Tag Archives: workplace spirituality

Let’s step up and really live our Christian life in the workplace and in church

OK, now I’m a little spun up.

Innocently watching the Red Sox, enjoying a rare day, as a Pastor, of no actual work to do. Yea, I spent 20 years in corporate finance, I actually had three day weekends, OK, not often then either, but a lot more than as a pastor. Trying to catch up on the 90 books on my Kindle and then I read this.

The following is from Bill Diehl, a Lutheran layperson who was an executive with Bethlehem Steel. I am a Lutheran pastor, don’t know if the same “Lutheran” as Mr Diehl and yes this was written well before I became a pastor. Furthermore I will stipulate that too many of my fellow pastors I have known have only been students or pastors. Too many have no meaningful experience in anything else and yes I’m a little unusual. But still, this got under my skin:

“Bill Diehl, as noted earlier, is a former sales manager with Bethlehem Steel, active Lutheran layperson, author, and leader in the FAW movement. Diehl has been sharply critical of what the church professes about lay ministry and Christian vocation versus what it actually does to affirm and equip those called to live out their vocation in the marketplace. In a comment that could easily have come from a typical FAW participant of today, in 1976 Diehl expressed his sense of abandonment from the church (note that a careful reading of his words also reveals concern about all of the Four E’s of ethics, evangelism, experience, and enrichment):In the almost 30 years of my professional career, my church has never once suggested that there be any type of accounting of my on-the-job ministry to oth…”

“In the almost 30 years of my professional career, my church has never once suggested that there be any type of accounting of my on-the-job ministry to others. My church has never offered to improve those skills which could make me a better minister, nor has it ever asked if I needed any kind of support in what I was doing. There has never been an inquiry into the types of ethical decisions I must face, or whether I seek to communicate the faith to my co-workers. I have never been in a congregation where there was any type of public affirmation of a ministry in my career[as a sales manager]. In short, I must conclude that my church really doesn’t have the least interest in whether or how I minister in my daily work.14” Maybe Mr Diehl if you were going to a serious church, which I bet you’re not, you would be living a serious Christian life. I get the distinct feeling that Mr Diehl might think he knows about Christian discipleship, but I doubt that he really has the discernment and understanding of what genuine Christian discipleship is, because he went to a church that was all about a patronizing Christianity himself. A little discernment to a lot of know-it all types of all stripes would go a long way.

I have been busting my crank to reach out to people in the corporate world since I started in ministry. I now have over 5 years of ministry experience added to my 20 years of corporate experience and 29 years of military experience. Add to that a Masters of Divinity degree (many of these people don’t have more than an undergraduate degree in anything) Whenever I try to reach out to someone in the corporate world I usually get this patronizing pat on the head that I somehow don’t know what I’m talking about. Hmmm, my bachelors is in business administration  from Lesley University (a over 100 year old private college in Cambridge, Ma.) I started my corporate work life at 21 years old, working for Chase Manhattan Commercial Corp., then went to Motorola, Fleet National Bank, a year working for the Massachusetts State Treasurer, Robert Half International, Town and Country Fine Jewelry. In my corporate finance position, I was responsible for handling monthly seven-figure balances, dealing with some of the largest corporations in the United States. In addition 29 years in the Coast Guard reserve being involved in serious search and rescue cases, law enforcement and military operations. I served in a deployable unit in Naval Coastal Warfare being deployed to do security in Vieques and force protection in Spain. Carried a gun on a regular basis, yes even as a reservist, served four years active duty in War on Terror. When I returned to my corporate job my very large corporate employer, was less than, well let’s just say cordial or receptive. Soooo you can spare me patronizing little pats, I will compare my resume and life experience with Mr Diehl or anyone else for that matter.

I have made repeated attempts in various ways to get a ministry that Mr Diehl might have found helpful. This does not include “The Christian Businessman’s we’re calling to tell everyone what they’re supposed to do, because we’ve just got it altogether group”. There’s way too much of that too. I was part of a group back in Boston that was a rather high-level group and they were there to genuinely live their life in the workplace. I believe very much in this.

