Facing Matters Of The Heart

As a pastor it is not uncommon for me to spend time visiting parishioners who are hospitalized, but this week I made a hospital visit of another kind. I went to the University of Kansas Medical Center to learn about the work of a member of Christ Community, Dr. Matt Earnest whose vocational calling is an interventionist cardiologist.

Dr. Matt Earnest

For several hours I had the privilege of shadowing and observing Dr. Earnest and his highly skilled medical team as they diagnosed and performed delicate procedures aimed at arresting heart disease and extending the length and quality of life of fellow image bearers of God. During every procedure, Dr. Earnest coached younger physicians who were observing and learning from him as they continued their medical training to become board certified cardiologists. Observing this hands on training and coaching by Dr. Earnest reminded me how much the training of younger pastors would be improved if we had more churches like Christ Community that embraced a teaching hospital model and were committed to pastoral residencies.

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Connecting Sunday To Monday

It was also a delight to observe the gentle and Christlike bedside manner Dr. Earnest displayed with patients and their families. When facing matters of the heart, patients and family members inevitably come face to face with their own mortality. On one occasion, as Dr. Earnest introduced me as his pastor, a worried family member asked me if I would pray. As we prayed a sense of peace flooded the hospital room and I could not help but marvel at the seamlessness of the moment where work and worship were truly one reality.

I left Kansas University Medical Center thanking God for the privilege of serving parishioners like Dr. Earnest who are deeply committed to connect Sunday worship with their Monday work. I am most grateful to Dr. Earnest and his highly competent team for their wonderful hospitality and willingness to endure my myriad of questions. I think we were all amazed I didn’t even feel light-headed once with all the needles and blood. Dr. Matt keep up the great work!

A Little Neighborly Love In Boston

Tom's TED Talk In Boston

TED Talk In Boston

In October I was privileged to be in Boston for the Faith@Work Summit. A wide variety of Christian leaders from the academy, the church and the marketplace gathered to consider the current progress in what is being called the faith at work movement. The format of the summit consisted of a variety of TED style talks on various aspects of the integration of faith and work. The TED talks from the Faith@Work Summit are now available. The leaders of the Faith@Work Summit are planning to publish a book based on the TED talks that were given. I am hopeful that the forthcoming book will be a helpful resource for many in better connecting Sunday to Monday.

At the summit, I spoke on the importance of rethinking Jesus’ teaching on The Great Commandment focusing on the need to understand neighborly love not only in terms of Christlike compassion, but also economic capacity.  For a pastor who usually gets 35 minutes for a sermon, being limited to speak only 15 minutes was quite the challenge, but hopefully it will move the national conversation forward on a matter of significant importance.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/116314037″>Neighborly Love: Why Both Compassion and Capacity Matter | Tom Nelson</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/centerfaithwork”>CenterFaithWork</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>Neighborly Love: Why Both Compassion and Capacity Matter | Tom Nelson from CenterFaithWork on Vimeo.

Is Motherhood A Job?

Tom Nelson

One of my biggest surprises since Work Matters was published is the number of stay-at-home mom’s who have expressed their heartfelt appreciation for reframing work as contribution and not merely compensation. In a world with many increasing good choices for women to make a vocational contribution, there still lingers a great deal of foggy confusion regarding the good work stay-at-home mom’s do each and every day in the rough and tumble vicissitudes of domestic life.

Perhaps this is why I was so delighted to read a recent article by Rachel Lu, entitled, In 2015, Resolve To Stop Comparing Motherhood To A Job. I don’t know Rachel Lu’s worldview or faith commitments, but she is making an important point we all need to hear. Rachel makes the persuasive case that motherhood shouldn’t be thought of as a job or seen through the myopic lens of career development or job analysis. For even if we attempt to bolster stay-at-home mom’s with terms like Domestic CEO or Household Engineer we are setting ourselves up to actually diminish the vocational calling of motherhood and the important and invaluable contribution they make to the common good.

