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The Purpose Gap

The Purpose Gap

The Power of Purpose

Happiness comes from WHAT we do. Fulfillment comes from WHY we do it.

-Simon Sinek

It’s 3:00 AM at the local all-night grocery store mid-pandemic. The woman in front of me is chatting with the check-out clerk, and I overhear her ask, “How are you feeling about having to be here in the middle of the night? Do you feel safe? Are you feeling worn out?”

Without hesitation, the clerk replies, “You know, if my being here helps you get medicine when you need it, and if it provides the health care workers just getting off their shifts a place to get their groceries, then in some small way I’m doing my part.”

Wow. Mic drop moment. 

 

Purpose Creates Perspective

The pandemic was a megaphone for many, amplifying their focus on priorities and purpose in life. 

While getting paid for work was an essential reason for our store clerk to be there that night, she had other motivations. This differentiation was an understanding of her purpose. In the midst of a global pandemic, she understood that her work made a difference in the lives of others. She was able to connect her personal value of helping others to her workplace, which provides resources like food and medicine for the community. And when personal values align with corporate values, good things happen. 

Workers who have “bought in” to the mission make the best advocates and are more likely to stay with the company; they feel more engaged in the company and in their work.

Research suggests that 70 percent of employees feel their sense of purpose is defined by their work. Yet only 18 percent of respondents believe they get as much purpose from work as they want; 62 percent say they get some purpose from work, but they want to get even more. Any way you look at it, there is a big gap and a big opportunity for employers and employees alike. Creating strong links to individual purpose for employees benefits not just the person but also the business. This vital connection helps fill the purpose gap. 

 

Connecting With Purpose

What we do during the week matters. Whether we clerk at a store, run a lawn business, fix plumbing problems for others, or coordinate carpool and lunches for the children in our home, having a sense that our work makes a difference is vital to our well-being. By extension, this is reflected in our homes, workplaces, and our communities. 

Interestingly, among those surveyed, parents were the most reliant on work for purpose. They credited parenthood as the source of this shift to a “big picture” perspective that helped them feel more invested in the future. 

 

Purpose Impact

“It’s an amazing feeling to live with purpose, on purpose,” says best-selling author Simon Sinek. But that purpose “is not just about work, it’s about who we are.” 

Having a sense of purpose is more important than you might think. People with a sense of purpose are more likely to be resilient and handle negative circumstances better. Research shows that those who have a purpose live longer, healthier lives. More of the benefits include:

  • 2.5 times more likely to be free of dementia
  • 22% less likely to exhibit risk factors for stroke
  • 52% less likely to have experienced a stroke

And these are just some of the personal benefits. Organizations benefit as well. Purpose plays a vital role in worker experience, with increased engagement, a stronger commitment to the mission, along with improved feelings of well-being. 

Having and helping instill a sense of purpose is a win-win overall. 

 

Role of Identity and Values

Personal identity and values are guideposts for individual purpose. Psychologists describe identity as an amalgamation of experiences, relationships, memories, and values that create a sense of self. It’s no wonder, then, why the concept of identity and where we get our identity has changed through the years and why generations approach identity differently.

Baby Boomers, for example, tend to have their identities dictated to them by institutions such as the government, school, church, or family. Gen X tends to look inward in an attempt to discover their own identities. But Millennials and Gen Z have yet another approach. They seek to define their own identity, and that identity is fluid and ever-changing. 

Values and what we value are a big part of our identity and help guide us to our purpose in life. While some values are organizational, other values are more personal. It’s these core personal values that help determine standards of behavior, guide our decisions, and even impact our disposition. Values shape how we interact with the world around us. 

But what does this have to do with work?

 

A MOD Example

MOD Pizza was founded in 2008 and is self-described NOT as a pizza place but as a people place. They are a home for “second chances.” Everything about their business helps tell the story of their purpose. They describe pizza as a “platform to make a positive social impact in the lives of our people and the communities we serve.” 

Everything from hiring practices to food sourcing weave together to form their corporate values. And this “people place” cares for its employees in extraordinary ways. Employee videos on their website tell stories of life change being part of the “MOD Squad.” The atmosphere of acceptance, opportunity, inclusivity, and belonging has made its way into their corporate culture. It shows up in their employees and, in turn, is felt by their customers.

