Top 10 Books on Christians And Work

As I’m often asked for book recommendations on various subjects, I decided to put together an online list of my top ten books in various categories. Basically, if I was only allowed 10 books in my library on that subject, these are the ten I would choose. Previous posts include:

Today I’m listing my Top 10 Books on Christians and Work, looking at the subject of vocation, or our callings. If you know of other good books on this topic please leave your suggestion in the comments and I’ll add them under “Reader Suggestions.”

1. God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Veith.

It was really tough to choose first second, and third in this category. But Veith’s classic modern work on the Christian’s calling just shaded the top spot both for its rich content and inviting readability. This book will not only change the way you view your work but the way you view God as He works through your work.

2. The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Sebastien Traeger and Greg Gilbert.

#2 and 3 are really second equal. If you want to distinguish them, I’d say that The Gospel at Work is a simpler book whereas those who have already read a bit in this subject area would be more stimulated by Keller’s work. There are a couple of graphics in The Gospel at Work that have stuck with me and continue to influence my daily approach to work, especially the challenge to find the path through both extremes of being idle at work or making an idol of work. 

3. Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Timothy Keller.

An excellent foundation to a lifetime of work that makes me wish I was a teenager and starting over again. Like all of Keller’s work, it is deeply rooted in the Bible’s theology and yet also manages to apply that theology to the most contemporary of challenges and questions. Will help you to see your work primarily as worship.

4. What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman.

I’ve been an avid reader of Matt’s blog for years and I’ve learned a lot from him on various subjects. So I wasn’t surprised at his new book receiving so many positive reviews. Although the book touches on many subjects related to work, its primary focus is productivity – getting the right things done in the right way – which, Matt argues, is as much part of our good works as going on Mission to Africa. If you’ve already read general books on vocation (like #1-3), then you’ll want to pick up Matt’s book to further challenge your thinking and provide you with a ton of practical daily helps for your daily work.

5. Family Vocation: God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood by Gene Veith and Mary Moerbe.

Books 1-4 do touch on how the doctrine of vocation plays out in our homes and family relationships. However Family Vocation (written by Gene Veith and his daughter Mary) looks much more closely at these arenas and argues that fatherhood, motherhood, etc., should also be viewed as vocations. The end result is a much more holistic view of vocation that also includes our family and home responsibilities.

6. The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness.

As you would expect from Guinness, this is a demanding but rewarding read. Not as practical as most of the others, it addresses a number of big theological, philosophical, and existential questions. As the author himself recommends, it is to be read one chapter a day.

7. Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business by Wayne Grudem.

Quite a rare book from an evangelical that goes a long way to destroying the dualism that has afflicted too much evangelicalism especially in this area of business. In a short hundred pages, Grudem makes the convincing case that business activity can please and glorify God as morally good and useful. It will encourage many business people who are often left feeling guilty or at least second best because they are not preaching the Gospel or saving people from AIDS.

8. The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective by R. Paul Stevens.

Stevens goes to war on the clergy-laity distinction that sees ministry as the only spiritual work. Consistent with the reformation ideal of the priesthood of all believers, he argues for a much more unified view of life and worship and demonstrates how the church’s main work is to equip God’s people to serve Him in their homes, workplaces, and communities. With the study questions for each chapter, it would be a good book for small groups.

See also Stevens’ brief and quickly read biblical theology of work, Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture.

9. Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson.

Similar to The Other Six Days in aim but more popular in style and practical in content.

10. What Is Vocation? (Basics of the Faith) by Stephen Nichols.

A brief (32 page) booklet that would be a good starting point for someone wanting to view their work more biblically and meaningfully. Especially good for teenagers or those who aren’t keen readers.

Honorable Mentions

Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good by Amy Sherman.

The Man of Business by various older (i.e. dead) writers.

The Callings: The Gospel in the World by Paul Helm.

Reader Suggestions

Any other books you’d recommend that either deal with work in general or that focus on one aspect of it?

