Tag Archives: work

What if I gave it all at the office?

We are hurtling into the future like never before. The change makes us anxious about whether we can keep up and makes us less likely to take risks, since the whole world seems risky. Just keeping the house together can feel like a challenge. For instance, all the Pathmarks are shutting down as part of the A&P’s bankruptcy and the consolidation of regional supermarket chains into giant multinationals. Our Pathmark in Gray’s Ferry was across the street from a new Bottom Dollar, so we had two stores for a while. Then Aldi bought Bottom Dollar (it’s rival) and Pathmark went bankrupt. ACME (pronounced akamee, if you’re new) bought a few Pathmarks but not ours. So now we have no stores and have to travel somewhere else for food.

The workplace is no less challenging for many of us. For instance, one of the blessings and curses of new technology is that work is mobile. I am writing on the laptop I took on my weekend away — I was never far away. Work is so demanding and we are so afraid of the forces that will take it away from us, that we give it total loyalty at all times. Social observers say that the workplace, mobile or otherwise, is the dominant place where people work out life now; it replaces family, friendship circles, church and other organizations that used to be the major ways people found an identity.*

An example of an all-encompassing workplace is what many people say is the best place in the country to work: Google. An employee reviewer says, “The perks are amazing. Yes, free breakfast, lunch, an dinner every weekday. Aaaaaamazing holiday parties (at Waldorf Astoria, NY Public Library, MoMA, etc.); overnight ski trips to Vermont; overnight nature trips to the Poconos in the summer; summer picnics at Chelsea piers; and on and on and on. The company is amazingly open: every week Larry Page and Sergey Brin (right) host what’s called TGIF where food, beer, wine, etc. is served, a new project is presented, and afterward there’s an open forum to ask the executives anything you want. It’s truly fair game to ask anything, no matter how controversial, and frequently the executives will be responsive. * No, nobody cares if you use an iPhone, Facebook, shop with Amazon, stream using Spotify, or refuse to use Google+.“ There’s no reason to leave.

So let’s say you want to build the church and have a mission to the 10,000+ 18-35 year olds that move into Philadelphia every year. If home life is hard that is one thing. But who can compete with Google or with every other employer that thinks they are doing you a favor by making it possible for you to never leave work and making work like your family? Doesn’t the church want you to be under the umbrella of its family (since God is our father and Jesus our brother)? Isn’t Jesus the leader who calls us to work in his “harvest field” since the night is coming when the work of redeeming the world is finished? (see John 9). Doesn’t just bringing up that sense of competition make a few of you readers squeamish or resistant? Don’t leave yet, let’s try to talk about it!

What if you feel like “I already gave what I have to give at the office?” Or “I’ll let you know what I feel right after I answer this call; it’s about work?” Maybe you’re thinking, “I have a hard enough time seeing my children and now you want me to be like family with a bunch of other people?” Yes we do.

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2014 #5 — How to follow Jesus at work

For the next few weeks, Thursday is TOP TEN of 2014 day. This is the #5 most read post of 2014. Last September I tried to sort out what we think about work and what we should do about what we think — at “work.”

Sometimes going to our daily, money-making job can be tough for a Jesus-follower. Do we just shut off our hearts and souls and get the money, or do we dare to ask the questions that keep bubbling up? “Can I do what I am assigned to do and still honor Jesus?” Even harder, “Can I think as I am supposed to think as defined by my employer and still be a Christian?” We have to answer the question, “Can I dare to serve Jesus without reservation and still have a normal job?”

You’ve got to know who you are in Christ before you can know what to do. We are good trees that bear good fruit. So think about how Jesus-followers approach the idea of work.

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How to follow Jesus at work: Four suggestions

Sometimes going to work can be tough for a Jesus-follower. Do we just shut off our hearts and souls and get the money, or do we dare to ask the questions that keep bubbling up? “Can I do what I am assigned to do and still honor Jesus?” Even harder, “Can I think as I am supposed to think as defined by my employer and still be a Christian?” We have to answer the question, “Can I dare to serve Jesus without reservation and still have a normal job?”

You’ve got to know who you are in Christ before you can know what to do. We are good trees that bear good fruit. So think about how Jesus-followers approach the idea of work.

We think everything we do matters

When we attend to our regular duties, they are made holy because God is with us in the process and we are in God’s world. We don’t do anything that does not matter. No matter what person or institution claims to own us, we know better — we are children of God. Even when we do wrong things, we know God can turn them to good because we love him. That’s how we go to our jobs.

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Shave off some workweek hours that could be better used elsewhere

We want to get a lot done. Not only are we responsible workers doing good things at our money-making jobs, we have a family business to tend, now that Jesus has called us into the Kingdom of God! Our limited time is organized around the big project of redemption that comes with being our true selves in Christ; our daily jobs, our human family requirements and our sense of mission are all defined by the good work we are assigned by our Leader. We all need to be adept time managers, since the time is short and the days are evil. The people called out to lead the church have a big challenge when it comes to managing the workweek, so this is especially for them.

clock eyeThe pastors are always struggling with managing time, as are all the church’s leaders, since their project is so large and the demands are so variable. So we often appreciate advice from people who give advice on these things. One of the blogs we often run into is by Michael Hyatt, former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers and a Sunday school teacher in Nashville. I decided to re-do one of his posts today to offer some basic help with managing time so we can feel less breathless about the big things we want to do together. Here we go:

Are there ten hours of unnecessary work sucking the life out of your week? Here are seven suggestions Michael Hyatt thinks might work for you if you applied a little thought and effort. How can we shave off some workweek hours that could be better used elsewhere?

