Reflections to start the week
Monday, August 18, 2014
Faith at work
I was privileged to attend a Leadership Summit last week, sponsored by Willow Creek. The event was held in Chicagoland, but I watched the gathering on a big old screen, live stream to a church a few miles from here, much easier commute, though I hated to disappoint US Airways. (They’ll get over it.) It was one of the many sites around the globe and the topic of leadership addressed issues that this email tries to explore each week. Questions like this: How do we put faith to work in the world, Monday through Friday, wherever God has placed us in the world? The Summit offered a fine line up of speakers, as I sipped from the firehose of their presentations, offered in quick succession. We heard from the CEO of GE. We heard from Susan Cain, author of Quiet, about the power of introverts in the world. (I savored her presentation as I sat by myself in the back row, empty seats around me, right on the aisle for easy exit if needed.) Tyler Perry, of movie fame, spoke. One session in particular focused on putting faith to work in the workplace, acknowledging the mystery of how to do that.
Mr. Don Flow spoke about how he faithfully tries to lead many thriving car dealerships that he leads in North Carolina and Virginia. How would you go about bringing values of faith into a setting like that? Using language we often throw around in religious circles, he spoke of covenant with customers, community with employees, commitment to common good. (These guys like alliteration. They also like acronyms.) He came up with one that spelled the word “serve”: Show respect; Earn trust; Reach for perfection; Value input; Energize others. He noted that a key element was the time he spends each morning in prayer, committing the day with its work to God’s guidance and provision. If you think it’s tough to put faith to work in a business like selling cars, consider the next speaker.
Ms. Allen Catherine Kagina is Commission General of the Uganda Revenue Authority, the IRS of Uganda. With a background in social work, she was by her own admission, unprepared for work in government bureaucracy. She courageously took on radical reform of a corrupt and inefficient system. She led in transformation of a system that came to be marked by giving and sharing of resources. She entered thinking it would be an impossible task. So she invited God into the process. If you think it’s tough to put faith to work in a government bureaucracy marked by inefficiency and corruption, consider the next speaker.
The Rev. Wilfredo De Jesus, Senior Pastor of the New Life Covenant Church in Chicago, was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2013. He began a church with 120 people. Now it has 17,000 members. He built a church that not only addressed the needs of the homeless, of prostitutes, drug addicts and gang members, but folded them into the life of the community. A seemingly impossible environment to build a church, probably the environment where God can really go to work.
Three different speakers. Three different stories. Each one faced huge obstacles in putting faith to work in their lives. But they did it. A consistent theme from each of the speakers was that prayer is integral. I don’t know if you have ever had the experience that I have had. I set about to accomplish something, plan something, and I get all anxious as I get into it and think it can’t be done. Then I realize somewhere along the line that I haven’t considered that just maybe perhaps I don’t need to freak out about getting it all done. Maybe I can try inviting God into it. Maybe I can “take it to the Lord in prayer.” Maybe I can even relax a little.
As you think about your life this Monday morning, with all that lies before you this week, identify one situation or relationship, one obstacle or opportunity, that seems like intractable, immoveable, impossible. Think of a place that seems highly unlikely as a place where God can go to work with healing, saving power (Examples might include; a car dealership, a bloated bureaucracy, a poverty stricken urban community, a comfortable main line congregation, a contented main line Christian, a broken relationship, a health crisis, a battle with depression, the northern mountains of Iraq, the eastern border of the Ukraine, a St. Louis suburb, Sierra Leone, the southern border of our nation, the list unfortunately goes on). Invite God into that place. See what happens. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
– Jay Sidebotham
Various translations of Ephesians 2:10. Focus on your favorite:
For we are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. –New Revised Standard Version
He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. –The Message
The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do. –J.B.Phillips
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. –King James Version
Porque somos hechura suya, creados en Cristo Jesús para hacer buenas obras, las cuales Dios preparó de antemano para que anduviéramos en ellas. -La biblia de las Americas
Denn wir sind sein Werk, geschaffen in Christo Jesu zu guten Werken, zu welchen Gott uns zuvor bereitet hat, daß wir darin wandeln sollen. –Luther Bible
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.