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At Work, You’re Not in Kansas Anymore


Note: this post is the third of four of Dr. Chip’s take on a series of conversations he had with businessman Greg Brenneman on Four Divine Truths About Work. We are grateful to Greg for sharing his insights on our podcast! Listen here.


When you’re at work, you are not in Kansas anymore–unless, of course, you work in Kansas.


Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz, says “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” They were in a new reality, with its own rules, dangers, and opportunities. When most of us go to work, when we enter that space, we are leaving Kansas for Oz. In this post, we unpack this dynamic and flesh out a few strategies to survive and thrive in Oz.


Our friend Greg Brenneman, who happens to be from Kansas, describes the Oz dynamic with a different metaphor. He says the following:

God knows that as Christians in the marketplace, all of our games are "away games." There are no home crowds.


To bring home the metaphor he says:

Think about your favorite college football team. When playing at home the crowd is quiet as their team’s offense is on the field but gets really loud when the opposing offense takes the field making it impossible to hear and hard to focus. But when you’re on the road, when you play away, it’s a lot harder. You are the recipient of all that distraction-producing energy!


What this means for our work. If all our games as Christians are away games, this nets out two practices: 1) be prepared and 2) build a mobile home team.


Be Prepared. Many of us need an expectations adjustment. We think if we just do our jobs and keep our heads down, we can avoid conflict over matters related to our faith. While we are to strive to get along with everyone (Romans 12:18), the writers and leaders of Scripture never created the expectation that we’d be at peace with all. Jesus said, “Do not be surprised when the world hates you, it hated me.” Paul said that, to some, “we are the fragrance of life and to others the aroma of death!”


The “world” is the biblical term that sums up the elements of human culture that are opposed to God and Jesus’ way. Not everything about your secular workplace is aligned with the world. Even organizations in the same sector or industry can manifest a diversity of alignment. Some tilt more toward the world, some tilt more toward the values of God’s kingdom. That means a range of hostility levels. Some away games are easier than others. Yet all of us who sincerely follow Jesus will bump into conflict with the worldly elements of our workplace at some point. If we don’t it may mean our followership is tepid.


Greg shares “The only thing I can guarantee is that at times you will be tested in your career. You will run into ethical dilemmas, values conflicts, and questionable dealings.”


So when it comes to the away game dynamic, put away the “can’t we all just get along” fantasy and prepare for it.


Jesus’ chief disciple, Peter, counsels:

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this, you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:19-23)


For our work, to thrive in the away game context, this means:

  1. Do not be surprised

  2. Make sure if you are maligned, criticized, or hindered in your career it is only for doing good. If you are the office jerk or a poor performer, don’t blame the heat you're taking on your Christian faith.

  3. Return cursing with blessing, that means work for the good of your colleagues, this is the Jesus way.


Build a Mobile Home Team.

Preparation involves bracing yourself for reality. Step two is building the kind of support network you need to win on the road.


Greg’s phrase is “Create your own team.” By this, he means invest in a network of thick relationships–where you are mentored, mentoring, and have peers who share the journey.


The writer of Proverbs tells us why:

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. Proverbs 18:1.


We find that people who thrive in the away game context do the following:

  1. They work hard to find fellow Jesus-followers at work. It doesn’t matter if they are the same denomination or have the same political affiliation, they embrace each other as brothers and sisters. There is a huge employee resource group movement (ERG) at major companies with many firms, including American Express, Apple, and Facebook, having Christian groups that meet inside their firms.

  2. They invest in a small, tight community where they meet regularly and are completely honest. Showing up with a group of friends and hiding what’s really going on, does you no good. Being transparent and regular will make your away games more like home games.

There are several unhelpful paths around the away game dynamic: isolate yourself in a Christian bubble or hide your Jesus-centric values and practices. This falls short of Jesus' “in the world but not of the world” vision for your work life. He can give you strength in the midst of it and create all sorts of ripples of influence. However, for that to happen, you and I must graciously maintain our kingdom-based distinctiveness and not try to hide our status as the visiting team.


 

And if you need help preparing or building your mobile home team, our certified coaches are ready to walk with you. We have a team of wise and caring professional coaches, standing by to bring clarity and momentum to your career.


This post is the third of four in Dr. Chip’s take on Four Divine Truths About Work. Chip interviewed Businessman Greg Brenneman on this topic. We are grateful to Greg for sharing his insights on our podcast, which you can listen to here. We are also grateful for our donors who make this kind of transformational content possible. Join our funder team here.



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