One of the men in our men’s ministry began his talk several years ago by introducing himself as an ordained lawyer. That was the point he and I were trying to drive home to our men that morning… to think of themselves as ordained ________ (fill in the blank with whatever it is that they do.). In other words, your work IS your ministry.
To think of your job as your ministry is foreign to many of us. Many of us grew up thinking that only pastors and missionaries "did ministry." Thankfully, there has been a surge of books and studies that have tried to steer folk away from that sort of thinking.
What we want to get people thinking about is “vocation” or calling. This is a horrible paraphrase, but a quote often attributed to Martin Luther supposedly went something like, “A cobbler who makes shoes to the glory of God during the week is every bit the minister as a pastor who preaches a sermon on Sunday morning.” The Bible does not draw a distinction between the sacred and the secular. All work should be for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23-24,
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.
While God may give you the opportunity to communicate the gospel, hold a Bible study, or wear a John 3:16 button in your workplace, it’s more likely that your faith will be exercised by simply doing your job well, with integrity. Beyond that, it may also include representing Christ faithfully to hurting, lost, angry, bitter, fearful, restless, or despairing people. How can Christ use you to minister to those sorts of people in your workplace? What might that look like? In every setting, you are Christ's ambassador... his representative.
In order to help you with those questions, here are a few links to enable you to discover what your faith at work might look like in your spheres of influence…
The High Calling
Center for Faith and Work
The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics
Christian Business Men Connection
On Call in Culture
Called to Business.com
Christian Faith at Work
Fellowship of Companies for Christ International
How to Build a Ministry through Your Work by Pat Morley at Man in the Mirror
Work and the Man in the Mirror (audio and video messages) by Pat Morley
A Biblical View of Work by Ken Boa
Theology of Work from Western Seminary
The Theology of Work (print and mp3 audio available) by Robert Rayburn
Working out a Theology of Work and here by Justin Taylor (also see the related resources at the bottom of the article)
Theology of Work (website)
Video Messages on Work from Wayne Grudem
Videos on Faith and Work from Tim Keller
Men and Work video messages by Patrick Morley
Miscellaneous video messages on a Theology of Work
Business for the Glory of God (book) by Wayne Grudem
God at Work (book) by Gene Edward Veith
O God, who hast ordained that whatever is to be desired, should be sought by labor, and who, by thy blessing, bringest honest labor to good effect: Look with mercy upon all our work, studies, and endeavors. Grant us, O Lord, to design only what is lawful and right; afford us calmness of mind, and steadiness of purpose, that we may so do thy will in this short life, as to obtain happiness in the world to come; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
from The Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home, 1965
Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work
by Tom Nelson
Below are some of the highlights from the first chapter of a great book entitled, Work Matters by Tom Nelson. I would encourage you to buy this book and read it a couple of times if you've ever spent much time thinking about the intersection of your work and faith.
Below are some highlight from the book that really ministered to me. They will bless you too.
Introduction: Connecting Sunday to Monday
When it comes to work, perhaps you are feeling a bit fogged in at the moment. It could be that your work has you simply living for the weekend. Maybe you are looking for some clearer direction about you work, and you need some timely wisdom to guide you.
I believe how we view our work and how we do our work matters a great deal more than we might imagine.
I have wrongly viewed some kinds of work as being more important than others. On several occasions in my life, I have drifted to the perilous edge of workaholism, conveniently making an idol out of my work. For way too long, I did not see work as an essential component of a broader, robust theology of Christian calling, nor did I see how the gospel transforms work. I failed to grasp that a primary stewardship of my pastoral work was to assist and equip others to better connect the professions of their Sunday faith with the practices of their Monday work.
The word vocation simply means “calling.” Properly understood, Christian vocation is centered in a sovereign God who calls us to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ and to follow him in the power of the Holy Spirit as his disciples. … We are and continue to be transformed in and through the power of the gospel. Our work, too, is transformed. When we come to the foot of the cross, we bring with us what we do as well as who we are. The gospel, properly understood, leads us to a seamless faith.
We all have a primary calling and a secondary calling.
Primary Calling – Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him and for him. First and foremost we are called to Someone, not to something or to somewhere.
Secondary Calling: Each one of us has also been given a secondary calling, and an essential aspect of his
particular calling is to do a specific work. A large portion of our time on earth is given to our work, and we should be wise to take this stewardship seriously.
