Tag Archives: labor

A Peaceful Revolution in Discipleship: Living in 5-D

Praying for a peaceful revolution in Christian discipleship, with millions of “ordinary” believers awakening to God’s presence and power in the midst of daily life. It is possible to enjoy God, become more whole, have healthy relationships, live with purpose, and do today’s tasks as worship. We have more resources than ever before for growth, but often see believers living emaciated lives. We need a fresh vision of “normal” that can inspire hope and propel institutional and personal transformation. Thank God for all our fine pastors and good resources. But there is an “Aha!” moment that must capture our imaginations for real progress.

Here is the revolutionary key: reconceiving the Christian life in terms of dimensions and outcomes instead of categories and classes is the key to fruitfulness. Sermons and Sunday schools, Bible studies and small groups, online and print programs: all of these are the means to a desired end, not the end in themselves! Check out this special Assessment for further understanding: www.discipleshipdynamics.com.

Life is dimensional and integrated, not just a “to do list” of boxes to be checked (yes, it is good to order our day’s activities!). The challenge for each person is understanding what “there” looks like. In other words, what are we aiming for, in principled and practical terms? Hebrews 13:7 offers this advice: “Consider the outcome of their (spiritual leaders) way of life and imitate their faith (both belief and action).” The next verse says, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.”

Being a follower of Christ means imitation Jesus’ attitudes and actions, dispositions and disciplines, with a desire to love God, love our neighbor and make more disciples from every culture. What does this look like in real life? There are five dimensions to our lives that are all part of God’s plan and therefore they are all “spiritual” there is no sacred/secular divide, no separation of Sunday ecstasies and Monday’s ethics. Here are the five dimensions:

  • Loving God with all our being: enjoying and growing in intimacy with the Trinity. This is true spiritual formation and includes all the classical disciples of prayer and Bible study, church attendance and Sabbath-rest, etc.
  • Personal wholeness is an organic fruit of true intimacy with God. We lean to overcome our painful history with hope, manage our negative emotions, see ourselves as loved by God, forgive others and discover inner peace.
  • Healthy relationships are the implication of “loving our neighbor as ourselves.” This include healthy boundaries, sexual purity, good friendships and much more…think of all the great “one another” texts of the Bible.
  • Vocational clarity is the fulfillment of Ephesians 2:10: we are designed for a purpose and we are always more than our current job. Knowing our natural and spiritual gifts, the dignity of our labor and serving with humility should inform our lives daily.
  • All of these dimensions are worked out as we live in a world of economics and work each day! Whether paid or unpaid, labor or leadership, private or public, almost everyone spends their waking hours actively doing something. This is not our secular life nor are our activities merely a means to an end…our work matters to God.

Imagine millions of God-fearing friends awakening to the fullness of God’s intentions and offering all daily activity as worship to God. Imagine seamless integration of evangelism and compassion, for-profit and non-profit efforts, and prayer and the pursuit of justice. A peaceful and powerful revolution indeed.

The Hinge of Humility: Opening Doors to Wisdom

In our contentious world, persons and parties are competing for attention, which often leads to dueling over which individual or group can be the most outrageous in their assertions. Accusations are followed by belated retractions and oral and written communication is littered with terms like, “alleged” and “some people are saying” and “unnamed sources assert.” One post is picked up by many and soon millions are arguing over dubious data.

What is sorely lacking in most public discourse is the virtue of humility. Humility is not the absence of confidence or fear of others. Humility is a disposition of openness and a willingness to be corrected and refined in our thinking. Humility also looks for the good in others and waters the soil of principled peacemaking and proximate justice.

There are five dimensions of humility that will transform our personal lives and improve our public conversations. The first is humility before the Almighty. Even deeply religious people are prone to pride in their moral virtue or personal accomplishments, acting as if they are doing a favor for God, rather than realizing God’s unmerited favor in underneath any good brought to the world.

The second dimension is humility about ourselves. We are all beautiful and broken, bearing the divine image and ravaged by a fallen world, which includes both our own choices and unwanted traumas. Humility allows us to receive God’s embrace and accelerate our healing and maturity from the inside out. And this growth usually involves the care and love of others.

