Hi, Please Read the article What is Business as Missions? ATTACHEDAnswer the following questions:What is Business as Missions?What is the primary focus of Business as Missions?How is Business as Missions different than being a missionary?How does Business as Missions reflect a Christian worldview in the marketplace?Does this concept of Business as Missions meet a need in the international business world? If, not why not? If so, what need and how does it meet that need?Provide a detailed write up that demonstrates clear, insightful critical thinking. The response should be 200 words in length and is to include a minimum of two sources properly cited and referenced: Anonymous. (2016). What is business as missions? Retrieved from http://9marks.org/article/journalwhat-business-mis…Holley, W. H., Jennings, K. M., & Wolters, R. S. (2012). The labor relations process (10th Ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western.MarApr2013
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PASTORING CHRISTIANS FOR THE WORKPLACE
What Makes Work “Christian”?
Scripture teaches us how to serve God through our work, not just after work. Here are five features of what that looks
By J.D. Greear
7 Things Pastors Should Teach Those in the Marketplace
The marketplace can seem dizzyingly diverse, yet it’s where many church members spend most of their time. What
should pastors teach them?
By Lukas Naugle
Pastoring the Wrongly Ambitious
As Christians, we are called to be ambitious for Christ, yet many seem ambitious only for the things of this world. How
can you pastor them?
By Jamie Dunlop
Preaching to Women who Work in the Home
To care well for the women in your church who work in the home, remember their curse, their context, and their culture.
By Bari Nichols
WANTED: BUSINESSPEOPLE FOR THE CHURCH
Pastor, Teach Your Businesspeople to Tend the Vine
Pastors and businesspeople bring different gifts to bear for the body. One way pastors can help businesspeople thrive
in church is by teaching them to disciple.
By Sebastian Traeger
Businessperson, Help your Pastor Build Trellises
It is easy for businesspeople in a church to feel misunderstood and underutilized. But this businessman advises, ask
not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church.
By Sebastian Traeger
What is Business as Missions?
Business as missions is an old idea that’s opening new doors in international missions.
By the Executive Director of Access Partners
RESOURCES ON WORK
Practical resources for pastoring Christians for the workplace :
• A six-week Sunday School Class on Christians in the Workplace from Capitol Hill Baptist Church
• A five-week Sunday School Class on Money from Capitol Hill Baptist Church
• Audio and Video from the Gospel at Work Conference
BOOK REVIEWS ON WORK
Book Review: The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life
By Os Guinness
Reviewed by Drew Bratcher
Book Review: God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life
By Gene Veith
Reviewed by Benjamin Wright
Book Review: Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work
By Tom Nelson
Reviewed by Samuel Emadi
Book Review: How the Church Fails Businesspeople
By John Knapp
Reviewed by Nik Lingle
Book Review: Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture
By R. Paul Stevens
Reviewed by Byron Straughn
OTHER BOOK REVIEWS
Book Review: Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City Page 53
By Timothy J. Keller
Reviewed by Jonathan Leeman
Book Review: Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission
By Tim Chester and Steve Timmis
Reviewed by Bobby Jamieson
Book Review: Church Transfusion: Changing Your Church Organically—From the Inside Out
By Neil Cole and Phil Helfer
Reviewed by Todd Pruitt
Taking Aim at Everyone with Carl Trueman
Mark Dever asks Carl Trueman about holocaust denial, secularization, “no creed but the Bible,” and everything else
under the sun in this far-ranging conversation.
Posted on March 1, 2013 *Listen Online Now »
Polity is For Everybody with Mark Dever, Chad Van Dixhoorn, and Hunter Powell
How does church polity connect to our discipleship as Christians? Why is sound church government critical to
evangelism and missions? Jonathan Leeman asks Mark Dever, Chad Van Dixhoorn, and Hunter Powell.
Posted on February 1, 2013 *Listen Online Now »
* This audio might not be supported by your particular device
he topic of work is a popular one right now among Christian writers and thinkers, which makes sense. When the
Monday morning sun breaks through the bedroom curtains, the last residues of Sunday’s joys afforded by the Word and
the company of the saints, still lingering lightly in the mind, can dissipate with the sigh, “Time to make the donuts.”
Pastor, how do you prepare your members for Monday’s alarm clock?
It is easy for armchair theologians to over-exalt the activities of 9 to 5, and talk as if Christians can build eternity now.
Never mind Ecclesiastes. In theologically sound circles, ironically, the greater danger is not triumphalism, but a graying
out of the next world. Never mind heaven.
No, don’t go those ways, pastor. Your church needs a picture of Bunyan’s Christian stumbling yet steadfastly clambering
toward the celestial city, hands stretched forward, eyes fatigued but fixed on the horizon.
Still, the eternal life does begin now for the Christian. And faith helps us see that we participate in the character of
the creator through our work. The sharpened pencil says that he is a God of planning and intentions. The populated
spreadsheet speaks to his analysis and oversight. The choreography of traffic lights communicates his affirmation of
order. The clean sheets on the hospital bed say that he is a God who leans down with compassion. And then of course
God rests to relish the good work of his hands.
What a joy and privilege it is to work, and so speak if only in whispers of our generous and delegating God, even as you
make the donuts. Maybe an extra dollop of frosting says it more loudly?
9Marks devoted the last two issues of the Journal to lay elders. It seems time to help pastors think about Christians in
the workplace. Pastor J.D. Greear meditates on what is “Christian” about work. Lukas Naugle, a marketplace maverick,
points to the lessons that have helped him. Jamie Dunlop and Bari Nichol will help you think about specific groups—the
over-ambitious and the worker in the home.
I am especially excited about Sebastian Traeger’s two articles on how the pastor and the business person can better
understand and serve one another. In fact it was his ideas that first kicked off the idea of this whole issue. Also, check
out the link to Traeger’s “Gospel at Work” conference audio resources, especially Michael Lawrence’s talk. And don’t
miss the full manuscripts for one church’s adult Sunday School classes on work and money.
Finally, the article on Business as Missions is worth photocopying and distributing among the business folk in your
By J.D. Greear
What Makes Work “Christian”?
hen someone thinks about their work being “Christian,” all kinds of disturbing images come to mind:
Opening a beauty salon called “A Cut Above” or a coffee shop called “He Brews.”
Working awkward evangelism moments into sales calls.
Defiantly saying “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays” in the checkout line or sneaking a “Have a
blessed day” into a salutation.
Putting up posters about Bible study options at lunch or sending out group emails about sightings of the Virgin
Mary in Ecuador.
Perhaps you remember the 2004 incident of an American Airlines pilot who, in his pre-flight announcements, asked all
the Christians on board the plane to raise their hands. He then suggested that during the flight the other passengers
talk to those people about their faith. He also told passengers he’d also be happy to talk to anyone who had questions.
Understandably, it freaked a lot of people out: the pilot of your airplane talking to you about whether or not you’re ready
to meet Jesus?1 While they might admire the guy’s zeal, many Christian businesspeople think, “I just don’t think I could
do that and keep my job.”
Many Christians think that you just can’t serve the kingdom of God at work, and that kingdom work happens “after
hours”—volunteering at the church nursery, attending small group, going on a mission trip, serving at the soup kitchen.
Our work is a necessity that must be endured to put bread on the table. God’s interest in the fruit of our labors is
primarily that we tithe off of it.
The Bible offers quite a different perspective. Scripture teaches us how to serve God through our work, not just after
work. The Bible speaks clear and radical words to people in the workplace, showing us that even the most menial of jobs
has an essential role in the mission of God.
The Bible speaks clear and radical words to people in the
workplace, showing us that even the most menial of jobs has an
essential role in the mission of God.
In fact, it is surely not coincidental that most of the parables that Jesus told had a workplace context, and that of the
forty miracles recorded in the book of Acts, thirty-nine of them occurred outside of a church setting. The God of the Bible
seems as concerned with displaying his power outside the walls of the church as he does within it.
I want to suggest five qualities that make work “Christian.” By “Christian” in this context I mean “done through faith in
Jesus Christ.” Therefore, work that is Christian will have five qualities: (1) creation-fulfilling, (2) excellence-pursuing, (3)
holiness-reflecting, (4) redemption-displaying, and (5) mission-advancing.
CHRISTIAN WORK IS CREATION-FULFILLING
When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, he didn’t just tell him to keep away from certain bad apples. God placed
Adam in the garden “to work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Remember that God said this before the curse, indicating that
work wasn’t a punishment inflicted on Adam for his sin, but was a part of God’s original design. The first purpose God
had in mind for Adam wasn’t to read a Bible or pray, but to be a good gardener.
The Hebrew word ‘abad, translated “work,” shows just what God means: it has the connotation of preparing and
developing. Adam was placed in the garden to develop its raw materials, to cultivate a garden. Christians can fulfill
the created purpose of God in the same way, by taking the raw materials of the world and developing them. This is
happening all the time by both believers and non-believers. Contractors take sand and cement and use them to create
buildings. Artists take color or music and arrange them into art. Lawyers take principles of justice and codify them into
laws that benefit society.
This is God’s plan. Martin Luther, the famous German reformer, put it this way: “When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we ask
God to ‘give us this day our daily bread.’ And he does give us our daily bread. He does it by means of the farmer who
planted and harvested the grain, the baker who made the flour into bread, the person who prepared our meal.”
What this means is that a Christian’s secular vocation helps to mediate God’s active care in the world. God is active
through a person’s work to ensure that families are fed, that homes are built, that justice is carried out. Too many
Christians begrudge their work when they ought to revel in the fact that God is using them, in whatever small part, to
fulfill his purposes.
