Monday, February 20, 2012

"Professionalism Is For Everyone"

"Why I as a Christ follower should be the most professional person in my workplace."

I was asked to go a training seminar with the above title, the first one that is. Before hand I was given an easy to read, 67 page book by the same title. As I read this book the night before the training, I was struck time and time again by the fact that if I am really doing what I claim to be doing - being a Christ follower - then others in my work environment should be able to judge me as the most professional person there. Let me explain.

The first section he discussed was "Character." I was struck by a few things in this section. First, the author proposes that professionals "make a conscious decision to hold themselves to a higher standard of performance and a more demanding code of conduct than most people use to guide their thoughts, actions and behavior." My mind immediately went to Scripture that would support this thought - Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:17 and Colossians 3:17.

So, as one who says she is following Christ, if I am not being shaped by this world but by a new way of thinking, if I don't live like those who don't believe and if I do everything as if it were Christ who was telling me to do it, my character - who I am and what I stand for - will never be in question. I will be able to set myself a higher standard of excellence that I can reach. I will be honest and truthful - neither stealing or lying to get ahead or make myself look better (Ephesians 4:28 and Colossians 3:9) and I will be trustworthy in word and action (Matthew 5:33-37). I will also be known as someone who is generous and kind to others (Matthew 6:3, 2 Corinthians 6:6, Galatians 5:22, Colossians 3:12).

The next key element the author presents for a professional is "attitude - your mental outlook." A professionals puts passion into their work, are confident and always provide a good quality of work. They are always concerned with personal growth and development. Again, as I began this section, Scripture immediately came to mind - Colossians 3:23, 1 Timothy 1:7 and the book of Hebrews all speak of being confident, having passion and not being timid. Colossians chapter 1 talks about repeatedly bearing fruit (growth) and Paul to the Corinthians brings up personal development in Chapter 13. I, like most people, only think about chapter 13 of this book when I am thinking about love, however, in verse 11 Paul makes the assumption that everyone will grow and develop in their lives - "When I was child, I used to think like child, speak like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." If development and growth were not part of the Christian walk, Paul would have continued to think, speak and reason like a child.

Also under attitude, the author of this book talks about having a serving mentality. To quote the book "...service to others is the highest calling one can have" and as a professional it should be "an integral purpose of their work and responsibility." Serving is at the heart of the walk for me if I am truly trying to walk the way of Christ (Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28, Luke 22:27, Romans: 14:18, Galatians 5:13, 1 Peter 5).

Another aspect that the author puts under attitude is "being a team player." A professional understands "that great achievements are not won single-handedly" but take "collaborative efforts" with people who are "willing to do whatever task is required" and above all a professional is "loyal to (her) team." Again, for me the language here is not a stretch for me to see how it relates to my walk in Christ. I won't deny that my view on this is heavily influenced by the leaders I have put myself under at Southwest church of Christ here in Amarillo however, I also know that this view of being "a team player" - the current church terminology being "in community" - is a very Scriptural view of the Christian walk. God Himself is in a community of three - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When He created man, he decided pretty quickly that is was "not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). When Christ began his ministry, he very quickly began surrounding himself with a close group with whom he could share the journey. When he sent them out to do his work, he did so by pairing them up. After Christ was resurrected, the disciples again gathered to be together and when they went about spreading the word of God, they did so, not alone but with others - Peter and John traveled together often; Paul traveled with Luke and Barnabas. The author of Hebrews says "you should not stay away from church meetings, as some are doing, but you should meet together and encourage each other" (10:25). All evidence in Scripture points to the fact that I was meant to walk the life of Christ with others, not alone.

The third aspect of professionalism the author addresses is "Excellence." It is a fairly short section but still full of rich advice. The author states that a professional will "strive for results with the highest quality attainable", will not "tolerate mediocrity" and will "take action to improve things that are not up to par." They also "improve their skill and knowledge" and accept the reality that ", steady steps over time." Again, this to me echos some of the Scriptures previously mentioned but I also see a reflection of many men of God in this thought. I think of Abraham who argued repeatedly with God about not being qualified to lead God's people when first approached and yet in the end, he is one of the greatest examples of faithful walking we have. The disciples all started out as nobodies, basic fishermen, tax collectors, and such and yet, by the time Christ was taken up into heaven, they were all (minus Judas) transformed into great men of God who went on to change the world. In some ways, three years walking with Christ seems like a quick transformation, unless you actually live those three years day in day out and then you begin to realize just how slow the transformation was. In this day and age, I have been trained to expect immediate, instant results. This is not typically the way God operates (though there maybe a few examples to the contrary).

Under "excellence" the author also mentions that a professional is attentive -
"They listen when others are speaking." Once again, my mind is immediately flooded with Scripture. Christ himself prefaced or concluded many of the things he said with "He who has ears let him hear." James instructs us to "always be willing to listen and slow to speak" (1:19). Proverbs is also sprinkled with great advice regarding listening.

