Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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9 Ways You Can Help Those in Your Churches to Integrate Their Faith with Their Work ~ Part 2


Recently, I shared 4 suggestions for church leaders on how they can help those within their churches to see the value of their work and callings, whether it is in a paid or non-paid vocation.  Here are 5 additional suggestions:

  1. Get involved in the Made to Flourish organization, a pastor’s network for the common good. The mission of Made to Flourish is “To equip pastors with a more integral connection between Sunday faith and Monday work, in order to empower them to lead churches that produce human flourishing for the common good.” Made to Flourish helps pastors learn how to connect faith, work, and economics so they can disciple their people better to live for Christ in all areas of life and advance the common good.
  2. Attend Faith and Work Conferences or learning events and share with your church what you’ve learned. Recommended conferences are the Faith & Work conference sponsored by the Center for Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, Made to Flourish’s Common Good conference and the Faith @ Work Summit conference at the Center for Faith and Work at LeTourneau University.
  3. Teach your congregation about work and the Lord’s Day. The workplace has changed significantly since I joined it, primarily due to technology. There was no email, no smartphones and there were standard beginning and endings to the workday when I began my career at State Farm. They even had chimes to start and end the day and for lunch break. Now, workers are always connected. And many believers use Sunday to catch up on work that has built up from the previous week. What can we teach those under our care about work on the Lord’s Day? The Shorter Catechism states that the Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting from unnecessary labors. The concept of rest, in our always connected world, is a subject that I’ve been reading a lot about recently, and would also be a good one for us to teach about in our churches.  My pastor, Bob Smart, tells us that until we learn to deeply rest and separate ourselves from our work, we won’t work effectively.
  4. Regularly engage with your church members at work. Amy Sherman writes that “We must do a better job of inspiring our members about the role they can play in the mission of God and equipping them to live missionally through their vocation.” Tim Chester offers these helpful suggestions in his book Gospel-Centered Work: Becoming the Worker God Wants You to Be:
  • Visit people in their workplace to see where they work, meet their colleagues, and pray for them in context.
  • Send a regular email to workers in their workplace with a brief “thought for the day”.
  • Have a regular “window on the workplace” when you gather as a church, in which someone talks about their work and shares prayer needs.
  • Routinely include application to the workplace in sermons and Bible studies.
  1. Helpful suggestions from the new book Discipleship with Monday in Mind: How Churches Across the Country Are Helping Their People Connect Faith and Work from Made to Flourish. I recently read this new book and wanted to share a few takeaways from interviews the authors conducted with pastors about what they were doing in their churches to help their people connect their faith and work:
  • To communicate the sacredness of work, many churches have “Faith at Work” interviews during the worship service. One church has also incorporated a version of this in their children’s ministry. The aim is to get children thinking about faith and work at an early age.
  • Commission people to specific vocations in the same way you would pray for pastors or foreign missionaries. One church has commissioned those in finance, law, the arts, and the health industry, so far. Commissioning services have a powerful ability to affirm people in their work.
  • Instead of a traditional adult Sunday School, one church hosted a seminar series called Vocare. The purpose of the seminar was to explore the intersection between the gospel culture and vocation, thinking through how we live out our call as God’s people in the world in light of the challenges and opportunities of our cultural moment.
  • One church, in place of Vacation Bible School, started an “All of Life” camp. The church takes children who attend the camp to various workplaces where adults are working, and they talk about their work. The goal is to give these students a rich experience within that particular work context.
  • Some churches have started vocational affinity groups. The idea is to place Christians who serve in the same industry in a small group for mutual encouragement and instruction.
  • One church launched industry roundtables, which were organized around vocations. These were mid-size communities, organized around a particular industry. The purpose of the groups was to explore “theology, ethics, best practices, tensions, and networking.”

What others suggestions do you have for church leaders to help those within their churches to see the value of their work and callings?

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9 Ways You Can Help Those in Your Churches to Integrate Their Faith with Their Work ~Part 1

So what can we do to help those within our churches to see the value of their work and callings, whether it is in a paid or non-paid vocation? Here are 4 practical suggestions for church leaders. Next time I’ll follow-up with 5 more suggestions.

  1. Celebrate vocations within our churches. Tom Nelson writes “Our local church is becoming more intentional about celebrating the broad diversity of vocations within our congregation. In our Sunday morning services, congregational members periodically give short and timely vocational testimonies, either live or via video, regarding their faith at work. At times the video testimonies will be shot on location at their particular workplaces.”

