Mere Christians

Mike Kelsey (Pastor at McLean Bible Church)

Episode Summary

Why “common grace” is supremely relevant to your work

Episode Notes

Why common grace is the key to worshiping more while you work and experience the work of others, how calling out the work of non-Christians as God’s work can build bridges for sharing the gospel, and how Jordan explained to his kids how God protected them on a recent road trip.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Transcription

[0:00:04] JR: Hey, friends. Welcome to the Mere Christians Podcast. I'm Jordan Raynor. How does the gospel influence the work of Mere Christians? Those of us who aren't pastors or religious professionals, but who work as truck drivers, translators, and shoemakers? That's the question we explore every week. Today, I'm posing it to my friend Mike Kelsey. He's a lead pastor at McLean Bible Church in Virginia alongside David Platt and the rest of the team on staff at McLean.


Mike is not a Mere Christian, but I love from time to time bringing in pastors like Mike who can help us understand important theological concepts that are super practically relevant to the work that Mere Christians do in the world. That's what we're doing today. We're going deep on this idea of common grace. We're going to talk about what common grace is. Why common grace is the key to worshiping more while you work and experience the work of others, how calling out the work of non-Christians as God's work can build bridges for sharing the gospel. This is one of my favorite episodes I've recorded in quite a while. Please enjoy this terrific episode with my friend, Mike Kelsey.




[0:01:27] JR: Mike Kelsey, welcome to the Mere Christians podcast.


[0:01:30] MK: Man, it's good to be on. I've been a fan of the show for a long time. We'll get into it, but I fanboyed you when we first met, so thanks for having you on, man.


[0:01:40] This is our one and only interaction. We were hanging out at this event in Colorado a couple of years ago. Yeah, you came up to me like, “Oh, man. I listened to the show.” You said something, and you were like, “I loved what you said on the show about common grace.” I was surprised that you mentioned that, because whatever mention that was, it had to have been a fleeting mention of this idea of common grace because we're 200-plus episodes deep. I don't think I've ever done a deep dive on this topic. Honestly, I've been waiting for Mike Kelsey to come hang out with me and do a deep dive with me. Thanks for being here, man.


[0:02:15] MK: Man, it’s a joy, man.


[0:02:17] JR: I want to spend most of our time talking about what common grace means, practically to the work that our listeners do Monday through Friday. Let's start with what is common grace? How would you explain this theological concept, Mike?


[0:02:31] MK: I think common grace is really simple. If you think about what grace is, it's just God giving people good things. I would say in particular in a theological context is giving us good things that we don't deserve. I think it's common grace, because it's available to everybody. Common grace, the doctrine of common grace is about one, as an overflow of God's good character, he gives blessings. He distributes his goodness, his gifts, his blessings to everyone regardless of whether they deserve it or what they believe or what they've done.


Obviously, that – I mean, from there, it flows into all kinds of streams. I mean, listeners can already imagine just things that everybody enjoys that come from God and in the James one way, every good and perfect gift comes from him. Whether it's good food or it's the computers we use. This is all the overflow of God's goodness to all of us and all of whom have done nothing to deserve it. Yeah, in general, it's just the fact that all of us get to enjoy God's blessings, even though none of us deserve it.


[0:03:38] JR: Yeah. I think this is what – correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this is what Jesus was getting at Matthew 5:45 where he says that, “God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Right? In other words, God distributes good gifts to everybody regardless of their relationship with them, but we're not talking about saving grace, right? Can you clarify that for us?


[0:04:04] MK: Common grace is different than saving grace. Saving grace has to do with how we are reconciled to God. How do we bridge the gap between our sin and the judgment that we deserve? God who is just, but who is also loving and the bridge is God's mercy. It's God's grace that he extends to us through Jesus by sending Jesus to die in our place and rise from the grave. We respond to that gift of grace, saving grace by turning from our sin and trusting in the sacrificial work of Jesus. That's how we're saved. That's how we are able to stand before God with any type of confidence of being accepted of having eternal life, of being forgiven. That's saving grace.


Common grace, though is no matter who you are, if you are a human being and you are alive, you are a constant recipient of God's common grace. Those blessings that are not salvific in nature. In other words, they don't save, they don't contribute in any way to your status before God or in any way help you to earn eternal life or earn forgiveness, but they are just these gifts of grace from God. These blessings that we all enjoy, but every single one of us, including pastors like me, we often take those blessings for granted.


