Closing the Gap Between Sunday & Monday
Purposelessness is epidemic, and it's showing up in how we think and talk about our work. According to Gallup research, less than a third of Americans in the workforce are actively engaged and productive in their work. Most are disengaged, and some are actually poisoning business with their negativity.
Matt Monge, Top 100 Leadership Blogger, believes using just to describe a job is indicative of the problem. Saying “I’m just an office manager” or “I’m just a teacher” or “I’m just ... anything” downplays our potential, plays up your perceived limitations and sets up self-fulfilling prophecy. At the Center for Faith & Work, we agree. And it's bad theology as well as destructive.
Each and every person--Christian or not--is part of something much bigger that really matters. Every individual--aware of it or not--has a unique God-given purpose to develop and steward God’s creation, and contribute to human flourishing. Administrative assistants are not just their boss’s schedule managers, but reflectors of the orderly character of a God as they contribute to the smooth functioning of business. Loan processors are not just paper pushers at a mortgage company, but fulfillers of people’s dreams of owning their own home, providing shelter, and creating a place where families can blossom. Sanitation workers are not just trash collectors, but critically important investors in the physical flourishing of their community.
Additionally, as a follower of Christ in the workplace, you’ve been given the added privilege of representing God to your fellow workers. You are God’s chosen instrument to speak His healing words to hungry hearts around you (1 Peter 2:9). See Tim Watson's blog on this subject.
Carve out time soon to think about your work from the bigger perspective. Consider how your work serves God’s purposes and fosters human flourishing. Ask God to empower you to do good work and serve people well.
If you lead others, you are responsible to help them understand the bigger purpose of doing good work. People need more than a job description. They need to be reminded regularly of the bigger picture—that what they do matters, how it matters, and to whom it matters.
Last weekend I had to drive home after dark in a torrential rainstorm. Driving—even in good weather—makes me anxious, so that night I clinched the steering wheel extra tight, craned my neck and nervously navigated the multi-lane freeway into Dallas. When I came to the place where the highway divides into east and west exits, blinding rain blanketed the windshield. I couldn't see the road—or the looming concrete wall just beyond the next curve. As I tightened my grip in panic, my eyes caught a gleam of road reflectors that a highway maintenance crew had carefully placed to guide drivers along the perilous curve.
I immediately thanked God for the reflectors, and the people who made them and the workers installed in just the right places to lead me safely around the curve and finally home. I wondered if the road crew had any idea of the value of their work. Although what they do saves lives and contributes to human flourishing—they probably did their work with little pay and even less thanks, unless someone praised them for doing a good job and reminded them that what they do brings God glory. All of us need to hear that—regularly, and without exception.
That scary experience prompted me to think about the countless people who perform thankless jobs that make my life easier—like the elevator repairman who saves me from climbing eleven flights of stairs to get to work, and the cell phone factory worker who helped produce a device that keeps me connected, and the coffee grower who provides beans for my tall blonde roast, and the sanitation worker who hauls off the trash and keeps my neighborhood clean and healthy, and the baggage handler who makes sure my suitcase and belongings get to my destination, 800 miles away, and, of course, the highway workers who saved my life by carefully placing those beautiful reflectors!
Although I can’t personally thank the thousands of people who make my life possible, I can thank God for them. When I'm savoring my favorite mac and cheese at lunch, I can thank God for the wheat growers and dairy farmers, the line workers, shipping clerks and truck drivers, the stockers and cashiers and all the other people who own, manage and finance all the businesses God used to give me my daily bread.
Whose work are you thankful for today?
Is there someone you can personally thank who might be easily over looked?
Don Flow, owner and CEO of Flow Automotive, believes that Christian business leaders have a unique opportunity to shape communities and influence culture. By focusing on living as a faithful follower of Christ in today’s business climate, Flow has not only built a hugely successful commercial enterprise, he has also constructed a thoughtful model for doing business as a Christian leader—which includes a commitment to human flourishing in the communities where they do business.
