During my senior year at college, I enrolled at a local Bible college for a 12-week leadership certificate. It was based on John C Maxwell’s Equip. The most important lesson I learned was everyone is a leader and we all have different spheres of influence.
John C Maxwell is an excellent teacher. But looking back, I believe my terrible theology of work has its roots in that leadership certificate. What was meant for good became a thorn in my flesh.
“God did not call all of us to be pastors and church leaders. He called some to the marketplace. Your work is your pulpit. And everything you do, is a reflection of your faith.”
Back then, I was a student. So, I figured my schoolwork was my pulpit. I worked hard because I wanted to demonstrate the greatness of God. After all, a good sermon was academic excellence.
Sadly, this theology of work took me away from the grace of God because my faith became tied to my performance.
So, then how do you view your work? Do you believe your work is your pulpit?
Bad Theology of Work, Chasing Idols
After college, I quickly enrolled for a Masters of Philosophy in Chemistry. I worked very hard, too hard that I had to quit 18 months later. I thought getting an MPhil made my ministry more influential.
But a good theology of work should not put more emphasis on but Christ. It’s about experiencing, exploring and expressing the life of Christ at your workplace. That is, it’s about becoming one with Christ and not one with your work system.
Three years later, I was awarded a prestigious scholarship, the world renowned Fulbright Fellowship. Finally, my sphere of influence was growing. God had rewarded me for my faithfulness, I thought. God had expanded my territory, my pulpit was now bigger.
But, was that true?
I thought I had to show God’s power during my PhD studies. But God took it as an opportunity to turn upside-down my theology of work.
First year, I had to take a number of classes, I did not do any research.
Second year, I did a lot of work in the lab with no success. I was chasing shadows.
Third year, I did a lot of work and published one paper in a very good journal.
Fourth year, I was discouraged, depressed and demotivated.
And by the time I graduated, I thought I was the worst student.
My theology of work did not have room for God’s grace. It was a Christianized American dream. I didn’t need God. But during my PhD studies, God reminded me how much I needed him in my work.
Your Work Should Be A Christ-centered Pulpit
I thought my performance at work displeased God. When my experiments failed, I felt guilt for being a poor example of a Christian. With each problem, I was convinced my pulpit had been desecrated.
I did not realize that Christ did not preach to be an example, but to give faith. The pulpit is a place of faith where we put aside our abilities and cling to the Cross. It is a place for the public proclamation of redemption.
The message of the Gospel is a message of redemption, Christ buying unproductive people like me. Making the most of our time.
This is the message given by a gospel centered pulpit. So, if my work is my pulpit, then it should demonstrate redemption. It’s about Christ turning unproductive labor into a pinnacle of faith.
For a while, I never thought I would graduate. Then Christ reminded me, one publication I had was a result of only one month’s work. The second publication also one month. Third publication came out of helping others. Christ indeed redeemed my work.
Walking into the lab and doing my research demanded faith. I had to trust God will prosper all the works of my hands. It meant with every beaker I held and every acid I poured, I had to believe in God’s plan.
My work is not a pulpit for head bashing and condemnation. It is a ministry of liberty, declaring the unfathomable grace of God and faith in Jesus Christ. My work is a message of hope, faith and love in the Holy Spirit. My work is a pulpit, and I am the congregation.
Commit your work to the Lord , and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3