Getting More from Work Than a Paycheck: Tim Kimmel & Michael Tooker
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Feeling so over your job? Authors Tim Kimmel and Michael Tooker talk about ways to bring grace to work and radically change how your look at your job.
Getting More from Work Than a Paycheck: Tim Kimmel & Michael Tooker
Michael: There are those people, who I think they show up for work in the T-shirt, or they've got the placard on the wall with some Scripture; they're handing out cards, inviting people to Easter service. But I think there's also some [for whom] there is such a compartmentalization of their faith, that nothing of their faith comes to work; so people may not even know that they're Christian. Or somebody may be nice on the weekend—and serving in a soup kitchen, or leading a Bible study, or something during the week—but the second they park the car in the parking lot, and head into work, there's a complete disconnect.
Dave: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Dave Wilson.
Ann: And I’m Ann Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Dave: This is FamilyLife Today.
I don't know if you remember this: the year we started our church, 1990—probably, six months in, we're at a restaurant—you probably don't even know this happened. In the suburb, where we started our first campus, a guy came over and said, “Aren't you the pastor of this new church, Kensington, just down the road?”
I'm like, “Yes.” He goes, “Our owner wants to talk to you,”—the owner of the restaurant. I'm like, “What in the world?!” I go over; and he goes, “Hey, we have a young guy here; he's just out of high school. He's a busboy here, and he goes to your church.” Then I’m thinking, “Oh no, what did this kid do?” [Laughter] “I want to talk to you about him.” I have no idea who this guy is; and I go, “What did he do? What's wrong?”
He goes, “No, nothing's wrong. He is the best worker we've ever had. He shows up early; he shows grace, and he loves everyone here. He's excellent; he's meticulous; he works late; he's changed our restaurant. He has this—I don't know what you call it; there's something about him that's just—I love this kid!”
I go, “Well, that's great. Why are you telling me that?” He goes “Well, I want to know: ‘Are all your people like that?’” [Laughter] I'm like, “Probably not!”
Tim: “Probably not.”
Dave: But there was something about—he saw this and attributed the way this kid worked and treated people to Jesus—he connected.
Ann: It does; it makes you take a second look, like, “How can they work like that with that good attitude? They love people; they bring an atmosphere with them that's like one of joy.” Yes, that's compelling.
Dave: Yes; and we're going to talk about: “How do you work as a Christian?”
We’ve got two guys in the studio who wrote a book about it called Grace at Work. We’ve got Tim Kimmel and Michael Tooker in the studio. We've already talked to them for one day; but welcome back, guys.
Michael: Thanks for having us back.
Dave: Yes; when you hear a story like that, what do you think?
Michael: Oh, he nailed it. That's exactly what—
Tim: That's what this book is about!
Michael: He could have [written] the book. [Laughter]
Tim: This book is about: “When you go to work, you need to treat the people you work with the way God treats you.”
Tim: God is dealing with us in grace. That means that you have all kinds of quirky people showing up for work:
- You have people with chips on their shoulders;
- You have people with agendas;
- You have overbearing people/high controllers. [Laughter]
And you know what's interesting about work?—it has something in common with family—in that you usually don't get to choose who you're stuck with. And there's this huge resignation going on right now in our country; and a lot of it is because the culture of the marketplace is so—
Tim: —uninviting and toxic, and it doesn't bring the best out of you. Well, we can change that—we're not just talking to people that own the company—if you are a follower of Jesus, you have a chance to go to work and turn it into something far more than a paycheck.
But I need to clarify something before we go, because some people think, “Oh, this is one of those books about us going to work and witnessing, and start doing Bible studies, and inviting people to church.” This is the absolute opposite of that—we're not being paid to do that; we’re being paid to go do a job and work—but what God has called us to do—He made it real clear, and He doubled down on it just before Jesus went to the cross—is to love people.
This book isn't about modeling Jesus at work; it's about following Jesus at work. He said, “Anyone comes after Me, take up your cross and follow Me”; and then, what's the next verse?—what did He do? He showed his love toward us by dying for us. When I think of the Son of God, hanging there, nailed to a cross, drenched in His own body fluids as His way of showing how much He's going to do to care for us—who do not deserve anything from Him—the least we can do is show up to work and love those/that list of people, who sometimes don't love you back, or are hard to love; but that's what we're called to do.
