Blog - Mirroring God

TURNING WORK INTO MINISTRY: Part 4, Building Community

Thursday, February 14, 2013

God’s "to do” list for us, seen in Genesis 1 and 2, includes communing with him, building community, and stewarding the earth. This series of blogs explores how we can carry these out in our daily work. For Part 3, click here.

When you say "workplace,” does "community” come to mind? It’s easy to assume we leave community (gathered church, neighborhood) when we go to work. You may be thinking, "My work sure doesn’t feel like community!” But does God send you there to help build community? (See the first blog in this series.)

Our primary good work, communing with God, relates directly to our second: building community. Communing and community. They’re related (notice the spelling) and each requires relating. They flow out of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit commune in community. Always have, always will. Together, God’s two greatest commands call for both. To love God is to commune with him. To love neighbors is to live in community with them. Even if they’re workplace neighbors.

Building community on the job takes place on two fronts, both reflected in Gal. 6:10—". . . as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” The first group, which includes "all people,” embraces everyone made in the image of God. The second, the "family of believers,” is made up of those who are trusting and seeking to follow Jesus. These two groups overlap. Those in the second are also members of the first.

In future weeks, we’ll zoom in with some specific ideas for community-building in each group. But let’s begin with both groups and the common ground they share in the workplace. Nearly 600 years before Jesus’ birth, a somewhat similar "sharing” was taking place. The exiled Jews lived and worked among the pagan Babylonians. Today, in most jobs, Christians live and work among unbelievers.

Through Jeremiah, God gave his people these instructions: ". . . seek the peace and prosperity [Hebrew: shalom] of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jer. 29:7). The Message paraphrases it this way: "Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare.”

How might we restate that for today’s work-world context? Perhaps something like: "Seek the harmony and best interests of the community you are working in. Aim for its well-being.” Do that and you will help both believers and unbelievers to taste something of shalom.

We don’t have to push the work aside to build community. For the most part, it can be done right in the course of doing the work itself. Promoting peace when co-workers wrangle over racial, religious, or political issues. Remaining serene when the computer network crashes. Being patient with the new trainee. Good-mouthing the boss when no one else is. Refusing to over-talk others. Forgiving failures.

In spite of social networking, few people are experiencing authentic community. And yet all of us so desperately need it. Jesus called his followers the light of the world. Part of our shining should illuminate our workplaces by reflecting the shalom that has just one source—the eternal community within God himself. Out of our communing with him will come the ability to be community-builders in our workplaces.

Comments (4)

Ron Steslow (2/14/2013 4:39:54 PM)
I love the conclusion of this with the varied examples of community creation. I'm going to pass it on to workmates and others who will benefit from the insights.

Love this. This is agape love: How might we restate that for today’s work-world context? Perhaps something like: "Seek the harmony and best interests of the community you are working in. Aim for its well-being.” Do that and you will help both believers and unbelievers to taste something of shalom.
Peace,
Ron
Veda Ram (2/14/2013 6:08:13 PM)
A few ladies and I have been discussing living Christ-like in an unbelieving workplace. They were abused verbally and made fodder for gossip etc.. Just to survive as a Christian is a challenge. To build community seem to be taking things another/higher level - yet how necessary as you mentioned " reflecting the shalom".. The pointers you share are important. They are "doable". I will share this. THANK you!
JIm Lustig (2/15/2013 10:07:26 AM)
Great article. The companies I own are secular based and have a number of believers and we strongly focus on building community relationships internally as well as with clients. We have been doing this for 30 years and it is amazing how God has encouraged us to care about people through food and just being available to each other.
Nita Kotiuga (2/16/2013 5:39:41 AM)
Hadn't given much thought to how to build peace and prosperity in the workplace...good food for thought. What would those components be, beyond the obvious of good manners?

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