I was very excited to read this book on this important topic which I believe is written too little about, but found myself a bit disappointed.
WHAT I LIKED: Mr. Nelson is an engaging and entertaining writer. Early in the book I thought it was going to be great. He's a very quotable & talented writer, and writes like he's speaking to you; some thoughts are expressed very clearly and well. Each chapter is followed by a letter from a real life person applying the principles just covered - I found that to be an excellent approach to showing the practicality of the information.
WHAT I DIDN'T: The book is not arranged (outlined) very distinctly. I've never critiziced this before, but that's the best way I can explain it. The result is that as you progress through the book, rather than growing in your understanding, you begin to feel like the same point is being rehashed with each chapter. This becomes frustrating when, in the latter chapters, we often read of the "robust theology of vocation;" why not dedicate more pages to explaining that robust theology?
OVERALL: Mr. Nelson makes some excellent points in plain English; but the book could have been much shorter with the same information. If you have not read a book on this subject, it will be a good start. If you're looking for a more thorough treatment, try God at Work, by Gene Veith.
In the late 1990s, I took a two-year hiatus from pastoral ministry to work in corporate America. My experience there shaped the way I think about Christian vocation. It taught me that the pastoral vocation was but one of many Christian vocations. Its purpose was to help people respond to both their primary vocation (faith in Jesus Christ for salvation) and their secondary vocation (faithful presence in the workaday world).
Tom Nelson's Work Matters is an insightful treatment of how Christians' primary vocation affects their secondary vocation. The book grounds its treatment of the subject in the biblical categories of creation, fall, redemption, and glorification (chapters 1-4). Based on that foundation, it then examines practical issues such as dealing with the ordinariness of work, how work shapes us, working for the common good, vocational giftedness, workplace integrity, and the church's role in shaping good workers (chapters 5-10). In each chapter of this well-written book, Nelson moves seamlessly between biblical exposition, culturally relevant illustration, and practical application. Each chapter concludes with a personal testimony from a Christian worker explaining how their faith shapes what they do.
Nelson is pastor of Christ Community Church in Leawood, Kansas, and author of Five Smooth Stones: Discovering the Path to Wholeness of Soul and Ekklesia: Rediscovering God's Design for the Church. In Work Matters, he writes for Christian laypeople, not pastors, and each chapter includes discussion questions. I would recommend this book to adult Sunday school classes, small groups, and book clubs. Pastors might also consider using it as a resource for a preaching or teaching series on work.
Jesus spent most of his life working as a carpenter. If Jesus were around today the Son of God would likely be repairing roofs, serving fast food, or maybe providing computer maintenance. Tom Nelson highlights this point in his delightful book `Work Matters'.
According to Nelson, the fact that Jesus had a rather ordinary job in addition to his side-gig as Redeemer of humanity should bring tremendous consolation to many who may feel disillusioned by the drudgery of their own work. All work, whatever it may be (aside from professions like hit man) has worth, value and meaning to God. Why? Because we were designed for work and when God renews the world, we will continue to work in his kingdom. Therefore, Nelson argues that Christians should make the effort to integrate their `Sunday worship' with their `Monday work'. In other words, Christians shouldn't compartmentalize between worship and work but allow their work to be filled with the Gospel and Holy Spirit and conduct it as worship to God in the character of God. An important point that Nelson highlights is that doing God's work is not limited solely to the traditional occupations of the church (pastor, missionary, church administrator). All work contributes to the multifaceted needs of God's kingdom.
Nelson shares stories and anecdotes to present a Scripture-based understanding of the nature of work in relation to God. We're reminded that though work is important, we should rest from it because it should not be the ultimate center of our lives. That honor belongs solely to God. Throughout his book, Nelson explores how work is an integral feature in God's creation; why each of us are called to a vocation rather than solely filling a job to earn a living; he explains why we tend to find work frustrating and toilsome; and how work has transformative properties that lift up the community and the worker.
