Monday, May 6, 2019

Worship in the Workplace

What does worship mean to you? I’m not referring to “worshiping” a favorite entertainer or musician, sports team, or the most important person in your life. My question pertains to true worship – giving adoration and praise to our Creator.

For many of us, worship occurs in a sanctuary or another place where prescribed activities take place. We hear or recite some prayers, participate in a liturgy or engage in a less formalized plan for the service, sing or listen to hymns and/or songs, and hear a sermon or message delivered that typically is based on the Scriptures. Then we leave, worship over.

Worship can also take place at a conference or during a retreat. For some, attending a Christian concert is a worshipful experience. Some believe they can worship God in nature; to some extent that’s true. God created everything, whether it’s majestic mountains, dense forests filled with furry creatures, or beaches resounding with the steady crashing of waves.

But have you ever thought of worshiping – at work?

This isn’t about worshiping your job or career, as a workaholic might. No, it involves showing up at your workplace – whether it’s an office, a conference room, a construction project, classroom, restaurant or retail store – with the attitude you’re there to serve God and others in His name.

Work has always been God’s idea, entrusting the stewardship and maintenance of His creation to us. In Genesis 1:28 we read, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground…. I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.'”

Some theologians refer to this as “the cultural mandate” – the Lord delegating the oversight of His created world to humankind. In myriad ways, we’re to work and care for everything He has made as a caretaker would oversee a wealthy person’s property. In some respects we haven’t done a very good job, but it's still part of our calling as children of God.

The Lord promises to provide for our needs, but often that provision comes through our work. The apostle Paul pointed out work should not be regarded as optional. Writing to believers in the Greek city of Thessalonica, he said, For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat'" (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

Throughout history, great artists and composers have viewed their work as a divine calling, their endeavors for God’s glory. I observed this in frescos, murals and sculptures displayed in Vatican City, and we can hear it in compositions by the likes of George Frideric Handel (“The Messiah”), Johann Sebastian Bach (“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”) and many others.

Writing to Christ followers in ancient Colossae, Paul wrote, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:17,23-24).

Our workplaces can serve as some of the best settings for sharing our faith in Jesus Christ as well. When Jesus gave His Great Commission to “go into all the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19), He didn’t instruct us to merely invite them to attend church with us. Literally He meant “as you are going,” which includes our reporting for work each day.

The young woman understood this when asked what kind of work she did. She replied, “I’m a disciple of Christ, cleverly disguised as an administrative assistant.”

When ambassadors are appointed, they venture into foreign lands to serve as their nation’s representatives. Similarly, we’re to be God’s representatives to communicate His Good News of forgiveness and redemption to people who need to hear it. As Paul wrote, We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

How are we to do this? One way is in how we approach our work. The Scriptures teach, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

As we perform our job responsibilities, we’re hopefully doing so in a manner that raises questions through our commitment to integrity, excellence, initiative and faithfulness. When people become curious, we’re to be ready to respond: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15).

What better way to worship God than to be an outstanding worker for our company or organization, earning such respect that we gain opportunities to tell others about Him?

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