Founded in 1957, today Flow operates 31 franchises and employs nearly 900 in North Carolina and Virginia. After 50+ years in the automobile business, Flow continues to be defined by three simple principles deeply woven into the fabric of their organization:
- A covenant with our customers to be a place that keeps its promises and is worthy of their trust.
- A community of people who work together towards a common vision.
- A commitment to work towards the common good of every city where we do business.
Each of these principles has strong biblical support and significance for business leaders, but it’s the third principle that is unique and noteworthy. This is not just a corporate-social-responsibility marketing campaign. It is a deeply held commitment that flows from biblical faithfulness, and one of the ways they measure success.
Our goal at Flow Companies is to be a creator of societal value by contributing to the common good of our communities. We want our presence to make a positive difference in our communities. Not just by the distinctive products and services we provide but because of the way we engage in the community and invest in its future. We want to be known as a company that is committed to the well being of our communities. We want to be the kind of company that if we did not exist, a community would want us to exist because the contribution that we have made to the common good.
We think about our communities as cultural banks where the social, intellectual, aesthetic, political, and economic capital from the past has been deposited, to be drawn down to meet the present needs. When organizations make withdrawal from that capital without replenishing it, they are diminishing the ability of the community to flourish in the future. Read the whole statement here.
Proverbs tells us,
When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices ...
By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted (Proverbs 11:10-11)
That reality is true for Winston-Salem, North Carolina and every community where Flow operates.
How is your business contributing to human flourishing? Does the city rejoice over the presence of your business?
Learn more about Don Flow and Flow Automotive:
The young woman’s face grew red, although considerable time had passed since the incident she was describing. She continued,
I work at a law firm. I made a mistake and my boss yelled at me. I was humiliated. I went back to my desk, but it was two or three days before I could concentrate well enough to get any work done.
What should a boss do who becomes aware of offending an employee by excessive conduct in a dispute? An impulse might be to stand on one’s higher position in the chain of command, or to hunker down and let it blow over. Neither represents effective leadership.
Ideally, the boss and employee should have a private conversation and try to restore the working relationship as promptly as possible. In a company that holds to Biblical principles, both boss and employee should feel free to initiate the conversation. Jesus said:
“. . . if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5, verses 23-24, italics added.
He made no exception for brothers (or sisters) higher in the chain of command.
On practical grounds also, the boss should welcome the opportunity to reconcile. Research has found that conflict has serious costs to businesses, among which are stress, frustration, anxiety, absenteeism and “presenteeism”(being physically present in the workplace but not working effectively). (A piece at http://www.conflictatwork.com/conflict/cost_e.cfm describes these and other common costs of conflict.)
Therefore, on ethical and practical grounds, companies are wise to encourage employees to resolve grievances promptly and not let them fester or boil over.
Some things a boss can do when personally involved in a workplace conflict,, include:
- Bosses who know or learn that they have offended can speak privately with aggrieved co-workers, acknowledging their responsibility in the conflict, and asking to be forgiven for their excessive behavior. Co-workers who feel offended can do the same. (This is especially important for Christian bosses and employees, according to Matthew 18, verse 15.)
- By mutual agreement bosses and co-workers can involve other individuals whom they both trust to participate and facilitate communication. In a complex situation this might be a professional mediator.
- For thorny disagreements there can be arbitration.
Conflict is unavoidable. The boss who is proactive in resolving conflict will lead a stronger company and have better relationships with his or her fellow workers.
Last month we posted a NYT article by Erin Callan, former CFO of Lehman Brothers, in which she confessed how her work had become a consuming priority—and ultimately her identity.
While Callan’s story was a wakeup call to many of us with the workaholic gene, I raise a cautionary flag. Such accounts of overwork can tempt us to view work as the enemy of spiritual life. To be sure, work can become an evil taskmaster and idol to which we sacrifice ourselves daily—often at the expense of our marriage, our family and our own personhood. “Work eats out the center of our lives, leaving us only the crust,” a retired executive bemoaned.
