Work: Can we hate it enough to change it, yet love it enough to think it worth changing?

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“Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound;
and the more it is bound the less it is blind.”
- G.K. Chesterton

In the busy grind of work, sometimes we need an awakening to the paradoxes of following Jesus in the marketplace. One Christian writer who brought that awakening for me is the British journalist and theologian, G.K. Chesterton. C.S. Lewis claimed Chesterton as a spiritual father. “If I were stranded on a desert island and could bring only one book apart from the Bible, it would be Chesterton’s Orthodoxy,” wrote author Philip Yancey. When I first read Orthodoxy, I knew I would be getting in deep waters, but I couldn’t have known how challenging one chapter called “The Flag of the World” would be for my faith. In that chapter, Chesterton pounds you with a paradox that I believe lies at the heart of the intersection of faith and work. I want to suggest some implications of this paradox for work.

“When you love a thing, it’s gladness is a reason for loving it, but its sadness is a reason for loving it more,” says Chesterton. Love is an unconditional commitment; it is bound. But that commitment is also the basis of our deepest criticism; it is not blind. Chesterton explains this paradox in a marital illustration. In his customary wit, he writes, “A man’s friend likes him but leaves him as he is; his wife loves him and is always trying to turn him into somebody else.” Whether you are a husband or wife, I bet you can relate! In our workplace or within our industries, we can hate the dysfunctional relationships or systemic brokenness, but we also belong and are bound to our work and our workplace. To be a change agent in our work, we need what Bonhoeffer called a kind of “this-worldliness” to our faith. I want to suggest three practical applications of this paradox: in leading others, in giving feedback, and in staying connected to people.

First, compassion is the foundation of any effort to lead change. Chesterton warns about the error of the optimist and the pessimist. The pessimist finds error but “does not love what he chastises.” She is like the person who claims to “just be honest” and at the same time is hiding the fact that she takes pleasure in saying unpleasant things. The optimist is more inclined to defending than reforming; they want thriving without conflict. To lead, we need both the optimist and the pessimist on our team. We need to say to our colleagues, “we are so committed to you that we think you can be better.” I remember the challenge of a newly hired faculty member during a time of low morale at a university where I worked. He was observing how few stickers of the university he saw on cars in the parking lot. This was a small thing, but it told a big truth: we had not planted our flag. Leaders point out when our criticisms lack loyalty and when our commitment shields us from change.

Do we have it in us to stay engaged and committed to those in the world that we sharply disagree? Can we keep a critical and loyal connection instead of a distanced debate? You may be thinking politics, but this is for our industries and workplaces. Innovative teams mix critical debate and camaraderie. A sign of organizational health is the degree to which “troublemakers” are protected.

The second implication is how we give difficult feedback. Think about the last time you felt disgusted with someone’s behavior: did you feel committed to that person at the same time? There is something darkly insistent in human nature about distancing ourselves from those with whom we find fault. When we give difficult feedback to our employees and co-workers, our feedback is not Christian if we don’t do it with a genuine and consistent loyalty to their well-being as people. Research on giving healthy feedback finds that correction and critique is only helpful if the giver conveys to the receiver that he/she belongs here, that we have high expectations, and that they have what it takes to reach those expectations. To grow and be productive, people need feedback that is specific and shared in the context of unconditional safety and connection. When you have a criticism, get right to it, but find a way to convey it with the context of commitment to them as people. Believe in them and show it.

Our intentional connection to those with whom we may sharply disagree is a third application. G.K. Chesterton wrote during the time of the philosophical movements of fascism, determinism, Darwinism, and the eugenics movement in the early 20th Century. Among Chesterton’s best friends were the atheist playwright George Bernard Shaw and the socialist writer H.G. Wells. He was not only in literary conversation with the philosophical ideas of his day, but in personal contact with the people who held them. It seemed to be authentically part of his “this-worldliness”. It was also the source of his harshest criticism. Do we have it in us to stay engaged and committed to those in the world that we sharply disagree? Can we keep a critical and loyal connection instead of a distanced debate? You may be thinking politics, but this is for our industries and workplaces. Innovative teams mix critical debate and camaraderie. A sign of organizational health is the degree to which “troublemakers” are protected.

Chesterton’s challenge for us a century later is beautifully summed up in these lines,

“We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent. We have to feel the universe as at once an ogre’s castle, to be stormed, and yet as our own cottage, to which we can return at evening.”

For our work, the question Chesterton poses is “can we hate it enough to change it, yet love it enough to think it worth changing?” Leaders like Gandhi and King that have shown us that apathy, not hate, is the opposite of love. It is when we disengage from one other and that we all lose. We see apathy show up when people are uncritically loyal or when we criticize while keeping distance. In our apathy, workplaces can be filled with harsh critique or fearful acquiescence. When we love our work, our sense of accomplishment and contribution is a reason to love it, but its brokenness is a reason to love it more.


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Josh Hayden is a guest contributor for the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work (NIFW). Josh has almost 20 years administrative and university teaching experience and is a leadership consultant awaiting his departure to work as an educator in Western Europe with Global Scholars. He is an alumni of the Gotham program, NIFW’s nine-month faith and work intensive.

A Q&A on Shining Light on Darkness, with Jay Cherry of Open Door

The Nashville Institute for Faith and Work is excited to welcome Jay Cherry and Kevin Roddey for our Faithfully Working Lunch on December 6 from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. We all work in industries with elements of brokenness, and both Jay and Kevin have forged unique paths to shine light in their respective fields. Taste a bit of what Jay Cherry might share at lunch by reading below about his experience with integrating his faith into his work.

Q: What have you most learned about integrating your faith into your work in the last year?

Jay: God will continue his work in us and through us, and asks that we are engaged and present. I believe He works in profound ways simply through our a) diligence and b) availability.

Q: What idols most plague you in a working environment?

J: Pride and control.

Q: How does your industry most reveal God's character?

J: We were made by a Creator who continually remakes and rebuilds. In Real Estate, we get to make, create, build, and rebuild in the physical world. In residential real estate, these physical places we build create a sense of place, become a home, and remind us all of our true longing for home.

Q: Where is your industry or work in tension with Christianity?

J: Real estate is one of the greatest avenues of wealth creation and generational transfer for most Americans, however this opportunity has a high barrier of creditworthiness, income, and understanding in order to access -- and thereby can perpetuate inequality for a large portion of society that does not have the privilege of this access.

Q: How do you think about shining light on darkness in your industry?

J: I believe that we can empower and enable more people to have a path to transact in Real Estate if we can simplify process, reduce the friction, and eliminate the opaqueness of the transaction.

Click the button below to register for the December Lunch.


Jay is currently the General Manager at Open Door in Nashville. Prior to joining Open Door, he led a team of 700+ people across 3 states as a Division Vice President with DaVita. He was born in Franklin, TN, grew up in Florida, and returned to Nashville in 2013. Jay and his wife, Diana, spent two years after college living in Haiti, where they started a business, learned Haitian Creole, and developed a strong affinity for fried goat. Jay holds an MBA from Stanford and a B.S from the University of Florida. He and Diana have two incredible kids, Finley (age 6) and Shepherd (age 3), and live in East Nashville.

Register for any of our other upcoming events HERE.

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On Success

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Being first usually implies victory: a deal closed, a battle won, a goal accomplished. It is a typical benchmark in the working world. But as Christians, how do we reconcile success when Jesus clearly calls the least, the last, and the lowly?

It’s not just coming out on top, but also being the first to listen, to apologize, and to make amends in the mundanity of office life.

