So, I've got a bit of a pickle on my hands here.
Taylor, Embassy Industrial's Lead Creative and Chief Messaging Officer, has been a wealth of good input on the blog here. He's been much more positive about the pieces that have a looser, more conversational feel. Pro Bono ranks pretty highly for him. I wouldn't weight his perspective so highly if I didn't enjoy writing those kinds of pieces so much more as well. The problem comes where I want to write more about, ostensibly, the topic of the blog, “Embassy”, workplace missions, and every time I sit down to write about it, the tone becomes much more serious and structured.
I'm proud of the work I put in and the pieces that have come out of that brainspace, but I also don't know how great the self-serious tone is, even if the topic is really important to me. All the workplace missionaries I know (people you might call “Regular Ol Jeff from Church”) don't really go in for the stuffy, academic and somber stuff unless someone is leading a book study at church on the topic. Even then, when they have the chance to talk about it themselves, the self-serious and analytic tone of the book isn't really transferred over to the conversation. If I can, I want to write on the level. Saves the hassle of translating back and forth.
So bear with me, a bit. This might be a bumpy landing. Today, I want to pick up where I left off on the Ministry of Reconciliation, which means I want to talk about what I mean when I repeat what St Paul said, that “We are Christ's Ambassadors”.
I don't know if you ever watched a classic of network television called The West Wing. There's an episode early in the first season (I think) called “Lord John Marbury” where the plot revolves around the eccentric Ambassador to The United States from the United Kingdom, the aforementioned Lord John Marbury. Dude gets a whole episode named after him and he's got basically three jobs the entire time:
- Be around when the President asks for him
- Represent the interests of the United Kingdom during these conversations
- Be a pain in Leo's ass whenever allowed
... And he does the third one for free! It's not that far off for any other Ambassador, in the present or in history. Person is supposed to be there, and to accurately represent the interests of their home country. This can look like a lot of different things, people get bored and think of all kinds of things to occupy the Ambassador's time. You might see the French Ambassador attending a middle school performance of a French musical composition, to encourage and support the love and learning of French culture in their host country. The Lebanese Ambassador might be a guest at a prominent social event for Lebanese expats living in America, to strengthen and maintain ties between the elite abroad and their home country. You get the idea. Dude has a simple job, but has latitude to get creative about how they go about it.
The connecting through-line between all these things is that Ambassadors are in the business of personal relationships. Networking. They physically go and spend time with people who are different from them in the hopes that the proximity, hospitality and friendliness will create a personal relationship that can then be used to strengthen the relationship between the organizations the two people represent.
So lets say you're gonna take my word for it, lets say you're gonna accept that you are Christ's Ambassador, sent to your workplace on behalf of the Kingdom of God. If you're anything like my wife, your next question is probably in the shape of “Yeah, ok, but what does that mean? Gimme practicals, man!”
1. Your boss is not your boss
Now, I understand, your boss may be very convinced that they are your boss, and they may be similarly convinced that they have the authority to boss you around, to lord their authority over you as the gentiles do. Been there, believe me. Often we are sent as Ambassadors to places that don't recognize the authority of the King that sent you. That's fine. They can be wrong all by themselves, and it might be a barrier to some things you could do, but it doesn't change the job. You are there to represent Christ and His interests, and be available to talk when the Head of State, or anyone really, wants to speak to The Kingdom.
That might make for some interesting decision matrices when it comes time to decide when to stay, when to go, when to go for that promotion, when to let that transfer go by. You might make decisions that are confusing to some of the people you work with or live with. Bottom line is the King sent you there, the King decides when you get a new posting, and your boss does not. Corollary point, when you ask God for a new job, you're asking your actual boss, the person who can actually do something about it, and the person who would have to sign off on any transfer in the end anyways.
For biblical inspiration here, study the Book of Daniel. Young people, faithfully serving God in an environment where the king of Babylon was very thoroughly convinced that he was the one in charge. Might remind you of some assistant managers you've had. I won't name names. Except for Charlie. I'll name that one.
2. Your Job is not your Job
Now, I understand, your boss might be very convinced that your job is your job, and they might be similarly convinced that people who don't do their jobs will be fired, cast out into the outer darkness (where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth) on their authority. Just like I'm not telling you to challenge the authority of your boss (without the call and cover of the Holy Spirit), I'm not telling you to not do your job. Just understand, if your boss is not your boss, their idea of what your job is could probably use some work. I'll give you an example.
