“The church is not only ekklesia—a gathered people. It is also diaspora—a scattered-seed people,” writes Larry Peabody in his book, Job-Shadowing Daniel: Walking the Talk at Work (2010, p. 8). Like Daniel of the Old Testament book, who served God despite a challenging workplace during the Jewish diaspora, Christians today find their purpose and ministry at work. Peabody does an excellent job in exegeting the story, life and context of Daniel, job-shadowing him as it were, to help Christians today “how to turn ‘secular’ jobs into ministry—and to do so over the long haul” (Peabody, 2010, p. 8). The book contains twelve chapters divided into three parts: the first focusing on Daniel’s settlement in Babylon; the second seeing how Daniel viewed his work as ministry; and the third how Daniel stayed strong for the long haul.
When reading Job-Shadowing Daniel, it is evident that Peabody is writing as a practitioner, not just a theologian, theorist, or idealist. The author is experienced “as an employee, a business owner, and a senior pastor,” having “served in three state agencies,” for 11 years, owned a business for 17 years, and having planted a church “served as its bi-vocational pastor for eight years, and then as a full-time senior pastor another 13 years” (Peabody, 2010, p. back cover). As a pastor, Peabody carefully exegetes the life and work of Daniel, painting a vivid picture of what might have been like for Daniel as he was forcefully recruited to serve the Babylonian king. As a former employee and business owner, Peabody pragmatically applies the principles for Daniel’s life and work to today’s workplace context.
Peabody talks about what it means to be called to ministry in the workplace, viewing it from a perspective of placement. Daniel’s vision of God’s Kingdom gave him the big picture in which to view his work and purpose. His clear identity as an Israelite and his obedience to worship God only kept Daniel on the straight path in a crooked work environment. Daniel learned to serve his ungodly and unlikable boss with integrity and respect, grounded in God’s community of believers and God’s command to govern well. Through faith, worship, spiritual disciplines and Holy Spirit power, Daniel was able to serve faithfully under two regimes and three heathen kings. “Daniel’s faith shows through in action,” states Peabody, “rather than in detailed definitions and abstractions” (2010, p. 143).
Job-Shadowing Daniel proved to be an inspirational book for me personally. I have read numerous resources on workplace ministry, but none took the study of Daniel to such an extend as Peabody has. As a result, I plan to design a sermon series using the book’s framework as an outline, to be preached at the Hanoi International Fellowship during our Fall 2016 term. Secondly, I have registered to take Larry Peabody’s course on Theology of Work at BGU for the Spring 2016 term. This will allow me to use the study time for preparing the sermon series as the final project for the course.
By Jacob Bloemberg