Having said all this, I am  wholeheartedly inviting you to take on this challenge. No I’m not an expert in this area. I would love to write a book, because frankly I think there are very few books that have as much perspective on this subject as I do. There are a lot of books out there on the subject, I think I can add a lot to that discussion, maybe for my PhD dissertation. In the meantime, if you are serious, I double-dawg dare you to take me up on this challenge. Is it going to be perfect or a whiz-bang production already pre-packaged? No. I am a parish pastor, believe me I have plenty to do. I also serve as a York City, Pa. police chaplain. I will compare my challenges to you anytime. Let me know the next time you get called out of bed at 2am for an accounting emergency. I’ve gotten called out to tell someone their child was killed, to provide comfort to a victim of a crime and a suicide, (a lot of less dramatic, although compelling times also)

I want to do this very badly. Yes, I do want this to be part of growing the congregation I’ve been called to. And before you get all hoidy-toidy about; “you probably just have an elderly congregation, no one with any real substance.” It’s not big, nowhere as big as it should. But it serves an inner-city constituency with a number of people with meaningful corporate experience. Maybe it’s time to leave your nice, pretty, big-box church and do some actual Christian discipleship and get over the idea you should have some nice pretty church and go to one that was built to the glory of God. A church that is a genuine growth opportunity to make a meaningful impact in a difficult environment. But frankly, you won’t. People who work in offices are used to and expect the amenities and they’re not really interested in stretching themselves for the Lord. “Hey I show up every other Sunday and put my $5 in the plate.” Oh yeah, isn’t that just special of you, a real put it on the line Christian! (Yea I can be patronizing too.)

One of our accomplishments has been to start and operate a 100 watt FM radio station, 106.1 in case you want to listen,

Home

take a listen if you have time to drag yourself away from your big dinner. (I did go to some pretty nice places in my corporate life)  Add in a Grief Share group, an employment support group, food bank, fitness center, all this we’ve done on a shoe string in the last five years. So think about that Mr “I’m a big-time corporate type”. If you feel that you should be living your life as a Christian in the workplace, you are right. I did my best, and yes I will admit with little pastoral help. But think twice before you give me a patronizing little pat just because I have a clerical collar on. I’ll compare my life experience to yours any time.

So, you going to take me up on this? A re-start challenge that will be a bigger challenge you’ve ever faced and for the Lord, Creator, Sustainer of the Universe our Savior Jesus Christ. How cool would that be to get a real group of Christian men and women together to put a real group (sans the pretentiousness, I’ve seen it done) to rebuild a grand old ministry, based on genuine Christian discipleship, to take back with you on Monday morning to live your life as a Christian 24/7.

I shouldn’t have asked, no one will take it on. Big corporate tough guys, talk a good game but you will just go back to your pretty, big-box churches where you can talk a good game, but mostly just sit back and be entertained. Yea…I tried, at least I’m back on the ground again and I’m living my life out according to God’s leading and not according to what makes me feel good.

We have an, albeit, small group that meets Wednesday mornings at 10am at the coffee shop at the corner of King and Beaver Sts in downtown York, Pa. You’re all welcome, and if you have better ideas; breakfasts, special evening events, weekends, I’m all ears let’s do it, seriously, let’s do something.

God uses our work to put others in right relationship with Him. Makes sense!

God is only going to give you so much family to raise or relate to as Christians. He gives us a lot more relationships in the place where, it seems, that we spend more waking time than anywhere else. Ah yes, where we work to earn our wage, the place where we toil in order to support our families, but also to interact with those around us.

God certainly puts us into each of our relationships for a reason and our workplace, ask my wife, seems to have taken up the majority of my waking time. God has put me in some interesting places to witness to Him. I worked for two of the biggest banks in the world, and one of the biggest manufacturer in the world. People knew that I was a Christian and occasionally someone would want to talk to me about it. I worked for the Massachusetts State Treasurer, right on the top of Beacon Hill in downtown Boston, obviously a place desperate for Christian witness. I served in the Coast Guard Reserve for 29 years with 4 years of active duty. Needless to say for people who regularly face life and death, the questions have to trickle out and they did. I built many relationships through my workplaces, a lot of really interesting people and opportunities.

So when Patrick Morley in his book “A Man’s Guide To Work” states: “This is the ultimate purpose of work: to bring people into right relationship with God and with each other.” You really do have to come to the realization that the workplace can present many challenging relationships and many rewarding relationships. God uses each relationship to help us, co-workers, even customers to come to Jesus, to continue to grow in Jesus and for our work to serve in ways imaginable and unimaginable.

