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  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.
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Tuesday
Mar162010

Transform your work life

Yesterday I sat in another meeting where a prominent business person asked 'how can I transform my worklife into something more than just a job?' It is a common question!  Some people ask this question because their job is not satisfying, others ask it because they know that life is about more than just waking up, working, going to bed, and starting all over again!

Gretchen Rubin's quote continues to live in my mind:

While the days are long, the years are short! (Gretchen Rubin)

So true!  There must be more to life than just working for a salary (as important as that is).  Most of us grow up longing to do something significant, something that brings great joy, blessing and fulfillment.

This friend shared his frustration about his local church with me - he is a top business analyst with years of training, a wealth of experience, and the kind of skill that most businesses would pay thousands to have access to!

When he asked his pastor to help him to find some ministry through which he could express his love for Christ, and also use his gifts, he was encouraged to join the men's group that does 'parking duty' on a Sunday morning before and after the services. Sure, he may find some companionship and friendship there, but he would not find expression for his gifts and abilities in that setting.  When Graham Power, one of the more prominent business persons in South Africa, came to Christ and was a member of my congregation I was faced with a similar dilemma!  What do you do with someone like this?  My temptation was to get Graham to join my leaders meeting - however, I know now that he may have joined out of a desire to honour Christ.  But, the challenge of helping to run a suburban Church would never have been enough for him!  The small mindedness of members, the unrealistic budgets, and the limited staff would soon have left him frustrated.  Thankfully Graham discovered that his ministry was in his work place; his work life was the time that God wanted to use to transform his business, tranform his industry, touch the nation and eventually the world.

It was clear that my friend's church didn't think that he could have a ministry on Monday!  His pastor suffered from the same problem I had - my members should use their gifts within the ministry of our Church!  If only his minister could realise that he is already gifted, has a network of relationships, significant influence, and great passion and commitment to Christ.  All that he needs is some encouragement, a few good ideas, a few basic tools, and he could impact hundreds, even thousands of people through his work life!

He could certainly help ministries to understand how to manage their finances, or perhaps where they could invest some of their income to generate additional funds to grow their work. He certainly has a keen understanding of economics, policy and working with teams in complex situations.  Moreover, he could be taught to pray, share the Gospel of Christ, understand the basic principles of justice, economics and the values of God's Kingdom.  Through these basic things he could influence choices, help to transform systems and see that God's will is done IN the Church AND in the broader community!  Everybody wins!

How I wished that our new book, 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling' was already in print!

I would gladly have given him two copies - one for his pastor to read to get some understanding of the theology of ministry in the marketplace, and a few ideas for helping his business people to discover and work towards their calling. He could also have read some stories of other business people who have undertaken the journey of seeking to serve Jesus every day of the week, not only on a Sunday!  In doing so they have found joy, blessing and peace through serving Christ where they are every day - in their work place.

I'd love to hear some of what you do as a minister in your work life or your work place. How do you find ways to establish God's Kingdom, to express His love, and to work for healing and transformation from Monday to Saturday? I'd also like to hear from some pastors and ministers who are doing creative things in their Churches that help business people to find and live out their calling.

So here's what I'd like to ask you:

  • What do you think God's plan is for yourworking life?
  • What do you think God would want a working Christian to do (other than do their job well!) in the hours that they're are work?
  • Pastors, have you got any insights on a 'theology of work' that you would be willing to share?

I am often in situations where I get asked to help business people to integrate their faith life and work life - I am fortunate to be part of a Church that takes this form of ministry serioulsy. But, I'd love to get some creative ideas, theological insights, and practical advice to share. So please add a comment below! I'd love to hear from you!!!

Lastly, please keep an eye open for our book (I have included a copy of the cover image below). It will be in stores on the 10th of May 2010.  I met with the marketting team from Struik Christian Media today - they have some incredible stuff planned for the book!  Radio, Video, and Print interviews and marketting.  A great launch (I'll let you know about that - drop me a line if you'd like to be invited.  It will be in May in Cape Town).  If you'd like to pre-order a copy please drop me a line and I'll make sure that we get a copy to you as soon as they are in the stores.