Heaven Is a Place on Earth by Michael Wittmer.

Created for Work: Practical Insights for Young Men by Bob Schultz.

Work in the Spirit: Toward a Theology of Work by Miroslav Wolf.

Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good by Steven Garber.

Business as Mission: The Power of Business in the Kingdom of God by Michael Baer.

Your Work Matters to God by Doug Sherman and William Hendricks.

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Here’s a fascinating piece about Megyn Kelly’s success. The secret to her popularity? Old fashioned hard questioning of both sides. She reminds me of legendary BBC Newsnight interrogator Jeremy Paxman. See this video for his infamously excruciating cross-examination of Conservative Home Secretary Michael Howard where he asked the same question 12 times trying to get a straight answer. This incident dogged his career for many years after.

The Rise of Europe’s Religious Right is a lengthy and encouraging article about how the totalitarian push for abortion and more LGBT “rights” is backfiring as ordinary people rise up to defend the traditional family, the right to life, religious freedom and other basic moral standards. Although it is powered mainly by Roman Catholics, surely this is a sign of God’s common grace in not abandoning Europe to Sodom’s fate quite yet.

Jonathan Merrit accepts Mark Driscoll’s apology and says we should too. So does Scot Mcknight. But for maybe the second time in my life, I find myself agreeing with Rachel Held Evans whose comment you can read at the end of Scot’s blog. It’s primarily the direct victims who get to decide this and they need time and evidence of repentance.

According to a study cited at an Apple hearing last year by the subcommittee chairman, Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, 30 of the largest American multinationals, with more than $160 billion in profits, “paid nothing in federal income taxes over a recent three-year period. Zero.” Read more in The Tax Dodge goes on. It’s slimy schemes like these that almost make you wish you were a Democrat.

And to cheer you up here are 33 Pictures Taken At Just The Right Moment.

“Hey wanna go to a movie?”

“Hey wanna go to a movie?”

With such and similar text messages do many Christian guys attempt to initiate relationships today.

It’s all so abrupt, so direct, so in-your-face, so quick, so cold, so inconsequential, so easy.

No preparation, no warm-up, no strategy, no “diplomacy,” no awkward conversations, no face-to-face contact. Just a stark and curt text that often produces a similar reply…then on to the next cell number.

Guys, whatever happened to wooing? That’s an old word for the slow, patient, skillful, tentative, breathtaking, exciting, agonizing, frustrating alluring of the young woman of your dreams? It seems to have become a lost art.

You’ve probably no idea what I’m talking about do you? Read Song of Solomon or Hosea for an idea.

Wooing usually starts with a look, then a second look, followed by repeated looks and lingering looks. You then graduate to attention-seeking looks where you want her to actually see you looking at her. Yes, you might quickly look away the first time your eyes meet but soon you’ll want that look to lock even for just a few seconds, long enough to convey something more than “just friends” but something less than “creepy stalker.

Then come the attempts to “bump” into her unexpectedly, or to “accidentally” maneuver yourself beside her at church, or you just have to ask her a vital question about something of no importance whatosoever.

Ah, yes, the first dry-mouthed, flushed-face, knee-trembling, heart-palpitating conversation. And a second. And a third. Time standing still in these treasured moments and going backwards in between times.

Pleasant Pain
I remember it well and all too painfully. That lengthy period of anxiety and uncertainty as I carefully tried to cultivate friendship, then deeper friendship, then romantic friendship, and so on, all without spooking her into thinking that in my mind it’s a done deal and I’ve already got her chained to the sink with five kids hanging off her apron.

Sure, the inching a little forwards then a fraction backwards over many weeks caused a lot of sleepless nights (at least at my end). For months I just longed to know, “But what does she really think?” Have I blown it? Did I imagine it?

Daisies disappeared from every lawn for daily dissection “She loves me – she loves me not.”

Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic or just hopelessly outdated but I think the old way of wooing with all its attendant tension and anguish was a better way than the present weekly lottery that leaves so many cold and broken hearts in its trail.

Wooing dignifies women. It treats them with respect and honor. We don’t just spray careless and thoughtless texts around like gunshot, hoping to bag a bird here or there with a bit of luck. No, these are precious and sensitive human beings that we are to handle carefully and gently.

Wooing protects women. Wooing means that there’s a period of time where we can gradually test her response and our feelings without a commitment from either side – and therefore without raising then dashing expectations. Taking someone on a date as a first move raises the stakes and the temperature way too high, especially if only to plunge her into icy cold water the next day as you move on to the next target.

Wooing reduces experimentation. Some Christian guys are getting to marriage having dated multiple girls. They’ve got bursting pockets full of movie tickets and restaurant receipts from their various try-outs. So many of these shredded tickets and hearts could have been avoided with a more patient and tentative approach.

Wooing increases prayer. A text costs nothing – no money and no emotions. But wooing is so terrifying and potentially humiliating that you cannot but pray without ceasing – even if only to get some sleep in the meantime. You’re putting yourself, your ego and your reputation on the line. Instead of spraying the local female population with texts in the hope that one of them bites, you’re left utterly dependent on God inclining her eyes, ears and heart towards you.

Wooing teaches us about the Gospel. The whole Bible is a divine wooing of sinners like us. But it’s especially in Solomon’s Song and Hosea that the passionate wooing of God is front and center. God puts Himself on the line, He puts Himself up for rejection, as He pursues us with every fiber of His being, and ultimately with every agonized atom of His body at Calvary.

God doesn’t text the Gospel to us. He woos us with everything He’s got.

Tips For Hospital Visiting

Recently I was re-reading Brian Croft’s great little book, Visit the Sick: Ministering God’s Grace in Times of Illness, and thought I’d put together a few of his tips with some of my own gathered over 20 years of hospital visitation with the hope that it might encourage more of this ministry among Christians. Remember this is not something just for pastors and it also enters into our assessment at the final judgment: “I was sick and you visited me” (Matt. 25:36).

Practice self-denial: Hospital visits are not the most inviting prospects for most of us but love for suffering people must overcome love for our own comfort.

Believe in the simple power of presence: Hospitalized Christians can sometimes feel abandoned by God and very lonely. Don’t underestimate how much your mere physical presence can mean to them.

Don’t worry about what to say: That fear of “What will I say?” deters lots of people from hospital visits. But you don’t need to say a lot. In fact, silence often communicates more than our words. You can speak of Christ’s sufferings and of how He empathizes with us, and also share His care and compassion for the sick. And remember the promise of James 1:5.

Communicate with body language: Come down to their level and sit close (not on the bed) rather than at a distance. Don’t let your eyes wander all over the room but focus on the person. Use appropriate physical touch especially with older people and children.

Ask questions: Don’t ask all of these – this is not an interrogation.

  1. How are you feeling? What are you thinking?
  2. How is this affecting you? Spiritually, emotionally, socially?
  3. What are your fears /hopes?
  4. How are you struggling? Any area you would like to share?
  5. What are you praying for?
  6. Have you had any encouragements in the Word?
  7. How is your family?
  8. What good can you see coming out of this?
  9. Are you ready to die and meet God?
  10. Do you have questions for me?
  11. What can the church do to minister to you at this time and assist you with your needs?
  12. Is there anyone you would especially like to visit you?

Don’t talk about yourself: This is not the time for telling all about your medical history.

Empathize: Entering the person’s world, thinking his thoughts and feeling his feelings, is more important than questioning him all about his procedures, etc. People can tell if we are really loving them or just there out of a sense of duty.

Be Gentle: Use quiet, soothing, tender voice in all your dealings with sick people. This is not the time for your preaching voice.