Our goal for work cannot be society’s template for success: win at all costs, climb higher, work longer and harder. Work becomes all-consuming. Preaching a sermon on work, Tim Keller says, “You will not have a meaningful life without work but work cannot be the meaning of your life.”

As Christians, the very notion of success is turned on its head in the finished work of Jesus. Christ’s work on the cross was only for the last, the least, and the lowly. Said another way, anyone with a pulse. Because of His selfless act, we no longer ask, “where can I succeed?” Instead, we ask, “Where can I serve?” It's not just coming out on top, but also being the first to listen, to apologize, and to make amends in the mundanity of office life. Instead of wondering when the next bonus will come, we can ask, “where is the darkness in my work and how can I shed light?” Or, “How can I model excellence in my specific line of work?”

Christ never promised the success of His people in the eyes of the world. He has promised something far better; that He would return and renew all things, including our work. To that end we labor unto glory; our success fueled in simple faithfulness to the King of this world and the work that happens within it.

On Replacing Partisan Politics With Persuasive Lives

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Whatever one’s place in life, whatever age or influence, all Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit’s power, endowed with the Father’s wisdom through Scripture, and energized by the love of Jesus. As such, all Christians are called as Christ’s ambassadors into the places where they live, work, play, and worship, with the glorious purpose of leaving it better than they found it. This is, we might say, the universal Christian job description.

As a father of two daughters, I sometimes offer them advice on their various endeavors. One endeavor for our oldest daughter was to build a thriving babysitting business in her mid-teen years. Since my wife, Patti, and I had previous experience “employing” babysitters to keep watch over our home and children, I felt qualified to offer constructive advice that might help our daughter succeed.

My advice about babysitting focused on two, simple actions. First, she should resist the urge to be on her phone and social media, and should instead actively engage and play with the kids until their bedtime. Second, after putting the kids to bed, she should tidy the house or apartment—especially the main living space, sink, and kitchen—so that when the parents arrived home, the house would be in better shape at the end of the evening than it was at the beginning.

Thankfully, our daughter embraced and implemented this advice. Before long, she was getting so many babysitting opportunities that she had to start referring some parents to her friends. These two, simple actions of playing with the kids and cleaning the home made her the favorite babysitter to the kids and the parents of virtually every family that she served. Even now, when a break from college is on the horizon, parents will line up to “preorder” her babysitting services for the weeks she will be at home. You might say that she has positioned herself, from a consistent commitment to be fully present with people—and to consistently care for places and things—to enjoy “the favor of all the parents.” 

In a similar way, Christians are called to serve the world as engaged servants, fully present and always looking for opportunities to leave people, places, and things better than they found them.

This dynamic was pervasive especially among first-century Christians, whose life of love toward one another, toward their neighbors, and toward the towns and cities in which they lived, caused them to enjoy “the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:47). Their neighbors, whether Christian or not, came to value and esteem them as a life-giving part of their own lives.

These Christians did not feel a need to become a powerful “moral majority” in order to impact the world around them for they realized, as Jesus had clearly told them, that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Rather than control the world through coercive and politically partisan force, Jesus’ method was to win the world through the persuasive power of kindness and neighbor love.

Indeed, Jesus and his tribe of followers gained favor and influence by living among their neighbors and colleagues—including those who were poor, marginalized, and forgotten—as an intentional, creative, love-driven, and life-giving minority. As they freely gave to their neighbors the gift of love, service, and presence, they seized every opportunity to leave places and things better than they found them. It would be fair to say that if these Christians were taken out of the world, their neighbors would have sorely missed them.

Sadly, we in the 21st-century West have in many ways let this universal job description for living as a love-driven, life-giving minority slip away. Rather than denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Jesus, many of us have instead opted instead to deny our neighbors and take up our comforts…all in an attempt protect our own interests and follow our personal dreams.

As the haunting lyric from singer-songwriter Jason Isbell reminds us, “Your creature comforts aren’t the only things worth fighting for.”

Perhaps lyrics like these can function as a clarion call to Christians to return to our roots and to once again live as Jesus’ ambassadors, aroma, and “sent ones” for the healing and restoration and rejuvenation of our tired, sin-sick world. Now is the time to repent of the ways we have contributed to the world’s sorrow and brokenness, and instead seek to be a healing agent of the world’s sorrow and brokenness.

Let’s begin today, shall we?

Article originally published at ScottSauls.com.

Andy Crouch Delivers a Powerful Night of Fellowship and Flourishing at Stewarding Influence

Holy conversation happened in a holy place in West Nashville at our fall forum, Stewarding Influence, featuring Andy Crouch.  Over 300 people gathered in Clementine Hall, a newly renovated event space that highlights the tensions of new versus old Nashville, and engaged in an evening that focused on using our spheres of influence to promote flourishing for all people across Nashville and beyond.

Andy Crouch stood in front of the beautiful antique organ and asked audience members to consider their own history. Had they grown up in a place of control, safety, suffering, or flourishing? Further, had they considered what it meant to move from whatever place they are in toward flourishing? A key, said Crouch, is how vulnerability and authority create opportunities for flourishing.  Crouch then challenged the audience to examine their own influence and ask - right now, am I in a place of idolatry, withdrawal, suffering, or flourishing? Through live-texting the audience saw themselves as a part of a whole and then as a group learned the path to flourishing, which in the end involves great sacrifice.

Some guest testimonials of Andy’s keynote include: “Perfect portrayal of the gospel and our sin nature,” “Articulate, smart, inspiring, convicting,” “Spoke to my heart,” “One of the best talks I've ever heard.”

Crouch then challenged the audience to examine their own influence and ask - right now, am I in a place of idolatry, withdrawal, suffering, or flourishing?

At the conclusion of the evening, NIFW launched this year’s Stewarding Influence Grant Competition.  Organizations and individuals are encouraged to submit proposals aligned with the concepts of using authority and vulnerability that create flourishing for others for a $5,000 grant. The grant proposal process is meant to extend the conversation past the evening and seep into the day-to-day for the flourishing of Nashville and beyond. Applicants are asked to fill out an application in its entirety and submit a two-minute video no later than November 15, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. CST.  Click here for an application.  Questions about the grant process can be directed to info@nifw.org.

Complete with networking, food, and fellowship, the evening also featured live music from gospel, jazz, funk fusion band, Cotten, and original compositions from Songs for the Church (“Do Not Fear” and “Strong and Weak” are available here). Missy Wallace, Executive Director of NIFW, gave a brief history of the venue, Clementine, Nashville, and the theology of work.

Perfectly tying the beauty of the evening together, Tammy Bullock closed the program with a powerful rendition of, “Establish the Work of our Hands” (you can listen to the original recording of it here).

“Flourishing is about living the life we are meant to live which begs the question - what is the other life and how do we know which life we are living?” Missy Wallace said, “Andy walked us through a transformative evening of understanding how we use control and withdrawal to avoid taking meaningful risk.  In the end, it is a combination of meaningful risk and authority which leads not only us but those who we lead, into the life prepared for us by Christ. And this changes everything at work for the better.”

The night would not have been possible without the support and collaboration from our sponsors: Jarrard Phillips Cate Hancock, Christ Presbyterian Church, St. George’s Episcopal Church, Parks Church, Harpeth Hills Church of Christ, St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, and Marketplace Chaplains.

