Rising Above a Toxic Workplace

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I have a hard time imagining what it’s like to work in a “healthy” workplace. I mean, I know they exist. I even have friends who work in places they absolutely love. But I’ve worked in more unhealthy ones than not. And some have been downright toxic. Like, hearing the owner of a company I worked for curse a blue streak at my supervisor repeatedly. (Did I mention they lived together, too? Yeah, I worked in a soap opera.)

If Rising Above a Toxic Workplace is any indication, it seems as though my experience isn’t as out of the ordinary as I thought. In fact, according to Gallup, “seven of ten US workers are either ‘going through the motions’ or flat-out hate their jobs” (11). Thousands of people dread going to work every morning, wondering if they can survive another day, or if today will be the day they say “when” and resign. It’s to these people that authors Gary Chapman, Paul White and Harold Myra primarily write this book, providing insight, encouragement and practical strategies for survival. What they’ll find are numerous stories of men and women just like them who have faced the choice of how to cope—and when to quit.

Toxic bosses aren’t necessarily evil—they’re just over their heads

What these stories (which comprise the vast majority of the book) help us see are the choices before us. Consider Melanie’s story of a coworker who was a victim of the Peter Principle—a cheeky description of one who “keeps getting promoted till they reach the level of their incompetence. Often they are promoted into positions of power without the skills to exercise [it]” (29).

Melanie’s colleague, Brenda, was one of these. When she was promoted, Brenda became ornery and “even nasty… She was losing our respect,” Melanie said (29). She would pick a staff member and harass her, and this continued until Melanie finally had enough and told her “I love my job here, and I like you as a person, but I can’t respect you as a boss. I’m no longer going to sacrifice my life here” (30). And so she quit.

But what’s especially helpful in Melanie’s story is the question that arises from it: although Melanie’s husband suggested that Brenda had an evil streak, it might have been just as likely that she simply had no clue how to do her job. When people are overwhelmed, they perform out of their weaknesses, rather than their strengths. Thus, when a person with limited or no leadership skills is elevated to a management position, he or she is doomed to fail. This doesn’t excuse the behavior, by any means, but it should help us consider our responses to these people.

I once knew a man who was Peter Principled; he was a nice guy, fairly decent at the job he had, but he wasn’t someone I would ever have considered a leader. He just wasn’t wired that way. Yet, he wound up in a position he was completely ill-suited for. I knew the moment I heard about it he wouldn’t last. And he didn’t—the job crushed him.

Why do I share that, and why do I find Melanie’s story so helpful? Because it’s a reminder that we should have sympathy even for bad bosses. Very often they’re not bad people; they’ve just over their heads.

We also need to remember that churches and non-profits are just as susceptible as any other organization to becoming toxic. “Appeals to ‘the cause’ create pressures to conform to unhealthy codes. Poisons in ministry culture range from subtle fumes that slowly sicken to flames that scorch. Some workers suffer quietly for years while other get fired” (54). (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

Learning from toxic bosses and cultures

As depressing as reading so many stories of toxic environments can be, we can also learn much from their example.

First, as the authors point out in a survival strategy: toxic work environments naturally make people frustrated and angry. And if we’re not careful, we can become bitter. And bitterness will only make us toxic, too. We need to “find ways to nurture [our] inner reserves and gain perspective. Develop toughness, but resist embittered resentments” (35). We can’t “let bad leadership start to sour [ours].”

Second is to consider what’s right. When the opportunity for a promotion comes our way (if it happens), we need to consider:

  • Am I actually the right person for the job?
  • Has God wired me for this sort of work?
  • Do I have the necessary character and gifts?

Just because an opportunity comes our way, it doesn’t mean we need to say yes. For the good of our colleagues, organizations, families and selves, sometimes the best thing we can do is say “no.”

Finally, we need to remember that our workplace—whether we work in a church, charity, or multinational conglomerate—are all susceptible to having toxic cultures, and we are all responsible for how we contribute. Through our actions, we will either spread the toxicity, or we can can be a voice for health.

