Category Archives: Work with purpose

Millions of Western Christians experience a painful bifurcation between their faith and their work. How can Christians see the divine purpose in their “secular” labors? And where can God’s purposes be found in the economic sphere?

A brass-tacks, real-world theology of work and vocation, with thanks to Tim Keller

depressed working guyThe current series of posts (starting here) has been sketching a theological understanding of work and vocation, drawing from Tim Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf’s excellent book Every Good Endeavor. The last two posts have tapped traditional Christian understandings of Creation and Incarnation for what they have to say about this important topic. This one wraps up with the New Heavens and New Earth, and then asks what difference all this lovely meaty theology makes to how we experience our own work and vocations here in the Real World:

Heavenly-earthly work

But there is one more part of the Bible story that evangelicals have forgotten, and that prevents us from having a healthy view of ordinary work. That is the ending of the story—not in heaven on fluffy clouds with angels playing harps, but in the New Heavens and the New Earth.

“According to the Bible, this world is the forerunner of the new heavens and new earth, which will be purified, restored, and enhanced at the ‘renewal of all things; (Matthew 19:28; Romans 8:19–25),” say Keller and Alsdorf. “No other religion envisions matter and spirit living together in integrity forever. And so birds flying and oceans roaring and people eating, walking, and loving are permanently good things.”

What does this triumphant re-creation in the End Times mean to our ordinary, daily work today? It means that contrary to some popular opinion, the things we do and make and even accumulate are not “all going to burn.” True, there are no U-Hauls on hearses. Continue reading

Jesus the Incarnate Worker God


In the last post, we looked briefly at the story and doctrine of Creation – what it means to us as human workers.

But we also miss the wonder and dignity of work because, although we love to meditate on the cross, the resurrection, and the salvation that comes from those events, we don’t stop to be amazed and edified by the Incarnation. If you look at the thousand years of Western medieval art, you’ll find lots of depictions of the crucifixion and the empty tomb, but neither of these is the most-painted scene of that millennium.

What was the most-painted scene? The Annunciation: the moment that the Angel appears to Mary and tells her that God is about to come to earth, to take on human form, through her own womb. This is the moment that the incredible news first comes to humanity: God is about to become Incarnate—to become part of his own creation. Continue reading

We were made to work (really! It’s there in the book of Genesis)


At the very beginning of Genesis, God shows himself as a working God, who creates valuable things. And then right away we see that we ourselves as made in his image, also to work. Timothy Keller cites biblical scholar Derek Kidner, who notices a profound detail in the account of God’s creation of animals and humans in Genesis 1:

Only man is set apart and given a job description, “an office (1:26b, 28b; 2:19; cf. Ps.8:4–8; James 3:7) . . .” In other words, while the plants and animals are called to simply reproduce, only humans are explicitly given a job. They are called to “subdue” and “have dominion,” or rule the earth. We are given specific work to do because we are made in God’s image. (Every Good Endeavor, 48.)

So as long as the Jewish and Christian religions have been on this earth, these peoples have worked for most of the week, then set aside the seventh day for rest. Why? Continue reading

What our pastors need to know about faith, work, and economics – part 1: Getting the beginning and end of the story right

cut-up-bibleA couple of months back, I was invited to come to the world headquarters of the Wesleyan denomination in Indianapolis to talk with a group of professors from Indiana Wesleyan University’s seminary about how we can train tomorrow’s pastors better in the area of faith, work, and economics. This series of posts is from the two talks I gave there.

Introduction: getting the story right

As we start our reflections today, I think a fair question is: Why does the church today find itself needing to pour time and effort into connecting our people’s faith with their work? Shouldn’t it be obvious that God cares about all aspects of our life as human beings, and that he works in many ways through our work?

Then I read key contemporary thinkers in the faith-and-work movement, and a picture emerges. I’d put it like this:

Evangelical Christians are really, really good at “the middle part” of the grand story told in the Bible. Continue reading

How can I find meaning in my work? A Twin Cities area October mini-conference addresses the question

Faith work t-shirtOne more post related to my faith-and-work activities. The Bethel Work with Purpose initiative team has put a lot of time and care into developing a well-resourced conference on work and vocation. The other day we sent out an invitation to pastors and seminary alumni, and I’d like to extend this invitation to Grateful to the Dead readers too. If this question of how our faith and work lives relate to each other, or questions about finding meaning and “a vocation” in work, engages you, please join us for this “mini-conference.” If you know someone who could benefit from the conference, please let them know:


I write to invite you to join us at MISSION:WORK, a mini-conference for workers and their pastors (, Thursday night, Oct. 10, and Friday morning, Oct. 11.

Recent Barna research shows that young adults of the Millennial generation who have remained active in their churches are three times more likely than those who “dropped out” to say they learned to view their gifts and passions as part of God’s calling (45% versus 17%). They are four times more likely to have learned at church “how the Bible applies to my field or career interests” (29% versus 7%).

The truth is: churches benefit in many ways from equipping their members–especially young adults–for applying their faith to their work. But “most churches,” says Barna president David Kinnaman, “leave this kind of vocation-based outcome largely at the door unless these students show interest in traditional church-based ministry.” Continue reading

Check out this cool conference on faith and work

faith-work-cultureJust wanted to show y’all this conference we’ve been working on here at Bethel Seminary, for Thur-Fri Oct 10-11, 2013. Come one, come all!

Scott Rae on business for the common good

Image[The following is reposted from the Acton Institute’s blog:]

In a lecture at Acton University titled “Business and the Common Good,” Dr. Scott Rae of Biola University examined the role of business in serving the common good.

Rae began by examining some of the common criticisms lobbed against business, namely, that it promotes greed, inequality, and consumerism. As Michael Miller often notes, these are human vices, not economic ones, and thus business, properly understood, is not immoral in and of itself.

On the contrary, business has great potential for serving and contributing to the common good. Though some believe profit-seeking enterprises are only valuable insofar as they can “give something back” out of what’s leftover, Rae emphasized how business advances the common good right from the get-go.

Rae offers four primary ways this occurs:

  • By peaceably providing needed goods and services that allow human beings to flourish and enhance their well being
  • By providing meaningful work that allows human beings to flourish and enhances their well being
  • By facilitating wealth creation and economic growth
  • By enabling the poor to lift themselves out of poverty

By leveraging business, we not only yield profits that can be used for the glory of God outside of business, we can serve our neighbors in the here and now. “God is not just redeeming individuals,” Rae concluded. “He is redeeming all of creation. He is redeeming the marketplace.”


To listen to Rae’s lecture, you can purchase “Business and the Common Good” here.

Purchase Rae’s book, Business for the Common Good: A Christian Vision for the Marketplace

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