By Gideon Strauss

Last night I got to hang out with the current cohort of Long Beach’s 30 under 40 program. 30 under 40 is a Christ-centered, action-oriented, authentic, collaborative, and diverse peer mentoring program for community leaders under the age of 40 in Long Beach, California, and their organizing committee (including Adam Anderson, Noemi Chavez, Del Black, Eric Marsh, and Rachel Oblon) invited me to join to talk about work, leadership, and organizational life.

Hanging out with the 30 under 40 crowd

Hanging out with the 30 under 40 crowd

There must be hundreds of ways to talk about work with a group like this, but last night I talked about a spirituality of work. As I’ve mentioned in a recent article for The High Calling, Eugene Peterson writes that spirituality “is always an operation of God in which our human lives are pulled into and made participants in the life of God, whether as lovers or rebels.” And this “marvelous work of salvation is presently taking place in our neighborhoods, in our families, in our governments, in our schools and businesses, in our hospitals, on the roads we drive and down the corridors we walk among the people whose names we know.”

Talks with hands

Talks with hands

Our spirituality is our set of orientations and practices that keep us alert to this ever-present work of the Spirit of God in our everyday lives. Our spirituality of work affords us the means by which we can attend to our everyday work as a terrain on which we encounter this work of God. A robust spirituality of work, I suggested last night, is one that awakens in us wonder at the goodness of God’s creation (as expressed, for example, in the wonderful design work of David Greusel, the lead architect for “the most beautiful ballpark in America,” Pittsburgh’s PNC Park), heartbreak at the evil vandalizing God’s good world and lurking also in our own hearts, and hope in the redemptive work by means of which God is recovering all of creation into its original goodness (resulting, for example, in work that brings substantial healing to the brokenness of the world, such as The Giving Partnership of the CaseCrown brand).

Questioning

Questioning

In human work we make something of God’s world (following Andy Crouch’s definition of “culture”), contributing with wonder to the cultivation/opening up of the possibilities folded into creation by God, with heartbreak repenting of and raging against the evil that vandalizes the goodness of creation, with hope bringing healing (as God’s ambassadors of reconciliation, participating in the missio Dei – the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit, re-connecting with God, our fellow human persons, our selves, God’s other creatures) – tikkun olam, healing the world, in the popular phrase from contemporary Jewish spirituality – establishing signposts of God’s new world that is coming.

Eric Marsh and the banner that explains 30 under 40

Eric Marsh and the banner that explains 30 under 40

As is my wont, I suggested that a robust spirituality of work is partly shaped, not just in our everyday work itself, but in the praying of the psalms, where we find these moves of wonder, heartbreak, and hope articulated with raw honesty and poetic beauty. Our conversation, unsurprisingly, touched on the raw honesty of psalms like 51, 88, and 137, and how these are to be understood in the life of the people of God today. We struggled about ways in which to come to terms with the apparent absence of God, at times, from our work. We also talked about ways in which to understand the good work done by people not motivated by the good news of God’s love as it is expressed in Jesus. Best of all, we brought our own everyday work experiences into a conversation with one another.

30 under 40 is an inspiring example of what it looks like when the young leaders of a city engage one another in a serious, year-long conversation about things that really matter – not only for their own development, but for the sake of cultivating a shared love for the city into which they have been called, and out of that love, to seek to serve the common good.

( Editorial note: Pictures courtesy of David A. Miller, Noemi Saucedo-Chavez, and the author.)

Gideon Strauss is the executive director at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership and also editor of Fieldnotes Magazine.

Fieldnotes Magazine is a publication of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. We would love to hear from you about people, businesses, or other organizations we can interview or feature. Please email the editor at Fieldnotes Magazine.

 

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