Oscar Gaffes and Extra Grace for the Workplace

oscars

Monday morning workspace—AKA Starbucks—was abuzz with incredulity. My laptop open plus notepad and pen, I was attempting to gain some early traction for the week’s tasks. Typically, I block out background chatter quite easily, but this morning’s customer interaction was unique and humorously redundant. Recurring commentary went something like this. “Can you believe what happened at the Oscars? How in the world did they screw that up? It’s astounding!” The statements were being made with more than an edge of glee—such a marvelous public debacle by the twin titans of movie industry and academy.

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty presented “La La Land” as the winner of the best picture award. Applause and celebration began on stage. However, jubilation quickly ended when one of the “La La Land” winners pointed out that “Moonlight” had won the Oscar instead. Amid the confusion, Beatty attempted to explain that he opened the envelope and read a card that said “Emma Stone and La La Land.” He had indeed paused because of it. “I wasn’t trying to be funny,” Beatty explained. “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins ascended the stage in stunned amazement and received the award.

Banter among my fellow coffee drinkers was ripe with shock and a cloud of judgmental amazement. Really?! How could a group of highly skilled, overpaid, and oh-so-talented people actually commit such a blunder? And of course, there were chuckles over oh-so-easy, knee-jerk comparisons to Steve Harvey’s botched announcement of the wrong Miss Universe 2015. Even the Starbucks baristas joined the jeers at such apparent incompetence.

On the one hand, it’s human nature to be stunned and have a good laugh over such incredible mistakes. Who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh at another’s expense? But I am readily reminded of two healthy lessons that can come our way when processing the missteps, mistakes, and all-out flops that often happen in our own workplaces.

Burst Your Bubble

There are times when having our collective bubble burst is actually helpful in recalibrating our over-inflated hubris. R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung have observed:

“Pride permeates the modern workplace. Like the air we breathe, pride is absorbed into our celebrity culture, corporations, and self-image. This workplace sin often masquerades as ambition, confidence, and chutzpah. It makes us unwilling to listen to or acknowledge any painful truths about ourselves.” Stevens and Ung further explain that workplace pride is frequently “killing us but we don’t know it.”

But what can we do in the face of such deadly pride? They prescribe humility as the cure, a character trait best developed by cultivating a serve-others approach.[1]

Christ Jesus’ attitudes and actions supply exemplary patterns for our workplace interactions (Philippians 2:1-11). There’s something healthy about re-sizing of ego, the sudden reminder: “Let’s not take ourselves TOO seriously.” And we can benefit from the gift of remembering, “We ARE here to look out for others’ interests, not just our own agenda. We are here to serve.”

EGR

A mildly sarcastic, simple, secret statement—at least until right now—has been part of our office culture for several years. We have learned there are times it’s helpful to hear someone remind you when facing a fellow employee’s sudden blunder or experiencing an especially frustrating moment, or perhaps encountering an extra-trying individual. We simply say three letters to one another, with a quirky grin. “EGR.” If one of my colleagues says it to me, I automatically know she or he is reminding me. “Careful how you respond, Pletch. EXTRA GRACE REQUIRED.”

Stephen Graves queries: “Is grace really something that can live in a fierce business-like culture or is it only part of the DNA of soft-side not-for-profits? What happens in an organization when someone fails to live up to expectations? . . . A company with a cutthroat attitude and low tolerance for failure will likely threaten poor work reviews, disciplinary action, or firing. A company with a culture of grace, on the other hand, will more likely try to understand what’s going on in a person’s life. It will recognize that it’s okay to fail sometimes. It will try to help people through rough patches so that they can return to a higher level of productivity and contribution to the company.”[2]

EGR. Extra Grace Required.

When someone “reads the wrong winner” in your workplace today, let laughter, judgment, and frustration more quickly step aside.

Let humility and grace take the stage.

 

[1] Taking Your Soul To Work, by R. Paul Stevens & Alvin Ung. pp. 17-20.

[2]The Gospel Goes to Work, by Dr. Stephen R. Graves. p. 114.

If You’re Dreading Going Back to Work . . .

worker at old typewriter

I grew up dreading work. My father was a loving dad, but like many parents, he was set on cultivating a monster work ethic in his son. This included bailing hay in scorching August heat. (Can you sympathize with a scrawny middle school kid, drenched in sweat with scratched up arms?) Dad also tossed me underneath vehicles and had me turning wrenches when I was very young. (Apparently, he had no appreciation for child labor laws.) I got bloody knuckles, along with crumbling rust and dripping grease on my face. When Dad discovered I was not mechanically inclined, I was handed a broom and assigned cleanup duty in his shop. Yes, I grew up dreading such manual labor. And I learned at an early age to dread going back to work, especially after a few days off.

