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One Word that Just Might Change the Way You See Your Job

Statistics say a majority of people hate their jobs. Most see daily work as something that just “has to be done.” After all, there are bills to pay, kids to feed, school loans to pay off, and hopefully a few dollars left over to do some fun stuff from time to time.

This is life. The rat race. Days of mostly meaningless work sprinkled with a few occasional glimpses of happiness here and there if we’re lucky.

Work is boring. Work is hard. Work is meaningless. Work is drudgery.

Or perhaps you find yourself more in this camp. Your work makes you feel good about your place in the social hierarchy. Maybe it pays you big dollars and gives you leverage to mute many of the fears others hear more loudly.

Work is status. Work is identity. Work is power. Work is security.

How about you? How would you finish that sentence? Work is _______________.

Have you ever wondered how God might fill in that blank?

Different Perspective

There is a fascinating Hebrew word in the Old Testament that paints a much more beautiful picture of this thing we call work:

Avodah

Avodah is the Old Testament Hebrew word for work.

And worship.

And service.

Yep, this one word actually means all three things simultaneously. Avodah paints a beautiful word picture of God’s intertwined intent for our everyday work.

In Psalm 104, avodah means work:

“Then man goes out to his work (avodah), to his labor until evening.”

– Psalm 104:23

In Exodus 8, the same word is used for worship:

“This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship (avodah) me.”

– Exodus 8:1

In Joshua 24, it means service:

“But as for me and my household, we will serve (avodah) the Lord.”

–Joshua 24:15

For those redeemed by the Gospel, work is not our identity nor is it just some horrific punishment for man’s sin. Work is worship! Work is service! Work is a simultaneous opportunity for us to provide for our families while giving glory to God and loving our fellow man.

Conclusion

How would it change the way you feel when the alarm clock goes off tomorrow morning if you saw your work this way?


This article was originally posted at The Stone Table, a resourcing community for faith, work, and missions.

Gospel Insights from a Successful Venture Capitalist

If you could ask a successful leader one question, what would it be?

I found myself with that opportunity recently, riding in the passenger seat of a car next to a highly renowned businessman. Just the two of us, and 25 minutes of highway between us and our destination.

You wouldn’t know his name. You wouldn’t recognize his face. If he passed you on the street, there’s no real reason he’d ever catch your attention. But he’s a venture capitalist – a real-life Shark Tank – and he’s made more money (and given more away) than anyone I’ve ever hung out with.

He’s also a Christian.

And while his gifts in business have brought the dreams of countless upstart entrepreneurs to life, his generosity has brought life and hope to countless numbers of people across this globe. I was fascinated, and outside of a few crazy morning drivers, I had his undivided attention.

Digging Deeper

“Obviously, you’re skilled at what you do,” I brilliantly noted. “But lots of people are good businessmen. What’s your edge? What makes you special? What’s your ‘secret sauce?’”

He paused, took a deep breath, and let the awkward silence hang in the air just long enough to make me uncomfortable. I fought the urge to fill the void.

Finally, he began:

“A number of years ago, my wife and I were watching one of those old, cheesy Bible movies. It was at the point in the Old Testament where God asked Moses to lead his people out of Egypt. I watched as the actor playing Moses argued with God, as he wrestled and toiled in the tension of what God was asking him to do. And as I watched Moses pray and beg God for help, something hit me:

Moses didn’t know the end of the story. He had no idea what was about to happen!

Revelation

We read the narrative knowing the outcome – the plagues, the people, the leaving, the chase, the Red Sea’s miraculous parting, the provision of daily food in the desert – we know how it all turns out! Moses did not. All he had was that God had spoken and his trust that God would lead.

I decided that was a pretty good way to run my business.

I start each day by asking God to speak, and then I trust He will empower me to go wherever He leads. If I have any kind of secret, I guess that’s what it is.”

That’s some simple, solid advice. I wonder how all of our journeys might change if we committed to do the same?

“Moses answered God, ‘but why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

“I’ll be with you,” God said.


This article was originally posted at The Stone Table, a resourcing community for faith, work, and missions.

