Bridging the gap between "worship" and "nine to five", MacKenzie and Kirkland's book Where's God on Monday? shows how to integrate your faith with your job so that you can serve and worship God every day of the week. Below you will find a free study guide for this book, with exercises for small groups and individuals. Although we cannot offer the entire book's contents online, we are happy to provide this study guide for those contemplating this important topic.
In both the marketplace and in the church questions are being raised about the meaning of work and the connections between God’s work and our own work. Where’s God on Monday? is not the only book to explore these themes. However, it’s an attempt to bridge the gap between academic surveys and more anecdotal popular treatments, by providing a broad biblical survey in a series of short, easy-to-read chapters, that can also be used as a small group study series. Only you can judge how successful we have been in providing this, but hopefully the questions we have added at the end of each chapter to encourage personal reflection and group discussion will add to its usefulness. We have also reproduced these questions below.
We hope you get as much stimulation and enjoyment from discussing these topics with others as we got from writing the book.
With best wishes,
Alistair Mackenzie and Wayne Kirkland
INTRODUCTION: WHERE’S GOD ON MONDAY?
- What conflicts are you aware of at the moment between your church life and your everyday activities?
- As a group, try to come up with a definition of work that satisfies everyone.
- When someone asks you what you “do,” what do you usually say? Is it difficult or easy for you to answer this question when you are asked? What are practical ways you could change the way you think and talk about “work,” to incorporate a wider definition of it?
- If Jesus joined you each week and worked alongside you in your Monday-to-Saturday activities (remember: he was a tradesman himself), would that make any difference to the way you do your daily work? What sort of difference?
- Share with your group members the list you have made in the Exercise below. As people read their lists, take care to notice the diversity of their activities.
Make a list below of all the tasks you do and the roles you play in a standard week. Be sure to cover all the paid and unpaid tasks – including domestic chores, community and church involvement, parenting etc. (Note: subsequent exercises in this book will regularly refer back to this list, so make sure you take time to be as comprehensive as possible.)
- Which of these tasks do you normally refer to as “work”? Why these ones and not the others on the list?
- Choose two tasks from your list that you enjoy most, and two you enjoy least. Why the difference?
CHAPTER 1: GOD’S CREATIVE WORK
- Read through the first two chapters of Genesis, highlighting all the verbs (“doing” words) that describe activities engaged in by God. Make a list of them. Describe the range of God’s work.
- Now read through the first two chapters of Genesis again, highlighting all words that talk about human work. How are these tasks related to God’s work? What similarities or connections can you see between these tasks and the work you do?
- Is all work good?
Look back over the list of work – tasks and roles – you made at the end of the Introduction.
- Can you see any of the activities engaged in by God, reflected in your work?
- What opportunities do the tasks you undertake give you to be creative?
CHAPTER 2: CORRUPTED WORK
- How has the Fall (or Great Rebellion) impacted on your work (think about more than just paid employment)? For example, how disconnected is your faith from your work? What about your Sunday/Monday connection?
- If you could change one thing about your employment, what would it be?
- How dependent are you on work for your sense of self-worth? If you were suddenly unemployed, how would you cope? What other areas of your present life would give you a feeling of self-esteem? Or are there other areas you should seriously cultivate, in order to balance your life?
- How much stress do you feel is caused in your places of work by poor relationships? In what ways does this impact your capacity to do your tasks well?
- What examples can you think of where greed, blame-shifting, deceit, dishonesty, selfishness, power struggles, or lack of thoughtfulness for others have been in evidence in your places of work?
- What factors foster trust and respect between people in a workplace? Can you think of particular examples where there has been a breakdown of trust and respect between people? What difference did this make?
- If you work in a relatively warm and friendly environment, what do you think are the key ingredients that make it that way? Do good relationships influence productivity? Or are there advantages in competition between workers?
Refer back to the list you made at the end of the Introduction.
- How well do you feel the tasks you are asked to do fit your own particular mix of personality/temperament/giftings?
- What tasks do you revel in and which ones do you find unappealing and frustrating?
- Are there any aspects of your work or work environment where Creation is abused or exploited in some way?
CHAPTER 3: GOD’S TRANSFORMING WORK
- Why do you think we often have such a truncated or reduced understanding of “redemption”? Are there other biblical words or concepts that might help to enlarge our understanding of what needs to be transformed?