Here are a few endorsements for the book from some friends:

 

Graham Power and Dion Forster have finally brought the role of the marketplace into the prominence it deserves! When you read the Bible, it soon becomes obvious that the focus of the ministry and outreach of Christ was nearly exclusively on the marketplace. If you are looking for the secrets of how to succeed with your faith in your workplace, then ‘Transform your Work Life’ is for you.
– Dr Bruce Wilkinson, author of The Prayer of Jabez
We can never pay enough pastors and missionaries to evangelise the world! It will happen when the rest of us realise the church is not a building to go to, but a vast multitude of people called and commis- sioned by God to take the good news where we ‘spend most of our time and energy’. This book will turn your world upside down and inspire you to believe God for church to happen where you are! You are about to go on a great adventure!
– Floyd McClung, All Nations (Cape Town)
At long last we have a book that affirms our daily workplace as a primary place for us to live out our faith. Few people are better placed and more equipped to show us the way than Dion Forster and Graham Power. I pray that this book will enable many individuals the world over to see their work as a means of dignity, love and provision, both for themselves and their neighbour.
– Rev Trevor Hudson, South African Pastor and Author.
People often ask, “What is my calling?”. The answer is partly simple: the majority of us are called to the marketplace. The interwoven stories of Graham and Dion will encourage you to make your occupation your vocation, your job a ‘beroep’, in the true sense of the word. I highly commend these good friends to you; read their story so that your heart will be en- couraged, your mind renewed, and your spirit emboldened. God, being a lawyer, understands legal precedent, so what he has done for them he can do for you and me if we walk in similar obedience. Make their story a springboard for your story. ‘But, he is successful and if I had his money I could also serve God,’ you may say. Don’t ask for money like Graham – ask for humility like Graham. Don’t ask for a ministry like Dion’s, but minister with all that you have, right where you are. Don’t wait for one great thing to do, but take the next step of obedience. I am delighted that Graham and Dion are challenging us to integrate our work and faith so that we can be a part of the extraordinary company of ordinary marketplace people who are extending the kingdom through daily business.
– Brett Johnson – President, The Institute for Innovation, Integration & Impact, Saratoga, California

 Please join the facebook page for 'Transform your work life' here to interact with other Christians in the workplace and keep up to date with news about the book. 

References (7)

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    Response: What is Work?
    Work immediately conjures up feelings of labour, dread and strife but does it have to be this way? Is work purely a means to an end or can work hold more purpose in it's definition?
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    Transform your work life - BLOG - Dion Forster - An uncommon path
  • Response
    Transform your work life - BLOG - Dion Forster - An uncommon path

Reader Comments (8)

Hi Dion

I found your comment "help business people to integrate their faith life and work life" telling. I'm eager to here (in your latest book) what your point of view but I shall venture mine now...

We walk around thinking that our faith and our work life (and even our home or personal life) are two separate things; as if our faith life is for Sunday service or mid-week prayer meetings. We wonder how God is going to use us in one charity or community movement or another (and we often beat ourselves up or giving enough time to His works); yet everyday we are surrouned by people who need to feel God's hand upon them, and we forget that we are the instruments of His peace here on earth... 24-7-365.

For years I wondered what God wanted me to do with my life - what was my calling? I eventually realised that all He really wanted me to do (at least at that point) was be kind and compassionate and in all aspects of my life including work. Now I say "all He wanted me to do" perhaps I should have said "I realised He had an even greater challenge than a new career; He wanted me to do as Jesus would do" and since I am far from saintly this is no small task and one that I work at everyday (for better or worse)

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Great topic and questions...

Vision- 'spread the Good news'
Mission- 'my contenance must bear witness'

Blessings...

March 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDale

Hi Dion,

I am very interested in pre-ordering a copy of your book, definitely something that I've been looking at on and off over the past few years. I posted a link to a short blog I posted in February 2007 already. Added to that, you inspired me to think about it a little more, this is my response:

What an incredible topic, if we could get on top of this one could you imagine the implications for so many of those frustrated, often guilt ridden and definitely unfulfilled working individuals (particularly corporate). Having just made a shift of my own from an environment in television and photography, where my purpose as a Christian was easy to justify, i.e. communicating people's inspiring stories, ideas, and celebrating God's creation through visual medium to the aviation industry as a pilot, where it becomes me, myself and I flying an aircraft has left a big question mark as to where & how God's purpose will manifest in my career.

I've always considered Ecclesiastes the starting point for any ambitious, career driven professional to prioritise what his/ her motives, goals and ultimately purposes are. The author found himself unfulfilled after achieving what so many people aspire to achieve their entire lives, he called all of his achievement “meaningless”, not in itself mind you, but in relation to the ultimate purpose, God's purpose for all of us. So many feel guilty for enjoying what they do, accomplishing goals and making a success because there is this common yet incorrect belief that if we're not involved in “ministry”, we're not fulfilling our God given purpose. Solomon (if he was in fact the author of Ecclesiastes) doesn't condemn the satisfaction in work, the enjoyment in life or the financial success of his efforts at all, he does however warn that we will be called into account for all we do and that we should guard ourselves from where it is our heart ultimately lies. Ecclesiastes 12:13 is his conclusion after placing all of his “worldly success” into perspective, he writes, “Now all has been heard, here is the conclusion of the matter: 'fear God and keep his commandments', for this is the whole duty of man”.

