Work Ethic and The Christian Church

I often struggle to balance my time, in fact many I speak to speak of the same kind of struggle. Of recent days I have been trying to bleed the various compartments of my life together a bit more, meaning, that I am trying less to see my work life, my ministry (lay/paid), my recreation, my family and so on as all seperate entities. This is tough. Particularly when you get paid to do a job or in some cases paid to work a certain number of hours. What does an 8 hour day look like? Is it all work? Is some research? Retreat? Prayer? I guess it depends on who you work for and where you work.
As a paid worker in a christian organisation or church should we operate out of the same business principles and values as a corporate world/business operates out of? I am not so sure.
I read this point among others off a blog called Lowercase, it was suggesting a series of point common to all ‘high achievers” in the business world and asking if we should have some of these values in church work –

5. they all worked very long days, some of them only wrapping up their days somewhere between 9-12 in the evening. there were pauses in there, but however you slice it, they worked hard and didn’t seem to think anything of the hours.

I think it’s a tough discussion to have as you almost need to set up a whole pile of definitions before you have the discussion. Like define “work”, as in when you do XYZ it “works”, as in it produces results…what results? Are the things we measure in church the same as the things we measure as “successful results” in the business world? Are they all different, some different?

These quotes arrived in an email in the middle of my discussion with MOB from lowercase and I thought they were relevant –

“…while once the essence of leadership may have been activity, our times require a different kind of leader, one who leads from both head and heart and one whose very essence can be described as spiritual. Too much activity, particularly that on the part of leaders, has been shaped because there was a drive to succeed… a need to be successful… a hunger to be seen as effective, to feed the ego. But the biggest egos are usually fed at the expense of others. In the new world that kind of oppression is seen for what it is… self-serving, manipulative, and oppressive. As we clearly see that kind of activity as the antithesis of Christ’s kingdom, we are waiting for a new kind of leadership… one that is essentially spiritual.

Tonight I watched as my usually busy wife sat down on the couch. Within minutes of her resting her body there, one of our cats came and curled up on her lap. There is something irresistibly hospitable about a warm and restful person
[Great illustration!]

When I intentionally seek quiet and restful space, I encounter the Spirit of God. When we separate ourselves from busyness and distraction, He comes to brood over us. In that place of shared rest we have nothing to prove, no one to influence, no way to “succeed” except to be loved. Restful people become a welcoming place for the Spirit of God, and in turn can offer peace and rest to others.

The only way forward to a new kind of church is to become people of restfulness and contemplation. So long as we are driven to bring change, driven to be effective, we will only recreate the driven, oppressive, addictive and compulsive systems we have always known.

The greatest hope of influencing change is not our compulsive activity to shape a world different than the one we know, but to become the change we seek. I am gradually learning that this is a completely impossible task. But for God…From Len Hjalmarson,

in his review of Eugene H. Peterson’s wonderful book,

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places

I actually think the whole link came from here. The kiwi has some golden material!

Here it is 9am and I am still sitting in my PJ’s blogging, but I was answering emails at 6.50am for an hour, then will pop in to see my sister on my way to a meeting at 11am, should I be clocking my time to be ‘effective’? Or is my time effective as I reflect on these very issues? Is this part of my ‘ministry’ or is my life my ministry? I could use these refelctions in my coaching. As I chat with my neighbour about issues of life, faith, food and fishing should I feel guilty because that is not in my job description? Should I charge overtime when I start work at 6am or work till midnight? I don’t think I can charge overtime!! But you get my point.
There is a whole discussion to be had on the issue of Christian professionals…or professional christians!!
Love to hear your thoughts.


8 thoughts on “Work Ethic and The Christian Church

  1. I’m currently (re)writing an essay on this very subject. My basic thesis is that leadership without love is f****ed up. Which is sadly often the end result of CEO leadership when results superceed relationships and love. These points on spirituality and rest however are terrific I hadn’t paid any attention to that side of things in my essay but might just add a paragraph or two.

  2. the two words i use to describe the kind of life I want to live are ‘seamless’ and ‘spacious’.

    i see too many frantic people both moaning and bragging (simultaneously) about how busy they are.

    but as a ‘results oriented’ person this is one of life’s greatest challenges for me.

    think what i could ‘accomplish’ if I packed life to the margins and then some more!

    the longer i am around the more i see the false economy of that system, but i don’t think you can see it when you are immersed in it.

    i think i will always struggle with the need to achieve to satisfy my own ego needs, but maybe i’ll at least be able to call it what it is now!

  3. I have been in yet another meeting today discussing definitions. There are som many mixed messages at the moment when talking about issues of church, evangelism and theology etc.
    I like what a mate Mike said, maybe we should first ask people in a new church setting, “What are you hoping to achieve?” Then ask, “How is this going”
    Makes sense.

  4. Well said scott, I will leave the comments on “church efficency” alone as I have never been in paid ministry, but having been one of those people who have identifed themselves with being busy for many years I have never been happier with my life since stepping out of that lifestyle.

    PS. I dont like cats they are no ones friend!

  5. As a tri vocational worker, life has a dynamism and a tension I enjoy. Presently I work on the principle of trying to balance effectiveness and relationship. I am presently of the mind that this is a dynamic tension as well. Which means we just balance it as best we can. I look at my church role as an exchange as gifts, do the gifts I present in my role match the gifts that the church shares with me. The gift is primarily money, but also flexibility. Our protestant work ethic is a powerful undercurrent.

  6. My biggest struggle is what to do. For the last 9 months people have been supporting me financially to do the work of Myriad. It really only covers abotu a day a week, so I do some other work. But I question whether I’m being effective with my time, becasue I feel accountable for what people are giving.
    Also, my job description (which doesn’t actually exist, but you know what I mean) is so different to what I was doing when workign at a church. There’s no program to plan each week, no sermons or Bible studies to write each week.
    I find my time mainly spent hanging out with people, which I’d do anyway. But like Hamo, I’m results oriented so just hanging out with people doesn’t always feel like I’m producing stuff.
    Then, I’m getting married soon and so much of my focus and energy is on that, so am I cheating?
    I really don’t know the answers to these questions.

  7. Gaz, it is such a hard call this effectivness issue. I wonder why we feel ok to send lots of money to missionarys in woop woop and kind of just trust that they are not in Hawaii having a good time, but when its about people doing cutting edge experimental mission on the home front we see more cautious. In fact a place that I think we can take a leaf from big business books is in the area of throwing lots of resources toward research and development. It’s always a money hole, because if they don’t invest in this area they know that they will be dead inthe water in the future. We have a handful of people ‘playing’ with new mission/church planting concepts in WA and all our ‘big business’ people (corporate church) are freaked out by it, hesitate to even look at what is happening, not to mention invest into it. They say, “before I invest I want to see the runs on the board”. What runs??? It’s an experiment, it’s research, it’s people ‘having a go’ at something different. These big boys are waiting for these things not to work so they can say ‘see, I told you so, I knew it wouldnt work’. But that’s just it, we HAVE to have some/many failures to discover what could be a key/s to the future of mission and ecclesia.

  8. Roo, I wonder what kind of a mark you will get if you actually stated it like that…’leadership without love is…’

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