Another great example of this comes from the classic movie Chariots of Fire. The movie follows a Christian track athlete,
Eric Liddell, in his preparation for the 1924 Olympics. At one point in the film Liddell is confronted with the objection to
his career that there are more pressing matters in life for a Christian than merely running. Liddell responds, “I believe God
made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” At some point or another, while
working at something we love or are good at, many of us have had a similar feeling. It is as if we feel inside of us, quite
literally, “This is what I was made for.”
CHRISTIAN WORK IS EXCELLENCE-PURSUING
If our work is done “unto God,” it should be done according to the highest standards of excellence. Paul says, “And
whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through
him” (Col. 3:17). That should be true whether we receive any reward for our work or not, or whether anyone ever notices.
Let’s be honest: it is demoralizing to work for someone who does not give us credit for what we have done, or worse,
someone who only responds by offering critical feedback. A bad boss can make otherwise satisfying work an absolute
terror. In a situation like that, most people lose the motivation to work with excellence. “After all,” they may think, “what
is the point of working hard? No one will notice either way, and even if they do, I certainly won’t get the credit for it.” That
may be a reasonable response, but it is not a Christian one.
Christians ought to pursue excellence in their work not because they want to impress their boss, or because working
hard leads to better pay, but because they work first for Christ. C. S. Lewis once noted how valleys undiscovered by
human eyes are still filled with beautiful flowers. Who did God create that beauty for, if no human eyes would ever see it?
Lewis’ answer was that God does some things only for his own pleasure. He sees even when no one else does.
Christians ought to pursue excellence in their work not because
they want to impress their boss, or because working hard leads to
better pay, but because they work first for Christ.
This perspective adds new significance to every task believers perform, even if they know they will never be recognized.
They no longer require the approval of others in their work, because they no longer work primarily for others. They work
first for Christ, and he deserves their best.
In reality, however, very few jobs go unnoticed, especially if done poorly. A Christian with a poor work ethic or sloppy
academic performance gives the world a terrible testimony of Christ. He may say with his mouth that “Jesus is Lord,” but
when he doesn’t care to turn in assignments on time or respect his boss, he is saying even louder, “I myself am lord.” In
working with excellence, Christians not only serve God, but also display an attitude of service to the world.
CHRISTIAN WORK IS HOLINESS-REFLECTING
If Christians work for God, that should inherently make them work with excellence. But knowing that God sees
everything we do should also make us work with integrity. Work that is “Christian” will conform to the highest standards
Paul goes on in Colossians to explain that everything we do is done with respect for our watching Master in heaven
to whom we will give an account (Col. 3:23-25). That means, Paul says, even when our boss is a jerk (and many of the
people to whom Paul is writing were literally owned by their boss!), Christians do their work unto God. Our work ought
to make it obvious that we serve a God of justice and kindness. This means that Christian bosses ought to be less
concerned with what they can get away with and more concerned with the fact that they are accountable to a heavenly
Master. Christian employees ought not to cut corners or lie about how much work they have been putting in. Business
ethics really matter because in them we mirror the character of God. God says that “unjust balances”—cut corners,
fudged balance sheets, skimped time cards, and so on—are an “abomination” to him (cf. Prov. 11:1). Poor business
ethics are no trifling matter.
CHRISTIAN WORK IS REDEMPTION-DISPLAYING
If Christians were to act in their jobs with equity and fairness, that alone would set them apart. But those who have been
touched by the gospel do not merely attempt to hold to high ethical standards: they live lives with a radically altered
perspective of gratitude. What Christ has done by redeeming us to the Father produces a natural response of grace
I recently heard a story about a young college graduate who landed a job on Madison Avenue in one of the advertising
world’s most prestigious firms. Shortly after she got there, she made a mistake that cost the company nearly $25,000.
Madison Avenue is not a world defined by grace, and she expected to be fired by the end of the day. Her boss, however,
went before his board of directors and convinced them to allow the blame for her mistake to fall on him instead. When
this young woman heard what her boss had done, she came to him in tears. She asked him why, in that cutthroat
atmosphere, he would choose to cut his own throat for her. He answered by sharing how Jesus had done a very similar
thing for him, stepping in the way of the wrath that he deserved. Because of the great grace that Jesus had shown him,
he wanted to display a similar mercy to others when he could.
This means approaching our work with adjusted “bottom-lines.” We no longer merely angle for increased position or
to maximize personal profit. If truly touched by grace, Christians in business begin to leverage their resources to bless
those in need.
Some Christians may object to a perspective like this. Grace is something that applies in the spiritual realm, they may
say, but not in business: “I worked for what I have—I earned it!” they might say. A person may certainly feel like she has
earned everything that she has, but where did she get her tough-minded work ethic? Her intelligence? These were the
grace of God. By whose decree did she grow up in the United States instead of in a Brazilian favela? Certainly not by her
own—this also was the grace of God. The very air she breathed and food she ate were provided to her as gifts of grace.
Jesus taught that the kingdom of God belongs to those who are “poor in spirit”—those who recognize that all they have
is a gift of grace. The “middle class in spirit,” who believe they are merely reaping the fruit of their labors, will know
nothing of the kingdom of God, because they have no concept of the magnitude of the grace of God in their lives. When
someone understands how much they are indebted to grace, they will begin to see every situation they are in, whether in
business or the church, as a place not to be served, but to serve.
The call to leverage our lives for the kingdom of God is not the special assignment of a sacred few. All disciples of Jesus
are called to see their lives as seeds to be planted for God’s kingdom. Jesus said that if our life were a party, it should be
thrown for those who can’t pay us back. Sometimes I think we’ve invented this whole language of “calling to ministry” to
mask the fact that the majority of people in our churches are not living as disciples of Jesus.
CHRISTIAN WORK IS MISSION-ADVANCING
Work done by disciples of Jesus should be done with a view toward the Great Commission. In Acts we see that God
used non-vocational ministers (perhaps businesspeople, doctors, servants, who knows!) to get the gospel around the
world to places that the Apostles never went. Luke notes that the first time the church “went everywhere preaching the
word,” the Apostles were not engaged (Acts 8:1). He also notes that when Paul finally arrives in Rome to preach Christ
there, he is greeted by hospitable “brothers,” who seem to have been there for quite some time (Acts 28:7). As Steven
Neill notes in his classic History of Christian Missions, of the three great church planting centers in the ancient world
(Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome), not one was founded by an Apostle.
In the same way, Christians in the marketplace today are able to gain access more easily to strategic, unreached places.
Globalization, revolutions in technology, and urbanization have given the business community nearly universal access.
Secular skills are needed to give Christians access to countries that would otherwise swiftly reject their presence. The
countries most in need of a gospel presence—those in the so-called “10-40 window”—are devastated by poverty and
joblessness. These places need both the words of the gospel and the tangible reflection of God’s love that businesses
can provide. Millions in this region are without work and without the knowledge of Christ.
One example, though dozens could be provided, is the nation of Iran. Iran is an unreached area in desperate need of
the gospel. As of today, there are 10 million seeking employment in Iran, a number that could eclipse 20 million within
the next 15 years. How are places like this to be reached? Iran can be reached through the efforts of average Christian
businesspeople taking their skills and expertise overseas. This may not be the path for every Christian, but perhaps God
is challenging you to consider leveraging your work for his mission-advancing purposes.
Not every Christian, of course, will be led to perform their business in an unreached people group. But disciples of
Jesus should always do their work with a view toward the Great Commission. A “missional vision” for Christian work is
to do it well, and to do it, if at all possible, somewhere strategic. Proverbs 22:29 says, “Do you see a man skillful in his
work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” Believers who do their work well can be greatly
used in the work of the Great Commission. Their excellence in business can give them audiences with the “kings” and
influencers of the most unreached peoples in the world.
God is interested in how Christians do their work, and he wants to be involved in it. Your work can make an eternal
difference in the lives of those you work with, those you work for, and those you serve through your job. Allow the
transformation of the gospel to change the way you look at and do your work. You were redeemed by grace—now live
out that grace in the context of your job. You may never look at work the same way again.
1 John Dickson, The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission (Zondervan, 2010), 172-173)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of the Summit Churches in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and is the author, most
recently, of Stop Asking Jesus Into Your heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (B&H).
By Lukas Naugle
7 Things Pastors Should Teach
Those in the Marketplace
he marketplace, the everyday world of trade and economic activity, is where most people spend the majority of their
days. In modern history, the marketplace has played an unparalleled role in shaping our world. Globalization has turned
countless local markets into one massive global market. Advances in technology and communication have managed to
bridge enormous geographical and cultural gaps with blinding speed.
Meanwhile, the language and norms of the marketplace have changed the way other social institutions, including the
church, think and operate. Even family life has been shaped by the marketplace in seemingly indelible ways.
Yet the marketplace is not a single homogenous entity. It is a complex organism that defies easy definition. The
marketplace experience of a plumber is not the same as a venture fund manager, and the work of a banker is different
from the work of a teacher. Indeed, work happens
in a variety of locations (from home, remotely, in the air, from a car, in an office, in a cubicle, in a warehouse, in a
field, in a sky rise, underground, on the water),
in a variety of employments (freelancers, employees, contractors, consultants, employers, sole proprietors),
and in a variety of organizations (firms, small businesses, large corporations, franchises, practices, partnerships,
governments, schools, nonprofits).
Therefore, as a pastor seeks to teach biblically about marketplace dynamics, it is helpful for him to deepen his empathy
and broaden his understanding of the vocations represented in his congregation.