When employees connect their personal values to the company’s purpose, good things happen. Research says that respondents with such opportunities are nearly three times more likely than others to feel their purpose is fulfilled at work.

 

The Purpose Advantage

Keeping her eyes open throughout her daily routine, Faith Dill, a stay-at-home mom, also wanted to make an impact and help others.

Dill looked for opportunities defined by self-sacrificial love for the people in her community. She noticed homeless people on street corners with their cardboard signs, looking for food or work. She felt the simultaneous ache to give but also the skepticism for why not to give. While she understood giving money or food would not fix their homelessness, she also knew it would say to someone, “I see you.” 

Dill started keeping a small supply in her car for such situations. Sometimes it was a kit of items, i.e., a toothbrush, toothpaste, gloves, and socks. Other times it was simply a water bottle or a granola bar, but she always offered it with a smile and word of kindness so that no matter what the person’s story, they would feel seen and known.

Her hope? That it impacts the receiver and helps to change her own heart while modeling this example for her growing child. While Dill’s daily vocation doesn’t take her into an office, her faith in God helps connect her personal values of helping others feel seen and loved to a “bigger story.” 

 

The Purpose Connection

Living and working in alignment with personal values is critically important for well-being. If knowing your purpose and aligning your purpose with your daily routine is so important and beneficial, who is responsible for defining that purpose? 

Individual purpose is fluid. It changes over time and in varying degrees. It can be clarified and get stronger, especially in times of crisis or different stages of life.  

Who, then, is in charge of aligning or connecting personal and organizational values? 

 

Purpose Is A Two-Way Street

Sixty-three percent of people surveyed say they want their employer to provide more opportunities for purpose in their day-to-day work. This puts the burden of purpose primarily on the organization. Yet it would be counterintuitive and nearly impossible for an organization to flex its purpose and values on an individual basis.  

How about our store clerk? Did she make the values connection on her own? Or did the grocery store where she worked communicate how her work matters? What about our stay-at-home mom? While her primary purpose is caring for her family, Dill created her own connection to the “bigger story” to impact her community. 

 

Purpose-Driven Steps

As a Christian, I have a dual purpose: to know God intimately and actively engage in the work God has for me in the world. A higher purpose does not supplant personal values and involvement but rather is an impetus for being the hands and feet of Jesus in the here and now. In fact, knowing and articulating personal values can help define and align our greater purpose. For some people, the act of defining and articulating these values can foster empathy and awareness of the needs of others; “the bigger picture.”

A shared sense of purpose in the workplace can create connections among co-workers. A good first step toward defining purpose might be to start an open and ongoing conversation to explore shared values and articulate a collective purpose. In this collaborative process, teams can gain insights into individual aspirations, align them with the organization’s overarching mission, and foster a culture of mutual understanding and support. This approach not only enhances employee engagement and satisfaction but also strengthens the organization’s ability to achieve its goals by harnessing the collective energy and commitment of its workforce. It can be so powerful when everyone begins to row in the same direction.

Open and honest communication is vital to both individuals and the organization. This regular act of honest sharing can build accountability and act as an accelerator to help people consider where and how to bring more of their purpose to work.

“Here’s what I’ve decided: The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”

– Barbara Kingsolver – Author

In this way, we can help one another live more fully at work—an outcome that benefits everyone. 

Let’s not sit around and wait for someone to define a purpose for us. Let’s go out and create it. The sooner we start living out of a sense of purpose, the greater the impact on our lives and the lives of those around us, whether at home, at school, or at work. In this way, we help one another live more fully every day—an outcome that benefits everyone.

A Quiet Catalyst in the Arts

A Quiet Catalyst in the Arts

A Quiet Catalyst in the Arts

Christ Community has always been intentional about its mission and discipleship. A few years ago we began to think about how to be a more intentional influence on the culture of our communities and the world. What would it look like if we didn’t just observe culture but participated in its cultivation? What if, rather than critiquing or vilifying it, we became active participants; in redeeming it and creating redemptive work that influenced it?

