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Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work Paperback – October 5, 2011
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“God has created us for relationship and work for his honor—to bring hope and justice to the nations and our neighbors, and joy and purpose to our own hearts. In Work Matters, Tom Nelson examines how God uses our work, even the ordinary and routine, to transform us and to reveal our gifts and calling. I have known Tom for several years, and his life and work exemplify these profound and practical truths. His book will inspire and encourage you to reexamine not only your understanding of work but yourself as well.”
—Ravi Zacharias, Founder and President, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries; author, Jesus Among Other Gods
“Tom Nelson does a marvelous job of walking his readers through a robust theology of work, and he does so in a very provocative way. We are all Jesus’s apprentices and our work lives are filled with opportunities for spiritual growth and discipleship. Work Matters will compel you to approach work differently.”
—Moe Girkins, author, Mother Leads Best
“Tom Nelson and I have been walking down the same pathway as we have been learning together more and more about how God views work. Tom’s conclusions, insights, and examples will help many people get a better grip on serving God and finding purpose in the work place. This book is thoughtful, practical, entertaining, and true to Scripture. The lights are going to suddenly come on in many readers’ minds, and that’s not just great fun but a good thing as well.”
—John Yates, Rector, The Falls Church, Falls Church, Virginia
“By definition, every Christian is in full-time ministry. Yet, unfortunately, many of us see a great divide between the secular and spiritual, ministry and work. In Work Matters, Tom Nelson helps to bridge the artificial and unbiblical gap that keeps us from fully realizing our calling and full potential in Christ. Read it. It will change the way you think about Monday to Friday.”
—Larry Osborne, Pastor, North Coast Church, Vista, California; author, Sticky Church
“More than just a book, Work Matters is a kaleidoscopic testimony to the power of calling in the lives of a vibrant local church, inspired to engage their community and city. If every pastor taught like this and every church lived like this, America would be a very different country.”
—Os Guinness, cofounder, The Trinity Forum; author, The Call
“Not many pastors are adept at encouraging the Christians they serve to think deeply about the work they undertake during the six days when they are not gathering for corporate worship. So many of our applications and exhortations, as important and as faithful as they are, deal with prayer, Bible reading, family relationships, and evangelism, and not with the work that takes up much of our time and that we are called to offer up to God. I first heard Tom Nelson bring some clarity to these matters in some addresses at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and I am delighted to see his reflections expanded and put into print. This book is greatly needed.”
—D. A. Carson, research professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; cofounder, The Gospel Coalition
“Each week people gather to experience a time of worship. The idea that this moment on Sunday can actually be a time for both celebrating the Savior and for strategically shaping what happens when we leave those four walls is rarely considered. Work Matters takes a look into the Christian’s life, offering strategic insight into the work place as a key part of God’s Kingdom agenda and explaining how Sunday’s worship experience can spill over into Monday through Saturday. A great work indeed.”
—Stan Archie, Vice President, Missouri State Board of Education; Senior Pastor, Christian Fellowship Church, Kansas City, Missouri
“This is a very important book written by a pastor who I respect immensely. Work Matters will change how you view your vocation and in the process it may just change your life.”
—Adam Hamilton, Senior Pastor, The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, Kansas; author, The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem
“Tom Nelson offers the world a profoundly rich vision of vocation as integral to the mission of God in history—by a pastor who has spent the years of his life helping his people understand what they do and why they do what they do in light of the truest truths of the universe. Theologically serious and pastorally aware, no one has tried to do what he has done, and has done so well. For pastors and for their people, indeed for everyone who wants to connect the vocation of the ministry with vocations in the marketplace; it will change the conversation about calling because it will change the way we understand worship and work.”
—Stever Garber, Director, The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture; author, The Fabric of Faithfulness
“In a most readable and engaging style, Tom Nelson gives us a complete, biblical understanding of work—starting with ‘in the beginning,’ when God created us to work. Coming from his engagement with workers of all sorts in his own congregation, Nelson has seen the truth of the gospel transform their lives and work in a powerful way. This book delivers no small message: the gospel changes everything! It transforms people at the core of our being, our motivations for work, how we behave, and the influence of our work in God’s creation. Thank you, Tom.”
