Created to Work: A Primer on Layering Faith and Work vs. Integrating the Two

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In the last decade, more and more people are engaging in discussion about integrating their faith into their day-to-day work. As such, church leaders are re-engaging Dorothy Sayers’s prescription from her essay Why Work: “It is the business of the Church to recognize that the secular vocation, as such, is sacred.”

Teachings that demonstrate how our work matters to God provide comfort for Christians who feel alienated from their jobs. Yet we must not neglect to develop an eschatological, or end-times, stance regarding our work.

Without a proper perspective on the eternal implications of vocation, perseverance in our work may diminish when we encounter inevitable challenges in our jobs.

Before examining this eschatological view of work in next month’s post, let’s first consider three common views that are in fact spiritual, but in isolation can actually devalue the function of work for work’s sake in God’s design.

The examples include: “Our work matters to God because it can be a vehicle to evangelize,” “Our work matters because through it we can gain wealth to ‘bless’ others,” or “Our work matters if it temporarily alleviates poverty and suffering until Jesus returns.”

Though Biblical and inherently good in nature, these responses flow from views of work that are not an integration of faith and work but a layering of one’s faith on top of one’s work.

Though Biblical and inherently good in nature, these responses flow from views of work that are not an integration of faith and work but a layering of one’s faith on top of one’s work.

The Bible unequivocally advocates for evangelism (Matthew 28:16-20), selflessness with wealth (Malachi 3:10), and tending to the poor (Matthew 25:35-40). But each of these views places ultimate value on a spiritual good beyond work itself.

Consequently, if work is a mere vehicle to other, more spiritual goals, then will work have any function in heaven where sin is no more and souls no longer need to be saved? How can we expect Christians to give their all to something with no lasting significance?

Without a theology that values work for its own sake, we end up seeking value in some external outcome unrelated to the work itself in order to avoid feeling hopeless about an endeavor that consumes the majority of our time.

If we believe that God created and cares about us, sent us out to "take dominion" and "be fruitful,” and is a sovereign God, then can't we believe that he cares about what we do everyday—that he cares about companies, art, education, and government?

Without a theology that values work for its own sake, we end up seeking value in some external outcome unrelated to the work itself in order to avoid feeling hopeless about an endeavor that consumes the majority of our time.

In our fallen world, work will inevitably become alienating to some degree. So when it does, will your theology embolden you to confront and correct the alienation, or will your theology ask you to push disappointment in your work to the side in order to focus on “more important things”?

When we value our work by its external spiritual effects, it becomes easy to ignore (and sometimes participate in) the real and negative consequences of work that must be completed in a broken world.

These consequences might be dehumanization in our businesses, injustices in the marketplace, shoddy craftsmanship, and secular influence in culture. Instead, we should embrace a theology that empowers us to reform that which is broken.

We can more easily redeem and approach our work wholeheartedly if our theology tells us that our work is not only good, but that it will continue into eternity—not in the form of more Christians in heaven, but as itself.

So the art, politics, business, sports, architecture, agriculture, education, technology, economics and more we push forward will become, as Sayers says, “a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God.”

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

Why ESG? One Entrepreneur's Thoughts on NIFW's Weekly Group

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James is currently participating in the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work’s (NIFW) Entrepreneur Support Group (ESG) and offered a few of his thoughts on the group below.

Q: What did ESG illuminate for you in your work?

A: So many things! For starters, ESG showed me that, among fellow entrepreneurs, there is much universality in the joys and struggles I experience in my work. Therefore, the community of fellow entrepreneurs I found at ESG, with whom I share a similar faith, has provided both a sounding board and a comfort. Further, ESG reminded me that how I engage with the community that defines "my work"—my co-workers, my partners, my investors, my vendors—matters.

Q: What is one of your greatest struggles in your day-to-day work?

A: Deciding how to use my largest non-renewable resource: Time.

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Q: How does your faith intersect with the work you do as an entrepreneur?

A: I believe that I was uniquely gifted for the work I do. My calling is to do my work to my utmost abilities—no more and no less (both limits are hard to come to terms with) and provide a platform for those who are called to similar work (whether they realize this calling or not) to be able to live into their unique gifts.

Q: What has ESG done for you personally and professionally?

A: Through ESG I better understand the integration of my daily faith with my daily work. This plays out in the way I help others flourish with their investments so they can impact the people, systems, and structures they interact with and bring glimpses of the already (heaven) to the not yet (earth). I've also become more cognizant of the beauty and goodness that can come from the average, everyday moments at work, specifically through practically and intentionally loving the co-workers and clients I interact with on a day-to-day basis.


