Tag Archives: bi-vocational

Be For The City with Your Work

As I’m leaving my company and engineering I’ve thought a lot about the importance of redeeming your time at work, especially for Christians. We’ve all seen too much Office Space and The Office to view our cubicle environment as boring, but lately I can’t help but see the immense value in people seeking to be excellent at their job, whether white color or blue collar not just for their own success, but for the welfare and success of their city.

Imagine living in a city where each individual pursued excellence in their work and sought a better quality of life for their city through their job. If in every field of work, whether it be politics, custodial services, the arts, teaching, or the granddaddy of them all, engineering, every individual thinking of how their work improves the quality of life and betterment of their city.

Imagine if politicians weren’t concerned solely with their re-election campaign, but saw their efforts to seek the betterment of their local neighborhoods and cities as their re-election campaign. If the waste services company took pride in keeping neighborhoods and streets clean, if engineers focused on partnering with neighborhoods and municipalities to genuinely improve the transit system while building the success of their firm. If planners and businesses, in addition to choosing locations for success, sought locations that improve the economic condition of the poorer neighborhoods & sought to develop rather than gentrify the area.

Wouldn’t you want to live in that city? Shouldn’t that motivate us to action? The desire to live in a city where every working environment and neighborhood sought the benefit of the whole through cherishing and valuing their individual work deeply rather than valuing it as much as the paycheck or the value given to it by the world!

Sure it’s idealistic, but as a Christian, I can’t help but desire to see all things redeemed and restored to a creation that was once described as “very good”. From there, thanks to our destructive ways, society has disintegrated our cities into what they’ve become. But now, in light of the gospel, you get paid as a teacher, lawyer, engineer, or to build TPS reports by your company while being a missionary and advocate for your city.

It’s been amazing to be here in Austin and watch The Austin Stone Community Church cast this vision to their church and see it lead the way in opening the For The City center in St. John’s. I hope their efforts inspire the people of the Austin Stone & Austin to approach their work differently, not simply as a means to a paycheck, but an opportunity to address an area of the city that needs to be redeemed and restored. Until a holistic approach is taken seeking to address the areas we each have influence over, we will not see the restoration that we all wish we would see.

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Do I really love people?

I’ve been reading Galatians lately and a couple of verses that have jumped out to me are Galations 5:5-6, which reads:

For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

I bolded that last part because it’s what has been ringing in my head for a month. Is my faith working itself out through love? Does my faith and hope in Jesus Christ for righteousness result in me loving people? Throughout this chapter, this same theme keeps reoccurring that for a Christian, walking daily in faith produces a freedom to love people. Over the last month I’ve developed a few gauges that have helped me realize whether or not I actually love people.

The Elevator Gauge.

Is there a more awkward environment than an elevator with a mirror? That’s my daily routine. The gauge for me works like this. While I’m in the elevator, am I concerned about the other people in there enough to look up from my phone and say hello? How unloving am I when I don’t even choose to look up and acknowledge the people I share an elevator with for 30 seconds? Maybe you’re thinking it’s not a big deal, but for me it reveals a self-centeredness that places value on myself over others.

As I’ve tried to change this, I was shocked when I asked “How is your day going?” and my elevator mate responded “Really terribly actually.” We only talked briefly, but I thought, “How many people have been having miserable days and I’ve only been concerned about my email or what these people think of me?” It was terribly convicting.

The Cashier Clerk Gauge

This involves my heart and attitude at the checkout line in a grocery store or anywhere that I’m being served. If I’ve left the grocery store or restaurant or wherever, do I even remember the name of the person serving me or did I act like they owed me service without gratitude? I too often get caught up in my own schedule and needs that I treat people as robots instead of as potential friends. For me, this gauge shows me if I’m walking in faith in Jesus or walking in belief that I’m better than others. In truth, I hate this gauge, but man I need it as a good continual reminder that Christ loved and loves me whether I give Him great service or terrible service.

The Celebration Gauge

This gauge evaluates whether I really am excited for the successes of others or if envy and jealousy reigns underneath. When I see my friends or co-workers rewarded, do I celebrate with them or secretly wish it was me or worse, complain that they don’t deserve it. If I’m really walking daily in my faith in Jesus Christ, I find myself caring more for the success of others than myself. I desire for them to achieve their dreams and be able to toast their success. If I can’t celebrate with them, it shows me I don’t really love them.

