The Word before Work: Jordan Raynor
Your faith, your career: How can they be one and the same? Author and host of The Word before Work Jordan Raynor gets practical on integrating your relationship with God into your daily work and find purpose and fulfillment skyrocketing far beyond your 9 to 5.
About the Guest
- Connect with Jordan Raynor and catch more of his thoughts at JordanRaynor.com, or his podcasts, Mere Christians, Redeem the Day, and The Word before Work.
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Author and host of The Word before Work Jordan Raynor gets practical on integrating your faith and career—so they’re one and the same.
The Word before Work: Jordan Raynor
Jordan: On the new Earth, we're going to be working and we're going to long enjoy the work of our hands. So, is it possible to grow in your love of the work? Yes! I think that looks different for different people. I think it's why we’ve got to try a lot of different things to find the thing that God made us to do exceptionally well in service of others, right. When you find that, as you get good at the thing, whatever that thing is, passion grows alongside of it.
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Dave: — This is FamilyLife Today.
I didn't know it when we got married, but I married a worker. [Laughter] I sort of knew but man, oh man, you woman, you can work.
Ann: It's irritating, isn't it?
Dave: No, it's awesome. I mean, there are times it's irritating, but especially when you're pushing me to work harder, but I did not know. It's like you love it.
Ann: I do love it.
Dave: You do; what is it?
Ann: It feels like therapy to me. People bring me energy, but even just manual labor is like, “Oh, this just feels so good.” My problem is I want my kids, [Laughter] and wanted our kids to have that same attitude. Like “We get to work today” and so when they had the attitude of “Ugh, do we have to do this? It's so dumb.” I'd be like, “Are you kidding? We get to do this.” I was so annoying.
Dave: Yes, and you want your husband to do the same thing.
Ann: You are a hard worker, too.
Dave: Yes, but not like you.
We’ve got Jordan Raynor back with us today to talk about work because not only—you're the worker, man. I never watched you like work except here in the studio, but I can imagine you're a lot like Ann. You attack work; am I right, Jordan?
Jordan: Engage—attack—engage; there we go.
Ann: There it is. Engage is a better word.
Dave: That's what I thought. We're going to talk a little bit today about your book, The Word Before Work.
Ann: —which is a devotional and I love that. Tell us just a little—
Dave: It's only Monday through Friday. He lets them have Saturday and Sunday off.
Jordan: I give you some slack because I know you're all like—no, I'm just kidding.
Ann: Why Monday through Friday?
Jordan: Because listen, I—hopefully, most of our listeners are spending time in the Word in general, daily, applying the gospel to our lives. Renewing our minds as we live in this increasingly post Christian culture. But man, I think we’ve got to be renewing our minds with God's word, specifically as it relates to our work, if we're working outside the four walls of the church.
And so that's what this devotional is designed to do, five days a week, Monday through Friday in two minutes with a little bit of scripture, a little bit of exposition and some really practical takeaways. Just take God's Word and apply it to what you're doing whether you're an entrepreneur, a barista, a stay-at-home parent, a bus driver, whatever it is.
Ann: You're in for a treat because Jordan brings energy and passion—
Dave: —to his work.
Ann: —and if you feel bored and unmotivated in your job, you've just stepped into the right place in what to listen to.
Dave: Yes, so here's my question, Jordan, if you're like Ann you fired people that don't work well. [Laughter] I mean, I watched her fire our boys every week. “You're fired,” you know, because they weren't excited about the work and they're dragging.
Ann: We have one son, yes, we did. We did lawns. We had a lawn business and then we had a deck finishing business. And so, this one son would always just drag tools. He dragged him behind, you know and I'm like, “Come on guys, let's have a good attitude.” By the end of the day, it’s like, “You're fired. I would fire you,” because it seemed like he was lazy to me. I was very poor in helping them to have a good attitude because all I did was judge them and it was terrible.
Dave: But it must have worked. He's a really good worker.
Ann: Not because of me; in spite of me.
Jordan: By God's grace.
Ann: Yes, by God's grace.