A Q&A on Faith and Entrepreneurship with James Granberry, Partner at OakPoint, and Erick Goss, CEO of Creative Trust

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James Granberry, Partner at OakPoint

 Erick Goss, CEO of Creative Trust

Erick Goss, CEO of Creative Trust

The Nashville Institute for Faith and Work is excited to welcome James Granberry and Erick Goss for our October Faithfully Working Lunch on October 25 from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Entrepreneurship is hard and doing it redemptively with God at the center is countercultural.  Come learn how James and Erick have weathered different seasons of their entrepreneurial journeys.

Q: What have you most learned about integrating your faith into your work in the last year?

James:  Integrating my faith into my work does not mean handing out tracts to my employees, having a fish on my business card, or quoting scripture in a negotiation.  It means doing excellent work because God calls us to excellence in all things. It means asking: How can I love in this particular situation (whether good or bad) to this particular person (co-workers, investors, partners, competitors, vendors)? My work is a platform to reflect the love God has shown me. This may seem easy in good times but exceedingly difficult in difficult times.

Erick:  God's work is my work.  He calls us to participate in what He is doing in the world.  I need to always be attentive to what He is saying through the Bible, through circumstances, through people, through prayer.  I want to be attentive to what is He calling me to do. It's easy to attempt to make my own way on his behalf. Engaging God daily and looking for the Spirit's work is really the only way I've found to stay in sync and not fall into a pattern of relying on myself.  I think it's actually less about integration and more about surrender. Integration could be viewed as taking a spiritual thing called "faith" and integrating into a non-spiritual thing called “work”. Rather, I feel my work is an outward expression of my spirituality and relationship with Christ, just like being a parent, serving at church or being involved in the community would.

Q: What idols most plague you in a working environment?

J:  Pride -- my desire to be liked, to be respected.

E:  There are probably too many to list!  Reputation, ego, money, success, ease, etc.  It's pretty clear that I've got an idol problem when what I want isn't happening the way I want it to.  When anxiety, frustration, jealousy, despair, and/or anger manifest themselves, it is clear that my desires are disordered, and that God and His Kingdom aren't my primary concern.

Q: How does your industry most reveal God's character?

J:  God is the ultimate steward.  He stewards his power, wisdom, and creativity perfectly in his unfolding plan starting with creation and eventually culminating in our eternal fellowship with him.  Real Estate investing is about stewarding investment capital, land, structures, and people. The more we look to the ways the ultimate steward uses His power and influence in His master plan, the more redeemed our own work can be.

E:  We work in children's digital media.  There are a number of disciplines required to do good work.  They include creativity, storytelling, economy, stewardship, teaching, support, and nurture, engineering.  All of these disciplines communicate different aspects of God's character as Creator and King.

Q: Where is your industry or work in tension with Christianity?

J:  Generally, my industry is about making as much money as possible for investors and our company, with that you can lose sight of the human element throughout our value chain.  With investors -- we have a large incentive to put money to work in investments regardless of the investment quality. With employees -- there is more work than time - we can demand a lot and not provide time for restorative rest with family, friends, and God.  With our tenants -- we can dehumanize them, thinking of them as units of occupancy/rent instead of God's divine creation to be cherished.

E:  Most of our industry doesn't acknowledge the spirituality of parents and children.  God isn't a part of the conversation despite the incredible volume of stories being told and produced.  The "telos" or ultimate aim of the majority of the companies in our industry has little to do with anything transcendent or spiritual.  The industry as a whole has accepted that "material" reality such that there really isn't room for stories that mention or acknowledge "faith"...much less Christianity.

Click the button below to register for the October Lunch.


JAMES GRANBERRY

James is a founding partner of OakPoint Investments. His efforts center on managing the company’s $350 million investment portfolio across the US, in addition to maintaining relationships with investor partners.  He is a Texas native, Furman graduate, and Vanderbilt MBA holder with expertise in portfolio and asset management, financing, acquisitions, and dispositions.  James is married with three girls (2,4, and 6) and when he isn’t working or attending tea parties with his girls, he likes to read, play golf, or listen to his latest favorite podcast. 

ERICK GOSS

Erick is CEO and Co-founder of Creative Trust Ventures where leads all retail, e-commerce, online video, and mobile operations.  At CTV, he launched JellyTelly, a new children’s digital network, and subscription video-on-demand platform and, in partnership with VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer, launched the bestselling video series Buck Denver Asks…What’s in the Bible?. Read more here.

Register for any of our other upcoming events HERE.

Learn more about the integration of faith, work, and culture at NIFW.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.

Why Does Labor Day Matter To Christians?

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Someone who knows my passion for the theology of work recently asked me an excellent question - “What makes Labor Day significant for Christians?”  

Let me provide a brief backdrop of the history and meaning of this holiday, and then illustrate why Christians should wholeheartedly celebrate this holiday.


A day to celebrate labor

I did a little research to find out why we celebrate Labor Day in the U.S. on the first Monday in September.  Wikipedia states that the holiday “honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country.”[1]

Reading further, I am reminded that during the trade union movement in the late 1800s, it was suggested that there be a holiday to celebrate the laborer.  Shortly thereafter, in 1887, it is reported that the first state to make it a public holiday was Oregon. Over the next seven years, thirty states had begun to celebrate Labor Day, and it was deemed a federal holiday in 1894.[2]

Certainly, Christ-followers should celebrate the many social reforms that came out of the labor movement, which resulted in establishing child labor laws, guaranteeing more livable wages and safer working conditions for all.  It should be obvious to the Christian that this movement was biblically appropriate, considering the Lord’s concern for the least, the lost, and the last. Solomon observes in Proverbs 29:7 that the righteous care about justice for the poor.  This implies that Christians should speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, defending the rights of the poor and needy.  (See also Proverbs 31:8–9.)

It should be obvious to the Christian that this [Labor] movement was biblically appropriate, considering the Lord’s concern for the least, the lost, and the last.

Work matters because it matters to God

There are hundreds of Bible verses that address some aspect of work.  

In Genesis, we see in the creation story that depicts God as a worker.  He calls humans to work with Him to expand His handiwork. We also see the downside of work, where Adam’s sin brought a curse on work, making it unnecessarily difficult and resulting in sweat, unfruitfulness, and disharmony among workers.  In the Old Testament (OT) narratives, we read about well-known men and women who successfully integrated their faith in God at work—Moses, Joseph, Ruth, David, and Nehemiah. We also read about ordinary people such as Bezalel and Oholiab, who were called and gifted to work with God in the construction of the tabernacle.  We find principles on how we should work from the OT writings (Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes). The prophets give us some insights about the future of human work in the new creation.

In the New Testament, we read what Jesus taught about work in the Gospels, as well as what Paul and others wrote in their epistles.  We see how Jesus redeems and transforms workers. Finally, the book of Revelation has some things to teach us about the eternal value of our work.
 

Work matters because God upholds His creation and brings shalom through our work

Our Creator sustains His creation mostly through human labor.  

God created us as His coworkers with various talents so that He could meet all of the complex physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs of people.  God loves people through human work. Tim Keller confirms this in his book, Every Good Endeavor. He reminds us, “God’s loving care comes to us largely through the labor of others.  Work is a major instrument of God’s providence; it is how he sustains the human world.”[3]

Isaiah 28:23–29 supports this concept well.  The prophet describes how a farmer does the work of God as His coworker.  God provides the wisdom needed and instructs the farmer how to do the work the right way to cultivate the field, gather the harvest, and process the grain so that His people can eat.  He emphasizes that all of this ultimately comes from God.

Lee Hardy, in his book, The Fabric of This World, presents Luther’s view.  “Through the human pursuit of vocations across the array of earthly stations the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the sick are healed, the ignorant are enlightened, and the weak are protected … In the activity of work, God is present as the one who provides us with all that we need.”[4]

The end result of all of this hard work that God orchestrates is a world where shalom increases.
  

