The Lagos Worker and the Gospel

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In his helpful book Mastering Monday, John Beckett identifies five themes which should be considered in our attempt to demonstrate God’s kingdom in the workplace. They are Purpose, Values, People, Stewardship, and Serving. These all are nurtured by the Gospel.

The Gospel gives us a clear purpose for our work; we serve Christ and extend his kingdom through what we do.

The Gospel gives us an ethic centred on love, and this guides all the steps we take and the decisions we make.

The Gospel reveals that people are God’s priority (and should be ours, too). It was for people – sinful, broken people – that Jesus hung on the cross and died.

The Gospel reminds us that our lives, skills, and talents belong to God. We are simply stewards. So as we clock in at the office, apply our minds to a problem, or contribute to a project, we are offering back what God has given to us in trust.

Finally, through Christ’s teaching and his atonement, we are taught to lay down our lives for others through serving (John 15:13).

We will focus on the two themes of People and Serving.

People

The Gospel will lead us to value people above profits. Whether we work in risk management, financial planning, or customer service, it is people ultimately that we are serving. Sadly, the ambition and drive in most workplaces tend towards the opposite. The lust for power and prestige means that people are often trampled upon. In a bid to be seen as ‘performing’, managers will exhaust their subordinates. In a bid to cut costs, organizations will refuse or delay payments to vendors for services rendered. And even employees will offer shoddy service to customers. Likewise, the daily pressure to thrive in a competitive environment often leads us to focus solely on the ‘bottom line’, without regard for the humans who are involved in shaping it. It helps to remember that without people, whether as employees, customers, or vendors, there would be no business.

 Serving

John Chapter 13 is a remarkable chapter of the Bible. We have a stirring message proclaimed not merely in words but through vivid action. Shortly before his crucifixion, as he gathered with his disciples to celebrate the Passover, Jesus inverted the social pyramid. He took a towel and a bowl of water and washed the feet of each of his disciples. Contrary to social custom, the teacher became a servant to the student. Then he instructed them to do likewise.

We are called to serve others through our skills and talents. As Peter wrote, ‘As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace’ (1 Pet. 4:10).

In the words of John Beckett, ‘Serving is integral to how God wants his kingdom on earth to function.’ And we see this in Jesus’s instruction to the disciples in Mathew 20:26:

 “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant”

In a city like Lagos, with its craze for prestige and lust for wealth, the message of Christ is profoundly counter-cultural. Lagosians seek to be recognized and celebrated. We want to move up the ladder of career success, not pick up a servant’s towel. But that is precisely what the Gospel implies. In light of the death and resurrection of Jesus, to work is to serve.

So how do we go about this? We can start by noting the following:

  • As an employer, I should serve my employees, helping them to become their best selves. For we both have one master, which is Christ.
  • As a trader, I should offer goods of high quality to my customers.
  • As an executive within an organization, I should realize that I am serving the company by offering my skills and talents.

The Gospel leads us to understand that, ultimately, it is not my CEO or the customer whom I am serving, but Christ.


This article was first published on City Church Lagos.

 

What’s your Calling?

For the past several years, the theme of Calling has been very dear to me. I have increasingly come to see that it is a crucial truth for escaping the humdrum of modern life. As such, I am always on the lookout for books which help to clarify what it’s all about and provide much-needed guidance to all who are seeking to uncover the mystery. And, lately, I read Os Guinness’s masterpiece on the subject. It is at once thorough and lively, learned and interesting, with a continual focus on the Saviour who obediently surrendered to his Father’s call. His book is a delight to read and a feast to relish. I can do little more than offer his points on calling which he carefully develops throughout the book and hope they stimulate you to get the book for yourself and devour its nutrients.


  • Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.
  • When something more than human seeking is needed if seeking is to be satisfied, then calling means that seekers themselves are sought.
  • The notion of calling, or vocation, is vital to each of us because it touches on the modern search for a basis for individual identity and an understanding of humanness itself.
  • Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him. Our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him.the call
  • God normally calls us along the line of our giftedness, but the purpose of giftedness is stewardship and service, not selfishness.
  • A life lived listening to the decisive call of God is a life lived before one audience that trumps all others – the Audience of One.
  • God’s calling is the key to igniting a passion for the deepest growth and highest heroism in life.
  • The notion of calling is vital to the modern search for a basis for moral responsibility and to an understanding of ethics itself.
  • The call of Jesus is personal but not purely individual; Jesus summons his followers not only to an individual calling but also to a corporate calling.
  • Calling reminds Christians ceaselessly that, far from having arrived, a Christian is someone who in this life is always on the road as “a follower of Christ” and a follower of “the Way”.
  • The reverse side of calling is the temptation of conceit.
  • The truth of calling touches closely on the link between giftedness and desire and the almost inescapable temptation of envy.
  • Calling, which played a key role in the rise of modern capitalism, is one of the few truths capable of guiding and restraining it now.
  • Calling is the best antidote to the deadly sin of sloth.
  • Calling directly counters the great modern pressure towards secularization because the call of Jesus includes a summons to the exercise of the spiritual disciplines and the experience of supernatural realities.
  • Calling directly counters the great modern pressure toward privatization because of its insistence that Jesus Christ is Lord of every sphere of life.

Selling with Integrity

“Sales is nothing more than a transference of feeling. If you can make the customer feel the way you do about your product, then your customer will buy your product.”

