Monday, December 19, 2011

Tom Nelson's "Work Matters"

Twenty years ago, I as part of a ministry called “Salt and Light Fellowship” sponsored by the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary. The fellowship was a training program, taught by Jerram Barrs (who is still the institute’s director), to increase awareness and understanding that the gospel wasn’t something limited to Sunday mornings but actually embraced the whole of life – family, culture, government, work and everything else associated to daily life. This is the same idea behind The High Calling.

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.


An Interview with Pastor Tom Nelson, by The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture. (This was also featured at The High Calling.)


JofIndia said...

I wonder if retirement also matters...?

Glynn said...

J - my guess would be that retirement also matters - it's part of life, too.

ToscaSac said...

Retirement is not in the Bible.

nance marie said...

i am not really clear on what i do that is work and what i do that is not work. so, i am going with the thought that everything is important to God and God is important to everything.

H. Gillham said...

Wherever we are, whatever we do -- it's a mission field.

We do it well, and we do it so that we honor HIM.

To me, it's simple.

We were made to work -- and it doesn't just mean jobs -- and so far, I have found lots of work in retirement -- it's just not with a paycheck. :)

I have forwarded this blog entry to others.

Sam Van Eman said...

Interesting connections here, Glynn. Do you know Denis and Margie Haack? They have a long history with Covenant, Francis Schaeffer, and L'Abri.

Do you know Steve Garber? He runs the Washington Institute.

Small world.

caryjo said...

One of my main life-mottoes for a few years has been "Right Place, Right Time." We can be working, or not officially working [my husband says we all work, it can just be at home, helping others, doing whatever is put in our path)... even being on line as part of our consistent life now. If God puts us in a job, then, as stated in the Word, we work for Him, keeping Him as our focus. Was I perfect as a worker?... absolutely NOT!! Sometimes a bad attitude, fussy, fuming. The main consequence of that behavior/attitude? I didn't serve my Lord they way He called to do it. Consequently, I most certainly agree with this post.