Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, January 30, 2015

The Most Inspiring Thing You'll Hear All Month

In his book The Call, Os Guinness makes an astute observation: "The problem with Western Christians is not that they aren't where they should be but that they aren't what they should be where they are."

Imagine a world in which followers of Christ (who are sprinkled like salt throughout the entire spectrum of society in the workplace--right now) got up on Monday morning and said: "Today, by God's grace, I'm going to live out the full implications of my faith at work!"

What might happen if the Body of Christ (even 10%) were to actually take what we heard on Sunday morning and apply in on Monday morning in the workplace? 

If you want to see what might happen, watch the video below. It is the personal account of Jack van Hartesvelt, who decided to bring what he heard on Sunday to work with him on Monday. It may be the most inspiring thing you'll hear all month. 

To put work into the larger context of the biblical view of Moral Order and Purpose, here are some questions we can ask:

How has the reality of sin in a fallen world affected this activity? What can I do about it?

Is justice being done in and through this activity?

How can God's will be done on the earth today, as it is in heaven, through this activity? 

How does this activity fulfill The First Commission given by God to human beings: to govern over all the earth (Gen. 1:26-28)?

How does this activity provide opportunities for me to "observe all that Christ commanded," as given in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20?

How does this activity relate to eternity? What eternal purpose does this activity have? How might this activity relate to what will be going on in the New Earth (Rev. 21)?

How does this activity serve to reconcile all things to Christ (Col. 1)?

What does the Kingdom of God "look like" when it "comes" to this activity? This workplace?

How does this activity provide opportunities for me (by God's grace) to be "salt" and "light" in the world?

Why is this activity truly worthwhile? Why does it really matter?

Think about these questions as you watch Jack's story. He buys and sells hotels for an investment firm. The week before I interviewed him, his company sold a hotel in Manhattan for one million dollars--per room:

If this video does not play, click here.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

"The Basic Problem Of The Christians..."

Francis Schaeffer wrote in A Christian Manifesto: "The basic problem of the Christians...is that they have seen things in bits and pieces instead of totals." 

Contextualization is a way of seeing that brings greater understanding and meaning to things than the things have in themselves. For followers of Christ, ultimate contextualization is about viewing all things in the context of the greatest larger "total:" the biblical world-and-life view.

Students contextualize academic disciplines when they view them in the context of something much larger than the academic disciplines themselves. When plants are viewed in the context of a biblical world-and-life view, they take on greater meaning, significance and purpose than plants have by themselves. George Washington Carver got this. 

Airline pilots and NFL quarterbacks can contextualize their work when they view it in the context of something bigger than piloting and playing football. [Go Hawks!]

When it comes to viewing our work in the context of a biblical understanding of Creation and Humanity, we can ask questions like:

How does my work fit into God's reason for creating the material world, and all that it contains? [What is God's intention for airplanes? For football?]

Are there unseen spiritual realities working against me? [How can I appropriate the grace of God through a painful string of interceptions, and still "keep the faith?"] 

How does God's ownership of all things relate to the material blessings I enjoy? What responsibilities come with these blessings? 

How can I encourage a full release and function of God’s gifts in others through my position as a pilot, or a quarterback, or a mother or a CEO?

Am I "carrying Christ well" at work? [I may be the only "Bible" my co-workers, passengers or fans will ever read.] 

What physical, emotional or spiritual needs of others can be met through my work? How can I be an "agent of grace" when things are going wrong?

How does my work fit into my primary call to be conformed to the image of Christ? How does my work help bring this about--or hinder it? 

Rather than answer all of the questions above, try focusing on just one that interests you, and "peel the onion." Or, create your own question! As I mentioned last week, the best questions are those we ask ourselves. 

Next week we'll look at contextualization questions relating our work to the bigger picture of Moral Order and Purpose.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Nothing Is Better Than A Well-Framed Question

Contextualization is a way of bringing more meaning to "pieces" of life than the pieces have by themselves. [Click here.]

When Christian teachers contextualize, they help students see how any topic or activity relates to the larger context of a biblical world-and-life view. This larger context provides a unified view of everything, and justifies the very concept of a "universe." [That's what people used to study at the university, before the secularization of higher education. At one time, theology was the "Queen of the Sciences." Imagine that!]

Workers [including students], contextualize their work when they put it into the larger context of a biblical worldview. Through this, we are able to bring more meaning to the "pieces" of our jobs than they can possibly have in themselves. Remember: we don't find meaning in our work, be bring meaning to our work.  

When it comes to contextualizing, nothing is better than a well-framed question. Posing good questions is more powerful than making statements. Jesus often taught by asking questions. Great questions are ones that cause people to reflect deeply, and to personalize their answers.  The best questions are those we ask ourselves!

With this in mind, I'll share some thoughts about questions for contextualization.  

