For years, I felt that I needed to be in full-time Christian work/ministry to truly be doing my work for the Lord. That began to change when I took a “Calling, Vocation and Work” class at Covenant Seminary two summers ago. My thinking in this area continued to evolve as I read several excellent books about faith and work such as Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller, God at Work by Gene Veith, Work Matters by Tom Nelson, How Then Should We Work by Hugh Welchel, The Gospel at Work by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert and others. I now believe that the work I do in an IT department at a Fortune 100 company has as much value in God’s eyes as that done by the pastors in my church.
So how can you integrate your faith and work? Here are 10 ways:
- Do excellent work. Christians should be the best workers. The rest of the items below don’t matter if you are not a good worker. In fact, people will mock you if they see you reading your Bible in the break area or at your desk during lunch but your work is poor. Do your work for the Lord (Colossians 3:23). Traeger and Gilbert have written that we should do our work for King Jesus.
- Maintain a high level of integrity in all your actions. Are you a person of your word? Can people depend on you? If you say you will do something, do you do it? Tony Dungy has written that dishonesty will eventually catch up with you. We can’t control our reputation (what others think of us), but we can control our integrity. Be a person of high integrity.
- Be a person of character. I’ve heard character defined as doing the right thing when nobody is watching (except God, of course). I’m glad to see character being talked about again. See my review of David Brooks’ new book The Road to Character. Are you a person of character, or do you only work hard when the boss is around, for example?
- Be a role model. Tony Dungy has written that right or wrong, someone is always watching you and that it’s important to see yourself as a role model. Some people take particular joy in seeing a Christian fall, such as a famous athlete with his drug and alcohol addiction or a famous pastor with his adultery. Be above reproach – be a role model.
- Serve as a mentor. Again, Tony Dungy has written that mentoring is building character into the lives of others and leaving a legacy. Mel was my career mentor. He poured his life into me early in my career. Mentoring is a way for me to invest into the lives of others, and I see a direct connection between mentoring and my faith.
- Read books and blogs about integrating faith and work. I’m amazed with how many excellent books and blogs there are these days on this subject – I’m finding new ones all the time. Read some of these books and subscribe to the blogs and then share what you learn with others. I try to do this with my “Connecting Sunday to Monday” post each Monday here on the blog.
- Participate in a Faith and Work Book Club at work or school. A few colleagues and I are working on our second book (Matt Perman’s excellent What’s Best Next) at this time. Our discussions are one the highlights of my week; I enjoy learning from my friends how they integrate their faith and work.
- See Jesus as Your Supervisor. John Piper’s article “Lord Focused Living at Work” was key for me on this. Piper suggests we ask the following questions: Why would the Lord like this done? How would the Lord like this done? When would the Lord like this done? Will the Lord help me do this? What affect will this have for the Lord’s honor? Piper states that “What you are asked to do by a supervisor should generally be viewed as an appeal from the Lord.”
- Keep work in its proper perspective. Traeger and Gilbert helpfully write that we should never be idle in our work, nor should we make work an idol. In other words, as we stated above, we should not be idle at work, but instead do excellent work. On the other hand, we should not make work an idol by being a workaholic, placing work above our family and church responsibilities. A good balance is needed.
- Point people to Christ. Lastly, our lives at work should point others to Christ. In some cases you might be able to develop relationships and actually share the gospel with those you work with (but not on work time). In other cases, especially if you are in a leadership position, that may not be possible. I’ve always appreciated the quote from St. Francis when he said “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” In your situation you may not be able to use words. Are you drawing people to Christ at work? Would the people you interact with each week say that about you?
These are just a few ways you can integrate your faith and work. There are many others. What suggestions do you have?