Morley goes on to write: “Once you see your work life the way God sees your work life, it is a perspective that will permeate every human encounter, every decision you make and every minute you allocate.” In the military you are taught to be constantly aware of your surroundings. Whether you are being subjected to hostile, or criminal activity or if you have to deal with issues of the weather. As Christians should we be constantly aware of our environment where we work, where we serve as examples of serving, where we serve as examples of leaders, mentors and followers?

“The purpose of your work is to improve people’s lives – to bring them into right relationship with God and others.” Now that I am a pastor, this is certainly obvious in my vocational life. But we are all part of the royal priesthood of believers. The other people around you at work may not realize it, but God has put you there in order to be His priest to the people around you. More than likely, I’m never going to be in your workplace, I’m never going to know the people you know. Even if they aren’t Christians, wouldn’t God put someone in their midst to minister to them?

No you’re not going to be a bull in a china shop, you are there to do your work. But those around you should know that you are a Christian and when they are around you, even in your day to day work, they see something different in you that they don’t see in the people who aren’t Christians. When God wants you to witness to them He will give you the opportunity, and it will be at an opportune time. Not when you have a million dollar customer waiting to work with you in the conference room, but at a time that God arranges where you can truly see your fellow worker and truly share what your life in Jesus has been and help him/her see His life in Jesus.

God doesn’t intend your workplace to be where you do the least you can get away with, punch in at exactly when you’re supposed to be there, punch exactly when you’re supposed to, take advantage of every little opportunity and keep your mouth shut and ignore those who work around you. You are there to attest to God’s will in your life and to be an example, often the only one people around you may see, of how God works in a life and brings someone to His Lordship in life and to eternal life.

Wednesday mornings at 10am, I know goofy hour, have a better suggestion? We meet at the coffee shop at the corner of W King St and Beaver Sts in downtown York, Pa., to share about our Christian lives in the workplace. You’re not the only Christian who has to spend so much time in the secular world, this is a chance to share with others who live their Christian lives out in the workplace. Park behind the church 140 W King, walk about 100 yards east to the coffee shop. I will even buy you’re first cup of coffee.

We serve our neighbors in service to God

We’ve been talking about vocation in many ways at our Wednesday Coffee Break Bible study. Certainly our vocation in terms of our job, profession, position. Position can mean many different things in terms of our spouse, children, parents, siblings. Our position in the community. Any responsibility we hold in the church, on and on. Positions God puts us in, in His service, but to serve others. I’m sure we recognize that God doesn’t need our service per se. Jesus has done all that is necessary, and God sustains us in every way. We are in His service for what we do for ourselves and for others.

I serve by working to better myself in every possible way nutrition, exercise, study things that are edifying. We are in His service when we serve our neighbors. Surely God puts us into situations where our service to a neighbor would be pleasing to Him. In fact I would hope that we would do works to glorify Him, that others may know that what I did was a result of what God does to me and through me. So anything I do for another is only a result of the Holy Spirit in me.

Henry and Richard Blackaby “Experiencing God Today”, p 122: “God deserves our love and He demands that we love others in the same way He does.” And yes, I will say it again God’s love is of genuine concern for what is best for another, not this phoney, empty enabling love we think of today. What is in that person’s best interests and not ours. Believe me that is hard to do but that is the goal we need to strive for. Heck, in today’s world, anyone who even approaches that is doing more than anyone expects.

The Blackabys spell this out: “We are to love our spouses, not as they deserve, but as God commands (Eph 5: 22-33). We are to treat our friends, not as they treat us, but as Christ loves us (John 13:14). We are to labor at our jobs, not in proportion to the way our employer treats us, but according to the way God treats us. God is the One we serve (Eph 6:5).”

“Mediocrity and laziness have no place in the Christian’s life. Christians must maintain integrity at home and in the workplace… Our toil then becomes an offering to God. We not only worship God at church on Sunday, but our labor throughout the week is an offering of worship and thanksgiving to the One who has given us everything we have.”

