Monday, February 22, 2021

360°: Gathered, to Scattered, to Gathered

Over the last three weeks, we've seen the impact of a quadruple bottom line applied in the workplace through Brian, Patience, and Michael.  I've been so thankful for the feedback and encouragement from many of you in response.

But we are beginning to see (again, thanks to the work of Willson and Kaemingk's book, Work and Worship) that the "church gathered to church scattered" is only half of the challenge (or shall we say opportunity) before us.  What about the "church scattered to church gathered?"  We need to come full circle.  We need to integrate into our worship and "our church gathered liturgy" new and different practices as we return to the sanctuary.  This has been a recent and ongoing "aha" for me.

Psalm 73 helps us to see this clearly.  In verses 2-3, 12, and 16-17, it says, 
As for me, my foot had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.  For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked...This is what the wicked are like - always free of care, they go on amassing wealth...When I try to understand all this, it troubled me deeply until I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

The perspective of this writer shifted as he entered the sanctuary.  The "church gathered" gives a chance to look at the cluttered economy of the world from a different perspective, allowing us to see into the true economy of God.  All workers need to regularly and physically withdraw from the economy of the world so that we can discover how our work can stand in alliance with the justice, rest, and generosity of God!

When we do not do this, we risk being part of what Ezekiel 28:18 says, "By your many sins and dishonest trade, you have desecrated your sanctuaries."

We need to examine ourselves before worship.  We need to be aware of our unclean hands when we enter the sanctuary.

If this does not happen, the integrity of our worship will be impacted.  And if we engage in unfaithful worship practices, the integrity of our work will also be impacted.  One leads to the other, either to both flourish or to both suffer.  The two are tied together and we must not forget that.

The authors of Work and Worship paint a picture that I have relished as I imagine it.  I long to see this take place in every church that is gathered.  They ask us to imagine a church gathered, that is about to have communion.  Each person brings up something of their work:  a hammer, a wrench, a tie, a muffler, a uniform, a day planner, a plate of muffins, a bottle of wine, a baby bottle, blueprints, a loaf of bread, keys, a laptop.  Children bring up crayons, soccer balls, textbooks.

These are all placed around the communion table and the pastor says, "Let's pray:

Lord of all creation, 
You have given us this work.
You have planted us in this city.
We serve in hospitals, businesses, homes, and schools,
Places to care and create, places to serve and to bless.
We come to you today grateful for all these vocations,
Grateful for the opportunity to join you and your work in this city.
And so today we present our humble and imperfect works to you.
We ask that, through the redeeming power of your Son,
You would take our fallen and finite tasks and turn them into worship,
Works of praise, pleasing to you.
In the power of your Spirit, take our meager and imperfect crafts,
Use them to feed, and serve, and bless this city.
Through the power of your Spirit, may these fruits produce an aroma,
An aroma that is sweet to you
And all who are blessed by them.
Lord, some of these callings frustrate us.
Many of these challenges cause us pain.
From injustice and discrimination at work, we pray for deliverance.
From pain, we pray for your healing.
For those straining to receive a new calling,
We pray that your voice would be heard strong and clear.
God, we confess that we do not always offer our best at your table
We confess that sometimes we do not offer our all.
We hold back.
We try to control these callings.
We think they belong to us.
We think they exist to bless us alone.
Forgive us, Lord.
  
These labors we offer today are imperfect,
Sometimes they are outright rebellious.
Forgive us for our unfaithfulness at work.
Clean our soiled hands and hearts.
Renew our minds.
By your grace and through the power of your Spirit,
Take these callings and make them yours.
Break these callings open and feed your people.
Pour these callings out and quench their thirst.

May the work of our hands,
The offerings of our whole lives
Give you pleasure and bring you praise.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Then the pastor takes the loaf of bread and the bottle of wine from the pile before them, and they have communion together.  

