5.Economics and Work

EW Outcome 1: Workplace Ethics

Growth Suggestion A:

Have you ever been put in a position at work where you had opportunity to take something that wasn’t yours? This could be as simple as eating a cookie that no one would even notice missing or as serious as making personal purchases disguised as business purchases on the company credit card. Younger employees who are still in the building phase of their lives and careers should take to heart the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16. Pay particular attention to verses 10-12. If you are trustworthy in the little things, your reliability will be noticed and you will likely earn greater responsibility. Your character as a person isn’t developed once you earn success and important roles; your character is developed in the menial jobs, the grunt work, and the lower level positions. People don’t generally find themselves at the top unless they’ve proved themselves worthy of such roles. If you find yourself at the bottom rung of the ladder, do your absolute best to prove yourself to be trustworthy, reliable, and honest in your workplace. Your employer or board of directors will take note of your depend-ability. Older employees who have gained some freedom from oversight or have attained a certain degree of trust should never take advantage of their positions. Doing so brings reproach to yourself, your organization, and your employer. Young employees should examine themselves to be sure that they are being faithful in the little things and showing the highest level of integrity even in the most minor details. Older employees should honestly examine themselves to ensure that they haven’t let their standards slip and aren’t using their freedom to take advantage of their employer or organization.

Growth Suggestion B:

Do you ever feel tempted to bend the rules in your workplace? Expectations can be high and you may be under so much pressure that you look for little ways to cut corners or bend the rules a bit, hoping no one will notice. Perhaps you find a way to complete one of your required tasks with far less effort but you know that the way you’re going about this task is less than ethical. For pastors, this could come in the form of downloading sermon content; for church leaders it could be not adequately fulfilling their obligations. If this is the case, you need to evaluate whether or not you actually want to live as a person of integrity. Sure, cutting corners and bending the rules may save time or make things easier for you, but is it the right thing to do? Even if noone ever discovers what you were doing, God sees deep inside your heart. Not only so, but those whom you lead will follow your lethargic example. This isn’t the legacy you want to leave behind. Be sure you are giving an honest effort in every aspect of your work.

Growth Suggestion C:

If you happen to be in the position wherein you’ve earned some freedom or flexibility, or if you’ve landed in a role that provides very little accountability when it comes to your time, do you find yourself taking advantage of your freedom at the expense of your responsibilities? Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that you deserve those extra few days tacked onto the end of your holidays. Your family doesn’t visit often, so you’re entitled to spend a few days visiting. No one will notice if you spend another day fishing, right? Or, every workday involves a coffee meeting and you just happen to love coffee. Let’s be honest, some of these situations are quite justifiable. But, on the other hand, it’s very easy to find yourself in a place where you are taking full advantage of your freedom. When your five-day workweek turns into a three-day workweek on a consistent basis, you have a problem. You are taking advantage or your employer and organization, stealing a salary you haven’t earned, and being selfish. If you have concerns with your work ethic, your employer will appreciate you voicing your concerns with repentance while you ask for an accountability system to be put in place to safeguard everyone’s best interests.

Suggested Growth Resources:

High Performance Ethics: 10 Timeless Principles for Next-Generation Leadership (Wes Cantrel and James Lucas)
Good Work: Christian Ethics in the Workplace (Esther D. Reed)

EW Outcome 2: Mission at Work

Growth Suggestion A:

Do you sense a calling to your workplace, specifically? Do you find fulfillment in what you do on a daily basis? Pause and think for a few moments on your calling to your specific area of work. Is there a sense of mission? Find ways to connect what you do on a daily basis with the mission of God.

Growth Suggestion B:

Are you an agent of peace in your workplace? In your interactions with people through the course of a typical workday, whether it be in person, over the phone, or through e-mail, are you known as a peaceful person who is easy to get along with and pleasant to interact with? Consider how you speak and communicate with other people in your work environment. Are you frequently rude, impatient, demanding, or dismissive? Or are you calm, polite, and patient?Strive to be the latter, bringing peace to your environment as a part of your mission at work.