I currently work in the retail space, and my job is, ostensibly, to sell backpacks. There's a lot that goes in to it, but that's the gist. There come occasions where the Lord has made a way for a deeper conversation to happen with a coworker, either just a fun convo on cameras (#FujiFam), or a harder talk about how your early twenties JUST SUCK, especially for young men. In that moment, my job is not to sell backpacks, it's to be the present Christ to that person. If someone wants to buy a backpack, I'd have no idea because I'm just not paying attention. If you're reading, sorry boss! I promise, I'm paying attention the rest of the time!
My God Given job is to be Christ's Ambassador, speaking for Him (faithfully!) to people who want to speak to Him, and hopefully making my workplace work a little bit more like the Kingdom of God, to work better and be more humane. It's definitely part of that call to contribute to the success of the team there, when you're able. Just don't get it backwards. Your boss is not Your Boss, and your job is not your job.
3. Your Goals are not Your Goals
Now, I understand, your goals... Just kidding! I couldn't figure out a way to make the pattern work here on the third point. We all have goals at work. They probably involve making some money to spend on the weekend and not getting in to catfights over office BS with that person, because there's always a person who wants to get in to catfights over office BS. They're like my brother, a messy bit....boi who lives for the drama. Hot Mess Express. You get it. I need a new paragraph.
You have goals. Simple goals. Those goals are often not incompatible with Christ's goals, but they're not the same as Christ's goals. I believe with my whole heart that the Holy Spirit is *currently engaged in the work of making all of creation new.* One of the main privileges we have, as Kingdom people, is the pleasure of participating in that work, the way a toddler participates in making breakfast. We're mostly there to watch, and occasionally we'll be asked to mix the blueberries into the pancake mix. Rowan Williams, in Being Disciples, describes this mindset of being like birdwatchers, waiting in a still, attentive way, until we see at last the flash of the Kingfisher's wing (described in TS Eliot's Four Quartets, Burt Norton IV). We don't know when we'll see the Holy Spirit working in our workplaces, but He is working.
If God is currently engaged in the work of making all things new, that includes a lot of things that we don't talk about as being in the purview of Kingdom work, and it means that *God is both interested in your job and is invested in it working better*. God is invested in such things as;
- Reducing the paperwork load on a hospital admin
- Using math to help a field scientist cover more ground in a day while taking samples
- More efficient battery technology
- Pleasant customer service interactions at the register of a coffee shop
- Paid Parental Leave
- Efficient use of public funds while designing our cities, roads and infrastructure
- Taking the time in the morning to appreciate the sunrise and greet the squirrels
- Clear, intelligible and balanced accounting books
Et ceteraaaa, et ceteraaaa, et cetera. The work is the worship. The mechanical engineer designing that engine mount that might outlive the car? The efficiency engineer might want to cut the service life down to 100k miles, but the mechanical engineer knows that it's worth it to keep something in service and out of the crusher. Resources are valuable, and an account will have to be given to the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills about how His wealth was spent. The human resources worker who advocates for buying more healthcare coverage for their other employees? The general manager might want to cut that benefit to return the money to the piggy bank, but the HR person understands that they're accountable to the Father for how well they took care of their fellow people when they had the chance to make a difference, and that “their” piggy bank is really His piggy bank, in the end.
Everyone working to make the world better is working in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, whether they know it or not, and how much more effective could a person be when they can hear the voice of the person they're cooperating with? We are gardeners in someone else's garden, and the people of God have the benefit of knowing who's garden this is and what the owner wants. Oh, also, we know the owner is the guy who invented gardens and gardening in the first place and we can ask Him any question we want, like “WHY DON'T WE HAVE PAID PARENTAL LEAVE?”
Maybe you'll have a different question. You'll probably have a different question. My question for you is what is the Holy Spirit doing in your workplace? How could you help? Where should you be looking, waiting for the flash of the Kingfisher's wing?
I can thoroughly and heartily recommend Rowan Williams' “Being...” series of books, Being Christian, Being Human and Being Disciples. It takes a true master of many disciplines, a master theologian, communicator and pastor, to make this kind of dense and incredible teaching so accessible and so brief. I love theologians, but they, typically, never use a word when a sentence will do. Doubly recommended to anyone looking for their next small group study.
This post is part of #100DaysToOffload, a challenge to blog a hundred days in a year hosted by Kev Quirk. This is post #11
#Christian #Ministry #WorkplaceMissions #Embassy