Prepare to be shocked (but don’t show it): Prepare so that you will not be visibly, bodily, or audibly shocked by color, weight loss, face changes, pipes (just for Dan, I mean tubes not bagpipes), smells, sounds, etc. It’s frightening how quickly someone can change appearance through cancer and its treatments.

Respect the rules of the hospital and the family’s wishes: Observe visiting hours and don’t hinder medical staff in their work. Ask the family when best to visit and for how long. If no guidance, then assume 5-10 minutes average unless asked to stay longer and you are sure it will not tax the person.

Go hopefully: Times of sickness can be times of spiritual opening – even with people who have never received or have even opposed the Gospel message. Especially with terminal illness, this is not the time for small-talk and cracking of jokes. Keep eternity in view and approach the task with a sense of great urgency.

Go to learn: Go not just as a teacher but as a student. A Christian’s hospital bed can be like a little seminary. It is a great privilege to help saints through suffering and on to death. It sensitizes us as well as sanctifies us.

Encourage Witness: If the person is a Christian, and if she is able, encourage her to speak of Jesus to her family, her caregivers, and her fellow patients.

Remember the family: At times it may be the loved ones who you will minister to most. Remember the children especially and go out of your way to speak kindly to them.

Thanksgiving: Even when there is much suffering, always try to find reasons for thanksgiving, for small mercies along the way, for advances in medical technology, etc.

Read Scripture: Usually not a full chapter but verses from one of the following passages: Psalm 23; 28; 34; 46; 62; 103; 145; Isa. 40; John 10; John 14; Romans 5; Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 15; 2 Corinthians 1; Hebrews 4:14-16, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Eph. 2:1-10;; James 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 1:6-7; 4:12-19; Phil. 1:21-23; 1 Pet. 1:3-5; Rev. 21-22.

Heaven: Keep the suffering or dying Christian’s eyes on heaven and the world where there is no sin, suffering, or death (Rev. 21:4; 22:1-2).

What other tips would you add?

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From what I’ve seen in church circles, the default response to sexual abuse is “I don’t believe you – It’s not his fault.” A new blog says we need to learn a new default: “I believe you – it’s not your fault.”

Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has been on trial in Germany on $44m bribery charges. German prosecutors are now saying they will accept an offer of $100 million to end the trial and spare Ecclestone 10 years in jail. So, he gets to bribe his way out of a bribery charge!

Apparently we evangelicals have a persecution complex. Here’ we’re told that we have to wait until it gets to North Korea or Iraqi levels before we are allowed to squeal about it.

I’m still not sure if this is a parody or not, but seemingly it’s poor atheists who are being persecuted most in the US. But a new television channel, Atheist TV, is out to change that, calling for atheists to “come out” and demand equality. Jamila Bey from the Secular Student Alliance said “Many [atheists] were worried about being ostracised or were even scared of violence if they revealed they did not believe in God.”

It’s ironic to see Hollywood getting hammered for their “lack of diversity.” There were only 1.1% more black characters on the big screen than in 2007. Hispanics were “clearly the most underserved” racial or ethnic group. Although Hispanics make up 16% of the population, bought a quarter of all movie tickets in the US, and command about $1 trillion (£593m) in spending power, Hispanic actors played only 4.9% of speaking parts in 2013 blockbusters.

The report also found that Hispanic women were shown in “sexualised” portrayals more than any other ethnic group. More than 37% of Hispanic female characters were shown either naked or partially naked. The report suggested that this “illustrates how existing cultural stereotypes may still govern how characters from different backgrounds are shown on screen.”

Am I Called?

Here’s a great new new resource for you:  Am I Called? is a ministry led by Dave Harvey of Four Oaks Church in Tallahassee, Florida.  The ministry is largely focused on resourcing those who are exploring a call to ministry, but also serves those who are already in ministry through articles, podcasts, and networking help to connect churches with ministers.

Below is a video from David, explaining the purpose of Am I Called? and how it can help you in your journey. The church needs more pastors. The site exists to help meet that need.