At Gateway Church in South Austin we kicked off a new series called “Working With All Your Heart.”
Our lives aren’t meant to be segmented. We don’t have to leave our faith at the door when we walk into work. Aman Quadri, one of the members of our board of directors and longtime Gatewayer shows us how to allow our relationship with God to guide us in our daily decision-making at work and in our relationships with our coworkers.
Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Message Notes from Aman Quadri:
Hello Gateway Framily! It’s been a while since I have been up for here, so thanks for having me back. I did want to say hello to all of our campuses, such as my home campus down South, Central, Buda, Pflugerville, Dripping Springs, Branson, and Online, wherever you may be….glad to have you. For those that I have not met or have not met me, my name is Aman Quadri. I currently serve on the board here and have been at Gateway for around 23 years.
The last time I spoke here was during the Voices Series about my upbringing as a Muslim and come to know Jesus and his impact in my story. But today, I get to bad leadoff in our series, and we get to discuss the touchy subject of God in the workplace.
Have any of you had difficulties bringing up God to a co-worker? What about sharing your faith? Have you ever seen a colleague in need and thought, I should pray for them, but never thought to let them know that you will do so? Have you ever REALLY thought how you bring God to work?
WHEN DID WORK LIFE BALANCE ACTUALLY BECOME WORK LIFE SEPARATION?
We live in a culture today where everything needs to be compartmentalized. We need to keep Jesus behind closed doors, whether in our neighborhood, but for sure at work. It’s almost like we are supposed to clock-in and clock-out of who we are when we step through our office doors or start the first zoom meeting.
And the list grows longer of the topics that are off limits for discussion at work. Here are some of the recent top ones in Austin. See if these resonate (SLIDE FOR THESE – OFFICE NO-NO LIST):
- Personal Life
- Frustrations at Work
- Waco (is there anything good there?)
- UT Moving to the SEC (if you thought you had losing seasons in the Big 12, yikes)
By no means am I the expert on this topic. Honestly, there are hundreds of so called experts who are paid thousands of dollars and can be found on your favorite social media channels. I have leveraged their insights, but feel like they don’t get to the heart of the matter. Instead, I try to invoke God’s wisdom and partner with him to show God’s character through me. But trust me when I tell you this….I fail regularly.
We can’t compartmentalize who we are at home versus who we are work. Why are we willing to ask Jesus to be our carpool buddy, but ask him to wait in the lobby until we finish the day. Work-Life balance actually creates the mindset of leaving things at home, which can include our faith.
Early as a Christ follower, I was focused about His nature, and was blessed to have several families who modeled His character to me. One particular family provided me great insight into how to bring God’s characteristics forward on a daily basis. Robert was the patriarch of the family and worked a grueling construction job and had been doing it for decades. Anytime I saw him after work, you could see the exhaustion in his eyes, but still held a smile and exuded positivity.
One day I asked “How do you stay so upbeat even when I can see you are utterly exhausted?” “Simple, every day there is an opportunity for God to grow His kingdom through me. Every encounter is create the ability for you or them to grow. I used to think that I needed to show everyone how big my God is to them, instead God shows how big He is through me.”
He had pointed me to Genesis about realizing that our work would not be effortless, but our efforts can grow the Kingdom. He mentioned that we are to farm the land and create a foundation for growth in God’s kingdom and that our responsibilities are greater than Sunday mornings. And I have been guilty of too many learned moments on those mornings which I didn’t carry over 24 hours later to work.
Whatever definition you may have of yourself…..employee, employer, co-worker, boss, executive, colleague we all must understand that our work was never meant to be easy, no matter the position we hold. Work is part of our lives, and for some of us, we spend more time there than at home with our families. We need to redefine what Work-Life Balance truly means and work towards marrying them together. Our Work-Life should also consist of the right KPI’s for God’s work to take place.
Let’s take a look at the excerpt from Genesis that I mentioned earlier for a few minutes.
