For all of us, God’s callings include working. However, the world of work is changing rapidly and in disruptive ways. This disruption requires many people to engage God’s callings in new ways.
Up until fairly recently, many American workers could expect that if they worked hard enough they would get full-time, secure employment. Furthermore, it was common for people, once they had found good work, to work for just a couple of companies over the course of their career. But today, this is simply not the case for many American workers.
The number of people supposedly taking part in the gig economy now appears to be drastically overstated, but that certainly doesn’t mean the American workforce is doing business as usual. The rise of tech giants, and even tech startups, has raised the demand for workers in those fields. And at the same time, the rise of A.I. and robotics is precipitating all kinds of questions about the future of work.
The church — which has long seen itself as an agent of vocational formation — must take seriously the task of preparing people for this changing economic context.
Independent Workers face challenges traditional workers do not. Whether it’s the burden of responsibility for things like health care and retirement or the ongoing need to find one’s own work, people today need skills not emphasized in traditional education. More and more people — whether by force or by choice — will have to chart their own course in work. In other words, independents will need to think and act like entrepreneurs.
Churches would do well to help people adopt an entrepreneurial posture.
Foundational to an entrepreneurial posture are three elements core to our Christian identity — creativity, confidence, and resiliency — and four Christian practices — empathy, imagination, risk-taking, and reflection — that people can engage in, in order to develop entrepreneurial postures.
Central to an entrepreneurial posture is creativity. In its most basic form, creativity is the ability to generate new and useful ideas. In a changing world of work, people will need to be able literally to create jobs, generate creative solutions to problems, and continually think outside the box. When we do these things, we engage in the core of Christian life. After all, we see the basis for creativity as collaboration in God’s own trinitarian makeup.
One way to foster creativity is by practicing empathy. In order to get to creativity we must first bracket our own biases and worldviews. It can be difficult to set aside our own experiences, especially for those of us whose experiences line up with dominant culture. But as we come alongside others and hope with them (not just for them), we take the first step of cultivating our creative muscles.
Our work is a prime area for serving others that leads to growth not only in our gifts and abilities but also in our love for people and the God they reflect in their own vocations and creative endeavors.
We do not become entrepreneurial by thinking about ourselves. Instead, we develop an entrepreneurial posture by listening and responding to the needs of others. In other words, in order to thrive as an independent in a changing world of work, we must bind ourselves to the needs and, ultimately, the creativity of others.