Third, we need humility for healthy relationships. We need to call for help when things are toxic. And we also need patience as others are learning life lessons. Married couples should aim for the good of their partners. Colleagues and friends can celebrate the success of others without envy. And humility is the foundation of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The fourth dimension is humility about our personal calling or purpose. We can walk with confidence and be well-focused without arrogance or pride. Our destiny in woven together with the good of others – we never succeed alone. Discovering and developing our gifts and skills serve God and others.

Finally, humility informs our daily life of work and engagement on the economy. Every day is an occasion to see our work – paid or unpaid, labor or leadership – as service to God and others. Humility will open doors for advancement as others see our disposition and discipline in deed and word.

Humility is cultivated over time and it leads to inner tranquility and healthier relationships. Above all, the Scriptures remind us that God honors the humble with his grace and presence (Isaiah 55, James 4 and I Peter 5).  That is enough.

Loving our Daily Work

Most people spend most of their waking hours working. Is it possible to enjoy waking up each morning? We need a vision of work that is more than a means to an end.

Work is all meaningful and moral activity apart from leisure and rest. Paid and unpaid, labor and leadership, factory and field, home and office – it all matters to God and our world. Parenting is work! God ordained work BEFORE we fell into sin, commissioning our stewardship of the world and cultivation of creation (Genesis 1-2). Sin has corrupted our work, introducing greed and oppression, sweat and toil (Genesis 3; Ecclesiastes 4; Amos 2, 5 and James 5). 

Throughout the Scriptures, creative, diligent, and ethical work is praised. But by the third century of church history, the sacred-secular dichotomy (SSD) was introduced and “spiritual” callings and labors were deemed more sacred that “lay” or “secular” labors. Praise God for dedicated women and men called to lead the Body of Christ and initiate evangelistic and missionary efforts across the street and around the world. They are worthy of honor and financial support (Galatians 6; Philippians 1). But no member of the Body of Christ is unimportant or inferior and no good work is “secular” anymore! Romans 12:1-2 and Colossians 3: 17-24 make it clear that our whole life is worship…and since we spend most of our waking hours working, this must be an offering to God.

Friends, thank you for all your good work, seen and unseen. The Holy Spirit is preparing an awakening unlike anything we have seen for at least 200 years. And one of the keys (along with prayer, repentance, love, and unity) is recognizing that God’s mission takes place through the entire Body of Christ – most of whom work all day/week. We must close the gap between Sunday’s ecstasies and Monday’s ethics, and offer all our daily activities as worship. The same gifts of the Spirit in operation as we gather in churches and homes are available as we go out in mission…at work! In fact, we should expect more supernatural signs as we are outside of religious gatherings, for God wants all to come to faith and Jesus did not perform for religious consumers (see Mark 6 and Luke 7).

We have been involved with a variety of faith and work movements since the early 1990s and we are encouraged by the kingdom progress as ALL classes and cultures, traditions and vocations are now being honored and empowered. Charlie works for Made to Flourish (www.madetoflourish.org), where the focus is empowering pastors and their churches to integrate faith, work, and economic wisdom for the flourishing of their communities. Charlie’s work with AGTS includes leading several initiatives that integrate faith, work and economic wisdom into the curriculum and community of the seminary. AGTS will be hosting its first Faith, Work and Economics Summit on October 15 (www.agts.edu). Charlie is on the steering team for the Oikonomia Network (www.oikonomianetwork.org), a group of colleges, seminaries, and universities equipping present and future ministers with this same integration. We are honored being Board members for Vine Associates, one facet of an amazing mission lead by Brett and Lyn Johnson. They are being used by God to reimagine and refocus mission to include transforming all facets of society (see the sites: www.repurposing.biz and www.inst.net). Charlie is a Board member of Missio Alliance, another network of networks dedicated to reimagining Gospel-centered mission for the 21st century (www.missioalliance.org).  We are also participants and presenters in events sponsored by the Acton institute, dedicated to a free and virtuous society, integrating good intentions and sound economics and uniting women and men of a variety of traditions (www.acton.org)

Let’s offer our day as an act of worship, knowing that today/s discipline is tomorrow’s destiny.