At Work & Theology 101

Taking Our Faith to Work

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Editor’s note: Russell Gehrlein reappeared on the syndicated radio program The Plumb Line, hosted by Jay Rudolph, on Tuesday, March 12. As in parts one, two, and three of this interview, Russell and Jay discussed several of the faith and work concepts found in Russell’s book, Immanuel Labor: God’s Presence In Our Profession. Below is a partial transcript of their conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity. Listen to the full conversation. 

The Importance of Whole-Life Discipleship

JR: So I’m thinking as I listen to you here, our attitude about our work really makes a difference. If we recognize God’s presence with us and that he can and does use the work that we’re doing to make a difference in our lives and other people’s lives — maybe that’ll change our attitude a bit. 

Because for me, I think of being on a mountain, not doing any work. Just laying there on the mountain is where I feel really close to God. But what you’re saying is that we ought to feel really close to God through our work, too. 

RG: It’s radical. There’s a great organization in the UK, the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. Their leader, Mark Greene, [Editor’s note: Mark Greene now serves as LICC’s mission champion]…he talks about whole-life discipleship. 

Basically, a lot of Christians are disciples at church, on Sunday, on Wednesday nights, in missions projects. But they don’t take their faith to work with them. There’s kind of a dichotomy there… 

The idea is that our whole life is impacted by our relationship with God. So, for me, I’m praying as I’m walking into the building, for example. As I’m sitting in a meeting and maybe I’m feeling a little stressed out by the things we’re planning that are coming up in six months…I’m shooting up a prayer: “Lord, give me wisdom in how I respond and how I’m thinking.” 

Back to the office now. I’m talking to my soldiers, taking care of them, asking how their families are doing, and just loving my neighbor through my work and the things that God has put in front of me… 

I am conscious of the fact that God is with me; he’s omnipresent so he is with me — I just need to acknowledge that, experience that, and let him work with me, in me, and through me. 

[…]

The Importance of Praying and Listening

JR: The majority of listeners to The Plumb Line are adults who are  more in the age category of where they would have teenagers or young people who are starting to look for their careers. We can speak to those who are trying to help their children as they maybe launch into their first career as well as to those who are in that stage of life where maybe they never found what they feel their real calling is, and they’re still ‘seeking God in their vocation,’ as you entitled Chapter 9. So speak to those individuals, if you would for me. 

RG: Like I talked about earlier, I have a very atypical career path. Let’s just be honest, I was forced to make changes in my career… I wasn’t able to pursue my dream, and a wise pastor once said to me, “When your dream dies, find a new one.” So I did…

As I’m seeking the Lord I’m just saying, “Lord, what should I do?”…The average Christian probably struggles with that as well. You’re stuck in a job and you want to do something else because you maybe feel like you have these aptitudes and interests…you may or may not be able to find the work in the field that you really, really want to work in. 

So, I just want to encourage and counsel those who are in that situation to listen to that voice that tells you that maybe there’s something better for you. I think God can definitely speak to our hearts — yeah, we’ve got to watch sometimes which way our hearts go — but as Christians our hearts are new. 

Our hearts [have] been made new, so God speaks to our hearts. Don’t be afraid to listen to that. Maybe the timing is right. Just ask God for wisdom and strength. I guarantee he’s going to provide as you seek his face, and he will lead you and guide you, just as he’s done with me many times over. 

JR: “Seek him” I guess is really the message here. 

RG: Absolutely. Just in a nutshell, finding a job at whatever stage you’re in…it’s going to be a spiritual journey. Cover it in prayer, and ask God to lead you and guide you. Look at your own design, how God made you. 

What I’ve been seeing lately and writing about on my blog is that God is present in every stage of your career. Our vocation, from those early childhood interests all the way to where I’m at near the end of my journey…God is present in all of that. 

The Importance of Ordinary People for God’s Work

JR: I wanted to leave you with the final word here…maybe there’s something big we missed or you want to leave the listeners with.

RG: Yeah, wow…I will tell you this theology of work is life changing. I think that a lot of Christians have not heard it from the pulpit. They’re hearing mixed messages that the only things that last for eternity are people who are going to heaven and you’re wasting your time if you’re doing what they call “secular work.” 

Don’t believe that. 

God wants to use us to meet the wide, full spectrum of human needs, whether physical, mental, emotional or social… God uses average, ordinary people to meet each others’ needs, so as we do that in his name, in his power, in his presence, it makes a difference.

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