CFW Blog Author - Bill Peel
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.Tags:
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:
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?
“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?
At the Center for Faith & Work we talk a lot about business done for the glory of God. But rap music? This genre doesn’t show up anywhere on my list of favorites—for the sake of entertainment or for gaining wisdom. However, my very smart friend Dr. Jim Denison introduced me to an extraordinary young man, hip-hop artist Lecrae Moore, who has some important things to say to Christians about faith, work and impacting our culture.
Last fall at the Resurgence Conference in Irvine CA, Moore told the audience, "There is a sacred-secular divide that hinders us from impacting culture. . . . We (Christians) are great at talking about salvation and sanctification. We are clueless when it comes to art, ethics, science, and culture. Christianity is the whole truth about everything. It's how we deal with politics. It's how we deal with science. It's how we deal with TV and art." And I would add, it is how we deal with our everyday work.
Moore encourages Christians to reclaim those things that have been labeled evil because they’ve been misused—and instead use them for God’s glory.
He explained, "I'm talking about using things that are typically used for evil and showing how they can be used for God's glory . . . . Things are not of themselves evil. It's [about] structure and direction. God has structured things for His glory and His goodness and humanity is directing it in evil or good ways.”
"If you are going to engage culture it's about taking the things, and the things you are skilled at, and asking 'How can I direct them in a good way?”
Pretty good theology from a rap artist, I’d say.
So have you thought lately about how you can reclaim your work for God’s glory?
By the way, I highly recommend signing up for Jim Denison’s daily Culture Commentary at Denison Forum on Truth and Culture. His blogs will help you understand important news events and cultural trends from a Christian perspective.
Have you ever considered how your words and actions influence the way people view Christianity? Every day, by what we do and say, we either draw or repel people to the truth—especially in the workplace. That’s easy to forget when we’re dealing with an annoying person or situation. Unchecked frustration often yields unkind remarks, but here’s the reality:
Every interaction we have with every person is spiritually significant.
Let those words sink in for a minute. This means that during the course of our daily work, we have many opportunities to pull people toward Christ—or to push them away.
I confess that when someone knows I'm a follower of Christ, I typically watch my language and actions. But, sadly, I don’t always stop to consider the impact of my words when I'm “anonymous.” I’ve been known to make less-than-kind remarks to people in the service industry, such as airline gate agents. (Surely they deserve a special place in heaven.) On the last leg of a particularly draining trip, I was complaining vociferously to a gate agent about yet another delay—something she had no control over. About that time Kathy walked up and whispered a gentle reminder, “Do you think the agent would be interested to know that you’ve been leading a course on workplace evangelism this weekend?” Ouch!
Fortunately that embarrassing episode didn’t go viral as did the judgment lapse of the pastor who crossed out the gratuity on her check (automatically added for large groups) and wrote, “I give God 10%, why do you get 18?”
As much as I wish this incident hadn’t happened—for her sake and the myriad who saw it on the Web—it serves as an important reminder of the impact our words and actions can have on others.
It bears repeating, every interaction we have with every person is spiritually significant.
So next time you’re about to let loose on someone who’s not meeting your expectations, ask yourself, “Will what I say help or hinder this person’s journey toward Christ?”
And when you’re at a restaurant discussing Christ at your table, leave a big tip. Wouldn’t it be nice for your server to think, Wow! Those Christian people sure are generous! You’ve just helped that person take one step closer to Christ.
Everyone likes to be appreciated. And not surprisingly, saying thank-you is good business. According to research, showing gratitude can increase profit, productivity and employee loyalty.
But as Sue Shellenbarger recently wrote in her Wall Street Journal column, we shouldn’t expect a big thank-you at work this week. She reports, "The workplace ranks dead last among the places people express gratitude, from homes and neighborhoods to places of worship. Only 10% of adults say thanks to a colleague every day, and just 7% express gratitude daily to a boss, according to a survey this year of 2,007 people for the John Templeton Foundation."
Yet gratitude is about more than good business. It is supposed to be the habitual attitude of every Christian. In Ephesians 5:20 Paul says we should be “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He repeats the admonition in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” And he urges Christians in Thessalonica, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” (5:16-18).