James Granberry is a founding partner of OakPoint Investments, a full-service real estate advisory and investment firm shaped by creativity, and focused on progress and growth. His efforts center on overseeing the performance of the company's 1.7 million square feet of owned assets across the US. Additionally, he heads up the acquisition efforts for the company's multi-family portfolio. A native of Texas with an undergraduate degree from Furman and an MBA from Vanderbilt, James provides expertise in portfolio and asset management, financing, and multi-family acquisitions and dispositions. Over the course of James’ career, he has been responsible for acquiring more than 3.5 million square feet of commercial and multi-family investments. He is also a co-founder and past chairman of Mere Christianity Forum—a collegiate ministry at Furman University promoting the thoughtful exploration of Christian faith through thoughtful conversations and authentic community.

NIFW’s Entrepreneur Support Group is currently accepting applications for the Spring 2018, group. For more information on ESG, visit our webpage and apply today.

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

Phil Gwoke Mends Generational Workplace Frustrations at The Gen Divide Forum

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How might you change the way you work if empathy served as a driving force for reconciling the generational differences you experience in your job?

This was at the core of BridgeWorks Consultant Phil Gwoke’s message as he headlined the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work’s Fall Forum, “The Gen Divide: Bridging Age Gaps at Work” at Houston Station on November 9.

“Our formative years shape the way we think, communicate and approach life,” Gwoke said to a packed room. “This is what we study at BridgeWorks. Birth years, that’s just the beginning: what shaped you is what’s most important.”

It was evident from those attending that a sense of frustration over generational attitudes affects a majority on a day-to-day basis. Survey data via a live text-in poll revealed that 65 percent of attendees feel “frustrated” on a daily or weekly basis by something the “other” generation says or does at work.

Our formative years shape the way we think, communicate and approach life.

Of those attending, 49 percent identified as Millennials (1980-1995), 30 percent identified as Generation Xers (1965-1979), and 21 percent identified as Baby Boomers (1946-1964).

Gwoke engaged the audience beyond stereotypical finger-pointing generational divisions and instead helped participants in every generation better understand the “other,” so workplace relationships, and in turn the work we do, might be fortified moving forward.

The evening also featured insight from Lyft Nashville Marketing Lead Joel Rakes, who represented a Millennial's perspective on work, and Adams & Reese Managing Partner Gif Thornton, who represented a Boomer’s perspective on work.

You can view a full photo gallery from the event below.

Tickets are also now on sale for our next citywide forum, “Completing Capitalism: Heal Business to Heal the World” at Nisolo on February 1, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

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

Are You 'Cheering for the Underdog' at Work?

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What is your framework for redemption and reconciliation? How do you handle the tension between your faith and the inherent brokenness of your day-to-day work in your workplace and industry?

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall highlighted his view of this question while speaking about inmates at NIFW's forum, Redemption Through Innovation.

"I've always thought of Christianity as being defined as cheering for the underdog," Hall said. "It's just who I am.

"But to be honest with you, in my job, they're all underdogs. The reality of why I do what I do is because I want to do something about why rather than just focusing on the person and what they have done."

Hall, at the time, noted that 3 out of 10 people arrested on the streets of Nashville every day suffer from mental illness.

I’ve always thought of Christianity as being defined as cheering for the underdog. It’s just who I am.

"It is a crime in itself how society arrests people for an illness," Hall said. "And we house them and treat them in an environment that you would call horrendous."

Those of us in other careers probably do not work with the level of brokenness as our Sheriff, but we all likely have a team member who needs greater understanding beyond simply performance or intent. And we all have broken systems that exacerbate problems in the workplace.

How are you fighting for the underdogs and seeking out the why behind each of the who’s in your day-to-day vocational spheres?

You can watch the full clip of Sheriff Hall's comments below:

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Corporate Warmth? How Flourishing Can Inform a Healthy Workplace

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How can faith practically serve as inspiration for those in corporate America?

This question is complicated in a time where 70 percent of workers are disengaged in their day-to-day work.

Looking at the Bible a few things are clear: we were created to work (Gen. 2:15), work is broken (Gen. 3:17-19), through Christ’s work on cross all things, including work, are being redeemed (Romans 8:20-21), and we are playing a part of redemption in God’s unfolding story (1 Corinthians 10:31).

With that being the case, how do these principles manifest themselves in workplaces where conversations around faith aren’t encouraged or condoned?