First, understand that 99.8% of all questions that relate anything to the "bigger picture" of a biblical worldview fall within five categories: 1. Questions relating things to God. 2. Questions relating things to Creation. 3. Questions relating things to Humanity. 4. Questions relating things to Moral Order. 5. Questions relating things to Purpose. All contextualization questions flow from this deep pool.

When it comes to seeing our work in the context of God, we might ask:

What does God think about this activity?

What joy (or pain) does God receive through this activity?

How does God speak to people through this activity? What might He want to say to others through what I do, and how I do it?

Where was God when _________ happened [something went wrong]? How did God reveal Himself when this thing occurred? Was He saying something?

How does the centrality of Christ relate to this activity? How is He honored by it? (Dishonored?)

What qualifies this activity to be called "the work of God?"

Try some of these questions. Better yet, shape some questions for yourself!

Next week: questions for contextualizing Creation and Humanity.

Students are workers--without pay. They can bring extraordinary meaning to their math work when they view it in the context of something much larger than math itself. Wise students don't find meaning in their schoolwork, they bring meaning to it. (Effective teachers facilitate this.) Boeing engineers can do the same, bringing meaning to their work by putting it into the context of God's "bigger picture." So can bankers, bus drivers and bakers. This kind of contextualization was integral to education at early Harvard and Yale (prior to the secularization of American schools), and provided a pattern for generations to come. But it has since disappeared, even among Christian schools, at all levels. See the research by Dr. David Scott here.  

Take the on-line course "Increase Meaning: A Wholistic Approach To Christian Education."  


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Friday, January 9, 2015

The Power And Import Of Contextualization

What do you see in the photo above?

I have shown this image to many groups around the world, and I have asked the same question: What is it? What is the truth about this? What are you looking at?

The most common answers I receive are: "the rings of Saturn," "a tire," or "a coffee cup."

The object in the photo is something familiar. In fact, some of you may see it every day. But in all the years of doing this exercise, I have never had anyone correctly identify the image.  

Why? Because there is not enough of the whole to make proper sense of the part. I have whited out most of the photo. There is not enough of the complete picture to decipher the portion. To put it another way, there is not enough of the context to bring true meaning to the piece.

This illustrates the power and import of contextualization. That is, putting "pieces" into the context of a "larger whole" that will bring more meaning to the pieces then the pieces can have by themselves. Great teachers don't find meaning in the topics they teach. They bring meaning to them.

In the case of school teachers, a "piece" can be a piece of history, a piece of science, a piece of literature, a piece of athletics, or a piece of music. Christian teachers are in the unique position to help students put these "pieces" into the context of a much larger, significant whole. One that is real, purposeful and powerful: the biblical world-and-life view.

When this is done by skillful teachers in a classroom, biblical contextualization brings far greater meaning to academic "pieces" than the "pieces" can possibly have by themselves. This is what authentic Christian education is about.

Contextualization is a vital skill for followers of Christ in the workplace, too. A "piece" can be a piece of carpentry, from a whole house, to a small cabinet. A piece of business can be a contract, or a return policy. A piece of civil service can be a legislative bill, or a way to handle public input.

How can we put the "pieces" of our jobs into the context of a larger, significant whole that will bring greater meaning to our work than paying the rent?  

Stay tuned.

To find out the true meaning of the image at the top of the page, you may view it in context here.

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Take the on-line course "Increase Meaning: A Wholistic Approach To Christian Education." 

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Do You Have A Plan?

Is it reasonable to think this meal would be created without a plan?

We can be led by the Spirit in the workplace, and good things can happen spontaneously. But we can also "study to show ourselves approved unto God, as workmen who need not be ashamed" (II Timothy 2:15), and studying is something we do ahead of time, with intentionality. 

A few weeks ago I wrote about the critical role Scripture plays in living out our faith in the context of the workplace. But this requires more than reading a few devotional Bible verses before we leave for work. Taking time to think about how God's Truth can be intentionally "fleshed out" at work on Monday morning requires a bit more focus.

When was the last time you sat down outside of your work time and studied how you might "flesh out" your faith in the context of your job? Do you have a plan for your faith-work connection? Have you studied how you might do your work “as unto the Lord,” as though Christ were going to drive the next car you fix, live in the next house you clean, or be a passenger on the next airliner you pilot? 

Perhaps you have studied how you might improve your golf swing. Very good! I'm sure the President does this, too. So why not study how you can improve your faith-at-work swing?

Can we be intentional and systematic about such things? I think so. And with this in mind, I'll be sharing some tools with you over the next few weeks that will help in this process. These are tools you can use to bring greater meaning to your work, in an intentional way, no matter what kind of work you may be doing.

I'll start with a critical concept I often share with Christian school teachers: the art and science of contextualization. By "contextualization" I mean putting smaller “pieces” into the context of a more significant "larger whole." When we do this in a certain way, in relation to a certain larger whole, we are able to bring more meaning to the "pieces" of our work than the "pieces" can possibly have by themselves. 

I'll start explaining next week. 

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