Tag Archives: Reward

Vocation and Ministry

Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?
1 Corinthians 9:6 (NIV)

Work has been a little crazy for me in recent weeks. I’m in the midst of my 25th year with our company and completing my first year at the helm, leading the operation. Year-end means wrapping up current year business for clients, writing and managing proposals for the coming year, Board meetings, year-end financials, and all of the administrative work that comes with all of it. Beyond that there is the vision casting and strategic planning for where I hope to lead the company in the year(s) ahead.

When I was hired back in 1994 I left 6 years of working in full-time pastoral and para-church ministry. At the time, my mother was a bit disappointed in my vocational change. For several years she would occasionally ask “Are you ever going to go back into the ministry?” My response was always, “I never left ministry.” She would roll her eyes and say, “I know. But, you know what I mean.

What she meant was that “ministry” means working full-time for a church; That “real ministry” is a higher spiritual status reserved for those employed in an institutional church organization. I have found this to be a very common belief, especially in previous generations. I still, on occasion, have someone approach me after I teach on a Sunday morning and ask, “Why aren’t you in ministry?” Once again, I always respond with, “I am in ministry.” I always would like to add: “And, so are you!”

I love an appreciate the incredibly gifted and driven full-time staff members of our local church community. The operation couldn’t function without them, and because of them it functions remarkably well. Because of them, the operation accomplishes abundantly more than most of our community’s members even realize. I’m quite certain, however,  that even they would agree with me that “ministry” is not confined to those individuals on the organization’s payroll.

I find it a dangerous notion to place a label of “ministry” on those in full-time employment by a church or non-profit para-church ministry. The implication is that any believer who is not in one of those two vocational silos is not in ministry. This means that those of us not in full-time church or ministry employment are not in ministry (and comfortably off the hook from having to think about all that it might otherwise mean).

This is, however, contrary to the entire paradigm that God’s Message teaches. Every believer is a part of the body of Christ. Every believer is spiritually gifted by Holy Spirit regardless of age, gender, background, education, or training. Why? Because every believer is part of the ministry of the Body of Christ. We, all who believe, are His hands, feet, eyes, ears, and mouth. There are no exemptions or exceptions. I find this to be a radically different paradigm than what the institutional church has taught and exemplified for centuries. I believe it’s time to rediscover the fullness of meaning in the “priesthood of all believers.” We’re far overdue to rediscover the inherent ministry of every vocation.

I couldn’t help but read today’s chapter in context of yesterday’s chapter, in which Paul urged the Corinthian believers to surrender their right (to eat food sacrificed to idols) in order to lovingly honor fellow believers who think differently. In today’s chapter, Paul explains how he has done the very thing he’s urging them to do. He had a right to be married, to travel with a wife, to receive a full-time income for his preaching and service to the church just like all of the other apostles were doing. Paul, however, chose not to be married. Wherever he was living in the moment he chose to work at his family trade (making and repairing tents) to provide his own income. I can guarantee you that Paul leveraged his day-job of tent making and manual labor into opportunities to meet strangers, build relationships, have conversations, be an example, and extend the reach of his ministry. Tent making wasn’t separate from Paul’s ministry. It was a central and crucial part of it.

This morning I’m thankful for an amazing company I’ve had the privilege of serving for 25 years. I’m thankful for a host of relationships with colleagues, clients, and coworkers that I’d never have had were it not for my vocation. I’m grateful for the honor and privilege to lead and serve in both business and among my local community of Jesus’ followers. This morning in the quiet I find my spirit echoing Paul’s sentiment to the believers in Corinth:

What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

The Slog and Reward of Obedience

Moses and Aaron entered the tent of meeting, and then came out and blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.
Leviticus 9:23-24 (NRSV)

As a father, I have experienced pleasure and appreciation when my children do what they have been asked to do; when they do what they are supposed to do. It started as small children when Taylor and Madison would be told not to touch this or to help pick up their toys. As they grew, the rules became more complex and obedience was desired and expected when they weren’t in my presence as well as when they were. As they progressed into adulthood it transitioned from their adherence to parental rules or demands, into simply the pleasure of watching children making wise choices on their own and doing what was right as they were self-motivated to do so.

Today’s chapter is rather boring. The first 22 of the 24 verses of the chapter is a recitation of Aaron and his sons, under Moses supervision, carrying out the sacrifices just as they had been prescribed in previous chapters…

  • Sin offering….check
  • Dip finger in blood….check
  • Sprinkle on altar….check
  • Blah
  • Blah
  • Blah
  • Yada
  • Yada
  • Yada

I was tempted to bail on the chapter early on. “Yep, I read that before. Okay, I get it. They’re doing what had been prescribed exactly as it had been prescribed before.