The people marvel at how the works of their hands (bread and wine) become the elements of a meal in which Christ says, "This is my body...this is my blood...for you."  

Our work transforms into His work.  

His work transforms us to do our work.

Full circle.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Quadruple Bottom Line: Michael, a Mechanic

This is the last of three blogs that I wanted to put out, telling the story of several Christians who are living out a quadruple bottom line in their work.  I hope that it shows how every Christian, in every workplace, can have a quadruple bottom line to fulfill the Great Commitment of Genesis 1 and 2, the Great Commandment of Matthew 22, and the Great Commission of Matthew 28.  We believe the world would look and operate differently if every Christian was able to set goals for an economic, environmental, social and missional bottom line, which is reinforced and supported by the Church when gathered.

Michael, a Mechanic

Michael is a 46-year-old mechanic who has been working on vehicles since he was a boy.  His father was a mechanic, as was his uncle, and his older brother.  He likes to say that grease runs in his veins!  The business is a small family business, on a corner lot on the outskirts of town.  Michael grew up in the church, but he had not seen much overlap between his faith and his work until his church started a workplace ministry.  Since going through the DML class in his church, he has made and applied a quadruple bottom line to his work and his home.

  1. Economic – When I learned that the purpose for business is to help the customer and employees flourish, it really changed my thinking.  I prided myself on being a Christian mechanic because I didn’t switch out good parts for bad parts, like I know other mechanics sometimes do.  But there were times when I ignored parts that needed replacing because, by not informing the customer, they would come back again and pay for labor.  Sometimes I informed them about a part going bad and slightly exaggerated the urgency of replacing the part.  But when I started to look at my business from God’s perspective, to see people flourish, to see their cars as a means for them to fulfill their calling and help others flourish, it made things clearer in my mind.  I no longer looked at my economic bottom line as the only component of my business, but the desire to see my customers flourish.  So I made a commitment to be very honest, even if it cost me a sale.  And the amazing thing is that since I did that, my business has increased.  I have had to hire two more guys to help out!  Apparently people really appreciate a mechanic that they can trust and they have started referring friends to me.  I didn’t realize that would be the case – I had resigned myself to have less and God has blessed me with more.
  2. Environmental – Being a mechanic is messy business.  We deal with a lot of old used parts as well as a lot of used oil.  The temptation to dump oil is great and the temptation to just let old parts rust out in the back of our lot is also there.  But as I thought about being a steward of creation, I began to look into other options for what to do with our waste.  First, I found out that there is a synthetic oil which is better for the environment AND is better for the customer.  In fact, it will last eight times longer for customers.  That means less oil changes for them and better for the environment – win-win!  It is more expensive so not everyone takes that option, but the number is growing.  I also found a place that will actually buy scrap parts from us.  They come buy once a month and pick it up, break them down, and then recycle them for new parts.  It doesn’t pay much at all, but it is better than letting things rust and corrode into the soil.  Our lot is cleaner and that is a good thing!
  3. Social – As I considered what it means to love my neighbor at my work, I remembered what my pastor said about the three resources we have been given:  time, treasure, and talent.  I know I don’t have a lot of treasure, but I also realized that I have a special talent in fixing cars, and I could spare some time to teach others.  My church has been talking about the growing youth group and their need for work, so I contacted the leader and offered to do a training for them on routine maintenance for a car-owner (even if they don’t own a car now, they might in the future!).  To my surprise, they ended up wanting to open it up for anyone in the church who wanted to attend.  It ended up being a lot of fun as I taught them how to change a tire, change the oil, change a battery, as well as headlights and taillights.  Since then, they have asked me to take on a couple of youth for an apprenticeship at the shop, which I agreed to do.  We had apprentices in the past, but this felt different since they were members of our church and we kept ourselves in check to do our work as an act of worship!
  4. Missional – If you are a mechanic, or you know mechanics, you know that we tend to be a pretty close-knit group.  Usually, many of us are in the same part of town, and we get to know each other pretty well.  It’s true that there is competition, but there is also a healthy camaraderie.  When my pastor asked me who God might be calling me to disciple at work, I couldn’t answer.  But what I could do (and did do) was develop my prayer chart with many of the names of these friends.  I’m already in relationship with them, but I know that I hadn’t talked about my faith with them.  I asked God for an opportunity and began to pray regularly for each of them by name.  After a couple of weeks doing this, one of the men on my list began talking to me about some family issues while we were hanging out.  My heart began to race as I realized that this was likely the opportunity I had been praying about.  With a little bit of nervousness, I asked him if he would mind if I prayed for him.  He responded with a laugh, but when he saw that I was serious, he glanced around and then said yes.  I prayed for him right then and there, and we began to talk and share more.  Slowly more people began to listen in on our discussions and started to join.  Two months later we had started a prayer group, once a week, on Fridays at lunch.  About twelve guys came to the last one!  I’m amazed.  I’m not really sure where we will meet next but I’m guessing God will help me figure that out! 

