Pausing from busy class schedules to share a meal, a group of backpack-laden students and beloved faculty members gather around four large tables. Wielding heavy cafeteria trays and well-used composition pads, the group settles in to meet with Mike Sharrow, CEO of the C12 Group, a Christian Peer Advisory group dedicated to supporting faith in the marketplace.
Passionate about the Faith & Work movement, Sharrow emphasized the role of faith in educating a generation of marketplace leaders and challenged the group to think of the business academy as a seminary.
“Whether we choose to recognize it or not, every classroom is an opportunity for ministry, a chance to equip students for how to spend the next 90,000 hours of their adult lives. Beyond practical skills, business professors ARE teaching a theology – theology of work. As professors, mentors, and bosses, our influence upon young Christian leaders relies upon actively engaging our youth, emphasizing the Gospel as central to all of life. Apart from that, we are a seminary not for Christ, but for secularization, reinforcing the dualism of the sacred/secular.”
After all, Sharrow continued, challenging the professors “you are equipping ambassadors of Jesus Christ – the only question is whether they will be effective and good ambassadors.” To the students, he presented Colossians 3:17-4:1 underscoring the need for students forged in the Gospel to realize that faith remains applicable at work and applying it to every moment of their jobs will make them desirable employees, leaders, and future management team leaders.
Highlighting the value of incorporating faith into business models, Sharrow proceeded to challenge the Faith & Work movement. After all, the implication inherent to incorporating faith into work is that Christians must integrate some of their faith into the whole of their work, suggesting that business is primary, and faith is secondary. Sharrow quickly challenged the room. “What is your life defined by?”
Priorities define who we are and how we live. As believers, we possess a common vocational calling to serve Christ and His kingdom. As the next generation of Christian business leaders enter the workforce, there are an overwhelming list of matters to consider and decisions to make. In his round table discussion, Sharrow introduced 5 key things he deemed critical for Christians in the marketplace to understand.
Success or significance is a false dichotomy. For the business leader transformed by the Gospel, there is only faithfulness and fruitfulness. Possessing an eternal perspective encourages strong leaders in faithfulness to sustaining healthy, fruitful companies In the context of a purpose driven economy, this eternal perspective should fuel a generation of business leaders to emerge with a passion to bring shalom, beauty, goodness, meaning, restoration, and the Gospel to their work.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Work is good
Amid long hours and busy lives, work can be an incredible form of stress. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of seeing it as a necessary evil to be endured. But work is good. It was a “garden thing,” an ancient continuum of good and divine purpose. A skewed theology of creation and work manifests in a skewed identity, vocation and life stewardship.
Genesis 2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
All disciples of Jesus are called regardless of vocation and office. Christian communities love to celebrate and esteem individuals called into full-time ministry who serve as leaders in our churches and mission fields. It is truly important to celebrate this calling, and yet, even more critical to realize that we are all called. Every Christian is called by the great commandment and great commission to live a life of service and ministry regardless of their chosen profession.
There is no junior varsity Kingdom league. We are called to be starters. No one is left on the bench. Any other outlook in this game of life handicaps the church and the saints. It is all too easy to believe that because our careers lie in industries not directly associated with faith, we are “off the hook,” and yet our calling remains the same regardless of our career choices.
Jesus used the language of people working across various industries (agriculture, carpentry, shepherding, fishing, etc.) in his teaching. Business has always been a reliable method of reaching an audience in a relatable manner. The marketplace is a historically normative location for Jesus to frequent and was a key place for those He used and the illustrations he taught with.
More than just a Christian business buzzword, stewardship ought to be a life paradigm not just a money matter. Rooted in the belief that God is interested in the how and why of the what we do in business, stewardship revolves around the presence of God in our places of work. How is the Gospel manifest and God glorified? How will the city prosper because a follower of Jesus is managing Human Resources, marketing, plant operations, accounting, finance, strategy, sales or procurement?
The Gospel’s relevance to daily life in business is not all grandeur. It’s typical for students to graduate into jobs with less prestige and pay than they hoped for. Most people start out doing tasks that are less than satisfying and are forced to navigate seasons of life that are less than ideal. How does the Gospel intersect Tuesday and Thursday, what does it mean in the undesired jobs and glorious ones alike?