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That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You.
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Book Review: "The Gospel at Work" by Traeger and Gilbert
The Gospel at Work: How Working for King
Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to our Jobs
Sebastian Traeger and Greg D. Gilbert
ISBN: 9780310513971; $16.99; 2014
Rev. Dr. Michael Philliber for Deus
Packed Prose - 4 stars out of 5
Are you between
jobs, or disgusted by the soul-withering one you’re in now? Are you a college
student about to graduate and wondering where to go and what to do
vocationally? Does your job act like an all-consuming beast? Is your present occupation
a source of your being frantically frustrated and feeling fruitless? Have you
reached the pinnacle of “success” with your company and unsure what the next
step is? There’s good news for you, whatever your present professional position, and it has come in the form of a 160 page paperback titled, “The Gospel at Work:
How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to our Jobs.” The authors,
Sebastian Traeger, a proficient businessman who has co-founded several
businesses like FiveStreet.com, Razoo.com, Christianity.com, and Silas
Partners, and Greg D. Gilbert, Senior Pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in
Louisville, Kentucky, have penned a valuable piece accessible to teens,
twentysomethings, people in mid-career and beyond.
The first half
of “The Gospel at Work” (Chapter 1 through 5) is the real meat-and-potatoes of
the book. Here the authors unpack their main principle around which the whole
work revolves; “Our jobs are one of the primary ways God intends to make us
more like Jesus. He uses our work to sanctify us, develop our Christian
character, and teach us to love him more and more and serve him better until we
join him on the last day in resting from our labors” (15). In other words, who
“you work for is more important than what
you do” (16). By our being united to Christ and branded with him we become
freed from building our meaning and purpose and identity on our vocational
ventures. By remembering who we are and whose we are keeps us from falling into
the double trap of idolatry and idleness in our occupations. Both of these grow
out of the same misconception: if we are seeking our value and worth in our
profession then we will (1) either turn it into an idol – something we
sacrifice ourselves to and hold in as high regard as we do God; (2) or sink
into frustrated and flummoxed disappointment and become idle in our work. As
they observe, these two traps are highly prevalent in our culture; “Unfortunately,
idleness in work and idolatry of work are both celebrated in our society”
Gilbert nicely display that no matter what our trade, or what our frustrating
situation may be in our employment, we have a prime directive that infuses a
stabilizing, sobering and stimulating purposefulness in our profession. In all
that we put our hands, hours and sweat into we are to love God and our
neighbor: “When you become a Christian,
your overarching, overriding, life-driving assignment becomes crystal clear:
you are to love God and love others” (49). This new mission you have helps you
to keep from turning your job into your joy, or from slinking into the hole of
depression thinking your job doesn’t much matter to God (49-53). You are
deployed by God into this or that job-setting to love God and others, no matter
what the corporate-culture may be. Therefore work “hard, work smart, and trust God” (71). They further poignantly note
that in all of our life as a whole, if there is idolatry going on in one area,
then there is likely idleness going on in another.
The authors also
discuss, based on their main principle, how to choose a new job. This chapter
delightfully exposes the snares that litter our path, specifically the idolatry
of finding the right job that will honor and glorify us. Traeger and Gilbert
present a helpful pyramid that visually shows where to start when pondering a potential
position. There is also a beneficial list of three “must-haves” in a job, and
three “nice-to-haves.” What they put where will likely catch many readers' attention, because it inverts what most people place as priorities.
The second half
of “The Gospel at Work” (Chapter 6-10) gets more into the messiness of work.
Building off of their main principle and mission statement, the authors walk
the reader through balancing work, family and church; how to deal with work
situations that have difficult co-workers and problematic bosses; what to do if
you are the boss; sharing the Gospel at work; and finally, tackling the tension
between which is more valuable – ministry or your job. This section is more
pragmatic, but is, nevertheless, generally useful in showing how to work out
the earlier material.
If there is any
negative side to the book it would be these two things. First there was a
general feeling I had that the authors, at times, weighed me down with “to-do”
lists. By the end of the book I had a mixture of feelings. I was excited and
refreshed by the principles they laid out early on, but simultaneously felt
like I was failing because there was more to do. This comes out clearly in the
chapter on balancing family, church and work. By the end of that particular
chapter it came across to me that I was being told to suck it up and work
harder to make all three areas work out. The other item has to do with the use
of Scripture. There are occasions where the authors use a passage that has
nothing to do with their topic, and draft it into their service, like 1
Corinthians 12. Their points are good and valid, but the particular passages
they may use at times are the wrong ones.
“The Gospel at
Work” is a perceptive, insightful piece. It should find its way into the hands
of teenagers wondering about their vocational future, college students nearing
graduation and already sending out resumes, people between jobs, men and women
fraught with the gloominess of purposelessness in their profession, as well as
folks in mid-career. And even though it
is not primarily for Christian ministers, it is a must-read for pastors,
especially those feeling overworked and grossly strained in their ministry. I
happily recommend the book.
(Thanks to Net
Galley and Zondervans for the free electronic version provided for this review.
Feel free to post or publish this review, but as always, please give credit
where credit is due. Mike)
[Mildly revised and corrected: 4 May 2014 - MWP]
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