Work matters because through it God brings blessings to His people

Doug Sherman and William Hendricks in Your Work Matters to God have observed several things that the Bible teaches (verses mine).  Through work God meets the needs of people who are of eternal value to Him (Psalm 104:10-31).  Through work God meets our needs and our family’s needs (1 Thessalonians 4:11–12).  Through work God provides extra money so that we can give some of it to those in need (Ephesians 4:28).  Through work we love God and neighbors by serving them both (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:37–40). [5]

In addition, God’s blessings take a variety of forms.  Sherman and Hendricks wisely indicate some of the byproducts of work.  “People need work. They need its challenge, its product, its achievement, its aesthetic and emotional rewards, its relational dynamics, its drama, its routine, and its remuneration.”[6]  This idea is supported with our understanding of the creation mandate in Genesis 1:28.  There, we read that Adam was created to be a worker, or rather a co-worker with God.  We were also created by God for a purpose. Each of us were given the appropriate gifts, skills, abilities, and desires to be able to perform various functions through our jobs.

Believe it or not, Christians who live “under the Son” rather than merely “under the sun” can find some measure of satisfaction in our work.  Ecclesiastes 3:12–13 states that man should “be happy and do good while they live … eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God.”  It is indeed possible in the Lord to find joy and contentment in our work.

It was stated earlier that we love God through work.  Sherman and Hendricks explain how work relates to loving God (Deuteronomy 6:5).  “Just think about how much of your heart, soul, and might go into your work.  Imagine, then, as you spend yourself at that task, being able to say, ’I’m here to do something God wants done, and I intend to do it because I love Him.’  The person who can make this statement has turned his work into one of his primary means of obeying the greatest of God’s commandments.”[7]  Amen!

I want to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to celebrate Labor Day with praise to the triune God who is a worker and a new appreciation for His gift of work.

We are honored to have Russell E. Gehrlein as a guest contributor in this month’s newsletter. Author of "Immanuel Labor - God's Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work", Russ is a former youth pastor and a junior/high school math and science teacher. In 2006, he retired from over 20 years active duty in the US Army in the rank of Master Sergeant. He currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at the US Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear School in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_Day.
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_Day.
[3] Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (New York: Dutton, 2012), 184.
[4] Lee Hardy, The Fabric of This World: Inquiries into Calling, Career Choice, and the Design of Human Work (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 47-48.
[5] Doug Sherman and William Hendricks, Your Work Matters to God (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1987), 87.
[6] Sherman and Hendricks, Your Work Matters to God, 71.
[7] Sherman and Hendricks, Your Work Matters to God, 94.

Learn more about the integration of faith, work, and culture at NIFW.org or follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, or Instagram.

A Q&A with Greg Adams, COO of the State of Tennessee

The Nashville Institute for Faith and Work is excited to welcome Greg Adams for our September Faithfully Working Lunch on September 20 from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Read below to see a few thoughts he has to offer as a preview for his talk:

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Q: What intrigues you most as you consider the concept of working faithfully?

A: How we live out the calling to do our work with excellence unto the Lord and our mission of declaring His glory through our actions as we interact with co-workers/people naturally.

Q: Can you name specific examples of ways you see faithfully working played out in your various industries (business, political, etc.)?

A: In both business and government, I have seen faithfully working most clearly played out when one is being mistreated or how one responds in difficult times. An attitude of hope, gentleness and reverence in the situation and towards authority is a stark contrast on the way non-Christians think. It often causes them to reflect on your behavior and ask where this comes from.

Q: Do you believe it's possible for those transitioning in and out of different industries to continually exhibit faithfully working? And if so, how is that possible?

A: It is possible, but you need the right perspective. If I believe my transition is all about me, money, status, and retirement then I will struggle with faithfully working. However, if I believe my work, and any transitions, are connected to God's bigger purpose, where I see His provisions and His management over my work life, then it is possible to exhibit faithfully working.


Greg Adams serves as Chief Operating Officer for the State of Tennessee. He joined the governor’s senior team in July of 2013 after working for IBM for 36 years. Adams was a member of the company’s senior leadership team, most recently as a managing director in the financial services sector. In the governor’s ongoing effort to make Tennessee the best managed state in the nation, Adam’s role is to work with state departments to ensure they’re operating in the most efficient way possible. For more, click here.

You can register for the September lunch HERE or register for any of our other upcoming events HERE.

Learn more about the integration of faith, work, and culture at NIFW.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.

Meet our 2018-19 Gotham Class

Gotham, our nine month faith and work intensive, launched last weekend with an opening retreat focused on the year ahead. We are very encouraged by the breadth and depth of vocational, spiritual, and personal experiences in the new Gotham class.  We have a representation of 15 churches, 15 industries, 60/40 female/male, 3 races - all coming together to focus on Christ in their lives. Get to know our new Gotham class below.

Do You Need to Tame the Lion? Entrepreneurial Liturgies for Relying on God

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NIFW Executive Director, Missy Wallace was featured on Faith Driven Entrepreneur's blog and podcast. Listen to the podcast (click here) and read her article below:

One crisp fall morning in Nashville, six CEOs of entrepreneurial enterprises gathered to discuss their woe of the week. While the conversation started with the idle chit-chat of kids, traffic and weather change, an awkward silence overtook the room when our facilitator led with, “so what is really going on this week....”

Eyes diverted to the floor. The silence lasted and lasted. Typically one to fill the air with commentary, I had to bite my tongue to allow the discomfort to encourage vulnerability. Finally, John, a CEO usually full of theological wisdom and confidence, shakily shared, “I think this is really the week.”

He was referring to the week when the precarious house of cards might really fall. When the receivables aren’t coming in. When the cash on hand might not cover payroll. When that clinch “investor” is leaning towards a “no thank you,” and the bank is calling the line. The week when he just might have to call it quits. Pack up. Send 30 people home with pink slips.

Somewhere around his second sentence, the tears started falling, brushed with hints of both anger and hope. “Why the f*&$ did I leave a senior position at Google to serve God as a CEO if this is the outcome?... But I feel God is in this.”

Moments later, another CEO, David, sheepishly and after much cajoling, confessed that he would be experiencing his first “major liquidity event” later that week - “a low seven figure payout, not life changing, but significant.” To our surprise, he continued with his own vocal shake, “I know this seems really weird, but I am actually jealous of John right now.”

We all sat stunned. Again, awkward extended silence.

David went on, “The money makes me feel like a king. And that I need to do it again and again. I do not feel close to God.....It’s hard to be dependent on God when I just created this for myself. If I do not handle this with extreme caution, it could push me from God.”

Some say life in our weekly meeting, Entrepreneur Support Group, can occasionally seem like an AA meeting since the emotional vacillation of “entrepreneurism” can feel like something from which to recover. “I am Jane, I am an entrepreneur. I vacillate between my vision of 'it' working, bringing me wealth, fame, and of course making the world a better place...... And utter despair, because I am terrible, I cannot get it done, and it’s going to fail.”

And that vacillation is weekly, if not daily or sometimes even hourly. It is the norm for the call of “entrepreneur.”

In an article in Inc. Magazine titled “The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship,” Toby Thomas, CEO of EnSite Solutions likens the CEO role to riding beasts, 

“‘People look at (the CEO) and think, This guy's really got it together! He's brave!’ says Thomas. ‘And the man riding the lion is thinking, How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?’"

What is it about entrepreneurship that creates the swinging pendulum? Does entrepreneurship create the vacillation or is the person hard wired to the role and its consequences? And does the pendulum swing include turning to and from God?

