The Cover of Workship 2

cover 2v3-01.jpg

Here it is... Fresh and bright.

Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work is a guide for individuals and churches.

For individuals, there is practical wisdom on the positives and negatives of our daily working life:

Section 1: Practical wisdom for working

Positive ideas for making a difference in the workplace:

  • Hospitality at work
  • Jesus-shaped leadership
  • Beauty in the workplace

Helpful suggestions for how to respond to common issues:

  • Ethical decision-making
  • Dealing with stress
  • Work–life balance
  • Handling bullying and conflict
  • Toxic workplaces
  • Non-selfish ambition
  • A biblical reflection on unemployment
  • Women and Work
  • The Future of Work

For churches, there is much-needed help in thinking through how to equip workplace Christians in your congregations:

Section 2: Helping churches to equip workers

  • Sermons
  • Church Services
  • Interviews
  • Visiting the workplace
  • Training workplace Christians
  • Mentoring workplace Christians
  • Chaplaincy in the workplace
  • Church presence in the workplace

It will be available in Australia from June, earlier in Singapore :-)

Workship 2 is coming

Photo credit:  Eternity News

Photo credit: Eternity News

Those who have followed the journey of Workship will know that in December I handed the manuscript for a sequel to my editor Charmain, at Graceworks Publishing in Singapore. I can now announce that book is in final stages of preparation and will be called Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work.

Today I received the Foreword written by Windy Simpson, OAM, business guru, an Australian national treasure, and a woman who has been inspirational in living out her faith in all her work. I hope the following excerpt whets your appetite.

I have had the amazing privilege of working in a number of senior leadership roles in the technology and government sectors across the Asia Pacific, from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, to Taipei, Manila, Bangkok, Phenom Penh, Jakarta, and Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland.  I find it fascinating to compare how people in these different cities work, how they lead, how they create businesses, new products or services, and what people will do in order to obtain fulfilment from their work. 

In each of these great cities, what also stands out is something they all have in common: not only does work occupy a large part of people’s lives, it is becoming more complex and, increasingly work is how people identify and define themselves.  Workers are hungry for career guidance, advice on issues such as how to work with difficult people, how to navigate challenging ethical choices, how to handle stress and balance the demands of their jobs with family.  I have seen these questions asked by women, by men, and every cultural, language and income group, and I am convinced there is a deep human desire in each of us to understand “What is the true purpose of our work?”  While there are numerous books to help us discover our purpose, Wall Street Journal best seller Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” being just one, we are still left with the real-world challenges of integrating our faith with our everyday work.

So here is the good news… the wait is over! 

Many of us in the world of business appreciate practical wisdom, so when I read Kara Martin’s Workship 2, I knew I had found just the tool.  Baby-boomers are often asked to mentor the next generation of leaders and yet struggle to find practical, accessible tools to use with their mentees.  Many Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials crave the sense of being valued and equipped which they get from being mentored but often don’t know how approach a mentor or frame the deeper questions relating to the application of Faith to work.  From Singapore to Shanghai, from Manila to Melbourne people are wrestling with questions like: How do I do my work God’s way? How do I bring His purposes alive by my work? Is there a Biblical framework for how I decide how to work?

Workship 2 lays out these deeper issues of how to work God’s way in a simple accessible way and concludes with probing questions and a relevant prayer.

Easter reflections on our Work

Actor Jim Caviezel from Mel Gibson's  The Passion of the Christ .

Actor Jim Caviezel from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

Sarah Bessey writes in Jesus Feminist (please don’t judge) about giving birth (please keep reading) in a garage when child No.3 arrived sooner than anticipated. She says:

I can assure you: there isn’t anything dignified about giving birth.

And yet, that was the moment when I felt my carefully constructed line between the sacred and the secular shatter once and for all. The sacred and holy moments of a life are often our most raw, our most human moments, aren’t they?

But we keep it quiet, the mess of the Incarnation, because it’s just not church-y enough and men don’t quite understand and it’s personal, private, there aren’t words for this and it’s a bit too much.