The Grieving Gauge

This gauge tends to deal with how deeply you or I love someone. Most of us will be sad when bad things happen to people, but will we sacrifice things in our lives to grieve alongside them? In the gospel, we see Jesus Christ who suffers so that He can comfort those who suffer. If I believe that Christ suffered for me and that I am to follow His example, the results should be the freedom to cry and mourn with those who hurt, to try and put myself in their shoes as best I can and whether I can or not, to be sad simply because I care about them so much. Grieving with someone is a different level of love and caring for them. As Christians, we should be the first to grieve with any and all who hurt.

What about you?

These are just instances lately that have served as gauges for my love for people in general. The verse in Galatians has really forced me to consider whether my faith is manifesting itself through love or if I have sunk into a cognitive understanding of belief that doesn’t produce the actions of Jesus Christ.

I’m glad the elevator gauge and cashier clerk gauge happen so often because they serve so well as clear reminders of my need to depend of Christ through prayer and reading the bible so that I think and act differently, so that I truly let my faith work itself out in love.

Do you have similar gauges or situations that show you whether you are loving people? Occurrences that force you to evaluate your faith?

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What Francis Chan should force every lay leader to ask themselves

For those of you who do not know Francis Chan, he’s a godly man who is the lead pastor of Simi Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA and the author of The Forgotten God and Crazy Love. He’s an incredibly dynamic speaker who travels North America and the world preaching the bible.

Recently, he announced to his congregation that the Lord has led him to step down from his highly successful job and pastoring a large mega-church in the suburbs of Los Angeles. It was the talk of Christian circles because why would a successful pastor leading a large church leave his position? If you have heard him speak in the last few years, it’s easy to see a man willing to do whatever God asks him to do. As he and his wife and family have prayed, they believe that God the Holy Spirit is leading them away from Cornerstone to something new and the crazy thing is, he doesn’t exactly know what it’s going to be.

As I’ve thought through this the last few weeks, I went through a range of thoughts. Mainly centered around my initial thought that “every pastor should have to wrestle with what Francis is doing and consider doing the same”.

But then I had to face the music and question whether I was willing to ask the same question of myself. I think the tendency of lay leadership is to expect a higher standard of their pastors than themselves.

That means that every lay leader, including myself, should have to ask 2 questions of ourselves in light of Francis Chan’s actions.

1)      Are we willing to follow God’s leading in our lives no matter what the cost? Are you willing to seek God and ask Him to lead you even if it means you have to change your life? And I’m not even talking about the big stuff yet, I’m talking about the little things. Are you willing to let God lead you to serve more in a church and sacrifice a night you could be watching Lost? Or are you willing to sacrifice your sports knowledge to spend time investing in your family or your neighbors for deeper relationship? These are small sacrifices that seem big because they’ve become part of our routine.

2)      Are you willing to follow God’s leading out of your job similar to the way Francis Chan did? Now this question just seems crazy to me. It seems irresponsible and foolish.

A thousand questions rush to my mind. How you will you make a living if God leads you away from your job? Are you even in a position to do so? How will you take care of your family? It involves so much fear, and reveals so much about me. You see, I say I believe God is the one who provides for my family in every way. I say I believe that God is in control of my job situation. I say that I believe God when he says that I shouldn’t worry about provisions because He says he provides for the birds and the flowers and I am much more valuable than that.

As church-going Christians, our tendency will be to assume the radical decisions like Francis’ are something pastors have to deal with, but the reality is that all Christians by declaration of faith profess to follow God no matter what the costs or where He leads. Francis’ decision forces us to deal with what we really believe.

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Bless your pastor with your service

This my final post for the series on how to bless your pastor by taking on a bi-vocational mindset as a Christian who views their calling to work as a minister of the gospel both in the “secular” world and in serving a local body.

Humbly Submit to Serve in their ministry

It’s now time to not only change our mindset, but act upon it by volunteering to serve at your church. If you’re not sure exactly what ministry to try, just pick one and start serving. As you start serving and get a better understanding of what you really enjoy when it comes to ministry, you can transition out of your current serving opportunity into a new ministry. But unless you try to serve in ANY of the church’s ministries you’ll likely never discover other opportunities.