Our group has found that some “liturgical” practices can reduce the swings:

1. SUPPORT AND BE SUPPORTED

Being a start-up CEO requires many situations where communication between aspiration and reality can diverge. Don’t create more than necessary. Surround yourself with other Christian entrepreneurs trying to work through what being dependent on God looks like in the context of building a business. Our group meets weekly with two facilitators to discuss key stressors in the business. We do not intend to solve the marketing problems, or advise each other on investor contract details - rather, we offer Kingdom perspective. We reiterate what God says about success and failure - about our worth. We anchor each other in God’s story instead of our own. As important, avoid groups which encourage you to posture unnecessarily about how well you and your company are doing.
 

2. UNDERSTAND GOD’S WORD ON YOUR CALLING

Arm yourself with a theology of entrepreneurism. Understand what God says about work (we were created for it), and creativity (it came from Him and is a gift to steward), leadership (we are given opportunities to love people, places, and things to life), wealth (in and of itself it is not evil, but making it a god is), brokenness (we are broken, systems are broken), and startups (creating something out of nothing is God’s first act on the first page of the Bible).
 

3. SELF REFLECT: UNDERSTAND YOUR PERSONAL AREAS OF BROKENNESS

Are you feeling jealous or overly controlling? Is your anxiety spinning out of control? Is fear taking over? Are you soothing yourself with alcohol, social media, or excessive work hours? See those as symptoms to your root areas of brokenness. Take one symptom and keep asking, “why, why, why.” For instance, Why am I jealous? Because I am scared their company will thrive and mine will fail? Well, why am I scared? Because if it fails my reputation might be ruined? Well, why does that matter? What do I need? Why? Ultimately our brokenness leads back to the fact that we either do not believe that God is in control, do not believe we are his adopted children and he plans for our good, or we do not feel good enough for him without performance. (P.S. Psalm 73 is a great balm for jealousy.)
 

4. INDUSTRY REFLECT: HOW DOES YOUR INDUSTRY AND COMPANY AT THEIR BEST ALIGN WITH GOD’S CHARACTER?

Financial services can show God’s sense of order; entertainment can show His creativity. What about yours? What problems does it solve? Likewise, where are systems and processes not aligned with God? Are people extorted? Is greed a problem? Is the earth exploited? Can you shine light on the brokenness? Can you engage differently?
 

5. STOP DREAMING OF QUITTING

In one group meeting, one CEO queried, “how many of you dream of quitting every week?” All raised their hands. Every. Single. One. By understanding that thought pattern as the norm can help you carry-on steadfastly, until you believe God wants you to stop.
 

6. CREATE LISTENING RHYTHMS

One of the questions we are most asked is “How do we know what God is telling us to do?” And our response is, “Are you making time to listen?” In addition to regular involvement with a church and personal devotional time with Scripture, we encourage the practice of a regular day of silence - a whole day. Ours consist of silently marinating on two Scriptures for six hours. No strategic planning, no to-do list making, no catching up on reading. Only time with Jesus. It renders peace, confidence, further belief in God, and likewise leadership encouragement. As the day approaches, everything can tell us to skip - too much to do at work, a child is sick, the company website is down, the lawyers have an issue. Mother Teresa, while building great networks of poverty alleviation which required incredible busyness, committed to the practice as noted by her comment, “In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. ... Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”
 

And Most Important:

7. YOUR TREASURE IS THE KEY TO PEACE

Does “upside” really matter? Do you really believe that God has your best in store for you? Do you really believe that you are good enough because you are a child of God? Do you believe your company is His for you to steward? Can you believe that the company's success or failure is not who you are? Rarely have I met a CEO who can live in these beliefs hour to hour and day to day, but some are on their way because they are grounded in Christ.
 

And that sense of calm, that only Jesus can offer....well it’s like taming the lion you’re riding. By the way, it’s been a year, and John’s company is still alive.

(Entrepreneur Support Group, co-led by Missy Wallace and Ken Edwards, is a project of the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work, an organization dedicated to helping individuals and groups integrate their Christian faith into their day-to-day work in a way that brings about human and organizational flourishing.)

Note: Some small details of the opening anecdote are changed to protect confidentiality.

Reflections on Work from Praxis’ Rule of Life

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A few weeks ago NIFW’s Executive Director, Missy Wallace, had the privilege of attending a three-day gathering summit organized by Praxis, an organization dedicated to the concept of redemptive entrepreneurship.

At the conclusion of the event, a written “Rule of Life,” especially for high-capacity entrepreneurs in mind, was unveiled. Yet, a case can be made for the nuances of this particular Rule of Life to be relevant to anyone working in positions of influence where there is temptation to overwork and play God.

“At its best, a rule of life is an expression of community, undertaken in the belief that we need help from one another to live the lives God meant for us,” the Rule states. “It also expresses humility, recognizing that we are prone to specific pitfalls that require us to take extra care with our practices.”

These principles are impactful not only for the work of entrepreneurs but those in the workforce at-large who find themselves with tensions of overwork, ambition and influence.

Key elements of the Praxis Rule include the following:

TIME
Instead of endless productivity, we practice a rhythm of work and rest, attending to our need to grow in all the dimensions of being human: heart, soul, mind, and strength. We commit to take one full day every week for complete rest from our daily work, and to make Sabbath possible for everyone within our sphere of authority.

MONEY
Instead of being preoccupied with money and possessions, we practice simplicity and generosity. We commit to give away a minimum of 10% of our gross income, with special attention to the needs of the materially poor.

IMAGINATION
Instead of having our imagination saturated by media, we seek to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. We commit to disengaging from screens of all kinds on a daily, weekly, and annual basis. We establish structured limits for our consumption of entertainment, in quantity, frequency, and moral character.

DECISION-MAKING
Instead of willful autonomy in decision making, we practice active dependence on God. We commit to daily prayer, and at times of major decisions, not proceeding until we have actively submitted our own desires fully to the will of God and have inner peace about the decision.

POWER
Instead of accumulating power to benefit ourselves or exploit others, we use it to generate possibility for those who have less access to opportunity. We commit to the practice of gleaning — frequently sacrificing opportunities for our own advancement to intentionally create pathways for others. We also practice chastity and fidelity, honoring the men and women with whom we work.

COMMUNITY
Instead of individualism and isolation, we practice real presence with others who are not part of our daily work. We pursue diversity across class and ethnicity in our friendships and mentoring relationships. (Praxis Rule of Life, 2018)

Visit the Praxis website to read the Rule of Life in full or to make a confidential commitment to the Rule as your own spiritual practice. Praxis also has small hard copies available for the Rule here.

Learn more about the integration of faith, work, and culture at NIFW.org or follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, or Instagram.

A Primer on Work for Recent Graduates

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Summer months mean this: thousands of U.S. graduates from high school to university institutions walked across the stage to receive a diploma of completion over the past few weeks. And even more sat through the roll call of names waiting to hear just one familiar one, culminating decades of hard work.  

As freshly minted graduates transition into new day-to-day vocations and rhythms, the following Gospel principles can guide both good days and bad. These principles are for all - those who celebrated with the graduates and those who will welcome them into workplaces. It’s a theology of work for all to model as these new minds breathe new life into our organizations.  