And the people, who take this to heart/the person that is going to get the most out of it, is that person. But also, God's going to do some great things in the other people, too, like that busboy.
Dave: Obviously, something was going on in him, of understanding—it wasn't just: “I invite the people I work with to church,”—like you said, he is going to work in such a way that honors Christ. I could tell, from what the owner said: he's loving the people there.
Tim: He cares for the people he works with;—
Dave: I'm sure there were people there, who weren't lovable;—
Tim: —he cares for the customers.
Dave: —and this kid was love. I mean, I've never forgotten that story; because it's so inspiring to me.
One of the beautiful things of yesterday was, Michael, your story of finding Jesus/finding grace. And then, the two of you, have been doing life together for years now, write this book, Grace at Work. You just sort of explained it, but help our listener understand: “Okay, what is grace?” And then we'll get to: “Okay, how do you apply that at work?”
So how would you define or get our arms around this big idea of grace?
Michael: There's a lot to grace. In maybe, it's simplest form, you might say something like: “God gives us something we don't deserve”; right?—it’s that unmerited favor. But then, when you think about: “Okay, so what does that actually look like?”—that's what we do in the book—is we unpack it, and we try to describe: “What are all the different levels at which it operates?” and “…the different elements or dimensions of it?”
There are four different levels of it:
- But at its foundational level, God meets our most important inner needs.
- We talk about some of the freedoms—that God made us to want freedom—and He died so that we would have freedom.
- We go on to talk about: “What does godly character look like?”
- and “What does it look like to kind of point your life at greatness over earthly success?”
That's how we kind of start to describe, in the book: “How does it operate?”—and the different elements of it—"It's treating others the way God treats us.”
If we can/many times people, they don't really understand how God treats us; or we may read about God's promises, but we kind of leave it there, and say, “Well, but not me.” But if we can really start to understand: “How does God love us?”; and then, when we go into work, just say, “My job, under God's power, I just want Him to shine through me so that others can experience that same thing, under His power, and really feel that from us.”
I think, as you described that young man at that workplace, that's the way the owner described it—is what he was describing was God's grace, as it was outwardly focused: it cared about other people; it was sacrificial—it was all these different things. I think that's how I would say it: “It's that unmerited favor, but it operates at so many different levels”; that's what we unpack in Grace at Work.
Tim: I want to be a conduit of God's heart when I come to work. I realize that everybody I work with has a need to know that they are significant; they have intrinsic worth of value. They need to know that they're strong/sufficient for the moment they're in—but they don't feel that necessarily—but I can help meet those needs by giving them a secure love, always voicing a significant purpose into them, and representing a strong hope. That makes such a difference.
Ann: As you use the word, “conduit,” I'm also thinking how important that abiding in Christ is in that connection.
Ann: If we're not connected to or abiding with Christ in our relationship with Him, can we give grace?—or is that really important?
Tim: No, no; actually, that's a phenomenal question; because all we can really offer is human nice. Grace and nice are not synonyms; because if you think you can do this on your own steam—all we just talked about is going to be cosmetic, at best—there's a source of this. Ann, you're hitting right on that source; it's about Jesus.
We spend some time talking about how that is maintained on an ongoing basis. but that's the same thing in our marriage and our relationship with our kids.
Ann: That's the most important factor.
Tim: But that's how I can find joy in a really crummy job.
Dave: I mean, is part of it how you walk in? I know for 12, or maybe 13 years, I coached high school football at the local high school/public high school, and I saw it as a ministry. I'm a football guy; my kids were going to play there, so it was great to be there with my sons. But I know this—every day that I walked down; I didn't go every day—the head coach was great; he's like, “Any day I get Dave Wilson is good day,”—so I could show up once a week or four; it was awesome, because I had another job.
But as I walked down this little ramp to the practice field, every time I walked, I prayed. And here's my prayer: “Lord, I want to be a light today. I want to love these boys. A lot of these boys I don't like; they're not very…" [Laughter]
Dave: It's just like I know there's going to be pushback and things going on. “Give me a heart of love and grace for these boys. I want to shine today. Don't let me forget why I'm really here—it isn't just to win football games—it's to build men of Christ.” Is that something that a grace-at-worker's got to have?