This book is important for anyone looking for a Biblical understanding of the value of work and who thinks about how man should apply his God-given gifts in a material world.
on February 13, 2012
I enjoyed reading this book. It held my interest, wasn't too wordy, and wasn't "preachy" either. He used scripture and the works of other authors to make useful points. He gave good examples and explained them well. Overall, the book was well-written.
The Amazon book description covers what the book is about, so I will not repeat it. I'll just say that the author did a good job with the subject and if the subject interests you, you will probably enjoy this book as I did. It wasn't too long, didn't puff itself up with flowery preacher talk, and didn't sound like it was written by someone who never gets out of a church building.
One point I really liked was when the author reminded us that Jesus was a carpenter and got up and went to work just like the rest of us. Okay, the author's point is longer than that, but I liked the reminder. That made me wonder why God had Jesus be born to someone who would have him go into a manual labor (though skilled) trade instead of something else. Interesting to think about.
Anyway, to sum up, I found the book interesting, it made some good points, I learned something from it, and it was well-written, so I gave it a four star rating.
on November 18, 2012
Change is hard. I have worked in education for many years and I am continually amazed by our inability (in the education community) to deliver the best student learning possible, despite our best intentions. We know what works, in most cases, but it's in implementing the right policies that we often stumble. And this is where Dr. Nelson's work shines like a brilliant star in a dark sky. That's because he practices what he preaches. He has not just written a classic on how our view of the mission of God in the world is incomplete without an active incorporation of how God works through our work or vocations, but he is also leading the way forward in real time.
Building on a robust theology of work, he has completely re-wired and equipped the congregation he leads to emphasize the calling of Christians to flourish in and through their vocations. Hence the spiritual formation curriculum of the Christ Community Church involves, by design, an integral focus on vocational stewardship, including supportive discipleship and small groups. His church leadership also spends time in the workplaces of their parishioners, and consciously uses language that reinforces and affirms vocational callings ("All too often our language says one thing and our language communicates another").
I am convinced that pastors and spiritual leaders anywhere will find Work Matters an invaluable companion on how to lead their congregations, groups and organizations in connecting the "professions of their Sunday faith with the practices of their Monday work." But this book is also a very important one for Christians anywhere who wonder what and how their jobs could possibly contribute in God's grand scheme or design for human flourishing, and imitate the life and example of Christ, who was also known as the carpenter.
on March 26, 2012
Author and Senior Pastor of Christ Community Church in Leawood Kansas, Tom Nelson, has written what I believe an accurate, very practical and Biblical book that deals with the issue of how to connect our heavenly Sunday Worship of the Living God to our earthly work in the real-time world of work Monday through Friday.
In Chapter 1 of his book author Nelson lets us know right up front that whether we like the idea of it or whether we enjoy it or not, we have been created by our creator as his image bearers in this world to work. He writes and as I strongly believe personally that work is "an act of worship" thus making it extremely important to anyone who is a lover of God and disciple of Christ. At the end of Chapter 1 and all 10 chapters in the book he ends the chapter with "A Prayer for Our Work" which I happen to think is really cool and a personal real life testimonial from different people who serve our God in different vocations or different ways of work. It is much easier to read and relate to and interact with a book when the book is practical and real and this book qualifies as just that...real, down to earth, where the rubber meets the road kind of practical.
In the other 9 chapters of his book, author Nelson writes about work from the perspective of the perceived bad and the ugly, ("painful"); appropriately giving chapter 2 the title, "Is Work A Four Letter Word?" to the "good," writing about as he refers to it in chapter 3, "The Good News of Work," then "Extraordinary Ordinary Work" in chapter 5, "The Transforming Power of Work" in chapter 6, "Work and the Common Good" in chapter 7. He then writes about the matter of our "giftedness" for work and that we need to assess some key areas that relates to our lives so we can find our sweet place of "workship" and thus our worship for and to God through our work. In chapter 9 he reveals some of the challenges we all face in work and how we can most appropriately respond to those challenges in a God-honoring way. And in chapter 10 he writes about how the church, that is the individual members of the body of Christ, (The Church) as well as the church corporately as an entire united body have a God mandated work to do and that is to fulfill the Great Commission of Christ.