Growth Suggestion C:

If you feel that you have a strong grasp of your mission and how it relates to your workplace, you should begin to mentor other people in your workplace as they strive to find their place in God’s work. You have the ability to influence other people to do better, be more, and best live out the mission of God in your workplace. Imagine the result if every believer was passionate about the mission at work and, in turn, mentored another person about the mission as well. Our workplaces would be revolutionized!

Suggested Growth Resources:

About My Father’s Business: Taking Your Faith to Work (Regi Campbell)

EW Outcome 3: Understanding Your Contribution to the Economy

Growth Suggestion A:

As leaders, you need to have a good grasp on your local economy and how it impacts your home, your work, and your community. If you are a pastor, your industry is the church. Is this industry functioning well? Is it contributing to the local community? Industries are designed to impact society and not exist in a bubble, only interacting with itself. The church is poised to be a powerful force in the local economy. Reflect on how this is true in your context.

Growth Suggestion B:

On a personal level, do you give much thought to your local economy?Christians are often very silent on such matters, tending to reason that “this world is not my home” and I don’t need to be heavily invested here. While we may be only temporary residents and our citizenship is indeed heavenly, God has given humans dominion over all the earth and if Christians aren’t involved in their local communities, businesses, and economy, we shouldn’t be surprised nor upset when non-Christian values are the norm. Take steps to get involved in your community. Attend public gatherings and meetings that may not be directly related to your work but are important in your community (such as council meetings). Be sure to vote whenever possible. Become a part of community organizations. Volunteer for events. Be present! Your involvement gives you a voice and contributes to your community and economy.

Growth Suggestion C:

If you’re a leader in your local church, you’ll have a fairly clear under-standing of how well your local church is impacting the community. Often outward-focused efforts are done with the mindset that others may come to faith as a result of these efforts. This is a part of what churches do in evangelistic ministry, and rightfully so. However, has your church ever taken on a major project for the sole reason of benefitting the local economy? We frequently hear of missionary efforts to build wells or schools in foreign countries and praise such accomplishments. But it’s interesting that churches in our context don’t often talk of efforts to help support our local economy. Perhaps this is a conversation your church leadership team should have. Are there ways that your church could have a greater impact on your local economy? Can your church as a healthy, functioning organization become a more visible contributing force in your community? Is this a valuable endeavor? Begin the conversation. God’s church doesn’t exist to be passive and silent. Begin to process what your contribution to the local economy, both personally and corporately, should be.

Suggested Growth Resources:

Fling Open the Doors: Giving the Church Away to Community (Paul Nixon)
The New Parish: How Neighbourhood Churches Are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community (Paul Sparkes, Tim Soerens, and Dwight J. Friesen)

EW Outcome 4: Creativity and Innovation

Growth Suggestion A:

Our God is a creative God. He imagined the world and spoke it into being. He created the earth in all its fullness and created humanity in His image. People also have the capacity for creativity! God’s Spirit resides in His people. If God is the origin of creativity, then every believer should have a natural inclination toward creative thought. Too often we limit the idea of ‘creativity’ to people who are skilled in the area of art. This is an unfortunate limitation. Creativity can come in many different forms. Think of a pastor who is skilled in the art of words, weaving together beautiful sentences, creating an image in the mind of the hearer; a business person who envisions better systems and strategies to maximize efficiency; a lay person who crafts programs in completely new formats, designed to reach people in unique ways; a carpenter who skillfully designs, measures, cuts, and builds according to an original pattern. Creativity should never be limited to one particular field, but should be desired in every field. Are you creative in your work? Whether you care for children, lead a congregation, run a business, or work with your hands, aim for creativity and innovation in every area of your vocation. When you live and work creativity, you display the image of God to the world.

Growth Suggestion B:

When most people consider their work, they generally think about a set list of tasks that they are responsible to complete. There are certain obligations or responsibilities that the employee must fulfill. Do you simply ensure that your duties are complete and nothing more? Have you ever considered if there are better or more effective ways to complete your tasks?If there were a more time-effective way to go about certain elements of your work or if there were better systems in place to economize time and resources, you would be able to expand your impact and efficiency. The Holy Spirit is able to inspire you into deeper knowledge and excellence as it relates to your work (Phil. 1: 9-10). Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your work, that you would not simply perform routine tasks, but that you would operate with creativity and innovation, maximizing your efforts in your workplace.

