Shine in the City

Work is sacred. Before evil entered the world, God created us to enjoy work, and to partner with him in the cultivation of the earth, culture, and ideas. It wasn't until after the Fall of mankind, that people began to see work as a burden. In Christ, however, we have the unique opportunity to see all of life, including our work as a gift from God and as an invitation to partner with him in the renewal of all things. No matter your current work, it all contributes to the good and blessing that God intends and to the fulfillment of his coming Kingdom on earth.  Whether you work in a factory, own a business, stay at home with kids, or teach students, your work is apart of the right ordering of society. So then, if work is inherently good, how do we begin to shine the Light in our places of employment?

Find the right fit. Work was intended to be fulfilling. One way you can shine the light in your workplace is simply by finding the kind of work that God built you for: fulfilling work that fits your personality, passion and gift set. When we feel fulfilled at work, we are more likely to be joyful, peaceful, loving people in our workplace. If you're unsure about what kind of work most fulfills you, take our Core Classes to find how your story, personality, natural abilities, spiritual gifts, and learned skills all contribute to the unique work God's destined you to fulfill. 

Do good work. Whether you've found the right fit or not, doing God work glorifies God. When you show up to work prepared and with an attitude of joy and love, people around you will notice. Have you ever met the janitor that radiates with joy, or a barista who loves serving her customers with that perfect latte? These are people who have found the secret to shining the Light: no matter what they do, they do it all for the glory of God. When you view your work as worship, it changes how you show up and it changes the atmosphere around you. Whether you love your job or not, doing good work shines the light. 

Build relationships. We all have the capacity to build relationships, and we all do it in unique ways. Some of us love to joke with others, some of us love to go deep in conversation, while others are good at inviting people into a task to get something done together. Whatever your style of building relationships, do it with the awareness that what you're doing is building God's Kingdom in a tangible way. If the Kingdom is all about building relationships, then doing that at work means you're apart of the larger movement of God- creating a place where others feel connected, loved and included. Whether you are a manager or the managed, you can uniquely shine Christ's Light by building relationships with others who may feel isolated, discouraged, or anxious. 

Listen. Most Christians talk too much. We feel that the best way to get across our message of Love is to tell people about it. If you look at Christ, however, he was more interested in asking people questions, than giving them answers. What if we took this same posture? What if you became the type of person who is known for how good of a listener you are, instead of how much information you can dispense? You see, people want to know that we care about their perspective of the world, before they want to hear about ours. Once you've built relationships with others at work, make it a point to ask people three things: ask them about their story, about their family and about their view of God, spirituality, and if they have a faith background. 

Share your story. People can't argue with experience. As you build relationships and listen to other's stories, find ways to share your story and specifically your experience with faith. We find it imperative to be authentic and vulnerable as we share our stories, not shying away from sharing our doubts, fears, and failures as it pertains to our spiritual journeys. This invites others into a narrative that is real, and where they can acknowledge and feel safe to admit their own doubts and fears as it pertains to God. As you share your story, make sure to invite others into a dialogue where they can reflect and comment on how they have felt similarly about God, the Church or religion in general. Sharing your story is a way to further build the relationship and build trust that you are someone who they can talk to about spiritual realities. We're not interested in manipulating people to believe like we do, rather, we're interested in giving people a safe place to unpack their spiritual journey, which will ultimately lead them to God, who is Truth. 

The primary way Jesus asks us to express our love for God in the world, is to love our neighbors, the people who live nearest us. Imagine a world where people actually took this seriously, where we were a blessing to and maybe even friends with those who lived right next door. Crime would decrease, our elderly and shut-in's would have company, block parties would abound, and our kids could roam freely without us having to worry. This is the practical expression of God's Kingdom coming to earth! 

We take Jesus' command to be good neighbors seriously at the Light, because we believe that it can change our cities and change the world!  That's why we'd like to invite you into four practical ways to build community in your neighborhood! 

Learn some names: One of the simplest, but most difficult thing to do is introduce ourselves to your neighbors and learn their names. If you don't already know your eight closest neighbors, use this block map to be intentional about learning their names and then writing them down in the boxes that correspond to the houses nearest you. 

