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November 8, 2015

Work, Worship, and My New Book!

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My new book, The Gospel Goes to Work, officially releases today. This book shares not only how the gospel should shape our work, but also how it could. In the excerpt below, I explore the relationship between faith and skill.

 

Foundation Stone 3: You Deliver Skill Consistently.

I’ve observed something that’s disturbing to me: Often, when faith goes up, skill goes down. In other words, when people become more involved in their faith journey, they sometimes become less valuable at work. I don’t know for sure why this is. Maybe it’s because, to people in this situation, performance on the job seems less important in comparison with spiritual pursuits. Maybe their minds and hearts are occupied elsewhere. But in any case, they’re not delivering the devotion and ability to their work that they used to. The boss might go to them if he wants somebody to pray about a crisis in his family, but if he needs somebody to close a deal or figure out a strategic problem, he’ll go to somebody else.

This is the opposite of the gospel going to work. It’s the gospel going on extended vacation. Dorothy Sayers, the late English essayist and poet, repeatedly stretched our traditional scope of the gospel. Writing to the church she remarked, “The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually to exhort him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make very good tables.”

Scripture challenges followers of Christ to raise the bar in their work, not lower the curve. Consider the parable of the talents.

When many people look at this parable by Jesus, they begin to focus on the concept of stewardship—what we do with God’s gifts to us. But before we go there, we should look at how the parable starts out, the set-up:

[The kingdom of heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.

In this parable, the man going on the journey represents God, and the bags of gold represent the abilities and opportunities God gives us. In other words, God passes out skill sets to all of us. So a part of our purpose in life is to discover our inborn greatness by figuring out what our skill sets are. Then we can learn to utilize those skills to the utmost in every sphere of life, including work. We just can’t give in to the tendency to get sloppy or lackadaisical on the job.

Delivering skill matters to God because He is the epitome of skillfulness. In His creation, in His moral law, in the redemptive plan He is carrying out, He is perfect and effective in all He does. He excels at every good thing. He is simply the best there is, the archetype of skill.

And let’s not forget that He made us in His image. This means we have a capacity to voluntarily appreciate and imitate God’s excellence. He gave us the ability to choose to do our best. Our work becomes worship when we willfully give of our best every day for the good of those around us through our jobs.

God created skill to be a mastery that is, at its heart, constructive and creative. It is the weapon, not of unhealthy competition, but of commitment to the welfare of others.

Here’s what that looks like:

  • A mechanic finds and fixes a problem that no one else could locate, much less solve.
  • An entrepreneur creates a successful business from nothing.
  • A professional truck driver maneuvers an eighteen-wheeler into a dock with only inches of leeway on either side.
  • A tenacious salesman negotiates through almost insurmountable obstacles to close a deal.
  • An artist brings living color out of a blank white canvas.
  • A writer arranges words to make a reader’s blood boil, the 
heart laugh, or the mind reflect.

Booker T. Washington observed, “Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.” So even if our work has begun to seem ordinary or boring to us, we can learn to bring our best to it and carry it off with excellence. As we
do so, we will be imitating our heavenly Father and bringing Him pleasure. We’ll also be making gospel life bloom in our workplace.

I hope you’ll be challenged and encouraged by the ideas in this book. Click here to order your copy and please share with your friends!

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