Story Magazine

First Quarter, 2005

Faith at Work: Mid-Winter Convocation Examines How We Live Out Our Callings in the Workplace

by Sheri Booms Holm

Keynote speakers David Miller, Pamela Moret and Richard Bliese looked at callings in the workplace from both the church's and the individuals' perspectives.

If there was a "Take Your Faith to Work Day," what or who would you bring? A Bible? Your pastor? Religious music?

The question isn't really so silly or far-fetched: What does it take to express your faith in the work you do? And pastors, what does it take to empower your parishioners to view their occupations daily through the lens of their beliefs? How would it change how they do their work? How would it change your work?

At this year's MidWinter Convocation, Jan. 5-7, "Living Out Our Callings in the Workplace," plenary speakers Richard Bliese, David Miller and Pamela Moret, plus workshops, panel discussions and sermons, all described the tremendous paradigm shift that occurs when we realize God is calling us to make a difference in the work we do every day.

Rethinking the Mission of the Church

What does it mean to do God's work in the world? What does that mean for congregations?

Plenary speaker Richard Bliese talked about the chasm that exists between people's church life and the work they do the rest of the week. Bliese is academic dean at Luther Seminary, and associate professor of mission.

He showed how many churches help create this rift by using a medieval approach to mission, which Bliese calls the two-worlds theory: God in one world, laity in the other, with clergy and church organizations or religious orders to act as mediators. Using this two-worlds framework means "cheating the world by channeling all of God's mission to the world through church or parachurch activities," Bliese said.

While some laity are empowered to share some of a congregation's ministry, "The 'regular' laity...are expected simply to come to church, treating it, in effect, like any other volunteer-driven, non-profit organization."

How does a congregation break this cycle? Bliese gave some concrete suggestions for a lay-driven church:

  1. Use Luther's three-legged table as a mission test. Martin Luther preached that justification, vocation and location create a three-legged table that carries the weight of a Lutheran understanding of God's mission in the world.
  2. Break the addiction to clericalism. Every member must become a minister!
  3. Organize the church as a vocational training center.
  4. "Ordain" the laity into their vocations in daily life.
  5. Strike the words "retirement" and "volunteer" from your church's vocabulary.
  6. 6.Train and equip the clergy for their own multiple vocations.

The Sunday-Monday Gap

Are we called to pew or to profit, asked plenary speaker David Miller. He is executive director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture and assistant professor of business ethics at Yale Divinity school, New Haven, Conn. Miller's answer: "The church is not about Sunday. It is not about life in the pew. Rather, it is about pew and profit, or faith and work."

He laid out four primary ways that faith can manifest itself at work. He calls them the "Four Es":
  1. Ethics is the way of integrating faith and work.
  2. Experience describes how businesspeople seek meaning and purpose in their work.
  3. Enrichment is the mode in which businesspeople accent the internal and personal role played at work by faith.
  4. Evangelism is the way of integrating faith and work in which business people perceive the workplace primarily as a mission field for evangelizing, witnessing and proselytizing.

Miller exhorts clergy to reframe their current forms of ministry "to support and encourage those called to the workplace and to bridge this false choice between pew and profit." If clergy can interpret the Bible through the lens of the workplace, their overall ministry to the world of work and the marketplace will be transformed, he concluded.

Living Her Faith Out Loud

"Businesspeople seem to have trouble applying what they hear on Sunday to their day-to-day decision making at work," said Pamela Moret, executive vice president of marketing and products for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

She noted that people seldom seek out pastors about work problems, even though they might feel comfortable talking to them about health or relationship issues. "Furthermore, although many people use the power of prayer to guide them in the personal aspects of their lives, they may have more difficulty in doing the same with business decisions," she added. How does a person bridge this kind of gap?

Moret identified five areas where she has had opportunities to live her faith out loud during the week.
  1. Use of time.
  2. Treatment of people.
  3. Decision making.
  4. Personal development.
  5. Visible faith invitations.

"How we make decisions, when we make them, how we communicate them, how clear we are, and how we treat employees, supervisors and co-workers is incredibly important," Moret concluded. "I believe this is where our faith can really shine through."


Missed Convocation and excited to learn more?

A booklet, "Living Out Our Callings in the Workplace" of the plenary speakers' entire presentations is available for $7.95. Audio CDs of the plenary sessions as well as the Convocation worship services are also available for $30. Order via Web at www.centeredlife.org, or call 651-641-3429.

Save the Date!

The 2006 Mid-Winter Convocation continues with the Living Out Our Callings theme by exploring "Living Out Our Callings in the Community," Jan. 4-6.


An Evening with Rick Steves

Travel expert Rick Steves led the Thursday evening presentation at Convo this year. "Don't be afraid to visit other countries," he advised his listeners. "As a teacher of travel I challenge my students to be engaged. Good travels connect you with real people. Be there. You can be at home there." The popular host of the PBS series "Travels in Europe" described how he lives his faith in his workplace--Europe--and shared invaluable travel tips.

Rick Steves, the popular host of the PBS series "Travels in Europe" described how he lives his faith in his workplace--Europe--and shared invaluable travel tips.