Insights from the latest Barna research finds that 77 percent of Christians prefer to share their faith through their lifestyle rather than their words, is there a place for more intention in our workplaces?
Dr. Ben Ries, in his article The Kingdom Coming Near (Barna, The Christian and Work, side-bar pp. 66-67) notes that “our best efforts to make the local church more accessible, attractive and engaging often leave us with a strong sense that we are accomplishing something but very little evidence that our testimony is any more effective than it was before. The good news is that there are those among us from whom we can learn a different way. There are men and women who sit in our pews who walk into board meetings, classrooms, warehouses, offices and interactions with clients with a deep sense that God is there and that God is up to something in this world. They are teachers, lawyers, executives, non-profit leaders, social workers and healthcare professionals who have developed a sense that their work is not simply something to endure, but the very place they experience God’s presence and transforming power. Like the 70 sent in Luke 10 (NRSV), they go to their places of work expecting to find people of peace from whom they can learn and on whom they can depend. They see their work not as a means to an end – that is, a place to find people to bring to church; they see their work as the location where healing begins and God’s Kingdom comes near.”
The blessing of work
After the fall, work was ordained by God as a blessing. Being fruitful and multiplying – filling the earth and governing it (Genesis 1:28; 2:15) was part of our design and purpose. Somehow, our tradition of dissecting secular and sacred shows up in the way we view what calling is about. We still rate ministry to others as high and technological effort as low on the calling scale.
Barna’s book, Christians at Work, surveyed Christians on which endeavours should be considered as a calling. For the two categories ‘usually a calling’ or ‘sometimes a calling’ the chart on the right outlines the results.
For pastors, missionaries, worship leaders, and parents, calling is more than a profession operating out of an office.
Professions such as firefighters, pediatricians, musicians and military officers have a lower percentage of calling and still others like athletes, plastic surgeons, financial advisors, accountants and even school janitors show little sense of calling.
In part one, we noted that Cory Maxwell-Coghlan, in a side-bar titled “The myth of ‘sacred vs. secular’ jobs” states “when we consider some professions as ‘secular’ and others as ‘sacred’ we risk saying God’s hand is absent from some professions. But if we’re able to see that culture-building commanded of us in the original mandate is part of the blueprint for God’s masterpiece, then it becomes possible to serve God in industries like business, politics, media and technology.”
Losing the Christian voice
In a world where Christians as a whole seem to be losing their influential voice in areas like politics, culture and education there is some effort to stimulate thought that believers who integrate faith and work – rather than compartmentalizing the two – have something significant to contribute.
Barna laid out four questions for his respondents. 1. I can clearly see how the work that I am doing is serving God or a higher purpose. 2. I find purpose and meaning in the work I do. 3. I am looking to make a difference in the world. 4. As a Christian, I believe it is important to help mold the culture of my workplace.
Individuals who strongly agreed with all four were categorized as Integrators (28%). Those with low agreement were categorized as compartmentalizers (34%). Onlookers were somewhere in the middle (38%). Integrators “invest skills and resources wisely, take considered risks, look for ways to improve and work for the good of others. In the process, integrators gain perspective on their world outside their cubicles…”
Believers who integrate faith and work tend to “see their work as purposeful and a good fit.” 77% of integrators feel “called to or made for their current work …” and 68% “say they are very satisfied with how well their work matches their calling.” They see a strong alignment between their work and their gifts and education, they are satisfied with their job and optimistic about their future. They also reveal that “satisfying personal lives correspond to satisfying work lives.”
Barna examines integrators among the generations. Millennials and Gen Xers have a higher proportion of integrators (38%/39%). Boomers test out at 22%. (However, 42% of Gen Xers don’t integrate work and faith – 59% of this group are in the middle of balancing family and career. Hope and satisfaction seem bound together. Integrators plan to make friendships with non-Christian colleagues.)
Identifying five hallmarks of Integrators
Barna also identifies five ‘hallmarks’ of integrators in their approach to work and faith.
1. They see work as spiritual – they see faith as foundational to their identity and consider God’s gifts as given.
2. They set the bar high – for their work and for themselves. They value personal satisfaction, good for the world and competitive pay while acting ethically, speaking truth, doing excellent work, practicing humility and bringing grace and peace to others.
3. You’ve never truly made it – integrators believe there is more to learn and more to do.
4. Embrace curiosity and risk – there is an openness to professional opportunities with a desire to explore and learn.
5. Don’t bury your talents – integrators see their “unique calling and capability as something to be cultivated.”
57% of integrators “regard stewardship as a combination of using the earth’s resources wisely, giving an offering to church and using their God-given talents (63%). They are likely to “express their generosity through service and volunteering.”
Barna sees a key segment of believers making a difference in their workplace as they integrate faith and best practices. Perhaps there is still hope for motivated Christians to raise their voices once again in a way that they can be heard and appreciated.