“The reality, as Mark Greene has said, is that 98 per cent of people in church will spend 95 per cent of their time outside of church, and their pastors should be thinking more creatively about equipping them for those mission fields.” (Preface to Workship)
There is growing awareness among Christians that our faith is relevant in our workplace, and a stronger desire to engage our faith with our work. This awareness and the ensuing dialogue is referred to as the ‘Faith at Work Movement’. Many good books have been written about integrating Christian faith and work. Some of them are meant for theological students at seminaries, but an increasing number of books on this subject are accessible by the lay person. Ms Kara Martin’s book Workship is one such example.
This book has been written for both paid and unpaid workers — volunteers, housewives or house-husbands, students, corporate executives, or professionals. Notes Kara: “When I talk about work in this book, I am not just referring to what is done in paid employment, because I am discussing work from God’s perspective. I believe God sees work as any purposeful activity requiring focus and effort. That means it could be housework, schoolwork, caring for children or parents, study, paid work, voluntary work, etc.”
Workship is a book for personal reflection and also group study, each chapter ending with a prayer and reflective questions. This relevant book, full of warmth, can only have been written by an experienced marketplace person and theologian, who has not only reflected long and hard on integrating faith and work, but has also taught and encouraged others to do the same.
The dualism of the sacred and secular — commonly referred to as the “church on Sunday and work on Monday” divide — is pervasive in Singapore’s churches. Mr Paul Stevens, Professor Emeritus of Marketplace Theology and Leadership at Regent College (Canada), frequently reminded his students that there are no part-time Christians. You are a full-time Christian in every vocation. The challenge is not a matter of full-time or half-time, but whole-hearted or half-hearted.
I strongly believe that understanding the integration of faith and work will diminish the separation of the sacred from the secular, the privileging of church life over work life. To use Kara’s term, it will make us “intentional Christians” in the workplace, and enrich not only our faith, life, and work, but also enable us to be more effective witnesses in the workplace. Imagine the impact that can be made when all Christians shine as lights in the world, wherever their place of work.
In the first part of Workship, Kara lists six biblical perspectives of work. One of them, ‘Work as a Good Thing’ (Chapter 2), had deep meaning for me. I grew up in the 1960s/70s in Singapore, where jobs were hard to come by. Thus, my father was always looking for work. It was not that he was lazy; in fact, he valued work, and was honest and hardworking.
Even when Dad was working, there was barely enough to feed our family of six. When Dad lost his job, most of the extra food disappeared. However, what stood out in my memory was less about the lack of food, and more about the anxious looks of my parents, and the hushed tones they used when discussing financial problems. But this dark cloud disappeared when Dad found a new job. Food once again appeared on the dining table and, more significantly, relief and smiles returned to my parents’ faces.
Hence, I learnt very early on as a child that work is hope, and working meant having a future. No work meant no hope.
Nonetheless, work is also cursed – refer to Chapter 3 of the book. After the Fall, as recorded in Genesis 3, our work has been plagued by ‘thorns and thistles’. My father was always tired, and the long hours and anxiety of providing sufficiently for the family took a toll on his health. My mother, understandably, has a negative view of work. When she found out I was holding two jobs, she asked:
“Son, why are you working so hard and even have two jobs? Do you have problems with money?”
“No, I have more than enough.” I replied.
“Then why are you so silly, working so hard?”
When I told her I loved my jobs, she looked at me with incredulous eyes.
“You ate the wrong thing?”
The second section of Workship advocates viewing our work as spiritual discipline, expounding on six work disciplines. These disciplines or practices are how we express our faith to bring about reconciliation and transformation in our workplace. This is where Kara shows us how worship can happen at work. In my opinion, we are intentional about the first three in Singapore — ‘Holy Working’, ‘Gospel Working’, and ‘Prayerful Working’ — but are less acquainted with the last three: ‘Incarnational Working’, ‘Spirit-Empowered Working’ and ‘Social Justice Working’. I would encourage you to read these latter three for yourselves.
Christian integration of faith and work requires intentional engagement, not inevitable engagement or retreat. The six spiritual work disciplines are helpful for me in considering how to be a more intentional Christian in my workplace, and the book even offers a brief questionnaire to identify your preferred spiritual discipline of work, and how you can develop the others.
Workship’s third section highlights four concepts of work: ‘Vocation’, ‘Work and Identity’, ‘Working Relationships’, and ‘Kingdom Business’. As a parent of three ‘Gen Y’ or ‘millennial’ children, I frequently try to counter what I believe are their optimistic and rosy expectations of work with doses of reality. We are blessed to be living in one of the richest cities in the world, but the world is changing and the future of work will be stormy. Workship provides a good summary of Gen Y’s work attitudes in Chapter 14 on ‘Work and Identity’, that I would like my children to read.
The last concept, ‘Kingdom Business’, is important for me. I frequently encounter three Christian views that undermine the essence of business. The first is the duality I mentioned earlier: The view that business and church are like oil and water, and cannot mix. The second views business as a place of overwhelming temptation and festering sins; to be avoided as much as possible. The third views business only as a front for missions in countries hostile to Christian missions, without considering the business’ essence or viability. This book highlights and clarifies what constitutes a good business and has useful references.
I enjoyed reading this warm and compassionate book about real people and real workers, and I believe it is relevant for everyone.
Thank you, Kara, for sharing with us the work of your hands.
How To Use Your Work To Worship God
by Kara Martin
Published by Graceworks
Available at SKS Books and Biblical Graduate School of Theology Book Corner, retails at $18 (before GST).
Dr Clive Lim –
is an entrepreneur with 20 years’ experience, having successfully started three businesses. He was the founder and first CEO of TeleChoice International Ltd., a mobile telecom services and equipment provider. He is also the managing director of Leap International, an investment holding company. Dr Lim holds a Master of Business Admin from the Asian Institute of Management, a Master of Christian Studies (Marketplace Theology) from Regent College (Canada), and a Doctor of Ministry (Leadership and Business Ethics) degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (USA). He is a board member and adjunct lecturer at the Biblical Graduate School of Theology.