[0:05:28] JR: Amen. Yeah. All right. Let's talk about what this means for the Mere Christians who are listening. I've been noodling around with this in my private study time for the last couple of years. I'm excited to unpack it a little bit more with you, but what impact should this doctrine of common grace have on the work that Mere Christians do in the world? Broad question.


[0:05:51] MK: Yeah, man. I mean, there's so much to say there. I have – I've been thinking about this for a long time too, but can I just tell a quick story to give some context?


[0:05:58] JR: Please. Yeah.


[0:05:59] MK: I can't remember if I mentioned this to you, but here's how this all got on my radar. Well, first of all, and we can dive deeper into this if you want to, but I think the Christian tradition I come from, which is the traditional black church tradition. I think it's all almost hidden, because I didn't grow up hearing the term common grace, but because of the historic commitment to justice.


Even today, if you really – I mean, certainly like in the civil rights movement. If you look throughout slavery, but even today, if you look at the black church, not just as a model, but as a theological conviction is like a community center. It is spreading the gospel is preaching the word of God, but it is also not just in a pragmatic way, but in a very theological way is working to bring the kingdom of God to bear in the community.


[0:06:50] JR: It's seeking the welfare of the city.


[0:06:52] MK: Yeah. Seeking the welfare of the city, man. I grew up in that water, but I didn't have any language to articulate it. In my mind, I think I still had, I didn't have any wing of the airplane that was common grace. The only wing of the airplane I knew was saving grace. I remember one time, this is back in 2014, I think, or 2012, because I had this email in front of me. I was at an event, David Kinnaman did an event in DC. David Kinnaman with the Barna group, and they do a bunch of research around Christianity and emerging generations.


I don't even remember what the event was. I just remember there was a woman on the panel. She's at National Community Church. I know you’re friends with Mark Batterson. She had a magazine and the whole point of the magazine was basically to identify good like common good work in DC and to name that, to celebrate that, to point people toward it. When she was on this panel, she was explaining why she does that. Basically, what she said was, “I'm trying to capture ways God is working all throughout the city.”


Now, I'm sitting there and remember, I only have this construct of saving grace in my mind, really. This was like scrambling the signal in my brain. I was like, what does she mean? Like God's work. How is God working in the city? God's working in the church. God's working as people go spread the gospel, but she's highlighting all these different nonprofit organizations and companies that are doing good work and all this stuff. I remember being so thrown off and I'll be totally honest with you. I've told her this, I was like, “Oh, these liberals.” You know what I'm saying? Like, I was like, “What is she talking about right now?”


I just didn't have a category for it. I remember wrestling with that process and it was the beginning of God literally renovating my whole theological framework. I emailed her. I came back across these emails a couple of weeks ago. It was just so – I mean, this is what, 13 years ago now. We're recording this in 2023. This was 2012, so 11 years ago. I just asked her like – so here are some of the questions I asked her. In what sense is an organization's work, God's work, if they're non-Christian and maybe even anti-gospel? Do you see an inherent value in justice work that does not have evangelism as its goal? Is there any fundamental or practical difference between the way Christians do meaningful work and non-Christians do meaningful work?


Basically, I'm asking her all the questions that you talk about all the time in your podcast. That just honestly, that moment provoked something in me. It stirred something in me. She was so gracious. We had this whole correspondence back and forth over email. I just began to dive into all of those questions and processes and search through the scriptures and read. I stumbled on this doctrine of common grace. I think practically what she was doing is what you're trying to do in your podcast and you're writing and what I'm trying to do from in my corner of the kingdom, which is just as a pastor.


I think people, generally speaking, don't understand common grace. For Christians, I think what that means is they compartmentalize the majority of their lives away from – it's almost like they put that on a shelf or in a closet away from God or the kingdom of God or spiritual things. They come to church just expecting to have their soul uplifted and to be encouraged or to hear about how they can work on their “relationship with God” which they only see in “spiritual terms” and it leaves this massive gap and it causes this massive question, which is does God care about what I actually spend the majority of my life doing?


I think in a practical way, just in an overall practical way, I think the doctrine of common grace is the underpinning of meaning and value for work itself. That has so many different implications that we can talk about. I think it gives meaning, it gives God-given value, not just utilitarian value, but fundamental value to the work that all kinds of people do in all kinds of different ways.


