Theology of WorkThe Unique Possibilities of STEM Workers
For this session, we will delve into the unique role that STEMworkers may play as Christians in their fields of service.Here is the outline for this week’s session.The gifting of STEM workersTheir role as entrepreneursThe relationships between entrepreneurs andprophetsThe role of leadershipStewardship, Values and Beauty
1. The gift of inquiry into the unknown2. The gift of imagination to dream new ideas3. The gift of design4. The gift of precision5. The gift of healing6. The gift of risk-taking7. The gift of working collaboratively8. The gift of access to incredible resources
9. The gift of leadership10. The gift of management11. The gift of restlessness12. The gift of precedence13. The gift of generous compensation14. The gift of international, intercultural language system15. The gift of technological instruments16. The gift of worldwide interest and possible acclaim17. And many others
On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being minimal and10 being the maximum, review this prior listof “gifts” and give numbers to each of thecategories.What do you score highest with? Lowest?What other gifts do you see in your setting orenjoyed by you personally?
Many in the STEM professions have a spirit of the“entrepreneur”, that is, one driven in imaginationto a “future” possibility brought into presentrealization. Hence, the entrepreneur often takesrisks that are. . .1. Financial2. OrganizationalThat may be . . .1. Stressful2. Chaotic
The Church of Antioch of Syria in Acts 13:1 talksabout “teachers and prophets”. These are twomajor roles, combined in Christ himself. Howevertheir points of origin are in complete contrast.A “teacher” synthesizes the knowledge of the pastand packages it for practical usefulness in thepresent.A “prophet” synthesizes the insights of the futureand packages it for practical usefulness in thepresent.
Therefore, the “teacher” is past-oriented,whereas the “prophet” is future-oriented.The prophet is, in a sense reincarnated todayin the spirit of the entrepreneur.By orientation, natural proclivity, and passion,the entrepreneur is distinctively different frommost people in the world. He or she valuesfreedom over security, imagination over thestatus quo.
Elisha, the Old Testament Prophet, featured in IKings, engages in a world of practical problems.However, he is a miracle worker, applying strangemiraculous solutions to a whole series of humanneeds.Interestingly, most of his miracles involve sometype of unexpected “chemical” transformation thatmakes axe heads float, bitter water turn sweet,cooking oil replicated. His concern is not toaffirm the present, but to provide creative,unanticipated solutions to solve problems. Heought to be named the patron saint of chemistry.
The STEM Entrepreneur sees the following:1. The inadequate state of what is.2. An imagined state of what could be3. A pathway of protocol to that stateAnd then mobilizes. . .1. A confidential group that shares need and thevision.2. Resources to accomplish the objective3. A lifestyle of “Perspiration” rather than “Inspiration”(Thomas Edison) to fulfill the objective.
1. The entrepreneur is not foiled by failure, butrather expects it in the majority of cases.2. The entrepreneur takes failure as “learningmoments” to adapt and adjust theexperimentation in ways that increase thepossibilities of success in subsequent tries.3. The entrepreneur juggles many realities andpressures, but the goal supersedes them all.4. The entrepreneur is relentless in seekingsolutions to problems.
The New Testament presents three different lists of “spiritualgifts” (Rom 12:6-8; I Cor 12; Eph 4:11)Each of the lists is somewhat different from the other lists,suggesting variability based on time, situation, need.As the gifts are bestowed by the Holy Spirit who is describedby Jesus as remarkably spontaneous, unpredictable, “thewind blows where it chooses, and we don’t where it comesfrom nor where it is headed”, so too, we can think of thespiritual gifts not as absolute or definitive but as offereduniquely in different times, situations and needs.These gifts have spiritual purposes and are used for theedification of the “Church”.
Some gifts of the Entrepreneur are. . .1. Natural gifts derived from genealogical influences, fromthe DNA.2. Acquired gifts discovered, developed and nurtured bytraining, education, experience.3. Spiritual gifts bestowed temporarily or long-term forspecific use that enhances the Kingdom of God andbuilds the human race.Yet, for the Christian entrepreneur, all of these gifts can bemobilized to “give glory to God and enjoy him forever”.
