Our time at work takes up a large portion of our life. On average, we spend 90,000 hours (10.2 years) at work over a lifetime. For some, the time spent in the office feels like a necessary evil to pay the bills and provide for their family. Some believers see work as part of the curse due to the Fall; work is something to suffer through and endure in this fallen world. Many put “work” in a box detached from the rest of life. They feel that what they do from 9 to 5 has little to no impact on other areas of life, including their spiritual life. With this view, life is separated into the “sacred” (church on Sunday) and “secular” (work on Monday).
What if there were another, better way to view work? What if we could see work—not as a necessary evil—but as part of God’s good design? What if seeing our vocation from God’s perspective gave us greater purpose and motivation in our day-to-day tasks and responsibilities in the workplace? What if we could close the gap between Sunday and Monday and live fully integrated lives where faith and work converge?
CLOSING THE GAP
What does it look like to close the cap between Sunday and Monday? To answer this question, consider Whatever You Do: Six Foundations for an Integrated Life. This small book brings together some of the best minds in the faith and work movement, including Michael W. Goheen, Greg Forster, Tom Nelson, Amy L. Sherman, Vincent Bacote, and Gary Black Jr. In Whatever You Do, these authors explore the integration of faith and work through six theological foundations to help the reader live a more coherent and meaningful life.
In the book’s introduction, Matt Rusten, executive director of Made to Flourish, identifies one of the main reasons why more Christians aren’t integrating their faith with their work:
For the past several decades, there has been a growing movement of Christians who are thinking deeply about integrating faith with how they spend a majority of their time – at work, whether paid or unpaid. But there persists a deep misunderstanding about how everyday work and participation in the economy relates to God’s mission in the world. For instance, consider these statistics gathered by Barna: Only 28% of Christian workers are seeking to actively integrate their faith with their work. And 73% of practicing Christians say a pastor’s vocation is more important than their own.
Why is this the case? The reasons are complex. But I believe one of the chief reasons is that many of our beliefs, attitudes, and deepest held values lack coherence. Coherence happens when one can look at all the parts, find logical consistency, and fit them together into a meaningful whole. This book explores how we can pursue a more coherent life and faith in six important areas. We believe that when these areas are woven together, they form a scaffolding that can help us live meaningful lives, or make meaning of our lives, which is a fundamental human need.
SIX THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS
What are the theological foundations of Made to Flourish presented in Whatever You Do?
- The Bible’s Big Story – the grand narrative of the Bible informs our lives and directs our mission. “The biblical storyline has four major sections: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. A coherent understanding of the grand narrative of the Bible is vital to understand God’s purposes and our partnership with him in his work in the world.”
- God’s Mission – God invites us to participate in his redemption of individuals and the renewal of all things. “As children of God, we are commissioned to serve as ambassadors of reconciliation and live as agents of redemption, proclaiming the gospel of God’s grace to individuals and working together for the renewal of all things.”
- Personal Wholeness – Personal wholeness is essential for human flourishing and effective leadership. “God begins a project in all who are justified to become increasingly restored in the image of their creator. The Christian life is more than moral conformity. It involves the formation of our whole person into Christlikeness. By grace and in cooperation with the Spirit, we become more like Jesus.”
- The Goodness of Work – Engaging in work that leads to human flourishing is a primary way we image God. “Since humans were created in his image, work is a key component of human dignity, even in a fallen world, and a primary way we worship God and love our neighbor.”
- Economic Wisdom – Growing in economic wisdom is essential for glorifying God and loving our neighbor. “Good intentions to serve our neighbors must be combined with sound economics if we seek to help others without hurting them. Wisdom is the biblical category for skillful living, which aligns with the moral design of God’s world.”
- The Local Church – The local church is uniquely designed and empowered to promote human flourishing. “God has designed the church to be led by pastors, who are in turn called to equip congregants in how they can join God’s mission in all of life, serving in a variety of vocations and occupations. When the church functions as it was created, it is a powerful cultural agent that brings human flourishing.”
WHAT STORY DO I FIND MYSELF A PART OF?
Perhaps you’re thinking, “This is great, but what do I do? How can I practically integrate my faith with my work?” Citing Alasdair MacIntyre, Luke Bobo, Made to Flourish’s director of curriculum and resources, writes in the book’s conclusion:
Before we can answer the question, “What am I to do?” we must first answer, “Of what story or stories do I find myself a part of?” In other words, the stories or story we find ourselves in forms us. Stories inform our beliefs and behaviors; stories inform our worldview and our workview.
The church has perpetuated a dwarf-size version of the Big Story that has traditionally only included the fall and redemption. Such a version of the Big Story is primarily focused on personal evangelism and securing a ticket to heaven. […] However, a fuller, integrated, and complete story that includes four movements of the grand narrative — creation, fall, redemption, and consummation — reorients us to the truths of the Bible and moves us, progressively, toward an integrated life. A coherent Big Story reorients us to God’s mission, to the importance of pursuing personal wholeness, to God’s view on work, to the necessity of growing in economic wisdom, and to the role of the local church.
The mission of God is cosmic in scope. In includes both the redemption of individuals and the redemption of institutions that impede the flourishing of human beings. […] The Big Story reminds us that we participate with God in becoming whole or integrated persons. The Big Story invites us to yoke ourselves with Jesus as an apprentice, and the Big Story invites us to gather friends of virtue, among other things, to aid us to becoming whole persons.
The grand narrative teaches us that all work, except sinful work, is good, contributive, and noble. This work matters greatly in God’s economy. […] There is no pecking order of occupations or vocations in God’s workview.
Growing in economic wisdom is another tenet we glean from the pages of the Bible. Wise economic actors aid and abet the flourishing of their neighbors, their neighborhoods, and their cities. God is deeply concerned about the economy because it is chiefly a human enterprise. […] Pastors and parishioners must grow in their economic discernment and seize opportunities to join God in making what is unjust, just and what is unrighteous, righteous for the flourishing of the most vulnerable in our society.
The Big Story of Scripture, of which we find ourselves, means embracing, perhaps anew, the unique and divine role of the local church. God has prepared and equipped the church, his bride, to actively participate in the renewal of all things. And while God’s renewal project is cosmic in scope, the scattered church can, nonetheless, participate in this grand renewal project by doing our daily and weekly work well.
For more information about Made to Flourish or to get a copy of Whatever You Do, visit the organization’s website at www.madetoflourish.org.
Chris Loux – Communications Director, CityChurch Network
ABOUT MADE TO FLOURISH
Whatever You Do is a resource made available by Made to Flourish, an organization that exists to close the gap between Sunday and Monday. Years ago, Tom Nelson, president of Made to Flourish and pastor of Christ Community Church in Overland Park, Kansas, recognized something in how he was discipling his congregation. He had failed to disciple them in all areas of their lives, including their work lives. “In 2015, Nelson and a team of church, business, and private sector partners launched Made to Flourish in order to ‘empower a growing network of pastors’ to better engage, equip, and encourage each other as they integrate a more robust theology of faith, work, and economics into their churches.”
Since its founding, Made to Flourish has equipped pastors and church leaders to equip others to flourish where they spend most of their time week in and week out: at work. They do this through a two-fold approach: 1) vocationally informed discipleship (flourishing pastors who “equip congregation members to faithfully follow Christ in the everyday”) and 2) vocationally informed mission (flourishing churches that “seek the long-term well-being of their communities by utilizing the congregation’s skills.”).