It is the condition of our heart therefore that is what determines whether we will fulfill God's purpose for us... regardless of where we may find ourselves fulfilling this purpose. Do you think that the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert because it was a long distance to travel? In reality, the distance should've taken them 11 days to travel, yet God kept them in the desert for 40 years. It is not the distance we need to cover to fulfill God's will but the condition of our hearts that must be in line with what He would like to do with us. Often the preparation required for our ultimate purpose is His purpose in itself. His purpose goes far deeper than our own understanding. If we take a look at Proverbs 20:5, it is understanding that will reveal His purpose in our lives.

This is all very well but practically, how is our work purposeful in itself? Staying with Proverbs 20, in verse 13 we see that a good start is to recognise that from Genesis already, man was purposed to work, so immediately by the simple virtue of having a job, we're fulfilling a God given purpose. We will do well in faithfully believing in His sovereignty too and that wherever we find ourselves, there He has placed us and whether it is in preparation for something or to achieve a purpose within that place, He has determined where we find ourselves. (Numbers 9:23, Ruth 2:20, Esther 4:13-14) We also need to recognise that the Word indicates that we were all created and predestined with a purpose in mind (Rom 8:28-29). It is important not to be preoccupied with our focus on where we're heading to from here or on someone else's position that we envy because it has a more obvious purpose, instead we should be focusing on where we are and what we're doing right now in the present tense. Consider how we're conducting our work, often we're more concerned with what people's opinions of our work is than God's commendation. It used to help me to re-sight Col 3:23 to myself when I knew there were high expectations on my performance. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men”. Surely if we can live by this and the condition of our hearts are God focused, we will give nothing less than our best efforts, if our best does not satisfy those who place the unrealistic expectations on our performance, what more can we do?

Up until now we haven't even begun to consider our sphere of influence, those people we work for, those we work with and those who we manage. In this world, a high level of integrity tends to stand out more than the “acceptable hand-offs” & corruption necessary to achieve success and efficiency in the corporate race. (Proverbs 20:17) Our simple conduct testifies to Christ in our life. How do we respond to crisis situations? Do we allow crisis to dictate our behaviour, language and interpersonal interaction or are we able to demonstrate the fruits of the spirit in every situation, even when placed under pressure. (Gal 5) (Col 4:5-6). It starts to become apparent that ministry within a corporate environment is possibly far more challenging than ministry within a church environment (not to belittle anyone in church ministry).

Finally, lets consider Christ as our example, he did not fulfill his purpose from within the church, instead he moved within circles of people who were ordinary or even considered unacceptable to the clergy. He mentored the least likely to be apostles and taught those who had been considered less than worthy for “education” as he did the will of his Father. He came to earth to serve and not to be served, a management style that is not often adopted anymore.

Yes, it's important to be a part of the body of Christ, to serve and fellowship within a church body of believers but at the end of the day, we could never all exist exclusively in the church, the world as we know it would cease to function and we were not called to be exclusive, we were called to go out and make disciples. It's often the places where we struggle to recognise purpose most where the most fundamental purpose exists, amongst those people who have forgotten who He is because they have been numbed by their busyness and self-reliance. We are all an extension of our church wherever we find ourselves, the more environments the church can "infiltrate" with people like us, the less exclusive we become and the more acceptable people will find the life we present.

If we can learn to regard our work as an act of worship or a service to God, we are fulfilling His purpose already. Our sense of fulfillment in the end will not be a product of our work as much as a product of who we become in any work, the condition of our heart, the character we display and the way that people perceive Christ through us. In the end, our purpose very simply is to bring glory to Him wherever we are and through whatever it is we're doing.

March 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Henning

Hey Paul!

So great to hear from you! Thanks for your thought provoking and detailed comment!

In some senses my desire to write this book came from years of engaging people at all different stages in life while I was pastoring - in particular I was struck once by an encounter I had with a doctor who I went to pray with during his last few days of life. He was quite old and had lived, what I considered, a full life, and in fact fruitful life filled with acts of service. However, he spoke at length about the fact that he had never given his life and his work over to Christ.

It struck me on that day that the tasks of my work (attending meetings, arranging events, balancing budgets, preparing sermons and studies, etc). are not acts of ministry in and of themselves. Rather it was the intention of the acts (to honour Christ with what I could do) and the outcome of these acts (seeking to participate with others in building God's Kingdom on earth) that made them acts of ministry!

Col 3.23 is particularly important for me - it says so clearly that whatever one does can be ministry if it is done for Christ. So whether one is preaching a sermon, or flying a plane, or leading a team in an office, or seeing patients in a hospital, or raising kids in a home, all of these functions can be acts of ministry.