It begins and ends with a reminder that work in Corporate America is just as honoring and glorifying to God as work in ministry or the nonprofit sector.

In the same way that God created structure out of chaos while creating the heaven and earth, we, too, mimic God in the ways we bring structure out of chaos and call it good (Gen. 1:1-2:3).

In the same way that God created structure out of chaos while creating the heaven and earth, we, too, mimic God in the ways we bring structure out of chaos and call it good (Genesis 1:1-2:3).

For example, bringing structure out of chaos could be scrubbing a spreadsheet or facilitating budget meetings among departments or easing tension between disgruntled employees.

The Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics recently wrote an article that focused on an unlikely corporate value that can transform the corporate workplace: warmth.

Paul calls us to a lifestyle of genuine love and tenderheartedness (warmth). We are to put off the character of war – bitterness, wrath, anger, slander, and, instead, be imitators of Christ by putting on the character of peace – kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness. Jesus often showed warm affection for those he met, especially those who were suffering (Matthew 9:36, 14:14). And, of course, in dying in our place, he made the ultimate peace offering.

Is your workplace one where people thrive and enjoy working?

If you’re looking to continue further contemplating this question in your work, join the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work and ProviderTrust CEO Chris Redhage for lunch and conversation on “Lessons in Building Healthy Corporate Culture” on December 6 at Adele’s.

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

 

Cities Must Commit to Well-Being of its Neighbors

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Why should Christians care for their neighbors in their cities?

The vehicle for social change lies in the ideal of placing our neighbor’s needs with our own in a social, relational, and vocational sense, says New City Commons’ Greg Thompson.  Thompson shared the thoughts earlier this year at the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work’s (NIFW) Redemption Through Innovation event at Houston Station.

“Substantive changes happen not through the genius, but through the dense ordinary overlapping network of individuals.”

What Thompson highlights is each city’s need for leaders in every sphere of influence to fight for flourishing in their specific industry. In Nashville, it means healthcare entrepreneurs, music industry executives, and hospitality leaders each impact their communities in ways that uniquely resonate.

For example, one of NIFW’s Gotham graduates used his experience in the sphere of real estate to influence a hot topic for our city: affordable housing. The result of his nine-month intensive experience with Gotham led him to reignite Nashville’s Barnes Fund, which incentivizes developers to build more affordable housing.

Substantive changes happen not through the genius, but through the dense ordinary overlapping network of individuals.

It was a seemingly simple yet profoundly impactful way for one real estate agent to consider his neighbors in the city who normally might be marginalized.

“This means,” Thompson notes, “that thriving cities require a network of well-formed leaders who are committed above all to the thriving of their neighbors.”

There’s a need for greater flourishing across our entire city, in multiple arenas.   

According to a report from The Tennessean in 2015, the overall poverty rate dipped to 17.8 percent in Nashville, but that number rose to 18.6 percent in 2016.

"The gains exist, but they are minimal," Dinah Gregory, Metro Social Services data analysis director, told a crowd of about 250 in 2015 during a presentation at the downtown library. "That's not much comfort to the 117,000 who still live in poverty."

It truly becomes a matter of how each sector chooses to engage. How are you and your network of fellow “well-formed leaders”committing to the thriving of your neighbors in your industry?

You can view Thompson’s full comments from the clip below:

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

 

'Parks & Rec' Star Uses Woodshop to Support Dignifying Work

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What would you do if, you could no longer work due to missteps or misfortune?

“Parks & Rec” star Nick Offerman recognizes that his rise to success is often the exception to the rule. For so many others, meaningful work feels like it stops at failure.

But Offerman wants to help others find dignity even when failure enters the picture.

“Having the opportunity to simply work hard for wages in order to afford the basic comforts of life is a great privilege that many of us in this country enjoy and even taken for granted,” Offerman says in a support video for Would Works, a Los Angeles social enterprise empowering down and discouraged workers as they integrate back into the workforce.

Offerman is most widely known for his role as the gregarious and hard-lined Ron Swanson in the show.

It’s giving people a chance at the simple dignity of doing good work.

He also co-produced the documentary “Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry” that both celebrates the universality of Berry’s writings and reflects on larger questions about how America’s changing landscapes and shifting agricultural values are affecting farmers today.

He also co-produced the documentary “Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry” that both celebrates the universality of Berry’s writings and reflects on larger questions about how America’s changing landscapes and shifting agricultural values are affecting farmers today.