What would it really look like if our Sunday faith connected seamlessly to our Monday work?
What are the important implications and opportunities that our work provides for us and for our world as we seek to live out a gospel witness and be a faithful presence in our workplace?
Chapter 1: Created to Work
“All vocations are intended by God to manifest His love in the world.” Thomas Merton
1. Created with Work in Mind
As human beings, we have been designed not only to rest and to play but also to work. From the very beginning of Scripture we see that the one true God is not a couch potato God, nor did he create a couch potato world.
God the Creator places a distinguishing stamp of uniqueness on human beings, one that sets humanity apart from the rest of creation.
Cites Genesis 1:26-28
The Genesis writer wants us to grasp the unique place of human beings in creation. We observe this uniqueness in two foundational ways
A.) First, humans are designed by God to exercise proper dominion over creation, which is a divinely delegates stewardship role.
B.) Second, humans are designed by God to be his image-bearers, to uniquely reflect who God is to his good world.
2. Image-Bearers of God
As image-bearers, we were created to mirror the glory and excellence of the triune God.
We were created to worship God and to display a glimpse of God’s glory to a vast and expanding universe.
3. Why Do We Work?
Scripture tells us that the most bedrock answer to the question of why we work is that we were created with work in mind. Being made in God’s image, we have been designed to work, to be fellow workers with God. To be an image-bearer is to be a worker.
We work because we bear the image of One who works. This is why the apostle Paul writes a group of first-century followers of Jesus who have embraced the gospel, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).
Paul does not rebuke those who, for various legitimate reasons, cannot work, but he does say that an unwillingness to work is no trivial thing. For anyone to refuse to work is a fundamental violation of God’s creation design for humankind.
Nelson has some powerful words on slothfulness or laziness as it relates foolishness and, ultimately, unbelief.
The work we are called to do every day is an important part of our image-bearing nature and stewardship.
4. Created to Contribute
First and foremost, work is not about economic exchange, financial remuneration, or a pathway to the American Dream, but about God-honoring human creativity and contribution. Our work, whatever it is, whether we are paid for it, is our specific human contribution to God’s ongoing creation and to the common good.
Work is an integral aspect of being human, an essential aspect of loving God and his created world, and a vital part of loving our neighbor as ourselves.
God created humans not only to worship him and to delight in him, but to make an important ongoing contribution to his creation. From Genesis 2 we see that the earth itself was created in order to be cultivated and shaped by humankind.
Not only would the crown of creation have joyful intimacy with their Creator, but they would also be given the joyful privilege of contributing to the work of God in his good world.
A biblical worldview begins not with human choice, but with a good and sovereign God who is not only the Creator but also the Caller. Here in the Genesis narrative, before humanity’s fall into sin and resulting corruption of the world and our work, we are given two bedrock truths regarding human work and vocation:
A.) We were created with an important stewardship in mind, to cultivate creation and to keep it; and
B.) We are commissioned by God to nurture, care for, and protect his creation.
5. A Stewardship Posture
A vital aspect of this stewardship is the essential work not only of tending things and making things but also of cultivating and creating culture.
The language of work as cultivation and creation in Genesis 2:15 is embedded in the Hebrew world avodah, which his behind the English translation “to cultivate.” It is rendered as “work,” “service,” or “craftsmanship” in many instances, yet other times it is translated as “worship.”
Whether it is making bricks, crafting fine linen, or leading others in corporate praise and worship, the Old Testament writers present a seamless understanding of work and worship. Though there are distinct nuances of avodah, a common thread of meaning emerges where work, worship, and service are inextricably linked and intricately connected.
God’s original design and desire is that our work and our worship would be a seamless way of living. Properly understood, our work is to be thoughtfully woven into the integral fabric of Christian vocation, for God designed and intended our work, our vocational calling, to be an act of God-honoring worship.
7. Work as an Act of Worship
So often we think of worship as something we do no Sunday and work as something we do on Monday. However, this dichotomy is not what God designed nor what he desires for our lives. God designed work to have both a vertical and horizontal dimension. We work to the glory of God and for the furtherance of the common good.