Rachel asserts that in our society we must broaden our understanding of valuable work. She astutely writes, “But motherhood is not a job. It’s a vocation and a way of life. Some women who stay home to raise their children could succeed brilliantly in careers, but they value something else more than money or worldly success.” Rachel is not taking to task mom’s who go back to their jobs, but what she advocates for is a badly needed cultural attitude change about mom’s who choose to stay home and raise their children. Rachel puts it this way, “In any case, we certainly should not stand for the prejudice that at-home mothers are little more than unpaid janitors. Just because they aren’t paid for their expertise doesn’t mean they don’t have any.”

As thoughtful people who embrace God’s design for human flourishing let’s affirm and applaud Rachel’s remarkable cultural insight. Let’s stop calling the work stay-at-home mom’s or stay-at-home dad’s do, a job. Instead let’s refer to these important contributions as vocational callings affirming that human work is measured by much more than compensation. As we embark on a New Year, may we enthusiastically affirm the important callings and contributions stay-at-home mom’s and stay-at-home dad’s make each and every day. While jobs are really important, let’s remember we are all called from cradle to grave to Glorify God and make a contribution to the common good whether or not we receive a paycheck.

A Party For 80,000

Bill Chapin

Bill Chapin, Senior VP of Operations, Kansas City Chiefs

Imagine throwing a party for 80,000 people each weekend. That is the vocational calling of my friend Bill Chapin. You don’t have to be a Kansas City Chief’s fan or even a football fan for that matter to be caught up in the excitement and energy of a Monday Night football game at Arrowhead Stadium!

Recently I was invited by Bill Chapin to experience not only a winning performance by the Kansas City Chiefs, but also a record-breaking moment for the highest decibel level ever in an outdoor stadium. During the NFL season Bill along with a great team of colleagues put on an amazing party for Chiefs fans. Bill does his work with enthusiasm, excellence and for the glory of his Audience of One. I am delighted Bill and his bride Tori and their fine two sons are deeply committed to living a seamless faith that connects Sunday to Monday.  Recently I asked Bill about his work and his faith.

Bill, tell me what your job description with the Kansas City Chiefs entails? My official job title is Sr. VP of Business Operations and my responsibilities include: all branding, marketing and research, digital and social media, video production, game entertainment, community outreach and charitable giving. 

Bill, what do you love most about your vocational calling? My biggest opportunity is to lead and inspire people, create integration, collaboration and create empowerment. I am deeply passionate about sports and especially football because for 3 hours every Sunday, people want to be part of something bigger than themselves where they can experience the full gambit of emotions in an unpredictable outcome. I am passionate about competition and being the best in my craft and that passion is manifested by the ability to try to create the best game day experience in the National Football League.

Bill, how has your involvement in Christ Community helped shape your family and work life?  My wife and I recently finished a class at Christ Community called Razor’s Leadership Pathway. I was struck each and every class at the commitment of stewardship that Christ Community has for its congregants. The discussion each week made my wife and I feel so connected to the mission of Christ Community and the people who call it their home church. We discuss what happens at church and the concepts we learned at home with our two young boys and how Jesus has changed everything. Our family talks, sings and is joyful in Christ, even during trial. I am thankful each Sunday for the opportunity to be a part of such a great church.

Listening to Bill Chapin makes me so grateful for a faith community like Christ Community that truly believes the Gospel speaks into every nook and cranny of life and that our work really matters. Bill keep up the good work. You throw one heck of a loud party!

Carolina In My Mind

In my mind I’m going to Carolina. Can’t you see the sunshine, can’t you just feel the moonshine? These words made famous by singer James Taylor wafted through my mind as we landed in Asheville, North Carolina.  My pastoral colleague Mike Roop and I were warmly greeted by Tom Oxenreider who serves as the Associate Dean for Calling and Career at Montreat College.Tom’s warm smile was matched with his gracious hospitality treating some very hungry travelers to the finest farm to table burger in all of Asheville and perhaps all of North Carolina.

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A Warm And Welcoming Montreat College

I was delighted to participate in a Montreat College symposium on work and vocation held at its beautiful campus nestled in the North Carolina mountains. Not every Christian college cancels classes for two days for the entire academic community to engage in a serious and thoughtful conversation about calling, work and vocation, yet that is the commitment Montreat College has made to indwell a seamless Christian faith.

