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7 March 2014

Whole-life Discipleship blog: We all have work to do

Sarah Jane Marshall Sarah-Jane Marshall LICC Work Forum
Whole Life Discipleship LICC Blog

The first in a new series of blog posts by Sarah-Jane Marshall from the LICC and John Risbridger, exploring Whole-life Discipleship here in Southampton.

It’s Sunday morning at Above Bar in Southampton and the church family is gathered together.

Sat in the same cluster of chairs are Miriam, Biddy, Phil and Matthew. They worship with the same songs, listen to the same sermon and pray the same intercessions. After the service, they drink the same coffee, mingle in the same crowd and then each head home. The next morning, however, Miriam, Biddy, Phil and Matthew are in quite different contexts, doing altogether different work across the city.

Miriam is a law student and so on Monday morning she’s in a study room on campus with a friend. The two of them often revise together and have become good friends. As they’re working, Miriam gets an email from the Christian Union asking for prayer requests for the week ahead. She quickly fires off a response: ‘Please pray for peace and productivity in my exam revision and for good opportunities for conversations about God with the friend I revise with as we’re going to be spending a lot of time together this week’. Immediately after she hits ‘send’, her friend turns to her and asks a question about her faith.

Biddy has retired from paid employment but knows that God still has lots of good work for her to do. Rather than thinking of herself as ‘retired’, Biddy prefers to see herself as ‘re-tyred’ – working in a new way in the new terrain she now finds herself in. Today her frontline is at the sports centre where she plays a weekly badminton game with an international student. She hopes that the student will want to explore the Bible, but for now Biddy knows she’s serving God just as much as she serves another shuttle-cock, laughs and shows a young adult who’s far from home some much needed love and hospitality.

Phil runs a town planning consultancy business and is in the office preparing a report that will advise a client on a big infrastructure project. The report requires his full attention – it’s important this is done well for his client, and Phil’s also thinking about whether there might be any additional suggestions he could make to improve what is proposed. After lunch he has a staff development meeting with a junior member of his team. As a manager, Phil sees a key part of his role as releasing younger colleagues to achieve their full potential. Helping them do good work is part of how Phil does good work himself.

Matthew’s at home having dropped his six-year-old daughter off at school. Since Catherine was diagnosed with autism three years ago, Matthew and his wife, Liz, decided that one of them should leave paid work to co-ordinate her intensive therapy. Matthew knows that this early intervention is the best way to help his daughter live a more independent life when she’s older. It’s hard work, but the regular signs of progress he and Liz see help them to keep going.

A couple of weeks ago, Matthew was in bed resting after having some routine surgery. Catherine came home, excited to see her daddy after his night in hospital. After saying ‘hello’, Catherine suddenly ran out of the room and bounded down the stairs. Matthew and Liz thought nothing of it – she’d probably just decided to explore something interesting. A few moments later six-year-old Catherine returned carrying a glass of milk for poorly daddy. It may sound like a very small act, but for Catherine this was huge! She’d been able to use a picture of a sick child drinking milk (probably seen in a book or on a DVD) to initiate an emotionally mature response towards her own father. Matthew was open-mouthed at this step of progress and prayed, “Thank you God for blessing my endeavours and encouraging me today”.

Miriam, Biddy, Phil and Matthew are all engaged in quite different work during the week. Nonetheless, just as they worship together on a Sunday, they work in their different contexts in the week with and for the same Heavenly Father. Over the next five weeks, we’re going to be looking at what the big story of the Bible says about the everyday tasks that we each have to do – a ‘theology of work’ if you like. We’ll be hearing more from Miriam, Biddy, Phil and Matthew and others in the Above Bar community as we unpack how our daily work fits in with God’s plan for the world.

As we’ve been preparing this blog series, we’ve been helped hugely by Tim Keller’s book ‘Every Good Endeavour’ (Hodder and Stoughton, 2012). So if you’re the kind of person that enjoys reading, why not get yourself a copy and read along during this blog series – it comes highly recommended!

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