Dave: But I mean, have you ever felt that same thing? Because, you know you have this perspective. This is holy work; even a yard job is holy work.
Ann: You have three children.
Jordan: I do.
Dave: Did you fire them?—ever?
Ann: I mean, this is your passion.
Jordan: I haven’t fired them yet. [Laughter] I haven’t fired them yet.
Ann: It’s because they're young. How old are they?
Jordan: I'm thinking all—they're eight, six, and three.
Jordan: And the eight-year-old is doing work with me, which I love. It's like so fun. But now I'm thinking a lot about this. I'm thinking a lot about how to get my kids to see a biblical vision of work, and that work was God's first gift to humankind—that the sixth day, contrary to how most of us preach it and teach in our children's books, was not the end of creation. It was the beginning. It's when God passed the baton to us and told us to create like Him, right?
So, I'm trying to plant that idea in their minds at a really early age, but also have a lot of grace with them recognizing that, you know we live in a fallen world and not everyone loves their work. That's a result of the fall of Genesis three, and just having grace with them and my employees the way that my heavenly Father has grace with me.
Ann: I have to share this story because this is something that I did very poorly. This son that I would always fire. He just, he liked doing things and working his own way, and I didn't recognize that. I thought it should be done this way, my way, instead of really understanding his personality and his bent.
This one day our—he's a teenager so our house was toilet papered by his friends. I said, “Guys, you need to go outside and pick up the toilet paper,” and I give him a trash bag. Well, he's not doing it for hours and I come out, I'm like “What are you doing? This should be done by now.” And he— [Laughter] and he has taken a broom handle and he's taken the broom off and he's gone into the house to get a kebab skewer and now he has taken duct tape and he's duct taped it onto the handle of the broom [Laughter] so that he can take this new device—
Dave: —and poke it.
Ann: —and poke it and lift it up to put it in the garbage bag. [Laughter] And I'm thinking “You're taking more time. You could have been done by now.” But now he’s created this great—to him it's like, “Look at what I have created,” and I wish I could have celebrated how we work in a different manner, instead of expecting it all to look the same.
Jordan: Man, that's a challenge for me. [Laughter] I think I would have done exactly the same thing you do, but no, but this is a really good example of a practical outworking of applying the Word to your work.
When I look in Scripture and I'm reminded in Genesis, I bet Adam and Eve work differently. I bet they had different working styles. God has created each of us uniquely, and that means we're all going to work uniquely. And yes, that's going to frustrate us under the fall in a post Genesis three world but to be able to see that there's creational goodness there, right? Like God created us to be good. There is a way that He has hardwired us to work and so if He created my kids that way, there's something good in there that I need to celebrate, right—
Ann: Yes, that’s good.
Jordan: —which is very hard. I'm preaching to myself. This is not easy. [Laughter]
Dave: Yes, it was pretty interesting, that same son—I mean, he's very techie and now he works in the tech world—if you put anything in front of him that's tech related, he will work, outwork everybody—hours to make sure this, you know I can wire this thing this way. But I remember when he was in high school, one of the guys that did cement at my church hired him for the summer. After one week Ron came to me—and he's a blue-collar dude. This guy's a worker—
Ann: He's awesome.
Dave: —and he goes, “Dude, your kid doesn't know how to work.” I go “What?”
Ann: And I'm like, “See, I told you.”
Dave: And Ann’s like “I fired him 100 times.” He goes, “Yeah dude, he just doesn't have it.” I go “Ron, you have my permission. Make him a worker,” and he goes “Are you serious?” He goes “I thought you were going to say “Don't, you know push my boy.” I go “No, push him, man. I've tried. You know he's a good kid but maybe you're the—and you know what? At the end of the summer, he comes to me and goes “Your dude can work.” I go “What?” He goes “I made him a worker.”
Jordan: That’s awesome.
Dave: I'm tearing up because you know in some ways God brings other people sometimes around your kids and he—I mean CJ is an incredible worker.
Ann: Oh yes; he’s amazing.
Dave: A lot of it I owe to Ron Parcell [spelling?] this cement guy that taught my boy how to work.
Ann: Wait, you’re not giving me any credit.