We thank God for people like Michael in this world who do their work as an act of worship, with the goal of seeing those around them flourish!

Monday, February 8, 2021

Quadruple Bottom Line: Patience, a Hotel Housecleaner

Patience, a 33-year-old mother of three from Northern Ghana, has been working as a hotel housecleaner for the past four years.  “It’s hard work,” she says, “but I’m blessed to work for someone who is a Christian and who frequently reminds us that our goal is to be a blessing for the customer.”

When Patience’s church began a workplace ministry identifying the importance of recognizing the quadruple bottom line for every Christian, she began to reflect on how that would relate to her job.  This is what she came up with:

  • Economic – I have an opportunity to help my business economically in large part by how I treat customers.  If I am rough or unkind to customers, even in a slight way, they will not come back.  If I fall behind in my time schedule and their room is not prepared on time, they may go to another hotel.  If I am not thorough, the customer may complain.  My work is very important to the economic bottom line.  However, I also can have an impact economically by how liberally or frugally I use the cleaning materials, whether I let the water run while I clean, and so on.  And so, I have to remind myself that even if I’m not in marketing or management, I have to do my work to the glory of God, as if He is my customer.  I can help the business economically, which is a witness to God, and as the business grows, it provides an income for me and my family.
  • Environmental – Keeping the grounds of the hotel clean is one thing that I do to help the environment.  I have found that when people litter, it invites others to litter as well, so keeping everything tidy contributes to others doing the same.  I have talked to management about the chemicals that we use for cleaning.  We want things to be clean and sanitized but there are products that we can use that are less harmful and toxic than others.  We have talked to others who clean about using the right amount of cleaning agents.  At our hotel, we offer guests the option to not have their bedding and towels cleaned daily in an effort to not use too much water and soap.  We are also looking into alternatives for finding replacement for single use plastic, especially in water bottles. My manager has asked me to make a proposal for other options.  I’m excited about this!
  • Social – Loving customers is easy for me because I genuinely love people.  There are some who are difficult though, so I have to remind myself that I am there to help them flourish, even if they are unkind to me.  There are a couple of regular guests who are very nice to the manager and owner, but harsh and unkind to those of us who clean.  I have decided to pray for them by name and ask God to heal the part of them that causes that unkindness.  Praying for them in that way has made it easier for me to be kind to them.  There are also two young ladies who are cleaners with me and I am having a hard time with them.  They don’t like hard work and are on their phones every chance they get.  Sometimes I have to do more because they are off hiding and less visible.  I have been asking God to help me find things about them to love, so that I can concentrate on the good, and build a relationship that can help them see their work as an opportunity to help others flourish, not just a way to get money.  Praying for them has again helped to soften my heart toward them.