So what should pastors teach to those called to the marketplace?
1. Teach them how Scripture informs their work. One of the most foundational texts for understanding work is the
“creation mandate,” where God commands Adam, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have
dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth”
(Gen. 1:28). Though it is impossible for a pastor to keep up with the ever-growing complexity of social and economic
development since the Garden of Eden, pastors do have the opportunity to devote themselves to the timeless wisdom of
Scripture. Helping those in the marketplace love and live the wisdom found in Proverbs will shape how they understand
their daily work, and how it can be used to glorify God and to serve their neighbors.
2. Teach them to fear the Lord. The marketplace is a place of fear. A worker may fear his boss, an executive may fear
very public failures, and others fear market instability, unemployment, and government regulations. Globalization, media,
and technology all serve to amplify the sense of not being in control. Like anger and pride, acting from fear produces a
range of insecurities, sins, and failures.
Throughout Scripture, the people of God are commanded not to be afraid. Paul reminds us, “God gave us a spirit not of
fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7). We are, however, commanded to fear God: “The fear of the Lord
is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10; Ps. 111:10). Unfortunately, there are many professing Christians whose work life
is dominated by fear and anxiety, which cuts them off from living in the wisdom of God.
3. Teach them to pray. Many Christians do not feel equipped to pray about their work, much less to actually pray in
the marketplace. Given the fear that is so rampant in the marketplace, coupled with hostility toward Christian faith and
practice, the best thing for workers to do is to pray. Yet the kinds of prayers needed in the marketplace may not be the
kinds typically heard on Sunday mornings. Pastors have the opportunity to teach Christians how to pray for courage,
against temptation, for integrity, that they might work with skill, for their coworkers, and that God would establish the
work of their hands. And in response to the many blessings of work, they should be equipped to give thanks.
Pastors have the opportunity to teach Christians how to pray
for courage, against temptation, for integrity, that they might work
with skill, for their coworkers, and that God would establish the work
of their hands. And in response to the many blessings of work, they
should be equipped to give thanks.
4. Teach them that their ultimate worth isn’t found in their performance. There is massive pressure in the
marketplace for workers to earn their keep, meet their quotas, and climb the ladder. Without vigilant resistance,
Christians too can come to believe they are nothing but a job title, a level of responsibility, or a unit of production.
The psalmist teaches that, unlike man, God does not judge us like one evaluates the strength of a horse. Rather, “the
Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” (Ps. 147:10-11). At the end of the
day, our approval and identity are found in being adopted as children of God by grace through faith in Christ—not on the
basis of anything we do for ourselves.
5. Teach them they are more than “useful” to their local church. There is a subtle tendency for pastors to see
members of their congregation in terms of their utility in supporting church programs or contributing to the budget.
This temptation becomes even greater when a church member is known to be talented in their craft or successful in
the marketplace. In this regard, pastors apply the same pressures on them that they likely experience throughout the
week from their employers, leaders, and supervisors. Before churches are about budgets and programs, they are about
people. The members of a congregation need to know they matter for more than just their utility.
6. Teach them that they’re not inferior to pastors and missionaries. Many churches, perhaps unwittingly, subtly
propagate the myth that pastors and missionaries matter more, or are intrinsically holier, than carpenters, call center
workers, or entrepreneurs. The church may employ pastors and send missionaries, but the silent majority of kingdom
work is done by those of diverse callings in the marketplace. Pastors should find ways to disciple members for the
variety of vocations represented in the congregation, and not just those in so-called “Christian ministry.”
7. Teach them to love what they do, and to do it well. It is easy to love one’s work for a time, but when circumstances,
opportunities, relationships, and rewards change, difficulty and discouragement quickly set in. A certain degree of this
is inevitable, but if work is dominated by a sense of pessimism or fatalism, the worker will not do his work well, he will
not be content, and his gospel witness will shrivel up and die. Believers need the reminder of Colossians 3:23 that in
a broken world they ultimately work for the Lord. In every task and in every season, it is this truth that provides the
motivation to do all work with passion and excellence. Pastors face difficulty and discouragement in their work as well.
But those who have found new, life-giving ways to rekindle the love for what they do will in turn be able to share that
wisdom with those in different occupations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lukas Naugle, who attends Redemption Church in Phoenix, Arizona, is a principal at Marketplace One and works
alongside entrepreneurs and thought leaders from around the country.
By Jamie Dunlop
Pastoring the Wrongly
am a pastor, and I am addicted to work—just as I have been for most of my life. Like the participant at Alcoholics
Anonymous who considers himself a “recovering alcoholic” after thirty years without a drop of booze, I will consider myself a recovering work addict until the day I reach heaven, because it is so ingrained in my flesh.
Perhaps you identify with this. Or perhaps “addicted to work” sounds as preposterous to you as “addicted to root
canals.” Either way, let me share with you some advice from my experience pastoring those in my church (including
myself) who are wrongly ambitious.
Notice that I said “wrongly ambitious” and not “overambitious.” That’s because for the Christian it is impossible to be
overambitious. Work was created before the Fall (Gen. 2:15) and will continue on into heaven (Isa. 65:21-23). And so the
apostle Paul tells us to “make the most of every opportunity” (Eph. 5:16). If that’s not ambition, I don’t know what is.
As Christians, we are called to be ambitious for Christ. And yet many seem ambitious only for the things of this world.
How do we pastor them? I will give you five root causes behind wrongheaded ambition, and four ideas of how to help
those who have fallen into these traps.
WHY DO PEOPLE BECOME WRONGLY AMBITIOUS?
Why do people become wrongly ambitious?
Root Cause #1: Insecurity
Let me describe a dinner conversation several years ago with five CFOs of Fortune-500 companies. “I’ve got a theory
I want to test,” said one of them. “How many of you are the oldest child of divorced parents?” Every hand went up but
one. “Right. Driven in your career because you can’t shake your perceived failure as a child?” All heads nod.
How many of the uber-confident, successful overachievers in your congregation are driven out of insecurity and
fear rather than strength? Insecurity may well propel these Christians to the heights of their profession, but it will
severely hinder their ability to serve Christ in their profession. Insecurity can stem from a broken home, past abuse, an
unimpressive education, a struggling marriage, disappointing children, or a host of other factors.
Striving to make our mark on the world can be right and godly. Think of Moses’ asking God to establish the work of his
hands in Psalm 90. But striving to promote ourselves rather than God is self-serving and idolatrous.
Root Cause #2: Impatience
Joe knows his wife has had a terrible day with the kids; it’s thirty minutes before he would normally go home; and he’s
accomplished everything on his to-do list. So why does he feel so reluctant to leave early? Is it because he doesn’t love
his family? Is it because he’s not allowed to leave before closing or because he’s afraid people will think less of him for
leaving early? Let’s assume the answer to all these is “no.” So why the reluctance? Because his self-worth is wrapped
up in his ability to get things done. And so leaving thirty minutes early feels like a denial of his basic identity. He wants to
accomplish things with his life—which is a good instinct. In fact, it was part of God’s plan for humanity in Genesis 1-2.
But when, in search of that impact, he elevates one particular calling in life (his job) above others that God has given (his
family), he shows himself to be impatient with God’s plans. He’s like King Saul who couldn’t wait for the prophet Samuel
to make an all-important sacrifice to the Lord. Saul’s goal (defeating God’s enemies) was right on. But instead of trusting
God’s plan to get there, he went with his own plan instead.
Similarly, much wrongheaded ambition comes from trying to achieve something good (impact on this world) through
human wisdom rather than God’s good plan. We become obsessed with a job at the expense of other things because
we’re not willing to trust that obeying God’s commands across all of our callings is the best way to achieve the eternal
impact we desire. God’s plans often seem circuitous and inefficient—but in his wisdom he really does know best.
Root Cause #3: Financial Fear
Sometimes wrongheaded ambition has nothing to do with identity, self-actualization, or any other existential desire, but
is merely about money.
Ron bought a house that was on the upper end of his budget—and that was before he lost his job as a regional sales
manager. Now that he’s found work in a different field, he feels intense pressure to perform or else his family will lose the
house, which would also involve leaving a great school district, years of friendship with neighbors, and a lifestyle they’ve
come to enjoy.
Most likely, the level of stress he feels at work is echoed through his family’s life, as everything seems to be about having
enough money. Paul’s words to Timothy come to mind: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought
nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that”
(1 Tim. 6:6-8).
Root Cause #4: Escape
You’ve been trying to convince Mary to get more involved with her small group, but work commitments always get
in the way. Yet as you learn more about Mary’s family life, the reason for her interest in work comes sadly into focus.
Her marriage is on the rocks and her kids seem to be a disgrace—but at work she’s a hero. In survey after survey,
modern Americans say that their main motivator in the workplace is recognition—more than money, more than career
advancement, more than great coworkers.
What if her job is the only place where Mary feels she gets recognition? What if her job is the only place where Mary feels
she deserves recognition?
Root Cause #5: No Good Models
Javier grew up with a father who greatly blessed their city through his work as district attorney, and Javier is determined
to follow in those footsteps. Unlike his father, however, Javier wasn’t blessed with a natural mind for the law, and so
the only way he is succeeding at work is by making it the only thing that matters in his life. Beyond that, all of the other
Christians in his life are exactly the same—or at least appear that way. Orthopedic surgeon, car dealership owner, judge,
real estate magnate: the elders and other leaders in his church all seem to fulfill Javier’s vision for worldly and spiritual
“success.” What Javier doesn’t know is that none of these church leaders allow their jobs to put a stranglehold on the
rest of life like he does. His problem is a lack of models. He sees few examples of people with ordinary ability who are
viewed as “successful” in his local church. And he lacks a window into the lives of those who have been recognized as
FIVE PASTORAL RESPONSES
Now, having read through these five root causes, you undoubtedly have your own ideas of how you might pastor
these various church members who suffer from wrongheaded ambition. But perhaps I can add to your list of potential
responses. Here are four pastoral responses from my own experience and the experience of others.