8. An Audience of One
Nothing we think, say, or do ever escapes God’s loving, caring, and watchful eye. Living before an Audience of One also means that all we do and say is to be an act of God-honoring worship.
Doing our work before an Audience of One changes what we do and how we do it. Living with this mind-set helps us connect our faith with our work, for we live before the same Audience on Monday at work as we do on Sunday at worship.
“Let the church remember this: that every maker and worker is called to serve God in his profession or trade – not outside it… The only Christian work is good work well done.” Dorothy Sayers
It is hard to imagine how our understanding of work and the quality of our work would change if we would truly live before an Audience of One and fully embrace the truth that the only Christian work is good work well done.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Col. 3:23-24)
9. Rethinking Work
If you understand that God designed you to contribute to his creation, you will take seriously how and where you are called to make your important contribution in the world.
10. The Office
Daily we are confronted by a sobering reality that our work, the workers we work with, and the workplaces in which we work are not as God originally designed them. In a myriad of ways we are painfully reminded each and every day that we live and work in a fallen and corrupted world. This is the inescapable reality to which we will turn our attention next.
Matthew 5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
1 Cor. 13:5 [Love] is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
2 Cor. 12:20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.
Ephes. 4:26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,
Ephes. 4:31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Col. 3:8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
1 Tim. 2:8 I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.
James 1:19-20 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man,
do not associate with one easily angered,
Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming,
but who can stand before jealousy?
Mockers stir up a city,
but wise men turn away anger.
A fool gives full vent to his anger,
but a wise man keeps himself under control.
An angry man stirs up dissension,
and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.
For as churning the milk produces butter,
and as twisting the nose produces blood,
so stirring up anger produces strife.”
In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem writes, “God’s love means that God eternally gives of himself to others. This definition understands love as self-giving for the benefit of others. This attribute of God shows that it is part of his nature to give of himself in order to bring about blessing or good for others.”
A few years ago, the men of our church studied a video curriculum by Gary Thomas called, Sacred Marriage. It is a series for both husbands and wives but I thought it would be useful to study with just the men. It was fantastic. The study is based on the book by the same name. I have recently begun reading the book and, like the video series, it’s great.
One of the things that struck me as I watched the video and discussed it with other men was the focus on the foundation of (or, theology of) marriage. In particular, Thomas wants to get us thinking about God’s ultimate purpose in marriage. The book is not, as he puts it, a three, seven, or ten-step program for a better, happier marriage. Instead, Thomas does the hard work of looking at God’s real purpose of marriage, which is to make us holy, not necessarily happy. That’s a hard message to sell, especially in the era of romantic comedies and the Hallmark and Lifetime television channels.
In the first chapter of the book Thomas puts it this way…
…there’s a deeper question that needs to be addressed beyond how we can “improve” our marriage: What if God didn’t design marriage to be “easier”? What if God had an end in mind that went beyond our happiness, our comfort, and our desire to be infatuated and happy as if the world were a perfect place?
As Thomas will say later in the first chapter, holiness and happiness aren’t necessarily contradictory, but a person’s happiness becomes illusory if they think, a.) that it’s the sole purpose of the marriage, and b.) their spouse is the one in whom they will find such ultimate purpose.
The real intention of the book, for Thomas, is to show his readers that marriage, in the same way as abstinence for celibates and isolation for hermits, is a context for spiritual growth. He says marriage can become the means by which we can “grow in our service, obedience, character, pursuit, and love of God.”
If I might put it in Wesleyan terminology, marriage is a means of grace by which we draw closer to God and conform more to the likeness of Christ. That’s not a bad deal.
I just started reading Gene Getz’s book, The Measure of a Man: 20 Attributes of A Godly Man. I immediately thought it was something I wanted to share with the men of our church family. The need for such a book seems obvious. Boys are rapidly growing up in this world without learning what it means to be a man… even fewer understand what it means to be a godly man. Too many are having to make it up on the fly… with disastrous results. Many adult men are in the same boat.