Then we get to the final paragraph of the chapter. After all had been done exactly just as it had been exactly prescribed, Aaron the high priest goes with Moses into the tent. Inside the tent was where God’s presence resided, and it was obedience to doing the prescribed sacrifices that made the way for Aaron to enter God’s presence. When they come out from the tent and from God’s presence they are aglow with God’s glory and fire from heaven falls and consumes the sacrifices. Wow! Spectacular pyrotechnics to conclude an otherwise boring chapter.

And, that’s the point. Humanity, and the Hebrews in this particular case, are in the toddler stages of history. God the Father is teaching simple obedience. Do this, like this. When they do, they experience the glory of the Father’s good pleasure in supernatural ways.

This morning I’m thinking about our life journeys. When we are young we learn simple obedience and direct reward. Do my chores, obey parental commands, and I will earn my allowance and stave off their wrath. As we get older we learn that life does not always offer such direct rewards. I can do everything right and I still can’t find a job. Tragedy strikes even when I’m a good and obedient person whose working hard to do all the right things the right ways. As Jesus said, “Sun shines on both the good and evil person. Rain falls on both the just and the unjust.”

Nevertheless, as an adult I learn that being obedient to laws and rules and God’s desired behaviors has its own subtle and tangible rewards. It can be as subtly powerful as experiencing the pride and pleasure of a parent. It can also be the knowledge that doing the right thing does stave off a host of potentially damaging consequences for me and my loved ones. We learn simple direct lessons when we are children in order to learn the wise principles we will need when we are adults. Being wise and obedient, endeavoring perpetually to do the right things in this life, sometimes feels like a long slog. It feels like reading Leviticus chapter 9. Yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah…

Ultimately, there’s both a reason and a reward for making the slog. And, once again, I find myself at the beginning of another day.

Lace ’em up for the slog. I’m pressin’ on.

 

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10 Ways to Make a Positive Impression on Your Employer

source: gangplankhq via Flickr
source: gangplankhq via Flickr

All these were descendants of Obed-Edom; they and their sons and their relatives were capable men with the strength to do the work—descendants of Obed-Edom, 62 in all.
1 Chronicles 26:8 (NIV)

“Good help is hard to find,” it is said. Even with todays job market, in which I hear more people complaining “a good job is hard to find,” I can tell you as an employer that a capable employee with strength for the task is a valued find. When I was a kid I was taught that being capable was only what got you a foot in the door with an employer. It was what you did with it that made you indispensable and worthy of promotion or advancement.

10 ways I learned to make a positive impression on my employer:

  1. Arrive a few minutes early. Be on site ready to start when your shift begins.
  2. Don’t watch the clock. Work all the way to the end of your shift, and if you’re in the middle of a task, work a few minutes late until the task is done.
  3. If there’s a lull in the action, find something to do. Keep yourself busy, and don’t wait to be told what to do.
  4. Don’t be difficult. If there’s a dress code, don’t press the issue to see what you can get away with, simply adhere to the policy and don’t make an issue of it.
  5. If in doubt, ask. Better to ask than to do it wrong and create problems and irritations.
  6. Pay attention so you don’t have to ask again. Asking once is a good thing. Asking the same thing multiple times, or asking a million questions about things that should e common sense, is a sign of lack of listening, comprehension, ability, or responsibility.
  7. Don’t consider anything “beneath you.” Don’t balk at the small, difficult, boring, or dirty tasks. Do them willingly and do them well, and you probably won’t have to do them for long.
  8. If you make a mistake, be honest about it and take responsibility for making it right. An employee who covers up, obfuscates, and/or blames others is untrustworthy. An employee who is willing to take responsibility shows rare character.
  9. Be willing to go the extra mile without complaint or demand.
  10. Think like an owner, and if your employer asks you to make a decision then make the decision as if you owned the company and were responsible for its long term success. An employee who can think in those terms is capable of being placed in charge of many things.

If you do these things consistently without reward, recognition, gratitude and/or promotion, or if your employer consistently takes advantage of you, then keep looking for another job. There’s another employer out there waiting to reward someone who is “capable with strength to do the work.”