Zig Ziglar

Most people dread sales. Let me rephrase: I dread sales! But I’m learning to be comfortable with it since it’s not really money - coinsan option: everyone’s in sales. We are always selling something. We just need to learn to do it right. I’ve been reading Dave Ramsey’s excellent book EntreLeadership*, and it has taught me a few vital truths on selling. Here are a few:

  • Everyone is in sales. A wife sells an idea for home redecoration to her husband, an executive sells a product idea to management, a musician sells his latest song to his fans. Whatever your role in life, you are in sales.
  • Don’t teach your team techniques to pressure people. Teach your team to serve. A major reason why I dread sales is because I see it as getting someone to buy a product at all cost. It is skillfully applying pressure on someone until he signs the cheques or hands over the cash. But now I see otherwise. To sell well, you need to honestly connect your product to the person’s need or want. You need to truly care about his desire. You need to serve him.
  • Every sale is a progression through 4 stages: QualificationRapportEducation/InformationClose. If I ignore any of these steps, I will appear (and will actually be) pushy.
  • Qualifying buyers is the most overlooked and ignored step in the buying process. I need to be certain that my prospect is someone who really needs my product, and who has the time to use it, money to acquire it, and power to decide on buying it. If I fail in this, I would have wasted time, energy and even money.
  • Never sell something to someone that you don’t believe they should buy. This is integrity, pure and simple. Selling is not manipulation; it is service. You don’t want to just make a sale and lose a relationship. No. A good relationship built on trust will generate a whole lot of sales in the future.
  • Sell and serve by describing the benefits, not the product. To put it plainly, people don’t buy a TV, they buy entertainment. You don’t buy a house, you buy the shelter, comfort, security and everything else which that house provides. Even when people purchase a luxury good or a luxury brand of a commonplace item (say, a Rolex wristwatch), they are buying the purpose of the item and the status which owning that item confers on them. So don’t sell the features of your item, sell the benefits.
  • Business is more relational than transactional. You are not out to just make a sale; you are to build relationships. My favourite Biblical passage on service captures this well:

    As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace (1 Pet. 4:10).

    This applies to Selling as well.


    *Dave Ramsey, EntreLeadership. Howard Books, 2011. 306 pp.

 

Communicating via Email

email 2Email is a method of exchanging messages digitally from an author (Sender) to one or more recipients.

It is an important but sensitive medium of communication. When used properly, it is a very effective tool. But when abused, it could be a nuisance. We can take the following precautions in ensuring that we use this tool effectively.

  • Use email for not-too-weighty correspondence. Weightier messages might require a letter or direct conversation.
  • Think carefully before responding to mails – particularly negative or emotional messages.
  • Write in simple and clear English (or whatever language you happen to write in). You obviously want to pass across a message as quickly as possible. Your recipient should not have to consult a dictionary in order to understand you.
  • Do not write in uppercase only. Communicate in normal sentence case.
  • Use abbreviations and acronyms sparingly. Unless you are absolutely sure your recipient understands what ‘FAO’ or ‘UNHCR’ stands for, write it out in full.
  • Copy only necessary recipients in your mail. Information overload is a modern problem. You don’t want to worsen it.
  • Avoid emoticons in business messages. It doesn’t belong there.
  • Use a clear and accurate subject line. With 500 messages in her inbox, your recipient needs to know if your mail is worth opening. This is what your subject line is supposed to tell her.
  • Proofread what you’ve written carefully. It’s not unusual to find that some spelling or grammatical error has crept in somewhere.
  • Fill in the address line last. You don’t want to mistakenly send an incomplete or poorly written mail to a busy prospective client. It tells him you are disorganized.

Living Words – Thomas Carlyle (1795 – 1881)

Thomas_Carlyle_by_Sir_John_Everett_Millais_1st_Bt‘Give us, O give us the man who sings at his work! Be his occupation what it may, he is equal to any of those who follow the same pursuit in silent sullenness. He will do more in the same time—he will do it better—he will persevere longer. One is scarcely sensible of fatigue whilst he matches to music. The very stars are said to make harmony as they revolve in their spheres. Wondrous is the strength of cheerfulness, altogether past calculation its powers of endurance. Efforts, to be permanently useful, must be uniformly joyous—a spirit all sunshine—graceful from very gladness—beautiful because bright.’

Your Work matters

Here is a short poem I shared with colleagues at work to help us remember that all the little and routine tasks we carry out are quite significant. Nothing is insignificant. God is pleased with every work well done. Therefore, we should give it our best.

It’s another day.

You call the client,

You ensure he’s OK.

You confirm her prescription,

You notify Chronic Care.

You receive the forms,

You submit to CIM.

Evening comes, the day is gone.

Another day, the same routine.

 

Where does it all lead?

Meaningless routine?

 

From above the answer comes:

No, no, Your work matters!

 

When you serve, when you care.

When you help, when you check.

You live for something greater than you;

You add to the world,

You build the nation.

 

Through the effort, your company grows;

Through your task, the goal is won.

Further still –

Through your work, your God is served;

For to Him all work is done.

And every work truly done is a pleasant sacrifice.

What sort of offering do you then present?

Beyond Premium Health, beyond CS*,

Your work matters, for it matters to God.

*‘CS’ refers to the Client Service unit of the company

Forth in Thy Name, O Lord, I go

Forth in Thy Name, O Lord, I go,charles wesley
My daily labour to pursue;
Thee, only Thee, resolved to know
In all I think, or speak, or do.

The task Thy wisdom hath assigned
O let me cheerfully fulfill;
In all my works Thy presence find,
And prove Thy good and perfect will.

Thee may I set at my right hand,
Whose eyes mine inmost substance see,
And labour on at Thy command,
And offer all my works to Thee.

Give me to bear Thy easy yoke,
And every moment watch and pray;
And still to things eternal look,
And hasten to Thy glorious day:

Fain would I still for Thee employ
Whate’er Thy bounteous grace hath given,
And run my course with even joy,
And closely walk with Thee to Heaven.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)