 

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Dr. Steve Garber

I found the Montreat students and faculty a delight to be with, seriously engaged in the life of the mind, and on a dedicated pursuit of the proper ordering of the loves of the heart.  One of my personal joys was catching up again with my dear friend Steve Garber who also served as a plenary speaker for the symposium. Steve’s latest book, Visions of Vocation, asks the important question of whether we can truly know the world and still love the world. If you have not yet read Visions of Vocation, I think it is a great read.

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Dr. Paul Maurer, President, Montreat College

 

It was also a treat to meet up again with Dr. Paul Maurer who is now serving as President of Montreat College. I had the joy of  getting to know Dr. Maurer several years ago when he was serving at Trinity International University in Chicago. I am confident that with Dr. Maurer’s capable leadership very fruitful days are ahead for this fine institution of Christian higher learning. Though I am not going back to Carolina anytime soon, Carolina is still in my mind.

Faith@Work Summit

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This past weekend, one of my pastoral colleagues Andrew Jones and I had the privilege of joining over 260 leaders in the faith and work movement for the Faith@Work Summit.

We met for two days in Boston for the purpose of assessing the faith and work movement. Where are we now? And what still needs to be done. I heard and read many positive comments like, “This was indeed a defining moment in the faith at work movement,” “I can’t wait to see how the effects of this summit continue to ripple outward over the coming months,” “The conference was outstanding, an important moment of maturation for the movement,” and “An amazing event that was clearly God inspired and Spirit led.”  

I too was very encouraged by the outstanding talks delivered and the delightful diversity that was represented at the summit. I was given the opportunity to give one of the TED type talks focusing on Jesus’ teaching on The Great Commandment and the importance of indwelling a neighborly love that embraces both Christ-like compassion as well as economic capacity. In my own congregation as well as across our nation, the cry I hear is not only whether my work really matters, but whether there is work for me to do. What the world needs now is jobs sweet jobs, yet by and large the church is awkwardly silent. We must realize both theologically and sociologically that a vital aspect of human flourishing is economic flourishing. God cares about human economic life and so should we. (If you would like to check out the talk I gave in Boston, I don’t believe it is available to be downloaded yet, but when it is I will let you know in a later blog). The organizers of Faith@Work are planning to publish a forthcoming book from the talks given at the summit.

I am grateful for David Gill, Bill Peel and Al Erisman who provided such capable leadership for our time together. I was also delighted to catch up with many friends in Boston who share the same passion for connecting Sunday to Monday. I was encouraged that God is using Work Matters in many spaces and places including the country of Bolivia. Who could have imagined that?

Thinking Well On The Job

tomnelsonFor quite some time I have appreciated the remarkable insight of author and New York Times columnist David Brooks. In one of his op-ed pieces entitled, The Mental Virtues, Brooks raises this important question. “We all know what makes for good character in soldiers. We’ve seen the movies about heroes who display courage, loyalty and coolness under fire. But what about somebody who sits in front of a keyboard all day? Is it possible to display and cultivate character if you are just an information age jockey, alone with a memo or your computer?

Brooks is pointing to something I believe we think too little about, namely the way we think as we do our work. Brooks answers his question by making the point that thinking well in the midst of the bombardment of the information age is as courageously needed for our character formation as fighting under a hail of bullets. Brooks highlights the importance of intentional cultivation of virtues in our workplace such as love of learning, courage to hold unpopular views, humility and generosity.

I hear in Brook’s insightful words a similar echoing from the Apostle Peter whose vocation as a fisherman not only produced well-worn hands, but also virtuous character. Peter who experienced the transforming power of the Gospel, who knew what it was to be a partaker of the divine nature in Christ also exhorts us to grow in virtue. Peter writes, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue knowledge and knowledge with self-control, and steadfastness with godliness.”

When we embrace a Gospel faith that speaks to all of life our ensuing spiritual formation occurs in all of life—including our work. We were designed with work in mind and we spend a great deal of time doing our work. Are you thinking well at work? Do you see your work as a primary way you are being spiritually formed? A primary way your virtue and character is being forged? Are you seeing the inevitable difficulties and trials of your workplace as opportunities not only to serve others, but also to grow in your own virtue? Brooks ends his article, “Character tests are pervasive even in modern everyday life. It’s possible to be heroic if you’re just sitting alone in your office. It just doesn’t make for a good movie.”