Michael: You've all mentioned the word, “love”; right? I love the way Tim defines love; which is, “The commitment of my will to your needs and best interests, regardless of the cost.”
Ann: Okay, say that again.
Michael: “The commitment of my will to your needs and best interests, regardless of the cost,”—I add to that—“…the cost to me.”
As you described, walking down that tunnel, your prayer covered both: you were talking to God, so you were loving God; because we also talked about this notion of: “What is the greatest commandment?—it’s love God and love others.”
Michael: Right; and so there's this notion of love. I think if, as you're walking down that runway, and you're talking to God about loving others, that should be our disposition or our attitude as we go into the workplace. Because these people, as Tim said, they're not lovable. [Laughter]
And if, in every interaction I have, I'm putting myself in the position of saying: “What's best for Dave?” or “What's best for Ann?” and “How can I inconvenience myself to help you get what's best for you?” And sometimes it's just kindness; sometimes it's toughness; right?—there may be a difficult conversation we need to have—or there may just be some kindness that I can share with you or extend to you.
But that's really what we're saying is: “It's all about loving God and loving others.” And so, if we can do that—to Tim's point, it's very others-focused—it's not easy, particularly if we do try to do it on our own strength; but if we let God power that for us—
Dave: That was part of my prayer; I knew: “I can't do this. I want to do it; I can't, and I need Holy Spirit power.”
Tim: When I'm in a situation, where I'm going to be representing, I always look at my shoes, and I say, “Okay, I put those shoes over feet of clay, again, today; and I can't pull this one off on my own. Help me be very passionate about what You're asking me to do here, but also very compassionate.” I want to treat them the way God deals with me.
We tell a story about a young man—he came up in poverty, and lived in the worst section of town; and it was generations of this, and no one had ever broken out—but he was good at math. He had a teacher that encouraged him; he got a job at a good company. He had just gotten married, and they went and bought some khaki pants at Penney's® and a couple of button-down shirts—that was kind of the uniform of the [company].
He goes to work, and they introduced him; but people were snickering, and he couldn't understand why. He went into the lunchroom, and walked by a couple of ladies, smiled at them, and walked in there; they're snickering. Later on, that day, somebody came by and said, “We were down at HR. They've got your name plate for you; and it said, ‘38/30’ on it.” He finally got home; and his wife said, “Oh honey, I didn't see this when you walked out”; it was a little thing on the back of your pants that shows what your waist and your inseam is.
They were all snickering—and by the way, the way he was taught to handle this is take them, one at a time, and just hurt him badly—he thought, “I was coming to this big professional place, and they were just mocking me and humiliating [me].” Then he came in; and he wanted to talk to his manager about his upline supervisor, a lady. He said “Hey, I got to talk to you about yesterday and the name tag.” She said, “Oh, yes; I heard about that, 38/30. Man, you made quite an impression.” Obviously, she was part of [those] who thought it was funny.
People are so vulnerable/so fragile. Some of this is stuff caused by the work industry; some things/it’s stuff they had that's outside. Regardless, they come with hearts that are so tender and sensitive, and they're hurting. Well, grace gives people the freedom to be vulnerable; it makes a safe place and doesn't take advantage of that.
There’re so many people [for whom] we could be showing God's grace to around us at work, who are hurting like that. I mean, what if you, or I, or one of us were there?—walked up to him and [said]—“Hey, man, good to meet you; glad you're on board. Hey, let me help you on something,”—pull that thing off—and say, “Yes, I've done that myself,” and just bring him back into it. We have a chance to do that.
And then there's—I think people don't feel they have any voice—grace gives people the freedom to be candid. It's hard in the workplace to make mistakes/to be imperfect, because you realize this could cost you greatly; and yet, we're all [going to]. I think a grace-based person gives people the freedom to make mistakes/the freedom to be imperfect.
Dave: Well, you know, I'm thinking, Tim, as you're telling that story—I hope I'm wrong—but my first thought is: “Many Christians are known in the workplace, or anywhere really, not for grace, but for judgment.”
Dave: It’s like our badge; and some would say, “That's what I'm supposed to be known for.”
