as much as anything else. It’s easy to jump on every opportunity that comes our way. Some might even spiritualize it and think, “The Lord has placed this in front of me.” Or the need might seem so important that we feel like “it’s the right thing to do.” But just because you can…
I encourage you to be intentional about your decisions. If you aren’t, you risk looking at your life 20 years down the road and wondering how the heck did I get here (think Talking Heads)?
But how do we know when it’s the right choice and what we should turn down? Let’s just assume you have the skills and abilities. And let’s assume it’s honorable work that would make a difference to someone in the world. Here are some questions to ask yourself before saying yes.
Are you saying yes just because someone asked? I used to have such a hard time saying no. At one point right after grad school, I had 5 (or was it 6?) different jobs at one time pretty much because I was saying yes to every opportunity. Someone would recommend me for something and I would take that as a sign that it was meant to be. At the end of the day, I was completely burned out, dissatisfied, and overwhelmed. I see this happen all the time. Think boundaries. Sure it’s nice to be helpful when needed. Don’t use what I’m saying as an excuse. But when it comes to activities that will take up a lot of your already-spread-thin time or a 40-hour a week job offer, be more discerning.
Where will this choice take you? Years ago, my friend Jen had two job offers at the same time (I know, a luxury these days, right!). Job option 1 seemed like the perfect fit. Jen had years of experience teaching public speaking. Her master’s was in communication. She had worked in university administration. The job offer was to run a public speaking program at a university. Job option 2 was to oversee research projects related to breast cancer. Jen had always had an interest in health care. Every other job she had applied for in the industry required a degree in that field. Taking job option number 2 felt like a big risk to her. She did not feel prepared. Job option 1 was safe. I asked her where each option would take her 10 years down the road. Immediately, option 2 became the clear choice.
Are you drained or energized? Take my church, for example? I could volunteer helping women escape sex trafficking, I could mentor inner city youth, I could deliver meals to AIDS victims. But I choose to spend most of my energy in the faith and work ministry. It’s where I gain new energy. It’s a topic I’m passionate about. Sure I’m also on the greeter team and I serve communion some Sundays, but where I choose to spend most of my time is where I find meaning and rejuvenation.
Is it meant for someone else? There are lots of needs in the world. Lots of places we can make a difference. It may seem like I’m being dramatic here, but if you think about it, if you are off doing activities that are not a fit for you, you are taking the place of someone else who was created to fulfill that need.
Does it fit within your mission statement? It helps to have a mission statement. Mine is “to unleash the dreams of others.” Whenever I have to choose between different job or volunteer opportunities, I ask myself if the activity gets me closer to my mission. It’s not the only filter, but it helps.
So I’m not sure if I’ll say yes yet. If I do, you will read all about it. One thing that’s for sure is that I won’t do it just because I can. I’ll pray about it, I’ll meditate, and I’ll ask myself some soul searching questions.
(And if you are a coworker (or my boss) reading this, don’t worry, it’s not a new job offer!)