[0:11:10] JR: Yeah. You're talking about the work of believers and non-believers.


[0:11:14] MK: Absolutely. Yeah. That's what threw me off when Kate was talking about this, because of her company.


[0:11:19] JR: Who is this? Who's Kate?


[0:11:21] MK: Her name is Kate Schmidgall. I don't know if she's on staff and I literally have not talked to her since –


[0:11:26] JR: Oh, she’s in the NCC, National Community Church. Yeah. Sorry. Yeah.


[0:11:28] MK: Yeah. She's at NCC. Yeah. Her husband, I think was his or was a pastor at NCC. I haven't – I don't know her well. I haven't talked to her since our email correspondence. Kate, if you're listening, shout out to you. I mean, her comments and her gracious interaction over email literally changed the course of my life and ministry, and theology. The way I think about pastoral ministry, as not just equipping people to serve in the ministries of the church, but equipping people, inspiring people, encouraging people to not just represent God and their evangelism. The way I put it to people all the time is God is not just at work and your evangelism, but he's at work in your work.


[0:12:10] JR: Amen. Go deeper. Talk about this. I like the terms instrumental and intrinsic value, right? The church assigns almost exclusively instrumental value to the work of Mere Christians. Your work matters, because you can share the gospel explicitly with other people, which, amen. Yes, a thousand percent. But it also has intrinsic value. Digging that ditch matters, right? Programming that line of code matters and has intrinsic value. You're a pastor. Pastor are listeners to this end, Mike.


[0:12:40] MK: This is why I was so excited to be on here because I listened to your podcast and I listened to all these different people who have really cool jobs and I mean, I'll just say this to Christians, not Christians who are just out in just the normal everyday workforce, not working in the church, not working in vocational ministry. Man, you all do so much that I just – well, one, I could never do. If I don't pastor, I have no other marketable skill. If I don't pastor, my kids are going die.


[0:13:10] JR: You're locked in.


[0:13:11] MK: I'm locked in. But for pastors, the big wake-up call for me was it just expanded and not just expanded. It really fundamentally changed my paradigm of pastoral ministry. I think, I love that framing that you gave and I think I say instrumental and fundamental. I like instrumental and intrinsic. It has intrinsic value, the work that we do, and not just in a pragmatic way. What I mean by that is not just because it's a good thing to do. It is a good thing to do, so if you're an engineer, if you're a teacher, if you're a musician, if whatever, it's a good thing to do, it's creative.


I think as a pastor, what I want to help people see is it's much more fundamental and intrinsic than even the goodness of it. It actually, not only reflects the character of a good and gracious God, but I think it is actually an extension of the work of God. It's not just instrumental in the sense that if you're a Christian, you do good work so other people can know about Jesus. That is important if you're a Christian. But I do think it's instrumental in this sense that your work is an instrument through which God distributes his good gifts.


[0:14:25] JR: Yes. This is the connection to common grace.


[0:14:28] MK: Yeah. That's the connection.


[0:14:30] JR: Our work, believe it or not, is the vehicle through which God delivers his common grace to all people, right? We were on a road trip with the kids this weekend, a short road trip drive over to Orlando. We prayed a prayer. I know a lot of families pray before they hit the road. It’s like, “We're going on a long drive. We just pray for your protection. Just keep us safe. Amen.” When we said, amen I was like, “Hey, kids. How does God keep us safe on this drive? Does he put a magical force field around our car?” And they like laughed.


They thought that was hilarious. I was like, “Does – I don't know, do like angels come and like pick up the car and like block us from accidents.” They thought that was great. I was like – they get it, right? Because we preach this ad nauseum in my house, but like, “No, like somebody made this seatbelt in this car factory somewhere to keep me safe.” That's how God's keeping me safe. God made people to make these roads, right, which helps keep us safe. God made the people who made the signs, the roadway signs that allow us to have some common standards on the roads, so we're not all running into each other. They got about like, that's such a beautiful, practical picture of common grace, right, Mike? That's what you're talking about with that foundational fundamental value of our work.


