The Table Podcast

Younger Perspectives on Faith and Work

In this episode, Bill Hendricks, Kevin Gottlieb, and Tristan Tenney discuss the relationship between faith and work, focusing on their experiences as Garrison Faith and Work Fellows at the Hendricks Center.

Timecodes
00:15
Gottlieb’s and Tenney’s experience as Garrison Faith and Work Fellows
09:00
How engaging the business world helps prepare students for ministry
20:40
Theological reflections on faith and work integration
32:56
How can pastors congregants connect their faith to their vocations?
40:08
God’s involvement in the workplace
45:17
Work as a place of worship and discipleship
Transcript
Bill Hendricks
Hello, I’m Bill Hendricks, Executive Director for Christian Leadership at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Seminary, and I want to welcome you to The Table Podcast, where we discuss issues of God and culture.

In the very last paragraph of his blockbuster book, Good To Great, Jim Collins makes the perceptive observation that people crave meaning. But he goes on to say that it’s very difficult to have a meaningful life apart from meaningful work, and today young adults are demonstrating that reality by droves, because they want work that matters. They want work that gives them a sense of purpose and meaning, and they want that at the beginning of their career, not at the end of their career. And so today, we have two young adults who are students at Dallas Seminary with us: Kevin Gottlieb from the Washington D.C. area, and Tristin Tenney who is from West Virginia.

They’re students here and they have been working in a program that we call the William N. Garrison Faith and Work Fellowship, and I wanted them to talk about their experience with that as a way to highlight this whole way in which churches and church leaders can help people understand the meaning and the significance of their work and see how it fits into a life of discipleship.

The name of the fellowship, by the way, William M. Garrison was an attorney in Fort With, a very good friend of my father, Howard Hendricks, and also on the Board of Dallas Seminary for many years, and he was an outstanding example and model of how you integrate your faith into your day to day work.

And so in his honor, we named this fellowship for him, and it is underwritten by the Kern Family Foundation with a very generous grant to make it possible for students to take this fellowship.

And what it entails is that for a half a day each week, the student, the fellow will visit a business somewhere here in the – or another work place here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, under the sponsorship of a Christian leader who works at that place, and the idea is for them to understand the kind of work being done there, the kind of theological issues that that work raises, and to think meaningfully about how would I go about pastoring these people who work here, if I was their pastor?

Kevin, since you are the first fellow, and sort of helped us inaugurate the program, tell us just a little bit about your experience with it, what attracted you to it, and we’ll get into some of the things you actually did.

Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, so I was the Faith and Work Fellow in the fall of last year, two years ago actually, and what attracted me to the fellowship as I was entering my third year of seminary, and you know I’d learned a lot about theology.

I’d learned a lot about the Bible and how to teach and preach, but one of the areas that I felt was lacking was the area of integration into the workplace.

For many years in my seminary career, I was working full-time and doing seminary part-time, and what I discovered is I kept running into a lot of ethical issues and just complicated situations that weren’t so black and white.

And I think a lot of times the church presented workplace issues as here’s right and here’s wrong, and there’s kind of nothing in-between, and so when I was – when I saw the fellowship, I realized wow, this would be a great way to kind of explore what does it mean to be in the Christian workplace and what does it mean to actually work for the glory of God?

I think that’s an area that’s not often discussed. So that’s kind of what drew me to the fellowship.

Bill Hendricks
Gotcha. Yeah, you’re right. Unfortunately in many churches, issues of family are taught; issues of personal character and piety as we might say, our personal life with Christ but oftentimes the messages, the illustrations, the passages don’t directly seem to touch on workplace issues, and yet that’s where people spend the majority of their time.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, and they – it creates kind of this siloing off, where work becomes something separate and you lose that, the integrated life, and so you know, because like you said the applications tend to focus on the family, your personal life, then you just create this area.
Bill Hendricks
Dichotomy.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, the dichotomy where there is no one speaking into the workplace and Christianity becomes a leisure time activity.
Bill Hendricks
Hmm.
Kevin Gottlieb
It‘s not something that actually integrates all through life. It’s just what you do in your spare time.
Bill Hendricks
A Sunday hobby?
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, exactly. There’s no Sunday-Monday bridge between this.
Bill Hendricks
Well and one thing I’ve noticed about young adults in particular is if something isn’t relevant to their day to day experience, they just leave it behind.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And this may explain why the statistics are showing that Millennials in large numbers seem to be leaving churches.
Kevin Gottlieb
Mmm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
So this whole faith and work integration could be a fantastic way, not that that’s necessarily the underpinnings of it, but a fantastic way to have outreach to Millennials, and help them become part of the life of a church, in order that the church can help them live as you said an integrated life and not this compartmentalized.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, I think it’s a huge draw, and when I tell my fellow Millennials about what I’m doing they all love it. They think it’s great because they yearn for that, that integration. They yearn for their work to have meaning.

They yearn to have their work matter, and to be able to show them how it does is really powerful to them.