One way we have celebrated vocations in our church is by holding four men’s ministry sessions in which a total of fifteen men, serving in different callings and vocations, shared what it was like for them to do their work for the glory of God. We had sessions with those in the medical field, college professors working at a local university, senior leaders in large organizations, business owners, those in the insurance and financial services field and others. They shared how they are being salt and light in their workplaces.  

The questions I asked our presenters were:

  • What is your name and your primary vocation?
  • Please share what it’s like to be a believer in your particular vocation?
  • Do you feel that your vocation is something that the Lord has called you to?
  • How do you approach your vocation differently than a non-believer in your organization might?
  • Has your faith ever caused problems for you in the workplace?
  • Have you ever been asked to do something in your role that you felt conflicted with your beliefs?

Below are a few reflections from these four sessions:

  • Diversity of experiences. As one man, who was both a presenter and also attended each of the sessions stated, the experiences of each group of presenters were very different. For example, the first group included those from the medical field (doctors and a dentist). There was an openness expressed on how their faith came through. For example, the doctors expressed that they would often pray with their patients, invite them to Christian events or to church. The dentist, who is also a business owner, plays Christian music in the office, and sees leading his 12 employees as a ministry. On the other hand, senior leaders in large organizations were more limited on what they could express about their faith in the workplace, feeling as if they had to express “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” unless they knew that the recipient of the greeting was a believer, for example.
  • A sense of calling. The vast majority of the presenters felt that their current jobs were a calling from the Lord. They clearly saw how what they did Monday through Friday in the workplace was serving the Lord. It was also wonderful to hear the men share their stories about how the Lord has directed their paths, and worked in their lives to bring them to the positions they are in now.
  • Sometimes, living by faith in the workplace has consequences. One speaker, who is in sales, spoke about business he lost because he had the booklet The Story in his lobby. A client told him that he didn’t want to do business with someone who was so narrow-minded. After a phone call explaining how his faith helped him to provide better service and care for his clients, the relationship ended up OK, but the client still chose to take his business elsewhere.

Most of us spend much more time in our workplaces than we do with our families. Talking with others about how to do that in a way that pleases the Lord would seem to be time well spent.  I would encourage you to hold similar sessions with both men and women in your churches.

  1. Preach a sermon series on callings and vocations, or connecting faith and work. I’ve seen some good examples of this, including Scott Sauls’ “Leave it Better: Faith, Vocation & The Mission of God” at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and Bryan Chapell’s “Mission at Work” at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois.

I realize that doing this would be an exception for pastors who preach through books of the Bible rather than topical sermon series. However, I feel that this issue is so important I would ask those pastors to consider making an exception and preaching a series about calling, vocation and work.  Or perhaps this could be a good Sunday night series.

  1. Lead a Faith and Work Book Club. Start a faith and work book club with people from your church, and consider holding it at their workplace. Consider holding book clubs with stay-at-home Moms, using Courtney Reissig’s new book Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God, and others who are pursuing non-paid callings, such as volunteers.
  2. Ask individual people in your church about their work and callings. When you meet with members of your church be more intentional about asking about their vocations. This will help you to understand the significance of what they do throughout the week. Show them that you value what they do between Sundays.

In my church, Bob Smart, my senior pastor for more than 22 years, has for years taught a Spiritual Formation class, which helps the participants with their Identity IN Christ, their Calling TO Christ, Living Intentionally FOR Christ and Leaving a Legacy FROM Christ. The course is held one evening a week for six weeks.

What others suggestions do you have for church leaders to help those within their churches to see the value of their work and callings? Next time we’ll look at 5 more suggestions.


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8 Helpful Resources to Help You to Integrate Your Faith and Your Work

There are many helpful resources (books and blogs, for example) available to help you in your faith and work journey, helping you to connect your faith with your work. Did you know that there is now a Faith and Work Bible as well? The General Editor is David Kim Executive Director at the Center for Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Here is my overview of the Faith and Work Bible.

Here are a few helpful organizations and resources – there are many more – that can assist you as you work to integrate your faith and work:

Center for Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. The Center for Faith & Work (CFW) at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City exists to explore and investigate the gospel’s unique power to renew hearts, communities, and the world, in and through our day-to-day work.

Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University.  The Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University helps Christians close the gap between Sunday worship and Monday work. Sign up to receive twice-monthly updates (articles, events, resources).

Made to Flourish. Made to Flourish provides resources and training to empower a growing network of pastors to connect Sunday faith to Monday work for their churches.

Work Life.  This organization helps people find purpose at work.

Gospel Coalition Faith and Work articles. On a weekly basis the Gospel Coalition offers helpful articles about people who integrate their faith and work.

The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE). The IFWE is a Christian organization advancing a free and flourishing society by revolutionizing the way people view their work.  They send out a helpful email with a few articles each weekend.

Workmatters. This organization helps you discover God’s purpose for your work.

Coram Deo Blog. Every other week we offer links to our favorite faith and work articles and quotes, along with a book review.

Do you have additional faith and work resources that you would recommend?


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5 Ways to be a Servant Leader During Times of Significant Change


Organizations are continually pursuing improvement, and that’s a good thing. We all want our organizations to remain relevant, and you can’t do that without changing. However, the result of this is that our workplaces are always going through transformation. Sometimes that change is significant and it impacts jobs, perhaps those of the leader and their team. Those times are when leaders really need to step up and not check out. Here are 5 ways servant leaders can add value during times of significant change:

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. I can’t over stress the importance of communicating what you know about the change to your team during a time of significant flux. Email communication is fine, but more important is face to face. Be visible, walk around and visit with your team.  Sit down and visit if you sense that a team member would like to talk. Even though you may be busy, make this your priority.
  2. Listen. Very much related to you communicating what you know about the change is you listening to what is on your team members’ hearts and minds. My leader regularly holds “What’s on Your Mind” sessions. The sole purpose for these sessions is to give members of her teams the opportunity to ask questions and share what is on their minds. During periods of significant change, make time each day to listen to your team members to hear their questions and concerns, their feedback and about the impact the changes are having on them.
  3. Show empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – putting yourself in their shoes. Some leaders are good at this and frankly some aren’t. During times of significant change, it is imperative that servant leaders show empathy. The leader may or may not be personally impacted, but they must enter in with their team members during these times.
  4. Be intentional. The servant leader must be proactive, and do whatever they can to aid their team members during times of significant change. You may not be able to influence the change that is impacting your team, but you can do other things. For example, if jobs are being reduced or eliminated, a leader can:
  • Review internal and external job postings and share ones with team members that they may be qualified for.
  • Reach out to other managers who have openings on behalf of your team members.
  • Help prepare team members by reviewing their draft job postings, providing “mock interviews”, etc.
  1. Pray.  Most significantly, pray for your team members going through the change. Most likely each team member will see the change in a different way. For example, some may see the change as positive, and some may see it as absolutely devastating. And where they are in processing the change may differ from day to day. Lift your team members up to our Heavenly Father for protection and comfort during stressful times of significant change.

These are a few ways that servant leaders can add value to their teams during times of significant change. What others would you add to this list?


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How I Integrate My Faith and Work, Part 2

Recently, I shared what it was like for me to serve the Lord as a leader in a large and diverse IT department at a Fortune 50 company (Click here to read Part 1).  How do I try to live for Jesus in the workplace? How do I use the platform He has given me? How do I shine His Light to others? How do I try to integrate my faith and my work?

Here are 8 more ways in which I have personally tried to integrate my faith with my work, and you can as well:

  1. See Jesus as Your Supervisor. John Piper’s article “Lord Focused Living at Work” from his book A Godward Life, 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.” I would agree, adding “unless they ask you to do something God prohibits, or prohibit you from doing something God commands”.
  2. Keep work in its proper perspective. Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert write in their book The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs, that we should never be idle in our work, nor should we make work an idol. In other words, 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 and career above our family and church responsibilities. A good balance is needed.
  3. Point people to Christ. 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, of course). We should always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in us. (1 Peter 3:15).
  4. Have a Teachable Spirit. David Murray has written that the one characteristic that separates the successful from the unsuccessful in every walk of life is teachability. He states that those who are teachable and remain so usually succeed, while the unteachable usually fail. He goes on to say that it doesn’t matter how much talent and gifting we have. If we are unteachable, we will never reach our full potential in the various facets of our lives – Christian growth, callings, relationships, etc. There are many areas of life in which we need a humble and teachable spirit and certainly the workplace is one of them.
  5. Get to Know Your Team Members Well. As a leader I want to serve those that I am privileged to lead. I often say that I am blessed to work with people for only a short period of time and then either they or I move on to another assignment. In order to serve them you need to know them. That’s why my initial “Meet and Greet” with them is all about them personally, and not about work. How can you effectively lead someone if you don’t first know about them and what is important to them?
  6. Consistently Demonstrating a Positive Attitude and Approach. A positive attitude has always been something that is very important to me. I’ve always said that I would rather have someone on my team with less talent and experience with a great attitude than someone with more talent and experience with a poor attitude. This quote by Chuck Swindoll is one of my favorites:

It is more important than facts. It is more important than past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitude.”  

I find that I am weakened and drained when I am around negative people. Dr. Alan Zimmerman, whose “Tuesday Tip”, I’ve been reading for years, says that a negative attitude is just as contagious as the common cold. We can’t afford to catch it.

  1. Pray for Those I Will Interact With That Day. As I drive into work each morning, I pray for those that I know I will encounter that day in meetings. I pray that I will shine Christ’s light, representing Him, and serve others well. I also think about how I don’t know what will happen that day, but Jesus does. Praying about my work and the people I work with is a great way to start the day and be a disciple at work.
  2. Show empathy, care, and yes even love, to those I lead. In our church, elders have “flock groups” to shepherd, pray for, etc. I see my work team as another kind of flock group. I experience life situations with them, showing empathy for them as they go through difficult times and circumstances – and they do the same for me. Many of the people on my prayer list are from my workplace.

How have you tried to integrate your faith and work?


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How I Integrate My Faith and Work, Part 1


What is it like for me to serve the Lord as a leader in a large and diverse I.T. department at a Fortune 50 company? How do I try to live for Jesus in the workplace? How do I use the platform He has given me? How do I shine His Light to others? How do I integrate my faith and work?

Tim Keller tells us “To be a Christian in business, then, means much more than just being honest or not sleeping with your coworkers. It even means more than personal evangelism or holding a Bible study at the office. Rather, it means thinking out the implications of the gospel worldview and God’s purposes for your whole work life – and for the whole of the organization under your influence.”

In part one, here are 9 ways in which I have personally tried to integrate my faith with my work, and you can as well:

  1. Be a Servant Leader. For me, connecting my faith and work as a leader starts here. The concept of servant leadership is often misunderstood. There are many reasons why this form of leadership resonates with me. Here are just two of them:
  • It aligns well with my faith as Jesus is my model for leadership. Servant leadership means putting the needs and interests of others above your own.
  • It allows me to make a difference in my team member’s lives. Leadership expert Ken Blanchard states that the servant leader is interested in making a difference in their people’s lives, and in the process, positively impacting their organization by delivering good results. The role of the servant leader is to help their people be successful and accomplish their goals.
  1. Do excellent work. I believe that Christians should be the best workers. The rest of these items I mention don’t matter much if I’m not a good worker. And we glorify God when we give credit to Him for what we achieve, rather than claiming the credit for ourselves.
  2. Do your work for the Lord (Colossians 3:23).

My key verse here is Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” In their book The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert tell us that no matter what our job is or who our boss is, what we do in our jobs is actually done in service to King Jesus.  And that our work has purpose and meaning because we are ultimately doing it for the King. Who we work for is more important than what we do.

  1. 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? Former football coach 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.

An example of demonstrating integrity is how we utilize resources at work. We shouldn’t steal from our employers, be it how we use our time, or company resources such as computers, office supplies and copy machines.

  1. Be a person of character. I’ve heard character defined as doing the right thing when nobody is watching. Trust is closely related to character. I tell new team members that they have my trust, that’s how we start our relationship. They don’t have to earn it. It’s up to them to lose it.
  2. Be a role model. Dungy has written in his book The Mentor Leader: Secrets to Building People and Teams That Win Consistently, that right or wrong, someone is always watching you and that it’s important to see yourself as a role model. We need to be above reproach, be role models, and have a strong “brand”, which is what distinguishes you from others, or what makes you different from others.
  3. Serve as a mentor. I’m a big proponent of the value of mentoring relationships, and never turn anyone down who wants to enter into a mentoring relationship with me. I see it as a way of giving back and pouring myself into future leaders just as my career mentor poured himself into me.
  4. 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.
  5. Participate in a Faith and Work Book Club at work, school or home. A few colleagues in my workplace and I have been doing this for a few years now, and we are on our fifth book at this time. Our discussions, early on a Friday morning, are one of the highlights of my week. I enjoy learning from my friends how they integrate their faith and work and seeing the light come on when they realize that their work in an IT department has value in God’s eyes. Stay at home Moms could be encouraged by reading and discussing Courtney Reisigg’s new book Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God.

