Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson. Crossway. 226 pages. 2011
Tom Nelson is the senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Kansas City. He is also the President of Made to Flourish, a respected network of pastors integrating faith and work. This is one of the most helpful books that I have read on the subject of integrating our faith and work. The first section of the book looks at our work through a biblical lens. The second section focuses on how God shapes our lives in and through our work.
The author tells us that he realized that he had failed to grasp that a primary stewardship of his pastoral work was to assist and equip those in his church to better connect the professions of their Sunday faith with the practices of their Monday work. Although many see work as a necessary evil, and a result of the fall, the author tells us that 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, and in our work, we are to show off God’s excellence, creativity, and glory to the world. We work because we bear the image of One who works. Because God himself is a worker, and because we are his image-bearers, we were designed to reflect who God is in, though, and by our work.
In Genesis 1 and 2 we are presented with a delightful picture of work as God originally designed it to be. The Bible clearly tells us that while work is not a result of the fall, work itself was profoundly impacted. In a myriad of ways, we are painfully reminded each and every day that we live and work in a fallen and corrupted world, as 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.
Sadly, many Christians live their entire lives in the workplace under the distortion that their work is not as important and God honoring as the work of a pastor or missionary. But the author tells us that in reality, there is no more sacred space than the workplace where God has called you to serve him as you serve the common good.
There are distortions in how we approach our work. Rather than worship God through our work, we can easily and subtly begin to worship our work. Work can become an idol in our lives. One of the ways we make work an idol is workaholism. On the other hand, instead of making work an idol, we can erroneously view our work as not a big deal, and thus become idle in our work. When work is distorted, we easily make leisure an idol and become a slothful person. In addition, the common notion of a long, leisurely, and self-indulgent retirement (playing golf every day and travelling all the time), is not something Scripture endorses, and in many ways, it reflects the distortion of slothfulness.
The author tells us how important our work actually is. We must not compartmentalize our work and our worship, but rather we must learn to see our work as an act of worship. One of the ways that we are salt and light and act as redemptive agents in this broken world is to live out a faithful presence in the workplace. One of the primary ways we tangibly love our neighbors is to do excellent, God-honoring work in our various vocations. The author tells us that if we will begin to see our workplace as our primary place of discipleship, it will be truly life changing. We will do good work. We will grow spiritually, and we will have a significant influence in the world.
He discusses the concept of vocation, indicating that the word 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. In and through our vocations we have the opportunity to extend common grace to others, and in doing so we foster the common good. He tells us that our vocational calling is not only a gift from God but also equips and supernaturally gifts us for work.
He addresses challenges in our work, indicating that one of the greatest challenges we face every day in our workplaces is living a life of personal integrity. He tells us that our personal integrity is the most important asset we bring to our workplace. If our personal integrity is compromised at work, our life is inevitably comprised. The pressure to compromise our core beliefs and ethical values as Christians is a regular temptation in many workplaces today.
This is a very helpful book, and would serve as an excellent introduction for those who are interested in the value of our work and how to integrate our work with our faith.
Below are ten of my favorite quotes from the book:
- 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.
- 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.
- Without knowing Christ, your work will never be all that God intended for it to be. Without knowing the One who created work, your work will never be ultimately fulfilling. The good news of work is that we can be transformed—that our work can be transformed.
- Your vocational work is your specific and invaluable contribution to God’s ongoing creation and an essential aspect of God’s Great Commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.
- One of God’s primary places where he desires your mind to be renewed is your workplace—for your thoughts, words, and behavior to be changed while you work. Your workplace is to be a place of spiritual formation.
- An essential aspect of presenting our Christian faith to the world around us is seen in and through the diligence we exhibit in our work.
- Our work is a gift from God, but we are also gifted by God for our work. How God has created us and gifted us, and the very human dispositions we have been given, shape his vocational will for our lives.
- Your vocational sweet spot is that place where your creativity is most unleashed, your passions are most engaged, and your work makes the greatest contribution to advancing the mission of the organization or business you serve.
- If your work is crowding out a weekly Sabbath rest, it is time for you to make changes.
- One of the marks of Christian maturity is a growing sense of joyous contentment wherever God has us and in whatever he has called us to do.