Archives For Work

Last week, I shared 13 productivity tools and apps that I use on a daily basis. In addition to these, there are other tools and apps I employ on a semi-regular basis. Depending on the nature of the work, these apps and tools are accessed in varying degrees. I figured they would be worth mentioning as a good supplement to my previous post.

Mailchimp3 - BlogMailChimp – This is my default tool for e-newsletters and announcements online. Very intuitive and more customizable than others (e.g., Constant Contact). For each purpose, a template is created by the design team which can populated repeatedly in a rather efficient manner. The import and export features are also helpful.

Wufoo - BlogWufoo – If you need online forms and need something more functional and customizable than Google Forms, than Wufoo is the way to go. I use Wufoo for general feedback, conference registrations, mission trip applications, network agreements, and just about anything else I can think of. Along with Wufoo, Survey Monkey (by the same company) is a helpful tool for doing online polling.

TripIt3 - BlogTripIt – There are several quality apps for managing your travel. I have chosen to go with TripIt over the past year and have found it really helpful. The app syncs across all iOS devices and allows me to update the plans rather effortlessly. Flight information includes various details, such as confirmation number, flight times, map of terminals, and status. When traveling with several people, the trips can be shared with others as well.

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CommunicationI’ve been in a situation in life here lately where it has been necessary to develop a communication strategy online and offline. In the past, I have not given much thought to how I communicate with other people. Now leading a resourcing network for church planting, a missions collective for Haiti, and pastoring a church–I have come to really appreciate effective and thoughtful communication.  Here’s basically what I’m learning to do.

There are three levels of communication I have with people on a regular basis. The first level is the micro level. That’s the daily chatter and conversation about details, requests, etc. Typically, this level of communication does not need to be recorded or archived. Rather, it is communication for quick and immediate response in the rhythm of the workday. The second level is the mono level. That’s the one-on-one communication about actionable matters of various levels of significance. Typically, this kind of correspondence has requests that need to be filled, questions to be answered, plans to be executed, etc., and therefore archiving and retrieving such correspondence is helpful if not necessary. The third level is the multi level. That’s the communication with multiple people in the collaboration process. On this level, you are taking in feedback and interaction from several sources at one time in one setting.

These three levels are worked out through different platforms/formats whether offline and online.

Communication StrategyFor offline communication on a micro level, I rely on text messaging. At this level, communication does not warrant a phone call or lengthy communication. It is intended for immediate feedback. On a mono level offline, I rely on telephone calls. The difference between the two levels are significant, because if something requires a phone call to be addressed is attempted to be covered via text, a lot of time is wasted in the process. However, if you care constantly calling someone about something that can be addressed over a text, that can create a frustrating work experience. You have to make judgments between the two and have operating agreements with your team. On the multi level offline, there’s scheduled meetings. These are structured times of collaborating with multiple people with a set agenda (talking points).

For online communication on a micro level, I rely on instant messaging (via Gmail) and direct messaging (via Twitter). I almost always have at least 2-3 IM tabs at the bottom of my Gmail with ongoing chatter about little matters that need immediate attention (changes, scheduling, updates, etc.). My online mono level is email. Again, like offline communication, this can be problematic. I don’t want a cluttered up inbox of emails that could have been instant messages or group emails that so often are strung around with the infamous “reply all” option on matters I’m often tangentially involved in. Emails can be a horrible medium for collaborative communication, which leads to the multi level online, namely video conferencing. If I am meeting with more than one person online, then I use Skype, Google Hangout, ooVoo, or GoToMeeting to forward projects, plan events/trips, discuss initiatives, etc.

For some time, I had been operating like this without fully recognizing it. Now that I see it, it has become all the more clear in learning to communicate better using formats/platforms appropriate to the level of correspondence. In my case, I work in a highly decentralized environment where online communication is 65% and offline communication is 35%. It may be the opposite (or some other breakdown) for you. Either way, know where you communicate most often and how you proceed to do so in the future may prove very beneficial down the road.

Have you developed a communication strategy for online or offline? What have you found that works best for you and those you work with? I’d love to get your thoughts on this.

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My Panera “Office”

Tim Brister —  March 21, 2011 — 5 Comments

I’ve enjoyed the feedback and discussion my recent post on the the places and purposes of my work.  I hope it was helpful for you.  Several of the questions were related to my work experience and environment at Panera.  So this morning, I decided to take a picture of my typical setup and show you what my “office” looks like.

For notes on the pictures, please click through to my Flickr page.

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This past week, we at Grace “parked the Great Commission” again, and included in that effort was going door-to-door, inviting neighbors to join us for a picnic and games in the park.  When I got back, I tweeted:

For those who don’t believe in going door-to-door, 2nite my group was 19 for 19 in engaging folks w/ invitations. Don’t abandon 1st spaces.