Bill Hendricks
Excellent. So you went through the first year of the fellowship and then Tristen, this past year, you have been our Garrison fellow, and you had actually been a pastor for several years before you came to Dallas Seminary, and what drew you to this fellowship and what was your experience with it?
Tristan Tenney
Yeah, so I was a Bilocational Pastor.
Bill Hendricks
Meaning?
Tristan Tenney
I worked as well as pastored a church at the same time [laughter.]
Bill Hendricks
And by the way, even though that’s not necessarily the norm in the United States, that’s actually quite common around the world but go ahead.
Tristan Tenney
Yeah, so I worked full-time and pastored full-time, and I always felt like there was this struggle in the workplace, trying to figure out how can I best live out my faith while I’m at work?

Because we spend so many waking hours at our places of employment, and I want that to be a meaningful time period for God and for his kingdom, and so I was really interested in seeing how that maybe I could better be able to do that, but not only do that as my job, but also as a pastor.

Bill Hendricks
Hmm.
Tristan Tenney
I’ve felt like that that wasn’t really an area that I spoke much to or preached a whole lot about, outside maybe the realm of Evangelism.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Tristan Tenney
And I just you know, I feel like God has us in this season of preparation at the Seminary and I feel like that he’s equipping me to – he wants me to be equipped to be able to speak to that area of life, because it’s such a critical area that people focus on, and spend so much time in the workplace.
Bill Hendricks
You have a wonderful story that I want you to tell about a man who I guess it was your grandfather knew that had a lot to do with you getting into the ministry in the first place.
Tristan Tenney
Yeah, so —
Bill Hendricks
Into vocational Christian work.
Tristan Tenney
Yeah, so my grandpa was a coal miner for about 40 years.
Bill Hendricks
Wow.
Tristan Tenney
And there was a guy that he worked with who was a pastor, a bilocational pastor, and my grandpa talked about him so highly that – that he was a faithful presence in the workplace and he was —
Bill Hendricks
So the pastor was also working in the mine?
Tristan Tenney
Yeah, he was a coal miner, full-time.
Bill Hendricks
Wow, okay, cool.
Tristan Tenney
Yeah, full-time coal miner, full-time pastor and – but people thought so highly of him at lunch time they would take their lunch buckets and go find him to eat lunch with him because they just wanted to be around him.

He was just that kinda guy and so when my grandpa passed away, he had my grandpa’s funeral, and we met the guy for the first time and I felt like we were meeting a celebrity because my grandpa talked so highly about him, and the only way he knew him was from his job, from his workplace.

Bill Hendricks
Wow.
Tristan Tenney
And so we started going to church there, and I felt like God was calling me into the ministry and I told him about it, and he gave me opportunity in the church to preach and to work on pastoral skills and I just thought about you know it was because of his faithful presence in the workplace that saw this chain of events that opened the door for me to be able to do ministry 40 years down the road.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah, amazing.
Tristan Tenney
Yeah, God is amazing.
Bill Hendricks
Well, I suppose there was a time historically when it was much more common for a pastor with a smaller congregation in a smaller village or something to visit people’s farms, to visit their shop, to visit their you know place where they work because the pastor was part of the community, and just got around and saw what people were doing.

Whereas today in these global cities that so many knowledge workers live and work in, you know, pastors have their campus where they hang out, and then the workers are all dispersed across the city, and it would almost feel odd if a pastor said hey Kevin, can I come visit your cubicle today?

Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And then you’d be like what’s up with that?
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And yet, in effect, that’s kinda what you guys have done.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
A half a day for two semesters to go visit people’s workplace, how did that work out for those people and for you?
Kevin Gottlieb
It was a great experience. I mean that was one of the highlights was being able to visit people’s work. So what we’d do is the seminary would get us in contact with a Christian business leader, and we would email with them and coordinate with them, and then we’d show up and the reception we got was incredible.

I mean they were so honored that – uh not even the pastor but just a student, like a Dallas Seminary student would show up at their workplace and take an interest in what they did.

Bill Hendricks
Why do you think that was?
Kevin Gottlieb
I think for a lot of them, for a lot of business people, I think they see their pastor as just being interested in their personal devotional life or their family life, and not really interested in their work life.

They may say hey, how is work going? Oh, it’s going good or oh, it’s not going good. Oh, okay, and then the pastor moves on, but to actually have someone in that type of authority or that type of spiritual realm come in and say hey, you know, tell me what you do, tell me why you do – why do you make the decisions you do?

What do you love about your job, what do you struggle with at your job? That was a huge honor for them and a lot of them, you know said man, I wish my pastor would come see what I do. I wish my pastor would take an interest in what I did, and not just in a passing way but in an intentional way.

Bill Hendricks
So in a way we’re sort of asking the question here, is there any reason why somebody who is in the pastorhood couldn’t do that? I mean that sounds like workers would actually welcome that.
Kevin Gottlieb
Mmm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
The pastor sometimes will make a home visit but why not make a workplace visit?
Kevin Gottlieb
Well I think some of that too is that – I was talking with another pastor about this and he said a lot of times there’s just a fear of not knowing. I don’t know what to say. You know I don’t know about the job.
Bill Hendricks
Because maybe they haven’t worked in the everyday work world in a corporation or something.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, I was talking with a pastor who had been in business for a while before he went into the pastorate, and he was saying a lot of times, pastors just don’t know about their jobs.