How many times have you seen someone decide that they’re just not treated fairly and they do what amounts to be stupid things to strike back? And we all know how that works out. It bites them, it brings them a bad reputation and if people know they are a Christian, it always puts Christians in a bad light. “Our” work is “our” work. We may be getting what we think is a bad deal, but doing work that doesn’t serve our neighbor and reflects poorly on Christ and Christian brothers and sisters really ends up only hurting the people who you’ve professed to be in fellowship with and the Father. Do we really want people to think we are all about shoddy, half baked service? Sure we aren’t always going to be great, but we should make our best effort to be as good as possible and never be perceived as “tanking the ball”. Someone will call us on it and we’re the one who looks bad in the end. That certainly should be our perspective in our work and no less in our family and our church.

Our efforts should even be thought of as an offering to God, not in the sense of earning anything or buying anything, but certainly in the sense of Thanksgiving.

Even when others fail us, refuse us, treat us poorly, we continue to serve because our service is always given in thanks to God. Take a break during the week, Wednesday mornings, the coffee shop at the corner of W King and Beaver Sts in downtown York, Pa.  10am, park behind the church. I will even buy you your first cup of coffee. No charge, no obligation.

Is the Gap Between Pulpit and Pew Narrowing? Latest Research from LeTourneau University

Is the Gap Between Pulpit & Pew Narrowing? Read about the Latest Research

Dallas TX: New research conducted by the Barna Group for the Center for Faith & Work at​ LeTourneau University shows a substantial uptick in the number of pastors who say they preach on work. However, most church-goers still doubt the significance of their work to God.

“While American church-goers hear more sermons on work these days, there’s still a gap between what’s preached from the pulpit and what’s grasped by those in the pew,” says Bill Peel, Executive Director.

The research revealed that 70 percent of Christians do not see how their work serves God’s purposes, and 78 percent see their work as less important than the work of a pastor or priest.

Jim Mullins is a pastor who’s been pondering this breakdown of communication between the pulpit and the pew. In an insightful article, Mullins tells how one of his parishioners—a biomedical engineer who developed devices to help doctors detect early-stage cancer—was considering a career change to become a pastor or missionary. He told Mullins, “I don’t want to waste my life. I want to do something that has real significance, where I can glorify God and actually love people.”

Mullins says this faulty perspective was not for lack of hearing sermons on God’s view of work. He writes,

At our church, we preach the lordship of Christ over all aspects of life, offer classes about the theology of work, and repeat our favorite phrase every Sunday: “All of life is all for Jesus.”

After mulling why the message about the broad scope of the gospel and its implications for work wasn’t getting through to the engineer, Mullins had a revelation.

I realized that the issue wasn’t with what he heard, but with what he saw. He frequently heard teaching about the importance of vocation and all-of-life discipleship, but he never saw anyone’s work—apart from pastoral, missionary, and nonprofit work—publicly celebrated.

Pastors are awakening to the importance of helping people integrate faith and work. But it’s going to take more than sermons and classes to inculcate a biblical theology of work. Like the engineer, most of us need not only to hear that our work is important to God, we need to see it honored and celebrated as well.

Over the past four years, Barna Group research commissioned by LeTourneau University’s Center for Faith & Work has uncovered some important trends.

In 2011 our research …

  • Nearly all (93 percent) of pastors said that helping people integrate faith into daily work is “very important.”
  • Two-thirds (68 percent) of those pastors questioned their understanding of workplace issues.
  • Only half (49 percent) of churchgoing, employed Christians “strongly agreed” that their church provided information, guidance, and support to live out faith at work.
  • One in four (26 percent) of pastors said their sermons addressed faith at work.
  • Fewer than one in ten (8 percent) of pastors said they provided prayer support for workplace issues.
  • Only a fraction (3 percent) of pastors reported visiting their members at work.

Fast forward three years and note increases our new research reveals.

In 2014 …

  • Over one-third (36 percent) of senior Protestant pastors say they preached a sermon on what the Bible says about God’s view of work within the past month.
  • An additional 36 percent say they have preached on work in the past six months.
  • In all, 86 percent of pastors have preached a sermon within the last year that focused on what the Bible says about God’s view of work, and specifically on how one’s faith should impact one’s work.

According to Peel, “These findings indicate a significant surge in the attention pastors are giving to the importance of faith and work—an encouraging trend indeed! However, there’s a still a gap between what parishioners are hearing about the importance of their work to God, and they are seeing.”

The new research shows that, apart from pastoral and missionary work, little attention has been paid to publicly celebrating the work most parishioners do between Sundays.

  • During the last year, fewer than one in five (18 percent) of churches publicly dedicated or commissioned their members to serve God in the places where they work.