[0:15:46] MK: Yeah, man. You see this in a lot of reformation theology. It was just, I mean, this is exactly what Kate was talking about. I don't even know if she had the language at the time, but she certainly had the theology. You know how when you're inside for a long time on a sunny day, then you walk outside and it just takes your eyes disorienting, it takes your eyes a while to adjust. That's what this was for me. Having my eyes open to this doctrine of common grace. It was like, things were starting to come into focus, but I was like, what is going on? What it does, this is what you were doing with your kids, Jordan. What it does is like the world is pulsating with the goodness of God. We just don't often see it or comprehend how much we are enjoying His goodness because He's doing it through people.


[0:16:37] JR: Yes. We're the masks of God. That's what Luther said.


[0:16:40] MK: Oh, that's so good, man. One of my favorite Psalms on this is in Psalm 104. It's just this majestic description of God, of God's power and His work in creation. It's long. I won't get into all of it, but there's this one section right in the middle where it says, and I'm reading here, this is Psalm 104 verse 14, it says, “He makes grass grow for the cattle.” Then it says, “And plants for people to cultivate, bringing forth food from the earth. Wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.” I remember having read through the Psalms and all that, but having this lens of common grace, I'm looking. This is what Luther talks about. This is what you were talking about with your kids like, plants for people to cultivate.


I mean, how do we get food? Well, it's from these plants that God has provided, but there's this whole chain of activity that happens from agriculture all the way to retail and marketing that enables us to enjoy that good gift from God. It's not just the farmer who's harvesting crops that is an instrument, but it's also the person that's working on that marketing team that's getting the word out about that particular brand of food or working to do publicity for that farmer's market or that grocery store.


When you see the world that way, first of all, every good and perfect gift comes from God, that begins to take on new meaning, because now everywhere you – you're at Jiffy Lube, you're at

the movie theater. You know what I mean? You're at some concert and you begin to experience the goodness of the world as goodness from the God who loves you and knows you. Even if you don't deserve it. Even if you're not a Christian or you're a Christian, but you're going through a difficult season and you haven't been doing what you're supposed to be doing.


You're constantly having this fresh revelation. If you open your mind and your heart to it, that there is this real God, the creator who is distributing, he is making a point to get his goodness to you in ways that you need. One of the things I love about Psalm 104 is that it's not just food, bread like necessities, but it's also luxuries. It's wine that gladdens human hearts. It's oil to make faces shine. I got – when I read that, I'm like, “God, don't want us to be ashy.” You know what I mean? Like, you know what? Like, he wants us to have that glow. It changes the way you view the world. It fills your heart with gratitude, but it also gives real meaning to your work.


[0:19:28] JR: 100%. I think you're hitting at one of the most practical outpourings of this idea of common grace. It leads us to worship more because we understand that every good and perfect gift, you come back to James one, is not from the Uber driver, ultimately. It's not from the auto mechanic that’s fixing my car. It is from God through the Uber driver and the auto mechanic, right? I think this has some practical implications for how we think about who we can and cannot work with. I know a lot of Christians, frankly, who believe they should only go to Christian doctors or vote for Christian politicians or watch movies made by fellow believers, but doesn't common grace free us to work with and support the work of believers and non-believers alike?


[0:20:17] MK: Absolutely. That's what I was getting at when I say, so I grew up in the black church tradition. I grew up in this water, but like a fish and water, not recognizing it. For example, the civil rights movement is an illustration of everything you're saying right now.


[0:20:30] JR: Amen. Yes.


[0:20:31] MK: Where Christians out of biblical theological gospel conviction were working for – and not just African-American Christians, but in partnership with white brothers and sisters, were working for justice for all kinds of people. Extending from the civil rights movement for African-Americans and into all kinds of different civil rights issues, but they were working with other people who shared a similar conviction. It may not have named that conviction common grace. They may not have named or connected God to that conviction from our vantage point as Christians, we understand that God has implanted like his law in our hearts and on our consciences.


Any good thing that we do, any morality that we have is because we've been made in the image of God. We know that. They may not know that or even agree with that. It does free us up to be able to, number one, partner with people that don't share beliefs that we have for the common good. This is what I saw with Kate and what she was doing with her magazine. It also frees us up to honor people who don't share our beliefs. We can disagree with what they think about Jesus. We can have strong convictions about what that means for them in terms of eternal life and their need for salvation.


