Posts tagged with: service

halo-effect1As church attendance continues to decline across the West, many have lamented the spiritual and social side effects, namely a weakening of civil society and the fabric of community life. What’s less discussed, however, is the economic impact of such a decline.

In a new study published by Cardus, Dr. Michael Wood Daly of the University of Toronto explores this very thing, researching the “economic value” of ten Toronto congregations, and finding “a cumulative estimated economic impact of approximately $45 million,” based on a combined budget of only $10 million. The study refers to this as the “halo effect,” noting the church’s value to the community, whether through social capital, community services, or physical resources and infrastructure.

The research builds on an existing framework from a pilot study done in 2010 by Partners for Sacred Spaces and the University of Pennsylvania, which resulted in similar findings. Focusing on 12 congregations, the Pennsylvania study found an economic contribution of roughly $52 million, concluding that local congregations can “now be viewed as critical economic catalysts.” Both studies evaluated a range of variables in the seven key categories, including (1) open space, (2) direct spending, (3) education, (4) magnet effect, (5) individual impacts, (6) community development, and (7) social capital and care. (more…)

retired-workAs Christians in the modern economy, we face a constant temptation to limit our work and stewardship to the temporal and the material, focusing only on “putting in our 40,” working for the next paycheck, and tucking away enough cash for a cozy retirement.

Such priorities have led many to absorb the most consumeristic features of the so-called “American Dream,” approaching work only as a means for retirement, and retirement only as a “dead space” for recreation and leisure.

Yet as retiree Glynn Young reminds us, God never intended for our work and stewardship to end or sunset as we get older. Though our “day jobs” and economic activities may conclude, there is always plenty of work to be done:

As the time approached for me to seriously considering retiring, I discovered something: retirement is not a biblical concept.

Moses led the Israelites until he died and God buried him somewhere in Moab. David was king until he died. Paul and Peter continued their ministries until they were martyred. Even the Apostle John, exiled on Patmos, the only disciple who (it’s believed) died of old age, was still working, writing down the vision given him.

The Bible has no retirement road map. But it does have a concept that applies to retirement in the twenty-first century, and that concept is stewardship.


When it comes to basic definitions of work, I’ve found great comfort in Lester DeKoster’s prescient view of work as “service to others and thus to God” — otherwise construed as “creative service” in For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles.

Our primary focus should be service to our fellow man in obedience to God, whether we’re doing manual labor in the field or factory, designing new technology in an office or laboratory, or delivering a range of “intangible” services and solutions.

But alas, in an economy as gigantic, complex, and information-driven as ours, it can be all too easy to feel like robotic worker bees or petty consumer fleas, isolated and atomized as we toil and consume in a big, blurry economic order. The layers of the modern economy tend to conceal this basic orientation, and thus, many of us could use some reminders.

In his latest profile for Christianity Today, Chris Horst highlights an area where work’s universal ethos of service is abundantly evident: the hospitality industry. (more…)

“Good work…does not disassociate life and work, or pleasure and work, or love and work.”

These words, written by Wendell Berry, pulse throughout the work of Laremy De Vries, owner and chef of The Fruited Plain Café, a sandwich and coffee shop in Sioux Center, Iowa.

For De Vries, our work unites general revelation with special revelation, yielding an opportunity for “valuing the created world not only insofar as it belongs to God in a sphere sovereignty sense, but also in the general revelation sense.” The work of our hands reveals far more than we tend to believe.

In a video from Our Daily Bread, he explains this further, showing how such a perspective transforms his approach to his business and community:

As De Vries explains, our work is meant to reveal the glory of God: (more…)

6757253663_216cfb780c_b“This is not what I thought I’d be doing at twenty-seven.”

So says Stephen Williams, who, while enjoying and appreciating much of his daily work at his local Chick-fil-A, continues to feel the various pressures of status, mobility, and vocational aspiration.

“I love the company, and I am grateful for the environment here and for the paycheck,” he writes in a series of stirring reflections. “But it’s humbling to tell many of my accomplished, high-flying friends that I am not currently doing something more ‘impressive’ with my life.”

As Williams goes on to demonstrate, there is meaning and beauty to be found in our daily work, no matter what our service or station.

Throughout his day, he not only feeds hungry mouths and maintains the bricks and mortar, he engages in a range of relationships. He welcomes an elderly homeless man, offering him a drink of water and a place to get warm. He shakes hands with day-to-day “regulars,” exchanging the typical banter. He assists an exhausted mother, praying for her and her kids under his breath. He plays “Knight Stephen” with young “Sir Wyatt,” a regular patron of kids’ meals.  (more…)

edmund-burkeThe Republican Party is fracturing on the topic of trade. Alas, in the same corners where free and open exchange was once embraced as a propeller for economic growth and dynamism, protectionism is starting to stick.

In response, free traders are pushing the typical arguments about growth, innovation, and prosperity. Others, such as myself, are noting that the trend has less to do with economic illiteracy than it does with a protectionism of the heart — a self-seeking ethos that wants “economic freedom” only insofar as it poses no threat to the preferred wage, vocation, or plot of dirt.

We have forgotten that work is not about us. It’s about serving others, and adapting that service when the signals say, “yes.”

On this, the “communitarian” wing of conservatism tends to push back, accusing free traders of being overly comfortable with social disruption and displacement, prioritizing efficiency and cheap widgetry over “stability” and “social well-being.”

Such critics would do well to heed Edmund Burke, one of the movement’s heroes. Burke was a staunch supporter of free trade not because he was indifferent to disruption, but because the alternative would cause much, much more.  (more…)

trade-globalization-exchange-collaborationIt’s become rather predictable to hear progressives promote protectionist rhetoric on trade and globalization. What’s surprising is when it spills from the lips of the leading Republican candidate.

Donald Trump has made opposition to free trade a hallmark of his campaign, a hole that his competitors have been slow to exploit. In the most recent CNN debate, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich each echoed their own agreement in varying degrees, voicing slight critiques on tariffs but mostly affirming Trump’s ambiguous platitudes about trade that is “free but fair.”

Why so much silence?

Unfortunately, as Tim Carney details at length, voters are biting and swallowing what Trump is peddling, and conservatives are struggling to find solutions that sell. “Conservatives may scoff at this Made in America mindset as economically illiterate,” he writes. “But politically, it seems to be a winner.” (more…)