What happened after that was about a dozen conversations debating the merits of door-to-door evangelism in a post-Christian culture and what in the world I meant by “1st spaces.” What I would like to do is explain the thinking behind the places/spaces and how we can think intentionally/missionally in redeeming each place for the advancement of the gospel.

What Is a “Third Place”?

As I understand it, Ray Oldenberg developed the idea of “third places” in his book The Great Good Place. Third places are places or environments where people in the community interact with one another outside the first and second places.  The first place is that of the home, and the second place is that of a person’s workplace.  Oldenberg explains that “third places” are

“anchors” of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. All societies already have informal meeting places; what is new in modern times is the intentionality of seeking them out as vital to current societal needs. . . .  These hallmarks of a true “third place”: free or inexpensive; food and drink, while not essential, are important; highly accessible: proximate for many (walking distance); involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there; welcoming and comfortable; both new friends and old should be found there.

Popular “third places” include coffee shops (such as Starbucks), malls, city parks, exercise facilities, restaurants/pubs, and venues for the arts/entertainment.  Personally speaking, Panera Bread has become my dominant “third place” as I spend approximately 15-20 hours of my work week there.

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Keller on Work

Tim Brister —  September 7, 2009 — Leave a comment

Listen to it here.

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While I realize that this post is long overdue, I suppose it is better late than never. :)

I want to take a moment to share with you a strategy or paradigm of sorts that I have used in seeking to invest myself in the mission God has given me in my workplace. Recognizing that this is something I have been developing in recent months, I know that there are some aspects to be challenged, critiqued, or contributed to, so feel free to share your thoughts.

There are four areas or facets of work that I would like to elaborate in this post. They are: the work of the mind (exegesis), the work of the heart (prayer), the work of the hands (service), and the work of the lips (gospel).

1. Work of the Mind – Exegeting Culture

Wherever you work, there is a culture to exegete (interpret and understand). There are worldviews, values, patterns of life, and beliefs that constitute the personhood of unbelievers you work with. Exegeting culture is hard work; it takes time and a willingness to listen and learn from others as a student and inquirer. Whether they are young or old, city or rural, black or white–people need to be understood. They might be nominally Catholic, devoutly atheistic, confusedly new age or syncretistic, or they might have no readily presentable religious construct. Why is all this important in the workplace? Because we are presenting a Christian message and worldview that is antithetical to the post-Christian, post-modern world in which we live, and we cannot naively assume that four spiritual laws or five points will effectively communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we are going to be prepared to give an account for the hope that is within us, then we must have our minds always at work.

So as I work, I take notes–literally. With each co-worker, for instance, I would have a separate page in my notebook where I would write down things we talked about, new information I gleaned, beliefs that rose to the surface, and other stuff such as friends, music, and relevant factors. This is incredibly helpful as I will end up remembering stuff they said in the past and use as a topic for future conversation and transitioning into the gospel.

2. Work of the Heart – Prayerful Participation

I regard prayerful participation the work of the heart for two reasons: God gives us a heart for the lost when we pray, and second, prayer opens us up to see how God is working and makes us sensitive to opportunities that come our way. I can say with almost certainly that those who are not praying for unbelievers have never wept for unbelievers. Their heart is just not in it. They also are not open to what God is doing in their world.

There are times when at work you will not have opportunity to be a student and do cultural exegesis. The times when you are busy or by yourself is an excellent time to pray to God while at work. Don’t give away those moments to listening to gossip or entertaining trivial thoughts! Participate in the heavenly work of praying and interceding for those who need Jesus as God has promised to bless the means of prayer in bringing sinners to repentance and faith.

3. Work of the Hands – Service to Others

Perhaps this is the most common or practical work; and yet, I often hear of Christians doing shoddy work when it comes to the work of their hands. A lazy, slothful, and undisciplined Christian worker does considerable harm to the cause of Christ–more harm than we sometimes realize. The work of the hands often opens the door for the work of the lips, while the lack of service to others never lends you the right to be heard.

I am not merely talking about doing your job well and working diligently; rather, I am talking about working well to the point that you can not only do your job with excellence but also allow opportunity to work for others above and beyond what is expected of you. Where I work at UPS, these folks are called “internal customers.” When I do my job well and seek to help others when I have opportunity, I am serving my fellow coworker and letting them know that I care about them and want to help shoulder the burden of their work. The result is that they come to know that I care about them and desire to step in and serve them with the work of my hands.

4. Work of the Lips – Gospel Proclamation

The work of the lips in gospel proclamation is last for a reason. It is very hard to be effective here if you are not faithful in the first three mentioned above. In fact, I doubt that there would be much “work” available in this regard if the work above goes unattended and unaccounted for. And yet this is the most important part of our work, because this is where the life-changing power of the gospel goes forth. It is God’s intention that we share the message of Jesus Christ at work, but we cannot do that in an irresponsible and immature manner. In fact, I have come to learn that if you are respected and appreciated the work of your hands, your employer will have less of an issue with the work of your lips, even if they do not agree with the message your are sharing.