It doesn't have to all be jumbled up. We can, not separate it, but we can distinguish between their soul and our desire to see them come to know the saving grace of God like we have and to know the love of God like we have, but we can also say, “Man, I know you may not even – but I just had a conversation with a friend of mine who's not a Christian. Yeah. He's just super successful. One of the most talented people I know, and we're just having lunch. I just had the opportunity and privilege that – I mean, directly inspired by Kate to say to him, “Hey, man. I know you don't even know what you believe, but you're doing God's work.”


[0:22:33] JR: Yes.


[0:22:34] MK: Like, God is using you in the ways that you craft words and write poetry and write books and the ways you're blessing people through your gifts. He was stunned that I would say that. Knowing me – I mean, we’re good friends, so he knows that I love him, but the fact that even though he's not sure he believes it, the fact that I would say, “Bro, you are like, God is working through you like, our work is blessing people. God is blessing people through you.” Not only can we partner with people, I think to accomplish some real good in the world. I think it also freezes up as Christians to honor people who are doing good work.


Christians don't have that reputation right now. If you're not – if I'm a Christian and you're not a Christian, generally speaking, at least the perception is that all I'm going to do is condemn you. All I'm going to do is focus on what we disagree on. All I'm going to do is see you as a salvation project and I don't have the nuance, I don't have the interest or curiosity, I don't have the theological permission to say, “Good job.” You know what I'm saying? Man, yeah. There are so many implications of this.


[0:23:46] MK: That in and of itself is a really big idea. That we should be the ones in the world celebrating the good. Listen, criticizing what's evil, criticizing what's sin clearly, right? But celebrating the goodness of the work of our non-believing friends, right? Man, I mean, that could be an incredibly powerful path to evangelism, but even if it's not, I think it's so good in and of itself. I pulled up this Tim Keller quote that you reminded me of while you were talking, Tim says, “All non-believers have seriously impaired spiritual vision. Yet, so many of the gifts God has put in the world are given to non-believers. Christians are free to study the world of human culture in order to know more of God for his creatures made in his image, we can appreciate truth and wisdom wherever we find it.” That's it, right?


[0:24:41] MK: Oh, that's so good. I think that applies to culture as well. I mean, because human beings are made in the image of God, every culture in the world and subculture is expressing not only our sinful nature, right? There's going to be bad in every culture. There's going to be sin and injustice and evil in every culture, but we're also going to be expressing the fact that we're made in the image of God. There is a real sense in which we will be expressing and reflecting the character of God in some way, so that's going to be present in culture. Even in cultures that broadly speaking reject the God of the Bible.


I agree with you, absolutely. I think, what I hope Christians who are listening to this, but also non-Christians understand that the theology that we see in scripture, it is this sprawling, beautiful, expansive worldview that actually gives us room. It gives us more than room. It actually pushes us to hold these things in tension that people are a mix, man, of a fundamental dignity and worth and value, and because of that, because they're made in the image of God, they're going to be used by God in a common grace way to bring good, to contribute good into the world. Also, there's going to be a sinful nature and rebellion against God. There's going to be that depravity that shows up in all kinds of ways and to varying degrees.


As Christians, we don't want to swing so far toward common grace, right? Like you said that we're not willing to confront sin and evil. I think this generation understands that when it comes to justice. I think emerging generations are so sensitive and attuned to justice and oppression. I think that's a good thing. Yes, we want to confront sin and we want to confront evil, but we also want to be able to join God really in affirming the goodness of creation and the ways that we as creative beings participate in that.


[0:26:44] JR: Yeah. Really well said. I want to work out another implication of common grace with you. I also think this is one of the foundations of killing any prosperity gospel preaching because common grace forces us to decouple success, be it personally or at work, from our righteousness, Because if God makes it rain on the righteous and the unrighteous, then I can no longer connect my – let's say, promotion at work to the fact that I've had a consistent quiet time for the last month, right?


[0:27:12] MK: Yeah, absolutely.


[0:27:13] JR: Now these cuts both ways, right? I'm thinking about the listener who, okay, they understand that. They understand that their success is 100% grace. I think common grace also changes how we react to the success of others, right? Maybe the womanizing liar who got the promotion instead of them, it changes our posture to the results that we see in the world, right? Mike, talk a little bit about that.


