A few months ago something surprising happened to me. My wife came out of a book study with a group of Christian friends from our community and gave me an unexpected shock.
You see, the topic of the theology of work had come up in the context of the discussion and my wife recommended a book about the topic. One of the discussion participants, who had run in evangelical circles for a while, was surprised there were entire books on the subject of vocation and work.
As my wife spoke to me, my eyes were drawn to the heavily-ladened shelf of my library dedicated to books on the doctrine of vocation. My memory was cast back to the many blog posts and academic papers I’ve published on the subject of work.
A wave of simultaneous disappointment and encouragement hit me.
How many times have I cited Colossians 3:23 in my writing and wondered if people were tired of reading about working heartily for God?
It does not take too long publishing on a single topic to feel like you have already written on everything there is to be written about the basic ideas. Without defaulting to pure human interest, it sometimes feels like the theory has been beaten to death.
And yet, here was someone who was unaware of the depths of the literature on the subject of work. This individual had not read a single one of the myriad of blog posts that flood my social media feed each day, much less the carefully crafted essays that I’ve spilled out over the previous years.
This reality is discouraging because the message, which I believed had reached the point of saturating the market, has clearly not made it everywhere it needs to go. My likes, shares, and quotes have not resounded as I hoped they would.
At the same time, however, this simple revelation is encouraging because it grants the permission we need to keep writing about the integration of faith and work. This is not the time to pack up our keyboards and shift to new topics. Instead, we need to keep telling the story because there are still audiences who can benefit from knowing more about it.
It really is helpful for Christians to hear that their daily work is a way to glorify God. Not everyone has gotten that message yet, so it’s back to the keyboard to find new ways to tell important truths.
In one sense this small epiphany is no big deal. At the same time, it reflects the very nature of the faith and work discussion in self-referential irony.
The faith and work movement is, at its heart, a conversation about finding purpose for doing jobs that often seem atomistic in focus or never ending in scope. Our task as we write about the connection between vibrant Christianity and the daily grind is to help people find purpose beyond product itself.
But that task is, apparently, never ending. Blog posts get circulated for a few days and then they sit in the archive of a website to provide a link for a later post, maybe drawing an occasional search engine hit. So, we have to keep crafting content that both delights and instructs.
The task of writing on faith and work is also somewhat narrowly focused. But we have to keep finding new ways to expose the same bedrock ideas because there are new readers than need to hear the basics. There are also repeat readers who need to get a reminder or a better example as they come back after a long hiatus to see what is happening at the blog.
The moral of the story is that the conversation needs to continue. The faith and work movement is not old news; there are still people that still need to hear. Our purpose is worthwhile, God-honoring, and not yet fulfilled.
Andrew J. Spencer is Associate Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness at Oklahoma Baptist University and blogs at Ethics and Culture.