I’ve seen this all the time in our college ministry. People come to volunteer in the college ministry and serve faithfully, but then another ministry like Kidstuff starts to interest them. So they start volunteering there and realize that investing in kids is really where they have been gifted and enjoy. It’s always hard to lose a faithful volunteer in our ministry, but we have come to rejoice in the fact that we can build up other ministries in the church and that we’re developing people who will give their energy and time where their passion is.

What do you need to do to start serving?

1. Assess the time you can give. Plan your typical week, if you’re married do that with your wife, and evaluate how much time can you give to serve in a ministry. Are you only able to serve before or after a service? Do you have time mid-week that could be given to help administratively?

2. Be willing to help where needed, not only in areas that excite you. You might be needed in the most behind-the-scenes, thankless job of set-up and teardown or holding crying babies on a Sunday morning instead of in the cooler leadership development/discipleship position. But if the goal is to serve the church and be a blessing to your pastoral staff, the means is filling the needs first, learning to serve the church not your own ambitions.

3. Identify the ministries in your church. Do you know about the mercy ministries in your church? The efforts to reach your city or the nations for the gospel? Spend time figuring out the areas your church has to serve. There’s way more than you think, & when you find that out, you’ll realize that all of them need more people willing to serve with the time they have.

4. Ask your pastor where you’re needed and start serving. This should be easier than it is. Simply ask your pastor where the greatest need is and be willing to say yes. Start serving in that position to see if you really are gifted there and think through how you can help the pastor as the develop the ministry further.

How does this bless your pastor?

Freedom from firefighting. Having more leaders gives pastor’s more time. They no longer have to constantly put out “fires” and handle the next immediate need, but can focus on developing people and the ministry. This freedom blesses the pastor, but also blesses the church as a whole.

Less worries about finding leaders & volunteers. There are churches who have to turn people away because there’s not enough leaders to serve in the childcare on a Sunday. In our college ministry we’ve had 40-50 students who need to be mentored and invested in by 15-20 adult coaches, but are sometimes only able to find 10. For the pastor this means spending extra time and energy seeking out someone who is willing to fill the gap. How much greater would it be if Christians came to church to serve rather than to be served? Even sounds a bit like being like Jesus…

More Leaders provides for more and healthier growth. The bible indicates that churches that are built on the gospel and a commitment to biblical truth will grow, but this growth will either be impeded by the lack of leaders volunteering or benefit from a church-wide mentality that is selfless and seeks the benefit of the whole.   

Final Thought

You may be only able to give 5-10 hours a week to assist a ministry, but imagine if 10 people gave 5-10 hours a week. That’s 50-100 hours of assisting your church. You’ve freed them up from hiring more staff all while fulfilling the call God has placed on Christians to be a part of building up the body of Christ.

It’s time for Christians to seek to be a blessing to their pastors and their churches instead of just seeking to be blessed.

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Wrestle with and embrace your pastor’s vision

Continuing my thoughts on ways to Bless your pastor.

In my mind today’s post is likely the most important and best way to bless your pastor. The last 2 have been focused on making sure your priorities are straight. Home must be where you expend your energy and effort first and then God has specifically placed you for excellence at your job next, but Christians cannot hide behind either home or their job as an excuse for not investing in a local body of Christ, a local church.

We are called to faithfully participate in the mission of God and that is primarily seen through being a part of a local body. The only way to effectively get involved is by wrestling with and embracing your pastor’s vision.

From my own experience…

When our community pastor first unfolded a vision for shifting community groups to missional communities, I hated it and I pushed back. “We had spent 2 years in our community group and seen God do amazing things, why would I change?” was my thinking. I then had to decide whether I was going to be a dissenting voice among the congregation or seek to understand my pastor and the vision he had spent months discussing, debating, and praying through. I chose the latter and I am grateful for it. Here’s what I learned through the process.

1. I worship my own mind and thinking. I don’t need success to think that I’m right, but if I see even a little measure of success it creates in me a prideful mindset that declares that I’m the ONE that has it figured out and all should follow. It’s silly. I had to repent and try my best to actually BE humble instead of just look it.

2. There’s a reason he’s the pastor and I am not. If God wanted me to be the one laying out the vision and training others to accomplish it, He’s certainly powerful enough to put me in that situation, but He hasn’t. Will I form a mutiny against the man God has called to lead me or will I trust the Lord and follow him?

3. I have to ask a lot of questions and process semantic and philosophical differences. If you’re ever going to understand your pastor, ask a lot of questions. Also, your pastor is more willing to answer your questions if they know you are trying to be on board with their vision. They won’t know this by you saying it, they will know this by you serving in their church. There’s usually a plethora of service opportunities at a church (i.e. welcome team, usher, communion/tithe person, volunteer in the childcare).