Response #1: Encourage Satisfaction in a Paycheck.
This idea could be easily misunderstood. But in 21st-century industrialized societies, recognition and self-actualization
have replaced money as the primary motivation for employment in our society (see root causes 1 and 2 above). This
is a problem for the Christian because nowhere in the Bible do we find self-actualization as a motivation for work.
Instead, we see that work exists primarily to put food on the table and to allow us to be generous (Eph. 4:28). By God’s
grace work can accomplish much more than that: it allows us to image God in Genesis 1:27, adorn the gospel in Titus
2:10, and provide enjoyment in Ecclesiastes 2:24-25. But all these motivations are also true of every other calling we
have in life: being a husband or wife, a father or mother, a citizen, a church member, an evangelist, and so on. The only
motivation that is truly unique to employment is financial compensation. So help your congregation come to learn the
wonderful satisfaction of working for money.
Do the wrongly ambitious in your church take satisfaction in their paycheck? Or is their satisfaction primarily from other
perceived benefits of their job such as status or a sense of significance? Or, to put the question another way, does
discontent with work stem from a lack of status or significance? Most of the wrongly ambitious would be helped if they
saw their paycheck as a more significant motivation for why they work. If they view money as a stewardship from God—
and the enjoyment of money as the enjoyment of stewardship—then money can become a wise and godly motivator in
Of course, if they use money selfishly in an attempt to reduce dependence on God (see root cause #4 above), the
opposite will happen. But if you give your people a godly vision for money, and teach them that it is godly to take
satisfaction in their paycheck (no matter how big or how small), you will help the wrongly ambitious shift their motivation
in the workplace from what is idolatrous to what honors God.
Useful book: Managing God’s Money by Randy Alcorn
See also: the Capitol Hill Baptist Church adult Sunday School manuscripts for a five week class on money.
Response #2: Teach on what is valuable—and challenging—about pursuing excellence
Often, a wrongly ambitious attitude toward work is wrapped up with a wrong idea of pursuing excellence at work (see
root causes 1 and 4 above). But rather than simply telling people what not to do, we need to help them understand what
a right view of excellence is. In Colossians 3:23 we are told to work “as for the Lord.” In other words, no matter who your
earthly boss is, behind that man or woman stands Jesus Christ, your true boss. And while your earthly boss has only
given you assignments related to the workplace, Jesus has given you assignments related to all of life.
A wrong view of excellence optimizes life for only one assignment: the assignment of the workplace. This is how a godly
desire for “excellence” leads to the ungodly obsession that we call “perfectionism.” But once people grasp that Jesus
is their real boss, two things happen. First, a pursuit of excellence becomes an act of worship: a right response to who
Christ is and what he has done. Second, a pursuit of excellence in the workplace is placed in the context of all the
other assignments Christ has given, which extend far beyond the workplace. As you teach on the biblical foundation for
excellence, you will displace the counterfeit concepts of excellence that are so prevalent in today’s workplace.
Useful book: God at Work by Gene Veith
See also: the Capitol Hill Baptist Church adult Sunday School manuscripts for a six week class on Christians in the
Response #3: Highlight examples of godly ambition.
“Ambition” should not be a dirty word in your congregation. After all, the apostle Paul uses the translated Greek word for
“ambition” to describe his desire to preach the gospel in Romans 15:20. When faced with a wrongly-ambitious member
of your congregation, your desire should never be to scale back their ambition but to redirect it (see root causes 3 and 5
above). But if the only examples of “ambitious people” your congregation sees are those who are wrongly ambitious in
their careers, they will struggle to be ambitious as Christ intends them to be.
As you have opportunity, then, highlight as examples to your congregation those members who are ambitious for God’s
kingdom and whose ambition for Christ has resulted in success in the workplace. In addition, highlight those members
who are ambitious for God’s kingdom but have decidedly normal careers in the workplace. Both types of examples can
be useful in their own way. Neglect the first category and you’re suggesting that there is no spiritual value to be found in
the workplace. Neglect the second and you communicate that only “successful” people need apply for service to Christ.
Useful book: Rescuing Ambition by Dave Harvey.
Response #4: Advertise the value of a life built around the congregation.
Most Christians will make better use of their lives for the kingdom of God if they pick just one or two churches through
their adult lives and stick with them (see root causes #2 and 5 above). Of course, there are exceptions to this. But as a
rule, most people are not the exception. The relational ministry we build in the local church is not the only thing of eternal
value in this life, but it is one of the primary ways that we can build for eternity. You will serve the wrongly-ambitious well
if you advertise this fact.
How can you do this? First, generally, encourage people to structure their lives so that they can have a vital relational
ministry in the church. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they sign up for a bunch of church programs. It does mean
that they think about where they live and what kind of job they hold and what kind of leisure habits they develop in light
of how well they can be invested in relationships at church.
God’s plans for how we can best spend our lives often seem
circuitous and counter-intuitive, and his plan that we invest heavily
in the local church is a prime example of that. Help your people trust
God’s plan and show them what it means to do this well.
Second, teach on the spiritual value of those things that compete with the local church for members’ time. What is the
eternal value of what I do at my job? What is the eternal value I’m building through ministry to my family? What is the
eternal value of a vacation? If your people cannot articulate the good they are accomplishing in those other spheres of
life, they will have a difficult time making wise tradeoffs when those things seem to compete with the local church for
their time and affection. As I mentioned above, God’s plans for how we can best spend our lives often seem circuitous
and counter-intuitive, and his plan that we invest heavily in the local church is a prime example of that. Help your people
trust God’s plan and show them what it means to do this well.
Useful book: The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne.
A SENSE OF AWE
Finally, pastor, remember that there is nothing special about paid Christian work that protects you from being wrongly
ambitious in your own life. In fact, because of the obvious spiritual value of what you do, as a pastor you may in fact be
especially susceptible to being wrongly directed in your ambitions. Accordingly, I’ve written this article so that everything
in it applies to you just as much as to anyone else in your church.
So, one final piece of advice, both for you and your congregation: make every effort to cultivate amazement at who God
is. A sense of awe at who God is invests our lives as worshippers with eternal significance (root cause 1). A sense of awe
at who God is helps us trust his plans for faithfulness even when they seem strange by the world’s standards (root cause
2). A sense of awe at who God is reminds us that the comforts of this world are merely passing, but real and eternal
blessing is at hand (root cause 3). A sense of awe at who God is gives us hope that we can serve him in even difficult
circumstances, obviating the need for escape (root cause 4). And a sense of awe at who God is opens our eyes to the
value of his most faithful servants, be they giants of church history or the frail prayer warrior shuffling into the back pew
(root cause 5).
My prayer is that you will help fuel your congregation’s ambition to serve this God and to make him known with every
hour and dollar and opportunity at their disposal.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jamie Dunlop is an associate pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.
By Bari Nichols
Preaching to Women who Work
in the Home
astors should treat women in the congregation like family. That seems to be the lesson of 1 Timothy 5:2: “Treat…
older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters.” But does God say how they should preach to women?
In fact, he does. Three passages of Scripture in particular stand out for their instruction on how to preach to women,
especially regarding their work in the home. They encourage pastors to remember at least three things when they are
preaching to their mothers and sisters in Christ: remember their curse, remember their context, and remember their
In considering these three points, which I offer as observations from a sister, my goal is not to provide you with every
available application. Though I do offer some practical suggestions, even more than that, I hope to give you three
windows into the lives and hearts of women working in the home so that you can preach any passage to us “in an
understanding way” (1 Pet. 3:7).
REMEMBER OUR CURSE
First, remember your sisters’ curse. In the garden, God placed a curse on Eve’s calling: “I will greatly increase your pains
in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you”
These relationships are at the heart of the woman’s work in the home. Women today still struggle with the desire to usurp
their husband’s leadership, and they still suffer pain and trouble in childbearing. Consider how Peter takes this curse into
account by speaking to women directly about their relationship with their husbands:
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands…your beauty should not come from outward
adornment…instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit…this is
the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful…you are her
daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. (1 Pet. 3:1-6)
Here Peter exhorts women to cultivate a gentle and quiet spirit, not a domineering, manipulative one, as they live under
their husband’s leadership. And he encourages women not to give way to fear, but to trust God as they follow their
husband. In so doing, women display the gospel. How can you follow Peter’s example? A few suggestions for preaching
from different portions of Scripture:
First, when preaching from the Old Testament, consider spotlighting the “holy women of the past” as you preach through
the story of Israel. How were the women good examples (or not) of putting their hope in God as they submitted to their
husbands? Did they help their husbands follow God, or did they lead them away from him, like the Canaanite women
and Solomon’s wives? Encourage your women to bring all their troubles to God, whether it’s fear over their children’s
health or future, or anxiety about the financial security of their home, or anything else.
Second, when you are in the wisdom literature, help your women consider if their attitude draws their husbands’ praise
(Prov. 31:28) or drives their husbands to want to live on the roof (Prov. 21:9). Are they loving their children by faithfully
disciplining them (Prov. 29:15; 31:26)?