Dave: [Laughter] Well, yes, Ann gets credit too. It definitely wasn't me. But, as you think about that, is that something we can grow into?—becoming a better worker?
Jordan: Oh, no doubt. Listen, we believe we're all in this journey to our future glorified selves, right? That's the process of sanctification. On the New Earth, we're going to be working and we're going to long enjoy the work of our hands. So, is it possible to grow in your love of the work? Yes! I think biblically we could say that pretty definitively.
I think that looks different for different people. I think it's why we’ve got to try a lot of different things to find the thing that God made us to do exceptionally well in service of others. When you find that and when you—actually, really good scientific data is coming out now that says as you get good at the thing, whatever that thing is, passion grows alongside of it.
We have this backwards in our culture. We think you start with passion, right? You find the thing you're passionate about and then you go do it and you're immediately happy. It's not how it works. You get to love what you do by getting really good at it, which shouldn't surprise Christians, because we model the one who came to serve not to be served. Jesus served us. And as we serve others through the Ministry of Excellence, our love of the craft grows alongside of it.
Dave: Hey, talk about the who of work, because I know as a preacher, there have been times when I talk about work from the pulpit. And over 30 years, I bet I've said this multiple times, either on stage, but especially privately with a businessman. I say, “Man, I'm jealous of what you get to do every day.” They look at me like “What?! I'm jealous of what you get to do today. You work for God.”
And I'm like, “Yes, but every day you get to go to an office or whatever you do and you're around people that are far from God, and you're strategically placed there by God to reach them and make disciples where you are. I’ve got to work with Christians all day. That's pretty boring.” I'm kidding but, they think they want my life and I'm like, “No, I want your life because you get the who part. I mean, what we do is important. I'm not saying it isn't. But who we get to do it with is probably more important because that's where we get to lead people to Jesus.
Jordan: I talk about this in the Word Before Work, but just—I've interviewed a lot of people on how to do this effectively in a post Christian context that doesn't require putting tracts in the breakout room, okay. I think we all know that's not effective. [Laughter]
Dave: It's not the Jesus Loves You belt buckle.
Jordan: I don't think that's it. It could be it for you, Dave. But let me just give five things real practically for our listeners to do if they want to make disciples at work. Number one, be so good they can't ignore you. 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul calls us to win the respective outsiders. Guess what? Mediocrity doesn't win the respective outsiders in our current cultural climate; mastery does.
Dave: I mean that is such an important thought.
Ann: Oh yes.
Dave: Because often we think it's the tract; it's not cursing ever, you know? And again, those are good things. Just work unto the Lord and people will notice.
Jordan: There's a reason why I put this first.
Ann: And you use the word mastery. What’s that mean?
Jordan: I don't know that we could really nail down a definition of this, but it's being so good they can't ignore you. It's being so good at your craft that you're invited to the meetings. Everyone wants you in the room because they know that you're making the place of work better. So that's number one.
Number two, don't just be so good they can't ignore you in your skills, be a friend. Be the person in your office that cares about people beyond their productivity.
Number three, at some point, you got to identify yourself as a Christian. You can't just be good at what you do. At some point you have to raise your hand and say “I'm a follower of Jesus” if you want other people to follow Jesus.
Then number four, I think you just got to pray a lot for the Lord to open up doors to move conversations from the surface to the serious, to the spiritual, with people. He's the only one who can open those doors. We can't pry them open.
And then finally, number five, straight from 1 Peter 3, we just got to always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that's within us. I think that includes the personal reasons, our testimony, but also our universal reasons. In our increasingly post-Christian culture, we got to be brushed up on apologetics and be able to defend the very rigorous intellectual and historical case for Christ.
And so those five things are a really good starting point. We can go deeper into that if you want, but in the people that I've interviewed who are disciple making machines in the workplace, those are the five common things I see in there.
Dave: It's interesting when you were reading those, I think about—remember I said yesterday I'd give this message every year to the Detroit Lions players about how to work. I had three I’s. I'm a preacher. They got to be I’s or S’s or T’s.
