The lunch room was the perfect place to fight.
My high school cafeteria only had a couple windows allowing sunlight in, so it depended heavily on the massive system of fluorescent bulbs that stretched across the length of the room. When the lights were off, it took ten minutes or more for the bulbs to warm back up enough to illuminate the vast space.
As an innocent bystander, I watched as an accomplice flipped the lights off, a loud commotion erupted from the center of the room, kids shouted, chairs toppled over, and, in the midst of it all, a faculty member flipped the lights on to no avail. Over the next several minutes, the room slowly illuminated. But by the time it was lit, the dispute was settled, the lunch money was stolen, and hooligans were calmly back in their seats.
This memory reminds me that flipping a switch does not always have immediate results.
Similarly, understanding God’s command for us to use our skills and resources for his glory does not immediately transform our outlook on work.
Work may be written and preached about as if living your faith at, in, and through work is as easy as flipping a switch, but that’s just not the case.
Like the teacher at my school who flipped the lights, once you grasp a theology of work you might expect to immediately see clearly and have a fresh perspective from which to approach the day’s activities.
The truth is, “work as worship” is a mindset that must be cultivated over time.
I recently spent some time with a friend and mentor named Steve, a successful investment banker at one of the country’s most prestigious investment banks. He actively engages in a work as worship mentality, or “workship”, in his work.
I was curious how this outlook became the norm for Steve and how the rest of us might foster the same daily perspective. He shared with me some predictable yet practical steps.
Start with Prayer
Steve never minded talking about his faith at work if the opportunity presented itself. But outside of being a nice guy, that was the extent of his workplace Christianity. Then, in 2008, in the depth of the financial crisis, Steve transitioned into a new role and was desperate to see God intervene.
“The recession was a horrific time to start a new job as an investment banker,” he said. “I knew the only way I would be successful is by daily asking God, according to Ephesians 2:10, to make me aware of the good works he has prepared for me to do.”
The first factor in cultivating a workship mindset is the daily petition for it.
Ask God to help you develop a vision by which you see every task or project as an opportunity to honor him. It may be days or months before you begin to notice the shift in how you process your work, but habitually and earnestly praying about this every day will help you adhere to Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (ESV).
Be a Servant
Steve began discovering ways he could serve those in his office. He realized several younger colleagues were coming to him seeking guidance and mentorship. He recognized investing in these young professionals was a means of worshipping God at work. In response, Steve intentionally created space for this mentorship on his calendar and even formed a monthly book club with young men in his office.
Once a work as worship mindset begins germinating, you’ll begin to notice many ways you can serve those around you. Showing the love of Christ by serving coworkers and customers is one of the most compelling means of honoring God with our work. When this servant heart is birthed out of a godly discernment in your workplace, you notice and take action in ways that confirm God is at work within you, and you uphold the words of Jesus in John 13:35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (ESV).
Steve always believed his clients deserved nothing less than his best when it came time to sell their businesses. Through prayer and service, Steve began to sense he was honoring God in the pursuit of excellence for his clients.
This mentality earned him the right to speak truth into the lives of those around him. It earned him the right to share his faith with more conviction.
Steve told me a story about a time he sat down across from a coworker who was considering leaving the company for a role with a smaller firm. “Before giving my own advice, I just asked him if he had prayed about [it],” he recalled. “He told me he had not, which gave me an opportunity to share about some of the ways God has helped me make important decisions through prayer.”
Steve went on to say, “If you do your work with excellence, serve the client, and serve your colleagues, you’ll be surprised at the extent to which your views, even the counter-cultural ones, get a fair hearing.”
Working with excellence builds a reputation that points to Jesus. A career for the glory of God begins with cultivating a heart of worship in your work and recognizing he alone is our audience. May we live out Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (ESV).
Understanding that God has called us to worship him in our work is only part of the process. Incorporating this theology of work into our lives requires intentionality.
A daily commitment to prayer and discernment, along with bringing your best effort to the table and faithfully serving those around you, will help you cultivate this workship mindset over time, not overnight.
So go ahead and flip the switch. It may take some time for the bulbs to heat up.