“For many of us who work, there exists an exasperating discontinuity between how we see ourselves as persons and how we see ourselves as workers. We need to eliminate that sense of discontinuity and to restore a sense of coherence in our lives. Work should be and can be rewarding, meaningful and maturing, enriching and fulfilling, healing and joyful. Work is one of our greatest privileges. Work can even be poetic.”

+ from Max De Pree, in Leadership Is an Art. De Pree was for many years the CEO of Herman Miller Inc., whose iconic business furniture graces many Fuller offices. A sought-after lecturer and writer on work culture and organizational leadership, De Pree is a Fuller senior trustee. Fuller Seminary’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership was established in his honor in 1996.

Photos from a De Pree Center event at Fuller Seminary+  Lord Brian Griffiths of Goldman Sachs discusses the relationships between faith and global economic contexts with Fuller Trustee Mary Vermeer Andringa, CEO of Vermeer Corporation, during “Faith, Leadership, and the Global Marketplace,” an event hosted by the De Pree Center in 2015. (Left to right: Griffiths, Andringa, President Mark Labberton, and Mark Roberts. Hear more here.)


A Theology of Work

Portrait of Mark D. Roberts, Executive Director of the De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller for FULLER magazine“God works by speaking all things into existence. Yet this is work, real work. This truth is clarified in the last part of the first creation story where it says, ‘And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had done’ (Gen 2:2). If the notion of God as a worker seems strange to you, remember what Jesus said in John 5:17, ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working.’ . . . God is a worker, the first worker, the one who shows us the essential value of work.

“If God is a worker, indeed, the Worker, then we have the opportunity to be like God as we work. What we do today may be less glorious than speaking creation into existence, but, nevertheless, our work can be a conscious and worshipful imitation of God’s own work. Through our work, we can live into our calling as God’s people, sharing with God in the good work of helping creation to be fruitful and beautiful.”

+ Mark D. Roberts is the new executive director for the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller. This reflection is quoted from Life for Leaders, a daily devotional blog of which he is the principal writer and editor.

“Work is an expression of our worship, because all of life is a sacred act of worship. But, even if what we do changes, who we are and to whom we belong doesn’t. In all our endeavors, whether it is ministry and service related, a work assignment, or the ways in which we live out our relationships, whose we are and to whom we belong, namely Christ himself, doesn’t change. Christ is the one in whom we can find all meaning and purpose, and to whom we can offer ourselves fully for the sake of what he calls us to.”

+ Lucy Atim is the program coordinator for Cascade Fellows, a new initiative started by Fuller’s Institute for Theology and Northwest Culture in partnership with Seattle-area churches and marketplace ministries. Working professionals join learning communities over nine months to receive theological training and pastoral care.

“Even the retiree who leaves after 25+ years will be called by God to another calling, even if their paid work experience is over. Every season of call, things look differently. While at the beginning of your career you may have had young kids, as you get into the middle or late part of life, those children will require less of you, and you will be released to serve (time-wise) in different ways. While in the middle of your career you may be traveling a lot, later on you may be able to stay more centralized, opening up your life to new avenues in that time and space. What we are called to do is be faithful in the season God has us in.”

+ Shannon Vandewarker is a fellow in the Cascade Fellows program.

“In an ever-changing marketplace, Christians are constantly witnesses to new manifestations of exploitation, prejudice, and dehumanization. With these destructive elements come corresponding new and exciting opportunities for redemptive work that must be seized.

“There is no uniform list or blueprint of rules, guidelines, or steps to incarnating the God-shaped imagination in the workplace. Each person with a discerning faith must write her own. This is the terrifying and yet exciting truth that lies at the heart of the faith-at-work movement. Creation-redemption unfolds uniquely in 10,000 workplaces.”

+ from Matthew Kaemingk [PhD ’13], executive director of the Institute for Theology and Northwest Culture at Fuller Northwest, in an essay for Comment magazine.

An illustration by Fuller alum Eric Tai for FULLER magazine

“Business has a vital role in seeking the well-being of human society, and in the God-ordained stewardship of all of creation. In fact, businesses contribute to this in ways that impact different dimensions of life than can be touched by churches, mission agencies, or other non-profit organizations. In other words, business activity is at the heart of the purposes of God—if it takes God’s purposes to heart.”

+ from Timothy Dearborn [ThM ’80], director of the Lloyd John Ogilvie Institute of Preaching, in his book Business as a Holy Calling? A Workbook for Christians in Business and Their Pastors.

“When work becomes one’s sole focus, its nature as vocation (as “calling,” vocare, from God) is easily denied, work for its own sake becoming wrongly equated with service to God. . . . For us as Christians, work is never the central measure of our worth. In Christ we are children of God and are fully accepted as such. From the perspective of Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection, we simply do not need to worry about our worth based on the success of our endeavors. We need only be faithful to our calling.

“Our central task as Christians is not to maximize either our work or our play while minimizing the other, nor to merge our work with our play. Instead, Christians are created and called to consecrate both their work and their play. As we have seen, play is God’s appointment, his gift to humankind which is meant to relativize and refresh our endeavors, putting them in their God-intended perspective.”

+ from Robert K. Johnston, professor of theology and culture, in Christians at Play.

“In the broadest sense of call, people can and should be affirmed to live God’s call as faithful disciples in whatever work setting they may find themselves. This is an enactment of their human identity and value, of their call to love God with all they are, and to love their neighbors (bosses, colleagues, clients, and so on) as themselves. It means seeking to enact God’s love and justice toward any we touch or know about through our work and its impact.

“This may mean watching for people who need attention or encouragement. It may mean thinking creatively about how to make the workplace more human and more fruitful. It may mean being willing to speak up about workplace injustices or about inequities that might affect morale and performance, especially for those on the lower end of the pay scale.

“More specifically, those of us who can make choices about the types of work we do . . . can ask God to guide us in the best use of our skills and abilities in relation to work. Here’s where all the distinctions of personality, temperament, ability, and circumstances say a great deal to us about what we do with our work life. Making wise choices about this means we can make as strong a contribution as possible to the stewardship of the earth, the workplace, and the society at large.”

+  from Mark Labberton, president of Fuller, in his book Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today.

Further Reading

Leadership Is An Art
Max De Pree (Crown Business, 2004)

Business as a Holy Calling? A Workbook for Christians in Business and Their Pastors
Tim Dearborn (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2014)

Life Is Not Work/Work Is Not Life: Simple Reminders for Finding Balance in a 24/7 World
Robert K. Johnston and J. Walker Smith (Wildcat Canyon Press, 2001)

Christians at Play
Robert K. Johnston (Wipf & Stock, 1997)

Available Classes

Spiritual Formation and Discipleship in a Postmodern World (DMin)
Spiritual Traditions and Practices
with Richard Peace (and other faculty)
Integration of Spirituality and Urban Ministry with Joseph R. Colletti
The Spiritual Disciplines with Richard Peace
Christian Discipleship in a Secular Society with Erin Dufault-Hunter
Calling: The History, Theology, and Experience of Christian Vocation with Eric Jacobsen