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
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.
Several years ago I read Tommy Newberry’s book, Success Is Not An Accident. In the first chapter he asks why some Christians seem to be so allergic to the idea of success. He, along with others I’ve read, (such as John Maxwell), suggests the reason probably has something to do with what people are thinking when they hear the word, “success.”
If you think of success only in terms of worldly definitions, then I join you in your concern. However, biblically understood, success doesn’t have to (and absolutely shouldn’t) be lumped into secular categories of materialistic accumulation, or its baptized cousin, the "health and wealth" gospel.
At the end of Chapter One, Newberry asks some basic questions to get the reader thinking about what their definition of success is. I thought the questions were good and worth reflecting upon. (I encourage you to buy his book and work through it as well. At the very least, ask yourself these same questions and think about how you would answer them.) Here was one of the questions that caught my attention...
Question: “What does success mean to you? Are you successful now? Do you feel successful? How do you define true success?’
Answer: Success, for me, means faithfully and obediently living each day as the man God created, redeemed, called, and gifted me to be. This is a lifelong pursuit, in which trust in God and dependence upon his Spirit is vital and definitely required.
I have found I am more or less consistent based on my walk with the Lord. The closer I am with him, (that is, the more often I am with him, walking with him, talking to him, listening to him, reading his Word, communing with him, etc.), the more successful I am.
I can be “successful” or “unsuccessful” in measurable ways with regard to short-term goals and duties. But “ultimate success,” as I said, will be the pursuit of a lifetime. And yet, I suppose I might be considered successful if I continuously and consistently move in the direction of faithfulness to God’s calling in my life. I will never infallibly fulfill it, but moving forward into my calling (and according to my giftedness) is a positive thing. Seeking to obediently fulfill God’s will for my life is a good thing. Eugene Peterson called this sort of thing, “a long obedience in the same direction,” and so it is.
There is also the issue of being successful in the various spheres of my life: Personally (that is, spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional, financial, etc.), relationally (i.e., as a husband, a father, friend, neighbor, citizen, etc.), and professionally (as a pastor, in it’s great variety of manifestations). Again, my level of “success” (according to the definition I’ve given) varies from sphere to sphere, better in some areas and needing improvement in others.
Jesus said to become great ("successful??") we must become servants. John the Baptist reminds us that Jesus must become greater and we must become lesser. That's moving in the direction of success indeed.
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