Review: Redeeming Work

By David Gill, reprinted from The 313.

Bryan Dik is professor of psychology at Colorado State University, cofounder of “jobZology,” and coauthor of Make Your Job a Calling: How the Psychology of Vocation Can Change Your Life at Work. The purpose of Redeeming Work is “to give practical, actionable advice to Christians seeking to discern their callings and live out their faith within their careers.”

In Part One, Dik argues that in place of a “two-act” “sin and salvation” framework, we should think about our work as part of a “four-act” story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Renewal. “Sin and salvation” tends to focus on the evil and fallenness of the world and encourage a separation from it that leaves the workplace in our category of Fall. The four-act approach is more biblical as well as hopeful. Dik also reviews and debunks a long list of “half-truths” and errors that keep Christians from a full-orbed workplace discipleship. He urges the importance of finding a “calling” and not just “doing a job.” He also promises that in addition to Scripture, social science tools can help in finding one’s calling.

In Part Two, Dik explores at length how to discern one’s calling. He advises making lists and evaluating one’s interests, skills, and experiences, consulting with advisors, setting measurable goals, using career assessment and gift-identifying tools, identifying role models, leaning on supportive friends, and getting out there for some work experiences in potential channels for your calling. His chapter on how to improve job search skills is excellent. Dik wisely points out that a calling and a job are not always identical. The challenge is usually just to find a job through which you have an opportunity to express your calling. Part Three comments on how to live out that calling, once found, in a world of work being changed by robotics and technology and new employment patterns. In this section as throughout the book, Dik gives lots of real life examples of people seeking and expressing their various callings. Of course, we must remember that most people in the world have little or no choice about their work. Survival with any available work is the lot of most people on earth. But if we are blessed with choices, Dik gives great advice.

Redeeming Work is a fine addition to the workplace discipleship literature – especially for young people facing big questions about their educational and vocational directions. For most of us, however, questions of work and calling recur throughout life and so this is for mid-career re-examination and for anyone wanting to think through their calling and career. I would underscore Dik’s call not to rely only on diagnostic vocational guidance tests and tools but to pray, seek to know better God’s work (in support of which we work), and boldly try out different kinds of work to see if there is a fit. It also cannot be said often enough that the Christian life is a life in relationships, not a solo activity. Find and meet with a small posse of brothers and sisters at every step of the vocational discernment process!

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