Dave: But we should be known—
Ann: Judgment doesn't compel people to Christ.
Michael: Exactly; right.
Dave: Yes; I mean, like we shouldn't be part of that. We should be the place—the cubicle; the office in the building—where, if somebody's really struggling, they want to come to our office because—they don't even know why—it's just like, “Man, when I'm around you, I feel a sense of acceptance.” That should be it rather than: “I'm going to run from that guy, because he's a Christian guy. He's got the Christian T-shirt, and he's always trying to invite me to church; and all he does is make fun of me,” or “He joins in with the clique that is,” rather than being the grace at work.
Tim: We should represent a very safe place for anybody to work through all the dangerous junk in their life with. That's who we should always be. It doesn't mean we have to have PhD’s in counseling or anything. It's just loving people the way they are. Jesus got down on His knees and washed the feet of these people. By the way, He washed Judas' feet; Judas was going to go out and sell Him out.
Ann: That's grace.
Tim: We have a chance to be humble people, representing His heart. When we bring grace to work with us, it's contagious.
Michael: I think part of what you were saying, Dave, too, was, there are those people, who I think they show up for work in the T-shirt, or they've got the placard on the wall with some Scripture; they're handing out cards, inviting people to Easter service.
Dave: —which is great; there’s nothing wrong with that.
Michael: —which is great, yes—but I think there's, also, some [with whom] there is such a compartmentalization of their faith that nothing of their faith comes to work; so people may not even know that they're Christian. Or somebody may be nice on the weekend—and serving in a soup kitchen, or leading a Bible study, or something during the week—but the second they park the car in the parking lot, and head into work, there's a complete disconnect.
That's one of the things that Tim and I talk about is that your whole life has to be just kind of saturated with this love of Christ and the following of Christ. And so, when you walk in the front door of your workplace, you're bringing that with you in every interaction that you have with everyone.
Everybody has those dark places in the back of their mind, where they go; and the unfortunate thing is that's where the enemy is prowling around—right?—seeking people to devour—is when they can't be honest about their emotions, or they can't be candid about the things that they need to be working through with their supervisor or their colleague. I think if we can just be people in the workplace, who are helping people—pulling them out of those dark recesses of the corner, allowing them to be vulnerable, allowing them to be candid—and really helping bring out the best in everybody, that's ultimately, what we're talking about is: “How do we, as Christians, bring out the best in everybody in our workplace?”
Ann: —because, so often, we're insecure ourselves. And so, when we’re insecure, we either self-protect or self-promote; and we don't have our eyes on the people around us. Everywhere we go, there are people that are hurting. Michael, like you were hurting in your marriage relationship.
That's what I love about Jesus: He sees people. We have the ability, with our words, just to speak life into people. I remember saying that to this girl one time, who was at our church; and I said, “I see so much greatness in you.” She instantly tears up, and she said, “What are you talking about? Do you know what I've done? Do you know where I've been? Do you know what's been done to me?” I said, “No, I don't know any of that; but I see such greatness in you.” It's amazing how she lifted her head; she stood a little straighter.
We have the opportunity, as believers—as you're saying—to get our eyes off of ourselves and put them, vertically, on Jesus. I love all of you guys, saying, “I walked in, and I prayed before I walked through those doors.” We forget the power of the Holy Spirit living in us that can change people as we see them the way Jesus does.
Dave: One of the things I love about this woman is she does that everywhere.
Ann: I didn't use to, Dave; because I was so insecure. I saw them as my competition, which we do at work, especially.
Michael: We do; right.
Dave: Yes; and you just see, whoever it is, they light up. I'm like, “That's grace; that's what Jesus would do.”
Tim: I don't want to throw in a—you know, there's certainly no ulterior motives/personal, selfish, ulterior motives—but there's some great benefit. The marketplace is hungry for people, who are not all about themselves—who care about the company, care about the reputation, care about their fellow workers, care about the customer, care about the money/the assets of that thing—and when we come to work like that, that's job security like nobody's business. There's a good chance that that'll get noticed: “You know, you've been faithful in this; I'd like to give you a little more responsibility.” I'm not saying that we do any of this for our personal benefit, but I'm just saying that God blesses faithfulness.
