As worship leaders, we know that true worship involves being a living sacrifice: daily offering our whole beings for the service of the God who showed us great mercy. We want to help our congregations to realize that and engage with it, but I’m concerned that there is often a disconnect between our worship lives and our work lives—as if Sunday was worship time and 9-5 Mon-Fri was work time. Here’s how I’ve encouraged my congregation to let their work be worship.
Your work can be worship.
No, you might say: work is drudgery! You put up with it until the weekend. Sure, it may feel like that but that’s only because the Fall twisted what God had intended for us.
We are made in the image of God; God was hard at work at the very start of the Bible – He created and rested from His work of creation (Genesis 2:3). He made us to work and to find fulfillment in work – we were placed into the Garden to work it and to keep it, that is, to steward God’s creation (Genesis 2:15). With the Fall came thorns and thistles, but that doesn’t change the fact that being made in God’s image, we find fulfillment in work.
Not only that, but being redeemed by God, we are called to respond to His mercy by giving every waking moment to Him for the service of His Kingdom. Just because we’re not paid by a church doesn’t mean that what we do for work isn’t valuable to God’s kingdom. In fact, whoever you are, whatever you do, God is pleased when you work faithfully.
How do we know that work can be worship?
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Colossians 3:22-23 NIV).
Obviously there are huge differences between your work circumstances and the experience of slaves in first century Colossae, but the underlying rationale remains the same. Even if you are doing the most menial labour possible, you can (and are actually called to) do it as worship—”do it out of reverence for the Lord” – ie., worship.
What does work as worship look like?
Work hard – Paul is clear – when you make your work worship, you will work hard – “with all your heart.” 1Thessalonians 4:12 makes a similar point – work hard so that you won’t be a mooch and in so doing bring disrepute on the Christian community.
Work honest – Honouring the Lord with your work requires honorable actions – working with integrity – not only when you’re being supervised or for the sake of promotion (Colossians 3:22). When you let your work be worship, you do it for the simple reason that you love God and want to thank Him with the whole of your being.
How do you do it?
Daniel is a great example of devotional work. He worked hard – you don’t get to be the head over a foreign country by slacking off. And he clearly worked honest – Daniel 6 tells us through those seeking to discredit him that Daniel was trustworthy and neither corrupt not negligent (v. 4). He also spent a lot of time in prayer. We too can offer our day’s work to God, saying “God, today I will run into cranky people, unfair situations, physical difficulties, temptations to pride and selfishness; through it all, God, use me, help me to offer my work to you, as a reflection of your character, in all that I do.”
- Make it your ambition.
Commit yourself to it. There are times when fatigue and interpersonal conflict will make you want to give up and slack off; just remind yourself: “I’m doing this for God who, because He showed me great mercy, deserves the very best, so: work hard, work honest.”
- Serve Jesus.
While it’s true that you have responsibilities and obligations to your earthly boss, it’s also true that when you became a follower of Jesus, you became a servant of Jesus. We are all, in terms of our work, ‘under new management’: we do the same work, but for a new manager whose vision and foresight are perfect. Consciously work for Jesus and you will find yourself working honest and working hard – honouring the Lord with your work.
Graham is a long-time worship leader with an M.Div. (Heritage Seminary) and a passion for seeing the God of the Bible receive the praise He deserves. He is now the preaching pastor at Langford Community Church in Southwestern Ontario. Connect with Graham at gwgladstone.ca or @gwgladstone.