If you’re an average working American, you’ll spend over 100,000 hours at work in your lifetime. That’s about 25% of your waking hours!
As a Christian, it can sometimes feel like your work life and spiritual life are bifurcated. I used to feel that my job in the financial industry was insignificant, and the only way I was doing God's work was when I was evangelizing at work or volunteering at church. This made me wonder whether I should leave my job and pursue going into "full-time ministry".
But as I wrestled it out with God, here's what He showed me: we all work in full-time ministry! It doesn't matter if you're a stay-at-home mom or a CEO, you can use your gifts to serve God and others.
Recently, I read a book titled Kingdom Calling by Amy Sherman. I highly recommend it if you're seeking deeper meaning in your work. Kingdom Calling is about how we can use our work to bring about shalom in our cities. (Shalom is a Hebrew term meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity – and is commonly referred to in the book as “a foretaste of the Kingdom”).
Sherman points to Proverbs 11:10 as the vision: “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices”. However, in America today, cities are not rejoicing. We need shalom in our communities now more than ever.
So what can you do? In the book, Sherman points to real-life examples of the tsaddiqim - people who see everything they have as gifts from God to be stewarded for His purposes - to show how we can bring shalom to our communities.
4 Ways to Bring Shalom to Your Community
While the first part of the book contains quite a bit of theological background, the meat is found in part three when Sherman gives four distinct pathways of vocational stewardship. Each is a way that you can bring shalom to your community through the abilities, talents, and passions that God has given you.
These are not mutually exclusive, so you can go down multiple paths at the same time.
1 – Bloom Where You’re Planted
Blooming where you’re planted means enjoying your day to day job as you realize that God is who you’re working for. If you have the mindset of serving God with your work, you will be more ethical and reliant on the Holy Spirit for guidance.
You'll seek to act in the best interests of customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and the environment. Business then becomes about people rather than profits.
2 – Donate Your Skills
Donating time and energy to your church or a nonprofit is a good thing. But donating your time, energy, AND vocational skills is even better. When you’re serving within your vocational sweet spot, you’ll be more effective and it’s less likely that you’ll get burnt out over time.
Using your vocational skills to serve a church or nonprofit can make you more effective and joyful in your work.
3 – Launch Your Own Social Enterprise
This pathway is for the more entrepreneurial vocational stewards. God may be stirring up different dreams and visions in these people to help the community in some way. As the author puts it, “They dream of implementing a new kingdom endeavor to bless a targeted group or to provide a creative solution to a thorny social problem.”
This brings to mind the many ministries and marketplace ministries that have been launched to serve the people in their communities.
4 – Participate in Your Church’s Targeted Initiative
This path of vocational stewardship is about partnering with the local church in your specific expertise to bring about shalom to the community.
I can think of an example of this at my home church, Gateway Church. Gateway has a heart for struggling families. One way to serve these families is transitory housing. Buying and renovating real estate requires many different skill sets, and many volunteers from the church have used their vocational skills to bring housing to families in need.
No matter which path(s) we take, we can use our talents, abilities, and passions to bring about shalom in our communities. Through our work, we can use our gifts to serve God and serve others. If we do that, our work is not just something we do, but rather an outpouring of who God made us to be.
Ben Malick, CFA