Part of this shift in our thinking led us to the arts. We began to imagine using our creativity and talents to positively impact the world. We wanted to create art that was beautiful, thought-provoking, and redemptive.

What would it look like if we didn’t just observe culture but participated in its cultivation?

The Power in Art

Arts have the power to transform individuals and communities, and we were brazen enough to believe that we could impact the artistic culture in our city and around the world. Art can help us see the world in new ways, to understand each other better, and to connect with our shared humanity. 

We began to imagine using our own creativity and talents to create art that was not only beautiful, but thought-provoking and redemptive, and encouraging one another to embrace works of art and the artists who create them. The arts could be a powerful tool to actively engage and  steward the gifts of our congregants to influence the world for the glory of God by supporting artists, performance organizations, scholarship programs, and missional partnerships.

Looking at how far we have come in the past few years, I am grateful to see the fruit of those conversations. 

Serving the Artistic Community

The Four Chapter Gallery is a prime example of how we are putting these conversations into action. Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, the gallery is a beautiful space in the Crossroads District that serves Kansas City’s thriving artistic community. With regular gallery hours and a rotating selection of art installations, it has become a beloved presence in the city, especially on First Fridays.

More than just a space to exhibit art, the Four Chapter Gallery is also a community hub where artists come together for encouragement, collaboration, and deep conversation. Under the leadership of curator Kelly Kruse, the gallery is helping to support a new generation of artists who are creatively renewing the world alongside God through the act of generative creation.

A Storytelling Mission

Inspired by a similar mission, two other Christ Community congregants set off on a venture to engage the arts by creating movies that make a difference. Stephen and Mary Pruitt, an economics professor, and an up-until-then stay-at-home mom, focused on crafting beautiful art through the visual storytelling medium of film. Despite having no prior filmmaking experience, the Pruitts set out to make movies that would shape imaginations and spark better conversations. Fifteen years later, their fifth full-length feature film, State of Grace, is making the rounds at film festivals around the country, including two highly acclaimed festivals in Los Angeles and New York City, along with a Kansas City premiere at the Glenwood Arts Theatre (coming October 13-15, 2023).

State of Grace is a timely and beautiful film about a young mother who loses control of her life and the custody of her one-year-old daughter, Grace, due to a growing addiction to fentanyl. Inspired by actual events, it is a deeply moving film about the power of community and the price of love. Another example of how Christ Community is quietly encouraging artists to create art that sparks meaningful conversations. 

Consider Engaging

Creativity is taking place all around us in closer proximity than you could imagine, and supporting the growing impact of Christ Community in the arts is as simple as taking the time to view exhibits and shows being presented. In a world filled with endless entertainment options, it is easy for artists to wonder if they are just adding to the noise. One of the best ways we can support the arts in our community is by taking the time to notice and appreciate this continued creation. Engaging locally, relationally, and intentionally moves this mission forward. And when we are relationally connected to the artists who created the work, we view and respond to it differently. 

In a world filled with endless entertainment options, it is easy for artists to wonder if they are just adding to the noise. One of the best ways we can support the arts in our community is by taking the time to notice and appreciate this continued creation.

Join Christ Community in our mission to engage in the arts and influence culture. Start by supporting the opportunities for engagement right around you. Two ideas for this month include visiting First Friday at the Four Chapter Gallery and seeing State of Grace at the Glenwood. Maybe next month attend an art festival in the community, find an artist whose work resonates with you, and start a conversation. 

 

Five Ways to Wisely Re-Engage a Re-Opening World

Five Ways to Wisely Re-Engage a Re-Opening World

My wife and I had the strangest experience the other day. We looked at our calendars and realized that the next two weeks were booked solid. We knew then and there that we needed to make some decisions.

As vaccines have become more readily available, the positivity rate has decreased, people have made safe practices a part of their social gatherings, and more and more people are slowly re-engaging life in public. 

And that means one thing: busyness is eager to take over again. 

Whether it’s playdates, sports, dinner with friends, Bible studies, grocery shopping, and the like, as the weather warms up and the world reopens, busyness is ready to fill the void. Before COVID hit, the most common response from people when you asked them how they were doing was, “Busy.” That is one form of normal I’m not eager to re-engage. 