Third, when you are preaching in the New Testament, urge your women to go to Jesus with their weariness and
struggles, and not try to flee the curse by escaping into novels, exercise, or shopping. Encourage them to consider how
their daily lives are being transformed by the gospel. For example, if you are preaching in James, how is their speech?
Are they using it faithfully to build up and help their husbands and to gently, patiently instruct their children, or do they
use their speech sinfully to express criticism or anger?
REMEMBER OUR CONTEXT
Next, remember our context—the household. Consider how Paul provides instruction about teaching women:
So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no
opportunity for slander. (1 Tim. 5:14)
Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but
to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be selfcontrolled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will
malign the word of God. (Tit. 2:3-5)
From these texts, we can see it is important to consider whether you are preaching to older women or younger women.
Not all women are in the same season of life—and, thus, their households will not all look the same. It is also important
to remember that the primary responsibility God has given us is to our husbands and children, and the primary entity that
should receive the focus of our labors and where we work out our salvation is our household. This is our context.
Consider whether your sermon applications build up your younger women in their context—or preach them out of it. For
example, if you present Christian faithfulness as going on mission trips, discipling eight people, and engaging in weekly
street evangelism, you may be preaching younger women out of their context. The mother of four young children usually
does not have the flexibility to undertake those excellent activities. An older woman, however, may. Instead, talk to the
younger women about how they can be building God’s kingdom in the context God has given them. How? Again, I’d
offer a few suggestions for preaching from different parts of the Bible.
From the Old Testament: Consider pointing out how God is Israel’s helper, and that he has given your women the
same role in their husband’s life. How can they grow in that role? Help them consider what they can learn about their
mothering as they consider God’s faithfulness towards his regularly disobedient son, the people of Israel. Your moms can
relate to Moses when he said to God, “What am I to do with these people?” (Ex. 17:5).
From the New Testament: Encourage your women to consider how they can use their homes to reach the nations,
maybe by hosting a visiting missionary or international students for a meal. As they consider their evangelism, urge your
women to think through the opportunities they have with neighbors, soccer team parents, and retail workers. Also: Are
they doing all they can to make disciples of their own children, even as they remember that only God saves?
Ask them, “How is the gospel transforming your work in the home?” And help them consider that question in light of
your Scriptural text. For example, if you are in 1 Peter, encourage your women to pursue holiness in their own lives and
manage their households towards holiness. What kinds of books and media are the children taking in? What is the tone
of conversation in the home? Is the family living a “good life” among the pagans so that “they may see their good deeds
and glorify God” (1 Pet. 2:12)? Generally, urge the women to be “well known for [their] good deeds, such as bringing
up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting [themselves] to all
kinds of good deeds” (1 Tim. 5:10).
Also, preach to our context in the household by exhorting us to embrace it. Urge your younger women to obey Paul’s
counsel to marry, have children, and manage their homes, which is countercultural to many women in their twenties.
Urge your older women to obey Paul’s counsel in Titus 2 to instruct the younger women in these jobs. Urge them all to
work with excellence, remembering that it is the Lord Christ they are serving (Col. 3:24).
REMEMBER OUR CULTURE
Finally, remember our culture. Keep in mind the cultural air your women are breathing and how it can pollute their hearts.
That air is full of ideas like those presented in Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men: And the Rise of Women, the point of which
is largely captured in the title. Our culture tells women to find value, identity, usefulness, and reward in career. It says that
we are wasting our gifts and our lives by applying them primarily to family life. And even Christian women are buying into
this message, especially younger women.
In writing to Timothy, Paul well understood female culture in Ephesus. Though his comments are not regarding the
household, we can still take a lesson from how he addresses women’s hearts. He speaks directly to the Ephesian fashion
culture and how it tempted women:
I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or
expensive clothes, but with good deeds appropriate for women who profess to worship God. (1 Tim. 2:9-10)
Paul saw that this culture encouraged women to dress to exercise power over men by alluring them. Our culture does
the same—and it pushes women to take on the very roles of men.
Remind your married women of what is at stake in the work they choose: the gospel! Christ and the church are not
interchangeable. Encourage them that when they embrace their helper role, they are imaging the church’s relationship
to Christ (Eph. 5:22-24). Encourage your women that when they lay down worldly ambition to serve their family, they are
surrendering their lives in a very tangible way to follow Christ and display his humility (Phil. 2). Encourage them that they
are working for the eternal reward Christ has for them (Col. 3:24).
So, brothers, as you preach to and shepherd your women who are working in the home, remember our curse, our
context, and our culture. In so doing, you will bring the gospel to bear on the good work God has given us, for his glory.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Bari Nichols is a wife, mother of four children, and, as she and her husband Andrew affectionately say, Chief Operating
Officer of Nichols, Inc. (their household). She is a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.
By Sebastian Traeger
Pastor, Teach Your
Businesspeople to Tend the
cene 1: Over lunch with a pastor of my church, I asked him how things at church were going. After mentioning some
encouragements, he expressed frustration with a member whom he described as “overly concerned with process.” This
member wanted to spend a lot of time on the details of buildings, benefits, and budgets.
I’ve heard this type of frustration from quite a few pastors over the years.
Scene 2: I was at a “Christians in Business” meeting. There were probably 700 or so in attendance, mostly men. They
came from a variety of church backgrounds, but the conference leader and overall content was mainstream evangelical.
In many ways, it was a helpful conference, and as a “Christian businessperson,” it was encouraging to be around other
like-minded friends. However, one theme kept coming up both from the front and in hallway conversations: “We need
this conference because our churches don’t understand us.”
I’ve heard this sentiment repeatedly over the years, normally from business guys who are functionally independent from
My guess is, the longer you pastor businesspeople, or the longer you’re a businessperson in a church, the more likely
you’ll experience something similar to one of these two scenes. Let’s call it the Pastor-Businessman Divide.
THE TRELLIS AND THE VINE: A PLAN FOR PASTORS AND BUSINESSPEOPLE
So what’s going on here? You could come up with several reasons for this tension, from personalities to polity, from
structures to sin and super egos. But as both a pastor (I’m a lay elder in my church) and a businessperson (I’ve been an
internet entrepreneur for the past 12 years), I think the simplest explanation can be found by considering the analogy of a
trellis and a vine. Yes, I am borrowing from the excellent book The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne.
Vine work is the Great Commission: making disciples through teaching the Word, whether publicly or one-on-one.
Trellis work is creating and maintaining the physical and organizational structures and programs that support vine work.
Trellises are important, but are limited and supporting. On the other hand, vine work is the fundamental role of every
member of a church. All the members are to be disciple-making disciples who hold one another accountable, encourage
one another, exhort and love one another and so on.
So how does this relate to the tension between pastors and business-people? Simply this:
Businessman: Your pastor (generally) is better at vines, not trellises. Realize this, and help to build trellises that are
limited and supporting.
Pastor: Many of your businessmen don’t naturally take to vine-work, but are naturals at building trellises. Teach them to
grow vines, but also take advantage of their trellis power.
To oversimplify, the day-job of a pastor is to do vine work and train others in it. And the day-job of many businesspeople
is to build trellises—organizations and structures. When each is doing their day-job in their own spheres, things go
swimmingly. But when they come together as members of a local church and their vines and trellises start to overlap,
there can be tension. Why? Because in those moments, they both emphasize what they are good at and deemphasize
what they are not.
In this article and its companion, I lay out a game plan for averting these tensions and building unity. The rest of this
article addresses pastors, while the other article addresses businesspeople. Both answer the question: how can we fight
for unity and leverage the gifts of both pastors and businesspeople?
THE PASTOR’S GAME PLAN
Pastor, many of your businesspeople don’t naturally take to vine-work, but they can build trellises. So your game plan is
threefold: encourage them in their daily work, teach them to grow vines, and take advantage of their trellis prowess.
1. Encourage businesspeople by caring about their daily lives.
First, encourage businesspeople by caring about their daily lives. I think some of the tension between pastors and
businesspeople comes down to love, or at least the perception of it. If you’re a pastor, I wonder if you might be sending
the message that you don’t care about the businesspeople in your church. How? It’s not theological; you love everyone
in your church. It’s emotional: you might get really excited about those who are pastoring and are missionaries but show
far less excitement for what your businesspeople are doing. In response, businesspeople might be tempted to check out
of church and invest entirely in their work.
Imagine a dad who has two sons. It’s clear he loves them both very much, and they both know it. One son, though,
loves the Washington Redskins while the other son is an artist. The dad really likes the latter son’s art, but he loves
the Redskins. You could see how over time the artist son will feel like his dad loves him less, even though he knows
objectively that’s not true. And the more he feels this way, the more he may struggle to prove himself to his dad, or
simply look elsewhere for approval.
What’s the solution to this? Should we cater to the feelings of everyone in the church who feels less valued? Should we
esteem pastors less? I actually think it’s easier than pastors think. Consider a few practical ways that you can care for
businesspeople in your church.
First, pray publicly and specifically for different occupational concerns in your church. Pray for the more “earthly”
concerns such as
relationships with coworkers;
using time well on commutes;
the grace and strength to respond in godly ways to frustrations, bureaucracy, and seeming meaninglessness;
God’s kindness in providing jobs in the first place;
the ability to fight our tendency to idolize work;
the ability to fight our tendency toward laziness, procrastination and idleness;
an increasing vision for what it means to be salt and light in the workplace;
wisdom in navigating raises, internal politics, disappointments, and career planning;
ability to know when to take promotions and when not to;
an increasing sense of freedom in choosing a career and setting the appropriate hours for your family.
