COMPARTMENTALIZING OUR CHRISTIANITY
Why is it so difficult to reconcile these two worlds – our spiritual life and our work life? Why is it our instinct to run or to hide?
In essence, it's because we live our lives in compartments. Like sections of the newspaper, our lives divide neatly into categories. There's the business side of life, the people section, sports, travel, and religion. They don't overlap, and they don't interfere with each other.
A little over a century ago, things were very different. Up until the late 1800s, we were primarily a collection of agricultural communities. Life revolved around the ebb and flow of cultivating and harvesting. People back then lived like an agricultural community. And they thought like an agricultural community. There were exceptions, but for the most part, the mind-set was agricultural.
Just try to grasp how much that differs from the way we think today. When you live in an agricultural world, you have a completely different view of control. When you farm or hunt for a living, you are not in control of your progress. Essentially, you live a reactive life. When winter begins to thaw, you plow and plant. When the rain dries up, you irrigate. When the days are longer, you work longer. When the fruit begins to ripen, you harvest. And when calamity strikes, you pray. As a farmer friend told me several years ago, "The land and the weather determine what I do each day."
Then along came the industrial revolution. Almost overnight, the expectations on the workforce changed. What was once determined by chance was now rigorously controlled by the speed of the assembly line conveyors. Suddenly, progress was fused to performance. The day's tasks were no longer passively determined by the land or the weather, but carefully planned by systems designers. Rain or shine, progress marched on. Even the length of a day was now determined by the shift scheduler.
In time, the benchmark for vocational activity was defined as the window between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday – forty hours around which the rest of life revolved.
With that shift to industrialization, our culture became more compartmentalized. We became schedule oriented. Everything we do must take its place on the calendar without violating the forty-hour window. Whether it's being a home-owner with a yard to maintain or a consumer with bills to pay, you must find a compartment in which to be that person. Our lives became defined by the various tasks we perform. And the clock became the taskmaster.
Even the activities that reflect our inner identity must assume time slots on the calendar. If you are a spouse or a parent, there are special compartments of time for being that. If playing golf or going to the theater are expressions of your personality, you must either schedule those events or you won't do them …. tacitly giving up a part of your identity. Whatever you are must be given a compartment on the calendar.
The natural tendency is that we can become defined more by what we do than by who we are. Christianity becomes not so much about what we believe, but about what we do on Sunday morning.
We can become defined more by what we do than by who we are.
There's just one problem with this mind-set. The attributes of your inner person don't fit into compartments. Your personality type and the roles you play follow you wherever you go. If you are a born leader, you will always interpret the world through those eyes. If you assume the role of mother, it will color every other experience you have. Outgoing or shy, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, naturalist or urbanite, the factors that define our identity don't fit into time slots. They bleed over into everything we do.
True Christianity doesn't fit into a compartment either. Because being a Christian is a personal attribute, an identity, like male or female. It's also a worldview It touches everything you do. It shows up in every interaction you have, no matter where you go. Once we belong to God, we can't leave that identity or that relationship in our closet, like the shirt we chose not to wear today. He's there all the time – with us, in us, wanting to live through us.
Therein lies the tension between work and faith. The industrialized work world requests a sanitized environment where productivity can be maximized. Relationships are to be professional and distraction free. Progress cannot be compromised by the agenda of one's personal beliefs. Say what you want at home or at church. Just don't wear it on your sleeve on Monday morning.
But Christianity has the opposite intention. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden," Jesus said (Matthew 5:14). By nature, it declares exemption from compartmentalization. If anything, it demands access to each and every area of our lives. Including our work.
I'll never forget my first day back at work after committing myself fully to God's agenda. I felt like the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. Despite my fresh conviction to go public with my faith, I could sense the inevitable collision with the world that didn't care to hear my views.
In situations like that, it's tempting to force the issue. Since God is bigger than the world, we conclude that His agenda should take priority over all else. As a result, our techniques are often less than tactful.
