We are called to be co-creators of a flourishing life on Earth.
By ROB MOLL
Christian business professionals have long had an uneasy relationship with the church. Not only does the church tend to privilege church and missionary service over business, but it often condemns business practices and implies the guilt of any participants. Yet there are signs that this dynamic is changing—not least because churches rely on the donations of business professionals.
Many pastors now visit their congregants at work to better understand their professional lives. Justin Buzzard, pastor of the Garden City Church in San Jose, Calif., wrote last year about ministering to professionals in his congregation. “It shows them that I care about their callings, how they spend 50-plus hours of their week.”
Organizations such as Corporate Chaplains of America and Marketplace Ministries have sprung up in the last 20 years to offer chaplaincy services and Bible studies to offices. And among a younger generation of Christians in business, working as financial analysts and engineers is itself Christian service.
Their mindset is captured by Dave Evans, co-founder of the videogame giant Electronic Arts and a design professor at Stanford. Mr. Evans talks more like a theologian than a former Apple engineer. He points out that Genesis says that humans were created in the image of God, so all of our work—not just church work—is holy. We are called to be co-creators, with God, of a flourishing life on Earth. “It is really a profound act of engaging the kingdom of God,” says Mr. Evans.
When he began work in the 1970s, integrating faith and business amounted to little more than being ethical and trying to make converts. Much has changed, he says, as a younger generation seeks to sanctify the corporate world. “The glory of God,” Mr. Evans says, “is humans fully alive. Work itself has value. It’s a huge countercultural behavior to train yourself to value work for its own sake and to see it as a service to God.”
Mr. Evans will be speaking this weekend at a conference of 250 MBA students from the country’s top schools. Organized for the past six years by Yale’s MBA Christian fellowship, the conference marks a transformation in how Christians and other religious professionals seek to integrate their faith and their work.
The so-called faith-at-work movement has more than a century-long presence in American business, says David Miller, a former finance executive and now the director of Princeton University’s Faith at Work Initiative. Mr. Miller, who helped start the conference when he advised Yale’s MBA Christian fellowship, says that it attracts people from a variety of religious traditions who are looking for meaning in what they do. “The good life isn’t accumulation of things, but it’s what you do with your gifts and talents,” he says. “People are asking these big questions.”
For many religious professionals, this means making their beliefs relevant to ethical dilemmas at work. Bob Doll, the chief equity strategist for fundamental equities at BlackRock, says he’ll be encouraging students at the Yale conference to pursue excellence in family life, church life, and career alike. On-the-job pressure provides an opportunity to “live out your faith in front of colleagues.” he says. “How do you treat employees? Do you lose your temper?”
Jeremy Foster, a Yale MBA student who helped organize the conference, says that “Young people today see business differently. They want to know how their values play out in their career.” They’re attracted by social entrepreneurship and other paths that embrace the market but allow the faithful to do well by doing good.
“I believe God has called me to the business world,” says Brian Myhre, who will graduate from Harvard Business School in May and return to work at the Boston Consulting Group. At last year’s conference, says Mr. Myhre, “I appreciated the speakers who have led organizations and are able to treat employees as Jesus would and distribute profits as Jesus would. It made me think differently about the purpose of business and how we can be co-creators with God, reflecting the divine character at work.”
Mr. Moll, author of “The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come” (IVP Books, 2010), writes on faith and business for Christianity Today.