When I graduated from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology in 2011, I was launched into ministry work among the undergraduate students of my alma mater. During this time, my routine consisted of praying for students, studying the Bible, providing counseling, and mobilizing students for ministry. I loved the work I was doing and I felt fulfilled as I saw many lives transformed by the gospel.
How the Lord Called Me to Business
You can imagine how petrified I felt when, over a period of time, a growing sense of redirection crystallized into an unmistakable calling. It was time for me to return to entrepreneurship.
I struggled significantly with this calling as I felt there was no way I could feel spiritually fulfilled doing “secular” work. But God had other plans. The Lord was intent on patiently teaching me as I navigated this new terrain.
Work as Vocation
Work has to be placed within the context of the greater good it serves. We must view our work as a contribution that we make to the bank of common goods.
To see work this way, we need to embrace work as a vocation. To view work redemptively, work must be seen as a calling. When we see ourselves as being called by God to serve in a particular vocation, two things are established. First, we are accountable to the one who has called us. Second, we are accountable to the ones we are called to serve. Tim Keller, in his book Every Good Endeavor, wrote,
Thinking of work mainly as a means of self-fulfillment and self-realization slowly crushes a person and undermines society itself.
The Danger of Expressive Individualism
This view of work directly contradicts the rising expressive individualism in our society. This expressive individualism, Keller said, is that thing that has been eating away at the cohesiveness of our culture.
The moment self is idolized, we lose our proper view of work. When this happens, mindlessness and selfishness prevail in both the input and the output of the work that we do.
Aside from the exaltation of self and the centering of work around oneself, the other extreme is to consider some types of work as incapable of bearing witness to the One who has redeemed us.
The Calling to Do Our Job Well
Martin Luther King Jr. once spoke about this struggle, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”
The street sweeper should embrace his work as a vocation—as a calling from the Lord to serve others. With this in mind, no work is undignified as long as it is filled with honesty, diligence, and value and is not inherently sinful.
Working that Allows Our Community to Flourish
Whether you are called to milk cows or work as a venture capitalist, you ought to view your work as a vocation from the Lord. When we view our work in this light, we will seek the good of our culture while advancing the flourishing of communities and nations because of the lens through which we have chosen to see our work.
We must give ourselves to the reflective exercise that will help us situate our daily work within the context of vocation. This both liberates and grounds us in the knowledge that the work we do is meaningful not just from an earthly perspective but from an eternal perspective.
Reclaiming the Dignity of Work
There is no better way to reclaim the dignity of work than to bring to mind the fact that God is a worker. God worked in the beginning. He created, formed, made, delegated, and rested. God works. Our Lord Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” God works even now. He began a good work in us, he is still working in us now both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
If we bear his image, it means work is meant to be reflexive and reflective. Reflexive because it’s a part of our nature and DNA. Reflective because we are made in his image. Geoffrey Gentry has this beautiful quote,
The call of makers, of those of us who craft, cannot be seen as a separate vocation sprinkled over our knowing Christ but as our collective returning to the old things that were true at the foundation of the world.
When we realize this, we are empowered to work with our heads raised high, with a sense of dignified nobility. We know that God has called us to this work. At the same time, we work with humility, with our heads bowed in reverence, because our work is an act of worship to the Lord.
Created for Good Works
We were created for good works (Ephesians 2:10), and the desire to do good to others should overflow into everything we do. Whether the work is explicitly Christian or not, we have been created to work for the Lord.
My commitment to the company I lead is a product of my persuasion that we are doing good work. Our mission is to transform underserved university communities in Africa into resilient innovation ecosystems.
Equipping Young People to Work Redemptively
This we do by bringing together the ingredients of visionary leadership and mission-driven resources in each community we serve. So, whether we are identifying and resourcing entrepreneurs and startup founders with impactful ideas or equipping young people with tech skills that ensure their relevance in a digital economy, we do these as worship to the Lord. Whether we are building software solutions or working with companies to develop their brands, we are doing this, by God’s grace, out of love for our neighbors.
Hundreds of young students have had their first experience of work at our company and their testimonies have remained almost always the same. “I never knew that I could find such joy and spiritual fulfillment doing work.” I fight to hold back the tears when I hear this said.
When the Lord led me to return to the marketplace, I felt confused but seeing the thousands of lives transformed through our work over the past five years, I have come to see my work as a way to glorify God and see his purposes carried out on earth and for eternity.