By David Gill, reprinted from The 313.
Michaela O’Donnell is executive director of Fuller Seminary’s DePree Center for Leadership. The subtitle of Make Work Matter is “Your Guide to Meaningful Work in a Changing World.” The world of work is changing, workers feel overwhelmed, anxious, and lonely – but our education continues to prepare us for a work world that is passing away. We need a “new toolkit.” O’Donnell wrote this book to (1) help us define where we are, (2) embrace a biblical view of work, (3) develop a mindset and habits for the new world of work, and (4) work out ways that will sustain us on this journey.
O’Donnell counsels us to stop having narrow or rigid expectations of ourselves or the work world but “lean in” and learn to go with the flow, e.g., like rafting down some rapids. Extending that metaphor, we might need to bail out some water to stay afloat, i.e., simplify. We do need a road (river?) map – and a biblical theology of work provides just that. O’Donnell summarizes: “We are called to follow Jesus by creatively working in love for others, especially toward God’s mission of redemption in the world, through particular relationships, roles, places, tasks, and moments” (p. 88).
With these starting points, O’Donnell leads readers into a reflective look at their vocational journeys. This pathway today needs to be “entrepreneurial” in character, finding or creating meaningful work—seizing opportunity, creating value, and facing risk. This may seem overwhelming but O’Donnell explains that it all must be “rooted in relationships,” we don’t travel alone. Finally, we will develop our empathy for others, imagining how their life (and work) could be assisted through our own work.
Making Work Matter is theologically solid (if not terribly deep). I suspect its real value will be for Millennials and maybe Gen Zers whose experiences of vocational (and social) chaos are different from the chaos Baby Boomers like me faced in the Sixties and since. O’Donnell writes clearly and includes thought and discussion questions and exercises throughout the book. I have to say that I laughed at the (perhaps unintended) irony on page 125: With respect to Molly “the founder and CEO of a booming fitness company” . . . “there we were catching up over pizza and beer.” But this is just one of dozens of real life stories and examples that enrich O’Donnell’s book. I say “check it out” and if you have the ears to hear, dig in and also use it in a group study.