“I believe that this gap between what is preached and what is celebrated continues to cloud how people assess the value of their work to God,” says Peel.

  • Over two-thirds (70 percent) of Christians still cannot envision how the work they do serves God.
  • Almost four out of five church-goers (78 percent) doubt that the work they do is equal in importance to the work of a pastor or priest.

“Clearly, increased preaching and teaching about faith and work is a positive, praiseworthy step, but much more is needed. Churches must become fully engaged in shaping people spiritually for the workplace. A powerful next step is to schedule time in worship services to publicly celebrate all kinds of work that advance God’s creation,” advises Peel. “This simple action can help people connect God’s truth with their work in life-changing ways.”

Find ideas for conducting a commissioning service by clicking here.

ABOUT THE RESEARCH

The 2014 data about pastors originated through research conducted by Barna Group of Ventura, California. The questions were commissioned by the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University. The PastorPollSM included 602 telephone interviews conducted among a representative sample of senior pastors of Protestant churches from within the continental U.S. The telephone interviews were conducted from June 3 through June 13, 2014. The sampling error for PastorPollSM is +/-4 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level. The cooperation rate in the PastorPollSM was 96%.

The 2014 data about church-goers originated through research conducted by Barna Group of Ventura, California. The questions were commissioned by the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University. The OmniPollSM included 1,036 online surveys conducted among a representative, nationwide sample of adults ages 18 and older.  The online interviews were conducted from September 2 through September 10, 2014. The sampling error for OmniPollSM is +/-3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The participation rate in the Fall 2014 OmniPollSM was 95%.

The 2011 data about pastors originated through research conducted by Barna Group of Ventura, California. The questions were commissioned by the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University. The PastorPollSM included 646 telephone interviews conducted among a representative sample of senior pastors of Protestant and Catholic churches from within the 48 continental United States. The survey was conducted from May 26, 2011 through June 20, 2011. The sampling error for this PastorPollSM is +/-4% at the 95% confidence level.

The 2011 data about church-goers originated through research conducted by Barna Group of Ventura, California. The questions were commissioned by the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University. The OmniPollSM included 1,007 telephone interviews conducted among a representative sample of adults over the age of 18 within the 48 continental states. The survey was conducted from August 1, 2011 through August 14, 2011. Only those adults who self-identified as Christian or Catholic, who attended church in the past six months, and who were employed full-time or part-time qualified to participate in the module of questions for LeTourneau University. In this study, a total of 350 adults qualified to participate. The sampling error for a sample of this size (n=350) is plus or minus 5.2 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level.

– See more at: http://www.centerforfaithandwork.com/node/804#sthash.ndE6cXFa.dpuf

We are called to take risks and be bold as the church and as individual Christians.

I worked in corporate finance for 20 years, mostly for very large corporations and organizations. I spent 29 years in the Coast Guard always in an operational capacity and I worked in other capacities in other sectors. The common denominator with these is that the status quo is just not acceptable. Standing still, same ole/same ole, “we never did it that way before”, however, is the MO with most churches. I’m not talking creative worship or “user friendly”, any of the quasi Christian attempts to entertain or be “relevant”. (I just read recently about a woman serving on the “worship team”, who wasn’t sure she was ready to go on stage.)

When did worship become entertainment?

In terms of risk in the church, it’s not about monkeying around with age-old worship in favor of “entertaining”, people-pleasing. Worship is worship. Frankly if we got serious about it, we would begin to realize the benefits of genuine worship, plus genuinely lifting up our Creator/Sustainer/Savior up to praise, glorify and give thanksgiving to.

But yes, in other ways we need to take “risks”. Way too many churches discourage anyone they somehow consider “different”. Far too many people have a very general definition of “different”.

“Success” as a Christian, in the church, is always about Jesus and those who are truly disciples of Jesus, those who are saved. Period. Yes, numbers, money, activities are great. But that is not success. It is in the world and that’s the way it will be, but the church is about becoming and living as the Body of Christ. But does that mean just passivity or are we expected to risk, to step out and be bold for Jesus? The answer, obviously, is to be bold for Jesus.

This is probably self-evident, but Inc Magazine writes: “The INC 500 ENTREPRENEURS excel in every area identified by Gallup. But they absolutely dominate in three strengths: risk-taking, business focus and determination -compared with the national sample. Those strengths are, not coincidentally, the ones most universally associated with business starts, survival and scaling.”