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Labor Day: You matter. What you do matters.

A few thoughts on Labor Day to answer a common question: Can I do the job I am supposed to do, can I think as I am supposed to think as defined by my employer and still be a Christian?  Can I dare to serve Jesus without reserve and still have a normal job?

Yes. When we do our regular duties, they are made holy because God is with us in the process and we are in God’s world. We don’t do anything that does not matter. No matter what person or institution claims to own us, we know better; we are children of God.

We can go to work and receive whatever comes as full of possibilities. For from [Christ] and through him and to him are all things (Romans 11:36).

On the active side, we can do whatever we are doing at the moment to God’s glory, meaning we do it as an act or service, or obedience, or hope, or whatever. Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

How can I be a Christian at work? Part of it has to do with how you see work. Are you God’s at work? Do you do your work with God in mind? Do you see the workplace like God does? It all makes a huge difference.

In Christ, work is no longer a necessary evil. It is now an opportunity, just like everything else.  “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17). The work doesn’t make me who I am, I make the work serve my deepest purposes, no matter what it is. I can be who I am in it.

Jesus is who he is in his work! When he was doing his work, he never “went to work.” All the various things he did were about being who he is and doing what gave him opportunity. Christ did everything his Father commanded until he could honestly say, “It is finished” on the cross. “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work(John 4:34-5)…. “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:19-21).

Does Jesus live to work or work to live? He does both. He was born to do his work. And he says he is fed by the work he does. We are called to share that ongoing work of re-creation in every generation. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world (John 17:18 ). When we show up at our jobs, our cells, our PM Team rehearsal, our work day on the community garden we’re there to honor God in what we do and in how we do it — or not.

Three general ideas on how to be a Christian at work

Let your life speak

Go to work tomorrow or next month or next year and do your absolute best. Be the best employee, the best manager, the best counter person you can be. Be known as the most honest, most humble, most ethical, most competent person in your field. And do all that not to merely advance your own career, but to advance God’s fame. It makes every day worth living.

If you desperately want to make a difference in life, but you have a habit of not showing up to work on time, or you don’t return calls or complete assignments, people will not think God looks that great, probably, should you ever reveal you know Jesus. Being a slovenly worker is why some people never mention Jesus at work; they expect to give Jesus a bad name.

At the same time, don’t get crazy, thinking your work is all Jesus has going for him. But even though the Lord is not relying totally on your perfection, you matter — and you have the same job as Jesus! He probably would not have been a pastor or missionary the way we think of them; he probably would have been more like you. He probably would have worked at Target or Starbucks, since he would inevitably meet everyone on the planet there.

Look forward to problems

You might know some way-too-happy Christians who go to work thinking that since they love Jesus, everything is going to work out. It’s not. You might miss your quota. You might lose a client. You might get fired. You might have tensions with your boss or your co-workers. These things don’t mean that Jesus doesn’t love you or that God isn’t on your side or that God is punishing you for that sin you can’t forget. The problems are just the inevitable result of living in a sin-ridden world; thorns infest the ground. Work doesn’t always work the way it should. So have a big idea of how you are a re-creator with God but be realistic about sin, too. Jesus hasn’t come back yet.

Every problem is an opportunity to rely on Jesus to redeem it. Problems are what keep us redeemers in business. So if you work with problem people in a problematic place that might be the best of all possible worlds for the redemption project. If your work is hard, that might be an advantage to your deeper purposes.

Keep the Sabbath

Rest is crucial to work. Rest is the ying to the yang of action. It is part of how we work. I’m not talking about the bifurcated idea of work-life balance, or work and leisure. That’s one of those binary descriptions of things that got popular in the 1800s and we have not shaken off the definitions yet. We have a calling that is 24/7 and we express ourselves in various ways. We might rest from our labor, but that does not mean we are not generally at work. We don’t find ourselves in our leisure and do work to pay for it.

Resting is elemental to working and working is elemental to resting. Without rest we do not work right, without work we don’t rest right. Most of us are so tied up in our music, video, e-mail, social networks, entertainment, texts and general busyness that we tend to forget the art of resting. Maybe the best thing we can do for ourselves, for our employer, for our careers, and for the glory of God is to set apart one day in our week when we unplug — when the cell phone is off, when we don’t check email, when we take a really long nap, when we worship and pray, when we take a walk or watch a sunset.

If your work obligations don’t permit a 24-hour period of rest every week, then consider taking a personal day every month for solitude and silence and rest. Why wouldn’t you? Your co-workers will take personal days when a pet dies or when a girlfriend breaks up with them or when they are hung over from a long weekend. We don’t need to feel guilty for taking one day out of every 30 to refresh our souls through intimate communion with God.

God is with us in the process and we are in God’s world. We don’t do anything that does not matter. No matter what person or institution claims to own us, we know better; we are children of God. So here’s my blessing for you on Labor Day: Therefore, my beloved [family], be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).