Perhaps you have similar sentiments following this long holiday weekend. We readily think certain jobs are more glorious, while we deem other lines of labor to be of little importance. We categorize—there’s the “ordinary” and the “extraordinary.” There’s the “mundane” and then the “marvelous!”

If you’re in a season where you feel like your current job falls in the ordinary or mundane category, you probably need some fresh motivation to go back tomorrow. Consider these back-to-work motivators, straight from God’s grand story in the Bible (I’ve included pertinent biblical reference addresses so you can explore on your own.)

You’re actually being VERY God-like when you work!

When we first encounter God, He’s working; he made humans in his image to rule and to reign (yes, it’s royal lingo)—to lead strong in labor. Genesis 2:15 shares that God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to work it. It’s a rich word meaning “intentional service with an attitude of worship.”

As you head back to work, let this thought motivate you: “My daily work in whatever garden God has placed me is a seriously good way to live out God’s image, to serve others, and to worship my Creator!”

Our daily labors—our efforts, feelings, and overall outcomes—took a big tumble. (See Genesis 3:17-19) Our struggles arrived when work went topsy-turvy and fell along with all of the original Creation. The Curse entered the scene because of sin. Now, we encounter thorns, thistles, and sweat. Just knowing this certainly doesn’t make everything feel better, but it does lend us greater understanding regarding WHY work often feels so miserable. As you head back to work, let this motivate you:

God started working to redeem all of Creation—and this includes our work efforts and outcomes.

He extended grace to humans, and he chose Abraham. He called him to go and be a blessing! God said that all humans, every nation would be blessed through Abraham. (See Genesis 12:1-3) Let this motivate you as you return to work: God is working to reverse the curse, to bring us blessing, and that includes blessing for our daily labors!

God did not abandon his plans for human leadership in daily work. (See Psalm 8)

The psalmist emphasizes that we still “rule and reign” over God’s creative work. Whatever you do—whether scrubbing toilets, leading a sales team, flipping burgers, or mentoring kids during retirement—every task still matters to God!

Jesus was and is an amazing worker! 

We often forget, long before He was the miracle-working rabbi, Jesus was originally a carpenter, probably taking over Joseph’s business. When confronted by critics, he said, “My Father is always working, and I myself am working.” (See Mark 6:2-3 and John 5:16-18.)

Don’t miss this motivator for tomorrow’s labor:

Your daily work can be infused with greater meaning—real significance—as you focus on pleasing Christ.

Recently, people shared with me on Facebook & LinkedIn their favorite thing and their most frustrating thing about their daily labor. A guy working for the water company told me his favorite work feature is “working outside,” and his most frustrating is “working outside.” Another person said her favorite is “working with the public,” and her most frustrating is “working with the public.”

Randy Kilgore encourages us: “Who we work with and who is impacted by our work are not merely economic considerations; these issues are part of our spiritual service. Work is not merely a means to an end or a place to put in time or raise funds. Our workplace can be holy ground . . . faithful service to the Father.”[1]

MadetoMatter

Paul’s words in Colossians 3:23-24 supply rich motivation:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

One final motivator: The future is bright with God’s plans for human work.

In God’s grand story, Eden will be restored as the culmination of Christ’s work, and work will be fully redeemed. Houses will be built; crops will be planted; children will be raised. We will indeed still work, and it will be work like we have never worked before! (See Revelation 22:2-5 and Isaiah 65:17, 19, 21-23)

Let’s head back to work with “all our hearts,” remembering that our daily work marvelously matters to God!

motivated worker

[1]Randy Kilgore. Made to Matter: Devotions for Working Christians. P. 92.

Why Don’t More Christians Take their Spiritual Gifts to Work?

garagemechanicgifts

It’s my fault.

The seasoned attorney stared me in the eye, stretched his fingers and tapped his very large hand in a declarative pose over the oak table. He boldly stated, “Right here—every day—THIS is my ministry!”