The author identifies another area of professionalism - Competency. A professionals "understand the requirements and responsibilities of their job...acquire the skills necessary...obtain training, education and experience...they ask questions, seek guidance...(and)are not afraid." A professional is also "acutely aware of the results (she) is producing...focuses on doing the right thing, the right way" and does not "waste time on non-productive activities." A professional would also know that her "knowledge and expertise (is) of little value until they are applied and shared with others" and in sharing with others would use "short, simple words." I read this section two times. It spoke to me on many different levels. In my professional life, I have to admit, I tend to feel incompetent. I think the phrases I quoted here address that feeling and gives me answers on how to improve my competency. I my spiritual life alone with God I tend to feel incompetent. I think the phrases I quoted here address that feeling and give me answers on how to improve my competency. In my relationships and spiritual endeavors, I tend to feel incompetent. Again, I think the phrases I quoted here address that feeling and give me answers on how to improve my competency. And as I considered these phrases, my mind again was drawn to the Bible. In Luke 14:26,27 Jesus makes sure everyone listening understands what is expected of them if they choose to follow Him "If anyone comes to me but loves his father, mother wife, children, brothers or sisters - or even life - more than me, he cannot be my follower. Whoever is not willing to carry his cross and follow me cannot be my follower." Matthew records Christ saying "Foxes have holes to live in and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest his head." And for some it can even mean selling everything (Mark 10:21). While, yes, His yoke is easy and burden is light (Matthew 11:30), being a Christ follower does come with "requirements and responsibilities" that should be known before taking Him on as Savior and Lord and serving Him as master. Education and training are also important in the walk of a Christ follower (2Timothy 2:15). As a Christ follower, I if what fruit I am producing is not the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23), then I am not "doing the right things in the right way." And if I am doing something that is not making me more Christ like, or worse is making me less Christ like, then it is an activity that is non-productive and I should probably consider whether or not to eliminate it from my life. The "great commission" (Matthew 28:19) should be the only reminder I need to make sure my that I am applying and sharing with others all that I am learning about Christ on this journey.

And I need to remember to communicate it in a way that makes sense to those I with whom I am speaking. This is one of the greatest challenges I have not because I think that I have this great vocabulary or my knowledge level is so much above others. On the contrary, I don't think I have an extensive vocabulary and I know that there are thousands of people who are much more knowledgeable than me on every subject. However, being raised in the church, going to a Christian elementary, junior high, high school and college I have been well trained in "church speak" which is usually not all that helpful when talking to people who are not familiar with that terminology. I really have to work on re-orienting my language to meet the needs of those with whom I am speaking so as not to sound as if I am better than them and to make the gospel understandable and attainable. And even when I am speaking to God one-on-one, I am instructed to keep it simple, not to be like the pharisees (Matthew 6:5, Luke 18:11).

The final section that the author address is "conduct." He proposes that professionals "realize that anger and rage are never appropriate responses...accept criticism without being defensive or argumentative...laugh, have fun and fully enjoy the lighter side of life...(are) polite and appreciation...(treat others) as a valuable human being regardless of race, creed, color abilities, achievements or mental and physical attributes...(and) honor the right and responsibilities of those in charge." Wow, what a summation of what my Christ like walk should be. Nine times in the Old Testament (Exodus 34:6, Numbers 14:18, Psalm 86:15, Psalm 103:8, Psalm 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2 and Nahum 1:3) God is described as being "slow to anger" and four times Proverbs instructs me to be to "slow to anger" (14:29, 15:18, 16:32 and 19:11) and again in the New Testament James gives the same instruction (James 1:19). Christ came that we might have life to full. There is nothing in Scripture that leads us to believe that the life he is talking about is one of mundane, depressing solace stuff. Jesus himself was one to enjoy a good party and there had to be a quality of peace and fun that drew people to him. Repeatedly throughout the New Testament we are told to give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18, Hebrews 13:15 for example). And if I am truly going to call myself a Christ follower, then I should emulate him in how he treated people - he hung out with the poor, the lame, the crippled, the outcast, the downcast all the time (See all of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John if you need to reaffirm that). And finally, Timothy instructs the readers to "Pray for rulers and for all who have authority..." (1 Timothy 2:2) and Paul instructs the reader of Romans 13:1-7 to "...yield to the government rulers" and "show respect and honor to them all" and again in Titus - "Remind the believers to yield to authority of rulers and government leaders, to obey them, to be ready to do good, to speak no evil about anyone, to live in peace and to be gentle and polite to all people" (3:1-2).

So, after reading this short booklet, I am convinced that if I am proclaiming to follow the example of Christ in all that I think, all that I say and all that I do I will be a true professional in my work place.

God, help me.

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