The New Testament takes seriously the workplaceworld as it was, with most of the illustrations inthe parables identifying activities that we mightcall “secular” and loaded them with Christianlessons and meaning. Some of these implyentrepreneurial gifts similar to those of the STEMprofessionsIn other words, the workplace helps form ourconcepts of theology, of life in the Kingdom,rather than the other way around.
One model of the relationship between Church andWorkplace is seen in the selection of Jesus’disciples. For the evidence given, four, perhapsfive (Thomas) of the disciples were “smallbusinessmen” (fishermen), two were politicians-terrorists (Judas and Simon, the Zealot), one wasa contracted taxman.In other words, at least two-thirds of them weredeeply entrenched in activities considered“secular”. This is where Jesus went to findleadership for his nascent mission, and later theChurch.
They were skilled in many ways:1. They knew their fisha. 78 types of fish along the Mediterranean Coastb. 24 types of fish in the Sea of Galileec. 11 types of fish in the River Jordand. Some of these were worth fishing, others not
2. They knew their context---the contours anddepths of the waterways, the weather hazardsand conditions.3. They knew their resources: the boats, the nets,the personnel needed.4. They knew their options: fishing with dragnets,surface nets, traps, spears, hands and hooks.5. They knew their process: when to fish, how toclean the fish, to how preserve and marketthem, to repair the nets, etc
The Point is that these men were not passive, leisurelyoccasional fishermen, but highly skilled andresourceful people, exercising gifts not unlike thoseof the STEM professions whom Jesus chose becausethey understood teamwork, studied natural cycles,employed resources, engaged hard work, drew upmarketing plans, and understood human nature.These became the “transferable skills” utilized in thebuilding up of the nascent Church after Pentecost.We might also assume that they had appropriatedresources, to allow them the freedom to travel withChrist and engage in His mission.
Here Jesus saw the leadership potential in thesebusinessmen and motivated and mobilized themwith their developed skills into the activities andorganization of extending the Kingdom of God incredible fashion. Ironically, even after theresurrection, they return to their occupationalactivities.For more information on the world of NewTestament fishermen, see Wilhelm H Wuellner’sThe Meaning of “Fishers of Men”.
Paul was very uncomfortable with receiving payment fromthe Church for his services. I Corinthians 9:6: “Are we(Paul and Barnabas) the only ones who have to supportourselves by working at another job?”As a tentmaker, Paul could access his services to two socialclasses:1. To the tanners who skinned and treated the animalsthat were used for the tent fabric. By definition, they were“unclean” and so were from the lower classes.2. To the Bedouin herdsmen who moved flocks aroundthe Middle East, usually quite wealthy. They were the onesto purchase the tents.
Paul was certainly entrepreneur both in hisformal profession as tentmaker and asmissionary.However, it would be a stretch to consider himpart of the STEM professions, though he woulduse mathematical or geometric constructs todesign his tents, would necessarily understandrotting and preservative processes of the skins,and would probably design tents that wouldaccommodate radical weather changes.
As such, Paul leveraged his vocation to access theGospel to contrasting social groups.One result of this was his close relationship withPriscilla and Aquila, also tentmakers. “There he(Paul) met a Jew named Aquila, a native ofPontus, who had recently come from Italy withhis wife Priscilla, because Claudius had orderedall the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to seethem, and because he was a tentmaker as theywere, he stayed and worked with them”. (Acts 18:2-3).
But also, he was well trained as a philosopherand thinker, and used these skills in the so-called “secular” world of the Agora (themarketplace) in Athens, a world that he wasfamiliar with as both philosopher andentrepreneur, taking the Church into theintellectual and economic center of the City.
Sadly, Church institutions and leadership oftenfails to recognize the special gifting to befound in the STEM professions while, at thesame time, appropriating enthusiastically theproducts and services created by those verysame STEM workers.