They don’t know what questions to ask, and so there’s kinda this awkward tension there, rather than the pastor going in with the humble attitude of learning, saying, hey, tell me. Tell me more about what you do, you know, allow me to learn here.

Bill Hendricks
Justin, what were some of the kinds of businesses that you visited?
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, so we went to some Edward Jones Offices, Financial Advisors.
Bill Hendricks
They do financial planning, right.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, um, went to a restaurant, ice cream shop. We went to —
Bill Hendricks
[Laughter.] Well, that sounds like fun.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, it was great. I took my kids back there later and we got ice cream.
Bill Hendricks
Oh but you got —
Kevin Gottlieb
[Laughter.]
Bill Hendricks
[Laughter.]
Kevin Gottlieb
We went to a travel agency that books trips, car dealership. So just a lot of different types of work environments; went to a couple construction companies and got to wear a hard had and go out on the job site.
Bill Hendricks
Wow.
Kevin Gottlieb
A couple of places I went to, it was actually really cool because they actually put me to work where I went —
Bill Hendricks
[Laughter.]
Kevin Gottlieb
And so it was just – it was good to be able to get in and rub elbows with the people doing the work that they were doing, and getting to talk about theology and God, and all at the same time.
Bill Hendricks
Were they interested in that?
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, it was amazing. We were in an office and there were several guys. We were all working on a project, rubbing elbows, and they had differing opinions on things, and they were able to very calmly talk about their opinions and their interpretations of things, and we never missed a beat. We kept on working and it was amazing.
Bill Hendricks
So it sounds like as you engaged with these workers, they certainly had questions or they had opinions or whatever. It sounds like you didn’t feel like a pressure that you had to have all the answers.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, and I think a lot of it too is I came in – both of us came in with an attitude of we’re learning.

You know, we’re here to learn about what you do and I think that type of attitude really opens the door for people to ask questions, because they know you’re not coming in saying here, I have all the answers, and then come in and start like lecturing you, but it’s hey, I’ve been coming in, and tell me what you do and why do you do it.

That opens the doors for great conversations because then they get to say well, why are you here, and then it actually – it allows you, it gives you a platform to share about the concept of faith and work being integrated.

Bill Hendricks
When they asked you why are you here, what did you tell them?
Kevin Gottlieb
Well, I would tell them I’m a student at Dallas Seminary, I’m training to go into pastoral ministry, and I have a passion of knowing what people face in the workplace, and I wanna know the various issues you deal with, what are the things you love, what are the things you hate?

What are the things that I could do as a pastor? So a lot of it was me looking forward and saying hey, I’m gonna be in the pastoral ministry one day.

What are things I should know, so that I can help people like you and they love that question. I think that question was really powerful because a lot of them were floored, they said no one has ever asked me that question.

Bill Hendricks
Wow.
Kevin Gottlieb
And I think it was really powerful.
Tristan Tenney
Just back of what Kevin said, I felt that that was one of the highlights for me as well is giving folks who maybe not necessarily didn’t have – they didn’t really maybe have a voice in matters of the church but they were able to give me suggestions and input —
Bill Hendricks
Yeah.
Tristan Tenney
— and their insights from the pew about what we could do better as a pastor or be more efficient with.
Bill Hendricks
Hmm.
Tristan Tenney
So I thought it was – I just took a very humble approach, like tell me what you think and how you feel.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah.
Tristan Tenney
And so —
Bill Hendricks
So it seems to me you demonstrated what we would call a form of servant leadership in that you came in the posture of a learner, not with somebody who had all the answers, just more like I wanna find out what you know that I might benefit from, or what your experience is that would help me do a better job of pastoring somebody like you.
Tristan Tenney
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
Did you run into any workplaces or any kinds of work that you came away thinking that is tough work, I would not wanna have to do that.
Tristan Tenney
Hmm.
Bill Hendricks
I’m thinking about your grandfather and the guy in the mine, the coal mine. To me that seems like tough work. I’m not sure I’d wanna do that but we don’t have any coal mines here in the metroplex.
Tristan Tenney
Yeah, I think probably one of the toughest was probably the construction work.
Bill Hendricks
Mmm-hmm.
Tristan Tenney
Those guys being out in the elements, especially like today. It’s over 100 degrees and —
Bill Hendricks
Yeah.
Tristan Tenney
— working on a roof, putting on shingles when it’s really hot. So —
Bill Hendricks
So what do you think would be from a pastoral perspective the kinds of issues those guys are facing up there on that hot roof? You know, the sun’s beating down and it’s reflecting off that – you know that black tar kinda paper that they put on there.
Tristan Tenney
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
What would be pastorally, do you think, some of the challenges those guys are dealing with?
Tristan Tenney
Yeah, I’m sure probably they’re wondering how does this really matter to God or is this – who else – does anybody care what I’m doing?
Bill Hendricks
Yeah.
Tristan Tenney
Is anybody concerned about the type of work I’m doing? There’s probably also on a day like today when it’s over 100 degrees, there’s probably thinking of an element of suffering.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah [laughter.]
Female
Weather up there.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, I – one of the places I visited was a start-up. It was actually the ice cream company that was a start-up, started by a guy who’s an entrepreneur and I think that’s a though life, in and of itself, because you have so much on the line.