Throughout his book, Pastor Nelson shares Scriptures that supports what he believes and has written in his book as well as memorable quotes from theologians and church leaders in the past and present. All of which are intended to instruct, edify and to build us up in the most holy faith so that we might be properly equipped to do the work (vocationally) and the work (missionally) that God has created us and appointed for us to do. And in some cases it means that we will be called to what is often times mistakenly referred to as "full time Christian service;" (I write mistakenly because no matter what our vocation in life is, in the vocation to which we are called we are all to be a full-time on the job, ready, willing and able to work - and work wholeheartedly I might add, not unto man or for man but as unto the Lord for his glory and the good of man. So that makes us all "full-time" servants of the Lord. And this is not a concept that many so called professing Christians have a good understanding of in our society today. Thus, that is why the book by Pastor Nelson is so important - for such a time as this - to help us as God's chosen people and image bearers to connect our heavenly Sunday worship with our earthly Monday through Friday in the real world work, whatever that might be. This book is definitely an essential read for any believer struggling with the issue of work, the importance of work, and how their work relates to their relationship and worship of God and doing good for their fellow man.
I have received a complimentary copy of the book Work Matters from the publisher, Crossway Publishers, for reviewing it.
The dichotomy between work and faith continues to be a challenge for many. Pious Christians go to Church each Sunday to worship and to rest from work. When Monday comes, how does that act of faith influence the rest of the week? Sadly, many people throughout the world struggle to make the connection. Often, people see weekends as a needed break from dreary work. This book attempts to provide some answers to two big questions:
Is our faith making a difference in our work?
Is our work making any difference in the world?
The core conviction of the book is: "Work matters. A lot." Using Os Guinness descriptions of primary calling (to Christ) and secondary calling (to our work), Nelson deals the various aspects of this particular calling. We are created by God with work in mind. Through work, we contribute to the productivity in the world. We steward what is given to us. Through work, we worship God.
There is nothing significantly new about the ideas in the book. This does not diminish the importance of the need to teach about vocation, and that our work matters not only to God, but to our wholesome body and soul development. It matters because God created us to make it matter. God created us to steward the earth. God gave us the opportunity to be thankful about our work, and to use the work as a way to honour God. This book benefits the young graduate or someone working in his/her first job. It brings together many references to good literature written by gurus such as Os Guinness, Miroslav Volf, Tim Keller, John Piper, Dorothy Sayers, and many others. The bibliography is a useful reference list for further reading and research.
I like the way the author understands the cultural contexts, the technological world, and the struggles of the Church goer. In one convenient volume, one learns quite a lot about work, vocation, and the Christian faith. For those of us who do not have time to read through so many different books about vocation, this book is certainly one that can be a guide to a very huge but highly important subject.
Work matters because God feels that humans matter. Amen.
Ratings: 4 stars of 5.
This book is provided to me free by Crossway Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. The comments given are mine.
Work Matters discusses how any vocation can be a calling for a Christian. It suggests that any Christian should be the hardest worker in an organization, scrupulously honest, and imminently trustworthy. It supports the idea that all work can be done for God's glory and the common good. It gives some suggestions about how to find work for which one is gifted and how even ordinary jobs can be done in an extraordinary manner. The writing style was pleasant, though the final chapters began to feel repetitive. This book is a good starting point for integrating Sunday faith with Monday's job.
Not only is this a humble, unassuming book with a Powerful impact and gentle truths (i.e., not "in-your-face" types of glaring revelations), but reading it is almost like having a friendly peaceful conversation with pastor Tom Nelson in his office -- both of you sitting in comfortable chairs, relaxed, and each one contributing to the relevance of the conversation.
I DO like this book. How many times have I been in church on a Sunday saying to myself - "This is so peaceful and empowering -- and SEE how these Christians love one another? Why does the quality of this moment have to change the moment I walk out this door, and especially when the work-week starts??"
