Recently, I was privileged to be introduced to Australian writer, teacher, and leader Kara Martin and her recently published book, Workship: How to Use Your Work to Worship God.
Martin is Project Leader with Seed, MBA Curriculum Developer with Excelsia College, and former Associate Dean of the Marketplace Institute at Ridley College in Melbourne. She has worked in media and communications, human resources, business analysis and policy development roles, in a variety of organizations, and as a consultant. She was Director of the School of Christian Studies for three years and has lectured with the Brisbane School of Theology, Macquarie Christian Studies Institute and Wesley Institute.
Kara has a particular passion for integrating our Christian faith and work, as well as helping churches connect with the workers in their congregations. She is married to David, and they have two amazing adult children: Jaslyn and Guy. She writes:
The Hebrew root for work (avad) is also the root for service, particularly serving God in worship. I believe the two activities are meant to be integrated. Our work should be done in a way that honours God, which serves God and others, that worships God. By combining the two English words: work and worship, I hope to challenge people to integrate their faith and work.
Workship has three sections: a brief theology of work, spiritual disciplines for working, and practical wisdom for the workplace.
One aspect of the book that especially impacted me were the prayers that concluded each chapter. Here are two examples:
God of power,
Thank you for the gift of your Spirit who enables us to do so much more than we can in our own strength.
Help us to increasingly work in step with the Spirit, aware of promptings to speak or act. Help us to be more aware of how you enable us for the work you have provided.
Let us not be shy in using the gifts you have given by your Spirit, especially for the common good. As we see you powerfully at work; help us remember that it is for your glory and not our own.
So often we are distracted by our busyness, concerns or frustrations. So often we are consumed by our own thoughts and actions, rather than being aware of your presence. Rarely do we consider our work in light of your sovereignty and power.
We want to set this right. So we ask that for every moment of our working this day, we might be conscious of your presence with us — of your work around us, in us, and through us.
We ask that we might contemplate and evaluate our work in the light of our worship of you. We ask that we might rededicate ourselves to serving you through our work.
Before we start work, incline us to welcome you into the work through prayer. Regularly as we work, help us to involve and seek you through prayer. As we finish our working, help us to be grateful for the opportunity and privilege of working with you.
I was impressed with Martin’s experience and excited to learn what wisdom and thoughts she would have on the faith and work integration. I had the opportunity to interview her recently to learn more about her and this book.
Chris Robertson: First, I’m always curious to know why authors write the books they do? The process of writing is a hard one and there must be a passion for the ideas being shared.
Kara Martin: Writing this book was an accident in some ways. The publisher is the father of one of my students at the seminary where I was teaching. Stephen knew his Dad was interested in the integration of faith and work, but he thought I had already written a book. The publisher contacted me to ask for my chapter outline, then a sample chapter, and then the rest of the book. It was at that point I said I would have to write it. I found the writing really easy. I went to a friend’s place in Norway for three weeks. She has an apartment overlooking a fjord. I wrote from sun up to sun down with a five-day break in the middle. I wrote 28,000 words in those three weeks. In some ways, the book is a culmination of a working history devoted to applying my faith to my work in a myriad of contexts, and seeking to teach and enable others.
CR: What is one thing that has struck you most as you have heard scores of people share stories about the challenge they have integrating their faith with their work?
KM: It surprises mehow little support there is from church or even marketplace organizations to enable it. I am surprised that liberal arts colleges with an evangelical pedigree do not help. It seems we have a tradition that thinks if you teach people the right doctrine then the right application will automatically happen. However, deep connection of theology and its application in my daily work is a refined activity.
CR: What is one thing leaders in the faith and work movement should do today to help encourage this important integration?
KM: The gap is between theologians with no practical work experience, work practitioners without a deep theological education, and church leaders who are fearful about how they apply the biblical text to daily work when they are not the experts. Conversations that bring each of those groups to the table for combined wisdom is most helpful.
CR: I really like (though am convicted by) the juxtaposition in the introduction between work as worship and worshiping work. I feel like every Christian is in one of these camps, whether they realize it or not.
KM: I agree. You can’t serve God and Money! It is a subtle thing, though. God looks at the heart, and we need to wake up each morning with an attitude of “Jesus, I am excited about working with you today!” Not being conscious of serving God through our work means that we are actually not bringing into under God’s dominion, and therefore it has become an idol.
CR: Do you have any book projects in the works that you can tell us about?
KM: I am working on Volume 2 which includes more practical wisdom on issues of bullying, Jesus-shaped leadership, ambition and work-life balance; as well as ideas for how churches can equip the workplace Christians in their congregations through activities within church services, within church communities and beyond church communities.
CR: Lastly, if your reader gets only one thing from Workship, what would you like them to leave with?
KM: One of the messages most people want to hear is simply: “God is interested in your everyday work”. A simple affirmation.