These are not areas that Christians excel in. There is no risk taking, there is an excessive focus on being conservative. Nice, non-commital worship, restrictive use of the facility, nice-pleasant studies- don’t want to get into the controversial. One area that’s especially showing up in the church is; that Jesus isn’t the only way. Too much accommodating the individual and less and less faithfulness to true worship and what we do to serve the Lord. It is risky to tell someone that they have to be a member of the church in order to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. Too many encourage you to follow the easy path and worry more about the person than the Lord.

It’s easy to turn people away from using the church facility. One thing that bugs me is that with few exceptions, the church sanctuary is used once a week. There should be more worship during the week, not to use the sanctuary for other things, but to increase worship opportunities, making worship more accessible and meaningful. The rest of the facility should be in regular use for small groups, groups that serve the community. Too often it’s easier to just say no, or only accept the “safest” groups or situations.

I’m not saying that churches, for the most part, do this with mean-spirited. I’m sure most people feel a genuine duty to protect what is there, especially when there’s been a long familial relationship with a particular church. You certainly don’t want to tear up Great-Great-Aunt Tilly’s whatever. It may have nothing to do with church or worship or be obsolete or beyond repair, but who wants to be the one to do the deed? Having said that, tough decisions do need to be made. Not arbitrarily, not because “well that’s so old”, but with the intent of what is going to serve best, what glorifies God and helps people in their Christian-disciple lives. To do that means stepping out in risk. The group that would like to use the facility may not be the “right” kind of people, but you need to welcome them, integrate them into the life of the congregation and help them to grow in Jesus. You disciple them, you take the risk. God put them there for a reason, for you to take the opportunity to be a good disciple of Jesus.

This can be fun, it can be exciting, it can be a rush like you’ve never known. The exhilaration of being used by the Holy Spirit to bring someone to salvation in Jesus is unforgettable and frankly even addicting. When you really do step out and take that risk, you are going to want to keep going.

“Gallup says those with a talent for risk-taking possess a highly optimistic perception of risk but are also rational decision makers who have an extraordinary ability to mitigate that risk. The assessment shows that Inc 500 founders are more likely than other entrepreneurs to take more and bigger risks. But they are also more likely to optimize their chances for good outcomes and, consequently, rapid growth.” (Leigh Buchanan Inc Magazine September 2014 p 30).

We are children of God, the Creator of all, the great sustainer. How can we not be optimistic, how can we take such a negative view when the Holy Spirit is really pressing on us to do something? How can you not be excited about the opportunity? Yea, I guess the vast majority of people in the world see risk as scary and unproductive (why try? It’s not going to work). OK. So? If we are His, it doesn’t necessarily mean we will always “succeed”, but really is their any doubt that it’s not going to be an experience that is rewarding, in terms of growth, in terms of strengthening, in terms of building relationships, on and on? We are the children of God He who will do miracles, they will usually be subtle, but when you think back, you will see the miracle. We need to start taking the risks that the world does. Our risk-taking results in eternal reward, where people in the world are so less reluctant to take risks for material gain that will just end up destroyed. Yea, I don’t want to knock down, Great-Grandfather Elwood’s desk, not lack of respect, but what is truly helping people to come to Christ and what is truly glorifying God. Within those parameters we need to take risks, everything else are lesser considerations and should never keep us from our greater calls.

And I am not saying “name it and claim it”, but it has been my experience that when you do take a risk, we Christians call it faith, that people see that and respond. Often you will get the support you need for a particular “risk” and sometimes you even get more from people who want to encourage the church to continue to step out in faith.

How do we as risk takers in the world, readily understand how that looks as a Christian and how to we live that as disciples of Jesus and part of a church? Join us on our Wednesday morning Coffee Breaks, shop at the corner of Beaver and W King Sts, 10am, park behind the church and walk about 20 yards. First timers? I will buy you a cup of coffee. God bless.

Does it honor God to abuse our bodies with overwork?