Being part of healthy change is probably the hardest. In fact, it’s much easier to continue on in patterns that tear down, rather than build up. And in some organizations, the healthiest thing we can do is leave. I know many people who have done this. But sometimes the hardest thing—staying and fighting for change, either until it happens or they get sick of you and you get fired—is the right thing to do. It’s risky, but sometimes the risk is right.

Helpful tools for gaining insight and developing a plan for change

Rising Above a Toxic Workplace is one of the business culture books you see all-too-rarely: one that actually talks about the problems in a workplace as though they’re problems by speaking to the people most affected by them. Whether your organization is healthy or toxic, and whether you are a leader or a staff member, this book will offer you many useful tools to help you see where you and your culture are at and develop a plan for change.


Title: Rising Above a Toxic Workplace: Taking Care of Yourself in an Unhealthy Environment
Authors: Gary Chapman, Paul White, and Harold Myra
Publisher: Northfield Publishing/Moody Publishers (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Although not strictly a Kindle deal, here’s a great deal from Christian Audio and Cruciform Press. For a limited time, you can get the audio edition of Jerry Bridges’ excellent little book, Who Am I? free (and read by Alistair Begg to boot!). You can also get the eBook editions of this book and four others for $12.98 (or $3.99 each).

On sale at Amazon, however…

Four Ways Getting The Gospel Right Ain’t Enough

Matthew Sims:

Christianity centers on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Is doctrinal precision all we need to get gospel right? Can getting the technical aspects alone save you? Or is there more?

You can get the content of the gospel right, but still miss the gospel. Here are four ways getting the gospel right ain’t enough.

The Progressive Evangelical Package

Derek Rishmawy:

It’s no secret that Reformed Christians have built their own wing of the internet where they spend their time chatting among themselves … The progressive Evangelicals now have their own wing, though, ostensibly with an emphasis on diversity and a marked aversion to foreclosing conversations or policing boundaries. The idea that there is a strict standard, a party line you have to toe in order to be a part of the club, is supposed to be foreign to the Progressive internet’s ethos. That’s for the heresy-hunting, conservative builders of Evangelical empire, after all, rather than the “radically inclusive” prophets of a more Christ-like faith. Unlike their conservative counterparts, Progressives follow a Jesus who came to tear down the walls that divide, not put new doctrinal ones back up.

Those are the stereotypes, at least. But it’s increasingly difficult to maintain this picture if we take a look at the actual situation on the ground.

5 Benefits Of Having A Challenging Teen

Mark Altrogge:

…doing all the right things doesn’t change the heart. The Lord is the only one who saves and changes people, not all our practices and effort, as good as they may be. Having a difficult teen causes us to grow in dependence on God – to cry out to the Lord in prayer, to seek him for mercy and grace and wisdom. It drives us to his Word, to seek out his promises. It causes us to grow in faith and trust in the Lord to work in our child.

5 Reasons Why There Are No Millennials in Your Church

Chris Martin offers his take on why Millennials aren’t attending church.

The Lethal Drug in Your Dream Job

Marshall Segal:

Success at work will play god and make promises to you that it cannot and will not keep. Success promises to fill holes in our hearts. If you only ascend this high or accumulate this much, your fears and insecurities will be resolved once for all. Success promises the love of those around us. They will finally give you the respect and affection you crave. Success says it can cover everything wrong about us. It offers esteem, control, and security — everything we surrendered in our sin. It wears the savior’s costume and presents itself the strong, charming, and trustworthy hero.

But success is a horrible hero, and an even worse god.

The courage to take a risk

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I spent the bulk of last week in Chicago for Story, a conference for those who are engaged in the creative world—storytellers, musicians, visual artists, and filmmakers, among others. I went to this event a couple years ago and found it… weird, but interesting, and a bit scattered in its message. This time around, it had its elements of pretension—the standard “You are creative and the world needs you!” type stuff—but it wasn’t all rah-rah this time. Instead, I noticed a pretty consistent theme come through all the speakers’ addresses: this idea of courageous creativity.

What do I mean by that? Being willing to take risks—real risks. Being willing to try something and fail.

