In the foreword to Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, Katherine Leary Alsdorf shares the story of how she became acquainted with Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, through an invitation to attend from a colleague. When she found herself committing to a life of faith, Alsdorf—a business leader—worried about what such a decision might mean to her future.
…If I was going to really put God first I had to be open to him calling me to serve him anywhere. And he did. A few weeks after my decision, I was stunned by the sudden illness of my boss, the CEO—and his request that I take over leadership of the company. Given the circumstances, I took it as an indication from God that he wanted me to play my part not in the third world but in the world of business.
Alsdorf goes on to describe years of struggling with what it means to serve God through her work.
I believed in the truth of the gospel—that God created all things and created man in his image and then sent his Son to redeem all things that had been broken. And I believed God had a purpose for me as a worker and leader, along with many other people who could make a positive difference in the world. But in the competitive, win-at-all-costs workplace where I had to manage and lead, I had no idea how to live out God’s plan.
This is not a new struggle in our society. Over fifty years ago, Howard Butt, Jr.—president of Foundations for Laity Renewal—wrestled with these very same issues. As a young man, Mr. Butt was torn between running a successful grocery business and leading a separate ministry in partnership with Billy Graham. After a difficult season in which he struggled with exhaustion and depression, Mr. Butt emerged with a vision of the importance of the laity in furthering the kingdom of God. He has dedicated his life to helping the world understand that God cares about the work we do.
In his book A Dream that Came to Life: The History of the Laity Lodge Retreat Center, Howard Hovde—Director Emeritus of Laity Lodge—quotes Howard Butt, Jr.:
We’re prone to see the work of the church as only tied to the gathered, institutional church. But the scattered church—the laity out in the world—that’s New Testament Christianity. That’s where the really tough work of the church takes place.
Clearly, it’s a complicated application, this serving God through our work—one worthy of discussion. After all these years we are still trying to figure it out. In a recent interview with Faith and Leadership, Katherine Leary Alsdorf—who became founder and is director emeritus of the Center for Faith & Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church—says,
The gospel story of work says that we’re made to work. And the reason we’re made to work is do the work that God would have us do to help the world flourish. Apart from doing that kind of work, we’re not fully human; we’re not living the lives that God meant us to live.
Alsdorf and Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, co-wrote Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work. The authors give us three questions this book addresses:
- Why do you want to work? (That is, why do we need to work in order to lead a fulfilled life?)
- Why is it so hard to work? (That is, why is it so often fruitless, pointless, and difficult?)
- How can we overcome the difficulties and find satisfaction in our work through the gospel?
We’re going to be discussing Every Good Endeavor on Monday mornings in February. I hope you’ll join us as we dive deep into calling and vocation. Next Monday, Glynn Young leads us in Part One: God’s Plan for Your Work (chapers 1-4). If you posted at your blog on the introduction this week, leave us your link in the comments. If not, jump into the discussion anyway! We would love to hear your thoughts. In March we'll be discussing David Platt's new book Follow Me. Get your copy now if you want to join in on that discussion.