It’s too much pain, too much waiting, too much humanity, too much God, too much work, too much joy, too much love and far too messy. With far too little control. And sometimes it does not go the way we thought it was supposed to go and then we are also left with questions, with deep sadness, with longing.

This made me think about Easter. I realise that some traditions actually get a lot more ‘earthy’ about the passion of Christ, the sufferings of Jesus.

I wonder if that is why the theology of some traditions feels more embodied?

Instead many Christians have this separation between our bodies and souls which flows into a separation of work and church, of our everyday activities and our faith.

Easter is a time when we can enter more into this lived experience of Jesus.

  1. Try participating in a seder this week, or organising your own, so you can more fully visualise the Last Supper.
  2. Wash some feet on Maundy Thursday.
  3. Watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, and allow yourself to appreciate the wounds Jesus endured for our sake.
  4. Imagine what it means for Jesus to have a resurrected body. A renewed body. Different, yet able to be recognised. With wounds still obvious. Able to cook and share food. Yet with strange powers.

Remember that Jesus worked for up to 25 years as a carpenter before he started his public ministry. He did hard physical work, engaged with customers, cared for his family, used his intelligence and creativity and gifts. He watched and observed and gathered all his material for his parable illustrations. Just in the Gospel of Matthew there are the following teaching images:

o   salt, light (5.13-16)

o   moths, vermin, thieves (6.19)

o   light/darkness (6.22)

o   two masters (6.24)

o   speck/planks (7.3)

o   dogs and pigs (7.6)

o   bread/stone, fish/snake (7.9-10)

o   narrow gate/wide gate and road (7.13-14)

o   sheep/wolves, grapes/thornbushes, figs/thistles, good tree versus bad tree (7.15-20)

o   build house on a rock (7.24-27)

o   doctor for the sick (9.12-13)

o   bridegroom (9.15)

o   patches on garments/wineskins (9.16-17)

o   sheep without a shepherd (9.36)

o   harvest and workers (9.37-38)

o   the worker is worth his keep (10.10) = this is work! Teaching and healing…

o   shrewd as snakes, innocent as doves (10.16)

o   student/teacher, servant/master (10.24)

o   sparrows valued (10.29-31)

o   cross (10.38)

o   reeds/fine clothes (11.7-8)

o   children sitting in the marketplace (11.16-17)

o   eating and drinking = glutton, drunkard, friend of tax collectors and sinners (11.19)

o   yoke (11.28-30)

o   sheep falls into pit (12.11)

o   kingdom/city/household divided (12.25)

o   strong man tied up (12.29)

o   good tree/bad tree (12.33-37)

o   Jonah/Queen of Sheba and other scriptures (12.39-42)

o   farmer sowing seeds (13.3-9) and explained (13.18-23)

o   wheat and weeds (13.24-20) and explained (13.37-43)

o   mustard seed (13.31-32)

o   yeast in dough (13.33)

o   treasure in the field (13.44)

o   merchant looking for fine pearls (13.45-46)

o   net let down into the lake good fish/bad fish (13.47-50)

o   new and old treasures (13.52)

o   plants (15.13)

o   food/words/heart and defiling (15.17-20)

o   children’s bread/dogs (15.26)

o   sunset red/stormy portent (16.2-3)

o   yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees (16.6)

o   Peter = rock, keys of heaven (16.18-19)

o   stumbling block (16.23)

o   cross (16.24)

o   mustard seed versus mountain (17.20)

o   duties and taxes (17.25)

o   children as the greatest (18.1-5)

o   millstone (18.6)

o   100 sheep/shepherd searches for lost sheep (18.12-14)

o   pagan or tax collector (18.17)

o   ungrateful servant with a big debt (18.23-35)

o   camel/eye of needle (19.24)

o   landowners hiring workers for the vineyard (20.1-16)

o   drink the cup (20.22)

o   servant leadership (20.24-28)

o   fig trees and mountains (21.21)

o   man and two sons sent to work (21.28-31)

o   landowner, vineyard and the bad tenants (21.33-41)

o   cornerstone (21.42-44)