This is something few of us are good at. In fact, it’s not something I’m entirely sure I know how to do. Working in the non-profit world, where we deal with money entrusted to us by donors, it sometimes feels as though we can’t afford to try something and have it fail. We can’t really take risks, which means we can’t really innovate.

Or so we think.

I wonder, though, how much would change for us if someone just said these five words: “You are free to fail”?

Would we be more willing to take risks? To experiment?

To maybe even have a little fun with our work?

And moving beyond creative work, consider how these words affect our relationship with God. Just as many of us who work in the non-profit world believe failure isn’t an option, many of us believe the same thing about following Jesus? That if we’re not “all-rise” in our approach to the Christian faith—always more baptisms, more bums in seats, more services—we’re blowing it?

Why do we keep forgetting that, although we will always progress on our march to holiness, it’s going to be of a stumbling, faltering sort? That there is a sense in which we are told in the gospel, we are free to fail? Not in a way that minimizes or blesses sin, but in the sense that it’s our failures more than our successes that we see our need for Christ—and God uses to shape us into the image of Christ?

This, too, requires courage. A kind of courage we too easily set aside for the sake of appearances. We want to be seen as godly, without actually wanting to take the risks associated with becoming godly. Confessing sin is a risk. Repenting of sin requires courage. But the reward—while it may never be fully seen in this world—makes the risk worth it, doesn’t it?

Let’s do some catalytic visioneering… and stuff!

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I have to be honest: I really, really miss the days when leaders were cool with just being called managers or leaders. You know, when people weren’t adding qualifiers to boost their self-importance self-esteem?

Today, instead of being managers, we’re leaders. But not just leaders, catalytic leaders. Visionary leaders with fireworks shooting out our rear-ends with every decision we make. (And not just because of the Taco Bell we ate at lunch.)

We get it, okay? You’re a big deal. You’ve got people skills, dag-nabbit!

But could you maybe shut up about it?

There’s a problem in leadership circles when you have to declare yourself a catalytic, visionary such-and-such with mad woo skills (which is just as creepy as it sounds). The problem is simple: you’re clearly not one.

Your vision is seen in what you’ve accomplished, not by what you say you’re doing.

Your ability to move people to action is less important than what action you’re calling them to.

Your charisma is less important than your character.

Who are we trying to kid, honestly? The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it’s ourselves.

We want to be seen as important. We want to be seen as big deals. We have a brand to uphold and promote, after all. We want to matter… because, well, we are deeply insecure. We are unsure of our ability to lead faithfully, so we mask it in bravado. We are insecure in our relationship with Christ, so we look to our performance for comfort.

But it’s a little bit like a foodie blog operated by someone who only knows how to make Kraft Dinner. The disconnect is often obvious to everyone but us.

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth,” says Proverbs 27:2, “a stranger, and not your own lips.” There’s a reason the Lord inspired these wise words. When we praise ourselves, we reveal our insecurity.

But, brothers (and sisters, too!), we do not need to be insecure. The fruits of our labors will be apparent to all in time, if they are not already. And in time, if the fruit is good, the lips of another will praise our efforts. So we don’t need to!

Leader, let another praise you. Worry less about calling yourself a catalyst or a visionary. Vision and charisma is fleeting, and your security is not in those things anyway.


Photo credit: Pulpolux !!! via photopin cc

Three warning signs I’m too busy

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These days I’ve been feeling pretty distracted. Pulled in a lot of directions. Focus hasn’t been coming easily to me. I’ve spent the last two months working more than I should, although with good reason, which help that whole “work/life balance” thing. I periodically go through seasons like this, where—either because of external factors or my own tendency to take on too much—I find myself with waaaaaaaaaay too much on my plate.

So how do I know when I’ve gotten there? Here are three signs that usually clue me in:

1. Reduced sleeping time. While I’ve always been a six or seven hours a night guy (which is barely considered healthy), when I am too busy, it’s really not good. It usually starts with bedtime getting pushed back just a bit later. And then a bit later. And then a bit later again.… And then the morning starts coming earlier. And a little earlier than that. And then a little earlier than that. And then consistent sleep becomes elusive, to the point that I’m waking up periodically throughout the night, getting maybe 2 hours of sleep in a row… and only four to five hours of sleep total.