It’s gotten to be almost trite, cliche in the world, “can’t burn the midnight oil, the candle at both ends”. Did God make us to work 50 plus hours, to some people that would be a short week, constantly on call, always in touch via computers, cell phones. Sure, once in awhile you have to stretch. Finished graduate school 4 years ago, oh yeah many a time when that paper had to be finished and it needed to be finished that night it was an all-nighter. 29 years in the Coast Guard Reserve. In the Coast Guard reserve you were expected to augment a unit where your training was applicable to. I was trained on boats doing search and rescue and law enforcement. Especially after I was activated, but even doing reserve duty, there were many times where you could be working all day and be out all night, getting bounced around in lousy weather, having to be alert to save lives and property or enforce laws. Often this would be miles off shore in frigid weather for most if not all the night. Even in my corporate life trips would start early in the morning, end late at night and require late hours to do what was necessary in order to resolve issues with the customer.

Things haven’t gotten easier, technology means we’re on call at all hours, text messages, e-mail can be worked on and even responded to until all hours. Downsizing is across the board, few sectors of the economy haven’t seen a reduction of people which requires the remaining souls to pick up the slack.

Pastors are certainly not immune to emergencies at all hours and each one requiring asap attention. In addition to the needs of my congregation I am a chaplain for the York Police. I’ve responded to, mostly deaths, late at night, also the parent of a sexual assault victim. Our jobs have worthy reasons  to put in long hours, but what happens when it becomes routine instead of the exception.

An article in Inc Magazine by Jennifer Alsever (Feb 2014 p 54) cites the following research:

“Research shows that making your staff wok marathon hours does more ill than good…

67% increase risk of developing heart disease for workers who put in 11 hours a day vs eight.

3X increased likelihood that those who work 50-plus hours a week will develop an alcohol abuse problem. [I think I’m the exception, no interest whatsoever, but you can certainly see how it would happen – Jim]

50% of employees are less productive as a result of stress

20 hours without sleep is equal to a 0.1 blood alcohol level, which is the equivalent of five or six dirnks (for people 160 to 180 hours).”

As a pastor I would hasten to add the loss of family time (ya, just ask my wife), you betchum that causes some stress. I hasten to add that odd/long work hours keep people from worship, either because they’re working or recovering thereof. Not to mention the lack of participation in other church activities. In my experience this causes a separation from church and the nurturing of being in the presence of the Lord and with brothers and sisters in Jesus. I have definitely seen it result in further separation and eventually just completely dropping out. While many want that relationship, they feel awkward just showing up once in awhile. Heck imagine a relationship where you show up once in awhile, go through the motions and run out the door at the earliest opportunity. Too often it just becomes an excuse, work isn’t really that demanding, but they just don’t want to deal and it’s a great excuse to the pastor. I’m kind of amazed at the excuses, actual and created, I know people shouldn’t have to, I’d much rather they gave me the blunt truth, but wandering away is just easier.

I would hope that if people are in that situation that they let me know. Their physical, mental health is a vital consideration when work life overwhelms your time, but spiritual health is also going to take a serious hit. Separation from the church, from the Word, from the Sacraments, from the support and encouragement of fellow Christians is going to take away ones spiritual strength and just turn them into an asset, a working machine. Long amounts of time dedicated to work is dehumanizing and subtly separates us from the spiritual nourishment that is so necessary to His creation who are made in His image. God doesn’t need rest, but He took time to set an example for us who are in desperate need of rest, by requiring us to observe the Sabbath.

Talk to your pastor, help him to see that you’re in need and need his help to keep you spiritually strong. Help him to think out of the box for worship opportunities, maybe just a time of prayer for two or more of you. Time of study that you could share on line, but something that keeps you connected. Maybe the church could have prayer for those who are separated for various reasons. But simply fading out is not acceptable, it contributes to the deterioration of your fellowship and we are commanded to meet together in Christ’s church (Hebrews) and we are not doing ourselves any favor by missing the revival, restoration and refreshment of being in the presence of the Lord with Christian brothers and sisters.

So let’s discuss, Wednesday morning 10am at the Green Bean Coffee Shop the corner of W King and Beaver Sts in downtown York. Park right behind the church and walk east about 4 doors.

Wired by God, for God

Interesting how you can hear of the Higgs-Boson particle (yeah, I know what?). The so-called God particle from a year ago, published all over until reporters and editors found out what it really meant, then not so much yada-yada.
But when genuine scientific findings are made confirming over and over how, not only are we designed, but how the entire universe is designed, well that doesn’t get any newspaper ink.
Case in point, the recent “Leadership Journal” (Summer 2014) which goes into detail as to how our brains can be or are wired to be receptive to God.

