Category: On Call in Culture

decision-2_300Over at Desiring God blog, Sam Crabtree offers 16 simple principles, each accompanied by Scripture, to help reorient our thinking about the work of our hands, particularly among those in executive and administrative roles.

Highlighting our persistent human tendency to neglect our Creator, Crabtree cautions against the subtle temptation to begin operating “as if we really can execute on our tasks all by our lonesome, without the constant help of our God.” What distinguishes a distinctly Christian executive?

Some examples:

6. God-centered work is not work with God as an appendage or afterthought.

He is the core, the root, the source, the origin, the power, the point of it all.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24–25)

8. God-centeredness implies, requires, and builds humility.

What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7) (more…)

Faithful in All God's House

I recently shared a lengthy excerpt from Faithful in All God’s House, highlighting the investment-return motif that appears throughout the Bible. “All of God’s gifts to mankind are as a divine investment on which the investor expects full return,” write Berghoef and DeKoster.

Several readers pushed back on the analogy, interpreting it to mean that God rolls out his divine plan according to earthbound assumptions, as if “prudent investment” means being beholden to the outputs of a narrow, materialistic cost-benefit analysis.

It’s troubling on many levels that “prudent investment” has come to reckon imaginations of something so imprudent for so many. We humans, the “agents of return,” are called to live within a framework much more varied, complex, and mysterious than the confines of a Wall Street banker, despite those times when such considerations have their place. We serve a God of love, and just as that love is deep and distinct from distorted human variations, we are called to live and think and act according to an economy not of our own constructing. (more…)

Flourishing Churches and CommunitiesWhat distinct features does Pentecostalism bring to our discussions about stewardship and whole-life discipleship?

In Flourishing Churches and Communities, one of three tradition-specific primers on faith, work, and economics, Dr. Charlie Self provides a response, exploring how Pentecostal considerations influence our approach to such matters.

In the introduction, Self offers a basic portrait of Pentecostalism and “Spirit-filled” Christianity that is easy to connect with some of the key drivers of stewardship — vocation, virtue, responsibility, obedience, discernment, decision-making, etc.:

Spirit-filled Christianity touches all of life. Living in the power of the Holy Spirit includes active participation in the economy, work as worship, and “providential increases” (John Wesley) in the influence of the kingdom of God…

…The heart of Pentecostal identity is the present reality of the work of the Holy Spirit, who empowers all believers for gospel service. This includes the expectation of continual encounters with God that enrich calling and effectiveness and release believers to follow in the delivering, healing, and reconciling work of Jesus Christ. (more…)

SpiritualDangerGreerPeterPeter Greer has spent his life doing good, from serving refugees in the Congo to leading HOPE International, a Christian-based network of microfinance institutions operating in 16 countries around the world. Yet as he argues in his latest book, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, “service and charity have a dark side.”

As a study from Fuller Seminary concluded, only one out of three biblical leaders finished well, despite the good they accomplished during their lifetimes. How can Christians avoid the spiritual dangers that persist in pursuing the good of our neighbors?

Greer’s book offers plenty of answers, and in an interview with On Call in Culture, he was kind enough to offer a glimpse.

As a young man, you noticed a certain brokenness in the aid industry—manipulation, phoniness, failure to uphold the dignity the human person. Yet you began to recognize these same traits within your own heart. Why does the position of the heart matter? Why isn’t it good enough to get busy?

In 2002, a volcano erupted in Congo. I went to help. Up high on a platform, I handed out blankets to refugees. And a photographer was snapping photos. But I wasn’t thinking about the refugees. My thought was: I can’t wait until people back home see these photos of me.

That moment helped me see how it’s possible to appear to be serving God but actually be making our service all about us. Unless we rediscover why we serve, our service can become a way to promote our image, heightening vanity and pride. (more…)

Colonial Church of Edina

Colonial Church of Edina

Pastor Daniel Harrell had a heart for missions, so upon unexpectedly receiving roughly $2 million from a land sale, his Minnesota church was energized to use the funds accordingly. Though they had various debts to pay and building projects to fund, the church was committed to allocating at least 20 percent to service “outside of their walls.”

“The sensible way to spend the 20 percent would have been to find a successful service agency and write the check,” Harrell writes, in a recent piece for Christianity Today‘s This Is Our City.* “But I hated that idea. Surely we could leverage this money in a way that would let us get personally involved.”

The process proceeded as follows:

We had the money. We had the wisdom and experience, especially in fields related to business. What we lacked was our particular calling (or the energy to follow it through). What if we challenged young adults in our church and wider community to generate an idea that could become our calling?

