Could you talk about your spiritual formation regarding work, relationships, and, ultimately, success in a storied format (describing your progress through experience)?

Daniel,

We are truly grateful for your commitment to spend time here on RZIM Connect this week.

I, similarly, studied in universities throughout Texas and found myself in the oil and gas business early on in my career. First off, I am intrigued by your passion and ability to speak into the idea of faith in the workplace (something that I have struggled with). Secondly, I am also interested and have thought deeply about the idea of “success” in light of my Christian faith, especially within a Western, capitalistic context.

If you would be willing, could you talk about your spiritual formation regarding work, relationships, and, ultimately, success in a storied format (describing your progress through experience)? Lastly, tell us how you landed at the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics and how that has influenced your story?

Thanks!
-Mitch

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Mitch, thanks for your question brother. Also, I noticed you recently joined RZIM Connect. Welcome!

I think you and I have a lot in common. Young Life played a big role in my life as a teenager and I also went to Wilderness Ranch as a backpacker and Frontier Ranch. Good times!

I’m glad you asked about the connection between faith and the workplace. There is a lot of exciting conversation about this currently amongst Christians probably because it’s been a neglected topic amongst Christian discipleship for quite some time.

Dorothy Sayers has a very interesting quote on this matter. She was a brilliant British writer and was a Christian as well:

“In nothing has the church so lost her hold on reality as in to respect and understand the secular vocation. The church has allowed faith and work to become separate departments and then is astonished to see the world turn away from faith in God. How can anyone remain interested in a faith that seems to have no concern for 9/10ths of his/her life?”

When it comes to the issue of faith and work most people assume you are talking about evangelism. In fact, some people will come to me in tears saying “I’m a lousy Christian” and I’ll say “what do you mean?” and they’ll say “Well, I don’t know how to share my faith at work, I’m embarrassed, I’m a lousy Christian.” Well, I don’t know if you are a lousy Christian, you might be, but I think we need to get a much broader perspective on this topic of faith and work. I see 3 broad categories, borrowing from David Miller. They all begin with the letter ‘E’.

  1. Expression: Some people might like to use the word evangelism instead. I think expression has two sub categories. One is verbal and the other is non-verbal. Christians ought to learn how to become comfortable sharing their faith in words but sometimes we need to share our faith non-verbally first through our actions. Non-verbal expression of your faith often is the contact work (to borrow a YL term!) in building a relationship with a co-worker, like genuine a sacrifice for another, giving up your time repeatedly for someone, remember birthdays, asking intentional questions about their life, etc.

  2. Ethics: In Scripture there is certainly a high call for Christians to be people of integrity (a rare commodity today). Some people might be still learning how to best talk about their faith but their personal probity causes others to question their own inability to have integrity in tough situations. There is a lot of pressure for profitability when a company is facing hard times. Unless you have a grounded moral compass that is objective and can guide you, you’re going to have a lot of trouble saying, “No, I’m not going to do that and no I can’t make this deal under the table.” I remember meeting with a company who’s board couldn’t decide on the company values and morals. Business ethics is like trying to nail jello to a wall and if you’re a Christian you have a moral compass that guides you, not simply for the purpose of clean profit, but completely outside of that guiding you in your whole life.

  3. Experience: How do you experience your work? Do you view it as a job to pay the rent, nothing more? Is it a means to an end or is it an end in itself? Are you ok with that? I think the most common conversation I have about work with the younger generation is work is a means to an end and it leaves them with a sense of boredom and purposelessness. There are those on the flip side, who use work as an end in itself to get their identity but this also eventually leaves them bored. You might be familiar with Ken Melrose, the retired CEO of the Toro Company, the lawn mower and golf equipment company. He had a sign above his telephone that read “God has you here for a purpose.” He wasn’t there just to make lawn mowers and irrigation equipment for golf courses but to truly shape people’s lives. But callings don’t have to be glamorous, sometimes we need help in re-framing our view of work. Christianity gives you an identity that is external to your career. It doesn’t depend on your successes of your failures. Tim Keller, a pastor in New York wrote a book called Every Good Endeavor and he says, “If work is your identity and you’re successful, it will go to your head. But, if your work is your identity and you’re a failure, it will go to your heart and crush you.” I’ve met countless people who work minimum wage who are far more joyful and content with their lives than I have rich people who travel the world.

Success is a very tricky thing. Everybody wants it but it never gives what we think it promises. It only leaves you searching. In Christianity you see the pinnacle of success through an apparent failure. You have a God who became weak and died for us so we can be saved by grace and have victory over life – a free gift of God’s love toward us. And that’s the reason why the first step to success is to admit you’re failure. The first step to faith is to admit you have none. The first step to security is to admit that you are insecure. That’s the way in.

Your greatest success in life isn’t being the best career man, father, husband, golfer, etc. Your greatest success in life is to worship God with all your faculties and allow it then to overflow into every area of your life as you pursue the highest excellence for a God who knows you and loves you fully.

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