Here’s the good news: we don’t have to return to that life. 

As Christians we are to be a people of work and rest, (Genesis 1-2) redeeming the time (Ephesians 5:16) as good stewards. While having a full calendar isn’t wrong, we are encouraged to leverage the time with which we’ve been entrusted to further Jesus’ purposes with healthy, humanizing rhythms. This is how God designed us, and therefore, it’s part of God’s plan for our flourishing.

Here are five tips to wisely re-engage a reopening world. 

1. Schedule Quarantine Favorites

You don’t have to say “yes” to everything that was before. One of the gifts of this last year is the opportunity to make significant adjustments to how you fill your calendar and the values that shape your life. 

Two quarantine favorites for me were grace blocks and dates in our backyard. 

A grace block is a pocket of time in each day where you schedule nothing. Yes, nothing. It’s a space that allows other projects you’d underestimated to spill over, and so give yourself grace in the form of margin to finish out without stressing out. For me, I block about an hour a day for a grace block. It’s so helpful to recognize I can’t foresee everything, but I can predict my finitude and need for grace. Grace blocks are something I’m holding onto in my calendar.

Next, my wife Allie and I discovered we love date nights in the backyard. Before we used to stress about trying to get out of the house, organize a babysitter, and get back before too late. Now, we can put our kids to bed and sit under the stars in the city in our backyard with a glass of wine and talk for hours. Who knew date night was so easy? 

I know for some of you these seem rudimentary, but that’s the point. What are 2-3 good things that have made it onto your calendar during COVID and quarantine that you want to keep? Schedule your quarantine favorites going forward. 

2. Keep Going Deep with a Few

In a world of endless Facebook friends and Twitter followers, one of the greatest insights I received in college was the encouragement to cultivate a few close friendships. This became a necessity as our COVID circles grew smaller and our relationships with a few folks went deeper. 

As everything opens up again, you don’t have to sacrifice the newfound depth you’ve found in the relationships around you. You don’t have to say “yes” to everyone, but be sure you have reserved the time and space for those relationships that are especially meaningful and life-giving. 

I have absolutely LOVED the amount of family time I’ve been able to have with my wife and kids this last year. We’ve locked down some rhythms that are high points in my week, and I have them on my calendar now so I keep time reserved for these very important people.

Now, as things open, if you want to still go deep but also expand your relational horizons, it wouldn’t hurt to add just one more chair to a deep group of friends. Who says you can’t have it all? A new friend and deep ongoing relationships. Add one more person at a time to the social circle, and who knows what could happen? 

3. Continue the Creativity

You don’t have to follow the predetermined path laid out by our consumerist culture before the pandemic. I’m all about going out to eat at local restaurants and traveling the continental United States, but you don’t have to spend a ton to continue to connect with others and have fun. 

Find hiking trails with family and friends, go on picnics at one of our city’s green spaces, or pull out those board games for an afternoon in the park. These are exceptional avenues for fun. 

My family is excited about Parkopalooza. Now I did not make this up, I’m stealing it. But the idea is that you spend an afternoon visiting parks across our city. 

Here’s how: 

  • Do a little research. You can drive around to various parks or look online. Are there some with hidden playgrounds or unique fun setups? 
  • Map it out. Plan how much time you have to spend and how much time you want to spend at each park. 
  • Hit it hard. Run, slide, jump and swing at the planned park for the allotted time. Then, no matter how much fun you’re having, go to the next. It’s an adventure after all! Part of the fun is just exploring the new parks. 

Parkpalooza is just one example of creative fun in the sun. Keep exploring and trying new ideas. 

4. Remain Adaptable 

As much as Zoom calls may wane from their prominence, flexibility, patience, and empathy aren’t going anywhere. If anything, as all of our tanks are running low after a year of high adaptability, these Christlike traits are going to be more important than ever. 

So as the travel bug or the desire to re-engage in the world creeps in, remain adaptable. As Christians, we of all people know that we are to hold our plans loosely. God is in control, not us, and so whenever we make plans, we entrust them to the Lord (James 4:15). This posture keeps us patient and flexible. 