Sometimes your differences are merely semantic or word-choice differences that we have each tied extended meaning to and we have to spend time processing so that our semantic differences don’t cause unnecessary strife.

4. My pastor is more open to my suggestions if I seek to understand him first. I’m no stranger to offering advice, I mean, hello I write on a blog…but I learned that until I had a pretty good understanding of my pastor’s vision and strategy, I wasn’t really able to offer any decent advice and he wasn’t really interested in hearing it. It was because the advice was uninformed and as it became more informed, my voice carried more weight.

5. There is freedom in submitting to your pastor’s vision and seeking to accomplish it. When you stop trying to create your own way that may or may not be against the pastor’s tide of thinking, there grows a freedom inside of you to just pursue accomplishing the mission. You are no longer bogged down by bitterness & frustration, you’re free to live out a godly vision. It’s refreshing.

How does this bless your pastor?

It affirms God’s call on their lives. Expressing your trust by seeking to understand them and accomplish it verifies the vision God has given them and encourages them to pursue it with more passion.

Increase their joy in fulfilling their vision. I’ve never met a pastor unwilling to discuss, expound, or repeat his vision for the church. It’s their calling and it brings them joy. That joy is increased when people back that vision.

The vision and mission actually start getting accomplished. A house divided against itself cannot stand, nor can it make it headway in accomplishing anything. When people unite around mission, great things can be accomplished and worship of Jesus tends to increase with it. It’s more exciting than in-house debating and gives greater joy to all involved.

One Final Thought

If you can’t get behind the vision your pastor has laid out for you and your church, go somewhere else. It’s not worth the bitterness, frustration, debates, and time wasted in your life and your pastor’s life. If you’ve tried to get a good understanding and still can’t get behind it, it’s obviously time to move on.

Any additional thoughts from my pastor friends or fellow volunteers at churches? Any comments or questions?

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Bless your pastor with your work

Continuing my thoughts on ways to bless your pastor. Other blogs here and here.

Your pastor is unable to be an engineer, a business consultant, a teacher, a stay-at-home parent, and all the other jobs that happen in your city. He can do his best on a Sunday to reach those various vocations, but his calling is to invest his time in establishing, leading, and building the church. You and I can bless our pastor by taking the gospel message of Jesus Christ, that “He died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that on the third day He rose again according to the scripture” as it says in 1 Corinthians 15:3, to all our workplaces to assist in building a church for Jesus in your city.

How can you be both excellent at your job AND care for your co-workers?

Go to work as a bi-vocational missionary

A biblical view of a Christian’s life can seem like they are in tension since they are called to be minister of the gospel while also being excellent at the “secular” job God has equipped them for and placed them in. It seems to me that employees are typically either excellent at getting things done OR excellent at being friends with co-workers, but the question is why can’t you be both? What would have to change for you to be a missionary at work in a way that blesses your pastor at your church?

1. View Jesus as Your Boss – Colossians 3:23-24 instructs Christians to work as if we are doing it for the Lord and not for man. You now have a boss that demands excellence, but is gracious in your failures, One who rejoices over you and delights in your efforts, someone who is a delight to work for because you are always valued in their eyes, always worth the sacrifice they make for you in their job as boss.

Now this might force you to deal with how you view God. Do you view him as a tyrant, angry with your failures? Because in Christ, He no longer condemns and His love never fails. Do you view God as someone who graciously lets you be lazy and sinful? Because in Christ, His spirit indwells you to fulfill all His commands.

He both delights in you despite your failures and equips you for the excellence He demands. That’s a pretty awesome boss.

2. Plan time for co-workers – If you’re a workaholic, focused on achieving the immediate task, you’ll either be annoyed that your co-workers talk so much or ignore them for the sake of your work.  You may have to come in early or take work home, but plan to just take time to care about your cube-mate. Ask them about their life more than your anxious to share about your own. And treat everyone from the receptionist to your boss with the same care and respect. That should be obvious, but I’ve noticed it isn’t and everyone else notices as well. Jesus seemed to care more about the least important than the most important, but for some reason we flip it.

2a. Remember when you received the gospel – The bible says we were helpless enemies of God when we received the gospel. If this is true, no co-worker should be “too annoying” or “too rude” to be cared about and the gospel asks us to love others as we have been loved.

