Work that Matters: Bridging the Divide between Work and Worship, by Kevin Brown and Michael Wiese
Work that Matters: Bridging the Divide between Work and Worship, by Kevin Brown and Michael Wiese. 2nd ed. Lexington, KY: Aldersgate Press, 2018. 116 pp. $14.99.
Why does work matter? How is work life related to spiritual life? Do they clash, blend, or grow separately? Kevin Brown and Michael Wiese, professors in business and marketing with a strong passion for Christian entrepreneurship, propose a theology of work that allows the faithful Christian to “remain undivided” regardless of what his or her work entails and demands (6) and present ways to “live within the present fullness of God” in all life’s aspects (20). Brown and Wiese assert as their thesis that work is an act of worship, an act of faith; one can be a person of faith in a working world (viii). Both further conclude that living a holy life, in wholeness for God’s glory, “brings worship and work into harmony” (ix).
Brown and Wiese develop their thesis by first identifying misconceptions that create rifts between work and worship. Following that, they offer ways to achieve work that is treated as worship. Chapter 1 sets the stage by defining key terms such as “work,” “worship,” “holiness,” and “wholeness.” Moreover, it presents four work-worship misconceptions that thwart the Christian from living a holy and wholly life. Here, the authors play with different prepositions to explain these misconceptions. The first divide is the “work not worship,” a distorted view that assumes that who we are as workers has nothing to do with our faith, that one’s faith is separate from one’s work, creating a dual identity (9). “Work then worship” is an understanding that strives to bring the Christian formula of success to the workplace (11). However, the authors argue that even the use of Christian principles at work does not always promise success and profit (13). The inappropriate mixing of work and worship comes in as the third breach: “Work and worship” (13). It is the inapt blending of one’s faith and work identity that leads to over-spiritualization of work life, leaving little space for the ordinary, and eventually leads the person to exhaustion (15). The last misconception is when one must either “work or worship” (16), an understanding that treats ministry as the “Christian route” and the secular work as the “non-Christian route” (16). Further, it is a view that categorizes only ministry professions as “calling”; ministers who decide to leave the ministry are seen as lesser persons who “abandoned true worship” (18).
To address these perversions, Brown and Wiese strongly recommend that a faithful narrative comes as a better alternative in the pursuit for wholeness and holiness: “Work as worship” (18). They argue that an appropriate marriage of work and worship is to begin with one’s faith identity, and then one must “understand and act in the world based on that identity.” To give a clearer picture of how this alternative looks, the authors offer four C’s of Work as Worship: co-creation, catalyst, community, and contribution (19). A holy life should co-create with God, be a catalyst of good through the use of one’s gifts, be willing to build a community by relating, not isolating, and offer a lasting contribution to people for the glory of God. Each of these is singly discussed in the subsequent chapters of the book.
Each work-worship misconception is clearly presented and discussed, supported with appropriate biblical references, examples, and testimonies. Further, the authors did an excellent job in discussing the four C’s that helped solidify their argument, that indeed, work is an act of worship. Also, argumentation is well-supported with theological themes, biblical references, and examples that balance both secular and church settings.
Two areas for improvement, however, can be observed from the material. First, without any biblical foundation to support their definition, at the beginning of chapter 1, the authors simply describe worship as “spiritual activities and expressions, enabled by the Holy Spirit, that we engage in to honor God, express or love to God, and live in God’s presence” (3). There is, however, in the conclusion a strongly supported and well-elaborated foundation of the term, which includes Greek words that relate to worship and how it powerfully links with work. Such a section could have been best placed in the introduction. As a major term used in the entire book, the loose definition presented in the beginning could cause misunderstanding on the part of the reader. How does their definition differ from an ordinary person’s understanding of a Sunday worship service? If the distinctions are not clear, confusion is certainly bound to happen.
Second, the authors have honestly admitted that this topic is not new, that “other attempts have been made to bring together our worship and work” (19). While they are committed to add their perspective into the discourse, they have failed to show what is unique about their view, specifically their Christian view. For instance, how are they different from Work as Worship, which offers a similar Christian standpoint? Identifying the distinct feature/s of their claim could have helped enhance an element of attraction to their contribution to the subject and could have strengthened their place with what sets them apart from those who have already written on a similar topic.
Reflection questions for self and group discussions provided at the end of each chapter are helpful for evaluation. For a claim with a strong paradigm shift such as theirs, the chapter-end questions could serve as stimuli for a life-changing decision. Chapters 2–5 have a “personalize it” section (36, 56, 75, 99), where the authors give concrete examples, tips, and suggestions for practical use; these help the readers actualize the concepts being introduced at the beginning of each chapter. End notes that show sources of more recent works give afresh more relevant situations to the contemporary reader. In the final chapter, a recapitulation of the work-worship divides and a concise discussion of the four C’s on what to do about them brings the whole material to a proper closure.
As it is, Brown and Wiese have successfully presented a unique way of looking at “work” in connection with “worship” and how both could blend appropriately. They offer a fuller understanding on how we could best live our lives in consistency with our faith, to be holy before God, offering our undivided selves for God’s glory. However, if topics similar to this have already been examined, they need to explain more clearly to their readers that indeed their perspective stands out among the rest.
Jean C. Nalam
 Mark L. Russell, Dave Gibbons, Brian Mosley, Matt Chandler, Norm Miller, J. R. Vassar, and Justin Forman, Work as Worship: God Created Us to Work; God Created Us to Worship; for Us, Work Is Worship (Richardson, TX: RightNow, 2012).