As I dream about the faithful presence of the church in the coming years, one of my hopes and desires is that we make adaptability and patience a part of the forever new normal for us! The posture of patience, grace and gentleness is the Christian calling, not a COVID pastime. 

5. Prioritize Giving of Yourself with Others

Andy Crouch, Christian author and speaker who has brilliantly been spot-on throughout the pandemic, has been looking back to help us look forward. What does he notice? After the Spanish Flu of 1918, we had the roaring twenties. People were tired of being cooped up. They just wanted to party already, and frankly, that wasn’t a high point for the church. 

I think Andy Crouch is on to something in that one of the greatest temptations that awaits us in these next couple of years is to get out and LIVE life to the fullest! By that I mean, we may be tempted to indulge our desires, give in to our every whim, and let our appetites and wants guide our lives now that we’ve been unleashed. 

Nothing could be further from what we see in Jesus and our calling to follow Him. 

Rather, what would it look like to GIVE life to its fullest? 

What would it look like if as restrictions decrease, we leveraged that empowerment to take on the posture of servants? The basin and towel has always been a marker of the follower of Jesus, and maybe as things reopen we should prioritize giving of ourselves rather than treating ourselves. 

That may mean a different posture at work, an area of repentance at home, continued patience with your church, engaging in a blood drive in your community, serving at your church (which means returning to your church in person), or donating time toward serving with a ministry partner (find our list here). While the what is unique to you, this calling isn’t. 

Don’t let life grow like a weed, or it will take over. Redeem the time and be intentional, and decide ahead of time how you will re-engage a reopening world. 

Who knows how this year will impact the next season of your life? Be wise. Be a good steward. It’s not just your calendar. It’s your life. And remember it actually is His.

In the Beginning, God…

In the Beginning, God…

The book of Genesis is perhaps one of the most controversial and contentious books of the Bible. Not only between theists and atheists, but also among people of faith who believe in the divine inspiration of the first book of the Pentateuch. For some, Genesis is a book filled with great implausibility at every turn. The opening verses themselves are filled with ideas and assertions that for many modern thinkers are either outrageous claims at best or poisonous ideologies at worst.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Right away we find a defeater belief and barrier of entry for many people in our culture. The Bible opens up with the claim that there is indeed a God who exists outside of time. So, within the first four words we find people already putting the book down. Even if they continue reading, they find another word that just doesn’t seem to be reconcilable with modern scientific findings. To claim that the world was “created” flies in the face of many modern minds which operate from the starting point that nothing exists outside of the material world. This would include God and these heavens that the Bible is referring to.

We can dismiss the book of Genesis as antiquated mythological literature. To do so would not only be a failure to understand the purpose of Genesis, but it would also be a failure to see the profound impact this book has had on human culture throughout the centuries. Even if one doesn’t believe that the book of Genesis is true, much less divinely inspired revelation, one cannot deny the significance and importance of this book in human history. For that matter alone, this book should be taken seriously and read thoughtfully.

Even if one decides to reject the claims of Genesis and the notion of a divine being, one still has to provide some tenable claim and explanation to the major questions of life. And perhaps none is more vital and necessary to answer than the question, “How did we get here?”

This is more than just a question of origins. This is an inquiry into the meaning of life, the purpose of humanity, the problems of the world, and the direction of history. While humanity has put forth many attempts to answer these questions, it is clear that a pervasive confusion still remains in our search for who we are and why we exist. Perhaps our confusion is a result of starting from the wrong place. We are tempted to find the answer within ourselves.

But what if the answer was never meant to start with us?

What if, instead, the better answer starts somewhere else or with Someone else? This is precisely why we want to look back at the timeless book of Genesis in order to live forward in our cultural moment. And as we do, may we discover who we’re meant to be by encountering the One who has always been.

We are excited to walk back to the beginning as we explore this ancient book in our sermon series, Genesis: In the beginning, God.

If you’d like to dig deeper, here are a few suggested resources that you may find useful as a supplement to our time in the book that shows us where it all began.

SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCES:

Genesis for Everyone

Tyndale Commentary on Genesis

Genesis Unbound

The Lost World of Genesis One

The Bible Project (Genesis 1-11)