The journey towards faith-work integration
Christopher Petschack is 21 months into a two-years Masters course through Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. The course is focused on helping students to practise faith–work integration as they learn applied leadership and theology.
Christopher is a young leader at a Christian school in Sydney. Here are some excerpts from his monthly reflections submitted throughout the course. Notice the way that he has been personally challenged in his theological framing, his spiritual habits and attention to relationships as well as—increasingly—broader strategic questions.
During one class where Cherith Fee Nordling was speaking, she shared the following: “Be ready and grateful to participate with Jesus, doing what he is still doing, with his Father, in the power of the Sprit, in the world that he loves… This is what you were made for.” These words have resonated with me in this season – to “be ready and grateful” as I partner with what the triune God is doing in this world. I have been more reflective on my own role at work and what the future may hold. However, I can’t pinpoint what it is. There is an eagerness in my heart of the things to come; but I don’t know what they are.
Over the past month I have been continuing to think about the concept of work-rest balance. In several conversations I have challenged people on the concept of work-life balance and the fact that it isn’t modelled in the Bible. God modelled a work-rest balance that is initially seen in Genesis 1 and 2. Society defines work as a 9-5 job that earns a wage. Often it comes with a negative feeling where people can’t wait to be done for the day. Phrases like, “one hour to go”, “it’s hump day”, “we made it to Friday”, all provide an indication of the difficulty and struggle of work in this world, and humanity’s view of work. As my own definition of work is transformed, so too are my feelings towards work. The same can also be said for the concept of rest.
It is evident that the faith of a Christian, regardless as to whether they are still on “spiritual milk” or “solids”, should be built and maintained on genuine intimate relationship. Without this, the institutions that we have built around faith will fail. Institutions, rituals, doctrines, and the like, all assist in facilitating spiritual growth. However, it is up to the individual to pursue God in genuine relationship. The Christian leader must be aware of this both personally and in the organisation in which they serve.
As a distinctive Christian school, the question of ‘do we accommodate our school to wider culture’ must be considered. Are there decisions made to make the school more “politically acceptable” or are all decisions made as distinct Jesus followers? To what extent are we called to be counter cultural, and how has this changed over time?
Relationship is vital to my own personal calling because it is what God models in Scripture. God actively prompts me to maintain my workplace as holy ground where relationship is vital. As the Spirit has prompted me to give people the gift of time, this has been for the benefit of cultivating connection and establishing flourishing relationship in which God’s grace can be revealed and shown. God has continued to reveal to me the importance of relationship and how I am uniquely gifted to help others thrive and flourish through relational means.
The Other Six Days by R Paul Stevens prompted me to continue to think about workplace culture and the expectations of teachers. Does the culture at our school create a demand on teachers that is unsustainable? Do staff genuinely approach their work within Christian education with an attitude of worship and service? Or even before that question, do they understand what that means? Stevens spends a lot of time writing about the biblical idea of ‘laos’, of being God’s people. He argues that biblically there is no distinction between clergy and lay people. Rather, this distinction is one that is based on institutionalised tradition in the church. All people are made in God’s image, equipped by God and established to serve him. Have teachers forgotten their calling to be laos and to have this shape their interactions? Noting that yes, policies and procedures will be different for different ages, and that sometimes it will feel more difficult, still ultimately we want to establish a healthy community culture that is God-honouring and Kingdom-focused.
The Education sector currently is struggling with a significant teacher shortage. In Christian Education my experience has been that this is even greater. Christian schools (and religious schools in general) are constantly under scrutiny and pressure from government bodies about where and how money is being spent, as well as what is being taught. Leaders in schools today must be above board in all areas, and must be diligent and thorough in maintaining transparency in these areas.
I have made the decision to focus my attention on:
· Leading a new team of staff and grade with unity.
· Working alongside an Assistant Year Advisor for the first time, and navigating the sharing of our roles.
· Investing into people in order to build culture and unity.
· Considering ways to lead “down” and “up”.
· Being comfortable to sit back, reflect, learn, and change as needed.
· Consider the narrative that I am seeing happen around me, and look at my place in it and what I bring to the table, whilst also acknowledging my own faults and blind spots.
It is a season to “Breathe in gratitude. Breathe out kindness.” (James Houston)
NEXT TIME: We consider the importance of knowing about worldviews.
Kara Martin is an Adjunct Professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and lectures at Mary Andrews College, is author of the Workship books, and Keeping Faith and co-host of the Worship on the Way to Work podcast.