Book Review: Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work

Kara Martin, author of Workship 2is no stranger to our audience, as she has written for TGR previously. She is Project Leader with Seed, a lecturer with Mary Andrews College, and formerly 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, for-profit and non-profit, and as a consultant. She 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 workplace Christians. She is married to David, and they have two adult children. She has been reading all the faith and work books you know of, as well as those you haven’t heard of. She has spoken and listened to Christians from all vocations. The fruit of all of this is recently reflected in her newest book, Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work.

At this point, I want to confess the delinquent timing of this review. Kara sent me her manuscript a number of months ago. When I was finally able to read it, I lamented not doing so sooner. I was blown away by the rich, honest tone of this book. I was also impressed with the diversity of topics (women and work, unemployment, toxic workplaces, bullying and conflict just to name a few) presented in the book. I’m not aware of another “faith & work” book that has spoken to all of these topics. I appreciate Kara’s discussing these topics and integrating a Christian perspective in the midst of that conversation.

The foreword is written by Wendy Simpson OAM. Simpson is the executive chair of Wengeo Group, a private investment company based in Sydney, Australia. She writes:

I have had the amazing privilege of working in a number of senior leadership roles in the technology and government sectors across the Asia Pacific, from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, to Taipei, Manila, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Jakarta, to Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland. I found it fascinating to compare how people in these different cities work, lead, and create businesses, products, or services; and what they will do to obtain fulfillment from work.

From my observations, there is one thing these cities have in common. Not only does work occupy a large part of people’s lives, but also it is becoming more complex and increasingly how people define themselves. Workers are hungry for career guidance and advice on issues such as working with difficult people, navigating ethical challenges, handling stress, and balancing the demands of work with family. I have heard these questions asked by both women and men from every cultural, language, and income group. I am convinced there is a deep human desire in each of us to understand, “What is the true purpose of our work?”

Martin builds on the foundation of her previous Workship: How To Use Your Faith To Worship God by focusing on three areas to help Christians with their daily work. (You can read my review of Workship here.) First, she shares some suggestions for making a difference in the workplace. Second, she has tips on how to respond to common workplace issues. Third, she suggests some new areas for consideration including women and work as well as the future of work. These issues are frequently raised when she has speaking engagements. I’m grateful for Kara raising these topics for our reading and reflection.

At this point, I could make this review incredibly lengthy by including all of the great quotes from the book. In the end, you need to go purchase this book, read it for yourself, and share it with others.

The German word for hospitality is Gastfreundschaft, which means “friendship for the guest”. In my small efforts to befriend others, I hope that I had helped people make a move from being strangers to friends with the God whom I serve, to Jesus who is my inspiration, empowered by the Spirit to serve.

Kara closes each chapter in with a prayer and discussion questions designed to provide the reader space to pause and reflect on the chapter’s material. It is essential to take this opportunity and not rush to the next section, but consider how you can apply this material to your daily work.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for teaching us what hospitality is.
Thank you that even when we were strangers, you welcomed us as friends.
Thank you that you provide a welcome place for us.
Help us to make our workplaces hospitable.
Challenge us to be creative and generous in what we do to make others feel welcome, in creating a friendly place.
Thank you for the inspiration you give us in terms of creativity and generosity.
Protect us from self-interest, pride, or ambition that might stop us from being more hospitable.
Teach us to honour you.
AMEN

The church’s function is to equip its people to do God’s work. Rather than being a place where my guest felt guilty for not giving more, it should be a place of refuge, nurture, teaching, and prayer that empowers her to be Christ’s light in otherwise dark places. It should be the place where she gathers with others to celebrate God and is then sent out as the church scattered to work for his glory.

Looking for and connecting with beauty in our workplace is one of the ways we can reveal God to others. Making our workplaces beautiful is another way we can redeem or renew our workplaces, giving people a foretaste of heaven.

God of rest and comfort,
It is such a relief that you do not measure us by what we achieve, or how short our to do list is, or the number of perfect scores on our performance reviews.
You are much more concerned about our hearts and whether we are devoted to you.
You love it when we flourish.
You delight when our purposes align with your purposes for the world.
Please help us to recognise when we are pushing ourselves for the idols of success, excellence, status, or security.
Help us to see when we are at the edge of burnout.
Help us to prioritise resting in you, and taking good care of the bodies you have given us.
Help us to model sensible working with others.
AMEN

I would like to draw your attention in particular to the future of work section in Workship 2:

Most people would define work as something you are paid to do. Such a definition is very limiting. It excludes the work which is essential for the functioning of our society but remains largely unremunerated, such as care of children and the elderly; voluntary work through charities, churches, and sporting clubs; and the earth care work of gardening.

We do not see such a limiting definition in the Bible. Work is that which you do with purposeful intent, paid or unpaid, seen or unseen. God is interested in all work which might not be valued economically, including prayer, character formation, and worship in everyday life.

As we look to a future where forecasters anticipate insufficient paid work to go around, there is a move to decouple work from the payment received. At one extreme is the concept of the universal basic income (UBI): an amount paid to everyone to cover basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter, regardless of the person’s employment.

The change of definition of work is welcome, although there are many critics of the UBI who see its potential to create a culture of laziness and entitlement, and stifle innovation and productivity. Indeed, the Bible recommends that we should all work, that work is good for personal health and the functioning of community, and that it is good to reward work (not necessarily financially).

Martin thoughtfully closes the section on the future of work with a reminder of the contribution the church can make in the face of a seemingly never-ending, fast-paced world of work:

The future of work must be something Christians watch closely and prepare strategies for, to mitigate its dangers, enhance the dignity of our work, and protect the soul of the worker.

Workship 2 has received many endorsements.

Kara Martin’s book Workship Volume 2: How to Flourish at Work is a wonderful extension to her first book, Workship: How to Use Your Work to Worship God.. . .Kara is committed to helping us bridge the gap between our Sunday faith and our Monday chaos…

Gabrielle Macauley, Clinical Facilitator in Nursing, and President, Nurses Christian Fellowship Australia

Unfortunately, throughout the centuries, there has been little engagement by theologians with the ways God empowers Christians for their ordinary work lives. Kara Martin’s work fills a very deep void where Christian discipleship and spiritual formation material for the workplace should be in our libraries and Christian bookshops. The practical studies provided in Workship 2 allow the application to the gritty, tangible aspects of life in the real world. I can’t wait to redesign our Hillsong College Christian spirituality course with these volumes!

Tanya Riches, Researcher, Senior Lecturer, Masters Program Coordinator, Songwriter

Many Christians struggle with what it means to see their places of work as places of ministry. It’s not just using the workplace as a springboard for evangelism; it is seeing the workplace as an environment in which we can show Christian hospitality, ethics, and creative beauty. . . Last week a man who crashes cars for a living (to test safety ratings) asked me about what it would look like to worship God through his work. Having now read Workship 2, I feel better equipped to answer the question.

Ian Smith, Principal, Christ College Sydney

 

Thank you, Kara, for your commitment to the church as well as to its integration of faith with everyday work. Thank you also for your good work on this important book, one that provides practical wisdom about the numerous ways to integrate our faith that are available to every Christian worker regardless of vocation.

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