by Steve DuPlessie | March 14, 2018
So let’s talk about “living on mission, working on mission.” Missional working. Missional living, in missional communities. That “missional” buzz-word, increasingly popular for disciples of Jesus since the early 2000s, is just another way of saying that Jesus called you to be a missionary. He called you to salvation for a purpose: to send you out as a missionary.
Ok, so maybe you’re not going to Djibouti or India. (Very cool if you are going overseas!) No, you’re going to Pawtucket or Rehoboth, UMass or BCC, Attleboro or Franklin, Boston or Providence, wherever, and you’re a called- and sent-one, a missionary; sent on mission to “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I commanded” (Matthew 28:19).
A quick question…
Ok, so what the one thing that followers of Jesus can do on earth that we can’t do better in heaven? … Worship? We can do that better in heaven for sure. Live a good life? We can do that easier and better in heaven. Get closer to Jesus? We can do that here and now, but even better in heaven. The one thing, the one thing that followers of Jesus can do on earth that we can’t do better in heaven is … make disciples.
Arguably Jesus could have saved you and taken you immediately to heaven. Eternity in his presence, worshipping, hanging out with Deborah, Rahab and Mary, Caleb, Joshua and David. All good! But you and I are saved and left here for a purpose, a mission: make disciples.
5 Stories of work as mission…
So, it only makes sense that the place you spend the great majority of your time, on the job, is also the place for … your mission. You might nod your head, and even actually agree with that, but the question is how. How can you use your work, your profession, your j-o-b, as mission? Let me tell you a few stories I heard lately.
One is about Machala, a young woman here in the GNBC family; she’s a full-time student who works part-time in a restaurant. And when some of her co-workers invited her into some gossip about another team member who wasn’t there, Machala actually refused to say anything bad. Later, when another work conversation turned to more gossip, one of the girls said, “Don’t worry about Machala, she’ll never say anything bad about anyone.” She’s trying to be salt and light as a follower of Jesus in a decaying and dark culture. That’s living and working on mission.
Then there’s Mark, a Physical Therapist who’s heard some difficult stories from his co-workers and clients, so he’s taken the bold opportunity to ask them if he can pray for them. He’s invited some to a weekly bible study he runs after work, and some co-workers and even clients have been part of that study for years. There’s Ray, who tells his new computer network customers right up front that he’s a Christian, and he’s going to try to give them the best service possible as a follower of Jesus.
And there’s Sandy, a nurse, who has had many opportunities to pray with her patients. There’s Don, who uses his retail locksmith store on South Main Street as a drop-in warming center for the street people of Attleboro, and offers them food and prayer and the gospel. And … I could tell you more.
The point is simple, our text today reminds us that
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” – Colossians 3:23, 24
You’re not actually working for your boss. You’re not even working for yourself! Verse 24 reminds us, “It is the Lord Christ you are serving!” If you do your work in the presence of God, aware that God is watching, then everything else we’ll talk about, will naturally flow out of that foundational commitment.
A Theology of Work…
So let’s talk about that for a moment. I want to give you a Theology of Work: 7 quick principles for work as mission. Ready?
First, it’s God’s idea. Work is all part of God’s original creative concept. Genesis 2:15 tells us “The Lord God took the man (Adam) and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Did you notice something very important here: the design and command for Adam to work in the garden was BEFORE the life-crushing Fall that happens in Genesis 3, before sin entered into creation. Work is NOT — as some think — the result of the curse from the Fall into sin. Creative, challenging, demanding, fulfilling work was a God-inspiried design right from the very beginning.
So first, Work was God’s idea. Second: All your strength. Jesus reaffirmed the great commandment, “‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12:28-30).
Where else do you use your strength more than in the workplace? Hours of your life every week is devoted to your work. So loving God with all your strength must mean loving God in and through the work you do. That gives work a different place and a different priority: not a job but a vocation, a calling by God to love him … by the way you work.
Third, you recall Jesus said there’s a second commandment which is like the first: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). This helps us understand the outward looking dimension of the great commandment. Doing good quality work is not the only way you’re a good neighbor, but it’s a critical way you’re a good neighbor.
