Immanuel Labor - God’s Presence in our Profession
“Immanuel Labor, God’s Presence in our Profession”, by Master Sergeant Russell E Gehrlein
There is something special about a book which is written with a purpose and sense of passion. When you add the author’s wide reading, systematic thinking and extensive experience, the result makes an important contribution to helping Christians relate their their faith to their work.
After various jobs, Russell Gehrlein spent twenty years on active duty with the US Army, before moving to work in a similar area as a civilian specialist. He wrote the book out of a “desire to see ordinary workers, who consistently integrate their faith at work, experience God’s presence so that it becomes just as natural as experiencing his presence while reading his word, praying on our knees, worshipping during a church service, or standing on a mountain top.”
The book begins with biblical and theological foundations, thoroughly rooted in the four biblical movements of creation fall, redemption and restoration. “Christians need to understand what God says about work so we can fully integrate our faith in the place where we spend most of our time.” The author’s points are advanced with carefully chosen quotations from a wide range of authors. There is solid theology here, but expressed in a conversational style which makes the book both readable and a useful resource for further exploration of the subject.
The second part of the book provides a solid practical approach, based on the author’s extensive experience in the working world. Examples are well chosen, with helpful pointers for those who may be looking for work or changing direction. There’s careful consideration of potential Christian employment in five different areas of work: business, the arts, blue collar work, military service and education. The inclusion of the section of blue collar work is important. Many books on this subject scarcely mention people who make things or provide essential services, but throughout this book (including the cartoon on the cover), it is clear that that these jobs are equally places for Christians to work. When a Christian works in a factory,“… the kingdom is as much ‘at hand’ as anywhere Jesus goes… there, on the factory floor, is holy ground.”
For me, as a minister who spent the last nine years working in Industrial Mission, some of the most important points came at the end of the book. Gehrlein asks ministers to reassess attitudes which have focused on the importance of recruiting church workers, and placed a lower value on secular work. The four questions he asks there should be part of every minister’s training, and would help remove the sacred-secular distinction which is all too often heard or assumed in our churches.
I was concerned that, from my British perspective, I would find it hard to relate to a retired Master Sergeant in the US Army. I found no difficulty at all. The only problem was that there were so many interesting quotations, that I spent so time looking up references, watching YouTube, and ordering at least two of the books he cites. So it took a me little longer than I expected to read!
This book is a very rewarding read and a great contribution to this vital area for Christians.