o   king and wedding banquet, sending out the servants (22.1-14)

o   coin with Caesar’s head (22.18-21)

o   boxes, tassels, banquets, seats in synagogues (23.5-6)

o   gifts and the altar (23.16-22)

o   spices versus weighty matters, gnats and camels (23.23-24)

o   dirty cup and dish (23.27-28)

o   hen and chicks (23.37)

o   temple building (24.2)

o   house, field, cloak, nursing mothers during time of desolation (24.17-20)

o   carcass and vultures (24.28)

o   fig tree predicts the seasons (24.32)

o   men in the field, women grinding with a hand mill (24.40-41)

o   house owner and thief (24.43)

o   faithful servant in charge of the master’s possessions (24.45-51)

o   ten virgins meeting the bridegroom (25.1-12)

o   man going on a journey leaving bags of gold to the servants (25.14-30)

o   sheep and the goats (25.32-33)

o   hungry, thirsty, in need of hospitality, in prison (25.35-36)

o   bread and cup/wine (26.26-29)

o   strike shepherd, sheep scatter (26.31)

o   cup of suffering (26.39)

What are the metaphors that God is teaching us through our ordinary work and our daily living?

How can we see the value of our work, for the way it connects us to God and Jesus and their work in the world, and for the world?

What is God teaching us through our bodies, our brokenness, our wounds?

Women need to understand Workship

When I wrote my book Workship, I wrote it for all Christians who work, who feel that God was not interested in what they do for the majority of their lives, unless they happen to share the gospel with a co-worker.

On Saturday I was speaking with two women about my book, and they immediately responded by saying they talk about Jesus when they can but it is difficult in their workplace.

They had immediately fallen into the error that the only way to worship God with your work is via evangelism.

I tried to affirm them in their jobs, thanking them for their role in God's sustaining and compassionate work. I sensed a disconnect still.

It struck me that it was really difficult for them to imagine that there was any value in their work; any value to God or to the church.

I wish they would read the book!

It helped to explain to me why it is women in particular who have valued my book. It has resonated with women because in church they not only have to contend with the belief that the only activity God is interested in is prayer, Bible, church and evangelism; they also have to put up with the church idolatry of motherhood: that women's value is determined by our ability to fall pregnant and bear children.

The women in our churches often feel insignificant and marginalised in carrying out the great plan of God in the world.

The women who have read my book suddenly see how all their roles and all their working — paid and unpaid — fit into the big story of God.

They look around themselves with new eyes, seeing God at work, at their work, and partner with him in the great gospel project of redeeming every nook and cranny of their world.

The little things in our working day

Photo by  zhang kaiyv  on  Unsplash

Photo by zhang kaiyv on Unsplash

It was Gordon Preece who taught me the concept of the church gathered and the church scattered. He was talking about the link between what happens on Sunday and where we find ourselves on a Monday. The church gathers to celebrate God, to be spiritually fed in community, to pray for one another, to be blessed and then to be sent out into our jobs, neighbourhoods, schools, universities, and communities, to serve others and continue to honour God.

We don’t stop being the church when we go out the doors. We are the people of God sent into the world as salt and light.

In her book Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren describes it this way:

The work we do together each week in gathered worship transforms and sends us into the work we do in our homes and offices, Likewise, our professional and vocational work is part of the mission and meaning of our gathered worship. We are people who are blessed and sent; this identity transforms how we embody work and worship in the world, in our week, even in our small day.

She highlights the little things we do that make up our working (paid or unpaid).

I have a friend who is a high-up leader in a national organisation. He’s doing good work and making an impact through his career. But when you ask him what he does for a living, he answers, "If you ask my kids, they’d tell you that I check emails and go to meetings." This kingdom vision — our identity as those blessed and sent — must work itself out in the small routines of our daily work and vocation, as we go to meetings, check our email, make our children dinner, or mow the lawn.

God notices the details of our days, and the heart with which we do them. Everything we do can be offered in worship to the God who sees us, and knows us. God can use the little things in his kingdom economy. He can transform our simple acts of faith into movements for renewal.

