“Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.” (Ps. 66:16)
On New Year’s Day 2020, I reflected on my own calling as a writer in an article that was the first of 43 articles I wrote and posted on my blog in 2020. This article below is a reflection on how I have followed my calling as a writer this year. It was easily my most productive one in many ways. I saw God multiply my efforts and extended my outreach beyond what I could ask or expect. (See Eph. 3:20.)
Let me share some of the topics I was able to reflect on, some of the results of my efforts to see my work published outside of this blog, some surprises along the way, and what I learned in the process.
What did I write about?
I am not going to list all 43 articles I wrote and posted on my blog this year. If you are interested, you can scan through the list of recent posts or look at each month in the archives. If you are reading this, you have probably read many of them already. I just want to highlight some of the important topics.
Many of my articles touched on my time as an active duty Soldier and in my civilian capacity. I was able to reflect deeply on how I experienced God’s presence during my military service. I wrote about fellowship at work, how the pandemic affected work, teleworking, the seven Army values, how God was present in the service of all veterans, and on team-building by showing dignity and respect.
I was also able to reflect on various home construction (and deconstruction) projects that took place this summer. I wrote about landscaping, painting and carpentry work from a biblical perspective.
Articles I wrote on other topics included the following: how the book of Proverbs alludes to the Ten Commandments, the purpose of the Old Testament, how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy on the cross, forgiveness, the flesh versus the spirit, how to use our sanctified imagination, and my testimony.
By the way, I posted my 200th article on this blog last week! (I started actively blogging in 2015.)
How many articles were published and where?
I was able to write 32 articles on faith and work this year (not counting this one). Nineteen of these articles (nearly 60%) were published or posted on other blogs a total of 30 times. In addition, ten articles from previous years were published or posted, making a grand total of 40 articles this year. Here is how it breaks down:
- Coram Deo (20)
- The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (10)
- 4Word Women, Made to Flourish, and The Gospel Coalition (2 each)
- National Christian Foundation, Intersect Project, Women & Work, and Faith Storytellers (1 each)
(Note: One of the articles I wrote that was published by the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics in March made the list of their Top Ten Blogs of 2020.)
Since September 2015, I have posted 132 articles on faith and work topics on my blog. Fifty six of these articles (42%) have been published or posted elsewhere a total of 105 times. I am truly amazed.
What were God’s gracious surprises?
This was a year of surprises for most of us, mostly negative due to the pandemic. However, I was surprised at first by how much I could write about relevant faith and work issues during this season, as the impact on all workers (both essential and “nonessential”) was in the news on a constant basis. I was also surprised by God opening up so many doors, some of which I did not know existed.
In mid-May, I stumbled on an amazing, unsolicited book review on Twitter by someone with the Black Country Urban Industrial Mission. I had had no idea that one of their leaders had read my book. He posted his review in several places and on their website. I was moved by his comments regarding my focus on blue-collar work, which I addressed in chapter 13 and illustrated on the book cover.
On the way back from a visit to our daughter and her family last October, my wife and I were able to stop in Bloomington/Normal, Illinois to meet a friend of mine for the first time. Bill Pence, along with his wife Tammy, maintains a very helpful blog, Coram Deo, where he posts links to faith and work articles and other theological topics. Since November 2016, he has posted 42 links to articles that I have written, wrote and posted a wonderful review of my book, and has quoted my book in his own, exposing my work to a large number of readers. It was a joy to have a real face-to-face conversation with him and his wife, get to know him better, enjoy some fellowship, and thank him for his support.
I think my biggest surprise this year was the email I received from my point of contact at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics. She was contacted by someone from Family Radio, a Christian network of stations around the country. They wanted to interview me to discuss the topic of an article I wrote that was published three years ago on how to seek God first in navigating career decisions. (Note: the interview is scheduled to air on Saturday, January 2, 2021. Here is the link to the recording.)
What did I learn during the process?
After Faith Storytellers posted an article earlier this month about how I experienced God’s presence during my active duty, the gal who runs this blog so well challenged me to reflect on the rigorous editing process that she took me through over a couple of weeks. I have to say that the three rounds of editing via Google Docs on this one article were far more intense and time-consuming than I expected. However, the finished product turned out really well, and I actually enjoyed the experience.
At the same time, I had also received emails from two major organizations I have been working with. They asked me to do some major revisions on articles I had submitted to them. I have to admit that it was quite humbling to read their comments on what I needed to change in order for them to publish these articles sometime after the New Year. I had to put them on the back burner for a couple of weeks to do a few other projects such as preparing for my Christian Family Radio Network interview, finish an article reflecting on my 40th wedding anniversary, and enjoy the Christmas holiday with my family.
As a result of these recent collaborations, I better appreciate the professional work of the editors who have polished up my articles for publication on their websites, for which I am extremely grateful. I have also learned to pare down the size of my paragraphs and to share my feelings a bit more.
Where do I go from here?
Looking back, it is clear that God was present with me in my work as I shared with others about God’s presence at work.
I plan to keep on writing, using my spreadsheet listing three dozen unfinished articles or ideas I have captured. I am trusting that God may eventually open up some doors to share my unique ideas on the theology of faith and work with a wider audience, virtually through podcasts or web presentations, and eventually through speaking to a live group of Christians who are eager to learn more about this topic.
In conclusion, I wish to express my gratitude to the Lord for blessing my socks off this year. He has been steadily making my vision in October 2016 to be actively involved in the theology of faith and work movement a reality. I am humbled that He is using me, not because of, but despite my best efforts. It is not about Russ; it’s about us. I want to see my brothers and sisters in Christ experience God’s presence at work every day.
About the author:
Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 40 years, father of three, grandfather of four, and author of Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping other ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. After serving 20 years on active duty, Russ now works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. More than 50 articles posted on this blog have been published 100 times on numerous Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, Acton Institute, and The Gospel Coalition.