I was twenty-seven years old, serving my first pastorate, and seeking legal counsel on property that our church was purchasing. Highly respected across the community, this accomplished lawyer was aiming to build common ground with me, a “man of the cloth.” Ironically and foolishly, I bristled inside. After all, pastors want people to be ALL-IN for the “real kingdom work” at the church building and the church’s activities. I’ll admit it. We are largely to blame. We pastor-types think (and too often do and say) things that foolishly communicate, “People should downplay their day jobs and up-play their efforts at church in all the other free hours.”

That’s the way I used to think. Two decades later, I now realize how skewed my own thinking was and how desperately we’ve missed practicing the priesthood of all believers. Subtly or not-so-subtly, church leaders communicate that our special, Christ-given abilities should only be relegated to Sunday services, ministries within churchy walls, and officially church-sanctioned missions in the community or ‘round the globe.

Grant it, these days we heartily spout off: “WE ARE the church. We should BE the church everyday.” Such statements are a good start, well, sort of. Unfortunately, this still remains largely lip service. Could we dare to change this? If it’s true that we ARE the church everyday, let’s take seriously these three postures for taking our spiritual gifts to work:

Take a fresh look at your own gifts.

Ask trusted friends, “Where do you sense my daily strengths reveal God’s work in and through me?” “Where would you say that I’m really good at what I do?” You can also use a simple diagnostic tool (check out www.manorchurch.org/gifts). Then talk about your results with friends to gain their feedback.

Take stock of your everyday roles and responsibilities.

Ask yourself, how might I employ my God-given gifts all day long, in all I do in my role? If you have administrative gifts, ask yourself, “How might I recognize and rely on the Holy Spirit for even stronger functionality.” If you have special gifts of helping/serving, “How might my gifts further fuel my capacity to make a real serving difference this week with clients out in my field.” Or, “How can I best bless car owners who bring their vehicles to my garage?” If you possess leadership gifts, “What will it look like for me to catalyze people around God’s deeper and wider purposes for flourishing?”

Tap into the intentional, relational side of employing your gifts.

The Apostle Paul clarifies that our gifts are very deliberately given “for the common good of others” (1 Cor 12:7). So let’s dare to ask, “How might my gifts/abilities more seriously reach and bless others for Christ? How can I speak encouragement? How can I both be and share the Good News with coworkers? How can I lead stronger so as to shape my company’s corporate culture in ways that more tremendously reflect Christ?”

Why don’t more Christians take their spiritual gifts to work? I will take the blame. Yes, looking back at that talk-tough hour around the attorney’s table twenty years ago, I received way more than real estate legal counsel. I now realize that I was treated to a dynamic clinic on holistic, kingdom work from a far more robust perspective. I wish I could go back and exclaim, “HUGE thanks, Sir, for being on mission at work—what a way to use your gifts for God’s glory!”

We are the church every day, so let’s take our spiritual gifts to work!

attorney—gifts at work?

 

 

Your Must-Do Work in the Snowstorm

blizzard

Wintry weather pounded our classic two-story, antique-Iowan home during January 1998. Nancy and I did not yet have kids, but we had a houseful of “kids” that weekend. Our church regularly hosted worship team interns, all late-teen and early-twenty-something students. This crew of courageous collegians regularly traveled two hours from Ankeny to serve on weekends. Typical accommodations involved guys bunking at our place, and the girls staying at another leader’s house nearby.

In typical fashion, the car full of friends made their trek on Saturday morning. By Saturday afternoon, a surprise snowstorm was brewing. By evening, Old Man Winter was blasting our vintage house with all-out-blizzard gusto. Sunday church was cancelled as wind and whiteouts piled on a foot of fresh powder. The “kids”—including a gaggle of other local young adults from our church—ALL piled into our place for the long weekend.

Our house was abuzz for three days. We watched movies (Harrison Ford’s high-energy, action flick Air Force One had just come out. “GET OFF MY PLANE!”). We gobbled homemade pizza, toppings-piled-high nachos, and thick pans of lasagna. We laughed. We teased (two of our interns were in their early stages of flirtation and dating). Feeling some compulsion to add a dash of productivity, we held a worship arts planning meeting (well, sort of). We philosophized. We fought and made up. (After all, who doesn’t squabble after being cooped up that long with that many friends?) We sang outrageously goofy songs, made breakfast together both Sunday and Monday mornings, and otherwise created some of the most marvelous memories.

Eighteen years later, there is a snowpocalypse forecast for a large swath of the US east coast. Pictures of empty bread aisles and abandoned milk coolers are posted across social media. While I cannot recreate that one-of-a-kind, blizzard ’98 experience, I can envision a handful of must-dos we can each carry into the forthcoming labor of these snowy days.