And so, I said “If you want to work unto the Lord, intensity, integrity, intentionality.” You just said all of them. Like your intensity should be, I'm going to do my work as excellent as ever. Integrity means I'm so trustworthy they know, everybody in that locker room knows “that man can be trusted.” And intentionality is I'm not just working. I've got to be intentional, but who I'm working for and make that known at every opportunity, an intentional moment, say, “I'm going to give glory to God and lead people to Christ.” That's what you just said.
Jordan: Absolutely. Yesterday we talked about how the Great Commission isn't the only commission, but it is a commission. And one of my favorite stories about the intentionality of making disciples comes from William Wilberforce. If our listeners don't know, Wilberforce is most famous for—basically gained the credit for abolishing the slave trade throughout the British Empire. No big deal. What a lot of people don't know is that when Wilberforce entered the British Parliament in the 1700s, there were only a handful of serious Christians in Parliament, and by the time he left, there were about 250. A lot of historians credit Wilberforce.
He had this genius simple tool to aid his intentionality. It was a little journal that he called his list of launchers, and so it was basically just a list of people's names. It's like Dave, and next to Dave's name, a list of topics that would launch that conversation from the surface to the serious to the spiritual.
There's one example; it’s like S and misses. Ask them what books they're reading. Ask them about the education of their children and whether or not they talk about faith at home. Invite them to church on Sunday to hear Reverend Ven or whatever it was. I can't remember this guy's name. But just little prompts, and I've been doing this for about a year now, and it has been a game changer.
For example, before I go into my haircut with my hairdresser Melanie, I'll just take a real quick look at what I wrote down from our last conversation where we left off. One bullet, two bullet of ideas that I can easily memorize before I go into that. And just make sure I'm intentional about taking that conversation somewhere so we're not just talking about sports and kids the whole time. It's a game changer. It was a game changer for Wilberforce. It's been a game changer for me.
Ann: That is so good. I've never heard that about Wilberforce.
Dave: That’s beautiful.
Ann: You shared a story with us at lunch and I know we're going to tie this into this work and your devotional but share the story with our listeners about Sixto.
Jordan: Sixto Rodriguez. We were talking about this because you guys are from Detroit.
Dave: He must be a neighbor. [Laughter]
Jordan: He must be a neighbor. He's still living there to the best of my knowledge. It's a great story about the eternal significance of your work. You'll see it in a second. So back in the 70s, there's this Mexican-American musician living in Detroit named Sixto Rodriguez and everybody thought he was going to be the next big thing. I mean, he worked with the top producers in the world—people who produced Michael Jackson and Ringo Starr. These guys said that Bob Dylan was mild compared to Sixto Rodriguez.
They recorded this album called Cold Fact. They release it and it totally, utterly bombs. There's this great documentary called Searching for Sugarman and they ask one of the producers “How many copies of this record did it sell?” They're like, “I don't know. In America, like six, something like that.” Well, one of those, quote unquote, six people took the record from Detroit on a plane to this far off land of South Africa. She gets off the plane, she starts playing it for friends and they're obsessed with it. Problem is, you can't buy the record because it didn't sell anywhere.
So you start bootlegging the record and soon it's like everywhere. Within a year or two it’s everywhere over South Africa. They actually start selling it in stores and somehow—it's very shady—somehow the royalties got lost in translation from the record label in South Africa to Detroit. The point is for 30 years, Sixto Rodriguez had no idea that he was bigger than The Beatles; he was bigger than The Rolling Stones; he was bigger than Elvis Presley—in South Africa.
Dave: That’s big.
Jordan: So, he's staying in Detroit. He's working manual labor. He's dirt poor. They lived in 26 homes in 25 years. And then, out of nowhere, he gets a phone call one day. Some people in South Africa tracked him down. They finally found this guy. They call him up and they say, “Is this Sixto Rodriguez?” He says, “Yes.” He says, “Do you know the impact that you've had in South Africa?” He’s like, “I have no idea what you're talking about.” He goes “For the last 30 years in South Africa, you have been a bigger star than Elvis Presley.” And he was just bowled over, like he could not believe it.