[0:27:38] MK: Well, I think you see that, for example, with Asaph and Psalm 73. Here you have this Psalm where Asaph, who is like the chief worship leader, let's just say that, right? He's struggling, because he's looking out into the world. He's seeing people who — they're not following God's ways, but they're prospering. I think that is rattling his theological framework, because he's like, well, no. Like, I'm a covenant keeping Jew a covenant keeping God should bless me. For him, it becomes now, it's like the character of God is in question, because he's wrestling through that.


I think there's an example of that in Psalm 73 and other places. I think when we see people prospering, especially like, if I just talk to Christians for a minute, when you see people who are not as faithful as you prospering or are just not Christians at all prospering, I think honestly what that should say to us is not, God must not be good or I think that actually causes us to say, “wow, God is that good. He's that good that he's still.” It doesn't answer the question about my suffering necessarily or me not having what I desire.


I need to wrestle with that. I need to trust God in the midst of that, but it is this — another example like Paul talks about this where he talks about how he was an example of God's perfect patience. I think that's true. God is so good that he not only gives people good gifts, but he uses people, he equips people with good gifts to contribute in the world in ways that are beautiful and wonderful. I do think it decouples those blessings from any notion of like prosperity theology. I think scripture scrambles that, but I think our experience scrambles that as well.


I think, generally speaking, God does reward righteousness, but it doesn't always show up the way we think it's going to show up and it doesn't always show up in this life. Meanwhile, God does cause his rain to fall into just an unjust. When I used to read that as a kid, I used to always think that was a negative thing. I'm like, everybody hates rain, but no. He’s providing like rain for people's crops so that they flourish and they prosper. He does that because he's good, not because we're good.


[0:29:57] JR: I love it so much. We've been talking really narrowly about common grace and how it shapes our work. Let's pull the camera back a little bit. How else are you pastoring your congregation specifically when it comes to vocation? What are you telling them right now? Would you encouraging them to think about under this broad umbrella of how the gospel shapes the work they do in the world?


[0:30:18] MK: Well, I'll start here as a pastor. The first thing I'm doing, and this is something I had to learn over years. The first thing I'm doing is not actually teaching people anything about work. The first thing I'm doing is just trying to understand their work world. I think I spent so much of my early pastoral years doing the typical pastoral work, which is good and which is great, but what I mean by that is not just shepherding and people caring for people, but there's also like this constant recruiting, especially in mega-church world, where you're constantly trying to get people, you're recruiting people to – I mean, it's the work of the church. It's God's thing, but sometimes it's you're recruiting people to use their gifts and help you do your thing.


What I started doing, I don't remember where I first heard this. I didn't come up with it, I'm sure I heard somebody who was doing it. I just started doing these, I just call them vocational lunches, but I just try to identify people in our congregation and in different spheres of influence, in different industries, here in the DC area, there's a lot of government, military, contracting, but there's also a lot of research, medical research. There's all kinds of stuff here, so I just try to take people to lunch. I literally have just questions that I ask them about the work that they do. Then in addition to just learning what do y'all do.


I have to ask, one of my guys at church is so funny, because I ask them the same thing all the time, because I still don't understand what he does, but it's just taking an interest and not just to build relationships, so you trust me now so I can ask you to do something or I can ask you to give, but because I'm genuinely interested in how God is at work in your life, on your job, and how God is at work through you, on your job. Then what is your life like? What is your experience like in your field and particularly as a Christian in your field? That's one thing.


I would encourage pastors who are listening to make a point to do that on a regular basis. No other agenda other than them educating you. Then also even for me when it comes to preaching, it's just really helpful for me to invite other people who are not working in the church who also understand God's Word to speak into my preaching, whether that's to give me feedback afterwards or to be a part of the process, because it just gives me different vantage points. I mean, not just in terms of how it applies, but even how to interpret and understand the word.


I remember, as a matter of fact, it was when I was studying Psalm 104. I was preaching this sermon, God, the king over all creation and I had a guy in our church who's like, he works for NOAA, the National Oceanic, something, whatever. It's N-O-A-A. They do all kinds of really cool things, and they basically provide a bunch of data for meteorologists, and they just do a bunch of stuff.


[0:33:05] JR: Yeah. Here in Florida, we rely on NOAA to keep us safe from hurricane, so we love you, NOAA.


