For two years, we were taught and trained; we had discussion groups and outside study and application. One of the pastors at our church asked me to teach an adult Sunday School class on the material from the fellowship, and it went fine until the Sunday we discussed work. I discussed a statement that Barrs repeatedly made – the idea of work as vocation, that the work that each of us did and how we did it was as important to God as what ministers, missionaries and other “higher calling” people did.
Some people got upset. Some went to the pastor and complained, and were even more upset when he told them that “work as vocation” was not only correct but also Biblical.
It’s an idea that has much greater understanding today than it did then, although it is still not universally accepted. I wish we had had Tom Nelson’s Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. Nelson is an author and speaker, and he has also been the senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Leawood, Kansas, for more than 20 years.
What he has created in Work Matters is a theological discussion of work as vocation, Biblically grounded and written for lay people and ministers alike. Nelson does an outstanding job of explaining why work is so important to God and how it is an expression of our faith.
We are created to work, Nelson says, and we are image-bearers of God in both the work we do and how we do it. Like everything else, work was affected by the fall, and part of what we are about in the workplace is the redemption of work. Work is not something that exists aside from out faith but something that is both an expression and extension of our faith. This doesn’t mean we bring evangelistic tracts by the box load into our workplaces, however; it does mean we conduct ourselves in the workplace in such a way that brings honor to God.
Our ordinary work is actually something extraordinary, Nelson says. “One of the primary ways we love our neighbor,” he writes, “is to do excellent, God-honoring work in our various vocations.” Instead of looking at work as drudgery, we are to see it as God sees it. And God was interested in excellence in our work long before popular business writers went in search of it.
Work also has the extraordinary power to transform us, he say. “Like the good gifts of education, marriage, friendship, leisure and family, our work influence sin great measure the persons we are and the persons we are becoming.” And that transforming power can be experienced especially when we face challenges that test our personal integrity.
Work Matters is an important book, a vital book and one that deserves broad reading, discussion and study.