Interestingly, Paul’s exhortations about gratitude fall in the same context with his instructions to render humble service in the workplace (Eph. 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-4:1; 1 Thes. 4:11-12).
I like the way Tim Keller defines humility. He says, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself—but thinking of yourself less”—a hard thing to do in the workplace where it’s so easy to focus on Me, Mine, and what I deserve!
“Gratitude,” on the other hand, “goes beyond the ‘mine' and 'thine' and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift,” writes Henri Nouwen. He suggests that gratitude can—and should—be a life discipline.
So how are you doing at expressing gratitude toward others in your workplace? Sure, some people don’t feel the need to receive as much appreciation as others. But the fact is, we all need to give it. And expressing thanks to others begins with “giving thanks to God the Father.”
Take a moment to list ten things others do in your workplace that you are thankful for. How can you show your appreciation for the good work they are doing?
Want some great ideas for how to say thank you? See David Roth’s suggestions at Work Matters.
I’m always on the lookout for God’s heroes in the workplace—people who understand that their work matters to God and see themselves as Kingdom outposts of God’s grace. Recently, my search led me to a cab driver.
Maybe you’ve heard the story of former terrorist, Mosab Hassan Yousef. He’s the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founder of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Mosad followed in his father’s footsteps and, beginning at age ten, he was arrested by the Israelis numerous times. During a stint in prison, he decided to accept an offer by Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, to become an informant against Hamas. In the course of his new position, he met a British cab driver who saw himself as God’s ambassador and his taxi as his mission field.
Unbeknownst to Mosab, when he stepped into the cab that day, he had stepped on holy ground. At the end of the cab ride, the driver gave Yousef a copy of the New Testament and invited him to a Bible study. Upon reading the gospels for the first time, Yousef was drawn to Jesus’ grace, love, and humility, and in time, he embraced Christ as his savior.
You can read the complete story in the New York Times best-seller, Son of Hamas. Check out the video interview at the book website.
While Yousef’s sensational conversion tempts us to focus on the terrorist-turned-follower of Jesus, don’t miss the critical underlying story of God’s hero—the unnamed taxi driver who took his faith to work and was alert for an opportunity to share the gospel. Your workplace is holy ground as well. And, it’s likely that Christ is at work in the hearts of some of the people you pass in the hall or see in the break room. It’s also likely that God wants you to be one link in the chain of encounters that draw those people to Himself.
So keep your spiritual antennae up—and remember that everywhere you set your foot is holy ground. Pray for the people with whom you work and ask God to allow you to be one link in the chain of influencers He uses to draw them unto Himself.
What are some opportunities God has give you to be one link in the chain?Tags:
When it comes how most people view the multi-trillion dollar banking industry, words like loathe, cynicism, and distrust come to mind. A writer a Rolling Stone magazine, for example, described Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” With press like that, it is not surprising that the number of handgun permits for self-protection has increased among Goldman Sachs execs.
Then there’s Lloyd Blankfein’s statement that attracted no small amount of verbal fire. The Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO said that he’s just a banker “doing God’s work.”
“I know I could slit my wrists and people would cheer,” Blankfein confesses. But then he argues, “We’re very important. We help companies to grow by helping them to raise capital. Companies that grow create wealth. This, in turn, allows people to have jobs that create more growth and more wealth. It’s a virtuous cycle. We have a social purpose.”
Step back a moment from the greed and arrogance that characterizes many financial sector leaders, and consider Blankfein’s claim at face value. Whether or not he truly understands the spiritual implications of his comments, truth is, providing capital to grow businesses can be a deeply spiritual enterprise—because all good work is God’s work. And God uses investment banks and other lending institutions to the fuel economic growth behind so much we take for granted—like food that fuels our body, medicine that fights disease, technology that allows us to read the Bible on our phone.
To read more about the moral good of investment banking, see John Terrill’s article in Cardus. It’s a great reminder of the need to reclaim the moral high ground in any kind of work.
What do you think? Can lending money have a spiritual purpose?