Much of Offerman’s efforts in supporting Would Works highlights the dignity found in all work.

“It’s not a charity,” Offerman says. “It’s giving people a chance at the simple dignity of doing good work.”

How are you stewarding your influence to affirm the dignity of all work in those around you?

You can view the full clip of Offerman’s Would Work support campaign below:

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

Love Thy Neighbor: How Faith and Fashion Inspired a Post-Retirement Entrepreneur

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Age is just a number for Agnes Scott.

"I don’t think about age," she says. "I think about how I can pass on what I’ve learned to others."

As a post-retiree serving as a "one woman band" of her newly-realized nonprofit venture, NeighborH.O.O.D., Scott rightfully has much to pass on.

Founded out of her own entrepreneurial success following her employment in the automotive industry in Detroit in the 1980s, Scott is the founder of NeighborH.O.O.D. (Hands on Our Destinies), a fashion and design trade and arts school built around a 15-month cooperative entrepreneurship curriculum that includes business and entrepreneurship courses.

The curriculum uses the performing, literary, decorative, graphic, plastic, visual, and performing arts as backdrops to spark creativity and innovation, promote social cohesion, spur academic performance, and heal and unite the community.

This nation does not have the luxury to dismiss the need for the underserved to be advantaged.

“Its mission is to bring forth the latent talents and abilities of Nashville’s underserved population via theory, application, and self-advocacy skills,” Scott says, “using hands-on cooperative entrepreneurship principles to shape their destinies.”

A partnership with Lipscomb University’s SALT (Serving and Learning Together) Program has accelerated NeighborH.O.O.D.’s launch date; the inaugural class, which began classes at the end of September, will graduate in winter 2018.

At last count, 11 students were set to enroll.

“This nation does not have the luxury to dismiss the need for the underserved to be advantaged,” Scott says. “So, in order to avoid increases in the dire economic, social, and educational woes of that population, which negatively affect the well-being of this nation, both domestically and internationally, steps must be put in place to change the dire statistics for this population."

Tuition is almost entirely subsidized by those sponsoring NeighborH.O.O.D., but students are expected to provide a proof of household income and contribute a reasonable portion for participation in the program.

Agnes Scott

Agnes Scott

‘THIS ORGANIZATION IS NEEDED’

So why focus on a fashion and design trade school to equip the underprivileged youth Scott feels called to serve?

Easy: because an element of fashion and design is attractive to the average person, and, as Scott points out, for the last five years the industry has shown significant growth in Nashville.

It’s the best of both worlds.

Because, as Scott notes, the Davidson County 2010-2014 Census shows at least 25-41 percent of Nashville’s District 17 (NeighborH.O.O.D.’s target area in Edgehill) lives in poverty. The organization was created with communities like this in mind.

What sets the organization apart is that NeighborH.O.O.D. offers to a number of individuals (at one time) through cooperative ownership a better way of life through education, entrepreneurship, and employment principles.

Cooperatives can help change the statistics.

This is Scott’s inspiration—to shine her light and push back against the darkness.

“This organization is needed,” she says, “because disadvantaged young people are at higher risk of marginalization and social exclusion than other youth (International Labour Office, 2011, P5).

“Cooperatives can help change the statistics.”

IMPACTING 'MY FELLOW MAN'

Scott is a rare Nashville native in a time when an estimated 100 new Nashvillians are moving to the city each day.

“All of my quests can be viewed as experiential learning, experiences to educate others,” Scott says. “However, over the last ten years, a spiritual aspect has been added to my goals and objectives, and I think about how what I do impacts my fellow man.”

Most recently, Scott completed the Nashville Institute for Faith & Work’s Gotham Program, a nine-month intensive emphasizing the integration of faith and vocation that ends with its signature “Cultural Renewal Project” aimed at shining light on an area of darkness in participants’ workplaces.

All of my quests can be viewed as experiential learning, experiences to educate others. However, over the last ten years, a spiritual aspect has been added to my goals and objectives, and I think about how what I do impacts my fellow man.

NeighborH.O.O.D. was Scott’s project, and it was born out of a desire to impact those in her sphere of influence across the generational divide.

“The greatest joy in working with those in different age generations,” she says, “is to see their thirst for learning and to learn from them.”


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

How Can Faith Combat Workplace Loneliness?

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The workplace is filled with exhaustion and loneliness—a bit more so than usual.

Research cited suggests "50 percent of people are often or always exhausted due to work," a number that is 32 percent higher than two decades prior.