Consider asking a mature businessperson in your church to speak publicly about what he’s learning in the workplace
and how God is at work in his heart, his relationships, and his circumstances. Don’t reduce the value of your people
in their workplace to how frequently or how well they’re doing in evangelism. Instead, work to build them up, not just
through your preaching, but through your prayers and concern for their specific work-life.
Encourage them, especially on Mondays. It can be hard to go to work on Monday. It can be even harder when
you’ve just had a family feast on Sunday and now you’re heading out to what can be an uncaring, competitive, and
disappointing work environment. (Ironically, I think the healthier the church, the bigger the gap can be between the
Sunday high and the Monday low). Recognize this. What can you do to try to counteract this? I don’t think the answer is
to make Sundays less encouraging and God-glorifying. But you can avoid giving the impression that worship happens
only in church, not at work, and that the only work that matters is paid ministry.
2. Give your businesspeople a vision for, and teach them to do, vine work—in their families, in their workplaces,
and in the church.
Second, give your businesspeople a vision for, and teach them to do, vine work—in their families, in their workplaces,
and in the church. It is easy for pastors to neglect teaching the businesspeople in their church. It is possible to assume
that because your businesspeople are successful and talented, they already have the gifting and ability to do vine work.
Or, perhaps the businesspeople in your church are at the other end of the spectrum: they are so worldly that you cannot
imagine them doing vine work, so you ignore them.
What is needed is for you to give them a vision for the work of the church and then train them to do it. I have three
suggestions for how you can do this.
First, teach them what it means to be a Christian in the workplace—which is really just what it means to be a disciple.
Help them see that their discipleship to Jesus is not just one more ball flying around in their life. It is not in competition
with other responsibilities. It is their first responsibility, and all others are defined by and find their place in service to that
one overarching assignment of following Jesus.
Help them see that their discipleship to Jesus is not just one
more ball flying around in their life. It is not in competition with other
responsibilities. It is their first responsibility, and all others are defined
by and find their place in service to that one overarching assignment
of following Jesus.
Think of Colossians 3:24. Why are we to work with all our heart at whatever we do? Because we do whatever we do “for
the Lord!” The great first responsibility, discipleship to Jesus, organizes and defines all those secondary “whatever you
do” responsibilities. Church life, family life, work life—those are the “whatever-you-dos,” the secondary responsibilities
we have as humans and Christians. So we ought to understand all of them as arenas in which we strive to follow Jesus
and bring him honor and glory.
When our businesspeople start to understand that we have one and only one first responsibility, and that all our other
responsibilities are defined by that first responsibility, a good deal of the chaos they often feel is relieved. All of a sudden,
their various callings and duties in life stop being in competition with one another and instead begin to point in the same
Second, equip them to be vine workers—disciple-making disciples—in their callings to the workplace, family, and
church. Most business-people’s day-to-day work is very different from vine-work. In fact, “vine-work”—things like
mentoring, building into others, and managing well—is normally not appreciated or rewarded in the marketplace. Why?
Because it takes a long-term commitment to build into others, yet most businesses want quick and efficient results. So
not only are most businesspeople not sharpening their vine-making skills in their jobs, but the system is normally set up
to discourage it. Recognize this and take the time to train them up in vine-making.
Third, give them a pattern to follow. Give them a vision to do vine work, but also help them see practically what it looks
like. Initially, discipling people was very foreign to me. What really helped me was learning to watch others do it.
I put this into practice by starting to meet up with a friend from church bi-weekly for 30-45 minutes at a local coffee shop
to talk through key areas of our lives. We walk through 5 key assignments in life: our personal discipleship, our marriages
(or other key relationships), parenting (if applicable), ministry, and work. We each take 10 minutes and think about these
areas in terms of how our past weeks went and what our goals are for the upcoming week. We go over each of these
with the other person and give them permission to ask us hard questions about any of them.
Normally what happens is there is one box where we spend the majority of our time. For example, my friend was trying
to think through how to best disciple his young children. I thought about it with him, applying Scripture and giving him
practical wisdom, and over a few weeks he tried different strategies and books that eventually helped him make real
progress as a parent.
Here’s the point: Don’t assume your businesspeople know how to
do vine work. Do assume that, if they’re Christians, they want to learn
how to disciple others.
Here’s the point: Don’t assume your businesspeople know how to do vine work. Do assume that, if they’re Christians,
they want to learn how to disciple others.
3. Take advantage of your business people’s trellis powers.
Third, take advantage of your business people’s trellis powers. While things like strategy, planning, process, and
efficiency aren’t needed for everything in the church, they are useful for some things. As a pastor, you will be well served
if you can see where “trellis powers” are needed, and who can wield the particular tool you need.
So what are some areas in which trellises are useful in the church? There’s a whole host of things:
how to organize member care so that needs are met;
how to do small groups;
how to steward your buildings and property;
staff reviews and compensation;
recruiting volunteers for nursery;
budgeting and income projections;
websites and branding;
launching new ministries to reach students or internationals;
overall strategic planning;
streamlining elders meetings;
and doing specific outreaches for your community.
The list could go on and on. There is a lot of trellis work to be done at your church.
So who should you be on the lookout for? How can you put trellis powers to work in your church? The answer is, learn
to understand the differences among your “businesspeople” and the tools they wield. Businesspeople actually have fairly
different skills based on their personalities and what they do. Here’s a quick overview:
A “generic businessperson” builds organizations, systems, and processes and is a strategic thinker. They
understand how to allocate resources in order to accomplish a goal.
An inventor/entrepreneur sees broken things and wants to fix them. They see opportunities and want to
do something, but might not necessarily think about all the details and trade-offs. They can move in the
approximate direction and need little guidance.
A sales professional is deal-oriented, convinces people of ideas, and works towards agreement.
An analyst/attorney/accountant analyzes, studies, is data-centric, and is normally an expert in a narrow topic.
An operator/manager “keeps the trains running on time.” Not typically very creative, he or she is likely a good
people person and can keep something spinning for a long time.
An engineer (software or physical) thinks in terms of systems and processes, understands how things fit
together, and, normally, is thorough and a planner.
A designer knows how to communicate abstract ideas in concrete ways and can bring aesthetic order.
By God’s grace, your church may be filled with people who have various gifts. Get to know them and ask them to serve
the church in ways that align with their gifts. It’s amazing how many businesspeople get discouraged because they are
not asked to help. So encourage the various members of your church to function like a body.
THE GOAL: A BODY
Just as God didn’t design the physical body to be just one part, so he didn’t design the body of Christ to be just one
part, either. He designed it so that there would be, yes, pastors and missionaries, but also policemen and teachers and
carpenters and all kinds of other “parts” who would function together to keep the church body functioning smoothly.
All the various gifts in the church work together to create one well-functioning body. If you take any out, or if you make
the whole body just one part, you ruin the beauty not only of the whole, but of all the individual parts as well. They are
only beautiful when they complement one another and work together. None of them stands alone and all of them are
ordered by God to create one well-functioning body. The roles we all play complement and support one another. They all
work together to help the church reflect the glory of God.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sebastian Traeger is an elder of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, a tech entrepreneur, and the author, with
Greg Gilbert, of The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs (Zondervan,
By Sebastian Traeger
Businessperson, Help Your
Pastor Build Trellises
n my first article in this issue of the 9Marks Journal, I described the tension that often arises between pastors and businesspeople. Pastors grow frustrated because businesspeople seem overly fixated on the church’s numbers and structures and budgets, and businesspeople feel like their pastors don’t understand them or care about their work.
And I suggested that the analogy of trellises and vines provides a way forward. Vine work is disciple-making, and trellis
work is building structures to support disciple-making. Pastors are typically strong on the former and weak on the latter,
and businesspeople tend to be the opposite. So, in my first article, I encouraged pastors to encourage businesspeople
in their work, teach them how to do vine-work, and use their trellis-building powers for the church. This article provides a
game plan for businesspeople in the church.
THE BUSINESSPERSON’S GAME PLAN
The Businessperson’s Game Plan: Your pastor is better at growing vines, not building trellises. Realize this, learn from
him, and build supporting trellises in the church.
1. Build trellises—but remember that trellises are for supporting vines.
First, build trellises—but remember that trellises are for supporting vines. I’ve heard too many businesspeople complain
about their churches and how the church “doesn’t get them.” I’m sympathetic to this, but I want to challenge you back:
How much time have you spent trying to “get” your church? And, more importantly, how much time have you spent
trying to serve your church?
A church is different from a business. Sure there are some similarities, but fundamentally, a church is to “go and make
disciples…baptizing them…and teaching them to obey” (Matt. 28:19). In essence, a church exists to preach the gospel
and to make disciples.
This is the primary work of the church. This work can take many forms, but a church has got to keep this main thing the
main thing. This isn’t to say that a trellis is unnecessary or unimportant. But it does mean that the trellis—in some cases
proceeding in others following—is always there to support the vine. The point of a church is not to have a great trellis,
but to have a healthy vine.
Very practically, this doesn’t mean your church has a license to have shoddy trellises. It does mean that trellises are a
necessary but not sufficient part of your church. On the other hand, to business people, the vine does not always seem a
necessary part of your church. Here’s the point: preaching and teaching the Bible produces fruit, fruit that is visible in the
lives of the people at your church. This is the great goal of the church: people who reflect the glory of God!