First, there will be surprises. So, let’s roll with joy. Looking back, it would have been easy to tell those young adults a polite “no, you can’t stay,” or even “GET OFF MY PLANE.” I do recall that Nanc’ and I had already experienced a jam-packed week. No doubt it would have felt good to have our own space and breathing room. But we have never regretted those three hilarious days, and we are so glad we rolled with the opportunity.

Second, work will emerge, accompanied by opportunities to lovingly serve others. While we thoroughly enjoyed the cabin full of friends, it was some serious labor to host and navigate that flight. During this year’s blustering storm, will you find neighbors to assist with shoveling or nearby friends to serendipitously invite for a meal? While making bread, stacking wood, or washing dishes—tasks that certainly seem mundane—we must choose Christ’s joy and servant-hearts.

Finally, make the most of the space, the sweet grace of extra time. With that crew of young adults, we made delicious food, played hysterical practical jokes, planned for upcoming Sunday services, and unearthed a treasure trove of marvelous memories. Whatever you do during this storm, you must make something. If you have a woodworking shop, use the time to build that table or refinish an antique chair that’s been gathering dust. If you’re married, home alone, just the two of you, make the most of your time together. Wink-wink. (Need I really encourage this? All studies show there will be a significant spike in hospitals’ maternity traffic approximately nine months from this weekend.) So, why not make something? You get the idea.

Perhaps such gracious time carved out by snowstorms might, after all, be more like what God intends for our normal Sabbath rhythms (Genesis 2:1-3). I too often forget that intentional holy disruptions are commanded and encouraged, integral to practicing our workplace theology. We are too typically too busy. Snowstorms and accompanying Sabbath are indeed for our good. When Jesus and his disciples walked through the fields and plucked grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees’ critique and Christ’s summative teaching proved unique and mildly puzzling (Mark 2:23-28). At least one of Christ’s intentions was to help us embrace the empowering tension of Sabbath. Yes, it’s commanded. Yes, we’re to be spontaneous. Yes, it’s God-like. And yes, it’s VERY good for us.

Every one of those characters who camped at our house for snowzilla ’98 is now all grown up, working hard, and serving strong in God’s kingdom. Nanc’ and I would never dream of taking credit for such marvelous adults—they had exceptional upbringings with brilliant parents. But we can relish the reality that we were privileged to play a brief role, including those seventy-two hours. And oh, what a fun plane ride it was!

Stephen Cottrell, describing more sensitive Sabbath principles, urges us: “So never speak of wasting time or spending time. Rather, say you are enjoying it or giving it away freely. Never say you have an hour to kill. Rather, say you have an hour to revive, to bring to life, to ravish.”[1]

Let’s ravish our way through the upcoming snowy hours, fully embracing both the joyous work and wonderful people God brings onto our planes.

[1]Stephen Cottrell. Do Nothing to Change Your Life: Discovering What Happens When You Stop. (New York: Seabury Books), 2008, p. 69.

George Bailey’s Wisdom for Workplace Significance

GeorgeBailey

It’s a long-standing tradition for many of us. At least once each Christmas season, I have to watch the classic, It’s A Wonderful Life. In recent years, what I had previously viewed as simply a feel-good Christmas flick has now seriously morphed in my thinking. I have begun to realize that George Bailey’s desperate personal struggle conveys much more than a warmhearted, life-turnaround story. With deeper reflection, we encounter great wisdom for discovering personal significance in our daily work. Consider it.

In spite of the movie’s title, George’s life seems anything but wonderful. As the story opens, we learn that George is thinking about taking his own life. Plagued by one setback after another, this “every man” character has struggled for years with feeling unhappy, discontent, and purposeless. George Bailey’s struggle points out this extremely inconvenient reality, all-too-common to our plight:

Working hard to serve others never guarantees immediate “success.” In fact, such posture often leaves us feeling frazzled and forgotten, beleaguered and belittled.

George and the entire Bailey Building and Loan enterprise endlessly wrestled with doing what was right—selflessly serving others—and yet never getting ahead. George Bailey does consistently make right choices, but again and again, he’s filled with regret and seethes inside with raucous feelings of pointlessness and emptiness—even jealousy and anger—over others who seem to succeed and have easier lives. For George, intentionally working to do the right thing feels difficult, lonely, and fails to land him in first place.

