After pulling a large carrot out of the soil, Joe Bollinger smiles in awe of God’s creation. He is a Cru® staff member in Orlando who grows produce and organizes garden plots as part of his ministry to connect with his neighbors and give generously to them.

Reimagining Work God’s Way

words by

Chealsia Smedley

photos by

Mick Haupt

Rot caused a large branch to snap off a 60-foot-tall tree one Monday night in fall 2021. Mick Haupt, a Cru® staff member, was attending a Bible study when his phone buzzed with a photo of the branch, covering half the street and obstructing traffic, right in front of his house. 

After firefighters cleared the street enough to let traffic pass, a city contractor removed the debris remaining on the street and dismembered the rest of the branch. The next morning, friends chatted as they helped Mick clean the mess of branches and leaves covering his yard. But in the end, Mick realized he would need a professional to get to the root of the problem.

He contacted Tim Jennings, an arborist, who came the following week to dismantle and uproot the invasive Chinaberry tree. Mick watched as Tim and his co-worker pruned branches, sawed through the massive trunk and fed blocks of bark into the whirling wood chipper.

The pair were impressively efficient: quickly evaluating the issue, handling a beehive without fear and working with the vigor of four men. No wonder Mick was shocked when Tim, in the middle of giving a detailed report of his work, said he was thinking about calling it quits with the tree company all together.

At that time, Americans were quitting their jobs in record numbers, hitting an all-time high when 4.5 million workers resigned in November 2021 alone. Some Americans, burned out from the pandemic, left to care for their families or their health. Others realized the poor conditions they were working under and searched for better opportunities.

But Tim’s reasons were different: He wanted to quit because he didn’t think his work was spiritual enough.

“Are you kidding?”  Mick countered. “What was Adam’s job in the garden?”

Currently, as our world examines the how’s and why’s of work, we have an opportunity to return to the garden: the place where God first gave us responsibility and it was good. When Jesus came, he announced God’s kingdom by tangibly displaying God’s love and power, rescuing us from the clutches of sin and restoring our intimate relationship with our heavenly Father. Through Jesus, God can also redeem our work today: giving us the fulfillment, refreshment and balance that we desperately seek and need.

Returning to the garden

Tim didn’t know how to respond when Mick asked him about Adam’s role. So Mick continued: 

“His job was to take care of the garden and to name the animals. Would you say that his job was spiritual?”

“I’d never thought about it like that,” Tim admitted.

“Well, his job was given to him by God to serve the purposes of God,” Mick said. “You are doing the same thing. You are tending people’s gardens. You are doing something for a group of people that they could never do for themselves.”

That day, Mick helped Tim see his vocation through God’s eyes of grace, redemption and purpose. Tim didn’t have to become a missionary to do God’s work; he could be effective right where God planted him.

farmer with soil Joe Bollinger loosens up the soil to allow the roots of a plant to grow.

Our reality over the last two years has caused many Americans to reimagine their working lives. Whether dismantling the norm of eight hours in an office or reading articles with titles like “How to Care Less About Work,” people are searching for true fulfillment and stable ground.

Looking at our work through God’s lenses can provide vision and hope. He created work before sin stained the world. When he called Adam and Eve to fill the earth, rule by his side and care for his creation, he showed them honor, trust and generosity.

Even though the Fall marred the work of our hands with struggle and the pandemic revealed the brokenness of our current relationship to work, our occupational lives are not outside Christ’s redeeming work on the cross. Jesus enables us to live the way God intended us to, and that also extends to our 9-to-5 or whatever work schedule we follow.

Switching stories

“We’re called to a very specific kind of work,” writes John Mark Comer. “To make a Garden-like world where image bearers can flourish and thrive, where people can experience and enjoy God’s generous love. A kingdom where God’s will is done ‘on earth as it is in heaven,’ where the glass wall between earth and heaven is so thin and clear and translucent that you don’t even remember it’s there. That’s the kind of world we’re called to make. After all, we’re just supposed to continue what God started in the beginning.”

The vision described in this quote inspired me as I also contemplated a job switch last fall: from working with Cru® in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to jumping back into the journalism industry. In the book “Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human,” author John Mark Comer lays out a biblical view of calling that supersedes vocation. He describes calling as having the courage to do what God has created us for, using the passions and skills he’s given us to make a unique impact in his world.