In the beginning of Genesis, we come across Adam….I mean, he had a sweet job. Here’s how I think the encounter could have gone….God was like, ok Adam, let me show around here and go through the Eden Garden handbook. Here are few rules around here: (ON THE SLIDE FOR BELOW):
- Hang out, enjoy, and tend the garden.
- Don’t eat from that tree over there, or else you will die.
- I have been creating an inordinate amount of creatures, so going to need your help in naming all of them.
Yeah, that sounds like quite a bit of work, so let me get you some help. After you take a nap, going to have a surprise for you(After some rib work, woman became flesh). In Genesis chapter 3, woman encounters the serpent who tricks her into eating the fruit from tree of good and evil and passes it to Adam who also take a bite. NOW, THIS IS WHERE IT CHANGED.
Besides their Work from Garden privileges being revoked, both of them experience new feelings….shame, guilt, accusations, hardship, and ultimately sin enter their worlds and hard labor(for a lack of a better term) introduced to them in different ways.
Let’s read exactly in Genesis 3:16-19:
16 To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
Can I just say this….even though there were tough ramifications for woman and man, God was still merciful because he knew that if Man had to endure childbirth, we would be on the endangered species list very quickly.
Our lives, especially our work lives were going to be a test of grit. We were now (metaphorically) given land to farm and will need to learn it, understand it, how to protect it, give it nutrients for growth, etc. For us to succeed, we need to think like farmers.
Have you been there? Do you have trouble understanding the demands of your employees? Employers? Do you get frustrated that you don’t know what a TPS report is? Or who took that red Swingline stapler? What does your boss really want from you? Why can’t your co-workers give the same effort you are giving? Why do you feel like you are taking on all of the responsibilities for the entire team? Why didn’t you get the promotion over him/her because you deserved it more than them.
THE KEY QUESTION IS….WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO CREATE THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT FOR YOUR GROWTH AND THE GROWTH OF OTHERS WITHIN YOUR WORKPLACE?
I have worked in a wide variety of roles. I have aided in the advancement of co-workers, but I have also worked in jobs where I didn’t make time for colleagues knowing full well that there was something on their heart or troubling their minds. I have been generous and selfish with my time and my walk, which is not what God wanted for me and he doesn’t want it for you.
Early in my work years, I was absolutely selfish with creating the right medium for growth, and focused my energy, not on farming, but on consuming. What finally changed for me?
A co-worker once made a statement to me, that left me puzzled, but mostly sad. They said, “You are a different person outside of work, then you are in the office….”
Have you ever heard that or even thought that about some of your colleagues? Most of my life I had struggled with religion, converted from Islam to Christianity and had worked to change who I was as a person within the world, but none of that showed up at work. None of the goodness that Jesus brought into my life was apparent through my actions or words. I DID NOT CREATE THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT FOR MY COLLEAGUES TO SEE THE SPIRIT OF GOD THROUGH ME.
If God and His character are not visible in your daily life (this includes work), then your impact is minimized. You can’t leave God at the reception desk and pick him back up at closing time:
YOU HAVE TO LET GOD WORK THROUGH YOU AND IN YOU AT ALL TIMES.
And if we are going to get back to how to show God’s character to those around us, we need to start thinking like farmers, not consumers. I am going to walk you through 5 ways I remember to keep myself grounded (no pun intended) and they all apply, no matter the position you hold in an organization. The way I remember it is the term S – N – A – K – E.
- DON’T SHOUT AT THE CROPS (SHOUTER vs SPROUTER) – It will not help them grow. James 1:19 states – My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. I honestly have never seen people shout at crops, per se, but have known plenty of people who talk to plants. There is no shame in it, any of you (show of hands) talk to your houseplants??? A study was performed and published (Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology on the Sound Perception of Plants. Itshowed that plants respond to vibrations and those vibrations that occur in the frequency range of regular human speech (which falls into that range) can be beneficial to growth whereas, those at frequencies in which a yell would occur could inhibit growth.