2. Forgetfulness. Because I’m trying to do too much, I start forgetting things. At first it starts small, like forgetting a piece of a conversation, but it escalates from there. This one is probably the most frustrating for my wife, even more than my occasional irritability, because it is so disruptive to our daily lives.

3. Unfocused reading. Honestly, this is the sign that almost always clues me in. When I’m way too busy, I can’t focus easily. And because I can’t focus, reading just one book becomes challenging. So I start a book… and then I start another. And then another. And then another… and before you know it, I’ve got up to 12 on the go. Which is dumb.

It’s also where, I realized this week, I’m at. I’ve been way too busy lately. But I have a hard time realizing it. This is, in part, because one of the ways I unwind is by… working. When I’m not working at my day job, I’m writing a blog post, or working on a documentary script, or a book proposal or doing some marketing consulting work.

(My wife likes to joke that my hobbies are jobs.)

For me creative outlets—which usually come in the form of work—help me unwind.

But when I’m not careful, when my employer’s needs increase during a particularly busy season for example, even the things that help me unwind can actually add to my feeling of being way too busy.

At this point in an article like this, it’s typical to include the “and here’s what I’m doing to change all that.” Well, I’ve got some bad news: I don’t have anything profound to say on that. I can only give the first step: recognizing the problem. But that’s probably the most important one because if you don’t see the problem—if you don’t know how to recognize the warning signs—you won’t be able to work toward finding a solution.


Photo credit: Ian Sane via photopin cc

Accidental double agents in the pulpit

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You have heard it said, “Pray like a Calvinist and work like an Arminian”—or, “pray as though everything depended on God, but work as though everything depended on you.”

But I tell you, this silly nonsense should never be heard coming from the lips of a consistent Evangelical Protestant.

Ever.

The reason is simple: aside from being stupid, it’s heresy.1

This realization hit me as I continued my trek through Bruce Shelley’s wonderful Church History in Plain Language. There, as he writes about the founding of the Jesuit order, the Catholic Counterreformation, and the Council of Trent, he explains:

Luther, Calvin, and Grebel stressed salvation by grace alone; the council emphasized grace and human cooperation with God to avoid, in [Ignatius of] Loyola’s terms, “the poison that destroys freedom.” “Pray as though everything depended on God alone;” Ignatius advised, “but act as though it depended on you alone whether you will be saved.” (Kindle location 5346)

One should quickly and easily see the problem with this kind of thinking.2 Whether we’re using this concept in thinking about our own growth in godliness, encouragement to fellow believers, or in ministry to the lost, it is a failure to recognize that everything does depend on God, both in prayer and in practice.

Praying as though everything depends on God is right and true—but we also must work as though everything depends upon Him. Because everything does.

This is the truth of Philippians 2:12-13—that, as we work, God works through us. This is the reality of John 15:5—if we abide in Christ, we will bear much fruit. But apart from Him, we can do nothing. This is the fact of John 14:12—that we who believe will do the works Jesus does!3

There is no dependence upon us to get things done. God is not passive. Nor is He is impotent.

We work, knowing that it is God who works through us. We are instruments in the hands the master craftsmen, and joyfully so!

A cute soundbyte makes for a memorable quote, but if we don’t think about our words, we may also be acting as accidental double agents in the pulpit.


Photo credit: Normand Desjardins Café•Moka Personnel/Personal via photopin cc

Links I like

“One anothers” I can’t find in the New Testament

Ray Ortlund:

The kind of God we really believe in is revealed in how we treat one another.  The lovely gospel of Jesus positions us to treat one another like royalty, and every non-gospel positions us to treat one another like dirt.  But we will follow through horizontally on whatever we believe vertically.

Genesis 1-11: an overview

This video from The Bible Project is really well done:

Five Benefits of Corporate Worship

David Mathis:

Worshiping Jesus together may be the single most important thing we do. It plays an indispensable role inrekindling our spiritual fire, and keeping it burning. Corporate worship brings together God’s word, prayer, and fellowship, and so makes for the greatest means of God’s ongoing grace in the Christian life.

