Category: On Call in Culture

The following flowchart comes from “Theology That Works,” a 60-page manifesto on discipleship and economic work written by Greg Forster and published by the Oikonomia Network.

Given our tendency to veer too far in either direction (stewardship or economics), and to confine our Christian duties to this or that sphere of life, the diagram is particularly helpful in demonstrating the overall interconnectedness of things.

Oikonomia flowchart, diagram, faith, work, economics

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Matthew 25When discussing the Christian call to service, we often hear references to Matthew 25, where Jesus speaks of a King who separates “sheep” from “goats” – those who are willing from those who refuse.

To the sheep, the King offers the following:

Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

To the goats, the King says, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

It’s all very hearty, but the final line is what seems to stick in popular discourse: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”  (more…)

Subway at True Bethel Baptist Church

I have previously expressed my appreciation for the popular TV show, Undercover Boss, in which business leaders from large corporations spend several days working alongside lower-level employees.

In an episode on Subway, Don Fertman, the restaurant chain’s Chief Development Officer, goes undercover at several locations across the United States. Most of the episode includes your typical Undercover Boss fare — a bumbling executive, dedicated workers, teer-jerker employee recognitions — but I was struck by a particular branch that Fertman visits along the way.

Located in the heart of Buffalo, New York, the restaurant is located in the same building as True Bethel Baptist Church, and further, is owned and operated as a franchise by the church itself. The reason? To provide employment and job training to the surrounding neighborhood. (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
posted by on Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Flourishing Churches and Communities, SelfIn the latest issue of The Living Pulpit, Presbyterian pastor Neal Presa reviews Flourishing Churches and Communities, Charlie Self’s Pentecostal primer on faith, work, and economics.

Presa heartily recommends the book, emphasizing that Self provides a theological framework that not only challenges the church, but points it directly to the broader global economy:

Flourishing Churches and Communities is a welcome addition to recent books in my own Reformed tradition on an integrated and holistic theology of work, from the likes of Tim Keller (Every Good Endeavor) and Mark Labberton (Dangerous Act of Worship). Self beautifully brings together evangelism and justice, where, far too often in the church, persons or groups are labeled as emphasizing or specializing in one or the other; the Great Commission and Great Commandment call for evangelism and justice to work as glove and hand.

But Self goes a step further. He challenges pastors and local churches to equip and encourage believers to see their entire lives, everything that is done under the sun, as arenas fur God’s work, canvasses in which God is painting a wonderful tapestry. Caring for the wideness of human relationships means not merely writing a check and putting it in the offering plate or supporting a philanthropic cause; Self exhorts us to see that everything that we do necessarily has impact on other persons, and therefore, we need to do our work with excellence, integrity, and compassion. His theological framework brings the work and the conversation to the broader space of our global economy, the sacred responsibilities of Christ’s followers to live, move, and have our being within and from the life and heart of God. This is putting people over profit. It is being prophets in the workplace, in our communities, in our homes. It’s the Gospel over goods; it’s the Savior over services. (more…)

Mission Drift, Peter Greer, Chris HorstPeter Greer recently wrote a book about the spiritual danger of doing good, encouraging Christians to deal closely with matters of the heart before putting their hands to work. “Our service is downstream from the Gospel message,” he said in an interview here on the blog. “If we forget this, it’s just a matter of time before we self-destruct.”

Just a year later, writing alongside co-author Chris Horst, he’s released another book, Mission Drift  this time focusing on the spiritual risks faced by Christian organizations, churches, and the leaders who drive their missions. Their thesis: “Without careful attention, faith-based organizations will inevitably drift from their founding mission.” Assuming such organizations are founded out of obedience to God, such missions are not, of course, ours for the drifting.

Highlighting a number of cases, from Yale University to ChildFund to the YMCA, as well as the struggles they’ve faced at their own organization (HOPE International), Greer and Horst demonstrate that it is all too common and convenient for Christian organizations to move toward whole-scale secularization. Such a digression is the “natural course,” they argue, and without the proper foundation, safeguards, and determination, “drift is only a matter of time.”