As an entrepreneur, you invest. You know, you put your savings down sometimes, you do a mortgage on your house. A lot of times, you invest everything, and so if it fails, so do you and it’s —

Bill Hendricks
Right.
Kevin Gottlieb
So I think there’s that pressure and you know I saw that with this guy, and both my dad and my father-in-law are also entrepreneurs, and so I’ve seen people who invest a lot on the line.

They put a lot out there and it’s a risk, and so like they come to church with that burden, knowing that I have to make this work because if I don’t, you know, it’s not that I just lose a job. I lose everything I’ve invested in it, and so I think knowing that, that they’re carrying that burden and I think adds – it adds a way of pastorally caring for them.

Bill Hendricks
Absolutely. It also sounds like the makings of a great sort of analogy for a sermon, you know.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
This guy’s put all – he’s put it all on the line.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
If it doesn’t work and it’s —
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
— you know I think of you know God having put all on the line for our salvation. I mean he put everything he had when he sent his son into our salvation.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And obviously being God, he knew that was what I needed to do but from the standpoint of risk —
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
— it sort of helps you sort of grasp what was in God’s heart, that he would risk all that.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And but it also helps that entrepreneur and the people that know entrepreneurs in a congregation realize wow, my pastor kinda gets it. He really empathizes with my situation here.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And that’s gotta mean a lot.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, I mean I think like you said doing a fellowship like this definitely impacts how you preach as well. You’re not just —
Bill Hendricks
Yeah, talk more about that.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, because I mean using that — you could use that example in a sermon and yeah, the person in your pew who is in that situation hears it and goes wow, they understand.

You can use illustrations that connect with people’s workplaces and that – that validates their experiences in a sense because then they’re – you’re not just using examples from the home life or from their personal and devotional life, but you’re using an example that’s very relevant and tangible to them.

I mean one of the things you’re taught in preaching class is to make things tangible.

Bill Hendricks
Kinda like the parables?
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, exactly.
Tristan Tenney
[Laughter.]
Bill Hendricks
Making – in the Gospel?
Kevin Gottlieb
And Jesus did that. I mean he knew the people around him. He was able to use farming analogies, like very earthy analogy that everyone knew and everyone got.
Bill Hendricks
Tristan, how will it affect your preaching?
Tristan Tenney
Yeah, so I know the sites that I went to, there was always a one-liner that was like a punch in the gut that I – after I left the rest of the week.
Bill Hendricks
You mean like a slogan on the wall or something?
Tristan Tenney
Yeah, or like somebody would say something and —
Bill Hendricks
Or, said it, okay.
Tristan Tenney
And – and I would be – I would just like meditate on – dwell on it for the entire week. It was just so impactful and just also, all the illustrations.

I talk to pastors that say they use a workplace illustration in their sermon every week, or maybe even including some of the people in your congregation.

I was talking to a guy who said that he empowered the people in his church to give him illustrations that they had encountered —

Bill Hendricks
Wow.
Tristan Tenney
— themselves from their work —
Bill Hendricks
Interesting.
Tristan Tenney
— or through their own activities and he tried to use one of those every week.
Bill Hendricks
Wow, that has to really connect and again, show those people that their pastor is in their world in a very powerful way.
Kevin Gottlieb
Mmm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
Talk to me about from some – from a theological standpoint, because here at the Seminary, we do theology, which means we really try to understand God’s mind on given subjects.
Tristan Tenney
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
What were some of the theological issues that you became more aware of, or got more insight into, as a result of participating in these fellowships?
Kevin Gottlieb
I think one of the big things is realizing, going back to what I’d said at the beginning, the integrated life that’s I think we’ve separated our life, we’ve separated things into spheres that aren’t connected, and realizing that God cares about what we do and he cares – and what we do actually is a way of giving glory to God and it’s a way of – I mean I think the problem is we have such a narrow view of work that I work just for a paycheck.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Kevin Gottlieb
So that then I can give it to the church, where actually you know, your work brings glory to God. It provides a platform for which you can share the Gospel.

I mean I have a – I know a guy who is an Atheist and you know he has Christian co-workers, and because they’re lazy and they don’t work hard, he doesn’t respect them, so they can share the Gospel with him but it doesn’t matter because he doesn’t respect them because of their work and uh —

Bill Hendricks
Well, that’s so important. We have a friend that I know you guys know, Steve Ramzur works for a big real estate conglomerate, and we have a podcast with him on his experience of doing that, and that’s one of the points that he made is that you have to do your work with excellence as a Christian because that’s what gives you credibility with your co-workers. If people don’t respect your work, it doesn’t matter what you say.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
In a sense, it doesn’t even matter how nice, or kind, or generous a person you are.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
They won’t listen to you.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, your work speaks for itself.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah.
Kevin Gottlieb
And the quality of your work speaks in a way that’s powerful. I mean I have – I have a brother-in-law who is in advertising, and because he puts so much effort into his work and he really tries to make a good product, it’s given him a platform because his bosses can come to him and say hey, not only do you do good work but you have a great attitude about it, and you know they will listen to him when he talks.
Bill Hendricks
So let me take the point that you just made about the theological principle that we need a broader view of work, and that our work matters to God, and that it’s intended to glorify God.

