22 Mar #165 – “Leading Faithfully” Basics – The “Gaps”
ESSENCE: In England, riders on the “Tube” (aka the Underground or the subway) are warned to “mind the gap”. Faithful leaders wanting to lead faithfully must heed the same warning. Leading faithfully through business a better way requires getting across three “gaps”: Sunday/Monday, Sacred/Secular and Knowing/Doing. The journey across those “gaps” starts with RENEW–renewing the faithful leader’s mind about God’s purpose for work and business, which reveals the sacred nature of work and business. Moving across the three “gaps” of faith/work integration equips a faithful leader to see their role, their organization and all its people in a new light. When the organization’s WHY is aligned with God’s WHY for work and business, the work/business becomes the faithful leader’s ministry and the faithful leader’s ministry becomes the work/business. The only WHY of an organization that can truly sustain work/business and ministry simultaneously–and the only WHY of a faithful leader who has truly crossed the Sacred/Secular Gap–is the only purpose for which we were created—to glorify God.
“Leading Faithfully” Basics is about going back and re-examining the basics of leading faithfully through business a better way–business in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.
We believe a faithful leader’s journey to leading faithfully through business a better way must start with RENEW–renewing the faithful leaders mind about God’s purpose for work and business. It is the renewal called for in Romans 12:2:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.
The RENEW Stage of Integriosity® is exciting because it reveals the sacred nature of work and business. That revelation comes as a leader crosses three important “gaps”.
The Three Gaps
There is much talk about the intersection of “faith” and “work” but the relationship between those two concepts gets described in different ways. We like a quote by A.W. Tozer:
Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry. It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it.
The brilliant and famous Tozer asserts that our work can be “as sacred as the work of the ministry”. Really? That’s an exciting idea—it suggests our work and our business can be our ministry.
In England, riders on the “Tube” (aka the Underground or the subway) are warned to “mind the gap”. Faithful leaders wanting to lead faithfully must heed the same warning. There are three gaps to cross before you can realize Tozer’s vision of “sacred” work as ministry:
• “Sunday/Monday”: this gap is crossed when you understand that what you do Monday-Friday is not disconnected from the faith you practice on Sunday–you should bring your whole self (including your faith) to work or to your business.
• “Sacred/Secular”: this gap is crossed when you understand that your work or business itself has intrinsic value in God’s Kingdom–your work and the way you manage your business is a sacred vocational calling and a form of worship (you have probably heard that the Hebrew word avodah means work, worship and service). As Tozer says, what matters is the WHY behind your work or business.
• “Knowing/Doing”: this gap is crossed by taking those understandings and implementing change through deeds. Although Tozer says what you “do” doesn’t matter, he does not mean you don’t need to “do” anything—deeds do matter, but they must come from the right WHY behind your work or business.
Moving across the three “gaps” of faith/work integration equips a faithful leader to see their role, their organization and all its people in a new light.
Getting Stuck Behind the Gaps
To a large extent, Integrous and the idea of Integriosity were inspired by the observation that there is an abundance of excellent content and conferences on the subject of faith/work integration but there seems to be a surprising number of faithful leaders (and faithful workers) who are stuck behind the “gaps”. As a consequence, there seems to be a surprising shortage of institutional “heart-changing” implementation of the faith/work integration by faithful leaders. Faithful leaders (and faithful workers) with the best of intentions get “stuck”:
• Stuck Behind the Sunday/Monday Gap. Some faithful leaders remain stuck behind the Sunday/Monday Gap, which means they do not see how what they do Monday-Friday is connected to the faith they practice on Sunday. They do not bring their whole self (including their faith) to work. Business is business as usual, work becomes work as usual, and faith is for Sunday.
• Stuck Behind the Sacred/Secular Gap. Some faithful leaders have successfully crossed the Sunday/Monday Gap but remain stuck behind the Sacred/Secular Gap, which means they do not understand that their work or business has intrinsic value in God’s Kingdom. They do not understand that the way they lead their business is a sacred vocational calling and a form of worship. The leader should BEHAVE faithfully (e.g., through doing less bad things, more good things, being generous, and evangelizing), but business is business as usual.
• Stuck Behind the Knowing/Doing Gap. Some faithful leaders have successfully crossed the first two gaps but have not, or are unsure how to, faithfully lead through business a better way in alignment with Biblical beliefs, values and priorities.