I think there's a beautiful application for believers here. We talked about this yesterday in Psalm 37:23; “that the Lord delights in every detail of our lives” [Paraphrased]. I think most of us are going to work every day having no idea about the impact that our work has in the seemingly distant, unseen land called the Kingdom of Heaven, not South Africa. But Psalm 37:23, says God delights in every detail of our lives. His pleasure is eternal and if that's true, then everything we do today with excellence and love in accordance with God's commands is literally shaping eternity.
I think it's going to shape the interactions we have with the risen Christ on the New Earth. I think Jesus is going to come up to you when you're, I don't know, plowing a garden or building a great city on the New Earth He’s going to say, “Hey, Dave, I remember when you were chaplain for the Lions and you had the opportunity to lie to get some team members to stay on the team”—I don't know what it was—"and you didn't do that. I saw that and my Father and I delighted in that. Well done, good and faithful servant.”
He's going to go to Ann. He's going to say, “Ann, I remember watching you in those years of wiping diaper after diaper after diaper and yes, there were some days where you cried out and cursed but there were a lot of days”—
Dave: She would never curse. [Laughter]
Dave: Not her.
Jordan: “There were a lot of days when you did with your smile on a face and my Father and I remembered that and we took great delight in that.” Everything we do has an impact in the unseen dimension of heaven and that should fuel our purpose and our joy right now.
Dave: Yes, and I'm just thinking there's someone listening a mom, a dad, a son or daughter who's just struggling with work, and I know it can be really hard, especially what you said, Ann, about being a mom and just the grind of that. Nobody sees it; you're sort of invisible.
Ann: It feels like it doesn't matter.
Dave: Yes. I mean, our daughter in laws are doing that right now with these little kids. And you just see it's hard. And what you just said, they need to be reminded Jesus sees, He applauds, He is applauding right now, and He actually will give you strength and power to get through a hard workday.
Ann: Okay, this conversation with Jordan Raynor and work, that is right up my alley.
Dave: You're a worker and it was full of energy. That guy can bring it.
Ann: Well, he can, but it's also just a perspective of bringing Jesus into the workplace in a very beautiful and compelling way.
Dave: Yes, and I think we need that perspective and I'm hoping you share those programs with your friends who are workers and often don't always have God’s perspective on that.
And let me say this, one of the benefits of work is we get paid.
Ann: [Laughter] Well, that’s good.
Dave: I know we want to get paid more than we get paid, but we get paid and one of the things God wants us to do as we get paid is bless others. And because He's blessed us, we get to be a blessing to others. I just want to challenge you, invite you, to join our family at FamilyLife Today and become a financial partner. Which means I'm going to jump in and give a one-time gift or a monthly gift so that the kind of content we just recorded can be shared with other people. That doesn't just happen unless people like you jump in and say “Man, my work matters. And because I work hard, God blesses that, and I want to be a blessing to others.”
Ann: And we really thank you to those who give and to all of you who are listening.
Shelby: I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Jordan Raynor on FamilyLife Today. You know, as Dave was saying, we are God's children and we're blessed to be a blessing. And your blessing to us at FamilyLife makes you a part of the FamilyLife family. You can go online to FamilyLifeToday.com with your donation and give a gift. And when you do, we're going to send you, as our “Thank you,” a copy of Jordan's book called The Word Before Work: A Monday-through-Friday Devotional to Help You Find Eternal Purpose in Your Daily Work.
Now, this devotional, it is a Monday through Friday thing, but it's actually a yearlong study. It doesn't end after a week; it ends after 52. Again, this important devotional is our gift to you when you partner with us at FamilyLife. You can go online to FamilyLifeToday.com or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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You know, I have a question for you. How have you seen loneliness rising around you right in your own community? Maybe not in the broader culture, but your own personal community? Well, what if there's something you could actually do about it? Yes, you.
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Now, if your kids are struggling or have questions regarding gender, which is such a talked about topic today, well, we hope you'll join us tomorrow because Jared Kennedy will be with us to discuss all of that, plus your influence as a parent with your child's thoughts regarding gender. That's tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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