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How Your Work Can Renew Culture

by Jason on September 23, 2011

I’ve been very interested in the idea of Business as Mission recently.  The idea that businesses can be a strategic influence for the gospel.

Work isn’t just a means to making more money. It is a means to a greater purpose of glorifying God by impacting others lives.  Work is a high calling.

Tim Keller has a great article at Redeemer’s Center for Faith and Work on Christians, work, and cultural renewal.

I’ve added titles to help with scanability of the work and culture article, but Keller’s quotes are in tact:

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We Work for What’s Important

Every culture works on the basis of a ‘map’ of what is considered most important.

If God and his grace are not at the center of a culture, then other things will be substituted as ultimate values. So every vocational field is distorted by idolatry.

Christian medical professionals will soon see that some practices make money for them but don’t add value to patients’ lives.

Christians in marketing and business will discern accepted patterns of communication that distort reality or which play to and stir up the worst aspects of the human heart.

Christians in business will often see among their colleagues’ behavior that which seeks short-term financial profit at the expense of the company’s long-term health, or practices that put financial profit ahead of the good of the employees, customers, or others in the community.

Christians in the arts live and work in a culture in which self-expression is an end in itself. And in most vocational fields, believers face work-worlds in which ruthless, competitive behavior is the norm.

Two Mistakes Christians Make With Their Vocation

There are two opposite mistakes that a Christian can make in addressing the idols of their vocational field.

  • On the one hand they can seal off their faith from their work, laboring according to the same values and practices that everyone else uses.
  • Or they may loudly and clumsily declare their Christian faith to their co-workers, often without showing any grace and wisdom in the way they relate to people on the job.

A Theology of Work

At Redeemer, especially through the Center for Faith & Work, we seek to help believers think out the implications of the gospel for art, business, government, media, entertainment, scholarship.

We teach that excellence in work is a crucial means to gain credibility for our faith. If our work is shoddy, our verbal witness only leads listeners to despise our beliefs.

If Christians live in major cultural centers and simply do their work in an excellent but distinctive manner it will ultimately produce a different kind of culture than the one in which we live now.

Work That Renews Culture

But I like the term “cultural renewal” better than “culture shaping” or “culture changing/transforming.”

The most powerful way to show people the truth of Christianity is to serve the common good.

The monks in the Middle Ages moved out through pagan Europe, inventing and establishing academies, universities, and hospitals.

They transformed local economies and cared for the weak through these new institutions. They didn’t set out to ‘get control’ of a pagan culture.

They let the gospel change how they did their work and that meant they worked for others rather than for themselves. Christians today should be aiming for the same thing.

A “Two-Kingdom” Mindset

As Roman society was collapsing, St. Augustine wrote The City of God to remind believers that in the world there are always two ‘cities,’ two alternate ‘kingdoms.’

  1. One is a human society based on selfishness and gaining power.
  2. God’s kingdom is the human society based on giving up power in order to serve.

Christians live in both kingdoms, and although that is the reason for much conflict and tension, it also is our hope and assurance.

The kingdom of God is the permanent reality, while the kingdom of this world will eventually fade away.

What are your thoughts?

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