All this to say, that when we resort to anger against our employees, gossip with co-workers, and resort to office politics we go astray. These types of actions inhibit growth of your colleagues, but for you as well. INSTEAD, we should help people SPROUT. Helping those grow around us through means of mentorship, asking for someone to mentor you, or assisting on a project even though your plate is full are the types of selfless acts that help seed of God’s character grow within others. I have seen more people grow when they are the recipients of being served in an organization, especially when it is unexpected. Just take one week seeing how your colleagues work, the stresses they are under, and then step in to help with something minor, you will be surprised at the response. Philippians 2:3-4 states – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
- DON’T NEGLECT YOUR CROPS. (NEGLECT vs NURTURE) Farmers don’t plant and walk way. It is about constant supervision, watching for pests, adding compost and nutrients and checking in regularly to make sure that growth is on track. Farmers NURTURE the ground and we must do the same at work. Yes, we may have plenty on our daily plates as far as job responsibilities, research, zoom meetings, but when you stick to your own checklist and neglect those around you, the crops begin to fail. Don’t neglect the relationships that God has brought into your lives. In Matthew 22:36-40 – Teacher, what is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Neighbors includes your work colleagues, no matter the hierarchy.
Do you take the time to have lunch with them? Or do you have lunch at your desk? Do you learn the names of their family members, their children, etc.? Do you meet with people outside of work (this may be tougher with remote workforces)? What about a virtual coffee meetup?
Nurturing means to building into your colleagues, learn about them in and out of the workplace, and to show up when needed. A recent study performed earlier this year by JobSage showed some interesting stats (now most of this related to remote workers, but remote work is highly prevalent right now) (SLIDE):
- 1 in 5 Americans state that they have no friends at work
- 84% of Americans working remotely have a harder time making friends
- 95% of Americans state that having a friend at work makes them happier
- 76% indicated that having work friends make them more creative
- 74% indicated that having work friends make them more productive
Nurturing those around you by connection and action can make a lasting impact in and out of work, so HOW OFTEN ARE YOU DIVING INTO THE LIVES OF YOUR COLLEAGUES?
- DON’T BE ACCUSATORY. (ACCUSE vs ADMONISH). It can be really easy in the workplace to lay the blame on someone for not getting a report to you in time for a collaborative project, to let someone else be admonished for a mistake, or to sit back and watch someone struggle so that it increases your chance for looking better in front of the executive team. Farmers don’t see it that way. They may have frustrations with the lack of rain, or an increase in pests, etc. When they see a parcel of land that may be struggling or having difficulty with growth, they can choose to aerate the land. Aeration is creating holes in the ground to allow for nutrients, air and water to reach deeper so that growth can be accelerated.
As colleagues, employers, or employees, we see what is going on with people, even if we don’t want to admit it. If you see someone struggling, come along side of them and see what is going on to help them flourish. It could also mean being tough with them, especially when you know what they are capable of doing. Not all responsibilities are yours….you can also push your colleagues in being the masterpiece they were made to be. 2 Timothy 3:15 states – Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him like a brother. Most of the time, we see the current culture view of admonishing someone, which means to reprimand. BUT, here in this passage, the word admonished is used under the concept of instructing or advising rather than rebuking. Love of our colleagues may include calling them out, pushing them to be their best, and to give our time to see them succeed. So I ask….
ARE YOU WILLING TO HELP YOUR COLLEAGUES EXPERIENCE GROWTH?
- DON’T CREATE A MINDSET OF KHAOS. (KHAOS vs KALM) – I know, I know…hold with me on the spelling, it’s my list, I can do what I want ?
Do you ever feel like that everyday at work is a new opportunity to experience Chaos? I have worked in workplaces where there are proper processes/procedures and things go smoothly, and other places where processes were created reactively, rather than proactively. Those workplaces can create lots of anxiety and loss of productivity.
