Most people spend 40 to 50 percent of their time at work. The marketplace is primarily where Christians have the opportunity to be salt and light and help people know Jesus. And yet the church rarely preaches or teaches on the value of our vocations in fulfilling the Great Commission.
Amy Sherman, author of Kingdom Calling and a researcher at the Sagamore Institute, gave a keynote address at the first Leadership Journal Live event in Chicago this March titled "Why Vocation Really Matters." I met with Amy after her talk to continue the conversation on why our jobs matter, and how our work can be redeemed. Here's what she had to say:
As Christians, why does what we do matter?
Jesus told us to go and make disciples. But discipleship that doesn't address 40 percent of life (the amount of time most people spend working) isn't properly discipling people. Recent research shows that fewer than 10 percent of congregants can recall when their pastor preached on work. Two-thirds of the people Barna surveyed say it's been at least three years since they heard a sermon on work and career. My friend, Steve Garber, says that vocation is integral—not incidental—to fulfilling the mission of God in the world. If we're not talking about work and vocation from the pulpit, from the Christian worldview, then we're leaving Christians to listen to messages on work from the culture.
What messages does the world feed us about our work?
For one, we're inundated with the message that we need to over-work. Americans work more hours than citizens of nearly any other country. I've begun to realize how I've fallen into this trap myself. I've been struggling with health issues in the past couple of years. This year I'm paring back my work to give myself time to heal and recuperate. I've felt embarrassed because I'm not as busy as I usually am. The fact that I feel embarrassed because I'm not busy enough is a clue to me that work is an idol.
How are you changing your perspective on this?
The Lord has encouraged me in this area. I was reading a devotional booklet (not something I normally do), and the comment that struck me was Jesus saying, "I love you as much when you're walking as when you're running, and when you're sitting as when you're standing." Jesus cares about what I do. It's good to be excited about doing things for God and having an active role in his Kingdom. But he delights in me whether I'm working or not. I needed to be reminded of this reality.