  • Missional – I have mentioned that I am praying for some customers and employees, but I believe the biggest missional bottom line for me is to pray over every room as I clean it.  I pray that the person sleeping in the bed will have good and peaceful sleep.  I pray that the person bathing in the bathroom will be healthy.  I pray that the peace of God may greet each person in the doorway and that He may whisper to them through His Holy Spirit as they wake and sleep.  I pray that each room is a holy sanctuary for each person.  I see this as an important calling!

We thank God for the people like Patience in this world who do their work as an act of worship, with the goal of seeing those around them flourish!

Monday, February 1, 2021

Quadruple Bottom Line for Brian, a Paramedic

At the beginning of January, I started writing one of five booklets that Discipling Marketplace Leaders is putting together for the ministry.  The booklet I'm working on is focused on the Quadruple Bottom Line.  In some intensive work that we did in 2020 to examine the outcomes and impacts of DML, we have realized that the real behavioral and belief changes that we want to see will be measured by the application and living out of a quadruple bottom line by each Christian in every job.  

The quadruple bottom line is tied to what we call the Three Great Directives from God:  

  1. The Great Commitment from Genesis 1 and 2 (God commits the earth to us and in turn we commit to be fruitful, multiply, fill, reign, subdue, work and care for it) gives us an economic and environmental bottom line.  Our goal here is to help customers and employees to flourish.
  2. The Great Commandment gives us a social bottom line as we seek to love people in our workplace.  
  3. The Great Commission gives us a missional bottom line as we seek to be a disciple as well as a disciple maker.  

For this booklet, I started to write out the stories of people I have talked to over the years who are living out a quadruple bottom line, some without even fully realizing for themselves that they are doing it.

I've decided, over the next few weeks, to share what I have heard and continue to hear.  I hope it as enjoyable for you to read as it is for me to write, because it is so often unique and creative for how these are being fulfilled by men and women in all sorts of different workplace situations.  

I hope that you are as encouraged as I have been.

I will start with Brian:

Brian is a 58-year-old paramedic, who has been working in this field for thirty-five years.  In that time, he has dealt with many medical emergencies and has seen significant changes in his community.  He is employed by the municipal government and because of that, sees his accountability toward the taxpayer, of which he is also one!  He shares here how the quadruple bottom line shows up in his work:

  • Economic – The biggest thing that our paramedic team does to help the economic bottom line is to work on keeping people from needing to go to the hospital.  To do this, we have a program that identifies high risk clients, those who go to emergency more than once.  We set up monitoring in their homes, working with doctors and nurses, to track them and to try to catch the medical issues before it is a bigger problem.  We have been doing this for about five years and it has worked so well that other health intervention programs are beginning to look at this as well.
  • Environmental – The building that we work out of is considered “green” – it was built that way.  We have solar panels, low water consumption, and it is a very ecofriendly space.  Additionally, the management has gardens all around the building and the paramedics can plant and keep those gardens for themselves.  That helps reduce stress and gives a positive result at the same time.  We live in a community that is very respectful of the outdoors – people are nature lovers and enjoy the creation.  The symbols on our ambulances is blue and green, representing land and water – that is unusual for typical ambulances but it shows our love of creation.
  • Social – There are two components to the social bottom line:  for patients and for employees. 
    • For patients:  The opportunity to love my patients is in front of me daily.  Sadly, in our city, there is a portion of the population that were traumatized for decades, and generations removed are still dealing with the fallout of those traumas, often manifesting in drug and alcohol abuse.  It’s not unusual to see the same clients over and over and begin to get to know them.  I kneel before my locker before every shift and pray that I will love each person as God loves them and treat them as He would. 
    • For employees:  This is a tough job on medics, and it is not unusual for someone to experience an injury on the job.  Instead of laying them off, our home monitoring program described earlier is a perfect way for them to continue to work, without the trauma of an emergency.  Our team has been much happier to heal on the job then wait at home.  So it is a win-win all the way around.  However, not only is this job difficult on the body, but it is also difficult emotionally.  You see many things that show the ugly side of humanity, especially as first responders to emergency situations.  I have lost three colleagues to suicide, and because of this, we have set up a peer support app.  All the medics have this on their phone, and all they have to do is touch the app and they will reach a colleague who has been well trained to listen, encourage, and reach out.
  • Missional – There are two components to my missional bottom line as well, one relating to me being a disciple, and one to me being a disciple maker:
    • Being a disciple:  My church has always prayed for me and my work, they are an unusual church in that regard.  In response, I have invited them to hold me accountable as a fellowship, especially relating to my mental health and the temptations I might face in wanting to escape the pressures of this stressful job.  When I leave my church building, there is a message on the wall above the doors which says, “Welcome to the mission field.”  That visual reminder reminds me on a weekly basis that you don’t leave the church building and go out to a secular world.  You leave the church building and continue to be the church in the mission field.  I have learned to embrace my work as an act of worship, every facet of it, even when it is not pretty.  I need to own my own brokenness and understand the absolutely amazing results of Christ’s redemption in my own life, so that I can bring it to others.
    • Making disciples:  I started a paramedic prayer time about three years ago which met on a monthly basis for us to pray and support each other.  I have the chance to live out my faith at work and have taken opportunities that presented themselves with colleagues and patients.  My regular riding partner is not a Christ follower, but she respects my faith and I pray for her regularly.  Work is definitely worship – I don’t think I knew that early enough in my career but I am certainly glad that I came to know it several years ago. 