Yet it is not inevitable. Thus, in an effort to help others prevent such a course, the bulk of the book focuses on how organizations can stay “Mission True” — serving, adapting, and growing without changing their God-given identity. “Mission True organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs,” they write. “They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do. They define what is immutable: their values and purposes, their DNA, their heart and soul.” (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
posted by on Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Annette Gabbedy is a business owner and expert designer and goldsmith. She was also born without fingers, a disposition many might consider a “disability,” particularly in her line of work.

Yet, as you’ll see in the following video, having created and traded her wares for 23 years, Gabbedy sees no reason for this to inhibit her creativity and contribution to society.

As Gabbedy explains:

I tend to really look at people with fingers and think: Well, how can you manage with fingers, because they must get in the way? It’s just your own perceptive of how you look at yourself, and for me, I was born like it, so I’ve never known any different. I’m quite normal. I’m not disabled at all. (more…)

John Wesley“[Wealth] is an excellent gift of God, answering the noblest ends. In the hands of his children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked: It gives to the traveller and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of an husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless. We may be a defence for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain; it may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death!” –John Wesley (“The Uses of Money”)

From How God Makes the World a Better Place, David Wright’s new Wesleyan primer on faith, work, and economics: 

What allowed John and Charles to have such a great impact? The central emphasis of their ministry was the belief that people matter because they are created in the image of God. They also realized that people had struggles and misplaced priorities because the image of God was damaged in the fall. Therefore, their life and ministry worked to restore the lives of people that had been damaged by the fall. These beliefs led them to care for people who had been forgotten. It also led them to create structures that would help disciple people and create healthy, flourishing communities.

…[John Wesley] taught and lived spiritual principles that were drawn straight from the Bible and that were shaped and applied according to the best knowledge of his day, the wisdom of godly people, and the reality of human experience. (more…)

Work-Life-BalanceUpon the recent birth of our third child, I took a brief “vacation” from “work” (quotes intended). The time spent with family was special, joyous, and fulfilling, yet given the extreme lack of sleep, the sudden rush of behavioral backlash from Toddler Siblings 1 and 2, and a host of new scarcities and constraints, it was also a whole heap of work.

Needless to say, when I arrived back at the office just a week later, I felt like I was visiting a spa of sorts. Tasks and demands beckoned, but when lunchtime rolled around, I could at least eat my sandwich in peace. When I returned home later that evening, “play time” was ready and waiting, pre-packaged with a peculiar blend of laughter and stress, imagination and fatigue.

Point being: Sometimes “work” is a lot less work than “life.”

We’re all familiar with the cultural calls for “work-life balance,” prodding us to level out our “day jobs” with the deeper and broader things of “life.” But though such a notion may intend to cut through legitimate ills — idols of busyness, productivity, money, power — it’s not all that suited to the ultimate solution. (more…)

The Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics just released a nice little video that captures the importance of vocation and the beauty of work, elevating freedom as the primary driver of human flourishing.

Watch it here:

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At 14 years old, Tim Harris dreamed of owning his own restaurant. He was born with Down syndrome, so his parents weren’t quite sure what to think. Yet soon after Tim began his first job as a host at Red Robin, it all started to make sense.

“[Customers] were visibly happy to see him and Tim really developed a following,” says Keith Harris, Tim’s father. “People would come to the restaurant specifically when he was working. As we sat there, we started thinking about how we could harness that for Tim’s benefit.”

Years later, thanks to lots of hard work and the support of his family, Tim’s Place is now open for business, serving “breakfast, lunch, and hugs,” according to the restaurant’s web site, the last of which is the owner’s specialty. For all we know, Tim may be the first and only restaurant owner with Down syndrome.

Learn more about his story here:

“I do not let my disability crush the dreams,” says Tim. “People with disabilities, they can get anything they set their minds to. They’re special. We are a gift to the world.” (more…)