—Katherine Leary Alsdorf, Founder and Director, The Center for Faith and Work, Redeemer Presbyterian Church
About the Author
Tom Nelson (DMin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) has served as senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Leawood, Kansas, for more than twenty years. He is the author of Five Smooth Stones and Ekklesia as well as a member of The Gospel Coalition.
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Top customer reviews
• Os Guinness has given considerable thought to a robust theology of vocation. Keeping the gospel central, Os makes a helpful distinction between our primary calling and our secondary callings. He rightly points out that Scripture first and foremost emphasizes our primary calling to Christ.
• Os also insightfully points out that each one of us has also been given a secondary calling and an essential aspect of this particular calling is to do a specific work. Yet because we refer to work as a secondary calling, we must not in any way minimize work’s importance in living lives of Christian faithfulness. A large portion of our time on earth is given to our work, and we would be wise to take this stewardship seriously.
“On the pages that follow we will focus our attention on our secondary calling to work. In the first section of the book, we will look at our work through a biblical lens. The second section will focus on how God shapes our lives in and through our work.”
The excellent book includes helpful “Questions for Reflection and Discussion” and a “Prayer for Our Work” at the end of each chapter. I highlighted a large number of passages as I read the book and would like to share some of them with you below. However, if you are interested in connecting your faith to your work, I would highly recommend that you read the book.
• As human beings, we have been designed not only to rest and to play but also to work.
• First, humans are designed by God to exercise proper dominion over creation, which is a divinely delegated stewardship role. Second, humans are designed by God to be his image-bearers, to uniquely reflect who God is to his good world.
• Being made in God’s image, we have been designed to work, to be fellow workers with God. To be an image-bearer is to be a worker. In our work we are to show off God’s excellence, creativity, and glory to the world. We work because we bear the image of One who works.
• Our work, whatever it is, whether we are paid for it, is our specific human contribution to God’s ongoing creation and to the common good.
• For us to view work outside a theological framework is to inevitably devalue both work and the worker.
• Already in Genesis we see that vocation is not something we ultimately choose for ourselves; it is something to which God calls us.
• Properly understood, our work is to be thoughtfully woven into the integral fabric of Christian vocation, for God designed and intended our work, our vocational calling, to be an act of God-honoring worship.
• Doing our work before an Audience of One changes what we do and how we do it. Living with this mind-set helps us connect our faith with our work, for we live before the same Audience on Monday at work as we do on Sunday at worship.
• In a thoughtful essay simply titled “Why Work?” (Dorothy) Sayers writes, “The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to [moral instruction and church attendance]. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.
• Sayers continues, “Let the church remember this: that every maker and worker is called to serve God in his profession or trade—not outside it. . . . The only Christian work is good work well done.”
• If you understand that God designed you to contribute to his creation, you will take seriously how and where you are called to make your important contribution in the world.
• Daily we are confronted by a sobering reality that our work, the workers we work with, and the workplaces in which we work are not as God originally designed them. In a myriad of ways we are painfully reminded each and every day that we live and work in a fallen and corrupted world.
• In the first three chapters of the book of Genesis we are given a contrasting before and after pictures of work. In Genesis 1 and 2. Here we were presented with a delightful picture of work as God originally designed it to be. The Bible clearly tells us that while work is not a result of the fall, work itself was profoundly impacted. In this broken world, God’s original design for our work has been badly corrupted, and we feel it in the depths of our being every day.
• Genesis chapter 3 tells us in very riveting language that we are broken people who live and work in a broken world. Something has gone badly awry. Our work is not what it ought to be. Sin entering the world and corrupting God’s design has made the very nature of work itself harder. Our work is often painfully difficult.
• The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that work in this fallen world is a mixed bag. Work is both a curse and a gift. Work greets us with both frustration and exhilaration. Our work gives evidence of our glorious creation as well as our great estrangement from God and our need for a Savior who will redeem us from sin’s devastating curse.
• Rather than worship God through our work, we can easily and subtly begin to worship our work. Work can become an idol in our lives.
• One of the ways we make work an idol is workaholism. Instead of making work an idol, we can erroneously view our work as really no big deal. When work is distorted, we easily make leisure an idol and become a slothful person.