Brian, on the left, gathering food for distribution to those in need.

Tune in next week for another person's story on how they are fulfilling the quadruple bottom line in their workplace.  If you would like to send me your story, please email me at renita@dmleaders.org.  Thank you!

[Disclosure:  Brian is my brother-in-law.  He is married my sister Yvonne, who is next to me in age (I am the youngest of five children).  He works in Thunder Bay, Ontario.]    

Monday, January 25, 2021

Jesus Needs Donkeys, Not Horses

Donkeys are ordinary, awkward creatures.  They are normally used in many parts of Africa as pack animals, for carrying or pulling things.  They are sometimes kept as calming companions for nervous horses.

While often perceived as stubborn, donkeys will freeze when they are scared.  They prefer to plant their feet to analyze a situation rather than run in a panic.  I can't tell you how many times I've been driving in Africa only to come across a donkey standing completely still in the middle of the road.  Instead of being this being stubbornness, donkeys show a limited reaction to fear, sickness, or pain.  

If I had to choose between being a donkey or a horse, after all I've seen on how donkeys are treated, I would want to be a horse.  Horses are considered to be "magnificent" and "stately" and "elegant."  Horses are admired, well-kept, and seem to be treated with great love.

But did you know that donkeys are very intelligent with a great memory for routes?  They are also described as "fiercely loyal" to those they trust.  They are described as "smart, personable, and affectionate."  

They are less flighty than horses and eat a lot less, so more economical as well!

Beyond which animal I would want to be, which would I choose to ride?  Probably the horse still.  It is taller, giving more of a view.

But Jesus selected to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey instead of a horse.  Why might this be?

Theologians say that this is a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, but that doesn't tell us why. a donkey is selected.  

When we dig a bit deeper we realize that the donkey is an animal associated with peace, while horses are associated with war throughout Scripture.  Kings ride horses, the common person uses a donkey.  Jesus came for the common person and spent most of his life around common people.  

The donkey was also used in agriculture and trade, not the horse.  Jesus spent the majority of his adult life in business and trade.  He would have been much more familiar with donkeys than horses.

Too often I want to be a horse.  I care more about power in a battle than humility of service.

Too often, like a horse, I want to carry important people rather than carry stuff.

Too often I focus on the wrong things - the outward appearance rather than the inner attributes of loyalty and intelligence.  

Too often I look down on donkeys and interpret their quite stillness as stubbornness rather than recognizing the truth of fear and what is going on beneath the surface. 