But thinking of worship as a means can be dangerous. True worship is fundamentally an experience of the heart, and not a means to anything else. So it’s important to distinguish between what benefits might motivate us to be regular in corporate worship, and what focus our minds and hearts should pursue in the moment.

Six Principles For Youth Ministry

Jonathan Leeman:

“What does your church do for middle and high school students?” A pastor friend recently asked this question.

I have no special expertise with youth, and I tend to think there is some measure of programmatic flexibility. Do you host a weekly event? Who is it for? What do you do? Special projects or trips? I will leave that for you to sort out.

But here are a few biblical principles that we should heed no matter what, and my sense is the many youth groups don’t heed them.

Is Your Busy Season Becoming a Lifetime?

Melissa Martin:

“You just may not be in a season of life where you can serve right now.”

This well-meaning, godly woman’s advice to a room full of wives and mothers caused a little pang in my heart.

There is obviously a wealth of truth in that well-worn statement. I’ve been there. I know. I remember so clearly one evening soon after my daughter was born, my mother-in-law lovingly pushed my husband and me out the door for some time alone while she held our newborn. We slid into a booth at a ’50s diner on the beach, eyes glazed over from sleep deprivation, both sporting matching spit-up stains on our shoulders.

This season of life was not conducive to anything beyond barely keeping my head about water.

Links I like

The End of Books

Jon Bloom shares an English translation of a new interview (from the Dutch newspaper, Reformatorisch Dagblad) with Tony Reinke, author of Lit!:

What do you think, in contrast, would the impact of a practice of slow reading be for our understanding of God?

The purpose of reading is to learn new things, experience new truth, and change for the better. The content that has most challenged and changed my own life are the resources I have invested the most time. The faster I scan, the less enduring impact is made. By default, this puts ephemeral blog posts and short articles at a disadvantage. Short online material appeals to scan-readers, but the low time commitment and focus it asks of the reader actually makes the piece unlikely to permanently alter the reader. Short blog posts or social media updates meant to be read quickly can affirm (or offend) our thinking, or they can bring clarifying affirmation to our thinking, but they do not require the time investment necessary to change a reader’s thinking. Changing minds will continue to be the work of long-form journalism and patiently read books.

The Hardest Place on Earth to Be a Christian

Jesse Johnson:

While there are many terrible places on earth to be a Christian (Sudan, North Korea, Afghanistan, Bhutan, etc.), Pakistan is arguably the worst. Other nations persecute believers, but in Pakistan the entire country has spent generations forming a world view that values the torturing of those that claim the name of Christ.

Get The Prince’s Poison Cup in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the hardcover edition of The Prince’s Poison Cup by R.C. Sproul (an Armstrong family favorite) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • The Holiness of God (Extended Version) teaching series (CD)
  • What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard Phillips (ePub)
  • Luther and the Reformation teaching series (DVD)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

When Silence is Golden

Griffin Gulledge:

There’s something to be said for not saying anything.

In a church culture where cliches, cool quips, and candor are the currency, silence is most often seen as only deficiency. Add in a passion for theology, a thirst to see people grow in Christ, and a sprinkle of immaturity and the problem multiplies. Silence isn’t golden.

Except sometimes it is.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The other day, I shared a fairly sizeable list of Kindle deals. Here are a few more:

And finally, four by R.C. Sproul:

A Prayer for Answering Our Subpoena to Hope

Scotty Smith shares a prayer I needed to read (and pray myself!).

My Dirty Little Secret For Happy Knowledge Work

David Murray:

Sometimes I get envious of painters, plumbers, landscapers, carpenters and others who get to work with their hands and have something to show for it at the end of every day, or at least every week.

What do I and other “knowledge workers” have to show for it every seven days?

Virtually nothing.

Links I like

10 Things We Need to Hear from Young Church Leaders

Chuck Lawless:

I have the privilege of spending much of my life with young church leaders. As a seminary dean and missionary trainer, I hang out with people younger than I am. I’m the teacher, but I learn from the young generation as much as—if not more than—I teach them. Sometimes they teach me something new, as with technology and social media. In other cases, they simply remind me of something I’ve forgotten or have taken for granted.