Let’s apply it sort of pastorally to the guy that Tristan mentioned who is up there, you know, on the roof with his co-workers, in the hot sun, you know, sweating like a dog and just hating life, and wondering why do I have to do this job?

And I should have listened to my mom more and studied harder in school, and you know this work has to be a curse. Like where would you even start with a guy like that, because there’s a lot of them out there.

Kevin Gottlieb
I mean I think you could just start with the incarnation. When Jesus came down, he didn‘t come down and like sit around and not work. He worked for the majority of his life, before he even started his ministry.

He was a carpenter. He worked with his hands. He was out there in the sun probably – this was a guy who understood probably —

Bill Hendricks
Didn’t have to sweat, yeah.
Kevin Gottlieb
Probably more so, he probably related more so with the guy on the roof than the person sitting in the cubicle.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah.
Kevin Gottlieb
Because he knew what it was like to be out in the hot sun, and to work hard like that. So —
Bill Hendricks
Yeah, and then talk to this guy about his work somehow glorifies God. That for many people is a hard thought to put together.
Tristan Tenney
Well I think the Bible says that whatever we do, do it as unto the Lord, and that means everything, not just what we do at church but you know, the things that we do on our job; and I think if we see that I’m putting this roof on but I’m gonna do it the best that I can for the glory of God, because I don’t know why maybe that I’m putting this roof on.

Maybe it’s to shelter families who are oppressed or are in some kind of – you know, diverse or difficult financial situation that —

Bill Hendricks
Right.
Tristan Tenney
— you know we don’t always know the stories behind everything but we have to do everything that we do for God’s glory, so that he gets all the credit for it.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
Well, and as you point out it’s somewhat of a bi-faith effort. We also don’t know what the fruit of our labors, who that’s going to benefit and how.

You know, one of the things that we often talk about, we meaning Dr. Bock and I talk about is the web of economic relationships that there are in the world and so you know, he likes to take a bowl of Wheaties, you know –

Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
— and say what did it take to bring that bowl of Wheaties to you? And well, you know, somebody had to grow the wheat that goes in there, and somebody else got the milk that goes in there, and of course somebody had to transport that stuff to the store, and of course the store had to employ people to sell it.

And somebody had to finance all that, and somebody had to educate the people that did all that work, and somebody has to care for their health needs, and somebody has to care for their spiritual needs.

Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And pretty soon you realize that even something seemingly as simple as putting a roof on, that’s part of a wide web of interlocking relationships.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
Which Genesis 1 says is intended to cause the world and its people to flourish.
Kevin Gottlieb
And I think it also connects with the body imagery that Paul uses about the church.
Bill Hendricks
The different gifts.
Kevin Gottlieb
You have all these parts that, they need each other to function, and I think seeing our work as a necessary part of causing society to flourish is a powerful way of looking at it, because I think a lot of times we put jobs in certain categories.

We say this is a more important job than this, you know, this is a job of higher honor, but Paul says don’t do that in the body of Christ because don’t say that oh, this person does this, therefore, they’re more valuable.

Every part is needed. Even the ones that seem menial are actually really important because without them, the body can’t function properly, and so even in the economy we shouldn’t – I think there’s a tendency to talk down about blue collar jobs, or you know —

Bill Hendricks
Working class jobs.
Kevin Gottlieb
— yeah, or entry level jobs, as if they’re of less quality, but if we don’t have those, our economy stalls out.
Bill Hendricks
That’s right.
Kevin Gottlieb
We need that.
Bill Hendricks
You know it reminds me of a hotel here in the Metroplex that is owned and operated by a Christian family, and it was actually a very large hotel.

There were some people in West Dallas, which as you know is an impoverished community, and they needed jobs, but they needed jobs where they didn’t – you know some of them didn’t have high school educations.

Some of them frankly don’t speak English but they need to work, and so what this hotel did was arrange to transport these folks to the hotel from West Dallas, and trained them in how to service the rooms.

And you know from one point of view you think oh great, they give you a job of cleaning the toilet, you know.

Kevin Gottlieb
Mmm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
But if you ask those people, they don’t see it that way, because what the hotel has done is help them see that you’re not just cleaning a bathroom here.

You’re providing a clean and hospitable place for travelers and people that come to the city to visit, to work, to carry on transactions and so forth, you’re providing them with a place that’s inviting and that’s healthy, and you have a huge part in that.

And the people are – they get a tremendous sense of meaning in their work and of course, it helps that they also get paid to do that work.

Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And so it’s a win-win for all concerned.
Tristan Tenney
Yeah, it’s kinda like the guy who said that I have to mow my yard today, when it’s all in perspective if you think that no, I get to mow my yard, I have a yard that I get to mow.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah, absolutely. So as you’ve interacted with other students on campus, are you guys seen as a bit of an odd duck? You know most people are not going to workplaces.

They’re going to internships and churches to you know learn how to work with youth, or learn how to do discipleship programs or you know, whatever.

Tristan Tenney
Yeah, I think the students are interested in the issues of faith and work. I started my internship a couple of months ago, and one of the initial things we have to do is make a post, a video of ourself telling a little bit about who we are, and then we have to ask a question for our group to respond to, and I ask the group what is something that you think I should focus on as a pastor, that maybe you didn’t see your pastor do well, that I could do or focus on.

