I first got to know Russell Gehrlein a few years ago when I read his excellent 2018 book Immanuel Labor—God’s Presence in Our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work – though we have actually been running his articles on faith and work here since 2016. The integration of faith and work has been a passion of mine, and I really enjoyed his book, and refer back to it often. See my review of the book here.
As I read Russ’s book, I realized that our stories are somewhat similar – we both had careers that were not in what some refer to as “full-time Christian ministry”; we both went to seminary well into our careers; we both have blogs and wrote books, etc.
I recently had a chance to visit with Russ about his book, how he integrates his faith with his work and more.
Bill: Russ, tell us about yourself – where you grew up, how did you come to Christ, where you live now, your family, etc.
Russ: I spent my childhood in suburbs an hour outside New York City and my teen years in Kansas City, Missouri. Although my family attended church regularly, I did not hear a clear presentation of the gospel until December of my senior year in high school at a Youth for Christ club Christmas Party. I have lived in Rolla, Missouri for the past 16 years with my wife of nearly 40 years. We have three adult children and four adorable grandchildren. I received a B. S. in mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in biblical studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. As I look back over my unique career journey over the past 40 years, God has taken me from math education, to ministry, and to the military. I am a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher, youth pastor, and a retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant with twenty years’ active duty. I have continued to serve as a Department of the Army civilian for the past 12 years at the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear School, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Bill: Tell us about your book, and the idea behind it.
Russ: Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession is a fresh, comprehensive, orthodox Christian perspective on the theology of work. This is a solid introduction to this critical subject. It is well-grounded in Scripture, contains over 300 inspirational quotes from over 30 Christian writers, offers a wealth of practical wisdom, and includes many personal illustrations from my own faith-career journey. I discuss the ideas that God is a worker, that everyday work is valuable, why work is so hard, the eternal value of work, finding a job that fits, how we are to work, and implications for those in ministry. It includes a helpful index of over 400 Bible references and questions for group discussion or personal reflection. This book will expand your view of how God can use your unique abilities in the workplace and how His presence with you at work makes all the difference.
In the last semester of earning my master’s degree with Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, I did an independent study on the theology of work. I read fifteen books on the subject, compiled a Scripture list, developed a two-hour PowerPoint presentation, and presented a seminar to a group of local college students. After I graduated, my wife suggested I write a book. She believed in me, and knew that I had plenty of material in my heart and mind to do it justice. I desired to lay out a theology of work that would easily be understood by any Christian. I wanted to highlight my unique observations about the connection between God’s presence and human work to change lives.
Bill: Tell us how you integrate your faith with your work.
Russ: Even though I have been acutely aware of God’s presence with me at work for a long time, I have to say that it is still a work in progress every single day. We walk with God, abide in Christ, and are filled with the Spirit by faith, and not by sight. How do I experience God’s presence at work? What do I do, and when do I do it? As I head from the parking lot to my building, I pray that God will lead me and give me wisdom for the day. Sometimes I pray audibly when I am alone in my office or I may shoot up a quick silent prayer in a meeting when my temper starts to rise. I confess my sins when I see them. I remind myself of a Bible verse when I need His truth to set me free. I take time to praise Him when He enables me to accomplish a challenging task. There always seems to be plenty of opportunities throughout the day to connect with God. Every moment I have to consciously make myself aware of God’s presence and see everything through a biblical lens. Whether it is submitting to my supervisor, responding to a complaint, struggling to learn new technology in order to stay connected during teleworking, or whatever it is, I know that He is with me to supernaturally provide wisdom, courage, and strength for the task at hand.
Looking back, I can see abundant evidence that God has been and is present with me in this work in every single assignment where I have served. God led me to serve in the Army. He brought me through every challenge I faced. God enabled me to perform beyond my expectations and caused me to grow in spiritual maturity. God met my family’s needs and used me to love my neighbors by meeting their needs. He was with me as I transitioned from active duty, providing a job in civil service that fits my unique skillset as He designed me. Even now, God graciously continues to use me in a critical role as an advisor to senior leaders and key staff members where I serve.
Bill: Tell us about your blog and how we can subscribe to it. Also, how can people connect with you on social media?
Russ: Since 2015, I have maintained an active blog, “Reflections on Theological Topics of Interest” (www.regehrlein.wordpress.com), where I have written and posted nearly 120 articles on a variety of theology of work topics and more than 60 on other biblical topics. I have a public Facebook page (Immanuel Labor), and can be found on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. I have posted ten videos of my college presentation on YouTube and GodTube. I have also been a featured guest on two podcasts: “The Author Inside You” and “The Author’s Show”.
Bill: I know that you have written articles on other sites as well. What are some of the other places we can find your writings?
Russ: Currently, 45 of the articles I have written on faith and work topics on my blog have been published over 80 times on several Christian organization’s blogs or websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, Acton Institute, Church Job Finder, Collaborative Orlando, Intersect Project, Midwestern Seminary, and National Christian Foundation.
Bill: What are the key takeaways readers will get from your book?
Russ: The connection between God’s presence and human work is a recurring theme throughout Scripture. I call it Immanuel labor. We can see it today in our own lives, if we open up our eyes and look for it. If I could summarize my theology of work in just two sentences, it would read like this: God created people to be His coworkers in expanding His kingdom on earth. He is present in the work of His children in order to meet the needs of humankind and bring glory to Himself. The big takeaway from reading this book is a clear sense that God has a divine purpose for us at our jobs and that He is present is with us through Jesus Christ, who is God with us, Immanuel.
Bill: What else would you like readers to know about you and your book?
Russ: This is a book written for ordinary Christian workers by an ordinary Christian worker. I have been learning and practicing these foundational biblical and theological principles on work for over 30 years. This book is personal, positive, and practical so that all Christ-followers who work at a job, at home, or while going to school can apply these principles in their own faith-career journey.
I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know Russ and hearing about his book. You can purchase the book at Amazon here.