- Are there any industries/occupations that you think are un-redeemable? Make a list of them and then explain your reasons for thinking this way.
- What industries do you think it would be particularly challenging for Christians to work in and attempt to transform? Why?
- Take some time to read Isaiah 65:17-25 (Isaiah’s description of the new creation). What impacts you most about this?
Look back over your list of tasks and roles at the end of the Introduction:
Identify the ones that offer you opportunity to:
- Steward resources well
- Serve others with joy
- Employ God-given creativity
- Witness to God’s truth
- Tell the truth and encourage such habits as honesty and integrity
- Bring healing, understanding, and reconciliation
- Build community, and promote peace and harmony
- Preserve and conserve
- Work for justice and peace-making
- Nurture and encourage others’ gifts and character development?
List features of your weekly work that are personally enriching to you.
CHAPTER 4: GOD’S MAINTENANCE WORK
- How do you understand “providence”?
- In what ways do you see God working now to sustain his creation?
- Make a list of as many tasks and occupations as you can think of where the sustaining role of work is foremost.
- In what ways do you see your personal work connected to God’s sustaining work?
- In what ways can you see your work as preservative (salt)?
- To some people the extent of evil seems already too awful to contemplate and actually becomes a barrier to belief in the goodness of God. However, for others the mere fact that life continues with as many good experiences as we enjoy is witness to the restraining power of God at work in a world that would otherwise disintegrate. What do you think about this?
Refer back to the list of tasks and roles you made at the end of the Introduction.
- Mark the ones that are primarily maintenance tasks.
- Now mark the ones that are mundane tasks.
- Which tasks have you marked twice?
Spend some time reflecting on how you can value these the same way God does. How might you be able to view these tasks as spiritual exercises?
CHAPTER 5: FUTILE WORK
- What kind of “legacy” are you hoping to leave with those who know you? Are you confident it will stand the test of time?
- Personal meditation: Reflect on your dreams and ambitions. Are they self-focused or primarily other-directed? Short-term or long-term?
Refer back to your list of tasks and roles at the end of the Introduction.
- What tasks/work do you find frustrating or meaningless? Why?
- What tasks/work do you find fulfilling and purposeful? Why?
- How is the work you’re engaged in able to serve others?
- In what ways are you investing in other people?
CHAPTER 6: RESTING FROM WORK
- If you grew up in the church, describe what part the sabbath played in your early life – how was it expressed in your family and church context? Then think about how this has changed now – both in your understanding and practice of sabbath.
- What are some of the changes in our society that now make rest and sabbath more difficult to keep than, say, thirty years ago?
- Do you agree with the distinction made between rest and leisure? What forms of leisure do you think are also restful? What type of leisure works against sabbath?
- Productivity, consumerism, and technology have been mentioned as factors that have contributed to the speeding up of life. How have these affected your life? Are there other factors?
- What kinds of practices might help you to be freed from the tyranny of 24/7 connectivity?
- Have you ever had the opportunity for a sabbatical? Share your experiences, the lessons you learnt, or the things you would do differently next time. Discuss creative ways of making space for sabbaticals.
CHAPTER 7: DUALISTIC WORK
- Have you heard anyone talk in similar tones regarding the separation of “spiritual” and “secular” matters? How prevalent do you think this kind of thinking is in your church context?
- Read Luke 10: 38-41. Discuss what you think Jesus is explicitly and implicitly saying about Mary and Martha’s activities. Why do you think we have assumed that Jesus’ commentary on the different tasks each one was attending to at the time, was an either/or, rather than a both/and? (i.e. His rebuke of Martha was a not comment about the value of her housework, but about affirming the validity of Mary’s choice.)
- Why do you think we have developed such a dualistic view of work? Try to identify ways in which it affects your own attitude to the various tasks you do in the week.
Refer back to the list of the roles and tasks you fulfill during your week, that you compiled at the end of the Introduction. Reflect on each of the tasks, asking yourself:
- How do I feel about the value of this task?
- What in this role do I find fulfilling and significant? Why? What do I find mundane, boring, pointless and insignificant? Why?
- How much do I feel I am serving Christ when I do this work?
