Work Can be Fun
By Linda Green
Dennis Bakke is the author of Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job. He believes that work should be fun and a source of deep satisfaction in a person's life. He is former president and CEO of AES Corporation, an international energy corporation. Currently, he is president and CEO of Imagine Schools, a company that operates elementary and secondary charter schools in 10 states. CBN questioned him about his radical approach to joy in the workplace.
CBN.com: You say that there are some problems in the work force. What would those be?
Dennis Bakke: Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, jobs have been no fun., no joy, and they have been inconsistent with the way God made the world. Essentially people are controlled. It hasn't changed much in the last 250 years. People are told what to do, when to do it and how to do it. There is no freedom. We talk about freedom being a very important thing for our life. We were made to be free, to be able to make decisions and take action that actually affects the outcome of the organization. And it's just not true in workplaces. Over 70 percent of people say they don't like their job or it's miserable. That goes for Christians and non-Christians alike. When you talk about games or play, everybody loves it, they say that was fun. You talk about jobs and they're not very much fun. What's the most fun thing about basketball. Shoot the ball. When? Right at the end of the game when it makes a difference. For the basketball player there's nothing more fun than that when you have a difference to make for the outcome of the team. It's not about winning. It's about having that opportunity.
That's what's wrong in the workplace. We were created in the image of God to make decisions and to use our skill to steward resources to meet needs in the world. And we are not allowed to do that -- very seldom. I realized it was me that was the problem -- a boss. I had not really followed God's example or Jesus's example. You look at the Old Testament, Genesis and you realize God gave the decision to name the animals and then even more important than that, He gives mankind the choice to choose Him or reject Him which models what we're supposed to do. And then you go to the parable of the talents. The servants are out taking risks, doing business and, in fact, investing. Then they come back and those who made the biggest decisions get the biggest rewards. After the well done good and faithful servant there's this little tag line that no one ever mentions which says, Enter into the maste's joy. We're called first to be co-creators with God to steward resources to meet needs in the world. That's the first commission. Then there's the second commission to make disciples. Unfortunately the church has really embraced only the second one -- making disciples -- and not equipping people to do the first one. Have you ever seen the commissioning of a business person who sells cars? We should be loving our neighbor, in other words, serving. We work to serve others.
CBN.com: What could the church do?
Bakke: Treat people in the local church the same way you treat missionaries. Your missions conference would be divided representing those who are working in China and those who are working around the world in business. They're both doing Kingdom work,
The second thing would be to commission them. You know how you give the blessing to the person who's going off to be the Sunday school teacher? You could do the same thing with a person who's running a company like mine. And that person would take it very seriously as a responsibility from God as opposed to just something you do to make money. You work differently if you do that, not only in terms of ethics, but also you work harder to serve others.
I think everyone should be held accountable for both missions, not just discipleship. Now it's only people who are in the church budget who account for what they're doing. I think everyone in the local church should have to account for how they're doing in their home and their business. That could be done through small groups.
I think the prayer life of the church should include the sick and the missionaries and the ordinary person who is working in the first commission type stuff.
And then pastoral visits to the workplace. Now some pastors do that.
It's just a matter of equating the two commissions. They wouldn't think that volunteering at the church is the only way to serve the Lord in a major way. You can do lifestyle evangelism, but that's not your primary mission. Your primary mission is to do a wonderful job of stewarding resources that have been entrusted to you to meet the needs of the world.
CBN.com: What does a joyful workplace look like?
Bakke: A joyful workplace has two elements to it. The first is a boss has to give up his power. Bosses control the workplace. But you have to make it so that everybody has a chance to use their skills, God-given abilities to do something, make decisions primarily. So bosses have to stop making decisions in order that other people can make them. It's just the opposite of what we learned. Everyone gets a chance to have the ball at the end of the game.
The second element is that it has to be for a purpose other than making money for the company or themselves. The people have to be doing something that is actually meeting other people's needs. Giving, serving that's the only worthwhile kind of goal because that's how God intended it to be. People get very excited about that because it's how we're made. We're made to serve others and along the way meet our needs, so it's a secondary thing. Wall Street says you have to make money. It makes no sense to me and it's not Biblical. To have a really joy-filled place you have to be consistent with God's plan
CBN.com: What can someone do if they're stuck in a job where management's not going to make that change?
Bakke: One of the ways to get a boss to change -- instead of saying I'm stuck in the box and I can't get out. You start doing random acts of responsibility. That means you start volunteering. You start going off and doing things that you see are needed. Don't worry about that little box you've been put in. You take risks. The boss will see that. He or she might fire you, but more likely the boss will start to change and say, I can trust that person. That's how you change a boss, not by complaining and saying I'll just keep my head down and not take any risk. That's the typical way even Christians tend to operate. Instead you go out of the way and start taking risks.
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