Start a Facebook group: One of the easiest ways to build lasting connections in your neighborhood is to start a Facebook group. There are several neighborhoods in Joplin, like the North Heights Neighborhood who have over 600 neighbors sharing ideas, caring for each other and offering solutions to common neighborhood problems, all via Facebook! The great thing is, these online relationships have blossomed into face-to-face friendships. To get started, use this How to Start a Group on Facebook guide

Invite a neighbor to a meal or coffee: Food is sacred. And so are relationships.  What if you could combine both of these sacred things and use them to bless your neighbors? One of the best ways to take the next step past a casual hello or a passing conversation in your relationships with your neighbors is to select an individual or a family to invite over to your house for a meal, tea or coffee. We find that most of our neighbors are craving this kind of connection and what better way to show people the welcome of Jesus, than to simply have a good conversation over a meal. We think you'll be surprised at how rich these sort of invitations can be. 

Throw a party: One of the things that astonishes us is how often our neighbors, who have often lived in the same house for 20 years, are waiting for someone in the neighborhood to step up and throw a party. Time after time where we've dared our people to throw a party on their block and 40, 50, even as many as 100 people show up. So, if you're someone who likes to bring people together, we dare you to throw a party in your neighborhood. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate and if you don't know where to start, use this Neighborhood Block Party Kit to start planning! 

Hobbies are ways we find refreshment and re-create so that we can better give ourselves to our work. Usually, our hobbies are passions we can enjoy doing with others. Riding bicycles, working out, playing an instrument, reading books, or painting are all things that can be done alone or with others. Here's some practical ways to shine the Light in your hobbies.

Find a passion. If you don't already have a hobby or passion, start to experiment. Try that thing that you've always wanted to try, or take someone up on that invite to do something that may be out of your comfort zone. Being someone who experiments is a great way to stumble upon a passion or hobby that you didn't know you would love. 

Include others. When you've found something you're interested in, include others in the pursuit of that passion. Interested in books? What if you started a book club? Do you like to hike or ride bicycles? What if you created a rhythm of enjoying these activities with friends or acquaintances? The point is, our passions can be ways that we include others in our lives. Oftentimes, Christians spend all their time with other Christians. This is not how life was intended to be lived. We are called to be the Light in our cities, and the only way we do that is by rubbing shoulders with people who don't necessarily live the way we have chosen to live. Our hobbies are great ways to include people who may feel lost, alone, hurting, or searching in life. What if you saw your hobbies as an area to invite those who don't yet know the joy of knowing Christ. 

Be a blessing. As you invite others into your hobbies, be someone who blesses others. Being a giver, rather than a taker in relationships, goes a long way in building healthy and mutually beneficial friendships. Be intentional in doing and saying things that call out the image of God in others. For example, if you're good at using your words to encourage others, what if you told someone in your hobby group what you appreciate about them? If you like to give gifts, what would it be like to buy a little something for someone in your hobby group, just as a way to build the friendship? When we, as followers of Christ, bless others instead of judge them, people feel accepted not only by us, but by God himself. Be a blessing, because God has blessed you.

The three prior suggestions for shining in our cities are, for the most part, informal ways to shine. Volunteering at a non-profit organization, however, is a wonderful way to formalize your commitment to improving our city in a tangible way. Here are some steps to finding a non-profit organization that resonates with how God has uniquely designed you to shine. 

Connect your pain and your passion. All of us have a story, usually filled with some level of pain. The good new is, your pain doesn't have to define you. God actually wants to re-frame and transform your pain, in order to be a blessing to others. What if the place God designed you to serve or volunteer has something to do with your own journey and struggles? What if God wants to use your pain, and turn it into a passion for helping others who have a similar story? What if your deepest pain, was connected to your deepest passion?  We find that people who can connect their deepest pain with joy of helping others who have experienced the same sort of pain, find lasting fulfillment. Make sure to take our Core Classes to help you unpack your story in a way that will help you connect your pain and your passion. 

Start slow. When you begin to find your passion for serving others, it's important to be wise in how much time you commit to that passion. We find that many people jump in way too fast and do way too much, and then end up burned out and unwilling to serve for the long haul. Rather than burn out, we encourage you to spend no more than 5-7 hours a week volunteering at a non-profit the first year, so you have time and space for yourself, your family, work and your church community.

Go deeper. As you get a sense that this volunteer or non-profit organization fits your core passion, we encourage you to deepen your awareness and learning in the area you've chosen. If you love working with the homeless, go to a training that helps you understand and love this group of people in more meaningful ways. If you are passionate about preventing child abuse, attend a workshop on the subject. As you grow in your awareness and knowledge, you may have the opportunity to become a mentor to others interested in that area of service. Even more, you may be asked to lead a committee or sit on a board for the organization you've been volunteering for. Others may find that the work the organization does is something they are called to do full-time. As you go deeper, find ways to practically build your understanding of the people group you are helping to serve.