Workplace Discipleship 101, David W. Gill. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2020.
Summary: A practical guide to living as a follower in one’s workplace focused on how we get ready for our work, impact our workplace, and beyond our workplace.
As a teenager who had been raised in a Christian home and church, one of the things I struggled with in high school was making the connection between Sunday, and Monday through Saturday. Had it not been for the Jesus movement and later, the collegiate ministry I was involved with, I may have walked away from Christianity. To say Jesus is Lord but then live six days a week as if he has nothing to do with them seemed just a wee bit inconsistent. Atheism seemed more consistent and less hypocritical.
David Gill writes out of a similar conviction. Observing that we spend the largest part of our waking hours at work, Gill contends it only makes sense for those of us who follow Jesus to learn how we may do so during those hours. He then proceeds to give us a book (part of Hendrickson’s “Theology of Work” series) grounded solidly in a theology of both discipleship and work and incredibly practical in its applications.
The book is organized in three parts. The first considers how we might “get ready for our work.” He begins by inviting us to commit to be a workplace disciple and share it with someone else who won’t let us evade that commitment. He then writes about prayer, both crisis prayers and ongoing prayer with models of workplace prayers and even how to use the Lord’s prayer in praying about our work. He addresses the other side of our communication with God in listening to Him in scripture, understanding it as centered around Jesus and God’s mission in the world, and then offers ways to engage the scriptures personally and in groups. He urges us not to go it alone but to have a “posse” of the like-minded and offers helps for forming such a group. Finally, Gill believes we need to be lifelong learners, and particularly commends the importance of reading (I knew there was a reason I liked this guy). He makes extensive suggestions of books to get us started on a theology of work.
Having gotten us ready for work, the second part of the book speaks of our impact as Christians at work. First of all it means aligning our work with God. After looking at God the worker, he makes recommendations about understanding our gifted passions and pursuing them as disciples of Christ. Our model as imitators of Christ is a big part of our impact, living with the qualities of righteousness, peacemaking, and joy. He encourages us to be light in our workplaces, bringing the unique insights and questions that our shaped by our reading of scripture, with humility but without apology. We don’t have to say, “the Bible says,” but simply, “what do you think of this?” As we live in these ways, we will have chances to share our faith. As we listen to others, they will be ready to listen to us. Gill suggests various ways we might initiate but concludes “that the best time to share the gospel is when someone asks you about it and wants to hear your answer” (p. 163). Sometimes we will be confronted with wrongdoing or conflict in the workplace, and the challenge here is to be overcomers. He talks about how to identify serious wrongdoing in the workplace and how to address conflict with humility, courage and prayer.
The final part of the book moves beyond our workplace with a number of ideas of how we may contribute the gifts and skills we use in the workplace to the benefit of the wider church. His last chapter is on rest and the importance of sabbath in our lives as workers. He contends that intentional efforts to schedule and set aside sabbath, vacations, date nights, and periodically, longer sabbaticals, is crucial to gaining control of our time.
The text is broken up with periodic “chalkboards” summarizing key points and chapters conclude with a “to do” list and questions for reflection and discussion. This makes the book ideal for use in a church or workplace group. It also includes a postscript for pastors, urging them to address the workplace life of a congregation, including visiting people on the job.
What distinguishes this book from many I have read is that it is at once solidly grounded in a theology of work (without the author showing all his work!) and at the same time extremely practical and applicable. The challenge of this book is not figuring out what the author is saying or how to put it into practice. Rather, will one practice and live into the clear steps of discipleship laid out by the author? Again, having a posse will add to the impact of this book as you urge each other on the path of workplace discipleship.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.