This is the vine. This vine needs to be fed, watered, cultivated, counseled, disciplined, and poured into. This happens
on Sundays through the worship services of the church as the Word is read, sung, prayed, and preached. It happens
throughout the week in Bible studies and other gatherings. And it happens through “one another” relationships as
members disciple, encourage, and exhort each other.
If you’re a businessperson reading this, let me encourage you that this is actually very similar to the business or
company that you’re in. What’s the most important thing you do? You provide a product or service for your customers.
This is the point. How you build, support, deliver, strategize, bill and collect for it are all in service to that goal. In other
words, the product or service is the main point—the vine. Everything else is trellis. And there is a clear link between
the two: in business, if you don’t create a great product, you don’t have customers. But if you don’t bill, you don’t have
money to build a great product. And if you don’t strategize, you may not have the ability to service customers a few
years from now. They all work together, but are in service to the great goal.
What does all this mean practically? If you are a businessman, realize that above all, your pastor is a vine worker. By
God’s grace and through Word ministry, he wants to build disciple-making disciples. To do this, he needs to know and
be committed to God’s Word and to sound doctrine. He needs to pastor by correcting, counseling, and disciplining. And,
to some extent, he needs to think practically about how to organize the resources of the church to do this. But very often
the preaching and pastoring will come much more naturally to him than the practical. And this is okay. In fact, you’d
rather have this than the opposite.
So encourage your pastor not by trying to fix his attention on practical structures, but by freeing him to pursue the vine
work. For all those gatherings and meetings to happen, trellis work is needed. So if you see trellis work that needs doing,
do it. And, it’s important for you as the businessperson to bring strategy and process skills to bear on improving those
trellises. Just have the humility to do this in support of, not at the expense of, the vine.
Encourage your pastor not by trying to fix his attention on
practical structures, but by freeing him to pursue the vine work.
In fact, start by asking: What is the church already doing that I can lend my trellis powers to? And how can I humbly use
my gifts to build up the church?
2. Care more about vine work—discipling others with the gospel and sound doctrine—than about efficiency and
“getting things done.”
Second, care more about vine work—discipling others with the gospel and sound doctrine—than about efficiency and
“getting things done.” I praise God that he’s given those with administrative abilities as gifts to the church (1 Cor. 12:28).
Praise God that the body isn’t a bunch or mouths or eyes. We need hands and feet and hearts as well. But but be careful
to use your administrative gifts to fan the Word into flame, not to throw water on the fire.
How can do this? Realize the biblical role of the elders of your church: to give themselves to teaching and praying.
Understand that the pastor of your church likely cares more about teaching and theology than he does about
administration because that is what he’s called to prioritize. And this is what God uses to build a church: the preaching
of the Word and prayer. The ability to understand, exposit, and apply the Word to the specifics of the life of the church is
crucial for helping a church grow in depth of knowledge and insight (Phil. 1:9-11).
As a businessperson, think about how you can either help or hinder your church’s Word ministry by applying—or
misapplying—vision, motivation, systems, and processes. Realize that if you are a businessperson, your disposition and
gifting likely leans towards efficiency and “getting things done.” While in some cases this is a huge asset, it can also
undermine the teaching and praying ministry of your church. So be humble and realize that your tendencies towards
efficiency and can actually harm the ministry of the Word.
What can you do practically about this? First, pray that you’d grow in love for God’s Word and desire to see the gospel
held up as ultimate. As you grow in love for God’s Word, you’ll increasingly see how the gospel is the power of God for
salvation and sanctification.
Second, pray that you’d grow in wisdom so that you can be helpful, intelligent, thoughtful, and practical in the best
sense of the word as you apply your administrative abilities to supporting, pruning, cultivating, and nurturing vine work.
Third, grow in your ability to do vine work. As you grow in doing vine work, you’ll begin to grow in your appreciation for
how so much of Christian ministry is the “hand-to-hand combat” of marriage counseling, discipling, walking through
difficult circumstances with others, leading Bible studies, teaching a Sunday school class, practicing hospitality, and
more. And as you grow in your ability as a vine worker, you’ll also likely grow in your appreciation for your pastor’s gifting
and your own shortcomings. So join the great work of disciple-making, and supplement it with your trellis powers.
3. Be diligent, patient and long-suffering in serving your church.
Finally, be diligent, patient, and long-suffering in serving your church. Don’t make church optional, assumed, or an addon to your life. Make it the central place in which you live out your Christian life.
Be diligent, patient, and long-suffering in serving your church.
Don’t make church optional, assumed, or an add-on to your life. Make
it the central place in which you live out your Christian life.
The New Testament assumes that every believer will be meaningfully connected to and committed to a church. Paul
says to the believers in the local church at Corinth, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1
Cor. 12:27). A local church is a body, and each person committed to it is a member of that body and contributes to its
well-being. Hebrews 10:24-25 makes clear that it’s not enough just to be theoretically committed to a church, either.
We should “not neglect to meet together,” it says, and we should be active in “stirring one another up to love and
good deeds” and “encouraging one another.” So commit to a local church. Meet together regularly with your church.
Encourage, love, and stir up the other members of your church.
Of course, there’s a flip side to this as well. While I agree that pastors can work harder to connect Sunday worship
at church to Monday worship at work, responding negatively or selfishly is not a godly, appropriate response.
Businesspeople can grow insecure or indifferent because their needs aren’t addressed. Do you feel like the church—
specifically the pastor—isn’t doing enough to equip you in life? Do you think he should emphasize different things and
spread out the love? Do you think the church doesn’t care about you?
If this is you, I have three things to say. First, you may be right. Your pastor is a fallible, limited sinner who may not do
enough to equip and support you. But he’s trying.
Second, you’re probably not alone. Have you ever thought about how many people and groups are represented at your
church? How many others feel that they could use more help and encouragement? How many other members are there
who have tough lives and confusing circumstances and need to understand how to apply God’s Word to them?
Third, you’re either going to be part of the problem or part of the solution. So you have a limited, fallible pastor and lots
of unmet needs, including your own. What are you going to do about it? You’re either going to pray for wisdom and
strength to help meet the needs of others, or you’ll simply join the chorus of people whose needs aren’t being met.
If you truly do have specific, acute needs, obviously you should approach an elder or pastor at your church. I’m not
insinuating that you do not really need encouragement. Also, it’s a good thing to be part of the solution while also
providing measured critique and specific ways that your pastor can encourage a group in the church. So do think of and
propose ways that your pastor can encourage business people. Just be kind, patient, and realistic in how you do it.
THE GOAL: UNITY IN CHRIST
The goal of every church is to reflect the glory of God. And one of the keys ways a church does this is through its unity in
Christ. A healthy church will have both the disciple-making and practical administrating functioning well together. To this
end, both pastors and businesspeople are going to have to fight for unity.
Unity only works if there is mutual humility and mutual service. If you are a pastor, be humble and serve your
businesspeople. If you are a businessperson, be humble and serve your pastors. Christians are to be reconcilers, but it’s
hard work. It’s not something we get for free. We need to pray for and work towards it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sebastian Traeger is an elder of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, a tech entrepreneur, and the author, with
Greg Gilbert, of The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs (Zondervan,
By the Executive Director of Access Partners
What is Business as Missions?
ore and more people have begun talking about combining business and missions these days, yet the concept has
been slow to catch on in some circles. Why is that?
Some churches are unaware of the concept.
Others don’t think it important, preferring to focus on traditional methods of doing missions.
Still others are wary of the term “Business-as-Missions” (BAM), fearing it could distract churches from the mission of
making disciples. How should churches think about business and missions?
To begin, we have to define BAM, and part of the challenge is nomenclature. There are a variety of definitions, but when
we use the term, we mean building businesses that enable church planting among unreached peoples. We don’t believe
business is missions, since we define missions as the making of disciples and the planting of churches. Neither do
we believe that BAM is pursuing mediocre businesses to facilitate missions. Rather, we see BAM as a helpful way for
business done well to enable and support missions.
Why are BAM and tentmaking, rather than traditional mission models, increasingly important? First, there is a gospel
need: there are 2.8 billion people unreached among 6,000 people groups, so we need more laborers for the gospel.
Second, many countries continue to limit Christian witness, and Christian professionals are needed who can access
such countries by benefiting and serving the country through their work.
Third, the world is urbanizing and there are correspondingly increasing numbers of professionals. As of 2008, more than
half of the world’s population is now in cities. It’s forecast that by 2030, this number will rise to more than 60 percent.
We need Christians who can naturally interact with these growing populations. Tim Keller has noted that there is a
shared affinity among professionals in the large cities of the world that transcends culture: arguably a professional in Los
Angeles has more in common with a professional in New Delhi than either of those people do with those in rural areas in
their own countries.
HOW TO EQUIP MEMBERS TO WORK OVERSEAS
How can pastors best equip their members who are considering working overseas? First, members should be faithful in
their jobs in the West, doing their work with excellence and for the glory of God. Second, pastors should put before their
members the vision and privilege of spreading the gospel to all nations, particularly among those who have not heard
There is one fundamental question for Christians interested in working overseas: do they want to emphasize professional
development or church planting? Done for God’s glory and with the right motives, either is a fine decision. One is not
more spiritual than the other. However, one needs to be the emphasis (with one exception, which I’ll mention at the end).
And the emphasis you choose will affect your preparation and expectations.
EMPHASIZING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
For the Christian who emphasizes professional development, life abroad will probably end up consisting of shorter stints
of maybe 2 to 3 years. Their role would be to serve as a faithful church member who is able to develop relationships with
locals that other missionaries might not be able to meet, and to provide models for local believers of living out the gospel
faithfully in the workplace.