Leadership Journal develops this rather extensively and it goes into some heavy detail, which I will attempt to lighten. I’m going to do a few blogs on this so that I can digest it betterand hopefully spew it out to you somewhat intelligentyl . I would like to add that if you are in ministry or any kind of lay leadership you really should get Leadership Journal it’s just an outstanding publication.

John Ortberg points out that our brains are wired so that “mostly our behavior does not consist of a series of conscious choices. Mostly, our behavior is governed by habit.” (p 21)
We usually think in terms of “bad habits”, which we all have much too much of. Ortberg points out: “Habits are enormously freeing. They are what allows my body to be driving my car while my mind is planning next week’s sermon.” Yea, right, texting on my phone, shaving, applying makeup, eating a big sloppy burger (not my imagination, I’ve seen each in real life). Point is, there is so much we do in life that doesn’t require us having to make a deliberate action, much of what we do is habit and happens because of conditioning.
“But sin gets into our habits. “…what Paul meant when he talked about sin being ‘in our members.’ He was talking about human beings as embodied creatures – sin is in the habitual patterns that govern what our hands reach to and where our eyes look and words our mouths say. Habits are in our neural pathways. And sin gets in our habits. So sin gets in our neurons.” (p 21)

Quoting St Paul “…there is nothing good in our sinful nature.” Ya, I know a little harsh, but let’s face it, we have developed a lot of bad habits. “Paul is a brilliant student of human life who knows that evil, deceit, arrogance, greed, envy and racism have become ‘second nature’ to us all.” Harsh? Ya, but true. Even our best qualities when you hold them up to the perfection of our God, then ya, our “bad” habits are much more obvious and our good habits, at best, ho hum.

Ortberg notes that our willpower is just not going to cut it. Let’s face it, we try to do it alone and usually we are back to the races. “…acquiring new habits through which we can receive power from God to do what to do what willpower never could.”

Ortberg’s next line is compelling because there has been a long standing belief that the physical really doesn’t affect the spiritual. The physical is certainly about the mind. Is there really any doubt that when we abuse our body it affects our mind. I doubt that anyone would seriously question that physical abuse, bad diet, drugs, lack of exercise, affects the mind, certainly affects the chemical composition of the mind. Couldn’t the physical/mental attributes of the mind, if they are abused, affect our spiritual outlook? Trying to separate the physical/mental/spiritual is just a false paradigm. As Ortberg notes: ” Neuroscience has helped to show the error of any spirituality that divorces our spiritual life from our bodies.”

I say AMEN! There are many belief systems that try to make it just about the spirit, that the body is just a husk. POPPYCOCK. Gnosticism, an heretical Christian belief tries to make the material evil, the spiritual, as it were, good. That when the spiritual separates from the physical then it will be hunky-dorey. That attitude has infused itself through orthodox Christianity. the image of spirit beings sitting on clouds in heaven. Certainly physical beings can’t sit on clouds, but the question is; is heaven the end? Eastern religions believe that once we get it right, we leave the evil of the bodily and the material world and then (yippee, skippee), we become some sort of ethereal being and then drop into the ocean of all ethereal beings where our ethereality (no I doubt seriously that’s a real word) merges us with the universe. Again, yippee, skippee.

Why the gratuitous sarcasm? God created the material and He pronounced it good. This also includes our body which He intended to be perfect, incorruptible and eternal. Where else could it have come from? Unless the rapture happens tomorrow, our body will give out and we will, in the spiritual, be in the presence of the Lord. But again, is that the end? No! Not by a long shot. At the final judgment we will all be restored to physical bodies, those who are in Christ, the “Lamb’s Book of Life” will proceed from the judgment to the New Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem will be the world as God had intended. No doubt, it will be much like the world that we left, but it will be restored to perfection, it will be familiar but it will be restored to a perfection that we can’t imagine. Certainly we will be restored to our physical bodies, again, the way they were intended to be before we messed them up with our sin. These bodies will be strong, healthy, immune to injury or damage. We were made by God to be both physical/mental/spiritual and we will be restored to eternity perfectly in all aspects of our being.

In the meantime we will continue to discuss how the physical/mental changes our spiritual outlook as we continue to affect the mental by our habits old and bad or new and good. OK, at least hopefully.