1. You were created to work.

In the first sentence of the Bible, God creates.  Then He makes man and woman “in his image.” By being created in the image of God, you are created to work.  And like God did his first six days of creation, you can bring structure out of chaos over and over. Every job is some version of structure out of chaos - healthcare, starting a company, financial analysis, parenting.  Scripture also tells us to be “fruitful and multiply” and “take dominion over the earth” Can these extrapolate beyond agricultural work and child bearing? Analysis of scholars seeing the original text language help us understand that these passages can be interpreted more widely as “create flourishing.” How can you think of your job if you know it is to “create flourishing”? As noted by Tim Keller and Katherine Alsdorf in Every Good Endeavor, “we are continuing God’s work of forming, filling, and subduing. Whenever we bring order out of chaos, whenever we draw out creative potential, whenever we elaborate and 'unfold' creation beyond where it was when we found it, we are following God’s pattern of creative cultural development.” Work itself is a basic need for man and helps to provide both purpose for our lives and means to serve and honor the Lord through the labor of our hands.
 

2. Work is broken.

In the third chapter of Scripture, brokenness entered the world.  You are broken and work is broken. Because of this brokenness entering humanity, we now experience frustration and toil in our work on earth. Regardless of your job or industry, you should anticipate thistles and thorns in your work. The old adage “love what you do and you will never work a day in your life” is the American dream for a happy career, but it does not align with biblical truth. People are broken, systems are broken and therefore work will be hard at times.
 

3. God’s good work can come from anyone, not just those who believe in God.

The concept of common grace affirms that all good gifts in a person come from God, regardless of a person’s personal beliefs.  Every man and woman is created in HIS image. The world may be enriched, brightened, and preserved through anyone and that goodness is of God, even if the one doing the work does not see it. Because all human beings are image bearers, it should not surprise us that all are capable of doing great work.
 

4. Work is an opportunity to use the gifts you have been given.

Do you think of work only as a way to pay the bills, get ahead, or provide a convenient schedule for you? If so, you may need to reassess how you can serve the work rather than the work serving you. Regardless of your position, workplace, or title, your work serves a purpose in God’s unfolding story. Dorothy Sayers said it best: “Work is not primarily a thing one does to live but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker's faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God."
 

5. We are called to rest from our work.

God rested on the 7th day. And he commands us to rest. The pace of the American workforce and 24/7 connectivity can pressure us to be “on call” at all times.  Rest is not only a way to restore our minds, souls, and bodies (and many “secular” articles suggest that comes with productivity and creativity improvements), but it also increases our dependence on God.  In the words of Keller and Alsdorf, “To practice Sabbath is a disciplined and faithful way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward.”  He calls us to rest.
 

With these principles in mind, how can your day-to-day work be transformed with this renewed perspective? “The Gospel frees us from the relentless pressure of having to prove ourselves and secure our identity through work, for we are already proven and secure. It also frees us from a condescending attitude toward less sophisticated labor and from envy over more exalted work. All work now becomes a way to love the God who saved us freely; and by extension, a way to love our neighbor.” - Katherine Alsdorf and Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor.

Learn more about the integration of faith, work, and culture at NIFW.org or follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, or Instagram.

How the Enneagram Can Enhance Your Work: A Q&A with Ian Cron

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The Nashville Institute for Faith and Work and Lipscomb University's Spark Idea Center are excited to partner and present a weekend Enneagram seminar with Ian Cron, author of The Road Back to You and host of the podcast "Typology." Ian will help participants investigate how the Enneagram, a powerful ancient tool for understanding personality type, might inform us of our specific wirings and giftings to better understand the work we do and inspire us towards more fruitful work and workplaces. Join us for this Friday evening (5:30-9 p.m.) / Saturday (8 a.m.-4 p.m.) workshop. Read below to see a few thoughts Ian has offered as a preview for his talk in April.

Q: In what ways do you see that the Enneagram can help enhance the workplace?

A: The Enneagram offers amazing insight into how our personality types engage in relationships with partners, friends, and coworkers and what we most need and fear from those interactions.  It’s the best tool I know for cultivating self-awareness. Self-awareness means knowing your strengths and weaknesses, what your triggers are, and how you make decisions, among other things. It’s the ability to monitor and regulate your thoughts, feelings, and actions, and the effect they have on others. How does this translate to the workplace? Well, a leader who knows the inner workings of their personality type and those of the people they lead gets way ahead of the curve. They learn to understand their coworkers and use different techniques to motivate their team members based on their different personality styles. It changes the dynamic of the workplace when you can identify the different strengths and challenges of your coworkers by allowing you to move from a space of mindless reactivity to mindful responsiveness. You can really transform a workplace when coworkers learn to take a moment to pause and ask themselves, “What’s happening in this moment? And how do I need to regulate my response to actually bring about the healthiest, best outcome in this situation?” It improves the communication skills of your entire team and reduces conflict in the workplace.

You can really transform a workplace when coworkers learn to take a moment to pause and ask themselves, ‘What’s happening in this moment? And how do I need to regulate my response to actually bring about the healthiest, best outcome in this situation?’

Q: In what ways do you see that the Enneagram promotes dignity and flourishing for all?

A: For centuries great Christian teachers have insisted we can't really know God until we FIRST know ourselves. For instance, Calvin said, "Without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God” and St. Augustine prayed, “Lord let me know myself, that I may know thee." As we develop self-awareness and self-knowledge we learn to accept that grace requires nothing of us. We are all worthy of honor and respect just for being our authentic selves. Inside each of us is a hidden gift that reveals something about God’s heart. So, when we are tempted to prosecute ourselves for the flaws in our own character, the Enneagram helps us pause and remember that each type is, at its core, a signpost pointing us to travel toward and embrace an aspect of God’s character we need. Growing in this understanding promotes dignity for each of us and opens the door to true transformation. The Enneagram is a tool that helps us awaken both self-compassion and our compassion for others. When we learn self-compassion and allow our hearts to expand we can stop trying to change people and simply love them for who they are.  And, that’s when we truly begin to flourish.

We are all worthy of honor and respect just for being our authentic selves. Inside each of us is a hidden gift that reveals something about God’s heart.

Q: Do you have any specific examples of ways you've seen or experienced more fruitful work due to incorporating the Enneagram into the workplace?

A: On the most recent episode of Typology, I interviewed a band with 12 members (including staff). They tour together on one bus with 12 bunks for months at a time and are with each other day-in and day-out. For them, studying the Enneagram has reduced conflict among the group by giving them a new, common vocabulary that has helped them to understand where each other are coming from. They can better understand each other’s strengths and challenges and have used that knowledge to pause and act intentionally toward each other rather than mindlessly. They are learning to see themselves in real-time and self-regulate when speaking with each other. The Enneagram has given them each a new starting point for communicating with each other in a more empathic and compassionate way. And they are better able to see each other’s vision for the band and then take that knowledge to make decisions as a group that improve their performance at each show.


Ian Morgan Cron is a bestselling author, nationally recognized speaker, Enneagram teacher, trained psychotherapist, Dove Award-winning songwriter and Episcopal priest. His books include the novel Chasing Francis and the spiritual memoir Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me. Ian draws on an array of disciplines—from psychology to the arts, Christian spirituality and theology—to help people enter more deeply into conversation with God and the mystery of their own lives. He and his wife, Anne, live in Nashville, Tennessee.

You can register for the April seminar HERE or register for any of our other upcoming events HERE.

Learn more about the integration of faith, work, and culture at NIFW.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.

Thinking Biblically Regarding Nashville’s Growth

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How do the words of the Bible challenge our city’s incredible growth? The following is an editorial published in the Tennessean by Eddie Latimer, founding CEO of Affordable Housing Resources, a Nashville non-profit, and a NeighborWorks America Organization, on ways city residents can embrace a love for their neighbor by considering their impact on lower income neighborhoods and the workforce in Davidson County.Gentrification is a fact of the Nashville and with it comes tensions of many kinds. Eddie attempts to make sense of it in light of the Bible and causes us to think: What is the responsibility of a Christian in a high-growth city? This op-ed was originally published in The Tennessean on January 17, 2018.