[0:33:09] MK: Listen, the insights, the exegetical interpretive insights he gave me into this passage, that's why I say not just in terms of how does this apply, but how even to understand it. It was profound. I think one thing is I'm just trying to – I'm learning from people who are doing good work and representing Jesus in that, but I also am trying to, and I'm beating this drum with our people. It's hard for people to understand this when you've been socialized and discipled in a certain way of thinking, but I'm trying to tell you, but all the time, God is at work in your work, not just your evangelism.


Yes, yes, yes, your office, your industry is a mission field, everywhere you go there are people who need to hear the good news about Jesus, and you need to be courageous and sensitive to the spirit and make the most of every opportunity, absolutely, yes and amen. But if you reduce your work to that, number one, you will have this disconnect in your intimacy with God, because you will think you are only in the presence of God when you are singing worship songs on Sunday, or when you're having your quiet time. Then you will clock out of the presence of God when you clock into work, but when you understand that God is at work in your work, and that your work like you said, has intrinsic value and that it actually is God working to get his goodness.


If you work in customer service, God is caring for people on the other end of that phone call, on the other end of that chatbot that you wrote code for. Then that unlocks this intimacy with God in everything that you do. I'm trying to encourage people to remember God is that work in their work. It also affects the way they do Colossians 3, that you work ultimately unto Jesus, unto the Lord Jesus, and not for men. It also motivates you to excellence, even let's say when you're working for a boss that may not be the greatest boss, or you're serving a client or a customer that is annoying, or you're waiting on a table for somebody who is just a jerk, to be honest with you, but it motivates you to bring certain excellence to your work because you realize that this is a snapshot, it's a foretaste for this person, of the goodness and creativity of God.


Those are some things that I'm constantly trying to encourage our people with. The other thing too is, I think one of the things we do in church often is we need to – we should as pastors be calling things out of people that they don't see in themselves. Sometimes that means, “Hey, you should be in full-time vocational ministry. You should be using those gifts in the church. You should be using those gifts for this non-profit ministry.” Sometimes it's that, but most times it's not that. Being able to help people process and just connect the dots for God's calling in their life.


This is also, Jordan — applies to people who work in the home. I think about stay-at-home moms or think about people who are on disability and I got this one woman in our church who had a whole career, because of a variety of really debilitating just illnesses. She's just not – not able to work anymore. She's not even able to come to church. She has to stay in her house, because her immune system and all this stuff, but the work that she's doing in her home as an empty nester mom, the phone calls that she's making to people, just to encourage people, the mentorship that she's providing, people that used to be her employees or people in our church were in a similar industry, that's not second-tier work. That's God working in really unique, beautiful ways.


[0:36:50] JR: Brother, well said. Hey, you know the drill. Three questions we wrap up every podcast with. Number one, which books do you find yourself recommending or gifting most frequently to others? Doesn't have to be on this topic of common grace, doesn't even have to be on the topic of faith at work, but just in general, what books are you giving away these days?


[0:37:07] MK: One recent one, man, is a book by Pastor Tyler. I think it's Staton is how you say his name. He's the pastor of, what is the church in Portland?


[0:37:15] JR: Bridgetown.


[0:37:16] MK: Bridgetown, yeah. Bridgetown Church. His new book, I think is Praying Like Monks.


[0:37:20] JR: Praying Monks, Living Like Fools. I haven't read it.


[0:37:23] MK: Living Like Fools. Man, I'm handing that out like crazy. It's probably the book I would hand out, is this tons of amazing books on prayer, but this is probably one of the most beautifully written, accessible, deep books that I've read in a long time. My wife and I read it and we've – I've quoted from it so many times. I've given it out. That's one. I would really encourage people with that.


Another one, and this is called The Imperfect Pastor by Zach Eswine, but it's not just for pastors. I think it's for anybody really, but certainly people who are in any type of full-time vocational ministry, whether that's in the nonprofit a world or in church. I love that book because it's a countercultural voice and his chapter on ambition to me is worth the whole book. He just really helps Christians grapple with holy ambition versus the ambition that can destroy you and destroy everybody around you.


[0:38:15] JR: All right. At a minimum, I'm reading that chapter.


[0:38:17] MK: Man, now I honestly, that's one of those few books that I probably come back to and read every year.


[0:38:22] JR: Wow. Strong words.


