Guiding planes for God’s glory: an interview with John Archer
Shape tracking. Sequential memory. Reactive avoidance. Most of us don’t even know what these words mean, let alone use them in our daily lives. But John Arche...
If you’re in any form of church leadership, chances are you minister to a lot of people who have jobs. Some will love their work; others will drag their feet each morning, dreading the day ahead. But whether they’re a joy-filled roofer or a tired taxi driver, it’s hard to overstate the positive impact of actively reminding them that their job matters deeply to God, and that they can make a real kingdom difference in and through it.
We worship the God who works. Work was given to Adam before the fall. Work contributes to God’s purposes in the world – bringing order, making provision, creating beauty, enabling human flourishing. But far too many Christians don’t see it that way, feeling that the nine-to-five grind just gets in the way of their faith or their time at church.
That perspective couldn’t be further from the truth. To find out what happens when churches equip their people to live out their faith in and through their jobs, we asked speech and language therapist Yanny about the encouragements she’s had from church leaders and the impact they’ve had on her work and faith.
Yanny specialises in treating people with swallowing disorders. It’s busy, fast-paced work, with a lot of patients to get through. But she absolutely loves her job. It’s what she felt called to from a young age. She gets to see God’s healing work first-hand, play a part in that healing, and marvel daily at the way God has made the human body. At the same time, because it’s her first role since graduating, it’s very easy for her to feel out of her depth, especially when faced with challenging situations or difficult conversations. And as with many roles in pressured workplaces, the possibility of burnout is never far away.
Happily, Yanny’s church has played an important role in helping her see how her work and her faith fit together.
‘When I feel like others don’t value my work,’ she explains, ‘I’ve been encouraged by church leaders to fix my eyes back on God, who I know does value my work. I have to be careful to watch where my identity is rooted. It’s essential that I fix my eyes on the Lord, whose opinion of me never changes, who tells me I am the daughter of a King, and who loves me unconditionally.’
One thing Yanny has found especially helpful is coming to understand that being a Christian isn’t just about what she’s able to do in ‘gathered’ church times – the moments when we get together at services, small groups, or charitable ministries.
‘I’ve been reminded that “serving” doesn’t just relate to what I do in a church context. I have a very serving-heavy job and it’s been really helpful when church leaders have encouraged me to take a step back from serving at church – particularly when I’m feeling burned out – reminding me that I’m still building God’s kingdom elsewhere, including through my job. This enables me to recharge and be my best for God at work.
‘Before graduating, my student pastor mentored me through the transfer into working life. He helped me manage my time in a new way, optimising my physical, mental, and spiritual health whilst adjusting to the nine-to-five – or eight-to-four in my case! He highlighted how much time I had available to me outside of work, which made everything seem far less overwhelming, and encouraged me to look for how Jesus was working through and around me at work each day.’
According to Yanny, a key thing her church leaders have done to encourage her and others for workplace ministry is simply to ask good questions. The right conversation starter can be a powerful thing, conveying the church’s care for her Monday-to-Friday work, and helping the leader better understand the opportunities and pressures she faces there. For example:
Yanny’s also found it helpful when her church leaders chat with her about how she can continue praying and reading the Bible in a busy working routine, and point her to helpful resources. She also points out that there are some types of work – including healthcare jobs like hers – that tend to get more attention in church than others.
‘It’s important to remember those who don’t fall into industries that we regularly pray for, like healthcare and education. It’s hard to be a Christian in most workplaces! And everyone has the opportunity to make a difference through the work God has given them. Lots of people don’t really feel that way. I’d love more of my friends to see their jobs through God’s eyes.’
The accountant keeping their company on the straight and narrow; the videographer creating insightful documentaries; the journalist holding power to account; the cafeteria worker serving up delicious food. It all matters. It’s all central to our mission as Christians, to join in God’s redemptive purposes in the world.
The New Testament word translated into English as ‘encourage’ means ‘to come alongside someone and build them up or comfort them’. That’s exactly what Yanny, and many others like her have found so important in their churches.
‘It’s super encouraging that this is a topic my church leaders are passionate about,’ she says. ‘People spend so much of their time at work. It’s so important to feel supported in our faith there.’
Yanny was speaking to Jules Gadsby, Church Engagement Specialist, LICC.