Of course, all young church leaders have room to grow, and nothing I say here can be applied to every young leader. With that understanding in mind, here are some of those general reminders that I, and perhaps other older leaders, need to hear from young church leaders.

The trauma of abuse and the blessing of repentance

Wendy Alsup:

Last week, a former youth group leader at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, was convicted of multiple accounts of sexual abuse of minors. Testimony at the trial confirmed that an elder at the church knew of the abuse and did not report it to authorities. When I read a news report while researching this article, I was struck by this section:

Tears of joy could be heard from victims and their family members as the verdict was read.

“I started crying. It was just, it was overwhelming to know that the struggle, the fight, the 25 years of trying to bring this forward, was worth it,” victim Jeremy Cook, now a married father of three, said.

I could only imagine their reaction. My heart aches for children who for years keep their abuse secret out of fear and misunderstanding of what happened to them. But what about the child who does tell someone but that person either doesn’t believe them or minimizes what they’ve experienced? I can’t imagine the double harm such a response does to youth already experiencing the trauma of abuse. If a child was shot in the arm, we’d recognize more clearly the double trauma of protecting the one who pulled the trigger, minimizing the damage done by his actions, and not reporting it to the police.

Blue Collar Man:  On Financial Struggle and Working for a Living

Ted Kluck:

In general, youngish-Reformed evangelicals tend to be a pretty affluent, heavily degreed, upwardly mobile lot with a surplus of time to read websites and grow their considerable book collections. With “providing” often being a top priority for Reformed men, this group generally has a clear vocational plan and usually gets plenty of opportunities to implement said plan. And because we tend to be small-government capitalists, we tend to feel pretty good about ourselves when we’re making lots of bank–and don’t feel conflicted about enjoying it. And in general (again), readers of TGC tend to be pastors, professors, seminary students, theology nerds, or wives of the aforementioned.

But what about those who don’t fit this social/cultural Reformed paradigm, including in their vocations?

New for Logos: D.A. Carson sermon library

The folks at Logos Bible Software have a brand new product available for pre-order: the D.A. Carson sermon library. Containing over 500 messages from over 30 years of ministry, “Carson’s sermons focus on specific biblical passages such as Ezekiel, John, and Revelation; on theological topics, including the New Perspective on Paul, openness theology, and providence; and on practical issues such as suffering, discipleship, and cross-cultural ministry. Preached in churches, colleges, and at conferences around the world, these sermons provide instruction and edification from a preeminent evangelical voice deeply committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” At $90, now’s the time to order this collection before the price goes up.

Can a Videogame Teach Grace?

Nathaniel Valle:

Many games implement a worldview of obtaining rewards for our actions. An economy of risk and reward is fundamental to the gaming experience, and, excepting games like The Sims, it’s a comfortable harmony we’ve come to expect.

Yet there is no such discernible reward within That Dragon, Cancer, a title designed around the life of a young child stricken with cancer. It’s a surreal, poetic experience, and the game’s designer intends for the uncomfortable and unfamiliar scenario to convey truths somewhat neglected within most gaming experiences. In a video from Games for Change 2014, Josh Larson asks a question central to the soul of his game: “How does one calculate a parent’s love for a dying son who can’t easily express any love in return? How then should we design this?”

Witnessing To Homoexuals

Leon Brown:

Years ago, my wife and I used to visit an area in San Diego, CA that was heavily populated by homosexuals. We made a routine visit to this area at least once per month to share the gospel. Personally, it was a rich time. I had some amazing conversations with those who embrace the homosexual lifestyle.

During that time, and since then, I have realized you have to be prepared to do two things while witnessing to some homosexuals.

The Gospel at Work by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert

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You know what I’m really thankful for? That there are people starting to write on the relationship between the gospel and work. This is a subject in which western Christians desperately need to grow in our understanding. Many of us, me included, really struggle to do our work in a Christ exalting fashion. Many of us grumble and complain, and generally struggle to be satisfied in what we’re doing or even see the value in our jobs.