And the book addresses this -- stating that yes, work CAN be "toilsome and difficult" (including the Commute to and from....), but if we remember our original calling in Eden, to be the Stewards and Caretakers of this world, we need to remember that this perfection (that we lost due to Original Sin) is something to strive for, even in our imperfect state, in this less than perfect world. "Work is an integral aspect of being human"..."our specific human contribution to God's ongoing creation and to the common good."
As I read thru this book I see that altho we have "lost" Eden, we can still strive to emulate Eden in our everyday actions at work, because "each and every day, in the sacred or mundane, we understand that our vocations matter to God". Because "we live, work and play in a God-bathed world".. and every good thing we take for granted (food, friends, music, nature) "is a gracious gift from God." Perhaps the word "ThanksLiving" is an appopriate attitude to cultivate as we go thru every day.
As an aside, the Japanese have long stated that any job is an "honorable" job, and the attitude one brings to a job can elevate even the "humblest" profession to a worthy art. Or, as Mom Sylvia once said "Pretend that every day at your job (that you may hate) is your First day at that job, and try to make that good impression and enjoy what you are doing until something better comes along."
Examples (personal stories of and by those who found and cultivated their vocations/businesses) abound within this book showing how adversity can be the springboard not only to personal triumph, but also for the benefit of many others -- or the way a supervisor can cultivate respect in the workplace by extending that respect not only to epmployees but to those (customers, delivery-people, warehouse personnel, salespersons) who are also part of and/or impacted by the business -- here is The Golden Rule, in use every day.
Each chapter ends with a relevant prayer, and "Questions for Reflection and Discussion", and what I LIKE about these questions is that you DO NOT need to flip pages and go back into that chapter to answer these questions because the answers are PERSONALIZED -- they are YOUR answers and only YOU have the "answer sheet" in your soul.
And of course "Temptation in the Workplace" is all so pertinent to what so many of us face in our daily routines. Great chapter -- and nice to know that so many Biblical figures went through this and triumhed over it, even at great personal "loss" (Daniel, Joseph in Egypt, and in my case, even my dear Grandfather who lost his job, just like Joseph in Egypt did -- in fact my grandfather's name was also Joseph)... it takes guts, courage and a committment to God and self to triumph over these temptations (Sex, dishonesty, theft, revenge, etc) -- and one even needs .... IMHO, compassion for the one who is the source of the temptation.
Of course, this book would be EXCELLENT for an after-hours study group on your church, or circle of committed friends. A group discussion would be a GREAT way to gather more insights or have "aha" moments while sharing or just listening.
To paraphrase the book (page 150) God KNEW us while we were still in our mother's womb -- greater recognition than this we cannot expect or imagine - before we were even born, God knew us intimately (what an HONOR!), and "our unique design fits best with" a specific "vocational calling", which in this multitasking world could certainly mean more than one career - or perhaps one lifelong career that is genuinely loved and tended so the enjoyment never goes stale.
"Work Matters" is at its strongest when Pastor Nelson speaks personally, disabusing the reader who might think that somehow Pastor Nelson's work represents a true calling and is therefore more important than, say, a parishioner's work as a baker or teacher or banker. The anecdotal accounts that are sprinkled throughout the book are helpful and interesting. However, I found that the book could have benefited from a stronger and clearer establishment of the pastor's beliefs.
Clearly, there are deep theological divisions within American Christianity, perhaps most notably between those who consider the Bible literal and infallible and those who don't. At one point, "Work Matters" raises the issues of Common Grace and Special Grace but introduces these topics without the slightest hint that they are (1) not universal to Christianity and (2) not without controversy. Earlier, the author introduces original sin as part of the explanation why work might not be enjoyable.
Perhaps I was simply hoping for something different. I was hoping for a more historical and biblical look at work and would have been quite interested in a more in-depth look at the way, for example, that the Bible discusses Jesus' work as a carpenter. Pastor Nelson no doubt intended a more practical work, but that only works, I think, for people who share his beliefs, at least where those beliefs are central to his points.