11 impossible people you meet at work

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 1.17.23 pm.png

The workplace can be an incredibly challenging place for Christians. Even Christian workplaces are places where we see sin clearly. Just think about the synonyms for work: labour, toil, hard yakka, slog, drudgery, grind, travail and exertion.

It is not just the work itself but the people we encounter. Work can bring out the best and the worst in people. Work relationships can cause enormous stress. There is also the phenomenon of toxic workplaces where a downward spiral of corrupted systems and negative culture can affect multiple employees.

However, workplaces also represent enormous opportunities for Christians. It is where our character can be formed, bringing forth the fruit of the Spirit as we counter sinful attitudes with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. It is also where we can give people a taste of the kingdom: demonstrating what shalom looks like as places of wholeness and peace.

The 11 impossible types (and their Christian counterparts):

  1. The Narcissist versus The Agapeist
  2. The Sociopath versus The Team Player
  3. The Incompetent versus The Competent
  4. The Control Freak versus The Empowerer
  5. The Bully versus The Encourager
  6. The 'Ideas Person' versus The Completer
  7. The Sycophant versus The Advocate
  8. The Legalist versus The Creative
  9. The Absentee versus The Diligent
  10. The Gossip versus The Transformer
  11. The Food Thief versus The Hospitable Host

Read the full article here.

The Unseen Hand



We have different mental images for God and his activity in the world. It may be that God seems to be a puppeteer, pulling the strings to make us move. He might be a Director as we strut around on the stage. He may sometimes seem to have fallen asleep, deaf to our cries for intervention.

However, my favourite mental image is of God as a master storyteller, inviting us into his story which includes a vast narrative of creation for relationship, rupture, calling back into relationship, incarnation, a new community, a renewed creation.

In this story, I am free to do a fair amount of my own plot generation as my character develops. However, it is always better to work out the plot in consultation with the storyteller, to make sure we are working in sync. After all, he knows how the story ends!

I have been reading The Loving Life by Paul E Miller, and he works through the story of Ruth in the Bible as a story illustrating God’s hesed, his steadfast love. I came across this paragraph, and it made me think of our working in the context of God’s story.

The awareness of a master storyteller weaving my life lets me pause and, like an artist, see hidden blessings and patterns when I begin to bear the cost of narrowing my life. It lets me endure in love because I know Someone is guiding the story toward resurrection… if an unseen hand is shaping the day, then the day becomes an adventure. That frees me to do even repetitive and mindless work. (p.75)

Ruth is reaping by hand in the fields, collecting enough excess grain to feed herself and Naomi, two poverty-stricken widows. That work could have been a terrible burden in the light of their dire circumstances. However, Ruth believes in the God of Israel, the God of Naomi. She shows steadfast love toward Naomi, acting with the same love she believes the God of Israel shows toward his people.

Her hard, physical, exhausting, and seemingly endless work is not without hope. And neither is ours.

A Different Sort of New Year's Resolution

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 12.25.22 am.png

So many of our resolutions fail. There are many reasons for this including setting unrealistic goals, ignoring who you really are and trying to make too many changes (for more on this: read this Psychology Today article).

A more biblical reason is that as Christians we will tend to make much more effort when we are doing something that is for God or for others, rather than focused on ourselves. So here is a challenging new year’s resolution for 2018 for you:

How can you transform your workplace to give people the fragrance of God’s kingdom?

As Christians, God has placed many of us in strategic positions in workplaces across industries, across the country, reaching millions of people. How can we make a difference for God in those places, and among those people, the majority of whom would never come through the doorway of a church?

Here are seven ideas:

1. Pray more

2. Be hospitable

3. Promote truth

4. Make your workplace more beautiful

5. Show compassion

6. Change the cultural atmosphere

7. Do excellent work

For more details, read the article in Eternity Magazine.