I proposed we take $250,000 and sponsor a social entrepreneurial competition. We could invite innovators ages 35 and younger to submit project proposals with gospel values of grace, justice, love, redemption, and reconciliation. We’d ask that applicants affirm the Apostles’ Creed, because we wanted our effort to promote Christian faith. Our church would provide funding and expertise, networking, creative community, and acceleration toward successful launches. We’d use business acumen to make the projects sustainable and stress measurable outcomes. (more…)

“Detroit developed best when it was bottom-up,” says Harry Veryser, economist and professor at University of Detroit Mercy. “When small communities, small parishes, small schools were formed… that’s when Detroit prospered.”

In a recent discussion on what makes cities flourish, Chris Horst and I argued that cities need a unique blend of local community action, good governance, and strong business to thrive. Cities like Detroit have monstrous and complex problems, and the solutions will not come from additional top-down tweaking and tinkering. Rather, any such solutions will stem from complex networks of strong families, life-giving churches, healthy businesses, and intersecting institutions, all of which is furthered when governments rightly relate to their citizens. (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
posted by on Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Faithful in All God's HouseFrom Gerard Berghoef and Lester DeKoster’s Faithful in All God’s House: Stewardship and the Christian Life:

The Lord God is a free enterpriser. This is one reason why Karl Marx, who was not a free enterpriser, rejected God.

God is a free enterpriser because he expects a return on his investments. Jesus’ parables of the talents (Matt. 25:14–30) and of the ten minas (Luke 19:11–27) clearly teach us that God expects interest on the talents he invests in each of us. This is implied in the Lord’s command: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

In short, all of God’s gifts to mankind are as a divine investment on which the investor expects full return. We know from the whole tenor of the Scriptures what the nature of that return should be: so putting our talents at God’s disposal that others derive benefit from the gifts given to us. This is summarized in the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). (more…)

At Desiring God, John Piper explains how both the act and product of work are blessings, and that the God-designed essence of work is creativity — “not aimless, random doing, but creative, productive doing.”

In addition to avoiding the hump of idleness, this means being ever diligent, discerning, obedient, and energetic in the work of our hands:

When the book of Proverbs tells us to go to the ant and learn how to work hard and work smart (Proverbs 6:6–11), and when Paul tells us to “work heartily, as for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23), they are not cursing us. They are pointing to our glory and our joy…

…Work is a glorious thing. If you are starting to grow lazy, I summon you back to joy. God made us to work. He formed our minds to think and our hands to make. He gave us strength — little or great — to be about the business of altering the way things are.

That is what work is: seeing the world, thinking of how it could be better, and doing something — from the writing of a note to the building of a boat; from the sewing of what you wear to the praying of a prayer.

Come, leave off sloth and idleness. Become what you were made to be. Work. (more…)

Peter Greer has spent his life doing good, from serving refugees in the Congo to leading HOPE International, a Christian-based network of microfinance institutions operating in 16 countries around the world. Yet as Greer argues in his latest book, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, “service and charity have a dark side.”

The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, Peter Greer

Pointing to a study by Fuller Seminary’s Dr. J. Robert Clinton, Greer notes that “only one out of three biblical leaders maintained a dynamic faith that enabled them to avoid abusing their power or doing something harmful to themselves and others.” From King David’s power trip with Bathsheba and Uriah to Jonah’s end-of-life anger and selfishness, the Bible is filled with examples of self-destruction amid service.

“When I looked to Scripture for guidance, what I found troubled me,” Greer writes. “Men and women who had heard from God—who even performed amazing miracles—were just as likely to blow it as everyone else.”

And alas, in all of our discussions about how to best serve our neighbors, how often do we focus on surface-level externalities to the neglect of the human heart? How often do we narrow down our “metrics for success” to exclude any discussion or contemplation about the motivations driving our actions or the potential for pitfalls along the way? (more…)

Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe has made a career out of elevating down-and-dirty labor, constantly reminding us to never take for granted the hands of those who keep society moving. The show was recently cancelled, but Rowe continues to spread his message, most recently in the cover story of the latest issue of Guideposts magazine (HT).

The article is a moving tribute to Rowe’s grandfather (“Pop”), who was skilled at a variety of trades, from electric work to plumbing to welding to carpentry. “He could do pretty much anything,” Rowe writes.

Rowe would tag along with his grandfather on various projects, watching him work and repair things with ease. “Pop was a magician, and his talents a great mystery,” Rowe writes. “As his would-be apprentice, I mimicked his every move.”

Yet without Pop’s “mechanical gene,” Rowe often felt inadequate and incapable. After one Saturday spent building a patio, he let his frustration show: (more…)