• Dualism, put simply, is wrongly dividing something that should not be divided. This all too often takes place in our work. When we wrongly distinguish one type of work from another, placing value on some types of work at the expense of others, we fall into the distortion of work dualism.
• Work dualism can be seen in various Christian traditions. For example, the language of “full-time Christian work” is commonly used to describe those whose vocational calling is to be a pastor, missionary, or parachurch worker. However, a proper and biblical understanding is that all Christians are called to “full-time Christian work,” doing good work well for the glory of God, regardless of their specific vocation.
• In reality, there is no more sacred space than the workplace where God has called you to serve him as you serve the common good.
• We can find ourselves thinking deeply about our work without thinking deeply about the gospel. But this is something we simply must not do. There is really no good news about our work without the good news of the gospel. For the gospel is the transforming power that changes us.
• In all aspects of our lives, including our workplaces, we display to those around us the light of the glory of Christ who indwells us.
• As we go to work every day, we must realize that while our work will never be all it was intended to be in this fallen world, a new and better world is coming. Your work will one day be like God designed it to be in a pristine garden long ago. Your work in the new creation will be even better than it was in the old creation. God has a great future in store for his image-bearing workers, and how you do your work not only matters now, but it also matters for the future.
• Each one of us will one day give a full accounting to God for our life. This is a game-changing truth that ought to shape how we live and work. Since such a large proportion of our time is devoted to our work, much of our accounting before God will be answering for the stewardship of the work we have been called to do.
• David Miller speaks with compelling clarity when he writes, “Whether conscious or unintended, the pulpit all too frequently sends the signal that work in the church matters but work in the world does not. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that workers, businesspeople, and other professionals often feel unsupported by the Sunday church in their Monday marketplace vocations.”
• For pastors to preach, and for us to conclude, that using our gifts within the context of a Christian organization is the only way we can truly invest our talents in the kingdom widely misses the mark of what the Bible truly teaches in its robust theology of vocation.
• One of the primary ways we tangibly love our neighbors is to do excellent, God-honoring work in our various vocations.
• Your vocational work is your specific and invaluable contribution to God’s ongoing creation and an essential aspect of God’s Great Commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.
• Work’s main goal is worship through a lifestyle of God-honoring vocational faithfulness.
• If we are going to avoid a mindless and perilous conformity to the spirit of our age, we must be actively engaged in the renewal of our minds. Only then will we have the discernment and attentiveness to discover God’s will and honor him in our lives and our work.
• If you will embrace the spiritual discipline of the careful study and consistent memorization of God’s Word and hide it in your heart, then meditating on God’s Word in your workplace as you work will be transformational in your life.
• We must not compartmentalize our work and our worship, but rather we must learn to see our work as an act of worship. Though God is omnipresent, make it your thoughtful intention to bring God with you to work and mediate on the truths of his Word while you work.
• Our attitude toward our work, the excellence of our work, and our relationship with our coworkers would dramatically change if we walked in the Spirit at work.
• Difficulties, disappointments, discouragements, and suffering are a part of every work experience, but they need not be seen as obstacles to God’s purposes in our lives. For the follower of Jesus, suffering, in whatever its form is one of God’s means for his formative work in our lives. Detours, difficulties, and delays are often some of the most transformative times in our journey of faith. Under the sovereign hand of God, suffering is not senseless; it is purposeful.
• When we face the formidable winds of workplace trials, rather than running from them or becoming embittered by them, we would be wise to lean into them with trust and confidence, knowing that God has allowed them in our lives for a reason. Often this reason is not fully known by us.
• When we speak of the common good, we are describing all the various aspects of contemporary life that contribute positively to human flourishing both as individuals and as communities. The Protestant Reformers connected vocation to human flourishing and the common good. Martin Luther’s understanding of vocation was deeply embedded in our calling as workers to promote the well-being of others and our world.
• Though we don’t always feel it or see it directly, as we do our work as an act of worship for the glory of God, we can be confident that we are contributing to the important work that our heavenly Father is doing in our world.
• Jesus’s parable of the good Samaritan has profound implications for the workplaces we indwell and the neighborly love we are to incarnate there. Neighborly love and the common grace it exhibits toward others is the high bar we are to strive for in our daily work.
