One Caller, Many Callings: viewing the workplace through new eyes

We Baptists believe passionately in the priesthood of all believers don’t we? Maybe we don’t if the only person in our congregation identified by a title is the pastor. Unless of course you have Accountant John, Nurse Jane, Driver Pete and Radiographer Kate? I attended a liberating conference recently designed to help all church members understand their work as a calling. This has the potential to transform the potential of evangelism amongst church members.

The 2016 Transforming Work Conference – One Caller, Many callings was conducted in June by Malyon College in Brisbane which has its own unit dedicated to promoting mission in the workplace called ‘Malyon Workplace’. (Malyon Workplace is an initiative of Malyon College, the theological training arm of Queensland Baptists).

The college states that whilst they have a primary focus on training women and men for paid Christian service, they recognise that the majority of Jesus’ followers are ‘full time Christian workers’ in a myriad of other contexts; on the frontlines representing Jesus and bringing kingdom values to bear.

Their intention is to support Christians in the workplace by:

  • Conducting innovative and flexible seminars to equip disciples of Jesus to be ‘salt and light’ in the workplace
  • Developing resources that can be used to assist local churches to support Christians in the workplace
  • Develop a website that provides a ‘one-stop shop’ for the rapidly expanding range of articles, resources and theological developments relevant to workplace ministry

The conference was billed as being for the following people:

  • Anyone who senses God’s calling in the workplace and wants to explore further what being fruitful in that context might look like—how does my faith shape my work and is my work shaping my faith?
  • Young Christians at school or universitywho are about to enter the workforce and want a heads-up on how being a disciple of Jesus might prepare and sustain them in challenging workplaces.
  • Church leaders with a passion to equip, encourage and enable Christian workers in their congregations to catch a vision for serving God in the workplace.
  • Small business owners and entrepreneurial types wanting to think about how the world of business might be a context for fruitful mission.

The main speakers were David Benson from Malyon College and Mark Greene who addressed the conference via Skype from the UK where he resides. All in all there were 9 speakers in the combined conference venue and twelve speakers in the workshops. The result was that the conference was multi-voiced, with speakers from as wide a spectrum of activity in the workplace as you could imagine. (See brochure here)

The key aim of the day was crystalised in the following quote:

“Neither work nor career can be fully satisfying without a deeper sense of calling — but ‘calling’ is empty and indistinguishable from work unless there is Someone who calls.” Os Guiness, The Call

During the day I considered the potential of what could result if we taught more about the meaning of the priesthood of all believers in our churches and helped people work through their own sense of call in their own profession or current job. It would help people see their own job in a new and liberating light, and help deal with the compartamentalised way in which many Christians view their church vs work life.

By exclusively using a title only for pastors within our churches we reveal perhaps our true view of calling: that it is for full time Christian ministry (and in the Baptist context it is for pastors). Pastors are ‘called’ and the rest of us just ‘witness’ in the workplace, for our jobs or professions are just that.

They belong to the secular realm and are not considered as the same as a ‘calling’.  Mark Greene (Executive Director of the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity) points out:

“the… 98% of Christians who are not in church-paid work … on the whole, are not equipped or envisioned for mission except in the 2-10 hours they might spend in church related activities every week.”

For me as a bi-vocational worker and business owner it was a liberating day, as I was able to view my role in business as more than just someone who is able to ‘witness’ in a secular realm and have conversations about spiritual things but to view my role as a calling in and of itself. God is present as much in a workplace as he is in the church.

In Thank God It’s Monday, Greene puts the challenge firmly in the context of the workplace:

‘There are very few places where a non-Christian could and should see the difference that Christ makes in a life so clearly as working with someone thirty, forty, sixty hours a week.

We are called on to look for common ground with non-Christians when, in the workplace, we already share it.

We are being exhorted to build bridges when, in the workplace, the bridges are built and have been crossed.

We are exhorted to go and develop relationships with people, but, in the workplace, the relationships already exist.

We are encouraged to go out and fish in pools and puddles when we are already sitting on a lake full of fish.’

For more inspiration about evangelism check out the Malyon Centre for Bridging Church & Culture (Traverse).

Mark Greene’s book Thank God It’s Monday can be bought here:

Koorong

Amazon

You can read plenty of excellent material from Mark at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. 

Mark’s resource Fruitfulness On The Frontline is an excellent small group study tool to help every person in your church understand their work in a new light.

Stan Fetting is an ordained Baptist minister and divides his time between being the Crossover Operations Manager and also a small business owner (gym) and fitness professional.