Michael: In the culture that we live in now—with social media and so much about me, and myself, and my selfie pictures, and what's going on in my life—that just acting that way is even more noticeable, now; because it is so rare. It's unfortunate.
I had somebody in my career once—it's a great expression—“Happiness is a low bar.” In some respects, as Christians, we should say the bar has been lowered so low that we have such an opportunity to be the, you know, light upon a hill. But we don't bring that to work—we fall victim to culture, and we're worried about ourselves if we're focused on: “What do I get from the job?” and “What is this going to do for me?” and “…and my career?” and “…my family?” and “…my paycheck or my bank account?”—we're just doing what everybody else is doing.
Michael: But if, instead, I say, “Hey, walk through those doors and say: ‘What can I do to light up everybody around me?’ ‘What can I do to like every single person?’”—we talked about this notion of a WINS model, which is simple; we say that everybody has:
- and Strengths.
If I study everyone around me, and I know what those are—and I approach them in such a way that I want to bring out the very best in them—as opposed to what you were saying, Ann, is when we're insecure and it's about us, we hold people down. But if we know they have those weaknesses, interests, necessities, and strengths, and say, “My job, coming to work as a believer, is know everything that I can about people so that I can help them elevate,” we're just going to shine; right? And there's going to be an amazing ministry that we can have—that it's not about jamming Jesus down people's throats—it's about just being Jesus to the people around us.
I think that's what our workplaces so desperately need—is somebody to show up—even if it's just one person, like that young man in the restaurant: one person, at any level, has the ability to completely change that work culture.
Dave: Yes; I always tried to—and I don't think I did it very well—but as a pastor, I always tried to tell our businessmen, and businesswomen, teachers—you name it—who are out in the world, working, “You're just as much a minister as I am.
Dave: “You have a different place, but you have a call of God to be grace-filled and bring that grace to wherever you are.” Sometimes, I got jealous; I'm like, “I got to work with Christians every day; and you’re beside non-Christians.”
Tim: Yes; I know exactly what you’re talking about.
Dave: They're like, “I hate that; this guy curses and looks at porn.” I'm like, “Yes, he's looking for Jesus.”
Shelby: You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Tim Kimmel and Michael Tooker on FamilyLife Today. We're going to hear a final word of encouragement from Tim on how you can have a profound impact through the avenue of the gospel in your workplace, no matter what that environment might look like. That's in just a second.
But first, you can pick up a copy of Tim and Michael's book called Grace at Work. Head over to FamilyLifeToday.com and pick up a copy there.
And if today's conversation about the gospel and the workplace has been encouraging for you—and it gets you excited about how conversations, just like these, can get into more homes, with more coworkers, more cars, more neighbors, more air pods—all for families, who need the gospel applied to their everyday lives, we'd love it if you'd partner, financially, with us.
As our “Thanks,” we'd love to send you a copy of a book written by some previous guests we had on earlier this week, Bob and Linda Lotich; they wrote a book called Simple Money, Rich Life. It's our “Thanks,” to you when you partner, financially, today. You can give, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 800-358-6329; that's 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Okay, here's Tim Kimmel with a word of gospel encouragement as you think about your workplace today.
Tim: What we've tried to do in this book is give people all the equipment they need to represent the heart of the Lord when they go to work. We talk about: “Yes, but what about the people who are just absolutely impossible to work with?” and “How do we keep our own life in balance and maintain equilibrium there?” The cool thing is God wrote a book about it—and it's not called Grace at Work—it’s called the Bible. We're just building from that.
We have a chance, right now, especially in this time when there's this huge time of everybody wanting to quit—give up and be just: “Everything is about me,”—we have a chance, in the middle of that, to do something that I think could have such a profound impact on the gospel and individual people's lives. Grace at work is just one of the places grace really works.
Dave: Thanks guys; this is good.
Ann: That was so good.
Dave: It’ll really help people.
Shelby: “How do we lead our non-Christian friends to Jesus?”; it's an important question. Well, stay tuned; because next week, on FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson talk with Tim Muehlhoff, who says, “Maybe, it just takes eyes to see and ears to hear. And when that happens, it draws others to the One, who is the giver of all good gifts.” That's next week.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. Have a great weekend. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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