Growth Suggestion C:

Creativity is a part of the nature of God. As such, Christ-followers and the churches they belong to should demonstrate creativity as well. God didn’t establish the church on earth so that Christians would establish cookie-cutter establishments in different locations. Your church should be unique to your community. As someone who is involved in local church leadership, think carefully about your church. Does it exist as a creative enterprise, uniquely fitting the needs of your specific location? Or does it exist as a carbon copy of other churches in other locations?This is not God’s intention for your church. Dream with your leadership team for how your church can be innovative, uniquely serving your community and reaching it’s full potential in God’s creative enterprise.

Suggested Growth Resources:

7 Creative Models for Community Ministry (Joy Skjegstad)
Can We Do That? 24 Innovative Practices That Will Change the Way You Do Church (Andy Stanley and Ed Young)
Living in the Spirit (George O. Wood)
Innovation in Mission: Insights into Practical Innovations Creating Kingdom Impact
(James W. Reapsome and Jon Hirst)

EW Outcome 5: Asset to My Employer

Growth Suggestion A:

The way you interact with those you work with directly impacts your employer. Are you the type of person who is easy to get along with and compliant with your employer’s desires? If you are in vocational ministry, your ‘employer’ exists in the form of a church board. As a disciple of Christ, you should stand out in your workplace as someone who is willing to serve wholeheartedly and bring joy to your employer or board. If this has not been your practice, now is the time to start!

Growth Suggestion B:

No workplace is perfect. There are problems in every single facet of human life and your workplace is no exception. It can be hard to believe, but even the church is an imperfect workplace. While it’s natural to think on how problems in your area of employment upset you, consider how they affect others. Most employers or boards are under a great deal of strain as they manage people and the affairs of the business, organization, or church. Commit to pray for your employer, coworkers, and/or church board on a regular and consistent basis. You will be an asset in your consistent prayerful support and godly attitude.

Growth Suggestion C:

As an employee, it’s typical to think of yourself, what you earn, and how you benefit from your role. Your employer is attempting to manage something far greater than these concerns, yet how you approach your role affects your employer/organization. Pastors and other church leaders are no exception. You have a responsibility to your church board. You should dedicate yourself to the continual improvement of your skill set. This will benefit you as a person, but it is also a great asset to your employer or board. Commit to continually improving yourself both for your own benefit and for the benefit of those around you.

Suggested Growth Resources:

Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck (Jon Acuff)
The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs (Sebastian Traeger and Greg D. Gilbert)

EW Outcome 6: Managing the Organization’s Resources Well

Growth Suggestion A:

Jesus told his followers that how they care for their employer’s assets matters to God. Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:11-27 both refer to the responsibility of labourers taking care of the assets of their employer. Perhaps one of the most prevalent and pervasive problems in North American culture is the sense of entitlement. Some believe that this is a problem limited to the youngest generations, and though it may be most noticeable in younger people, the problem certainly isn’t limited to that group of people. We see it in young employees who feel that they deserve the same benefits as those who’ve been in the field for many years. Yet, we also see it in older leaders, who feel they deserve to be given titles and ‘perks’ simply because of their age or a certain number of years served. In spite of the multi-generational problem of entitlement, the fact remains that your employer’s assets belong to your organization, not you. You must come to an understanding that you earn what you get and you deserve nothing outside of what your employer has agreed to give you and you have worked to receive. While this isn’t to say you should sacrifice yourself on your employer’s altar, you should be satisfied to earn what you’ve agreed to work for and not expect more. Anything outside of that is a gift. Further, complicating the issue is that not all organizations are created equal! Some people find themselves in a position that provides many comfortable benefits. Others find themselves in a place whereby their basic needs are met and nothing more. Whatever your lot you must learn to be content with what you have (Phil. 4:11-13). If you’ve agreed to work for a certain salary pack-age, then you have no right to complain about it. It matters not if a colleague in another location is given more, has lovely perks in his or her role, or has a larger salary. If you’ve been hired, you’ve agreed to what you earn and you must maintain a healthy attitude about it. Anything less doesn’t bring glory to God and clearly shows your lack of spiritual depth. Rather than complaining about what you don’t have, be grateful for what you do have. Surely you’re doing better than many people in our world. Furthermore, work to channel those negative emotions into a stronger work ethic and a better attitude. God will be pleased with such efforts.