Unless it’s just me who’s guilty of some of these?

Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert tackle this head-on in their new book, The Gospel at Work. Their goal in the book is simple: to help us see how working for Jesus gives meaning and purpose to all of our work, to recognize that “when glorifying Jesus is our primary motivation, our work — regardless of what that work is in its particulars — becomes an act of worship.”1

Idols and idleness

Traeger and Gilbert approach the subject from a different angle than, say, Tim Keller does in his excellent Every Good Endeavor (reviewed here). While one could argue that this is a matter of semantics, the authors are less concerned about delivering a fleshed-out theology of work, as opposed to digging into the practical issues related to how we look at work. In doing so, they spend the bulk of their time examining the twin errors of idolatry and idleness in work.

Signs work is your idol

“Our jobs become idols when we overidentify with them,” they write. “Our work becomes the primary consumer of our time, our attention, and our passions, as well as the primary means for measuring our happiness and our dissatisfaction in life.”2 The key word here is “primary.”

When we give our all to the company at the expense of our families, when our minds are consumed by thoughts of work consistently, when we’re always looking at how we can position ourselves, or even when we see our work as being all about making a difference in the world… This is dangerous stuff, friends.

When work is “primary,” everything else is secondary, and we’ll always be dissatisfied. There’s always a next step, always another rung on the ladder, always a new challenge to overcome… but it will never be enough. [Read more…]

Links I like

Worship in Spirit and Truth

David Mathis:

The issue is not whether we will worship, but what. Even better, whom and how.

On this Sunday, as many of us ready ourselves for corporate worship, perhaps the most significant single biblical text for guiding the essence of what we’re pursuing together when we gather is Jesus’s words in John 4:23–24.

Don’t Teach the Bible

Phillip Jensen:

There is an important difference between teaching the Bible and teaching people the Bible. It is easy to be so engaged in what we teach that we forget whom we are teaching. We can even be oblivious to the fact that we are not teaching anybody. This is particularly true of the sermon. The monologue engages the preacher’s mind but can completely miss the hearers’ thinking.

What Are Your Thoughts on “Minced Oaths?”

R.C. Sproul Jr:

A “minced oath” is a bowdlerization of words or phrases otherwise deemed offensive or blasphemous. Common examples would be the substitution of darn for damn, heck for hell, gosh for God. Some argue that when we use these substitutes we nevertheless stand guilty of using the originals, that gosh takes God’s name in vain, and darn belittles the reality and horror of damnation. While I am sympathetic to that perspective, and give thanks for those who seek to be deliberate and to honor God with their tongues, I do not share that conviction.

Work, value, and the gospel

Paul Grimmond:

Paul’s absolute conviction is that the church is made the way God wants it. So when I sit in church on a Sunday and I look around, I ought to find people there who are wildly different to me. I ought to meet toenails and pancreases, knuckles and elbows, kidneys and eyeballs. And more than that, as someone who belongs to Jesus, I am called to see how each of them is necessary to the life of God’s people. I am to learn to rejoice in the gift that God has given me in them and them in me!

7 Councils: The Council of Ephesus

Tim Challies:

This council came at time of conflict over authority within the church. The First Council of Constantinople had established the bishop of Constantinople as second in authority following Rome, whose bishop carried the title of Pope and who claimed his authority from the line of Peter. Alexandria and Antioch were also powerful bishoprics and their schools of Christology historically came from different positions. Leo Davis explains: “Just as all philosophers are said to be basically either Aristotelian or Platonist, so, roughly speaking, all theologians are in Christology either Antiochene, beginning with the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels and attempting to explain how this man is also God, or Alexandrian, beginning with the Word of John’s Prologue and attempting to understand the implications of the Logos taking flesh.” This council would further expose the rift between the two schools of Christology.

Go ROWE: How a Results Only Work Environment Can Strengthen Your Faith

photo by Piotr Bizior

The alarm goes off late. Again.

It’s 7:30 and you’ve got your mandatory staff meeting at 9:00. You rush through your devotions (promising God—and yourself—you’ll get to them later), dress, down a cup of coffee and head out to the car.