And the first person that posted a video said Tristan, if you’re gonna be a pastor, I think that you should get experience in the workplace [laughter.]

Bill Hendricks
Wow.
Tristan Tenney
Because I never heard my pastor speak about that at all.
Bill Hendricks
[Laughter.]
Tristan Tenney
So I thought man, that is so cool.
Bill Hendricks
And you’re able to say check, I got that.
Tristan Tenney
Yeah, yes. I think the students are very interested to know that it’s something that people in the church are – need to hear about.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah. What’s been your experience with other students, Kevin?
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, I mean I echo what Tristan said, and there’s a lot of interest, and when you bring it up, it prompts discussion. I was in the spiritual formation group for two years on campus where you get together with guys, and you talk about really deep spiritual issues, and one of the topics we actually talked a lot about was faith and work, the integration of faith in our work.

And it came up because of my fellowship and I have a – one of the guys in the group wants to go to Japan and be a missionary, and Japan has a very intense workplace culture, and because of the fellowship, because we talked about it, you know he’s now excited to see an integration of faith and work in a Japanese context.

So just because of that discussion, you know he wants to go find a way to speak into that work culture. So I think that’s been one of the cool outcomes of this.

Bill Hendricks
So the intent of this fellowship is in no way to say that the work that pastors do at a – at their church, aside from the preaching, they’ve got responsibilities usually with committee work and board work, and pastoral care and visits, and just all the things that pastors have on their plates, which is enormous. It’s a very difficult job.

We’re not saying they should stop all that and somehow spend all their day in people’s workplaces, but we’re saying keep doing that but do it from the standpoint that the people you’re trying to pastor are workers, and you need to understand their context.

Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, and one of the pastors I met with who – he was the guy I mentioned earlier. He was a business person before he became a pastor. You know, one of the things he does is he tries to get lunch several times a week with different people from his church, and he asks them specifically about their work.
Bill Hendricks
Hmm.
Kevin Gottlieb
He asks some really specific questions and he tries to understand that so that he can integrate that stuff you know like Tristan said into the sermon, and I think just that interest in their work.

It doesn’t have to be you devote this huge span of time, but even just the small things about checking in on them and seeing how they’re doing is really powerful.

Tristan Tenney
Yeah, I think the relational aspect of it is so powerful. A lot of people maybe necessarily don’t know their pastor very well. They see him on Sunday morning, and they hear him speak, and they really don’t know a whole lot about him other than what he discloses from the pulpit.

But I know in my experience through the fellowship, being able to go to different workplaces, I was able to build relationships with people, friendships that in turn I felt like they were – they were mentoring me as well.

Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Tristan Tenney
Able to have some meaningful relationships insomuch that one of the guys, even during my preaching classes, he came and offered support. He came and sat in the class while I was preaching in PM104.
Kevin Gottlieb
Wow, yeah.
Tristan Tenney
So I think a pastor needs those meaningful relationships as well, because I know for me sometimes you feel like —
Bill Hendricks
Yeah, you’re all alone.
Tristan Tenney
— you don’t have a lot of those [laughter.]
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
You know, the Gallup Polling Organization keeps track of a statistic that they call employee engagement, and that means the extent to which a worker feels engaged with their work; that is they find meaning in it, they feel a sense of connection at an emotional soul level with it.

It means something to them. It’s important to them, and they would say they really love their job. They certainly feel it’s an important part of their life.

They’ve been keeping that statistic since about 2000 and basically what it shows is that about 70 percent of American workers are not engaged with their work. It’s just a job, you know.

Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
It’s just a necessarily evil, you’ve gotta make some money.
Kevin Gottlieb
Mmm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
So they go to work but you know their heart’s not in it.
Kevin Gottlieb
Mmm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
You know, whenever I go to the airport and get in a plane, and I like the window seat, and I look out there and I watch the guys, you know, that are working on the engine to get the flight ready, I often think you know I hope that guy is part of the 30 percent that you know, feels engaged with their work.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
I hope he didn’t come to work today thinking oh, let’s get this over with, you know.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
Because he might miss a step in here, you know.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
I was at the dentist yesterday, you know, and imagine going to the dentist and you’re sitting in a waiting room, and the dentist comes back late from lunch and you’re the next appointment and he – you know as he walks through, he says to the receptionist, all right, let’s get this over with, you know.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Tristan Tenney
[Laughter.]
Bill Hendricks
I mean we need people that are engaged in their work, but this is apparently a huge problem in our culture which I mean on average that means that 70 percent of the people in a given congregation, their heart is not in their work and what are some things you think pastors could do to help people who are in that condition?
Tristan Tenney
Yeah, so I think – I know for myself, I made the pastoral mistake of preaching from the pulpit that all that matters is that we get saved, and nothing else matters after that.
Bill Hendricks
Hmm.
Tristan Tenney
And you know I realize now how wrong that statement was because now that I know God and am connected to God, everything should matter now and not just church but —
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Tristan Tenney
— since God is in my life, that he should pervade and inform every aspect of my life, and I think helping folks realize that helps them realize that – so when I – you know helps them see their workplace as maybe a mission field that they can go to.