3. Take a Sabbath – To make it obvious to others and to guard yourself against working defining your life, plan a day of rest away from work, your work phone, and your email. This shows your identity is found in God’s work and not your own.

4. Prioritize serving the church – If you have a commitment to the church that takes you away from work for an evening or a long lunch, plan to make it consistent and communicate with your boss why you do it. I’ve found the church involvement has helped me at work and work has helped be an effective leader at church. They are not at odds with one another.

And bring your mentality for excellence at work into your ministry at the church. It’s definitely needed.

How will this bless your pastor?

By helping them accomplish God’s mission – As I mentioned at the start, your pastor isn’t a superhero who can do every job in your city and build the church, bless him by partnering for expansion of the gospel.

Displaying for the church that a bi-vocational life can be done – Because we’re all cynical we can sometimes think the pastor doesn’t understand what we go through, that we have to spend 40, 50 or 60 hours a week at a job that isn’t focused on the church. Well, if you trust the Lord’s call to be bi-vocational you lessen the cynicism within your church and can assist in equipping others like you to do the same. Less cynicism and critiques in the church will definitively bless your pastor.

Feel free to disagree or to add your thoughts and comments or add to something I may have missed.

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Want to Bless your Pastor?

In the past I’ve heard and been a part of a few gatherings of people with the mind to bless their pastor and thank them for their service in the church. I’ve thought about this a lot lately and here are some of the things bouncing around in my head.

These blessings usually center around dinners, gifts, vacations, etc., which I’m sure pastors love to receive and feel blessed by, but as I’ve talked to and listened to a number of pastors, I find one of the biggest blessings you could give to your pastor has nothing to do with something you could purchase for them.

If you truly want to bless your pastor, accept and embrace the call on all Christians to have a bi-vocational mindset. By bi-vocational, I mean have the mindset that you as a teacher, business man, lawyer, website designer or engineer/nerd have also been called into full-time ministry. Lest you think me a crazy heretic, scripture clearly indicates the priesthood of all believers in 1 Peter 2 with the implication that your full-time pastor is merely the one who is paid by the church to do ministry, meanwhile you get paid by your company to do full-time ministry.

What do you mean full-time ministry?

In Ephesians 4, Paul discusses the role of the leaders of the church is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry”, so their full-time ministry is equipping you so that Monday-Saturday you can faithfully live as a Christian at home, in your workplace, in your neighborhood, and serving in the church.

No longer can we say “I’m a Christian” and that only mean “I attend church on Sunday”. Now “I’m a Christian” means I live in all areas of my life as a full-time minister seeking to proclaim the gospel through my words and back it up with my life.

I don’t mean neglect your job and only do ministry. I mean do your job excellently as a work for the Lord and care for your co-workers.

How should I try to live this out if I’m a Christian?

Here are 4 ways you could live this out

  1. Treat your home as a mini-church – Enjoy going to church on Sundays? Interacting with other Christians and worshipping? What’s stopping you from making your home a place a spiritual refreshment?
  2. Go to work as a missionary – A right vocational theology sees Jesus as your ultimate and the greatest boss you could have. Your workplace can be a place of joy by seeking to be excellent at your job while also seeking to care about your co-workers. Both should happen simultaneously and the results should be that the gospel is displayed in 100s of workplaces throughout the week, not in 1 building on a Sunday.
  3. Wrestle with and embrace your pastor’s vision – Christians have embraced an individualism that has allowed us to pick and choose what we like of what our church offers. If this is a Christian’s mentality, they are the opposite of a blessing to their church. Instead seek to understand your pastor’s vision and strategy so that you can embrace it as your own. I’m not saying you never disagree, but seek to help fulfill the church’s vision, not just your own. Then your church will have 100s of pastors instead of a handful.
  4. Humbly submit to serve in their ministry – Ask them where you could be used to fulfill their vision and be willing to work behind the scenes for the gospel to be proclaimed publicly. This takes more humility than you currently think you have and working behind the scenes is actually the best way to build that humility.

I’ve never heard a pastor complain about people being willing to serve faithfully to fulfill their vision. It’s not only a blessing to your pastor, but it’s what must happen if the church in America is ever to survive. The church needs Christians to embrace their biblical call from God to be bi-vocational whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, a lawyer, teacher, or an engineer.

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