Even as we focus at Christmastime on Jesus’ coming and his service-oriented mindset (Phil. 2:4-5), we can easily feel conflicted. We are busy and pushed with extra demands and distractions. We feel the crunch of end-of-year expenses and deadlines. We encounter the relational strain of coworkers and family who are frazzled and grumpy. We even wrestle with déjà vu, easily recalling the “ghosts” of Christmases past, those years that were less than snow-globe-like.

George Bailey knew these feelings all throughout his life. His story becomes more than ironic and harsh. Consider these famous scenes:

  • He courageously saved his brother’s life, but he lost his hearing in his ear as a result.
  • His big dreams of traveling & making a million—they’re always just out of reach!
  • He stayed stuck in Bedford Falls, tediously tending to the oh-so-slow, seems-to-never-really-grow, Bailey Building and Loan.
  • The Bailey family stood in stark contrast to grumbly old Mr. Potter, the mean, fat-cat tycoon who seemed to own everything else in the town.
  • While embarking on his honeymoon with Mary—just like George’s dumb luck—the stock market crashed. There was a run on the bank, and the newlyweds ended up using their honeymoon money to hold people over.
  • They settled in Bedford Falls and started renovating the old Grandville House. As years passed and kids came along, George found himself more and more disillusioned, constantly embroiled in business conflict with Potter. Life felt cold and desperate instead of wonderful and fulfilling.
  • When World War II began, George couldn’t even be drafted and travel the world on account of his injured ear. His kid brother, Harry, went off to war, and of course, he ended up a hero!
  • Christmas Eve, Uncle Billy misplaced $8000 of the Building and Loan’s money, actually mistakenly placing it in Potter’s hands. Unaccounted for, such missing money would mean financial disgrace and scandal for the Bailey Building and Loan and George’s whole family.

If we pause to reflect, we discover that George Bailey’s story shows us a handful of rich insights for finding greater significance in our daily work. For starters, George’s condition proves . . .

God uses ordinary, struggling, disturbed, fearful, down-on-their-luck people to change the world. It was true in God’s personnel plans for bringing Jesus to earth. (Just look at the lineup in the family tree, the genealogy of Matthew 1.) It’s powerful to realize that Jesus came to bring us hope and joy, and God still uses everyday, ordinary people like us in his process of redemption and transformation.

Consider the fictitious angel in George’s story—Clarence, the funny little guy who needed to earn his wings. “Earning wings” is a fanciful add-on in this movie (not biblically-based). Nevertheless, there’s no mistaking the connection with God’s angelic messengers who play a huge role in the original Christmas story. And we gain this second insight for discovering greater significance in our daily work.

God cares. God communicates. And we can connect with him.

Whether it’s the angelic messengers in the biblical accounts, God’s often-stunning orchestration of events in our lives today, or his precious written Word—readily available for us—this much is certain. Christmas reminds us that God communicates so we can connect with him. Take a few moments to explore these examples of God communicating, so we can be blessed for greater redemptive connections: Gen. 12:3; Isaiah 9:6-7; Micah 5:2-5; and Hebrews 1:1-3. Christ brings us such hope!

Clarence went on to show George what life would have looked like if he’d never been born. Bedford Falls was now Pottersville, a dismal place. No one recognized him. No one. George and Mary’s grand old house was nothing but an old shell in shambles. He ran through the house, shouting for Mary and the kids. No one answers. When he goes to his mother’s house, she answers the door. She’s rough and haggard, and she does not know him. No one in town recognizes him. George stumbles upon a graveyard and finds his brother, Harry’s gravestone. Clarence shows up and tells him Harry drowned. George shouts a flamboyant denial, “I pulled Harry from the icy water that day. Harry’s alive! He’s a hero. He rescued all the men on that transport!” “No,” Clarence retorts, “You were never born, George. Every man on that transport died. You see, you weren’t there to save Harry.”

Through these spectacular realizations, George ends up back on the bridge, praying and pleading, “Please, oh, God, let me live again. Please, I want to live again.” And at that moment, he is restored. With great jubilation, he heads home and discovers that Mary has rallied the townspeople, who all bring money to bail George and the Bailey Building and Loan out of trouble. The house is jam-packed with friends, and in the closing scene, George’s hero-brother, Harry, arrives and makes a toast, “To my big brother, George, the richest man in town!”