Have you ever met a multi-generational farmer? Regular routines starting from morning to evenings allows them to plan out their day knowing full well that there can be variations. Livestock could be ill, crops could be failing, and the weather could be uncooperative, BUT, living with that understanding allows them to respect the unexpected.
I used to live my work life in a chaos mentality. Instead of building in unexpected circumstances within my work day, I would let it derail my work and allow my productivity to suffer.
Have you ever received an assignment / report due immediately and that lead you down a pathway to frustration and anger because you have other items on your plate?
Have you ever felt like you are being given more tasks than others on your team? Do you let that create friction between you and your colleagues?
We need to resort to creating CALM with our daily WORK STORMS. There are plenty of books out there like Eliminate the Chaos at Work by Laura Leist or The Checklist Manifesto, but here is quick checklist for you (SLIDE):
- Start each day with a quick prayer asking God to participate in your work day.
- Start each day with an expectation of the goals you would like to accomplish =
- Build in time for the unexpected
- End the work day with a quick gratitude prayer
Consistently working through these steps allowed me to reduce my own internal chaos and focus on God through a peace mentality. When we let the distractions drive our day, we lose the ability to follow God’s lead. So I ask,
WILL YOU LET GOD LEAD YOU THROUGH YOUR WORKDAY?
- ENVISION WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN YOU PARTNER WITH GOD.
In 1994, a photojournalist named Sebatiao Salgado along with his wife, Lelia returned to take over his family land after spending time abroad documenting the horrific events of Rwandan genocide among other projects. What they found was that during his time away from his childhood home, deforestation had devastated the lands and left it barren.
And soon wife had the idea or bringing new life to the thorns and thistles that had replaced lush forests. In 1998, they met with partners, raised funds, and created Instituto Terra.
They recruited people and in 1999, the first mass planting began. Now, they didn’t just plant anything. They studied the land and through their institute and devised a plan.
The envisioned the possibilities of what could prosper if they put the first sprouted plants into the soil, nurtured every individual plant and person that came to their lands, made mistakes, and calmly/patiently to see the fruits of their labors.
Over the next 20 years, their success was immeasurable growth in the people and lands around them.
Their results were astonishing: (SLIDE)
- Over 290 Species of trees were planted
- The 8 natural springs that the forest hosted have come back and are flowing are the rate of 20 liters (5.3 gals) per minute; even in times of drought, they flow.
- 172 bird species have returned, of which 6 are already in the danger of becoming extinct.
- 33 species of mammals have returned, with two of them being vulnerable and about to be extinct worldwide.
- 293 species of plants have returned.
- 15 species of reptiles have returned.
- 15 species of amphibians have returned.
What the Salgados did was to bring back life to a barren land. They took each of the items discussed to today and brought it forward. THE SLIDE WOULD ONLY HAVE THE KEY WORDS
Sprout – they planted seeds in the ground and built a foundation.
Nurture – they nurtured the land, the volunteers, and put their legacy on the line
Admonish – they guided volunteers, were willing to be trained by those that knew more than them on what it would take to
Kalm – This was not going to be a short term project and the land would not be easy to revitalize, but they kept calm and maintained patience to see it through
Envision – And they imagined the possibilities of returning life back to their ancestral lands.
WHAT IF YOU FOLLOWED THEIR EXAMPLE?
Many of us go to work into a barren landscape devoid of God, but it doesn’t have to be that way. What if you provided support to a colleague that is unexpected? What if you give up lunch at your desk or at home and ask someone to meet you and learn their story? What if you help a co-worker with an assignment that could lead to their promotion over yours? The possibilities would be endless….
BUT, to do that, the first step should be forming a closer relationship with Jesus. Our responses should be reflex, not reactions and the more you allow yourself to experience His nature, the more it will show to those around you.
Spend quiet time with God, read the scriptures, pray for those around you, serve others with others, find a small group. As you serve others, you will find that serving and growing those at work becomes a natural extension.
We spend an inordinate amount of time creating forecasts, reports, and budgets throughout the work week….let’s begin budgeting God into our work lives….daily.