Does “Called Into Ministry” Mean Becoming a Pastor?

Anyone else grow up going to summer church camp?

Every summer I spent a week in Hartford City, Indiana at Lake Placid campground, home of the sanctuary made out of a rusty old airplane hanger, sulfur-infused water that smelled like rotten eggs, and some of the greatest memories of my entire childhood. I loved church camp! It made a deep and indelible mark on my spiritual development as a young Christian.

Most of it was beautiful, but there were also some unintended theological consequences. Much of what we learn really is caught not taught.

Each of the four evening camp services had a theme, and the 3rd night of camp was usually “called into ministry night.” The camp speaker would passionately preach about what it means to be called by God into full-time vocational ministry. This was followed by a direct challenge to listen intently! What was God saying to each of us individually about our own calling? He was most certainly tapping some on the shoulder, and we don’t want to miss “the call.”

The service would usually culminate with a show of hands for all those feeling God’s “call into ministry.” About 10-12% of the hands would go up, and those feeling this call were invited to the altar where the rest of us gathered around to pray for them. When the prayer time was over, we would all head back to our seats, some carrying “the call” into sacred work and the rest of us just left to our secular work trajectories.

At least that’s the message that was instinctively received.

Snack Shop Talk

I remember using those very terms at the snack shop after service. Someone would holler across the ping pong table, “hey Coop, so are you called into ministry?”

“No-no, not me,” I always shot back. “I’m just going to pursue a secular job. I don’t feel called into ministry.” (Little did I know I would spend a dozen years on staff at two churches. God most certainly has a sense of humor).

Let’s be clear, nothing intentionally devious was being perpetrated here, but an unintentional heresy of sorts was being deposited into our Christian worldview. In seeking to clarify the ecclesiastical pastoral calling on people’s lives, we were unwittingly segregating the way we thought about Christian work and calling as a whole.

This has caused confusion for many believers in the understanding of their everyday work. It’s resulted in marketplace Christians believing their lives are second class, that their “secular jobs” only exist to make money to fund truly sacred activities, that there is no meaningful connection between their daily vocations and the work of God in the world. And that’s just bad theology.

Work Theology

Please don’t get me wrong, there is something special and distinct about the ecclesiastical call into full-time ministry (I spent 12 beautiful years as a pastor myself!), but the sacred nature of work is not just for pastors or those employed by a church, it is intended for all Christians!

Did you know our English word “vocation,” which we use when discussing someone’s career choice and what they do for a living, is derived from the latin word “vocare,” which means calling. The Apostle Paul uses this same word when he references pastors in the church and those who work in the marketplace. There is no distinction.

But my guess is that few of us think of our day jobs this way. We’ve instinctively assumed that our work was just a way to earn money so we can pay the bills, support our families, do a few enjoyable things from time to time, and maybe give a little to the sacred things in life that really matter. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll find a little bit of meaning from it, or at least make enough money to offset the meaninglessness. If not, I guess we’ll have eternity to make up for it.

This is bad work theology.

Your work, in the church or in the marketplace, is vocare. It’s a calling. It’s part of our human vocation as vice-regents and caretakers of God’s creation.

How would it change your feeling when the alarm goes off each morning if you saw your work like that?

If you’re a believer, you have a calling. It’s time to embrace it.


This article was originally posted at The Stone Table, a resourcing community for faith, work, and missions.

Why Is It Called The Stone Table?

My wife and I spent a great deal of time naming our kids. We wanted classic, simple, sweet-sounding first names for our daughters, and so our girls were named Emma and Anna accordingly. With that naming strategy, we established an unintentional pattern (vowel, consonant, consonant, vowel) that produced a bit of an OCD quandary when our son came along a few years later.

What boy’s name could possibly continue the pattern requirement? We were just days away from christening him “Otto” (ok, I was days away) when we landed on Austin. While it broke the letter streak, it likely kept him from becoming a wedgie victim on the school playground for years to come.

What’s in a Name?

While our kids’ first names are the result of parental preference, their middle names have deep and historic meaning to us.

Lorraine was my Aunt, my mom’s oldest sister who was really more of a mother figure to her and our whole family. She was never able to have children of her own, so this name speaks of both heritage and honor.