We’re stirred because we can SO relate to George’s feelings, but there’s more. Here’s the final takeaway:

Christ gives our daily work real significance as we serve others—to his glory. A life of serving others is wonderfully abundant and leaves a HUGE impact!

Ken Eldred has winsomely declared the real goal of business: serve others to the glory of God. Eldred thoughtfully expands our understanding of service with three clarifications:

  • Business that effectively serves others will generate value and expand the total pie. Profit is indeed a sign that others are being served.
  • Business cannot neglect efficiency and profitability or it will cease being able to serve others.
  • Serving investors means that we’ll generate a return on their investment (Matt 25:14-30).[1]

Eldred's The Integrated Life Two questions will serve us well as we consider greater significance.

First, will you deeply connect with God this season, with his heart and purposes for your life? No matter how discouraged you feel, you can cry out like George, “God help me. Get me back! I want to live again!” God cares and promises to supply you with his hope, purpose, and joy.

And second, will you intentionally adopt a Christ-focused purpose in your daily work, to serve others to the glory of God? Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Such abundance can overflow as we bring greater significance to our daily work. Serving Christ to the glory of God—such purpose imbues our daily work endeavors with greater significance, allowing us to truly live a more wonderful life!

For further exploration of these themes, check out Eldred’s exceptional book. And for a heartfelt, thoughtful story conveying this quest, grab and enjoy a copy of my book, Henry’s Glory: A Story for Discovering Lasting Significance in Your Daily Work (available at http://www.wipfandstock.com)

 

[1]Ken Eldred. The Integrated Life: Experience the Powerful Advantage of Integrating Your Faith and Work. Manna Ventures: Montrose, CO, 2010, pp. 44-45.

See Your Work through Better Lenses

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What do you see? Is your vision blurry?

Michelle gets up each morning to teach math at Donegal High School. Plenty of days, it could seem like exponential drudgery. Amid tedious numbers and grading ad nauseam, what might infuse her daily work with real joy and significance?

Andy works on broken-down automobiles every day, rain or shine. His tasks are greasy, grimy, and often knuckle-numbing. He’s a FORD guy at heart, but willingly turns wrenches on anything with wheels. In the past two years, he has curiously discovered fresh purpose and greater sense of personal mission.

Charlie designs and installs high-end video/audio in primarily commercial applications. In recent months, he’s been overheard saying: “We used to have a good business; now we have a seriously GREAT business.” Why such advancement?

Abigail is in her 20’s, a brilliant art student, passionately discovering how her crazy creativity and design flair might actually evoke God’s smile and express Christ’s own passion for recreating and redeeming.

Each of these hard-working leaders has very intentionally engaged in a next-level adventure during the past twelve to twenty-four months. They have embarked on the audacious quest to more fully integrate their faith and calling in Christ with their daily tasks.

They are each seeing and developing life vision with bolder clarity, utilizing some better lenses for discovery.

First, they are developing a bolder perspective that includes a serious theology of work. They’ve started to see God as the first creative Worker and each of us, made in his image, as coworkers, co-rulers and co-leaders over his creation. They are seeing a bigger vision of God’s redemptive plans to reclaim humans and all of creation—including our everyday work—as marvelously instrumental in His redemption story.

Each of these workers is also seeing more clearly with a second lens, a greater commitment to personal integration. Instead of viewing their daily life as split-up, compartmentalized between secular life and sacred life, they are learning to see life as WHOLE, gaining a more holistic integration of faith and work. With the opportunity to love God and neighbor with all they have, every action, decision, and conversation in ones’ workday can be and should be all to the glory of God. They’re finding they can truly BE the church Monday through Saturday, not just on Sundays. It’s WHY Christine was so instrumental in helping one of her clients, Robert, come to a renewed faith in Christ this Christmas season. It was such a joy to see him baptized in early February. Christine was taking her faith to work everyday and impacting Robert, and then bringing him along with other friends to church on Sundays. Robert was responsive to Christ, and Christine stood with him helping him as he publicly declared his faith in Christ at his baptism.

And that’s the third lens. It’s not only a theological lens and an integrated lens, but it’s an intentionally relational, missional lens. For people like Christine, as well as my friends, Kevin, Greg, Chuck, Barb—and others who are passionate about connecting—there is this growing perspective that their workplace is their primary mission field. With such clarity of vision, leaders say, “Yes, I am there each day to glorify God with extraordinarily excellent work, including superb products and services. AND I am there to build life-changing connections that can potentially change people’s eternal destinies.”