Needless to say, Jesus wasn't like that. Despite being Lord of all, He entered the world quietly – born to a young woman in an obscure corner of a barn. He never forced Himself on anyone. He just went about His business and let the contrast of those two worlds run their course. And along the way, He was never afraid to be Himself.
Jesus rarely calls us away from what we do professionally. We don't have to quit our jobs. He just calls us to do them from the perspective of who we are in Christ. And as we'll see in the pages that follow, that's when the environment is right for making a difference and making disciples.
ONE MORE WORD ABOUT PURPOSE
Purpose – why we do what we do – is the common denominator that pulls these two worlds together. Other than my faith in Christ and the friends who have walked with me through these years, nothing has been more useful to me than my life-purpose statement. Here's how I developed it.
Soon after my backyard resolution with God, a friend gave me some sermon tapes by a preacher named Charles Stanley, whose church was in downtown Atlanta. The tapes were awesome, so I decided to go and see this guy for myself. After fighting through a full parking lot and settling into a seat behind a television-camera platform, I discovered the church had a guest speaker that Sunday … Ronald Blue, C.P.A.
I had gone through all this to hear a bean counter? I almost left, but I'm glad I didn't.
When Ron walked up to the podium, he asked this question, "Suppose your life is a dollar – what are you spending it on?" The question entranced me. How could I have lived thirty-three years and never given a minute's consideration to what I was doing with my life?
"Suppose your life is a dollar-what are you spending it on?"
Before I could get through that thought, Ron stated his life purpose: "I exist to glorify God by using my financial knowledge and experience to help people to become better stewards of the resources that God has given them."
He was the first person that I had ever known who knew why he existed.
I was hooked. I immediately started thinking about my purpose. What could a sales and marketing guy like me do that would glorify God? Salespeople are not usually thought to be paragons of ethics and integrity. How on earth could God use my sales and marketing knowledge and experience?
The next morning I called Ron Blue's office, and through a series of connections and conversations, I came up with a life-purpose statement: “I, Regi Campbell, exist to glorify God by teaching biblical principles to sales and marketing executives.”
When I took up the mantle of leadership in the start-up company, I modified my life-purpose statement to read “to teach, model, and demonstrate Christ and His principles in the sales and marketing workplace.”
After reading Kevin McCarthy’s book, The On-Purpose Person, I got even more specific about my purpose. I live “to glorify God by loving, serving, and challenging others to be all they can be, and to give all of themselves to Jesus Christ.”
This is what I am attempting to do in every venue of my life every day. I approach work from two perspectives at the same time:
- How can I do my job and do it well?
- How can I make a difference for Christ in the lives of the people I will meet today?
These two drivers must work together. Committed Christians who are lousy workers have little influence. And great workers whose faith in Christ is always kept secret have little value in building God’s kingdom.
Every day, we have two jobs. We are to be great employees, managers, and business owners. We have to do the jobs that we have to the best of our abilities.
But our other job is to be a secret (or not so secret) agent for God. We are to look at our coworkers, subordinates, clients, superiors, vendors, and owners through the lens that God looks through, and then to love, serve, and challenge them to move toward Christ, one step at a time.
Your life-purpose statement may be radically different from mine. Your skills, talent, experience, and interests may be the polar opposite of mine. But the orders we have from the Boss are the same. He gave this one, overarching, universal command to all of His children just before He left to go be with His Dad. He said, "Go and make disciples" (Matthew 28:19).
Now if you've been around church and church people, you've heard that command many times. But what does it really mean? What does God expect me to do? Teach a class? Become an evangelist? Start giving out tracts?
Answering that question is precisely why this book exists.
“YOU'RE TUNED TO WII FM"
Those are the call letters for "What's in it for me?" That's the station we stay tuned to most of the time. What is in this for me? What are the benefits and rewards of living on purpose for Christ every day, at home and at work?
First and foremost, we experience the peace that comes from knowing that we are being obedient. Knowing that Jesus gave us this one huge command just before He left and that we are obeying it gives us peace.