Our next door neighbors were young, struggling musicians.

A few years back they made financial sacrifices to move to Nashville, as this was the best place to figure out their future in the music industry.

They lived in a one-bedroom duplex for $650/month, with the other side being rented by a senior on a fixed income. They had a decent landlord, but Nashville’s accelerating real-estate market consistently brought many investors (most from out of town) to her door wanting to buy their duplex for significantly more than they ever thought possible.

Being too wise to sell, the landlord did double the rents as a result of her experience with the investors.

Due to these new higher rents, our musical neighbors had to move back home, and Nashville lost more housing stock that was serving our creative class, food service and construction workforce.

The landlord promised the senior in the other duplex that she would keep his rent at $650, but when he moves out this rent will go to $1,300 and the unit will be lost forever to our seniors.

Do we care?

Nashville is actively displacing our lower income residents, similar to my former neighbors.

In 2015 and 2016 combined, we lost more than 5,000 affordable homes and apartments with rents that were under $750/month.

Redfin, a residential real estate data company, identified that much of Nashville’s real estate acquisitions and development funding are by wealthier residents originally from the coastal areas who are moving inland to urban communities like Nashville, Salt Lake and Atlanta, because here they can buy and develop more home for the buck.

The result is land and home prices are soaring out of reach for our normal residents. This is making living in Nashville difficult, if not impossible, for many of our neighbors in East Nashville and all over Davidson County.

But as a city we seem to feel that this is an unintended consequences of an economic boom—no malice intended.    

This fall my congregation has been reading passages from the Hebrew Scriptures on God’s concern for those with lesser and even no means.

I have been struck that there are consequences for a society whose actions displace the poor. A summary passage is, “I myself (the creator God) will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with your flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.”

One of the consequences of Nashville’s boom is that those with means are displacing those of lower means, intentionally or not. Ask my former neighbors.

I do not believe that as a rule our shouldering and butting out the weak is by design; but, nonetheless, it is the result of the last several years of unrestrained growth – growth without any formal city policy on preservation and replacement.

The focus of recent real estate business has been to serve the wealthy (the Barnes Fund being an exception).

This focus by the wealthy on maximizing profits is having negative repercussions on the lean sheep of Nashville.

We are told that we will be accountable for butting out the weak. We have to stop believing that because we had no intention to hurt someone, but we do, that we are innocent.

Many cities are driving out the lean sheep though real estate shifts. Nashville can say, “so be it, it’s a natural consequence of business;” or Nashville can say, “this is not who we are and we need to creatively find a way to make Nashville a city for persons of all incomes, professions, and special need challenges.”

But should we choose to change our negative actions on the lean sheep, it will require difficult purposeful choices and actions.

Learn more about the integration of faith, work, and culture at NIFW.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.

Finding Hope in Ezekiel to Combat Workplace Brokenness

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We all love our work, but there are aspects of every job that drive dissatisfaction.

While it’s easier to embrace work when we are satisfied, what is your thought process when things go awry at work?

As you ponder the the day-to-day stresses and frustrations of working in your specific company and/or industry, do you take time to think about ways you can leave your workplace better each day?

While there are surely aspects of your day-to-day work that are fulfilling, in fact, we assert that the broken areas of work demand responses and action rather than side-eyed complaints over the watercooler amongst coworkers.

Sitting in the tension of knowing you were created to work all the while feeling its toil calls to mind Ezekiel 37:1-10 and the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones.

In the passage, God reveals how He both keeps his promises for redemption and resurrection and uses the Spirit in us to breathe life into the dry and barren areas of existence.

It’s easy to think of the ways our vocations appear to be valleys of dry bones. Bones themselves represent something that once was—something that once contained inherent meaning, calling, and purpose.

But the dry and scattered wasteland of bones we see serves as a reminder that brokenness touches every area of our vocations, and it can often feel overwhelming to consider the brokenness and our needed reponses.

Our contributions to push back the darkness in our project, our department, our company or even our industry can more often than not feel like a drop in the proverbial bucket. So why bother fixing things like unhealthy staff meetings, water cooler gossip, indirect communication channels, broken evaluation processes, or even greed and inequality?

First, we must embrace work for work’s sake, and to embrace that we were created to do creative and/or redemptive work.

And second, we must embrace that we are called and equipped by God to bring about flourishing by pushing against the broken areas.

The power of our words to speak life into areas of our work is powerful. And God calls us to it.

So how are you wrestling and engaging with the broken parts of your daily workplace? Are you salt and light? Or are you at the water cooler.

Learn more about the integration of faith, work, and culture at NIFW.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.

How Vulnerability Can Enhance Your Leadership

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The Nashville Institute for Faith and Work is excited to welcome Pastor and Author Scott Sauls for our April Lunch & Learn on the topic of “From Weakness to Strength: How Vulnerability Can Enhance Your Leadership” on April 18 from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Read Scott’s thoughts below in anticipation for his in April.

Q: What inspired you to study the ways weakness can enhance a person’s leadership?

A: Two reasons, chiefly. The first was that in the course of eighteen months, five of my friends lost their positions of leadership due to a moral failure. The second was an awareness that, given the right set of circumstances, I might be equally as vulnerable to a collapse in character. You might say that I wrote the book chiefly for my own protection and that those who have read the book are eavesdroppers on my own internal monologue -- on the "sermons to a leader" that I regularly preach to myself.

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Q: Why do you believe traits like weakness and humility can be so transformative and foundational to a healthy leader?

A: The first reason is theological. When we find Jesus repeatedly saying things like, "The meek will inherit the earth" and "The first will be last and the last will be first," we are wise to tune in to discern what such declarations mean for us. The second reason is practical and intuitive. We are all drawn to follow those who lead from a place of humility and other-centeredness. Conversely, we generally struggle to trust leaders who do not assume these qualities.

Q: What does it look like, from your perspective, for leaders to practically gravitate towards weakness in their endeavors?

A: Henri Nouwen put it best, I think. Nouwen, whose career included teaching posts at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard, as well as a prolific speaking itinerary, spoke of a type of "downward mobility" that is far superior to our infatuation with upward mobility. Jim Collins called it the "Level Five" leader. It's the leader who is more interested in the flourishing of others and the organization than s/he is in hearing the sound of her/his own name.


Scott Sauls is husband to Patti, dad to Abby and Ellie, and serves as senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to Nashville, Scott was a Lead and Preaching Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City after planting two churches in Kansas City and Saint Louis. Scott has authored three books, most recently a book on the character of a leader called From Weakness to Strength, and blogs regularly at scottsauls.com. His work has also been featured in Christianity Today, Relevant Magazine, Qideas, Catalyst, Leadership Magazine, aholyexperience, OnFaith, The Gospel Coalition, and Key Life. Scott can be found on Twitter at @scottsauls.

You can register for the April lunch HERE or register for any of our other upcoming events HERE.

Learn more about the integration of faith, work, and culture at NIFW.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.

Why All Good Work Matters Into Eternity

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As part of a research study examining the connection between work and meaning, psychologist Dan Ariely paid participants to construct figures out of Legos.

For each consecutive figure, the price dropped by several cents. By decreasing the financial incentive, Ariely was trying to find other factors that influence productivity.