Noel points to Christmas, the coming of our Savior into the world. Since Anna’s original due date was Christmas day (she was actually born two weeks early), we thought this was an appropriate reminder of our beautiful redemption story.

James was my wife’s maternal grandfather, a giant presence in the family both physically and spiritually. He died way too soon, but his impact on everyone he came in contact with has lived on for generations.

Names mean things, and even when others don’t know the origins, they still carry the vital DNA.

A Daily Reminder

The Stone Table is no different. When we relaunched our missions arm in 2015, we knew we wanted a name that carried the essence of what we were all about. But how could we synopsize that exactly?

While we began as a real estate company built to provide quality affordable housing and give money to missions, neither of those things really described the root. What inspired our founders to start this journey?

It was a simple belief in the holistic resurrection and redemption power of the Gospel.

As a fan of the author and theologian CS Lewis, I began scouring his books for suitable allegories. Few writers have ever been better at illuminating deep spiritual truths through fictional stories. I found an exhaustive glossary of terminology, characters, and places from the Chronicles of Narnia series and began pouring over it for inspiration. The perfect name stuck out on the page like it was highlighted in neon:

The Stone Table (or Aslan’s Howe) is the location of Aslan’s death and resurrection.

What better way to remind ourselves of what we do every day? To those unfamiliar with the Narnia series, the name speaks of a regal and epic gathering place. To people of faith, it shouts the Good News of Jesus!

Tables are gathering places, and The Stone Table is a Gospel gathering place. We’re bringing together pastors and businesspeople, entrepreneurs and missionaries, all for the sake of the Gospel in the marketplace and around the world.

Pull up a chair, it’s time to find your seat at The Table.


This article was originally posted at The Stone Table, a resourcing community for faith, work, and missions.


My first job out of college was as a staff auditor for a CPA firm.
As far as accounting firms go this one was pretty good, but it only took two busy seasons for me to realize this wasn’t what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. One Christmas Eve, I found myself 3 stories high on a cherry picker in an unheated warehouse doing an inventory count for a manufacturing company in northern Indiana.

  1. Take widget out of one box.
  2. Put hash mark on inventory sheet.
  3. Shiver from the cold.
  4. Place widget in second box.
  5. Blow on frozen fingers.
  6. Lose will to live.
  7. Repeat.

Surely this was some cosmic punishment for sins I didn’t even know I committed! (I was 23, so yes, I was overdramatic).

We experience difficulty, frustration, and purposeless in our work as part of this fallen world, and so most Christians assume work must be a result of sin. It’s an unfortunate reality we just have to put up with here on this earth, but one day “when we all get to heaven” work will be cast into the lake of fire with the devil and all his minions, and there will be much rejoicing!

Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s a jaw-dropping discovery:

In the beginning there was work!

Work was part of God’s original design for mankind. Before you think this is some conspiracy perpetrated by your boss, I can prove it to you:

Genesis 2:1-3 (ESV, emphasis mine) – “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation…”

(Now look at this….this might be the most important part)

Genesis 2:15 (ESV, emphasis mine) – “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

We’re in Genesis chapter 2. The tree and the apple and the fall of man doesn’t happen until chapter 3! So what does that mean? Work is not some post-fall punishment for sin, it’s part of God’s original design for mankind. The brokenness with which we experience work is the result of sin, but not the work itself. This is exciting stuff!

Contrary to Warner Bros. cartoon theology (you know, where Wile E. Coyote falls off the cliff and finally ends up floating on a cloud in a robe playing a harp), we weren’t created to sit around and binge-watch Netflix all day. We were created to dream and build and serve and cultivate and problem solve – to make culture and add value to the world around us – we were created to work!

In the beginning, there was work! Work is not punishment, it’s purpose. This is foundational to good work theology. I know the 23-year-old version of me could’ve benefited greatly from this understanding up on top of that warehouse lift all those years ago. But no matter where you are on your work journey, it’s never too late to replant your roots in the truth.


This article was originally posted at The Stone Table, a resourcing community for faith, work, and missions.