Why do we allow work to do this? Consider Callan’s answer: “I didn’t start out with the goal of devoting all of myself to my job. It crept in over time. Each year that went by, slight modifications became the new normal.” Though she never mentions God, Callan may be a better theologian than many who commented on her essay. She’s identified the real problem—and it’s not the work itself.
We all devote ourselves to something. And unless that something is God, it will “over time” enslave us—be it work, money, fame, family or pursuit of personal peace and happiness. Although each of these is a good gift from God, if we devote ourselves to any gift instead of the Giver of the gift, it will suck the life from our soul and leave an empty shell—as Callan discovered.
Yet when we devote ourselves to God, He fills us with life and the ability to enjoy His good gifts, rather than sucking us dry. He gives us the ability to do good work—and also the freedom to walk away our work when other responsibilities call. He calibrates our perception, allowing us to see our work as important to His creation and critical to our design and calling, but not the definer our identity.
Our work is enormously significant, but it must be secondary to our devotion to God. And in this devotion, we find freedom.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)
How do you devote yourself to the Lord through your work?
Meet Tracy Thomas, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Bright Hope, wife of Tojy and mother to Soraya, Caleb and Zachary. Tracy has been a working woman since her teens – she paid for college working at carnivals every summer (as a “carnie” she likes to call it), selling fried vegetables for her best friend’s dad at the Indiana fair and festival circuit. With three small children, her life certainly hasn’t gotten any less hectic, but we snagged a half hour of her time this week to ask her about her calling to the workplace and how she deals with guilt about being a working mom.
4word: Society’s view on women in the workplace has changed considerably over the past few decades. We’ve gone from women only working as secretaries and telephone operators (a la Mad Men) to a time when women business leaders are celebrated at events like the Harvard Business School’s W50 Summit. Have you noticed similar changes in the church’s view of working women?
Tracy: Yes, absolutely. I think a large part of the change is due to the higher number of single moms who attend church. They have to work to support their families. For the average American churchgoer, working women are more common and more accepted. Traditionally men still want to provide enough for their families so their wives can administrate the home and care for the children. This is a large part of the picture we see in the Proverbs 31 woman, but what is so often not emphasized is the work she put her hands to. She was very successful in the marketplace! I think the church is beginning to understand this, and overall, is quite accepting of talented and ambitious Christian women who desire to pursue their careers and a family.
4word: Can you tell us when and how you first discerned a calling to be in the workplace?
Tracy: As a young child in grade school, I had big dreams to live in a big city and work at an influential job. My mom was at home with me through most of my childhood, so this was a drift from what was modeled for me. Once I entered the workplace I just knew God was giving me favor wherever I worked. I would often have non-Christians ask me, “How did you get that appointment?” or “Why is he so nice to you and not the rest of us?” It seemed my desires, which were God-given, and my success, also God-given, proved that I was where I was supposed to be.
4word: Many working mothers struggle with guilt, whether it’s about not being a good mother or not being devoted enough to their job. Is this something that you struggle with too? How, specifically?
Tracy: Yes, absolutely. For me it’s more specifically defeat – feeling like all of the roles I play are too much. As I’ve grown and learned the best ways to balance work, ministry and family, I’ve felt a burden for all women dealing with this issue. Then one day it hit me – when God calls women to work in the marketplace, for whatever reason, that is their calling. Just because a woman needs to go to work to provide for her family doesn’t negate that this is her God-given calling.
As Christian working moms, we can overcome that feeling of guilt knowing that God is taking care of our kids when we’re at the office, and that He’s strengthening our career when we need to pay extra attention to our kids. I’ve learned to take my cues from the Lord on this one. When I know I’m in tune with where He wants me to focus, the “guilt factor” lessens.
4word: Does knowing that God has called you to the workplace help you overcome a false sense of guilt? How so?
