Tuesday, July 24, 2012

At Work As It Is in Heaven

Today over at The High Calling today, I’m interviewing J.B. Wood on his new ebook, At Work As It Is in Heaven. The interview begins at THC and finishes up here. I reviewed the book on July 13, and found it to be one of the best I’ve read on the subject.

Talking to Jim is just as insightful as reading his book and the columns he writes for The High Calling. He combines a wealth of corporate experience and his Christian faith to address the questions, can we live our faith at work, and how do we do that?

His answers are compelling – and challenging.

Is there or will there be a tension between "God and others first" and personal ambition? How does a Christian keep personal ambition in perspective -- knowing that he or she has gifts that God wants to see exercised?

I think ambition gets a bad rap, especially from the Evangelical church. Ambition is not limited to greedy MBA’s. Anyone who has a dream is ambitious. Anyone who builds a church is ambitious. The Bible warns against “selfish ambition” as the stumbling block to our spiritual lives, where we get caught up in our own versions of life and status and popularity rather than seeking out the best interests of others in the process. Sure, it’s a challenge to keep the selfish ego in check, but that applies as much to the high school drama student or mega-church pastor as it does to the investment banker.

The workplace today is a curious and sometimes conflicting combination of the command-and-control hierarchy, or the old industrial model, and the consensus or network model. What understanding does a Christian need to have to navigate that combination?

The Christian has to be him/herself with God’s truth and indwelling Spirit as the foundation of character and conduct. Either model can work, and both are imperfect, which will invariably bring conflict, tension, misunderstandings, etc. Much depends on the organizational history and culture. I think it’s the Christian’s job to bring excellence, grace, character and compassion, whatever the structure.

Clearly we're not supposed to spend our time at work handing out tracts and evangelizing our colleagues with sermons. Our employers pay us in the expectation that we do something that creates value for the organization. So how do we live our faith in the workplace?

I for one am absolutely convinced that our faith is lived out by simply being our best selves while fully engaging in our work. That’s it. We don’t have to do anything special at work to “prove” something to Jesus about our devotion or salvation. By being our best selves, made in the image of God, seeking His guidance, filled with His spirit, looking out for the best interests of others, displaying the highest of values, ethics, and character in all of our business conduct and interactions with colleagues, we are glorifying God.  That gives you plenty to work with.
What do you say to the Christian who reads the book and says, "This is all fine and good but you don't know my workplace, my day-to-day reality. It's a viper's nest."

Hmmm. I feel for them. I heard a high-powered speaker recently (an investment banker!) talk about being tired of “parking his soul at the door” before going into the office. His antidote was in finding a “Stillpoint” and “Soul-Crafting” his business as a way to anchor his values and character in the midst of the viper’s nest work-world. It sounded like it worked for him, although he was clearly in a position of influence and power in his situation.

Ultimately, one shouldn’t stay in a work environment that is unhealthy or destructive to one’s soul. If at all possible, seek a new place of employment. Life’s too short, and each of us has some level of control over these things. 

So is our work -- our daily work wherever and whatever it is -- a kind of mission?

Yes, although it may not be a blinding-light kind of mission. Life is a constant unraveling, and our job is to make the most of what’s right in front of us, in order to get the nudge to see whatever’s next. If you call that a mission, then that’s what our daily work is. 

What would you like to see happen when someone reads and understands this book?

 I hope it gives them a sense that they are not alone, that God has them at their place of work for a purpose, whatever the circumstance, that God’s kingdom can be furthered in the very act of showing up to work every day and channeling their efforts to the greater good of those around them. God’s grace is always available, but we must participate. There’s always hope.


The interview at The High Calling (live at 7 a.m. Central time).

J.B. Wood blogs at Shrinking the Camel.

My review of At Work As It Is in Heaven.

Photograph: Office Buildings in London by Vera Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Maureen said...

Good interview (in both places), Glynn. Wishing "the Shrinking Camel" much success with the book.

SimplyDarlene said...

Thank you both for the interview.

For me, "we must participate" near the end is what's gonna stick because it's not about us occasionally giving God a hat-tip and curtsey, it's about Him giving us one because of how we did the work He placed before us to do.

Active participation. Indeed.


Anonymous said...

Glynn, this is a very helpful interview. A good incentive to read the book as well as an addition to reading it. Well done.

Deidra said...

Well done, Glynn!