Michelle, my friend who teaches math, says this about her own vision now:

“I never realized that my workplace could be my mission field. I always felt that my work had meaning. I just did not realize the potential for mission that was surrounding me every day. Throughout this experience, I felt an amazing shift in my spirit. I started to see that I could be a positive role model for other professionals. I realized that my mood, attitude, and actions could influence others. I now look for ways that I can make a positive contribution to the world through my work—from the simple act of redirecting a negative conversation to discussing the Bible with a colleague. I feel more comfortable sharing my faith and being a positive example for others in my workplace.”

How about your vision at work? What do you see?

Vision—eye

 

Service @ Work—It’s More than Smart Business!

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My favorite tire store on the planet is Creamery Tire, just north of Collegeville, PA. WHY? All they do is tires, but they do “all things tires” with amazing service. Customers are in and out in fifteen minutes from the time their vehicle hits the service bay. Worker bees attack your car. Mounting and balancing are FREE. When was the last century you received such incredible tire installation? Oh, and lifetime repairs and rotating come FREE with every purchase. Did I mention I think they are absolutely the best tire shop—ever?!

I’m sure you’ve had the experience at some business—great service—and you tell everyone. Serving through our work is actually a rich, soulful concept. God’s original creation intention, when he placed the humans in the garden, was that they “work” it (Genesis 2:15). The ancient Hebrew word, translated in this verse as “work” is also translated across the rest of the biblical story as “serve” and “worship.” There is a thick service thread throughout all of God’s grand story. Isaiah 42:1-9 carries the same language, a prophecy of the Servant of the Lord. Matthew, reflecting on Jesus’ passionate healing work (yes, even his irreverent work on the Sabbath), insists that Jesus was the messianic fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophetic clip (Matthew 12:15-21).

Is it any wonder that the Apostle Paul correlated Christ’s attitude as essential to the life of a Christ-follower? He insists that Christ’s service perspective is vital (Philippians 2:3-7) and should deeply effect our actions in our workplaces. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart . . . it is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

Most of us readily recognize that a superb service-orientation is smart business. Just review my rant above over Creamery Tire. What we might not as readily remember is that passionate service in our daily work matters for another big reason: When we serve with Christ-honoring passion, we reflect doggone deep discipleship. You are actually growing and living more like Christ, your Creator (Colossians 1:16-17).

On such biblical basis, Ken Eldred declares: “The real goal of business is simply this: to serve others to the glory of God. Note that this objective places one’s business activity squarely within the overriding command Jesus gave us for life—to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbors—our fellow humans—as we love ourselves.” (The Integrated Life, p. 44)

Our service-orientation should be more than noble intentions and warm platitudes. I’ll suggest the following questions to propel your service to new places, both in attitude and actions. Ask these with your key team leaders in the coming days:

  • What should we innovate, create anew and make beautiful by way of our workplace culture, in order to better serve others?
  • What do I need to embrace that’s mundane and messy, but when I do this, it blesses people, connects them with God’s love, and they rise to a higher place?
  • Where do I need to slow down—to re-think and re-format—what I am doing and how I am interacting with both people and tasks? (Am I blowing people off just to get my task-list accomplished?)
  • How should my language & attitude change to be more loving and service-oriented? Beware of doing the right things with the wrong ‘tude.

One evening, after my wife had killed it fixing this amazing meal, I insisted on doing dishes. (It seemed like the right, serving thing to do.) ‘Problem was, I was tired and stressed, and before too long, I was rushing, slamming and bamming the dishes from the sink to the counter. Suddenly, Nanc’ put her arm on my shoulder, took the dishtowel from my hands and said, “I think someone needs a timeout. Let’s save the dishes.” Beware of doing the right things, even the service thing, but with the wrong attitude.

  • How can my service EXCEL, to go to the next level? Who should I hire new and how should we supply training in stronger habits of service? Let service-orientation permeate all your planning, both short-range and long-term initiatives.
  • How can what my business is doing serve to bring justice, make right a wrong, enact God’s will, and change darkness to light? A huge Jesus-style question to use at work: What’s the hurt—how do we work with God to heal that hurt? When we ask such a question in our workplaces, we can actually start to work with God’s agenda, to change disease to health, poverty to flourishing, sleaze to holiness, bondage to freedom, and even weeping and mourning to joy and dancing.

Your service at work is not just smart business. It’s doggone deep discipleship! Let’s follow Christ’s footsteps of serving. After all, “even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).