Too often I am more concerned with how I am treated than with being sure that I am serving with humility.

Lord, I yield to your invitation to be one of your donkeys, to embrace being unimpressive.

1 Corinthians 12: 9-11:  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Monday, January 18, 2021

A Story of Two Nurses and Two Pastors

I've been thoroughly enjoying a book called Work and Worship: Reconnecting our Labor and Liturgy by Matthew Kaemingk and Cory B. Willson. In fact, I like it so much that DML is going to use this book for our next book club book!

They tell a story of two nurses and two pastors.

One nurse goes to her pastor with laments over work and theological questions about illness and death.  Pastor tries to answer, faltering a bit as he’s never worked in the health field.  He gives her a book on faith and work, and looks up another on theology and health care.  Then he tells her about a faith and work Bible study that she can attend and bring fellow nurses to.

Second nurse goes to her pastor (a different one) who makes no attempt to teach about
faith, work, or health care.  This pastor listens and asks questions about the nurse’s work and workplace joys and heartbreaks.  Then asks if he can meet with her and five other nurses from congregation for lunch at the hospital, and asks even more questions about their work – victories, failures, challenges and frustrations, prayers for their colleagues, doctors, and patients.  The pastor takes notes, commends them, prayers for them, and then invites them to worship on Sunday morning rather than to a class.  That Sunday, the pastor asks the nurses to come forward.  Elders lay hands on them and the pastor prays a prayer that has been specifically composed for them.  Following the prayer the congregation stands and commissions the nurses.  The pastor sends out the nurses with a blessing and a charge for their ministry to their patients.

In the first scenario, the church is understood as a place you go for theological answers.  It is a place of theological training.  In the second interaction, the church is a place where workers can carry out their questions, pains, and praises to God in community.  It may not always have the answers, but it can provide a set of practices and fellow workers who can bear the weight of work together, week after week.

These authors talk about how the integration of faith and work is not an intellectual concept that one has to grasp - rather it is more like a craft or a skill that needs to be practiced and honed.  The integrated life of faith and work is not an intellectual achievement or a theological discovery.  It is a cloth that has been torn into pieces and needs to be intentionally woven back together.  It is a habit to be practiced.

These are the words to which my heart cries "Yes" and "Amen."  There are many books on the theology of work, which is good!  So much discussion about business as mission, which is also good!  But there is so little practical application for the nurse, or the factory worker, or the gas station attendant, or the receptionist for how to live this out on a daily basis.

Realizing that much of our formal worship when we are gathered - our preaching, our songs, our prayers - have very little to do with how we spend most of our week makes us long to find intentional ways to weave this together.  Because much of our worship when we are gathered is passive (consisting of reclining, listening, and absorbing) rather than active, our "liturgical muscles" are weak and can atrophy.  That makes it difficult to carry the worship forward to Monday, let alone know how to weave it into our daily challenges and opportunities.

Realizing how ill equipped our members are to know how to weave our work and worship together is still a challenge that we face as the global church.  

This past week, we hosted a meeting with some of the Business as Mission Global Congress folks on how to integrate the Church into the Business as Mission movement.  For the most part, this exciting movement has done great things with Christian business owners but has done the work outside the church.  I was disappointed with the turnout for this meeting as well as the lack of clarity on how to move this forward, but we are going to keep trying.  Please pray along with us for this!

And at the same time, DML is writing a series of five booklets moving from the theological to the practical.  This month, I am writing the booklet on Living out the Quadruple Bottom Line.  We are trying to weave together the practices of work and worship for every Christian in their workplace.  If you would continue to pray that these writings may be God-breathed, we would appreciate it!

As you go into your work this day and this week, may God give you eyes to see how your work is an act of worship!  And if you have stories to tell me of how you make this happen, I would love to hear from you!  Please email me at renita@dmleaders.org.