Based on some empirical and anecdotal evidence (we are unaware of any academically rigorous study), it would appear that only a very small slice of people whose faith is based on the Bible have really crossed the Sacred/Secular gap.
• In 2019, a representative of a faith and work organization mentioned that they and another organization had conducted surveys of workers in an effort to ascertain whether Evangelical Christians understood that all of their work was a sacred activity. They got at this by asking people when they thought they were living out their faith at work. Based on those surveys, these groups concluded that only 5-9% of the workers had a Biblical understanding of work as a sacred activity and a calling. Some did not feel their work had anything to do with their faith (still stuck behind the Sunday/Monday gap), and others cited only the times they were doing things like attending Bible studies or prayer groups or praying for co-workers (still stuck behind the Scared/Secular gap).
• Anecdotally, we have witnessed a similar lack of understanding when giving talks about Integriosity–even to groups specifically formed and focused on faith/work integration. We often start a talk by asking the audience how many are in “full-time Christian ministry”. Typically, only a few hands go up–pastors and people who work in ministry not-for-profits. Thankfully, by the end of the talk all hands go up when asked the same question!
The secular “world” view of faith and occupation is that they have absolutely nothing to do with each other (unless the occupation is in “ministry”). A person’s “faith identity” is personal and does not belong at the office/factory/store (sometimes because the proponents of this view are hostile to faith).
The “world” is effectively stuck behind the Sunday/Monday Gap, but so are many regular church-goers. What they do Monday-Friday is disconnected from the faith they practice on Sunday (or Saturday)–not because they are hostile to faith, but because they have never been taught otherwise. How else can some of the most “Christian” countries also be some of the most corrupt?
Sadly, the church has often failed to teach the sacred nature of business and work. Sometimes this is probably because the teachers have never been taught. Other times it is because Christian teaching has largely ignored the Old Testament and the Bible’s grand narrative from creation to the coming of God’s Kingdom, choosing to focus on sin and salvation–what Dallas Willard calls a “Gospel of sin management” in which “transformation of life and character is no part of the redemptive message.” It is sometimes called a “Two-Part Gospel” because it comes from just the two middle parts of God’s grand four-part narrative (1-Creation, 2-Fall, 3-Redemption through Jesus, 4-Restoration of the Kingdom).
Historically, maintaining the Sacred/Secular Gap has also given the role of the clergy an “elevated” sacredness as a vocation–while useful for the church’s status, we do not believe it aligns with God’s view of work and business.
We believe even a fair amount of theology espoused in the faith and work movement (what we call faith as usual) also leads to faithful leaders getting “stuck”.
There can also be significant hurdles to converting typical faith/work content into transformative action. For example:
• Content that is meant to be practical may not lay a sufficient Knowing foundation.
• Content that focuses only on the theology of faith/work integration may leave the leader hanging behind the Knowing/Doing Gap unequipped on the precipice of practical application.
• Content based on a faithful leader’s story can be hard to apply to a different person, or in a different industry, or in a different region, or in a different organization, or at a different time in the organization’s development or as part of a different faith journey.
• Content in the form of generic practical checklists can lead to confusion, frustration, intimidation, just giving up, or worse. While they may feel “easy” to implement, in fact, they might call for action that would represent poor stewardship of a particular business.
• Content that consists of general principles (e.g., “Apply the Golden Rule”) avoids the checklist problems but will likely be difficult to apply practically without more context or understanding, particularly in the midst of leading the organization in the day-to-day business.
It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. (A.W. Tozer)
Crossing the Gaps
For a faithful leader to navigate crossing the “gaps”, we believe it is helpful to understand what faith/work integration looks like at each of the “stuck” points as well as on the other side of the “gaps”.
Going back to Tozer’s comment about work being “ministry”, let’s look at three versions of “work” and “ministry”:
• Ministry AT Work: work and business as a platform for ministry.
• Ministry THROUGH Work: work and business as a vehicle for ministry
• Ministry OF Work: work and business as ministry.
Ministry AT Work. Ministry AT work occurs when a person has crossed the Sunday/Monday Gap but may not have crossed the Sacred/Secular Gap. Their ministry activities are deeds done AT their place of work, but they are not activities unique to their work, to their business, to their workplace or to workplaces in general. Work and business are secular platforms for sacred deeds. Based on the informal surveys described above, this is how “ministry” and “work” come together for 90% of Evangelical Christians.