And if they view it as that way that I think maybe would be more engaged, and when you’re engaged, you’re looking for opportunities; opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ, opportunities just to be a faithful presence maybe in the workplace.

Bill Hendricks
Right. What do you think, Kevin?
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, I think there’s a need for a pastoral voice to speak into workplace issues. So you know you think about it, I mean people who are struggling in their marriage will often go to a pastor for counseling and for advice on how to fix their marriage.

But people don’t often think oh, I’m still at my work, I should go to my pastor for advice, but I think if pastors could put themselves in that situation where their congregation knows they’re available.

So if you know like oh, I’m dealing with a bad boss, they can go to their pastor and say hey, you know, here’s a situation I’m dealing with. How should I – how can I handle this, and the pastor can then speak into it.

I think that’ll help workplace engagement because I think a lot of Christians in the pews are – they go to work and they feel like they’re alone there, that no one – you know all they know how to do is maybe complain to their fellow co-workers.

But if they had a pastoral voice they could talk to and get reflection on, I think that would help them.

Bill Hendricks
Well, and there’s a big theological piece here too, because I think theologically many in the 70 percent, I’m willing to bet, they view work as a curse.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
You know, Bill, why do you think they call it work?
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
I mean that’s kinda their attitude. You’re not supposed to like it.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And yet we know from Genesis and other passages, work is not a curse. Work was instituted before the fall. It was certainly affected by the fall but work itself is inherently good.
So if we run into a person for whom their work feels like a curse, then pastorally seems like we have both a responsibility as well as an opportunity to begin to speak into that, and first of all, reframe their theology but then ask the question, so if your work is something you’re having a difficult time putting your heart into, you know, you’ve mentioned Colossians 3
23, do you work heartily as unto the Lord?

It’s very difficult to put heart into work that your heart’s not in. You know, now you have to gin up energy.

Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And I think this brings us in part to the issue of job fit, and whether one’s giftedness that we’ve talked about on other podcasts is being well-used in the work that the person has.
Kevin Gottlieb
Mmm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
I think pastors are in an ideal slot to talk to the person about let’s evaluate the fit that you’ve got here between who you are in your strengths and your motivation —
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
— and what you’re being asked to do, and ask the question do you think this is the best job to use what God has given you, because if not, that person will be frustrated. It just always works that way.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, I think that’s – because when people talk about going back to what we said about work is a curse, it’s amazing that the same people then go often on the side, invest so much in a hobby or some other passion where they’re actually working very hard —
Bill Hendricks
Tremendous energy.
Kevin Gottlieb
— and they’re – but they believe in what they’re doing and they see value in what they’re doing, and they love to do what they do, and so as a pastor, making those connections, so you know actually, your problem is not work.

Your problem is maybe the type of job you’re in, or your attitude towards work, or maybe management or something so that you can then as well.

Bill Hendricks
Absolutely, well think about it, you know, somebody comes to you as a pastor and says you know, pastor I just – I’m under so much stress or pastor, I’m just feeling depressed these days, and I don’t know what’s up with that, or pastor, would you pray for me? Because I just seem to get into conflicts at work a lot.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
You know, there’s always sort of the presenting issue but then you just have to think so where’s the source of that.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And think how much stress and depression, and addictions, and other problems that humans get into might sort of – I don’t wanna say just go away but certainly begin to be minimized if people suddenly found themselves doing work that really was important to them, and they felt valued, they felt this is worth my effort and I’m getting paid to do it.

You know like these folks that I mentioned working at the hotel, cleaning those rooms. You know that’s not easy work but that’s a lot better life than you know sitting on a porch in West Dallas with nothing to do.

Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
Nothing good is gonna come from that.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
So you mentioned I thought it was a great point, Kevin, that pastors are – pastors need to do what pastors are supposed to do which is to be pastors, to act pastorally, serve pastorally, the people that are in their congregations.

And I don’t wanna overlook the fact that many times what people in the workplace need is a prayer, or is a word of encouragement from scripture, or a perspective sort of theologically on God’s mind on a given matter.

It’s interesting that we apply the spiritual disciplines to certain spiritual categories. So you know if somebody’s gonna go on a mission trip, we call them down front, we pray over them and you know —

Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
— if somebody’s gonna get married, we might even encourage them to spend some time fasting and praying over the marriage that’s coming up and this type of thing.

But I don’t know, when’s the last time you ever heard somebody go to their pastor and say listen, I need to call a prayer meeting because I’m getting ready to make a key higher and we can’t get this wrong, and I just need the Lord’s mind on this thing; would you help me organize that?

Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
Or you know, a board that’s getting ready to sell a company, you know, say guys, this is gonna affect so many people and so much money is involved, we’re just gonna have to devote you know, three days of prayer and fasting to this before we pull the trigger on that deal.
Kevin Gottlieb
Mmm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
You know, would we see in the workplace some spectacular moves of God in ways that we see similar movements of God in the mission field, you know or in crisis situations where we’ve gotta fix a problem, and unless God shows up, we’re in trouble.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, I think that’s – I think you would number one see God moving more because we’re actually focusing our prayer on that, we’re actually focusing our energies on that, and I think you would also see – it goes back to the people seeing their work differently.