Remember how it felt when your dad (or mom) would tell you to do something that was hard … and you did it? Eureka! There was this sense of health, of self-worth, of accomplishment that was almost indescribable. The bar was set high, but you made it over. And it was particularly fun if what you did really, really pleased him.
That's how God responds when we "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). He loves it. We are pleasing Him. It makes Him smile.
I picked up a saying years ago: "People feel good about themselves when they do the right thing." When you stop putting off living for God and start doing the right things every day, you will experience a sense of peace and wholeness that you may have experienced only a few times in your life. Knowing that God has a purpose for your being here and that you are fulfilling that purpose is huge. It's invigorating. It's comforting. It helps us rebound from setbacks and disappointments. No matter what else is happening at work, we can be successful each day when we focus on what He would have us do, and just do it.
No matter what else is happening at, work, we can be successful each day when we focus on what He would have us do.
Second, we don't feel guilty, ever. Most people who grew up involved in a church got infected with a tremendous amount of guilt. What is good enough? How can I ever be that good? I can never do enough, share enough, pray enough, give enough to please God.
But if you will become a workplace minister and follow the process that I'm going to show you, you can be free from guilt once and for all. You will be doing what Jesus told you to do – you will be making disciples.
Now, you will get off track from time to time. You'll forget about your ministry. You will get so wrapped up in your job or some big project that you'll forget all about your goals to help people at work move one step closer to Christ. And you'll probably feel bad about it. But it will be conviction, not guilt. Guilt comes from the enemy and paralyzes us. Guilt says "You failed. Give up. You're kidding yourself. What were you thinking?"
Conviction comes from the Father and energizes us. Conviction says, "Remember how much I love you. Get going. You can do it. Get back in the game. I am with you always."
Christians who are the "real deal" gain respect. You will become respected as you walk the talk. When you genuinely and sensitively love and serve the people around you, they will come to respect and even admire you. Your reputation will flourish. You will become a person that others listen to and seek advice from.
I believe that God often blesses the business and work endeavors of people who follow Him and attempt to obey His commands. Now, I'm not a fan of the prosperity gospel. You won't hear me preaching, "Make Jesus your choice and get a Rolls-Royce." But I have seen God tremendously bless men and women who are about our Father's business.
Here's how I explain it. God is our perfect Father, right? Well, the perfect Father wants to look down on His kids and bless them. But when He looks down, what are we holding up? Does He see us holding up our best efforts to Him? Or does He see us holding on to our pride, our business reputation, our vanity built on our self-styled success? Does He see us holding on to certain sins? Bad habits?
I want to make it easy for God to bless me. I don't want His vision clouded when He looks down on me and my family. I'm not saying that I can invoke His blessings by my behavior, but I can make sure that I don't put any distractions between Him and me. He won't have to look through a cloud of junk to see my heart. If He blesses, He blesses … that's up to Him. I've done what I'm supposed to do, and that's very peace-giving.
Finally, we have heavenly rewards to look forward to. I know that many people cringe at the thought of doing good stuff on earth so they can get big rewards in heaven. But Scripture talks about rewards more than fifty times. God is big on rewards in heaven. They are going to be there. Someone is going to get them.
I often struggle with this idea of receiving rewards because they are always associated with a competition … the winner gets the award, the loser doesn't. But God's rewards will come from His love for us, and from His desire to reward our faithfulness. We will be so grateful that He made all these things possible that we will give them right back to Him out of our gratitude.
So whether you're moved by the peace that comes from obedience, or by being guilt free for the first time in your life, or by receiving rewards in heaven, join the movement. You will have peace as you do the right thing. And as you do the right thing over and over, you will develop godly character and gain more and more respect. Your reputation as a Christ follower will make you a valuable member of the team. Your work and business endeavors might just get blessed, but your eternal endeavor will absolutely be blessed and rewarded.
You have an open offer for a second job. It's an awesome opportunity. It's a vacancy that only you can fill. If you turn it down, the job won't get done.
Will you sign on?
Written by Regi Campbell. Excerpted from About My Father’s Business. Used by permission of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. Used by permission. Content distributed by WorkLife.org > Used for non-profit teaching purposes only.