It’s 8:15.

The commute is brutal. The guy in front of you is riding his break and the lady behind you is riding your tail.

At 8:50, you pull into the parking lot. You race to your cubicle, drop off your stuff and you’re off to the board room. You get there at 8:59, just before the door’s about to close.

By 9:10, you’re fiddling with your iPhone under the table trying to catch up on your emails like a good multi-tasker. The guy next to you is playing Angry Birds and trying to look like he’s paying attention to whatever it is the boss is talking about.

If you had to be honest, you stopped paying attention at 9:02.

There was no agenda for the meeting (again). No action items will be given (again). And no follow-up (again).

“Why on earth am I sitting through this? I could be working,” you think (and text to your assistant who tries hard not to laugh).

At 10:13, the meeting lets out. The boss went long again. You and your coworkers are stressed; the meeting was only supposed to last until 9:30. In some ways you’re kind of impressed. it’s got to be tough to talk about nothing for that long. You skip the after-meeting meeting though, because you’re a busy guy.

You get back to your desk and start looking at the pile of work in your inbox. There’s enough work to keep four people busy for the next two weeks!

It’s all marked urgent.

You settle into your projects and just as you’re starting to get into a good rhythm, there’s a knock on the side of the cubicle wall. “Hey guys, can I interrupt? It’ll just take a minute…” [Read more…]

People Are Imitating You; Are You Worth Imitating?

One of the subjects I enjoy studying is leadership.

What motivates people? What makes a “leader”? How can one become more effective as a leader, versus being a “manager”? These kinds of things.

Recently a group of men and I have been working through a leadership training program with one of our mentors, and one of the questions that came up was on the subject of being an authentic Christian leader. The author’s line of thought led him to Luke 6:40:

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.

Basically, the author’s point in mentioning this verse was this:

We become like the people we follow. Who are we following—and what are people becoming like when they follow us?

In Philippians 3:17-20, Paul addresses this very issue (in the context of spiritual authorities), writing:

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Who is worthy of our imitation?

Is there a person in our lives who we can look at and say, “Yes, I want to be like that”? [Read more…]

Are You In The Business of Busyness

I’m in the middle of a season of extreme busyness at the moment.

I don’t know if you have this problem, but when I get busy—I mean, really busy—things start to slip.

Sleeping properly is usually the first to go. Then my eating goes wonky. Then my exercise patterns get erratic. 

Even prayer and Bible study start getting a bit fuzzy if I’m not careful and my reading will turn into a quick skim. Like wolfing down a McDonald’s cheeseburger in the car because you’re in a hurry, instead of savoring it like a really good steak from the Keg.

Because there’s a great demand on my time at work, I find myself having to sacrifice quality for efficiency. Choosing function over form just makes my skin crawl, to be honest.

Whatever I’m doing, I want it to be the best it can possibly be; and because my work is all about communicating ideas, choosing the right words and narrative structure is essential. Sometimes, though, I have to template things. Sometimes I just have to do a slight polish on something that’s really not very good and just let it go. To make do.

It’s funny how that happens, isn’t it?

Race through reading the Bible, a quick prayer and away we go.

Race through work (often with a quick prayer), taking as little time as possible to complete as many tasks as I’m able.

It’s a bit of an assembly line approach to life.

It gets the job done, but it doesn’t bring joy.

Where can we, even in our seasons of busyness, find opportunities to savor life? To enjoy God, the Bible, friends, family… and even work?

In my case, sometimes it means just saying no. Turning down a meeting request, turning off my email, ignoring my cell phone and disconnecting from the internet for a while. Sometimes it means having to blow a deadline because the work is too important to not do with excellence.

Sometimes it means putting aside whatever else I’m reading in favor of spending some extra time in the Bible and hearing what God has to say.

Occasionally, it means a meandering post like this one. :)

But what about you?

Do you feel like you’re settling for the cheeseburger instead of the steak? Are you looking opportunities to savor?

 Life is too valuable to be wasted with the business of busyness.

I hope you’ll find an opportunity to enjoy it this week.