Thriving in a community that works with purpose

By Lauren Moreno, Bethel Seminary San Diego

What first began as a group of students meeting to fulfill their attendance for a reading group stipend slowly morphed into a group of leaders, thinking bigger thoughts than when they started.  We met bi-weekly on Friday afternoons to eat lunch and discuss one of life’s greatest blessings (yes, that’s right – blessings) God has given us: work. Work is a “garden” (referring to the Garden in which the first humans dwelled, where many doctrines were established) topic, because God is adamant in including it as a part of man’s DNA, even before the Fall. You see, when you get back to “garden” topics, they tend to work their way into everyday life, which is why the Work for Purpose Initiative exists.

What was the point of this reading group? Slowly, into each session it dawned on me: this season of conversation was really a conduit to inviting us to see every aspect of life through the lens of the Gospel, as if we had glasses on.[1]

Amy Sherman’s Kingdom Calling

Our first meeting we were greeted with a man that quickly received our respect, Dr. Ben Lam, who humbly led our discussion of our first book. It was in this book that we started to form our own ideology of work. Most of us came into this group believing that work was a thorn in all of our sides and it was more of a necessary evil, than a necessary blessing. I was taken back by one of Sherman’s thesis’: “God’s modus operandi is sharing power with humans, who are weak, frail and often sinful. He gave us creativity, talent, potential and resources, and he wants us to deploy all that.”[2] We were created to work (Genesis 2:15) this came before the Fall, meaning that work was not a curse put on all of humanity, it was a blessing intended to cultivate better relationship with God.

Timothy Keller’s Every Good Endeavor

This next book came at a critical time in our semester. Classes were in full force and we were all very busy with not only our school schedules but in our work schedules also, so this book was refreshing to our group. It was in this book where we really unpacked what it meant for us, as mostly millennials, to see work in a positive and healthy way. With Phil Noordmans’ approval and guidance we discussed so much of what the expectations are of people in our generation today, and how we are to fill that with a Christian worldview mold. There is a heavy weight on most of us between the ages of 19-35 that feel that we need to establish a legacy at a young age, and our vocation is how we are going to create that legacy. Starting non-profits, becoming missionaries in unknown locations, and giving our lives to every social justice cause are pressures we as millennials feel are obligated to devote ourselves to. While these are noble and good causes, Keller showed us that living a life outside of ourselves where most of our hours are recorded on a timesheet, requires us to find what unique traits God has given us, and share those with the world, even in a cubicle. So for those of us who admire the non-profit starter and the social justice protester but know that are gifts do not fit snug in that mold, we can take a deep breath.

Gene Veith’s God at Work

Under the brilliant leadership of Dr. Jeannine Brown, we were invited to dig into vocation in every area of our lives. When I sit through meetings, order office supplies, or plan strategically, God is just as involved in those tasks as He is in my “heart” issues; marriage, daily devotions, friendships, morality, etc. Veith stresses wholeness, which is something that our school, Bethel Seminary, has adopted as well. Dr. Brown encouraged us to look at our own vocations, as well with others by using the acronym: WIGIT (Where Is God In This). This again helps us to put on our Gospel goggles to view life (in the good and the bad) in terms of the words and actions lived out by Christ.

Daniel Finn’s Christian Economic Ethics

Our last two sessions were led by Dr. Smith, who brought an invaluable amount of experience to the table, as we took a look into history with an emphasis on ethics in the workplace. Following this theme of wholeness, the author did a fantastic job of relating modern day Christian work ethics with principles of our Christian forefathers and foremothers. Some of those common themes that we saw were: fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves, upholding integrity especially when it is difficult, and seeking long lasting solutions not temporary fixes. “Action for justice entails hiking upstream to find out why people are ending up in the river and taking steps to stop the process that puts them in the after in the first place.”[3] The important part in this book’s analysis was finding value from traditions. Dr. Smith reminded us that “Tradition is the living faith of the dead while traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” (quote by Pelican). In our work, we are to see every day as an opportunity to create a new tradition inspired by the Gospel.

Community application

I was excited to read each real-life example in the books of people working in light of the Gospel. I knew that lifestyle had to be present in my own community. I decided to send out an email to friends and coworkers, sharing insights from the books we read. In addition, I asked them for their opinions and for them to share their experiences.

Echoing Amy Sherman in Kingdom Calling, I asked the question: How do you see “vocational stewardship” played out in your life? What about your personhood contributes to your vocation and how to you share it with others? Yvonne, working as a Customer Service Agent for FedEx, shared that her ability to listen to others well and guide them in a complicated refund/apology process comes only because of God’s grace and understanding of why it is so critical to hear people. Yvonne exemplifies sacrificing the need to be right for the needs of others.

The second question I proposed reflected not only each author’s mission in writing their books but also the purpose of this reading colloquy: What would you say to a Christian who is in a job that seemed more like a prison sentence than a place to use their gifts? I am especially fond of Yvonne’s (CSA for FedEx) answer because she said, “None of us know why we are placed where we are. We are called to be Christ to those who do not know Him wherever we are.” Yvonne expressed that God uses everything for His glory, including our frustrations and heartaches from working at a job where we feel burned out. With role models like these in my very own community, I am excited to be joining them as we work with a purpose in San Diego.

Bibliography

[1] Timothy Keller, and Katherine Leary Alsdorf, Every good endeavor: connecting your work to Gods work. (New York: Riverhead Books, 2012), 181.

[2] Amy Sherman, Kingdom calling: vocational stewardship for the common good. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2011), 137.

[3] Daniel K. Finn, Christian economic ethics: history and implications (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2013), 386.

Image © StartupStockPhotos | pixabay.com

 

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