Tracy: I believe the word “guilt” could be replaced with “discontentment.” When I am discontent, I lack peace, so I ask myself, “What has stolen my peace and given me this sense of guilt?” I know God has added these blessings to my life, and when I begin to feel guilt or defeat, I call it out for what it is: discontentment challenging my peace.
I’m never going to be perfect. But knowing that God has given me these many things to manage, and that ultimately it is all His, gives me peace that I will do it right. But I have to look to Him. I have to start every single day in His Word, and talking to Him in prayer.
Have you ever felt guilty about your work?
“He is risen! He is risen indeed!”
Many of us repeated those words on Easter Sunday morning, confident that our relationship with God is secure because of this miraculous historic event—and rightly so. Christ’s incarnation, crucifixion and physical resurrection are cornerstones of human history and our faith. But consider how Thomas’ demand for physical proof of the resurrection affects our Monday-morning reality.
Had Thomas not demanded proof, we might erroneously think that Jesus’ resurrection was only spiritual—not physical. And this might lead us to conclude, along with most pagan worldviews, that the physical world and all its activities—politics, science, the arts, our daily work—are of secondary importance to God, if significant at all.
But now we know that Jesus’ body is present, physically alive and well, somewhere in God’s universe. What does this mean to us as we head to work on Monday?
Christ’s physical resurrection makes the entire physical world—and our existence in it—spiritually significant. As Dutch prime minister Abraham Kyper proclaimed, “There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘This is mine. This belongs to me.’”
Please don't miss this resurrection reality—and opportunity. Monday morning is as significant to God as Sunday morning. And every ordinary activity of every day can and should be enlivened by the Living Christ and done for His glory, from preparing breakfast to closing a sale, from completing a school assignment to changing a diaper, from plowing a field to solving a complex engineering problem.
How will you claim your workplace today for the risen Christ?
Your jaw may have dropped over the recent WSJ article “Wealth Over the Edge: Singapore.” Only a few decades ago Singapore was a Third World country; today it enjoys First World status. And if economic growth rates continue, Singapore could very well become the world’s global economic center.
Having visited this unique city twice, I can testify that it is not only beautiful, it ‘s also immaculate and quite safe. If you’re caught littering, you’ll be sentenced to a day of street cleaning. Spit on the sidewalk and you’ll pay a hefty fine. And they’re quite serious about crime in Singapore. Drug dealers face capital punishment.
Kathy and I, along with LeTourneau University President Dr. Dale Lunsford and his wife Marsha, spent a week there, speaking at Hope Church Singapore and meeting with Christian business leaders. We learned that Singaporeans are even more serious about work than Americans. They call themselves 9-to-9ers—not 9-to-5 workers. “Work is everything” is the national narrative, and success in Singapore is measured in Cs: by your cars, condos, clubs, credit cards and cash.
This commitment to hard work has, no doubt, played a huge role in Singapore’s extreme economic growth. Yet recently Prime Minister Lee called on the nation to balance material goals with its ideals and values. “We are not impersonal, calculating robots, mindlessly pursuing economic growth and material wealth," he said. The WSJ article observes, “The irony ... is that the very sources of Singapore's success may ultimately prove its undoing.”
We met many Singaporeans who follow a different narrative. They understand that if you make anything other than God your priority, you’ll pay a price. Vibrant churches like Hope Church Singapore with a congregation of 5,000—mostly young people—and organizations like the Christian Medical Fellowship are helping Christians follow Christ in the workplace and in every area of life. I have spoken about workplace faith in many cities around the world, and I’ve found no more enthusiastic crowd than in Singapore. Over 400 men and women gave up two weekday evenings plus a Saturday afternoon to hear how they could bring Christ to their workplaces. Because of committed disciples such as these, the Christian population in Singapore is steadily growing. More and more people are seeing the relevance of the Christian faith—not just on Sunday morning, but in every area of life.