To step into what God was calling me to do, I realized I needed to let go of the ways I clung to a “spiritual” job for security. I knew that my work mattered to God when it was telling people about Jesus each day, but would that remain true when my job shifted to writing full time?

Recently, I published a personal essay about how living in Slovenia helped me speak up and claim my identity as a mixed-race woman. (My mom is biracial, and my dad is Black). I worked on this essay for a year before it was published and, in my self-doubt, questioned if it was worth my time and effort. But after hearing from a few readers who had similar experiences and struggles with their identity, I began to see how God could use my voice to make a “garden-like world.”

In the garden, Adam and Eve were created in God’s image. They were naked and unashamed. When I share my experiences or give voice to the experiences of others, I can help other people be lovingly seen. In turn, they might more confidently walk in the unique way that God created them to reflect his image.

How can you help image-bearers flourish and experience God’s love through your work? 

Planted with a purpose

Teachers panicked when COVID-19 caused schools to close in Chisinau, Moldova. But some individuals saw this as an opportunity — including volunteers with LeaderImpact™, a ministry of Cru that helps leaders leverage their professional influence for God’s kingdom. 

LeaderImpact staff member Natasha Ciausov began sending Bible verses of encouragement to teachers, which inspired them to send verses and Christian quotes to their co-workers. Natasha was blown away as teachers became even more creative: sending care packages to every teacher in their region, and recommending books from the school library for both students and teachers.

“I encourage them to be light and salt in their workplace,” Natasha says. “It isn’t important where this place is. If you are a janitor in the school, you can do that through your work, actions, deeds, words.”

Images for story on the spirituality of work When a student has trouble sounding out words during a reading lesson, 1st grade teacher Clarice Haupt, who serves students in Orlando, Florida, leans in to help.

Having purpose in our work, as Christians, is really about mindset. God has placed us in our workplaces and communities to be his light in a dark world. How is God calling you to witness to others in your workplace? How can God’s purposes — of redeeming people and reconciling them to himself — become your purpose at work? 

From balance to order

Work-life balance can feel like an elusive target. During the pandemic, working at home alongside kids, family members and housemates became the new normal. So separating our work and personal lives felt impossible. But what if God never created us to stand in the middle of that balance beam? What if, instead, he’s asking us to order our lives, with him at the center?  

Radu Cucos, a Cru staff member in Moldova, learned that lesson about balance during this time. Radu serves with FamilyLife®, a ministry that helps families grow and make an impact for Christ. As he interacted with families, he learned from them to prioritize his relationships with his kids over managing their tasks. He compared this to prioritizing another central relationship.

 “When I first joined [staff] I heard this said a lot: Put God first, family second and ministry third,” he says. “After many years I don’t agree with this formula. It’s better to put God in the center.”

He shares that when we rank things in our lives, something is always in competition with God, and we can’t find balance. “God doesn’t want to make competition in our lives, he wants to order our lives,” he adds. 

Images for story on the spirituality of work For Cru Storylines photographer Guy Gerrard, wood turning is a creative outlet. He works in his garage, equipped with two different-sized, wood-turning lathes.

God created Adam and Eve on the sixth day of Creation. That means that the couple’s first day on earth was the sabbath — a day of rest spent enjoying God’s presence and creation. They started their week with God and worked afterward. It’s tempting to think of rest as a reward for hard work, but in the garden, rest and time in God’s presence was the starting point and the source for Adam and Eve’s working days.

When God is the source and driving force in each area of our lives, we gain a sense of stability and order. We don’t need to juggle our priorities; instead we have the freedom to follow God and participate in the ways he is working in and through us. At times that could mean spending more time with your family, but it could also mean hunkering down and focusing a little more energy on your work. Either way, God, who is both in control of the big things and involved in the details of our lives, is leading the way, and we can be sure that we are heading to a good place.

man working with wood Wood shavings fly as Guy Gerrard carves into a block of wood that will soon become a snowman-shaped ornament.

Next Step

What do you need from your work and how does God, the giver of every good and perfect gift, already provide that for you?


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