When you are praying – when you are publicly praying over someone’s work, it suddenly adds value to it, and I think the problem is in the church what we’ve done is because we only pray for missionaries and people doing quote-unquote ministry, therefore those are the most spiritual categories that you know, unless you’re a pastor or missionary, bible teacher or something like that, you are a second-class citizen.

Bill Hendricks
Right.
Kevin Gottlieb
But if we could elevate that, suddenly it changes everything where people say no, my work does matter because my pastor took the time to pray for me when I was about to make a decision about where I should work or, you know, a big deal I was about to make.
Tristan Tenney
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
Tristan, your thoughts?
Tristan Tenney
I was a pastor for 11 years and I don’t think I ever heard anything like that [laughter], anybody ask for a prayer request like that, and maybe it was my fault. I’m gonna take ownership of that because I don’t think I created a place that maybe they felt comfortable or maybe they felt valued in what they were doing to be able to ask something like that.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
Well I remember you telling me the story once of back when you were in the pastorate, before coming to the seminary you realized after this fellowship or in the middle of the fellowship that you would frequently – you’d say something to the congregation like let’s just push aside all the sort of things that don’t matter or something like that. Do you remember what I’m talking about?
Tristan Tenney
Yeah, so we would come in the church and you know maybe I’m the only one that done this but I’m pretty sure that I’m not.
Kevin Gottlieb
No.
Tristan Tenney
But we would come in the church and say something like when the sermon started, okay, so we’re here to worship God tonight. Let’s leave everything else outside the door and let’s just worship God while we’re here.

And it was one of those things that I didn’t realize it at the time but it was enforcing that dichotomy, that divide between faith and work that you know, those things you know what I should have been saying is bring – no, bring all those things in here in your brokenness.

Bill Hendricks
Right.
Tristan Tenney
And let’s talk to God about him in here, while we’re here.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah.
Tristan Tenney
Instead of forgetting about them and pretending like they don’t exist, and pretend like it’s a different part of our life or a different life that we’re living. Let’s bring it all in here to God.
Bill Hendricks
Wow. Did you have any sense with any of the folks you visited that in a way to talk about their work that not — you know preaching is one thing but meddling is another, you know and you get into their work, and their finances and all that stuff.
Kevin Gottlieb
Are you asking if they thought it was meddling or —
Bill Hendricks
Yeah.
Kevin Gottlieb
No, they actually – I mean they were really excited to share about what they were going through and some of the challenges they were facing. I don’t think they saw it as invasive at all. I mean as long as you’re respectful.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah.
Kevin Gottlieb
As long as you’re coming into it with humility, I think people are really eager to talk about their work and they’re really eager to talk about what they’re facing there.
Tristan Tenney
Yeah, so a couple of weeks ago, we went back home to West Virginia to visit and I actually intentionally preached a couple of faith and work sermons that I had put together —
Bill Hendricks
Good for you.
Tristan Tenney
— as a result of the fellowship things that I’d learned and seen in scriptures and um – and so what I’ve received some feedback on that is I had guys come up afterwards and say man, I never thought about my work as worship.
Bill Hendricks
Hmm.
Tristan Tenney
You know I never thought about my work as a place of discipleship.
Bill Hendricks
That’s great.
Tristan Tenney
And so it got the wheels turning in their own minds about some things.
Bill Hendricks
So what you’re sort of illustrating here is a premise I’ve been working with recently, that the success of a church is in a sense not so much what happens on Sunday inside the church. It’s what happens on Monday when the people that were going to church go into the workplace.
Kevin Gottlieb
Yeah, I mean that – there’s —
Bill Hendricks
We’re gonna have to wrap it up here, sorry.
Kevin Gottlieb
Okay, yeah.
Bill Hendricks
But thank you for being with us on The Table podcast today where we look at issues of culture and God. We invite you to look at other Table podcasts on the Hendricks Center website, and we’ll see you back for the next podcast.
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Bill Hendricks
Bill Hendricks is Executive Director for Christian Leadership at the Center and President of The Giftedness Center, where he serves individuals making key life and career decisions. A graduate of Harvard, Boston University, and DTS, Bill has authored or co-authored twenty-two books, including “The Person Called YOU: Why You’re Here, Why You Matter & What You Should Do With Your Life.” He sits on the Steering Committee for The Theology of Work Project.
Kevin Gottlieb
Kevin Gottlieb, a student at Dallas Theological Seminary in the master of theology program, is the distinguished recipient of the 2016-2017 William N. Garrison Faith-and-Work Fellowship. Selected by Mr. Bill Hendricks, executive director for Christian Leadership, and Dr. Darrell Bock, executive director of Cultural Engagement and senior research professor of New Testament Studies, Kevin was commended by his colleagues for his work and ministry experience while pursuing his theology degree from DTS-Washington DC.
Tristan Tenney
Tristan Tenney, a student at Dallas Theological Seminary in the master of theology program, is the distinguished recipient of the 2017-2018 William N. Garrison Faith-and-Work Fellowship. Tristan plans to work as a senior pastor following graduation. He currently works as a registered nurse for JPS Health Network at the Tarrant County Jail in Fort Worth, Texas.
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