Category: Vocation

hannington1 - CopyBishop Hannington longed to see an awakening to generosity in his town of Bundibugyo, Uganda, where many viewed giving more as a matter of duty than heartfelt joy.

Yet what at first seemed like a significant challenge soon grew even steeper. After fleeing their town for two years due to the chaos of civil war, the community returned to Bundibugyo to find their homes completely destroyed.

“The houses had been torn down, the farms had nothing in them, churches had been demolished, schools had been devastated,” Hannington explains. “So we started from scratch.” With no money, shelter, aid, or resources, the people didn’t know what to do, and surely the temptation to look inward and “protect my own” pulled stronger than ever.

But then Hannington remembered: They did indeed have resources.

Rather than turn to the West or others outside their community for aid and assistance, Hannington encouraged his neighbors to look in their own hearts and hands. God had already given them what they need, and that, too, was designed to be poured out yet again.

Hear their remarkable story:

As Hannington explains, he encouraged them to connect and apply their God-given gifts to the God-given spheres of culture and creation that surrounded them:

I asked, “How soon can my people raise to the challenge of funding, not only their immediate needs, but their futures as well. I told the people at that time that God has given us everything we need to rebuild our community. And what he needed was for others to make themselves available to him and he was going to use us. And those of us who are mechanics, and those of us who are business people, they can use their gifts and trade they have to build their community.

Slowly and steadily, transformation happened. Churches and schools were rebuilt, generosity continued to spread, skills and resources were shared and invested, wealth was created, and the community began to revive.
It’s a powerful example of how transformational our stewardship can be when it’s rooted not in self-interest or self-preservation – the wisdom and pleasures of which shall surely wither and fade – but in the divine generosity of a heavenly father who so loved the world that he gave.

If war and destruction could not stop the servanthood and generosity of Bundibugyo, what’s stopping us?

Prior to opening Alabaster Coffee in downtown Williamsport, PA, founder Karl Fisher was in full-time vocational ministry. For many, that sort of transition happens in reverse, but for Fisher, moving from churchplace to marketplace amplified the scope of his service in new and unexpected ways.

“I have already viewed my life as, ‘How are we bringing the Gospel to the community?’” Fisher says. “But now, in many ways, not being a vocational pastor and being in the marketplace, there are definitely aspects of that that give me a broader platform.”

Struck by Alabaster Coffee’s culture and product, Evan Koons spoke with Fisher about his business and the ways our creative service can spread the Gospel and transform culture:

In a world of accelerating industrialization, society is learning to remember and better appreciate the dynamics of community and craftsmanship in business. As Fisher aptly demonstrates, these are natural priorities for Christians, compounded by something a bit more permanent at the root: a love for people rooted in the love of Jesus.

Christians in creative service have a call to meet economic needs, but we do so by connecting the tangible to the transcendent, the temporal to the eternal.

coffee3Though small and local businesses like Alabaster have a unique way of clarifying these things, such features are not confined to awe-inspiring coffee shops or artisan bookmakers and bakers. The call to creative service spans across culture, from factory workers to farmers, oil riggers to artists, welders to Wall Street CEOs.

“How we do our work, how it’s accomplished, the attitudes that we have to it, is very much an act of worship,” Fisher concludes. “My ability to work and the means to work — the way that I view that should absolutely be joyful and worshipful.”

For more on how creative service connects to God’s economy of all things, see Episode 3 of For the Life of the World.

carolers2Over the last century, Christianity has declined in social influence across much of the Western world, leading many to believe it has little place or purpose in public life.

In response, Christian reactions have varied, with the more typical approaches being fortification (“hide!”), domination (“fight!”), or accommodation (“blend in!”). In each case, the response takes the shape of heavy-handed strategery or top-down mobilization, whether to or from the hills.

And yet the cultural witness of the church ought to flow (or overflow) a bit differently. For Greg Forster, it has less to do with “cultural lever-pulling,” and a whole lot more to do with joy.

“Christianity is losing its influence in contemporary America because people outside the church just don’t encounter the joy of God as much as they used to,” Forster writes in his latest book, Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It. “…The joy of God can do what cultural lever-pulling can’t do.”

As we experience the joy of God in Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, our attitudes and activities are transformed. As Christians, our primary task is not to take that transformation and funnel it toward end-game tactics, but to faithfully embody it across culture: blessing our neighbors and cultivating civilization, whether in the family, our work and the economy, or citizenship and community (Forster’s three main categories). (more…)

sanders-roweI mostly blame high school guidance counselors for our current confusion about college.

Don’t get me wrong, most counselors are fine, well-intentioned people. When I was a recruiter for the Marines in the mid-1990s I met dozens of them and appreciated the work they did. But as a group they tend to have a more-or-less unstated mantra: All kids should go to college.

If a high school student expressed a very strong interest in the military or trade school (or was in danger of dropping out of school altogether), they might encourage them to follow those paths. But for the most part, every student—even the ones barely able to pass their high school curriculum—were encouraged to go to college.

Nowadays that mentality seems to be shared by a majority of parents and politicians. It’s taken to such an extreme that Bernie Sanders, a U.S. Senator and presidential candidate, wrote on Twitter:

Providing a path for kids to go to the University of Iowa is a hell of a lot cheaper than providing them a path to go to jail. #iacaucus

Later that same day, Sanders tweeted:
(more…)

children1With our newfound economic prosperity and the political liberalization of the West, we have transitioned into an era of hyper consumerism and choice. This involves all sorts of blessings, to be sure, but it brings its own distinct risks.

Whether it be materialism or a more basic idolatry of choice, such distortions will be sure to diminish or disintegrate any number of areas across society. But the deleterious effects on the family and children are particularly pronounced.

Throughout most of human history, children were most often the brightest light in an otherwise bleak existence of poverty, toil, and high mortality. For those with little freedom, few resources, and zero opportunity, children were a blessing and a bounty: a gift (and not just for the labor). Now, however, presented with a range of vocational options and the wealth and leisure to support them, our priorities have significantly shifted. We are prodded toward career or education or adventurism first, teased by a platter of technological tools to further prevent a child’s intrusion into our planned prospects. (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
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0611When we think about “stewardship,” our minds tend to revert to the material and the predictable. We think about money or the allocation of resources. We think about growing crops or creating goods or financial investment and generosity.

For the Christian, however, stewardship goes much further, weaving closely together the tangible and transcendent in all areas of life. “Stewardship is far more than the handling of our money,” write Lester DeKoster and Gerard Berghoef. “Stewardship is the handling of life, and time, and destiny.”

In For the Life of the World, God’s oikonomia is compared to a song, with our activity in each sphere of creation harmonizing together even as it plays in its own distinct way and through its own “modes of operation” — whether in family, business, education, or elsewhere. God has given us stewardship as a gift, granting the responsibility to manage his house and the availability to partner with the divine in that remarkable task.

C.S. Lewis points to this reality in The Magician’s Nephew, where he writes at length about the origins of Narnia and the creative call of humankind. (more…)

box2Contrary to popular perceptions, people with disabilities are equipped with unique skills and creative capacity, giving them a powerful role to play in the world economy, whether as restauranteurs, goldsmiths, warehouse workers, marine biologists, car washers, or Costco employees.

Unfortunately, those gifts are not always recognized by the marketplace. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for those with disabilities is more than double the average for those without.

Thankfully, that blind spot is slowly being revealed, whether by forward-thinking entrepreneurs and executives or in the case of Vanderbilt’s Kennedy Center, university researchers and church congregations.

Thanks to a significant grant from the Kessler Foundation, researchers at the Kennedy Center are working with local churches to find new ways to provide work for young people with disabilities: (more…)