A recent write-up from the Harvard Business Review concluded workplace burnout today is more impacted by loneliness rather than exhaustion.

So how do Christians respond to a culture that both values and suffers due to the pursuit of productivity?

The work we do cannot ultimately fulfill us.

Jesus spoke of the idea of striving, exhaustion, and rest in Matthew 11:28-30.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The response is found less in striving without ceasing and more in embracing that your work matters and acknowledging its limitations.

The work we do cannot ultimately fulfill us. That doesn't mean it doesn't serve a purpose. We are called to serve the work at hand, not the other way around.

As Tim Keller and Katherine Alsdorf hone in on in their book Every Good Endeavor, "we work to serve others, not ourselves."

By embracing an identity of resting in the person and work of Jesus Christ, a slice of freedom to serve the work at hand—without perpetual exhaustion or loneliness—can be fully embraced.


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

investigating our desire for Meaningful Work

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Every generation wants meaningful work.

This was the finding from a short study cited in the Harvard Business Review that sought to understand what millennials (and other generations) are seeking from their work.

Here are a few of those responses:

  • Traditionalists (born between 1922-1945): “I can’t even imagine going to a job that…I didn’t think had value.”
  • Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964): “If I didn’t get personal fulfillment and feel like I was doing something good, it would be miserable to put that much time and effort into something.”
  • Generation X (born between 1965-1983): “If your job is without meaning, what would get you out of bed?”
  • Millennials (born between 1984-2002): “I would rather make nothing and love going to work every day than make a ton of money and hate going to work every day.”
One of the most striking findings was that every generation perceived that the other generations are only in it for the money, don’t work as hard, and do not care about meaning.

This funneled into a deeper study that uncovered while most generations agree on the inherent need and desire for meaningful work, negative stereotypes are the leading device for division amongst cross-generational work.

One of the most striking findings was that every generation perceived that the other generations are only in it for the money, don’t work as hard, and do not care about meaning. If each generation thinks this way, it’s not surprising that they treat each other differently than if they believe they are all striving for intrinsic meaning in their jobs. Stereotypes like these likely cause conflict among generational cohorts, which may affect performance, commitment, and job satisfaction.

It’s clear every generation wants purpose out of their work, yet somehow, we don't see that in one another.

How do you experience generational differences in your day-to-day vocation?

We will dive deeper into this question and many more generational differences in our work at our citywide forum, “The Gen Divide: Bridging Age Gaps at Work” on November 9 from 5:30-8 p.m. at Houston Station in Nashville, Tennessee. Reserve your spot today.


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

Unpacking Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook Apology

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What does it look like to apologize when our work is divisive?

Recently Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his personal Facebook page asking for forgiveness for the ways his social media platform has promoted divisiveness rather than unity.

“For those I hurt this year, I ask forgiveness and I will try to be better,” he wrote. “For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness, and I will work to do better.”

Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, was celebrating Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, and was considering his sins from the previous year.

For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness and I will work to do better.
— Mark Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg’s apology emphasizes a key question: when (and how) do we corporately apologize in the workplace? Or to our stakeholders and constituents?

While culture moves quickly to finger-pointing when division strikes, how might the Bible inform a reconciliation? Or even a first step in a conflict?

We will answer questions like this and more at our October 11 Lunch & Learn at Adele’s on Navigating Conflict Resolution at Work with Dr. Phyllis Hildreth, Lipscomb University Associate Professor and Academic Director for the university’s Institute for Conflict Resolution. Reserve your spot, invite a friend, and join the discussion today.


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What's the Story Behind NIFW's Refreshed Look?

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What lies behind a refresh?

For the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work it marked a moment in time for the Institute to double-down on its vision—set in place in January 2015 through our sending church, Christ Presbyterian Church—to equip, connect, and mobilize individuals and organizations to ingegrate their faith into their vocational work.

Our logo, that now features the letters "F" and "W" crossing, symbolizes our desire to help foster the overlap between an individual's Christian faith and their day-to-day work.

Our move to new offsite offices (located off 8th Avenue) symbolizes our desire to both be in and for the city, in an effort to bring flourishing to every corner of Nashville.

Our refreshed website and refined monthly communications systems reflect our desire to equip Nashvillians with a place to be inspired and mobilized to shine light on the dark areas of their vocational spehres.

These enhancements have brought excitement to the NIFW offices, and our team is eager to equip and connect you with others to see the role your work plays in God's unfolding story.

You can expect continued communication from NIFW in your inboxes this fall. The NIFW team is anticipating connecting with many of you at one of our events this fall.