The greatest joys I have ever had, and the greatest times of heartache have come through sharing the gospel at work. I have seen co-workers saved, discipled, and growing in their faith, and I have also seen sinners trample over the glorious message of Jesus Christ as though it was junk mail. Scripture calls us ambassadors for Christ whereby God is passionately making his appeal for reconciliation to hell-deserving sinners through our lives and our messages. As such, our mission (work) is to represent God faithfully by declaring boldly and yet humbling, truthfully and yet gracefully the good news that He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Conclusion

So that’s my working paradigm for missional work. Let me make some final thoughts.

There will be times or days where you will be able to do all four areas of work, but that is not often. Rather, one day you will find yourself given more to the work of the mind in cultural exegesis as you are surrounded by other coworkers; other days, you will be given considerable time alone where you can do the work of the heart in prayerful participation; hopefully, there will be days were you will have opportunity to do the work of the lips in gospel proclamation. But we are to do all four of them and do them well. Do you see the difference between simply showing up for work, doing what is minimally expected of you, collecting a paycheck, and going home–as compared to what I have mentioned above? That is the difference between work and missional work. The former is meaningless; the latter is missional; the former is wasted; the latter is worshipful; the former is ritualistic; the latter is redemptive; the former is self-centered; the latter is God-centered and others-directed.

This isn’t easy work. I am not a perfect model of it in action. But it is something I have put together over the past four years as a way of helping me seek to make a difference and seek first the kingdom of God at work. I just imagined that if I were to spend so many hours in one place with so many people, then certainly God could do something with me. I pray God does great things with all of us at work as we seek to participate in His mission of bringing worshipers to the throne of King Jesus!

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Tomorrow, I am going to conclude this series on missional work with a working paradigm for missional work, but before I do, I wanted to share an excerpt from the pen of John Stott on the need for churches to affirm the importance of work among God’s people and offer a few thoughts in response. John Stott writes:

“Many people say that they have never heard a sermon on work, even though they may have been a member of their church for many years. Yet the congregations of our churches are composed of people who are workers, either in paid employment or in some other context. Many of their deepest challenges emotionally, ethically, and spiritually will be faced in the context of work. It is essential, then, that churches show that work is important by bringing it into the teaching of the church and by praying for those in the church as workers, and not simply as family members or for what they are doing in the church.

[. . .] Laypeople need to know that their daily work is important to God. Indeed, it is essential to furthering God’s purposes for the world. They are not in a waiting room designed for those who are not doing ‘Christian work’, nor are they in some second league because they do not preach every weekend. What they do they are called to do ‘as unto the Lord’, because it is service for him. Every church needs to know what its members do, whether paid or not, because they are the church and they need to be supported in all that God has called them to do and be.”

– John Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 230-31.

I think Stott makes an excellent point. How much emphasis are our churches placing on work? If you think about it, Christians will likely spend more time in their workplace throughout the week than any other area of life (40+ hours). Are our churches seeking to help Christians redeem that significant time each week by developing a Christian worldview and theology of work that is distinctively gospel-centered?

I ask this because, of all the efforts I have seen churches make regarding work (such as bulletin boards and employment opportunities), they has not been a connection made between work and mission. In other words, they help people find jobs to make a living without reference to a kingdom ethic or gospel emphasis. Don’t get me wrong: making a living is vitally important, and we need to be doing everything we can to help people find jobs and live productive lives. Yet, can we say that is all that churches should be doing when it comes to work?

Here’s the reality: there are thousands of electricians, bankers, doctors, lawyers, plumbers, engineers, servers, and on and on who need Jesus. And who are the best people to reach them? Preachers? “Vocational ministers”? No. The best people to reach them are electricians, bankers, doctors, lawyers, plumbers, engineers, and servers who work alongside them on a daily basis with 40 hours of exposure and intimate access to their lives on a weekly (or daily) basis. What are churches doing, then, to train laypeople in those missional contexts to work with a gospel-centered focus and drive? In other words, what are we doing to develop and bridge the theology of work with theology of mission?

Evangelism in years past has been compartmentalized to Sunday School or one night a week where churches go out on “outreach.” It is like we do evangelism as a slice of our week and lives while the overwhelming bulk of who we are and what we do, the gospel is off-limits. On the other hand, the church mobilized in the workplace will have relationships cultivated with unbelievers where the gospel can operate in the natural overflow of our lives, not something we must get psyched up to do for a couple of hours during the week. If you have 200 members who work full-time in their workplace, then each week there is 8000 hours worth of missional work available. Consider that! Are we, as churches, faithful stewards of such precious time and opportunity?