Unreformed work

Business woman.jpeg

I was sitting in the meeting feeling my anger rising on behalf of my guest. She had just finished a beautiful description of an integrated faith-work life. She is the Australian leader of a large overseas organisation. She had just explained how hard she focuses on her decision-making, to make decisions that reflect the character of Jesus. She had told us how she spends significant time praying through her daily routine. She described how close she feels to God when she is in a board room, how she feels God's presence as she relies totally on him. She had told us of recent spiritual conversations as people wondered about why she was different.
She asked for questions, and someone asked: "What are you doing for your local church?"
I had to interrupt and explain that we were listening to someone who saw her daily work as her place of ministry.
My guest graciously replied that she travels two Sundays a month, and being part of regular rosters is very difficult. She said that she had recently had a conversation with her pastor to explain her lack of attendance, and the nature of the work she did.
The questioner was unperturbed: "But surely you could give a talk, or use your leadership skills. The church could use you."
My guest admitted that she helped out on the coffee cart when she could, which seemed to somewhat appease her audience.
I bit my tongue, but this precisely illustrates my great frustration. The church's function is to equip its people to do God's work. Rather than being a place where my guest felt guilty for not giving more; it should be a place of refuge and nurture and teaching and prayer that empowers her to be Christ's light in otherwise dark places.
It should be the place where she gathers with others to celebrate God, and then is sent out as the church scattered to work for his glory.
The questioner should have asked: "What is your church doing for you, to support the great work you are doing for God?"

Ministry versus work

Photo by Ömürden Cengiz on Unsplash

Photo by Ömürden Cengiz on Unsplash

Ministry is usually referred to as special work, God's work. Ministry is elevated above other work. Ordinary work becomes defined as ministry if it is done within a Christian organisation. 
I would argue that these differentiations are problematic. All work is ministry, if it is done with a heart seeking to serve God. The word 'ministry' is from the Latin meaning "serving under authority", and in the Bible it is translated from 'diakonia' a Greek word which means "service among others".
Unfortunately 'ministry' can be used in ways that become detrimental. It can create an artificial barrier between Christians doing ordinary work and Christians doing 'special' or church work. 
It can be used to justify neglect of family ("I haven't been home any night this week because I am doing ministry"), or to elevate certain forms of work ("I need to be supported for this ministry"), or to denote a special calling from God ("I sacrificed my job so I could do this ministry").
We tend to only pray in church for people who are doing 'ministry'.
Some people expect their ministry to be supported by others who are doing paid work, merely on the basis that it is 'God's work'. 
I have been told by a chaplain that work-life balance did not apply to him because he was doing ministry.
I know people who devalue the work they do because it isn't ministry.
When I ask people what work they do for God, they usually list those things they would define as ministry: evangelism, prayer, Bible study and roles with their local church.
I like a line that Ben Witherington uses in his book Kingdom Work: "work as ministry". I think if workplace Christians thought of their work as ministry, and church workers saw their ministry as work, we might be able to work more effectively together for God's glory.

Encounters with good work: air steward

Photo credit: Omar Prestwich

Photo credit: Omar Prestwich

I was traveling on a flight when I saw a flight steward going beyond her job description. She didn't just serve food, she showed real hospitality.
First of all, she let a teenager know that when her sister woke up, that he could use the call button and she would bring a drink and a snack for her.
Next, she told a thirsty man to pop to the back of the plane to refill his cup anytime.
Later, we saw a young passenger dressed in her apron and being trained how to collect and sort rubbish from passengers. As the trolley was pushed past us, the steward explained that the girl was terrified of flying, but this was an effective form of distraction.
Passengers were smiling at the work of the steward, and I am sure she enjoyed her work more also.
This is good work.

Encounters with good work: coffee shop


I was asked recently about redemptive work in our ordinary lives, and I thought it might be helpful to give some examples. There's a coffee shop where the long benches encourage community. The coffee and food are exceptional, healthy, ethically-produced and reasonably-priced. The service is personal and friendly, with follow-up questions. No-one is in a silo if a customer needs help, even the celebrity barista. Conversations between customers and staff are opportunities to dwell. There is recognition for regulars. It's CBD-based so people tend to rush in, but leave more slowly, and usually smiling. There is even a cross in the logo. 
These themes of relationship, hospitality, healthy food, ethical production, excellent work and community-building are all gospel-breathed and God-honouring.
This is good work.