Bono: 'By its very nature art is revelatory'

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Last year U2’s renowned frontman Bono sat down with Fuller Studio and Eugene Peterson to unpack his thoughts on the Psalms, Christianity, and art in the 21st century.

After wrapping up the interview with Peterson in his Montana home, Bono traveled back to New York to sit down with Fuller Texas professor David Taylor for an interview on Christianity, the Psalms, and role of the artist today.

Bono goes so far as to say art itself is “revelatory” in nature.

“If the job of the prophet is to describe the state of the soul — the soul of the city — and you really want to know what’s going on outside the AC here that keeps us from the 100 degree heat, then you really need to go look at the art, go look at the graffiti, and go listen to the hip hop coming off the ghetto buses. Some of it is strong stuff, but it’s honest.”

Watch one of the full interviews below or view each of them here:


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Having a Head (and Heart) for the City

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What is the end of innovation?

Earlier this year the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work welcomed New City Commons’ Greg Thompson in for our Redemption Through Innovation event at Houston Station in Nashville, Tennessee.

Thompson’s talk focused on themes like social justice, collateral effects of innovation, and how Christians might reengage the city.

“It is my experience,” Thompson said, “that Christians have a heart for for the city but not a head for the city.”

Watch the full excerpt from Greg’s talk below:


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Helping Hands: Using Healthcare to Affirm Dignity in Nashville’s Aging, Special Needs

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It started with painting fingernails.

Every two weeks in high school Gretchen Napier showed up to a local nursing home by recommendation from a fellow church member.

“I began to look forward to my visits because I felt so useful,” Napier says. “When I would walk into their room their eyes would light up.”

Napier was awakening to the impact something as seemingly simple as a touch could have on another person’s spirit.

She was playing a role in calling out the dignity (Genesis 1:27) in each of her newfound friends.

“Most nursing home residents are only touched to be cleaned or fed or turned,” Napier says. “So my work of taking off their nail polish, rubbing lotion on their hands and arms, trimming their nails and then painting them, was often the most caring touch they received.”

Holistic patient care, down to the detail of a personal touch, is at the core of how Napier’s faith inspires her work today as CEO and Owner of LifeLinks, an organization in Nashville, Tennessee, and Raleigh, North Carolina, armed with a client-centered approach to caring for older adults and others facing ongoing health challenges.

Napier’s team consists of a handful of passionate registered nurses, psychologists, physical therapists, hospital administrators, and social workers with more than a decade of highly-personalized professional aging life care services.

“Instead of warehousing the elderly and disabled, we are seeking to meet their holistic needs to promote as much quality of life and independence as is safely possible,” Napier says. “We are seeking to reconcile families.”

 

A Career in care

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The passion to serve those with ongoing health challenges first stirred within Napier as a teenager.

Although Vanderbilt University did not offer any classes in gerontology (the study of the aging process) at the time, she was able to use the practicum hours in her Human and Organizational Development degree to tease out the calling with the help of a few local nonprofits — specifically FiftyForward.

After spending a summer in Washington, D.C. working on the House Select Committee on Aging’s Subcommittee for Retirement Income and Housing Napier earned her Master’s in Health Services Administration (MHSA) with a certificate in Gerontology from the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

She transitioned into running independent and assisted living facilities while publishing a resource guide for seniors before being recruited by the LifeLinks team. Napier joined the team in 2009 and became CEO and sole proprietor in 2012.

“Our team is a reflection of the body and the vine,” Napier says. “We all bring different gifts, skills and perspectives to the aid of the client’s we serve.

“The excellence we strive for and love we give to our clients, are given first to us by God.”

 

HOLISTIC HEALTHCARE

Working with broken people, broken families and broken healthcare systems provides lots of opportunity for Napier's team to show God's love, mercy and grace.

Sometimes they are advocating for the often overlooked older adult and others they are helping families build bridges to one another during the difficult final human season.

Isaiah 1 calls to mind the call to advocacy of your neighbor—specifically those in distress—that LifeLinks puts to practice.

“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause..” — Isaiah 1:17 (ESV)

While healthcare is traditionally fragmented, with the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, Napier and her team serve as a hub for information and communication, simplifying the big picture in ways the family can process, understand and act upon.

But the work is rewarding.

“Healthcare in general is very broken,” Napier says. “It has a difficult time seeing people as complicated individuals with a variety of facets.

“We can’t just treat the body because the mind and spirit have a profound impact on our body.”


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