We talk a lot about frontier missions when it comes to the Great Commission. The frontier and front lines often are painted in terms of unreached people groups where there has been no engagement or Christian witness, and rightfully so. But in the North American context, I do not think it is too much to say that the front lines of evangelism is in the workplace. More time, more exposure to unbelievers, and more opportunities are given to us in this setting than anywhere else, and I believe that if we are going to take the Great Commission seriously in our context, we must mobilize our people to change their world with sweat on their brow and tears in their eyes, with callouses on their hands and brokenness in their hearts, with faithfulness to the work and faithfulness to the mission given to us by Him who said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

May God help us affirm the importance of work and mission, and may the two become one.

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Gospeling at Work, Part 2

admin —  March 27, 2008 — 1 Comment

[Part 1 of Gospeling at Work by Matthew Wireman.  You can read more at Matt’s blog, Off the Wire.]

In the last post I sought to give some examples of how I share my life with people at work. I have taken the long-view in thinking through my relationships at work. Everyone at the store knows I am in seminary, that’s an easy one. Even if you’re not in seminary, make it your goal to at least have everyone know you are a church-goer. Trust me–you don’t have to try and tell everyone–the word will quickly spread. When the news first got out, there were about three or four times employees let the other employee that I was a “preacher man” when I sat down to eat in the break room. With that said, people will watch your work ethic and how you treat folks that curse you (you return with a blessing).

I mentioned in my last post that we need to reconsider how we speak of “share” and “gospel.” “Share” is not merely conveying a message, it is imparting your very life (1Thess 2.8). It is not just reconsidering your method, but it is reconsidering the audience. They are not variables in the equation: Message + Listener = Conversion. Rather, they are where you were before your eyes were enightened by the power of the Spirit to the glorious beauty of the saving gospel – the purifying, hope-giving gospel (Eph 1.18). These swearing, lying, promiscuous, cheating sinners are in need of the Savior – that is what you once were (Col 1.21ff; 1Cor 6.9-11).

We also need to reconsider how we conceive of the word “gospel.” Is it merely enough to share four points with someone? No, we should help people see how the Good News of Christ sin-conquering death on the cross gives them hope for life eternal. We must show them how the Good News of Christ’s perfect life imputed to them gives them power to press on through trials of sanctification. We have to model for people how we do not revile because we have been forgiven much and cannot help but forgive, no matter how difficult the labor pains.

What we need as Christians is to not settle for an understanding of evangelism to be limited to sharing a four point message. Surely we do this at opportune times, but this four point outline is just that–it is an outline. We have to help people see that walking an aisle is not our goal. We have to convince people that prayer is a lifestyle and not simply the door into a relationship with Jesus.

Sadly, though, we have not shared the full-orbed gospel with people because we have not been gripped by it. We have been led to believe that it is the first step in a very long journey. Rather, it must be present in every step we take on this short pilgrimmage.

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Here is Jason Meyer’s second contribution to “missional work”. Check out “Witnessing at Work: Sacred or Secular?” also by Jason.

I will always remember the day that my dad gave me some wise counsel. He said, “Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.” I am sure he told me other wise things, but I probably was not listening. I have kept this particular piece of advice me for all of these years because something about it rung true. I never thought it had anything to do with evangelism, but I do now. I will try to explain my rationale in what follows.

Most people wouldn’t give a minimum-wage job a very high ranking in the category of “rewarding and fulfilling.” Therefore, a college education can be an essential aspect of finding a job that fully fits with your God-given gifts and passions. Although some colleges would omit the “God-given” part, most recruiters at colleges and universities use this kind of proverbial wisdom to press for educational decisions from high school seniors.

My burden today is to point out that following this advice will actually cause you to be a more effective evangelist at work. In other words, one of the most neglected strategies for witnessing at work begins long before your hire date: know yourself so that you can identify what a fulfilling vocation looks like for you, and then take the necessary steps to secure a job within that field. Education is one of those “necessary steps” for many today.

The importance of finding a meaningful and fulfilling vocation for evangelism should be obvious: it is hard to witness winsomely concerning the joy of following Jesus when we look miserable at work. I remember working at jobs where I had to fight feelings of futility. There were some days when I felt like they could train a monkey to do my job, which certainly didn’t leave me with lasting feelings of fulfillment.

Now don’t get me wrong, we can still glorify God in the midst of the most mundane work imaginable. I remember learning that lesson as a college sophomore when I read Brother Lawrence’s book Practicing the Presence of God. Great theology should form the foundation of great doxology. In this case, knowing and cherishing God’s glorious omnipresence has enormous ramifications for our ongoing experience of God in the midst of menial tasks like washing dishes. Jesus didn’t say: “I’m with you always, except when you are washing dishes.”

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