Search
  • 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.

Follow me on ResearchGate

Follow me on ResearchGate

Pages
Social networking

Entries in work can be worship (2)

Wednesday
Mar312010

Work as worship - confronting the powerful, caring for the poor

A regular commentor on my blog (thanks Thomas!) left a comment on my post from yesterday.  Here's Thomas' comment:

Hello Dion, On the one hand, I like the holism of your theology. On the other hand, I feel that it does not do justice to the oppressed, from an existential point of view. It offers hope for the future. Yet (to advance just one aspect of this) statistically, hope across the globe fades in so many ways. That is one of the major stumbling-blocks for me. You ain't where the oppressed is, in this moment. Perhaps you could address this in a post sometime.

If I have understood Thomas' concern it is that an approach to 'work as worship' such as the one I espoused in my previous post tends towards addressing the powerful and rich at the expsense of caring for the poor.  If that was the case I would share Thomas' concern!

However, I contend that my theology does not advocate that at all.  Here are a few thoughts that underly my understanding of using our work life as worship in relation to the wealthy, powerful, and the poor.

1.  I agree wholeheartedly that ministry cannot be responsible unless it addresses the plight of the poor.  However, it is a mistake to think that such an orientation, i.e., and orientation towards the poor, must be at the exclusion of addressing the causes of poverty (most often greed among the powerful and rich).

2.  I would say that it is not realistic that every person should be expected to do ministry in all spheres of society all the time.  Thomas, what you may not know is that I served as a minister in South Africa's townships at various stages of my ministry as a Methodist minister (some of these periods were before 1994).  Moreover, I still continue to seek to address and overcome systemic poverty in the role that I currently hold.  I administer two large charitable trusts that do work, and fund work, in economic empowerment, food security, caring for HIV infected persons, caring for AIDS orphans etc.  This probably takes up about a third of my ministry time each week.

3.  If you agree with point 2 above, i.e., that we can't all be expected to minister in all places with equal intention and intensity; or at all levels of society at all times, then the following point needs to be accepted - namely, those who have significant access to the poor (and the systems that abuse and enslave the poor) must effectively and responsibly operate in that area.  But, that would also assume that those who have access to persons in power and access to systems that are powerful in society must engage those systems powerfully and effectively to work for the establishment of Christ's gracious Kingdom of Justice and love from that perspective.

So, if my daily work puts me in place with the poor directly it is likely that my primary ministry activity will be in that space.  However, if my daily work puts me in touch with society and power at another level then I must engage creatively and intentionally for Christ at that level (of course not exclusively!  We must all seek to address various levels of society at various times and in various ways).

I currently have that privilege (and responsibility) because of the ministry position I hold and possibly because of previous publications, research etc.  So, I think that it would irresponsible for me NOT to address the powerful, and systems of power, when I have a chance to do so!

I address this and a few other issues related to wealth, poverty, and ministry through work (and at work) in my new book 'Transform your work life:  Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling'.

That being said, I hear that persons such as myself must always remember why we engage powerful persons and systems - it is for the sake of establishing God's Kingdom that includes all persons.

I have found the following quote from Henri Nouwen quite encouraging (please see the bit in bold if you don't feel like reading the whole quote):

 

Honest direct confrontation is a true expressionof compassion.  As Christians, we are in the world without being of it.  It is precisely this position that renders confrontation possible and necessary.  The illusion of power must be unmasked, idolatry must be undone, oppression and exploitation must be fought, and all who participate in these evils must be confronted.  This is compassion.  

We cannot suffer with the poor when we are unwilling to confront those persons and systems that cause poverty.  We cannot set the captives free when we do not want to confront those who carry the keys.  We cannot profess our solidarity with those who are opressed when we are unwilling to confront the opressor. Compassion without confrontation fades quickly into fruitless sentimental commiseration.

But if confrontation is to be an expression of patient action, it must be humble. Our constant temptation is to fall into self-righteous revenge or self-serving condemnation.  The danger hers is that our own witness can blind us.  When confrontation is tainted by desire for attention, need for revenge, or greed for power, it can easily become self-serving and cease to be compassionate.  - From Compassion: A reflection on the Christian life by Donald McNeill, Douglas Morrison and Henri Nouwen.

I'd love to hear any feedback, and always appreciate constructive input, words of caution and insights that can help to see the Kingdom of Jesus established at every level of society!

Well, to change tack, I am back in South Africa.  We landed this morning after a great flight from Hong Kong.  I am waiting to board my connecting flight to Cape Town.  I have to do a little work this afternoon, but I'm on leave for the following 5 days with my wonderful family!!  Praise be to God!

Monday
Feb082010

21 Ways to Pray at Work

A friend on facebook (H-K-R) shared this great link from beliefnet - 21 ways to pray at work.  

There are some wonderful resources here to add a new level of significance and purpose to your daily work life! Remember that Paul admonished the Colossians saying, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Col 3.23).

We spend so much time and energy in our work environment, why not invest that time wisely by taking the hours you spend at work to a deeper level of commitment? 

Here's my input on some of the steps they share:

 

  • The workday doesn’t start when you walk into the office, it starts when you wake up. Start by thanking God for the job you have.
  • Ask God to bless the people among whom you work, and the place in which you work.
  • Pray that God will make you a good steward of your time and resources of your company.  As Christians at work we should offer a clear witness through our commitment to our work.  Mark Twain once commented that you should "live such a good life that when you die even the undertaker will be sorry!"
  • Pray that God will use your communication to communicate God's love and care for the people you interact with (whether that be your manner on the phone, the way you deal with a difficult client, or the tone of an email).
  • A simple exercise is to choose to pray through your 'address book' or phone list. I do this - I take just 10 minutes each day and pray for a few persons on our company phone list.  Amazingly I pray for each of our office staff by name every second week. It changes my interaction with them, and I trust that God uses my prayer to bless and help them.
  • Be willing to pray for those who lead your organisation.  Pray not only for them, but for their family and home lives.  Executives often face great pressure.  God can use you to transform their lives (James 5:16)
  • Before meetings ask God to guide you and give you calm and peace.  Let God guide your thoughts, your words and your interactions.  During the meeting listen for God's guidance through the words and inputs of others.  Be sensitive enough to hear God's voice, and brave enough to speak.  Your voice mayy be the one that God wishes to use to change a situation or bring a solution!
  • It is worthwhile praying that your organisation will be a just and good steward of the resources they have been entrusted with.  Ask God to guide your leadership to make wise and generous choices that will help to transform society.
  • Practice MBWA during your lunch break.  What is MBWA?  It is different from an MBA (Masters in Business Administration), MBWA stands for 'management by walking around'.  Try to connect with as many people as possible in a sincere and significant way during your free time (remember not to steal time from your employer, so use our time wisely!)  Friendships build trust and allow you to offer care, help and prayer to those in need.  I can bet you there are many people in your sphere of influence who are longing for someone to connect with!
  • In God's Kingdom few things happen in isolation - we were made for community.  So, find likeminded colleagues to pray with during the week.
  • When you have to travel for work pray that God will protect your family and give them patience.  Pray that God will protect you and keep you from any form of sin or temptation, returning you quickly and safely to your loved ones.

 If you have any ideas or inputs to share I would love to hear from you!  How do you make the most of your workday as a  Christian?