Growth Suggestion B:

Scripture informs us that ultimately we are employees of the Lord (Col. 3:23-24). If you sincerely took this to heart, your place of employment would be very different. If every task, regardless of its seeming insignificance or obvious importance, were completed with this attitude, you would be more accomplished, your workplace would be more productive, and your attitude about your work would be healthier. Make an effort to spend an entire workday in this attitude of service to God. If necessary, print the Scripture and place it somewhere visible. This will change the way you function as an employee. Once you’ve succeeded to work with this mindset for a full day, attempt to revolutionize your work-week. All good work is God’s work. Whether you’re preaching to thousands or cleaning up after the service, your healthy attitude about work brings glory to God. Most importantly, your reward is not earthly, but eternal!

Growth Suggestion C:

For those who value a strong work ethic, productivity, and performance, seeing others who seem to disregard these values is troublesome. Generally, for those who think and work this way, the first response is one of frustration and annoyance. This isn’t the response God would like you to emulate. First, you should evaluate yourself before criticizing others (Mt. 7:1-5). Second, if you address your brother or sister’s need for growth in the area of their work, you must do so from a place of love and concern, not of judgment and criticism. Your brother or sister will be more receptive to your admonition if you demonstrate genuine concern for their spiritual development. Encouraging others to work for God and not simply to fulfill the demands of an employer must also be evidenced through your own life and work. Your brothers and sisters in the faith should be able to clearly see how you work with that mindset. As such, you will be able to say with confidence, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). If you need to further develop this area of your life, first ensure that your work ethic is above reproach. Second, be sure to encourage others out of love and concern for growth and not criticism. Your passion in this area has potential to help others in their discipleship journey.

Suggested Growth Resources:

Theology of Work Project (Hendrickson Publishers)

EW Outcome 7: Stewards of the Environment

Growth Suggestion A:

Many Christians tend to pay very little attention to environmental issues, feeling as though it’s an insignificant matter. However, believers can argue that taking care of one’s physical body is important because your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). By the same token, we should be quick to remember that, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Ps. 42:1). Of course we believe this to be true, but the way we so casually dismiss environ-mental concerns speaks volumes. In reality, Christians should be the best advocates for environ-mental stewardship in society! This earth belongs to the Lord. He created it and gave humans the task of caring for it (Gen. 1). Spend some time reading chapter one of Genesis. Try reading it in several different translations. What does it mean that God gave humans dominion over the earth? Does this change the way you view creation care?

Growth Suggestion B:

Sometimes the most basic changes to our lifestyles can make the biggest impact on the environment. Have you made any changes to your lifestyle or that of your family to help with environmental concerns? Even simple changes like recycling, composting, using reusable containers instead of disposable ones, or conserving energy can make a difference. Evaluate your habits at home to see if there are any changes you can make to help contribute to a healthier earth.

Growth Suggestion C:

Perhaps the most difficult place to change in order to effectively care for the environment is at the workplace. Typically, decisions around the functioning of an office, build-ing, business, or workplace are primarily concerned with cost and efficiency. Try to identify some areas of your workplace that could be improved to be more in line with God’s concern for the en-vironment and the role of people in caring for it. Do you see areas whereby small changes can be made that will help your workplace be more environmentally friendly? For example, does your workplace waste a lot of paper? Make some helpful suggestions to reduce the amount of wasted paper and suggest a recycling program for used paper. Many workplaces use a great deal of paper and this is a relatively easy change that will be very helpful in the long run. Look for other ways to help your workplace become a place that cares for the environment.

Suggested Growth Resources:

Manage: Caring For All God Entrusted To Us (Micah Carter and Fred Luter)For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care (Steven Bouma-Prediger)