• As fellow sinners in need of the gospel’s saving grace, we are called to interact with others in our work settings with humility and a teachable spirit rather than any pharisaical attitude of moral superiority.
• Our work is a gift from God, but we are also gifted by God for our work. How God has created us and gifted us, and the very human dispositions we have been given, shape his vocational will for our lives.
• Our lives and our vocational callings are woven into the beautiful tapestry of God’s often mysterious providence. Through the eyes of faith, we can be confident that God is moving his redemptive story forward and empowering us to participate with his work in the world.
• An important aspect of the filling of the Holy Spirit is the supernatural empowerment mediated in and through our vocational callings.
• I have also found these four diagnostic questions very helpful for vocational direction at any stage of life. We need to ask ourselves: (1) How has God designed me? (2) What life experiences have shaped me? (3) What circumstances surround me? and (4) What do my wise counselors say?
• The kind of work we like to do is an indicator of the kind of work we were created to do.
• One of the greatest challenges we face every day in our workplaces is living a life of personal integrity. Personal integrity is observed in a person of good conscience where belief and behavior are growing in consistency. Maintaining this consistency in the workplace can be a formidable challenge, and in many cases wisdom and courage are needed. Your personal integrity is the most important asset you bring to your workplace. If your personal integrity is compromised at work, your life is inevitably comprised. The pressure to compromise our core beliefs and ethical values as Christians is a regular temptation in many workplaces today.
• If your work is crowding out a weekly Sabbath rest, it is time for you to make changes.
• When it comes to facing the challenge of sexual temptation, there are several important things to keep at the forefront of our minds. First, know that God has empowered you to resist temptation. Second, the way to escape sexual temptation is to flee it. Finally, establish wise boundaries within your workplace.
• Wherever you find yourself in your vocational journey, it is important to cultivate a deep sense of contentment.
• Consider your workplace challenges not as obstacles in your life but as opportunities to grow in greater Christlikeness.
• Whether you are called to exercise leadership in your local congregation as a layperson or as a pastor, cultivating an integral theology of vocation is at the heart of your church’s gospel mission.
• Sometimes we wrongly buy into the idea that our gospel mission really advances most when we become a pastor or missionary or parachurch worker, or when we recruit others to do the same. But Paul commends gospel proclamation and incarnation in the primary context of Christian vocation and vocational networks.
• Closing the Sunday-to-Monday gap will require more than hopeful thinking. Honest vocational appraisal is needed to begin doing the important work of equipping others for vocational diligence and faithfulness.
• To move forward, a faith community will need to: (1) become more intentional about teaching a robust theology of vocation, (2) begin celebrating the diversity of vocations, (3) equip for vocational faithfulness, and (4) collaborate with other like-minded local churches that also recognize the church at work as a primary conduit for gospel faithfulness.
• In my interaction with other pastors, I am often shocked how few regularly spend time in the workplaces of their congregation.
• Desiring to encourage more momentum in this area of vocation, our faith community has hosted a church-wide conference devoted to the subject of work, as well as encouraged our congregation to attend other conferences on vocation. Teaching the rich and transforming truths of vocation is a vital part of your local church’s equipping mission.
• In our Sunday morning services, congregational members periodically give short and timely vocational testimonies, either live or via video, regarding their faith at work. At times the video testimonies will be shot on location at their particular workplaces.
• Our local church has benefited a great deal in learning from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Redeemer has been a pioneer in weaving a strong vocational thread into its mission. Redeemer’s Center for Faith and Work has been a catalyst for our leaders to think more intentionally about equipping our congregation in vocational mission.
Tom opens Work Matters with a strong theology of work, taking the reader to the opening verse of the Bible, where we are "introduced to God as a thoughtful and creative worker." (Pg 20) He then lay out in a practical, easy-to-understand framework, that since we are made in God's image, "we have been designed to work, to be fellow workers with God." (Pg 22) I appreciate how he addresses the Hebrew word, avoda, which translates as work, as well as worship. Based on the Biblical teaching, he states, "That our work has been designed by God to be an act of worship, yet is often missed in the frenzied pace of a compartmentalized modern life." (Pg 27)
I highly recommend Work Matters for all seeking to find more meaning and purpose in their every-day work world. I'm adding this book to my Dantotsu, Best-of-the-best, collection.