Therefore, I thought I would share some of the insights I’m gleaning from the book and pass them on to you, with a few extra items I hope will bless you.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)
The first chapter of the book is a broad overview of everything Getz will be looking at throughout the rest of the book. The chapter is entitled, “Becoming Faithful Men.” That’s a key topic as well as an important title. You see, we aren’t born faithful. Just the opposite, in fact. We are born fallen in sin, broken, and far from God. If we’re blessed to be born and raised in a Christian family, we may come to know God earlier in our lives. However, regardless of our background, growing in our faith is a lifelong pursuit. As you can imagine, if our goal is "Christ-likeness,” then we all have a LONG way to go! So I like the word “becoming”, because it highlights the idea of process… not product. We are works in progress (superintended by God himself (Philippians 1:6), and our goal is to continue moving in a Christward direction throughout the course of our entire life.
The word becoming also emphasizes focus and intentionality. No one grows into a godly man by accident. It happens on purpose or it doesn’t happen at all. Philippians 3:12 captures this idea. The Apostle Paul labored and strained to reach the goal of maturity in Christ (i.e., godliness or holiness). It’s an everyday and “on purpose” process that requires nothing less than God’s Spirit working in and through us to give us the will, strength, and direction to grow in grace. We won’t grow in our faith apart from the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, and yet, the Holy Spirit won’t do the work for us. We have to participate in the process.
Finally, Getz uses the word “faithful” to describe the kind of man he has in mind. Then, borrowing from 1 Timothy and Titus, Getz puts together a list of what we might call the marks of spiritually mature (godly) manhood. Here’s his list…
Can anyone read that list and declare they’ve already arrived? Anyone doing perfectly with this list?
Over the weeks to come I hope to look at each one of these headings and offer some thoughts and reflections from Scripture regarding what these characteristics might look like in our lives and how we might, in Paul’s words, “obtain them.”
To close this post, I want to share this prayer from Ken Boa…
Faithful Father, as I reflect on the redemptive history recorded in the narratives and oracles of Scripture, I see so many surprising setbacks and breakthroughs. The wisdom of Your Word invites me to view events and circumstances with a long-term perspective. When I only look at the short-term, I get muddled, confused and doubtful, because I allow my immediate circumstances to shape my understanding. But when I contextualize the events of my life in the long-term, I can see that You are indeed causing all things to work together for good to those who love You and are called according to Your purpose. Teach me to affirm that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to Your children in Christ.
Your Brother in Christ,
You’ve heard the questions and maybe even asked them yourself. At the very least you’ve thought about them…
Below is a helpful bibliography to serve you in addressing these topics. To be sure, such questions require more thought and time than is usually offered on a television talk show. Perhaps a few of the books below will inform you for your own edification as well as equip you to share what you learn with others.
Several years ago I worked through Stuart Scott’s book, The Exemplary Husband, with a few folks from my church. We were moving along pretty well until we arrived at the chapter on communication. Yikes…I’ve got a long way to go before I reach mediocre, much less exemplary, regarding how well I communicate with my wife.
Now, I know that no one who reads this blog has any difficulties communicating, but just in case you know a person who knows a person who struggles in this area, I thought I would share a few of Scott’s key ideas.
Six Prerequisites to Good Communication
1.) A husband must want to please God more than anything else. (2 Cor. 5:9)
2.) A husband must be humble. (Eph. 4:1-3)
3.) A husband must be aware that he is accountable to God for everything he communicates (Matt. 12:36)
4.) A husband must know how to listen. (Proverbs 18:13) Listening well means…
5.) A husband must know that communication involves more than just words. He must be very careful about…
6.) A husband must be willing to put forth the effort and spend the time that it takes to communicate. (Rom. 12:10-12)
That ought to give us husbands something to work on for a while.
He made a difference in his culture for the Kingdom of God...
It’s probably easier to ask what Abraham Kuyper did not do rather than what he did do. Committed Christian. Cultural warrior. Founder of a political party. Prime minister and statesman. Newspaper founder and editor. Founder and president of a university and professor. Pastor. Writer. He did all that and more.
I believe with many that Abraham Kuyper is one of the most important role models for Christians today who want to make an impact in their world. He is someone you ought to get to know. Here are a few online resources to help better acquaint you with him…
There are a number of other articles and books that have come out since I first put this list together. I will continue to update it, so check back periodically to see what's new.
Grace and Truth,
The Fellowship of Ailbe
Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
C.S. Lewis Institute
The Gospel Coalition
The Institute on Religion and Democracy
Every Square Inch Ministries
Gene Edward Veith
Center for Cultural Leadership
Church and Culture