Say you’re a personal financial advisor. A young family thinking of buying a house has one job and three kids. They don’t have a lot of money. They’re trusting you to give them good, sound, professional financial advice. Or say you’re in construction and you’re building front steps for someone. You want to build them well. If you don’t and the steps crumble and the guy rushing out to work breaks his leg and loses his job, then inviting him to church is almost irrelevant to what you’ve done to his life. Quality work, done well, is working on mission.
And of course, loving your neighbor is also about how you treat your coworkers. We’ve all been in situations where our life becomes a sleepless nightmare because of toxic relationships with coworkers. Ok, so how much of that do we own? Either by withdrawal and inaction, or by actively gossiping, or treating people with lack of kindness or respect? We need to love our neighbors, including the one in the next cubical or working on the same team.
Fourth, be honest. Jesus said, “Let your ‘Yes be Yes’ and your ‘No be No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37). As followers of Jesus, we need to be people of consistent, constant integrity; honest people whose words and work line up, and who actually produce on the promises. My father-in-law always said, “Under promise, and over deliver.” After all, for good or bad, you represent Jesus in the workplace. Be honest.
Fifth, Jesus’ code of ethics included, “Watch your words.” Jesus said, “But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the judges; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable…”(Matthew 5:22). Be careful what you say. One employer I know of says: “Every time you type an email or social media post, imagine it’s going to be in the front page of the New York Times tomorrow.”
So take a moment and get quiet in your heart; pray for godly wisdom THINK…
Ask yourself: Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?
Think about what you want to send or post. Write carefully. Read it again. Send it to a trusted friend to say, “Is this too much?” Use all the possible tools before you hit that send button. Watch your words.
Sixth, one critical principle throughout the gospels is that your space … is his space, including your work-space. Jesus said, “I’m with you, always.” You don’t enter into some godless bubble when you go into whatever your workspace is. Sure, it might feel like a godless bubble, but that’s not really the case.
As you’re praying by your bedside or out in your car before work in the morning, opening your life to the presence of God, it doesn’t stop when you walk in the workplace door. Jesus really is present there with you in your workplace. He’s just as much Lord there as he is anywhere else. He’s listening to every conversation. He’s present for every joke or story. He’s very aware of every email, website, and media thread. Your space … is His space.
Seventh, work to the end. As always, Jesus sets the example for us. In the Gospel by John, we find, over and over again, that Jesus is working. “My Father is still working, and I also am working” (John 5:17). John 9:4, “I must do the work of Him who sent me.” John 14:0, “The Father, living in me, is doing his work through me.” And what are Jesus’ final words in John’s gospel when he was hanging between heaven and earth on the cross? “It is finished” (John 19:30) What’s finished? The work the father gave him to do.
Jesus worked, to the end, on the mission. There was no time off. There was no vacation. There was no retirement. Whether he was busy teaching huge crowds in the countryside, or hanging out at dinner with a few friends in the city, Jesus was always on mission, right up to the end. And that’s his example for us: living, working, focused on the mission, to the end.
3 Best Practices…
So how do you do that missional work thing? Well it will look different, and the same for each of us. Different because your situation is different. Maybe you’re the owner or the team leader; maybe you’re the intern or the line worker. Maybe most of your work is solo; maybe it’s constant conversation with the team or customers. So it will be quite different for each of us.
But it’s the same because we’re all on the same mission. No exceptions. So we can all adopt a few core best practices: First, be prayerful. Pray each day that God will use you in your relationships, in your conversations, in the example you set, for his mission.
Second, be aware. Eyes open. Ears open. Be aware throughout the day of the prompting of the Holy Spirit that “This is the opportunity for that redemptive conversation you were praying for this morning! This is it!”
Third, be humble. I’m pretty sure no one likes an arrogant, pushy, judgmental, know-it-all. Remember, you are representing Jesus to lost, broken, hurting people who need grace and mercy, forgiveness and healing through Jesus, just like you do.
That’s it. Be prayerful. Be aware. Be humble.