In a not-so-surprising conclusion, he found that one group of participants—a group who had their figures taken apart in front of them while they worked on the next one—was the least productive.

Ariely concluded, “In our view, meaning, at least in part, derives from the connection between work and some purpose. … When that connection is severed - when there is no purpose -  work becomes absurd, alienating, or even demeaning.”

In his study, Ariely writes often of “meaning,” as “a connection between work and purpose.”

But he never explicitly names what seems to be the theme of his least productive group: their longing for permanence.

If we are to endure in our work, we want to believe that our work will matter into eternity. It often leads us to ask God if he, like the researcher in the Lego study, will ultimately dismantle our efforts.

Is work nothing more than part of the curse—a toil meant to punish mankind for our sin in Adam? Or has God given us work merely to distract us while He implements His plan for salvation?

Scripture suggests otherwise.

The implications of these two verses show that God is using the work of his people in his plans for the new heaven and the new earth:

This knowledge gives us the confidence to strive for excellence in all our work, knowing that God will use it in some way to usher in his salvation for all of creation. He’s not breaking down our proverbial Legos. He’s using them.

This knowledge gives us the confidence to strive for excellence in all our work, knowing that God will use it in some way to usher in his salvation for all of creation. He’s not breaking down our proverbial Legos. He’s using them.

There are many ways to find purpose in our work. We can and should contribute to the flourishing of creation and to the correction of injustice, but if our worldview tells us the end of all our work will be nothing, then any purpose we’ve found in our work becomes temporary at best and meaningless at worst. We become like Ariely’s Lego builders who found no purpose in their labors.

This is precisely why embracing biblical faith and work theology has breathed new life into the vocations of many Christians who have lost a sense of purpose in their jobs.

In the final reckoning, the efforts of our hands will not be disassembled like the Legos, but redeemed. In fact, looking around, there is evidence he’s doing just that, right now.

Learn more about the integration of faith, work, and culture at NIFW.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.

Can the Enneagram Help Inform Your Work?

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British mathematician George Box once said, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” Could this also be true for the Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a powerful ancient tool for understanding personality type that uses a 1-9 scale to categorize people based on their specific giftings and wirings. Recently, it has gained increasing notoriety in both personal discovery and work relations.

As part of our mission to equip you in both of these spheres, the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work will host a weekend workshop, “The Enneagram at Work: A Seminar with Ian Cron,” in conjunction with Spark: Lipscomb’s Idea Center, on April 20-21. Tickets are now available.

Cron, the author of The Road Back to You: A Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery and host the Enneagram-themed podcast Typology, writes in the opening chapters of The Road Back to You that understanding and applying the Enneagram in your day-to-day work can contribute to the shalom of your work and workplaces.

“I recently read a Harvard Business Review article in which the entrepreneur Anthony Tjan writes, ‘There is one quality that trumps all, evident in virtually every great entrepreneur, a manager, and leader,” Cron writes. “That quality is self-awareness. The best thing leaders can do to improve their effectiveness is to become more aware of what motivates them and their decision-making. Numerous other books and articles on the topic of self-awareness in magazine from Forbes to Fast Company all say the same thing: know thyself.”

We hope to see you there and continue the conversation on April 20-21.

Learn more about the integration of faith, work, and culture at NIFW.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.

Creating a ‘Symphony’ Out of the Broken Areas in Your Job

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What place does redemption have in your work?

And, how could reconciliation of relationships, systems, and processes impact your work?

A recent piece in The Atlantic tells that story.

It’s one of instruments - the damaged and discarded instruments from one school system - played by professional musicians and student players in order to demonstrate their potential.  

They played them in their broken states. Some of the instruments barely resembled what they were designed to do and didn't make the sounds they were intended to make.

Yet, somehow, the noise from the broken instruments enticed the symphony to support and fix them.

“Making new art,” the author notes, “is the best redemption imaginable for a broken instrument.”

So what are the broken reeds and bent trombones in your industry?

Depending on your line of work, this question could feel confusing. However, regardless of industry, work sphere, or title, we all experience broken systems on a daily basis that demand attention, affection, and action.

The same applies across each and every industry.

So as you engage your work in a new way, adopt an action-oriented intentionality that improves and redeems the "faulty trumpets" and "dented saxophones" you experience on a day-to-day basis.

Learn more about the integration of faith, work, and culture at NIFW.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.

Finding Hope for the Music Industry Through Gotham

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If you’re new to the Institute, you may have heard the phrase “Gotham” and felt a bit perplexed.

Gotham is the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work’s flagship nine-month faith and work intensive that helps leaders embrace how their work fits into God’s unfolding story.

Already in its third year, the program has 80 current or alumni Gothamites who have participated in Gotham Nashville.

Georgia Edgeworth, a pop music songwriter here in the heart of Music City in Nashville, shared a few thoughts as she reflected on her experience with Gotham this year.

Q: How is your Gotham experience still specifically impacting in your day-to-day vocation?

A: Gotham has helped me realize that, though sometimes my work feels tedious, it has a bigger purpose. Gotham has proved to me that I should use my gifts for God's glory, making His name great and not my own. In a business obsessed with success, this has been a recurring take-home point for me. Serving the work itself and being obedient to the gifts that God has given me has, in many ways, been freeing. Knowing that I am serving God by simply using the gifts He gives was a huge realization for me personally.

Q: What has been the biggest area of impact in your work due to your Gotham experience?

A: I have had to let go of a lot of my fears in my work, and I'm still working on this. A lot of times I'm fearful of what others might think, but sometimes God pushes us to take leaps of faith. To simply surrender and trust instead of being anxious and fearful has been a big learning curve for me this year.

Q: Could you discuss the ways authenticity and vulnerability have impacted your Gotham experience?

A: I think the authenticity of my fellow Gothamites has been so great to know. I feel like the whole group has been vulnerable, especially during prayer request times. Having this group has enriched my life in so many ways and I hope to keep up with them as much as possible.

Q: In what areas of your work do you find your identity that distracts you from God?

A: Definitely validation/approval. In music, we often just want to hear a 'yes.' Most of the time for most creative people in the music business, it's a 'no' (unless you are Adele!). It's highly competitive and sometimes I struggle with just knowing that I'm enough. Something I've learned is that God's "yes" is all that matters and that I have to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving on from the world's 'no.'

Q: What is an example of an area of darkness in your workplace where you are able to shine light?

A: I'm actually in the middle of wrestling with this right now as I'm exploring my Cultural Renewal Project. There are so many broken aspects of my business that I don't know where to begin. There is the fact that it's so hard to make money in music. There is also the fact that people don't have a safe place to go to play their songs and not feel critiqued by someone in the industry. There is the fact that there are so many artists in town who are hanging their whole life around 'making it' and end up disappointed and heartbroken; I've seen this happen. Then there are relational aspects that are truly broken, people pretending to be friends with 'important people' to get something out of them. I'm praying a lot about this project as it's so important to me to be a light in a very dark place.


Georgia Edgeworth is a mother to her two sons, Ladd (14) and Adam (11), and wife to Mike Edgeworth. Georgia is a Nashville based singer, songwriter and producer. Her songs have been on hit TV shows such as ABC’s "Nashville" and Showtime’s "Shameless". Focusing on music for TV and film, Georgia is currently a signed songwriter with Lyric House Co. based in Los Angeles.

Want to know more about Gotham? You can register for one of our upcoming informational sessions in March/April HERE or register for any of our other upcoming events HERE.

Applications open April 1 for the 2018-19 class. You can learn more about the Gotham experience and apply for the program on our website.

Learn more about the integration of faith, work, and culture at NIFW.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.