Ministry AT work is bringing overtly “faithful” deeds and activities into the workplace. For example, organizing Bible studies, prayer meetings and community service projects, wearing or displaying “faith” objects, hiring a corporate chaplain, praying for a co-worker or telling them about your faith, being kind to people at work.
Ministry AT work is not bad–it is “good”. The person’s WHY for their ministry deeds can be different from their WHY for work and business, because their ministry deeds and work/business activities are occurring on parallel tracks. The WHY for work and business may still be aligned with business as usual–to earn money or maximize profit. The WHY for ministry deeds is probably to evangelize people (directly or indirectly) or to “do good”.
Ministry AT work represents deeds based on the narrow “Gospel of sin management”. It is deeds that come from a focus on correct beliefs (evangelism) or correct actions (a social Gospel of helping the underserved).
Ministry THROUGH Work. Ministry THROUGH work is another ministry/work combination often stuck between the Sunday/Monday Gap and the Sacred/Secular Gap. While ministry AT work is faith deeds done at the workplace in parallel with work and business (with work and business being the platforms), ministry THROUGH work is using work, business and the workplace as the secular vehicle for sacred activities that are unique to a workplace or business but not about the work itself. For example: including faith expressions in mission/value statements, on a company website, or in or on packaging; evangelizing employees, vendors or customers through work activities and materials; and donating profits or products to faith-based charities.
Like ministry AT work deeds, ministry THROUGH work deeds are “good”. A business as usual WHY of maximizing profit can easily co-exist with ministry THROUGH work, because ministry THROUGH work is not about the work or business itself—it is about faith deeds that are facilitated by a work/business vehicle. Those faith deeds only need a narrow Two-Part Gospel for inspiration.
Ministry OF Work. We believe what Tozer is describing is ministry OF work. Work and business activities are the faith activities because the work and business themselves are treated as sacred. Ministry OF work requires crossing the Sacred/Secular Gap.
A ministry OF work opens new possibilities for deeds that are part of “work/business” itself but also constitute “ministry”. (Tozer did not say “deeds” don’t matter—he said that the nature of the work does not matter.) For example, regardless of the type of work or business (CEO, banker, lawyer, shopkeeper, plumber, barista), deeds can be wrapped up in HOW you carry out the work and operate the business and WHO you are while working and leading.
It is understanding work as God’s creation and gift for living out Imago Dei, the creation mandate in Genesis 1:28 (be fruitful and multiply), and the commandments to love God and love your neighbor through the work itself, through the products and services it creates, and through the wealth it generates.
With ministry OF work, the WHY of ministry deeds aligns with the WHY of work and business deeds, because the work/business is the ministry and the ministry is the work/business.
The overt faith deeds of ministry AT work and ministry THROUGH work are not inconsistent with ministry OF work—they can all be occurring together. But (unlike ministry AT work and ministry THROUGH work) ministry OF work can’t sustain a work or business WHY of profit, because a WHY of profit can’t sustain the sacred ministry nature of the work and business. Ministry OF work requires that profit be optimized as a means rather than maximized as an end.
The only WHY that can truly sustain work/business and ministry simultaneously–and the only WHY of a faithful leader who has truly crossed the Sacred/Secular Gap–is the only purpose for which we were created—to glorify God.
The four-step Integriosity process is one way to navigate across the “gaps”, and it starts with RENEW.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): I do not like making statements about the teaching of the church and the faith/work movement that could be heard as critical or judgmental. I don’t like making statements about faith/work practices that might offend people in the church and faith-work movement advocating and praising those practices. But I don’t believe a faithful leader can aim for God’s “best” unless their mind is renewed about what it is, about the shortcomings of the “good”, and about the importance of an organization’s WHY in the journey across the gaps from business as usual to business a better way in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.
That renewal begins with shining a light on the beliefs and practices that have left us feeling good about the “good”. It is shining a light on the teachings that appear to have kept 90% of faithful, well-intentioned Evangelical Christians comfortably sitting behind the Sacred/Secular Gap without even knowing it exists. Integrous and Integriosity are for those who have been convicted by the Holy Spirit to want more.
Copyright © 2023 Integrous LLC. Integriosity is a registered Service Mark of Integrous LLC.
Photo Credit: Original photo by Sammie Chaffin on Unsplash (photo cropped)