The hope for Singapore—and America—is that Christians will help our nations re-narrate work. This hope depends on churches, such as Hope Church Singapore, making it a priority to help workplace Christians see their work from God’s perspective.
Telling God’s story about work is the business of the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University. I hope you will join us.
What story are you telling about work?
When Bill Peel asked me to review a video on YouTube by the author of my husband’s bulky systematic theology textbook, I admit I was skeptical.
Prepared to be bored, I clicked and started watching Dr. Wayne Grudem teach—and was I surprised!
An articulate and enthusiastic communicator, Dr. Grudem reminded me of one of my favorite college professors. I was
immediately hooked as I listened to him unpack the Bible’s wisdom about how our work...
adds value to the world, as we imitate God’s ability to create
is a way we love our neighbors by serving others
is valuable to God. No matter where or what we do for work, we add value to the world and God is glorified in our daily work!
By the end of the lesson I was Googling “Wayne Grudem” books and asking my resident theologian if we could buy a few theology books—music to the ears of any student at Dallas Seminary. When we review our budget at the end of the month, I have a feeling that this purchase will sail through our approval process.
I think you’ll enjoy this video and be encouraged in your work.
How are you adding value to the world today? What do you do in your job to “love your neighbor as yourself”?
Ready to quit?
We’ve all seen dramatic scenes on TV or in movies where the lead character shouts, “I quit!” and storms out with triumphant music playing in the background, sometimes to the cheers of their coworkers. In real life though, this kind of dramatic display is almost never justified, and certainly not recommended.
Whether you’re leaving to take a new job, go back to school, spend more time with family, or for some other reason, take care to do so with grace and integrity. Remember that you serve as an ambassador of Christ in the work place. How you handle leaving says just as much (and maybe more) about your character and your faith as the way you conducted yourself on the job.
Remember that you are serving your current employer first, so be sure to be totally dedicated until your last day. This can be harder than it sounds, especially if you are excited about leaving. But it’s a question of integrity. Taking it easy during your last week at work might seem like a small thing, but Luke 16:10 reminds us that “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” You’ve made a commitment to work for your current employer right up through that last day, and that’s what you must do. Not just because it’s good to keep your word, but because it honors God.
Leave your current employer better off than when you arrived. Strive to provide your company with a as much value as you can offer, and if appropriate, you should have a successor ready to move into your role when you leave. Depending on your position, you might not be choosing your own successor, but you can commit to train your replacement in order to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Don’t use the resignation to negotiate your current compensation. If you’ve reached the point where you have prayed about your decision and feel that God has called you to the next job, role, or stage of life, then that’s probably what you should do. If you use a competing offer or the threat of resignation merely to strengthen your bargaining position, you might succeed in getting more money, but you won’t win the respect of your boss or coworkers. And that’s the kind of thing they’ll remember about you the next time you mention going to bible study or church.
If you believe that your current compensation is below market, and especially if you’ve had this confirmed by an outside job offer, you can go to your boss and discuss the situation honestly without using the offer to negotiate. It can be a delicate balance, but you won’t go wrong as long as you strive to conduct yourself with integrity. If your boss does not address your compensation concerns and it’s important enough to you, then go forward in talking with the other company.
When a valued employee offers their resignation, a company might put together an offer to try to keep them on. If this happens to you, it’s not wrong to reconsider, especially if the offer addresses some or all of the reasons you may be leaving. But if everything else is the same and money isn’t the driver, don’t let increased compensation change your mind.
Overall, strive to leave on a positive note. Even if you dislike certain things (or everything!) about your current company, now is not the appropriate time to lodge complaints. Instead, focus on the positives as much as possible. Talk about your new role, stage of life, etc. to explain why it is the right step for you, rather than focusing any dissatisfaction. It can be a tempting time to air all of your grievances, especially among sympathetic coworkers, but you’ll regret leaving on a bitter note.
Have you left a job recently? Are there any things you wish you’d handled differently?