How have you tried to integrate your faith and work?

Next time, I’ll share 8 more ways in which I have personally tried to integrate my faith with my work.


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Knowing God’s Will for Your Vocation


Do you consider your work as a job? Or do you consider it a calling or your vocation?  Dr. R. C. Sproul defines vocation as being a divine call, a holy summons to fulfill a task or a responsibility that God has laid on us.  I like to think of what I do Monday through Friday as a calling or vocation.
As Christians consider their vocations, one thing that we want to assure is that our vocations are in God’s will. But how do we know that? A question we might ask could be “How do I know that I am in God’s will for my vocation?” I was recently helped in this area by re-reading R.C. Sproul’s small book Can I Know God’s Will?  (Note: The e-book version of the book, and all of the books in his Crucial Questions series, are available free). It is a very practical thing for us to know what God wants for our lives.
Sproul writes that whatever else we are, we are creatures involved in labor. God Himself is a working God, and from the very moment of creation, He conferred on our original parents the responsibilities of work. He also reminds us that work was given before the fall, and that work was part of the glorious privilege granted to men and women in creation. Sproul tells us that it is impossible to understand our own humanity without understanding the central importance of work.
Ready for a bit of theology? One thing that Sproul points out that we might not be aware of is that there are different aspects of God’s will. He helpfully leads the reader through the different ways in which the will of God is addressed in the Bible. First, he addresses the decretive will of God. That is the will by which God decrees things to come to pass according to His supreme sovereignty.  God said, “Let there be light” and there was light, for example.
He then talks about the preceptive will of God. The precepts, statutes, and commandments that God delivers to His people make up the preceptive will. They express and reveal to us what is right and proper for us to do.  Sproul tells us that the decretive will of God cannot be broken or disobeyed. It will come to pass. On the other hand, there is a will that can be broken, the preceptive will of God. God’s preceptive will can be disobeyed, and indeed it is broken and disobeyed every day by each one of us.
Sproul writes that the top priority of Jesus is that we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. All other things will be added to that.  I would phrase it that if we seek to obey his preceptive will, the will of God as revealed in Scripture, then our field of vocation is wide open to us.
In discerning our vocational calling, he gives us four important questions to consider:

  • What can I do?
  • What do I like to do?
  • What would I like to be able to do?
  • What should I do?

Sproul writes that every Christian is gifted of the Lord to fulfill a divine vocation, and that along with the gift, God gives a desire or a motivation to make use of that gift. Any vocation that meets the need of God’s world can be considered a divine calling. A vocation is something that we receive from God. God usually calls us inwardly and by giving us certain gifts, talents, and aspirations, and His invisible sovereign will works in the background to prepare us for useful tasks in His vineyard.
Other thought-providing questions that will be helpful in discerning our vocational calling are:

  • What would I most like to do if I didn’t have to please anyone in my family or my circle of friends?
  • What would I like to be doing ten years from now?

Sproul concludes with:
“As Christians, we have been called to be spiritual salt in a decaying world, to be spiritual light in the midst of darkness. We are to be wise stewards of God’s gifts and talents. That means striving to be the most honest, patient, hardworking, and committed workers we can be. It means settling for nothing less than excellence. God help us to live up to His high call for each of us.”
So where does that leave us in seeking God’s will for our vocation? I would recommend praying about it and following the helpful questions above. You probably won’t need to worry about being out of God’s will if you choose to live in Illinois vs. Florida or Texas, for example. Also, reflect back on Sproul’s comment that any vocation that meets the need of God’s world can be considered a divine calling. And for our millennial readers, remember that you don’t have to perfectly fulfill your passion and happiness in your choice of work.  Instead remember Jesus’ words:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  (Matthew 6:33 ESV)
Enjoy this related message from Dr. Sproul’s series Knowing God’s Will, entitled “God’s Will and Your Vocation”.