Joseph’s Talents

Joseph_sold_to_Potiphar
Joseph_sold_to_Potiphar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. Genesis 39:22 (NLT)

The other week a client told me about a capable young person in their employ. The young man, though rough around the edges, had shown promise of being management material. The employer arranged to fast track the young man into managerial training and told him so. I had no doubt that, with a little time and effort, the young man would have found himself managing a department and moving up the corporate ladder quickly.

The young man, however, was not content with the fast track. Assuming that his employer’s interest in his career gave him instant leverage, he quickly demanded a huge increase in salary. When the employer refused and explained that he still had to prove himself, the young man walked off the job.

In reading about Joseph’s rapid and successful rise in both the employment of Potiphar and even in his imprisonment, I’m reminded of Jesus’ parable of the talents. Yes, God’s favor was certainly on Joseph, but Joseph didn’t sit around and have rewards thrown at him. He obviously worked hard, managed wisely, and served his master faithfully no matter who that master was. I can almost hear Potiphar and the prison warden echoing Jesus’ words from his parable: “You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things.”

In the business world I see fewer and fewer young people who take this very simple life lesson to heart: Patiently prove yourself faithful and capable with a few things and you’ll find yourself being given greater responsibilities and earning better compensation. Could it be that we as a culture have so filled our childrens’ minds with positive messages of self-esteem and freely showered them with everything they both need and desire that they have walked away with the expectation that the world will reward them with their heart’s desire just for showing up?

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 29

from Opensourceway via Flickr

Words alone will not discipline a servant; 
      the words may be understood, but they are not heeded.
Proverbs 29:19 (NLT) 

When I read the proverb above this morning, a young woman popped into my mind. She works for a client and for a couple of years I’ve been sitting down with her in quarterly call coaching sessions to help her improve her service on the phone. Bright, articulate and intelligent, the young woman is capable of being a world-class service performer. But, she’s not. For a couple of years I’ve provided her with data, information, training, and coaching with regard to the handful of service skills that she needs to adopt to take her service to the next level. But, she won’t.

The management team at this particular business want their people to perform at a high level, but there has never been any kind of negative consequence if their employees refuse to do so. The employees, like this woman, know that she can sit through our coaching sessions, politely listen and then completely ignore what I’m telling her. Her supervisor has already proven that he will do nothing about it when her quality evaluation does not improve.

Over the years I’ve watched many children do the same thing. Parents toss a “no, no, don’t do that” across the room, but the child just smiles and continues their naughty behavior. He or she knows that mom and dad only say “no, no, don’t do that.” They never actually DO anything about it. There are no consequences for continuing to act out the naughtiness they’ve chosen, so why would they choose to modify their behavior?

The carrot or the stick? That’s the question leaders from the nuclear family to the business work grapple with. Do I encourage positive behavior change by offering a positive incentive or negative reinforcement? Believe me, I’m a fan of positive reinforcement in parenting and in management. I have come to the conclusion, however, that positive reinforcement alone will not work with everyone. There are some individuals who will only respond to negative reinforcement.

The mark of a good parent or a good leader is in their wisdom and discernment to utilize both the carrot and the stick appropriately and circumstantially in order to get the desired results that will benefit both the individual and whole.

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 20

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard: Worker...
Image via Wikipedia

“He replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?'” Matthew 20:13-15 (MSG)

As a business owner, manager, and consultant working on-site in a plethora of different operations, one of the most fascinating things I’ve witnessed over the years has been the way different people respond to time, work load, and earnings.

I’ve witnessed those whose mindset is like the workers in the parable of the talents. They take what they are given, invest themselves in being responsible and earning a return for their employer. Rarely complaining, they work hard and regularly go the extra mile for customers, coworkers and employers trusting that, in the end, they will be duly rewarded for their efforts.

I’ve witnessed others who are like the workers in Jesus’ parable from today’s chapter. They have an eye incessantly on the clock, their co-workers, and their paycheck. Regularly feeling they’re being taken advantage of, they constantly compare their compensation package and work load to others. Effort is made to get away with doing as little as possible for the maximum amount of money, generally complaining at any and every perception of inequity.

Is it possible, even probable, that the type of worker we are on the job translates into the type of worker we are in God’s kingdom? When the Day of Judgement comes, will I be one content when God says “Well done, here is your reward” or will I be getting in queue at heaven’s HR office to file a complaint with the management that the guy who squandered his life and muttered a deathbed confession got a better reward than me?

[Pondering this aside today: Are Lucifer and his fallen angels roughly equivalent to a labor union in the economic system of God’s kingdom?]

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