I'll be sure to get you a copy of the book (it is due to hit South African shores late in April and will be on the shelves in CUM, Exclusive, etc. from 10 May).

Be blessed!

Dion

March 17, 2010 | Registered CommenterDr Dion Forster

Great post, as usual, and I'm really looking forward to the new book in May.
I often envy people like you and John (vd Laar) and Graham, who are part of ministries where you are actually invited to share your gifts/talents/knowledge, which you all do with skill and love, and then move on to the next group/meeting/event where you are again received and affirmed with great feeling. (Of course I am not so naive that I don't know about the toll this lifestyle takes, and all the negative elements that go along with it!!)
Having been 'in ministry' for 24 years now (my husband is ordained and currently a minister at a mid-size church in Johannesburg) I would say that the issues you raise in your post/book do not only apply to the laity. At Synods and other gatherings where ministers are found in groups (and it doesn't seem restricted to any one denomination) you will hear many stories of people (and families) who question their calling and sometimes their faith even though what they do all day is considered by most (lay people) to be so spiritual: prayer, bible study, worship, pastoral care. While God may be the perfect boss and His plan for our lives can be trusted, this is played out in a very harsh environment that is often critical and demanding with little visible evidence that anything we are doing is worthwhile. Only about half of my husband's ordination year remain in full-time ministry, which is quite telling don't you think?
With regard to the businessman you speak of in your post, I would challenge him to join the 'parking duty' roster in his local church if he is serious about offering time to God and the church as this is obviously where they need volunteers. I am sure the pastor is aware of his corporate background and skills (which may take up a lot of his time and make him seem unavailable to the church in a bigger way) and this seemingly humble task will expose him first hand to 'the church', those who come faithfully each Sunday to worship. I am sure that it won't be long before the man will find a niche better suited to his business gifts.

March 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

Hi Linda,

Thanks so much for your comment. I truly appreciate the time you've taken to share your view here. Please forgive me if my post came across as undervaluing the work of Ministers and Pastors! That is certainly not my intention! As someone who served in Churches for many, many years I understand first hand the pressures, expectations and demands of having a few hundred people telling you what to do, and expecting it to be done to their standards and according to their timeline (with minimal resources and very little encouragement or support!) whew, what a mouthful, but I do understand the difficulty under which ministers and pastors live and minister.

I also do not want to undervalue the work of the local Church. It is valuable to serve in one's local Church, not matter what the task that needs to be done! As an ordained minister I have served in some Churches as a society steward, a worship leader, an usher at the door, a counsellor and prayer minister after services etc. Megan and I still serve in our local Methodist Church with great joy and love - it is the primary community of belonging for our family.

However, I do feel that there are not enough Churches that understand the need to prepare their business people for ministry from Monday to Friday during their working hours. Somehow the Church lives with the impression that ministry and worship happen only in certain places and at certain times. This week's episode of 'The Ministry and Me' (my radio program on Radio Pulpit) deals with this subject. I hope to get permission to publish the MP3 version next week once it has aired on the radio.

I consider that I need to give of my time, my talent and my income to uphold, support and grow the Church which is a community I need and want around for my family and friends as well. However, I also want to know that when I go into the board room on a Monday, or have to make a decision about a case of ethical misconduct, or pray with a colleague who is facing inordinate pressure to do something unchristian in his work life, that these acts are acts of ministry. Moreover, I would love to be able to say that I have gained 'tools' for that form of ministry from my Church community.

But, I agree wholeheartedly with your concluding statement - often we need to start with what is before us (parking cars) to find what lies ahead of us!

May you and your husband be truly blessed in your ministry! I pray that the Lord will protect your family life, your faith life, and give you both great joy and blessing in your ministry!

Regards,

Dion

March 25, 2010 | Registered CommenterDr Dion Forster

Hi Dion,
I am so looking forward to reading your new book. I am in the priviledged position of being a pat time minister in a full time job or perhaps its the other way around?! I always think of my workplace as another congregation and have an open door policy. I have been able to bless my bosses marriage, do memorial services and have been used to witness Christ's love often in very difficult circumstances.
Colossians 3:23 should be a verse that is prominant in every Christians workplace, reminding them that in all we do we work for the Lord first and foremost.
I would love to attend the launch.
Shalom
Pam

April 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Hi Pam,

Thanks so much for the comment! Indeed, we give thanks for the many wonderful saints such as yourself who traverse the barriers of the sacred and secular daily!

Pam, please could you send me an email at digitaldion@gmail.com with your phone number and postal address so that we can invite you to the book launch? Please save the date 21 May 2010, at the Cape Town international Convention Centre 13.00-15.00

Blessings!

D

April 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDion Forster

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