Hobart Launch a Success

Bishop Richard launching  Workship  at the Flourishing Training Event in Hobart. Photo credit: Sonya de Lacey

Bishop Richard launching Workship at the Flourishing Training Event in Hobart.
Photo credit: Sonya de Lacey

It was a massive weekend with the launch of Workship in Hobart, Tasmania, by Bishop Richard Condie, who endorsed Workship as "an immensely helpful book. If you've heard that work for the Christian is just the place to do evangelism, or make money to support real Christian ministry, then read this book and think again. I feel blessed as a preacher, teacher and pastor by this book, but more importantly, I feel blessed as a worker for having read it." 

I completely sold out of books and will be asking Koorong to send more copies south!

I also had the privilege of preaching in St David's Cathedral on Work and Worship.

Here is the link to the sermon.

Faith applied to our working

nails and hammer.jpg

Sometimes it seems we are disconnected from those around us. The temptation is to try and 'fit in'.
In a magnificent piece of rhetoric, Paul mocks those who have become ‘rich’ in the eyes of the world. In fact, as Christians, we value very differently things such as career, wealth and even truth and ambition:
"For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive [by grace from God]? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! ...We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honour, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labour, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. (1 Corinthians 4:7–13)
Being a Christian means being different, but that does not mean we have to flee our context, just recognise that we live by a different set of values and a different standard of truth. There is no shame if in Christ we are seen as ‘the scum of the world’.

Created to work


I was reading in my Bible the story of how God created the world and a couple of things jumped out at me.
First of all, God works! Lots of times we think of work as bad, but if God does it, it must be good.
Secondly, we are made in the image of a God who works, and that means we are made to work. While that might not thrill some of you, it shows that working is part of what makes us fully human. It’s a way of us developing our gifts and serving others.
Thirdly, we are not meant to work alone. God created Eve not just to keep Adam company, but to work alongside him in the Garden. We are meant to work with each other.
The other thing I love about the creation story, is that one of the first bits of work God gave us to do involved using our imaginations, he asked us to name the animals. We use our creative intelligence to help give what God made more meaning and purpose. How cool is that?

Faith-inspired teaching

Teacher party.jpeg

I know a woman who is a teacher and she really loves her job. Not that it is always easy. One Year 9 class she had, the kids just didn’t want to be there. They were difficult and rude, and she really struggled with them. She kept pouring her energy into coming up with creative lessons, and showing she cared about the kids. Sometimes they ignored her. She was tempted to think the effort wasn’t worth it.
Then, slowly, things began to change. Some of the girls would approach herin the playground and ask her questions. More of them started really participating in class. 
By the end of the year, she told the class she was going to throw a party to celebrate how much they had learned. At the party some of the students came forward and thanked her for all the effort she had put in. They apologised for how rude they had been at the beginning of the year, and gave her a present and a card. She told them that she had learnt more from them, than they had from her. How cool is that?

Turning your work into a form of worship

An article on my book Workship, following up an interview with Katrina Roe on Sydney's Hope 103.2FM. The full article is available here.

Below is an excerpt:

Do you devote all your time to your career, or is your work just a means to an end? How does your work fit into your spiritual beliefs?

They’re questions worth thinking about, considering work consumes the majority of our daily lives.

In a new book titled Workship: How to Use your Work to Worship God, Kara Martin proposes a holistic way of viewing work as a form of worship.

A former TV reporter and now a lecturer at Mary Andrews College, Kara draws from her own experience working in her dream job in the TV industry...

Working for God through our Work

My latest blog post for Jimmy Young's Stirring our Affections. Working for God will lead us to do excellent work, and will ease the struggle we have working for human masters. You can read the full article here.

Below is an excerpt:

In my last blog for Stirring Our Affections, ‘Working With God Through Our Work‘, I talked about the need to see ourselves as Christ’s ambassadors in the workplace (2 Corinthians 5:16–20), working with God to accomplish the tasks he has set for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

However, it is also important that we see ourselves as working for God primarily...