- What about the tasks and roles you feel negatively towards? Do you think this is primarily because they don’t fit well your unique mix of giftings and temperament, or because you have not been able to connect what you do with what God is doing?
- Take time to consider what opportunities each of these tasks presents for expressing stewardship, service to others, creativity, witness, conservation/preservation, the building of community and relationships, justice, peace-making, healing, etc.
Suggestion for a group activity: Have members prepare the above questions beforehand (or in a time of personal reflection at the beginning of the group meeting). Then, either in pairs or in the whole group, invite members to share their discoveries about themselves.
CHAPTER 8: WORK AS CALLING
- Share any experiences you’ve personally had with either having to justify or provide “evidence” for being called to a particular role. How did you go about?
- How do you feel about the tasks that you are involved in at present? To what extent do you feel that your church community affirms and supports you in these tasks?
- Have you ever considered changing jobs or location? On what basis do you think a person should consider changing jobs? What particular reasons that might cause Christians to change jobs do you consider would not be valid?
- Discuss Gordon Fee’s statement, “The call to Christ has created such a change in one’s essential relationship (with God) that one does not need to change in other relationships (with people). These latter are transformed and given new meaning by the former. Thus one is no better off in one condition than in the other.”
Refer back to your list of roles/tasks at the end of the Introduction. Spend some time pondering how each one fits into your calling to follow and serve Jesus.
CHAPTER 9: WORK AS WORSHIP
- Which tendency are you most vulnerable to? Is it worshipping work (workaholism) or treating it as a means to an end? Why?
- In what ways do you think your faith community could better recognize and value all work, undertaken as an act of worship (not just certain tasks that seem more significant to God)?
- Theologian Miroslav Volf says, “With regard to our work, we pray not so much for God to miraculously bring about a desired result but to make us willing, capable and effective instruments in God’s hand – which is what we were created to be in the first place.” Discuss this statement, with regard to what kind of help we can expect God to provide us in our work.
- Is there anything that would help me to remember that when I work this coming week I can do so as an act of worship – knowing that I am serving Jesus?
CHAPTER 10: WORK AS MISSION
- What has been your understanding of “mission”? Where/who have you gained this from?
- Think about your own place/s of work. Try to identify where and how you have seen God already at work. What indications might you look for that God is working?
- Discuss the implications for viewing yourself as a marketplace missionary.
- What do you find most challenging or hard in sharing your faith in your work context/s? Why do you think that is?
- Share your own perception of how your faith community/church understands your work. What would be most helpful to you in feeling that they support, encourage, and resource you?
CHAPTER 11: ENGAGED WORK
- Read Colossians 3: 23-25. What kind of work would you consider “shoddy” in your employment?
- Brainstorm together some practices that might help you to remind yourself who you are ultimately working for. Which one/s might you use in your context?
Think about your own work – paid or unpaid. On a scale of 1-10 what is your level of engagement? Then attempt to identify the factors contributing to this.
CHAPTER 12: CONFESSIONS OF A CAR DEALER
- Try engaging in this exercise: Put down on paper ways in which you have come to see your work as connecting with God’s work. Now try to describe this to the group, and invite them to quiz you further. Then offer to do the same for them.
- What do you see as the greatest benefits that might come from realigning time to make relationships the priority? What are possible snags?
CHAPTER 13: WORKING WORDS
- Can you think of words or phrases that are problematic in working against a biblical view of work? Suggest some good alternatives.
- Within the life of your own faith community, what are some of the assumptions that deserve to be challenged? Are there words and terminology that should be made more transparent or honest or unambiguous?
Refer back to the list of roles and tasks you made at the end of Chapter 1. Try to group them into the four spheres of involvement (marketplace, family, community and church).
- Which sphere dominates your time and energy? (Remember, these spheres overlap somewhat.)
CHAPTER 14: REAL WORK FOR REAL PEOPLE
Now is a good time to reflect on what you’ve absorbed during the course of this study. Why not take some time to think about:
- Some perspectives that have been helpful
- Some habits that are changing
- Some unresolved issues
- Some unanswered questions
- Some directions you might pursue
Thanks to everyone who has invested in the Theology of Work Project! Thanks to your generosity, we were able to meet all our needs for 2017! We ask that you continue to keep us in your prayers and charitable giving in 2018 as we equip Christians to connect to God's purposes for work.