How to live out your faith in the workplace
Ten keys to integrate work and faith
“I want you to imagine something with me.
I want you to imagine what it would be like if you had the knowledge, skills and values you need to be effective for Jesus in whatever context he places you, doing whatever work he has gifted you for, serving the people he has put before you.
Let’s imagine that together.”
And so begins Sydney-based theologian, author and speaker, Kara Martin’s third book in the Workship series.
Since writing her first book, Workship: How to Use our Work to Worship God in 2017, Martin has been writing, reflecting and researching the important topic of how we can worship and serve God through our work, whether the workplace is secular or faith based. Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work came out two years later, and now Kara is preparing to release the latest title, Workship 3: How to Live Out Your Christian Faith in the Workplace.
This book, on vocational discipleship, is the result of 20 interviews Kara conducted with people recommended to her because of their posture and servant-leadership in their respective workplaces.
Kara wanted to know how they so successfully integrated their faith into their work. In the beginning pages of Workship 3, Kara explains what she asked these 20 individuals.
“I invited them to choose from a list of key knowledge, skills and values for integration, and then asked them to tell real stories of Christians they observed to describe what each key ingredient looked like in practice. These choices and stories were then analysed by me.”
When our faith and work are well integrated, God emerges through us in all we are and do.
Kara unveiled these ten key ingredients at a Christian Ministry Advancement (CMA) breakfast event in Melbourne last week. More than 70 early risers were fully present as they heard about what ingredients were demonstrated by Christians who had understood what it meant to integrate their faith and work.
Is this not what we all want to achieve? But how hard can it be?
Kara’s focus was on those involved in the health care and teaching professions. Her logic being that these two professions serve adults and children of all diversities and backgrounds, and that service is all-in. And from those interviews with Christians in these professions, she has distilled a list of ten specific knowledge, skills and values measures that demonstrate the integration between faith and work.
To help the audience understand the significance of integration, Kara presented a metaphor. She suggested that most of us are like mandarins. Mandarins are made of a series of segments, which we tend to break and eat one at a time. Likewise, we can segment our lives, for example, work, family, social, volunteer, church, etc. She encouraged us to imagine ourselves more as a peach. It has a solid centre, which ensures the fruit remains healthy. If we think of God as the peach stone, he is at the heart of everything we do.
To further give substance to the concept of integration, Kara referenced the great theologian Eugene Peterson’s words, “If you are intimately connected with God, everything you do is shaped by your connection to God and will flow out into your life.”
What is deeply affirming about this list of ten key knowledge, skills and values for integration, is that it makes clear what we already know. Eugene Petersen just told us above, and Kara’s research confirms it.
When our faith and work are well integrated, God emerges through us in all we are and do. But we need to keep working on it.
So, it is little surprise that the first ingredient, under knowledge, is ensuring that we practice the spiritual disciplines for a foundation of intimacy with God. God first!
The second is knowledge of biblical narrative. To help the audience understand why this is important in the work context, Kara quoted one of the interviewees:
“I think integrating your faith and work should be the outflow – a manifestation – of one’s faith; and there is potentially no substance to do that, and you could get caught up in bad theology, if you don’t have biblical literacy in its entirety, that is knowledge of the Old and New Testaments, the major themes and doctrinal concepts.”
The third and fourth keys relate to a knowledge of worldviews and a knowledge of a theology of work. Worldviews is a no-brainer, but have you considered a theology of work?
What might that look like? Again, Kara’s example helped make it clear. A researcher in public health understands that God cares for the disabled and disadvantaged. “He has expended so much time and energy into championing health care and policy for the disabled in Australia and globally, particularly in the majority world. When you see that example lived out, the outside world cannot deny the inspiration of Christ.”
The skills and values, while no easier to live out than knowledge, are perhaps concepts that do not surprise.
The three key ingredients under the heading of skills are: Practise servant leadership; build authentic relationships and transform work.
And the values that relate to who we are and the way our understanding of God informs everything we are, do and become: intimacy with God, godly character and work as worship.
The presentation was well received due to its relevance for all workers, whether in the secular or church space. How intentional are we in our work, and how can we continue to wrestle with this, lifting our work up to God and seeking integration?
It is a humbling concept to seek to be Jesus in all we do, including in the workplace. But as Kara made clear, the more we are anchored in our faith – daily sitting in God’s word and lifting our workplace to God in prayer – the more we too can achieve that integration of work and faith.