Do you work to live or live to work? In a digitally driven, sleep-deprived, stressed-out world, the answer to this may not come easy, even to believers who look to integrate faith and work.
Sixteen years ago, at a Stanford commencement address, Steve Jobs shared his visionary banner for the next generations. “You’ve got to find what you love. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Workers continue to migrate from one job to the next looking for that elusive ‘soul satisfaction’.
In a cultural milieu, slowly being drained of meaning and purpose, work has been presented as an option for resurrecting a sense of value and significance. Yet, for many, reimbursements for tasks accomplished are not enough for the challenges of securing home and family life. Multi-generational family units, which have been torn apart, can no longer cover for each other by taking on an extra part-time job. Working has become an effort in survival, with the sense of calling a distant thought in the shadows of busyness.
Paul, a tentmaker, says “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23). He tries to redirect us from love of our work to love of the One who created work. Reality seems to show, however, that time for work is putting us in direct conflict with time for corporate worship.
A huge opportunity
Barna believes the Church has a huge opportunity – a responsibility even, given the profile of the emerging generation – to incorporate deliberate thinking about work into its discipleship and evangelism efforts. Researcher, Tim Elmore claims the next generation is already combining opportunity, need and ambition through technology to launch their own enterprises – much like two teens in 1907, who started UPS with a borrowed $100 and a bicycle, transformed that dream into an $80 billion messenger service with almost half a million employees in 200 countries delivering 3.8 billion packages a year.
Bill Denzel (Executive Director of Barna’s Vocation Project) and David Kinnaman (President, Barna Group), state that, “Our culture is already in the midst of a complete revision of the ways we work – an amazing moment when, thanks to technological advancements, workers are both fearing for their jobs and facing unprecedented new opportunities to create the career of their dreams.” (Christian at Work, p.9). Barna’s research shows people want meaningful work. “The time is ripe for a new imagination, new definitions and a new theology of work that speaks to who we are and how we are uniquely made. These conversations will happen with or without the Church. Our hope is that Christians will lead the charge in rethinking what work means and what changes we need to make in order for work to lead to our personal and collective flourishing.”
Roxanne Stone, editor in chief at the Barna Group, writes that the top desire for participants is for a good night’s rest. 53 percent claimed to be mentally or physically overwhelmed in the past month. 71 percent were overwhelmed with information and few were satisfied with their work/life balance. She says, “Spirituality requires presence, mindfulness, contemplation, observation. Spirituality rarely happens in the margins of our schedules. And who among us today even has any margin?” (Barna, 101)
She states, “If you are serious about your faith and your spiritual health, you must make time for it. And not just for the practical disciplines of it, but for the blossoming of it. The blossoming that comes from rest, from emptying your mind of your to-do list and your jammed inbox, from wandering and wondering and observing both your own inner life and the world around you.”
Barna’s research shows that followers of Jesus are not good at taking Sabbaths and finding rest for their soul. Whether it is the ‘Puritan Work Ethic’ or a ‘Christian Pragmatism’, we over-identify with “productivity” and “accomplishment”. Our outer world is so demanding, we willingly sacrifice our inner world and hardly notice that it might be withering within us.
Growing since 1984, the Barna Group has surpassed the one million mark in interviews and is a go-to source for many organizations trying to understand a complex world. In the conclusion of this report Christians at Work, we read, “This report aims to point to the place where these two economies [human enterprise and God’s kingdom] overlap. And our vision is that church leaders, as individuals whose own calling is to know and share the values of the Great Economy, might encourage others to move through the human economy virtuously and with an awareness of the spiritual underpinnings of their profession.”
What we do glean from this study is that Christians who seek to be genuine, faithful, curious and helpful in their working lives also report being generally more satisfied with the whole of their lives. The consistent trending of one’s relationship with God and with the Church is conducive to all of the above. In looking at the Integrators of faith and work and the responses in our practitioner interviews, we encounter an undeniable zeal for learning more, taking risks, serving God and making an impact that dispels any sense of work as drudgery [p.106].
But the data also reveals some disparities and deficiencies. The majority of Christian workers, particularly those who aren’t engaged in a church, still fight to discern and act on a calling in their professional lives. Studying responses by gender is like watching a vocational seesaw, with women thriving during singlehood and men thriving during fatherhood. Young adults, though ambitious and idealistic, lack some spiritual inclinations as workers. Older adults, with one foot out the door of the workplace, might need some encouragement to finish strong [p.106].
The final section of the report is filled with a list of questions for Christian leaders which are conducive to deep reflection for the body of Christ on how we are equipping our current and future generations with a godly perspective and desire toward work of all callings. The questions might just be worth the price of the book.