Worship through work

A few weeks ago I listened to theologian and former pastor Dr Matthew Kaemynck discuss a theology of work that completely transformed my way of thinking about it.

I have been working on and off, full-time or part-time, for about 8 years now, from starting with a few hours a week dropping ads through people’s doors, to my current job working full-time at a digital marketing agency.

Throughout this timeline, I have been aware to varying degrees of the idea that work – normal, commercial work – can be an act of worship. It fits right into the Christian idea that everything from breathing upwards, can be an act of worship if one wills it to be so.

I also hold the belief that Christians should not refer to music on a Sunday morning, or a particular genre of Christian music, as ‘worship,’ as if the term is limited to a very narrow form of musical expression. We are particularly guilty of this in Western charismatic churches. Even the term ‘worship service,’ though it broadens the scope to the whole hour or two on a Sunday, is misleading.

But, like with so many things, it’s been hard to put this belief into practise. Sure, I can say that everything can be worship, even commercial work, but actually living as if that’s the case is another matter. Worship can be many things, but I’m not sure that it can be completely involuntary and if I can’t see how to worship through work, then I’m probably not doing a great job of it.

Now we return to Dr Matthew Kaemynck. The American theologian is a professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, and spoke recently on the Reconstruct Podcast about theology and culture. The topics on the episode were wide-ranging, but some of the things he said about being a Christian in the workplace struck me.

It really all boils down to one thing. If you want to be a Christian at work, ask yourself this question as much as you can:

How can I do this in a way that pleases God?

There is always an answer to that question, regardless of what job you’re doing. In my job, sometimes that answer is nothing more than taking my headphones out when I know my music is stopping me doing as good a job researching something, or talking to clients in a certain way, or writing articles that can be genuinely positive and impactful, rather than the easiest topics.

None of these are big things. None of these are even especially different from what my non-Christian colleagues would do, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I conduct myself in a way that I believe is pleasing to God and that I do so consciously, aware of the simple fact that my actions can be worship.

What’s surprised me the most about this is how it’s a way of worshipping that is completely free of guilt. When I ask myself how the task at hand could be pleasing to God, I don’t do so with a negative motivation – that if I don’t do the task in a certain way, God will be unhappy. I simply offer everything as a gift to God, freely given, because I want to.

And what more is there to living a life of worship than that? What more can there be to it than pleasing God because you want to? We can so easily over-spiritualise worship, or set ourselves unattainable standards that we feel guilty falling short of. I know, I’ve done that plenty of times.

I’ve stood there on a Sunday morning or evening, feeling disengaged with the music and distant from God. I believed the lie I told myself that worship had to look a certain way, had to feel a certain way. I turned worship into a ritual and forgot that the components of worship that Jesus identified were spirit and truth.

To me, that sounds like God simply wants us to choose to give him whatever is at hand, whatever we’re doing, no matter where we are or how we feel. We can do that by asking one simple question:

How can I do this in a way that pleases God?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. cj says:

    Hi Ben. Our whole livessel as worship is what it is about as you so well express. If you have not come across it you might find “Thank God it’s Monday” by Mark Green unpacking how we work as Christians. Or Google LICC.

  2. cj says:

    “Greene” actually

  3. bengarry says:

    Thanks CJ, I’ll check it out when I get a chance!

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