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Finding Purpose at Work with Workmatters CEO David Roth

4 min read

Roth is president and CEO of Workmatters, a national nonprofit faith and leadership program that aims to help leaders integrate their faith and work. Roth, who founded Workmatters in 2003, plans to step down as CEO this year. Before Workmatters, he was vice president, sales and marketing, for J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. He also worked at Manugistics, American Software and McKesson Corp.

Roth has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Arkansas.

What does it mean to be a Christian leader in business? Why is it good to integrate their faith with their work?

We were never intended to live compartmentalized lives. In reality, we live integrated lives. So Christian leaders have an amazing opportunity to understand how their faith and biblical principles can be foundational to everything they do at work.

A lot of Workmatters programming seems to revolve around purpose. Why is it important to have purpose in your work?

Increasingly in our culture today, bigger job titles and more compensation aren’t enough. People want their work to matter. They want to understand how the spreadsheet they are working on is part of God’s bigger story. And when they do, it’s transformational. According to research from Barna, only 40% of Christians clearly see how their work has a higher purpose. But when Christian leaders integrate their faith and work, almost 90% find purpose in their work.

What’s the biggest problem executives are experiencing at work, and how does Workmatters help them address that?

That’s a difficult question. Every leader and their role at work is unique. Ultimately, I believe the pressure and stress of an executive’s overall leadership responsibilities are what keep them up at night. For me, when I try to own it all, when I try to control it myself, all kinds of problems ensue. However, as a Christian leader, when I bring my faith, biblical principles and prayer into my work, I can find peace that God is with me, and he can direct my steps. I can find wisdom. I can find joy.

Another key seems to be balance. Has it become easier in the last 20 years to promote the importance of work-life balance?

Absolutely. Because it points back to purpose. But work/life balance can be elusive because it changes every day. Through my own struggles with balance, I have learned a crucial lesson. Most people focus on time, which is logical because it’s what we can see and manage. But the larger threat regarding balance is with your identity and your heart. Has work become who you are? Has it become your identity? Even more concerning, does it have too much of your heart? Space that your spouse and children should have? A hard look at work/life balance needs to include all three of these elements.

What do you wish you had known 20 years ago?

As Workmatters celebrates our 20th anniversary on Oct. 11, I have been pondering this question. Our culture, especially in the United States, so expertly teaches us how we should live our lives. Some of that is good; so much of it is not. This idea that we should be a different person at work because it’s work is illogical. We need to bring our whole selves to work. And if you are a Christian, that allows you to utilize biblical principles that will enable you to be the best employee possible and honor God with your work. We teach principles like love (coworkers and God), integrity, excellence, serving, influence, balance and calling (the Seven Pillars of Faith & Work). My wish? I wish I would have learned these lessons 40 years ago, not 20.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned in 20 years of leading Workmatters?

There is pure joy in seeing the transformational impact of leaders who discover what the Bible really says about their work. God is a worker, we are created in his image, and therefore we are created to work. I have great passion for equipping leaders with the practical tools of the Seven Pillars of Faith & Work to actually live them out each day at work. It changes everything for how people see this half of their lives called work.

How did COVID change how leaders think about their work, their employees and their purpose?

COVID changed many things, some good and some bad. But I believe it most highlighted our innate human need for community. When we were forced to stay at home with our families, it was a wonderful time for most of us. But as it continued, we yearned for the gift of community that comes from the extended body of Christ. And many of us receive that at work. Also, community brings with it influence, another of our Seven Pillars of Faith & Work. As COVID retreated, our opportunity for more meaningful influence returned.

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