[0:38:25] MK: It's a really, really good book. I think another one, man. I'll just stop here, there are tons of books, but one also, there's a book, Reading While Black.


[0:38:32] JR: Yeah. It’s so good.


[0:38:33] MK: By Dr. Esau McCaulley, and the reason why I mention it is obviously that that book has a lot to do with justice and understanding race and justice from a biblical perspective, but his chapter on policing, I think is a really good example of common grace theology. I've never read anything really on a theology of policing, but it's one of those examples of like, “Hey, police officers are doing God-given beautiful work, which can go south, right? If it's done in an unjust way. Who's training police officers, particularly Christian police officers, to understand what they do from it, not just a practical perspective, but also from a biblical and theological perspective. It just gives, I mean, the chapter itself is good, but also as a model of how you can do common grace theology and whatever industry that you're in. Those are just a couple of books.


[0:39:25] JR: It's really good. I actually, read that on your recommendation. I didn't tell you that, but those are great recommendations. I would highly commend that to our audience. Hey, who do you want to hear on this podcast talking about how the gospel shapes the work they do in the world? Maybe somebody in your congregation.


[0:39:38] MK: Man, I know you ask these questions all the time, and this is one that I forgot to think about. Man, who would I want to hear? I mean, you've had so many people who have been formative for me in this. It's not a specific person, and I just don't remember if you've had someone like this. I would love somebody on here to talk from a sports perspective.


[0:39:56] JR: Yeah. We haven't had a lot of athletes.


[0:39:59] MK: Yeah. That would be fascinating to me. I think it'd be helpful to a lot of people, maybe Benjamin Watson.


[0:40:05] JR: Yeah.


[0:40:05] MK: Could speak to that. I think he'd be really good. Yeah, man. Those are a couple, I think, categories that I would love to see.


[0:40:11] JR: Those are good. Hey, one thing from our conversation that you want to reiterate to our listeners before we sign off. What is it?


[0:40:17] MK: I would just want to reiterate what I've been saying, God’s at work in your work. That’s the whole premise of this podcast. If you're a regular listener, you hear this all the time. I just want to add a pastoral exclamation point to that.


[0:40:30] JR: Amen.


[0:40:29] MK: I remember having a comment on a podcast with a woman who doesn't work for a church. I remember when I talked about this, she literally on her podcast started crying. Jordan, I just want to thank you, because I think you are creating a space for a lot of people to connect dots that maybe their church hasn't been connecting, certainly culture isn't connecting. I just want to add a pastoral exclamation point to the fact that there's intrinsic value to the work that you do. Do it well. Do it with humility. Do it with a conscious awareness that God is not only with you as you do it, but he's working through you as you do it.


[0:41:09] JR: Amen, brother. Mike, I want to commend you for the exceptional work you do every day for the glory of God and the good of others. Very few pastors are thinking this deeply about how to equip their sheep to go out into the world. Most churches are operating like cruise ships, trying to keep everyone inside for as long as humanly possible. Man, you're treating this flock. You're an aircraft carrier. You're fueling them up and sending them back out in the world to do God's work in the world. Thank you for doing that. Hey, where's the best place for people to keep up with your incredible teaching? Because you’re like me, you're not super active on social media. Where do people go to find more from Mike Kelsey?


[0:41:50] MK: Yeah. You can find me on social media @mikekelsey. That's maybe a-whole-nother podcast episode, just pulling back a bit from social media and creating some rhythms that helped me do that in a healthy way. McLean Bible Church, so on social media @mcleanbible, one of our lead pastors and you can access all of our teaching and resources and all that stuff.


[0:42:11] JR: We're big McLean fans here. Mike, thanks for hanging out with us today.


[0:42:14] MK: Hey, man. Thanks for what you do and thanks for having me on.




[0:42:17] JR: Man, I hope you guys enjoyed that episode as much as I did. Hey, let us know if you did. You can contact us anytime at to tell us what you thought about this episode or any other on the show. Guys, we love, love, love, love, love making the Mere Christians Podcast for you. To be clear, it's not just me. You've got a whole team of people behind this thing that deserve loads and loads of credit for making this show, Caleb Taylor, Chris Perry, the team of We Edit Podcasts, etc., etc., etc. Guys, thank you for tuning in. You're the reason why we make this show for the glory of God and the good of others. You are those others, right? Amen. We'll see you guys next week.