There would be fewer opportunities to learn the language since it’s hard to do so in the midst of a full-time job.
Relationships would therefore largely be with other expats or with locals who can speak English. What types of job
options would be available? Sometimes multinationals offer expat packages, which provide generous remuneration
terms for those in more senior positions, though it is good to keep in mind that such positions usually entail long hours.
For the junior-level professional, pay will probably be lower than in the States, and could involve more competition with
First, though, it is most important to identify a good local church or a church planting team with which one may partner.
There are many cities where this would be possible (e.g., Dubai, Munich, Grand Cayman, Singapore). One tool to help
you think through a city’s suitability for this strategy is a 2 x 2 matrix, where one criteria is how unreached a city is and
the other evaluates the ease of adjustment to the new culture. Below is a non-scientific way of evaluating various cities
on these two criteria.
However, there are also many places where a good church or church planting team might not exist. For example, a friend
had a high-powered position with a US multinational in Egypt; however, he found it very difficult to be fed spiritually and
was discouraged by the whole process.
Pastors should specially focus on evaluating the lives of members who are thinking about living overseas. We want to
send people who are thriving spiritually in the church, at home, and at work instead of encouraging people who would be
burdens to the Christians they are supposed to assist. Pastors should also help identify and vet the overseas churches
or church planting teams with whom a member will partner. Absent a clear partner, we would strongly discourage church
member from moving to a foreign city, regardless of how good the professional opportunity looks.
Preparation for going overseas in this manner involves being a faithful and fruitful member of a local church. In addition,
it is very helpful to learn the local language ahead of time. This multiplies one’s ability to relate to locals. Also, to have a
better chance of being given the opportunity to work overseas by a multinational, it is important to at least have some
building blocks in the local language. College students, who have a plethora of study abroad options and time to invest,
should consider language learning. Christians interested in these kinds if opportunity should especially consider learning
languages that are widely spoken in the 10/40 window, such as Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, Russian, Mandarin, or Hindi.
While working overseas has a lot of potential for kingdom purposes, it also has some limitations. Being a professional
will grant a Christian access to a country’s largest cities but not necessarily to small and medium ones. Yet there is need
for the gospel in such places. It would be the equivalent of reaching New York and Los Angeles, but not the heartland.
To bring the gospel to such places, and to have longer-term impact, we need to pursue strategies that emphasize church
EMPHASIZING CHURCH PLANTING
This strategy would be longer-term than the previous one, with people looking to stay in-country for 5 to 10 years or
longer. The goal here is to drive a business that also enables missionary access, helping with operations, management,
and business development. Someone pursuing this strategy would first spend some time learning the local language and
culture in order to communicate the gospel intelligibly.
Access Partners focuses on this end of the BAM and tentmaking spectrum. We build replicable business models that
facilitate church planting in a variety of industries. Some of these strategies are new business start-ups and others are
formed in partnership with existing Christian-run businesses.
As with the professionally focused strategy, it is important to join the right church planting team, and a church’s elders
should help members forge wise partnerships. The local church will be more involved in this strategy since they would
send the professional. Therefore, someone interested in moving overseas should talk through these issues with a pastor
or elder years ahead of time. For instance, we worked with a couple who were quickly approved by their church to be
sent to drive a business in the Middle East. However, the reason why this process moved so seamlessly is because they
had been known by their elders for years, and had demonstrated faithfulness in many areas already.
Preparation will be primarily spiritual, including growing in one’s understanding of the nature of the church and the
gospel. From a vocational perspective, it would be great to gain “profit & loss” experience, or to manage a business or
team in preparation for BAM involvement.
As mentioned above, there are also opportunities for Christian business owners living stateside to be involved. They can
expand their businesses internationally into regions where there are fewer believers while also employing missionaries.
Pastors can encourage such businesspeople to deploy all the talents that God has given them, including their
businesses, for the glory of God.
MIGRATING FOR THE GOSPEL
But what if one wants to pursue both professional development and church planting? One way we have seen this
happen is when people migrate for the gospel—that is, move somewhere permanently. This was how missions used to
be done since it was so hard to come back to one’s home country. For example, William Carey established an indigo
plant, started a college, and founded a horticultural society. It is actually temporary overseas mission work that is the
Time committed to a country is important since it allows one to learn the language and culture of a country.
Comparatively fewer people opt for this strategy, but there are some very encouraging examples. One friend moved to
a formerly Communist country, started a church, and also launched the most successful business in its industry. The
business has served as a model for believers in the country and has also provided employment for local Christians.
NOT A REVOLUTION, BUT AN OPEN DOOR
BAM and tentmaking are not revolutionary ways of doing missions but are increasingly useful for opening doors for
the gospel. We encourage pastors to learn more about these opportunities to help their members use their skills and
experience to make disciples of all nations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
The author’s name has been left anonymous for security purposes. Access Partners builds businesses that enable
church planting in areas least reached by the gospel.
The Call: Finding and Fulfilling
the Central Purpose of Your Life
Reviewed by Drew Bratcher
Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life. Thomas Nelson, 1998. 304 pages.
ith books as with cars and cameras, the good ones stand up over time. Much has changed in the fifteen years
since Os Guinness’s now-classic disquisition on work, The Call, was first published. Economic recession has stonewalled the prosperity and optimism of the late 1990s and early 2000s, an era in which opportunity seemed unbounded
and which produced, by consequence, a rash of evangelical books and sermon series that too often touted as supreme
virtues in Christian discipleship the quest for purpose, meaningful work, and the fulfillment of lifelong passions and
desires. Faithfulness and joyful obedience took a backseat to freedom and choice. It sometimes felt that to be a mature
Christian meant to be one’s own boss.
These were the choppy waters Guinness waded into with The Call. Although the book is soaked in the language of the
genre—the subtitle is Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life—it is one of the few work-related titles from
the nineties and noughties that still seems apropos in 2013, when for many in our churches the hope of snagging a
dream job has been replaced by the more modest hope of finding and keeping a job that pays the bills. Writes Guinness:
If there had been no Fall, all our work would have naturally and fully expressed who we are and exercised the gifts
we have been given. But after the Fall this is not so. Work is now partly creative and partly cursed. Thus to find
work that perfectly fits our callings is not a right, but a blessing. (50)
Guinness’s recognition of the inevitable dissonance between the life we often feel called to and the realities of this fallen,
faltering world gives The Call a refreshing grittiness, a truer-to-life air. I had country singer Steve Earle’s “Someday”
playing low in the background on repeat as I read the book (“Now I work at the filling station on the interstate / Pumping
gasoline and counting out-of-state plates”); the song wasn’t out of place. Here is a read for the Christian doing the thing
he always wanted and thus tempted to genuflect at the altar of work. And here is a book for the one toiling away in
thankless fields (Earle’s gas station attendant, for instance), grappling for motivation, struggling to trust God.
The broadest applications often stem from the simplest claims. The basic principle that Guinness hammers home again
and again in The Call is that vocation, which the author dubs the “secondary calling,” is changed utterly—is indeed
irrevocably infused with meaning—by a more primary calling, namely our call to Christ in the gospel.
Thomas Nelson, Guinness’s publisher, could have marketed the book as an extended meditation on 1 Corinthians
10:31. “[T]here is no sacred vs. secular, higher vs. lower, perfect vs. permitted, contemplation vs. action where calling
is concerned,” Guinness writes. “Calling equalizes even the distinctions between clergy and laypeople. It is a matter of
‘everyone, everywhere, and in everything’ living life in response to God’s summons.”
In a wide-ranging 2010 interview with 9Marks, Guinness, an Oxford-trained sociologist who started the D.C.-based
leadership-training outfit the Trinity Forum, was asked about his work as a public intellectual. “I try to make serious
scholarship intelligible and practical to ordinary people,” he said.
Indeed part of the pleasure of reading The Call comes from witnessing Guinness do that very thing. He is an adept
synthesizer of history, of arts and culture, of the proclivities of the human heart. The book is philosophically sprawling,
yet anecdotally flush. Guinness nimbly surveys the historical distortions of the theology of work—on the one end the
Protestant tendency to elevate the secular over the spiritual, on the other the Catholic penchant to do the reverse—all
the while finding exemplars of his ideas everywhere.
Among the luminaries he taps for support are Leo Tolstoy, Soren Kierkegaard, Leonardo da Vinci, Vaclav Havel, T.E.
Lawrence, Salvadore Dali, Dorthory Sayers, John Keats, John Coltrane, George Foreman, Aleksander Solzhenitsyn,
Winston Churchill, and Oswald Chambers. Of the Dutch prime minister and Protestant reformer Abraham Kuyper, in a
chapter on how calling figures into public and political life, Guinness writes, “Kuyper’s Herculean portfolio of jobs was
due not just to overwork and what his daughter called his ‘iron regiment’ but to his inspiring vision of the lordship of
Christ over the whole of life” (155).
Occasionally The Call’s short chapters feel overstuffed with stories and quotations. Here and there Guinness’s
contentions come off as speculative. (Can we really trace the decline of heroism and the shortcomings of capitalism
back to misunderstandings about calling?). He is prone to hyperbole, reticent to quote Scripture, and for a book entitled
The Call, Guinness has precious little to say about how to discern whether one should go into vocational ministry.
Some of the book’s more memorable sections are Guinness’s autobiographical asides. Nearly 200 pages in, he relays
the story of how his down-and-out great-great grandmother in Dublin was dissuaded from leaping to her death from a
bridge by the sight of a plowman working happily in a nearby field. It is a moving narra…
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