This is seen anecdotally in that. . .1. Often Church institutions don’t care to learnabout the settings and challenges of its STEMmembers and friends in their world outside theChurch.2. This is evidenced in the readiness we pray inChurch for the success of the Church programswithout ever mentioning the role of STEMemployees in their worlds and witness outsidethe Church.
This is seen statistically in one study:For instance, when the business communitywas queried about what ought to be the workof the Christian community, they presentedthe following statistics:Church Scattered Church GatheredCreative Activity 45% 5%Redemptive Activity 45% 5%
When the Christian community was queried about whatought to be its work, they presented the followingstatistics:Church Scattered Church GatheredCreative Activity 2% 20%Redemptive Activity 18% 60%In other words, the business community sees far more,the importance of “creative activity”, and also sees theimportance of the role of the Church scattered, thandoes the Christian community in general. Probablythe skew would be even more pronounced amongSTEM employees.
Again we go to the Lausanne documentsOccasional Paper #59 to find their suggestedsolutions to the obstacles and concernsconcerning this tension between Church and theWorkplace: Here, the language has beenamended for this course.1. Just as we pray for regular missionaries, weshould pray collectively for successful STEMefforts as mission efforts.2. We need to build bridge between churches andSTEM professionals.
3. We need to examine the areas where bothgroups can help each other.4. STEM people have to disciple other STEMpeople5. The Church ought to affirm that the STEMprofessions can use their gifting andproducts for good works in the community.
6. Seminaries and mission-training agencies ought tointegrate STEM people and practices into theircurriculum.7. We need to recognize that Church and the STEMWorkplace are two distinct cultures and that cross-cultural missiological methods ought to be applied tobridge the gap.8. Lay people engaged successfully in the STEM professionsought to teach side by side with church instructors.9. We need to understand that the Western model of fulltime religious leaders does not necessarily model theBiblical leader representing the STEM world, i.e. Eph4:12.
Finally,10. There needs to be accountability and thetransparency that provides for teambuilding where STEM people and missionpeople work together for the integrationthe two.
Because of the increasing importance of STEM leaders in cultures all overthe world, due to Western influences, these people have an inordinateopportunity to lead in “Christianly” ways. They can do so in these arenas:1. Within the professions they hold2. Within professional policing groups for purposes of accountability3. Within ethical panels which determine ethical practices and cautionunethical conduct4. Within the Church that oftentimes is ill informed of scientific gainsand possibilities5. Within the Culture at large which seeks technological advance withoutunderstanding “unintended consequences”.
To enter into the STEM world outside theinstitutional Church will often thrust one into aleadership role of “stewarding” those around.God designs every human being with a uniquegiftedness. We see this in Ex 31:1-6; 35:30-36:7.As such, we have the responsibility to . . .Help others to identify their gifts and abilitiesPlace those in jobs where their gifts are best usedEquip people to function optimally and trust them tomake decisions in their sphere of influence
Additionally, we are all gifted with the ability to makedecisions. We see this emphasis in the Bakkepresentation: The stewardship of people is stewardship of giftedness People long to do something meaningful with their lives, to feelthat they have contributed something unique and beneficial to thewhole. In order to reclaim work as a source of joy, we need to. .recognize God’s gifts in ourselves and in others.trust others to make decisions in accordance with the way God designedthem.
Sometimes it is easier to do a task ourselvesA spirit of humility is required on the part ofthe Servant-LeaderWe have the example of Jesus who entrustedleadership to His disciples, just as Godentrusted the nurture and guidance of Maryas mother to the infant child Jesus
How do you feel about deferring decisions toothers, i.e.How do you handle failure in yourself?How do you handle failure in those in whomyou have entrusted responsibility?
To be a steward of others in organizational culture,a leader retains responsibility but yields power.Success is measured on our faithfulness to ourcalling, more than on the results.Part of that faithfulness is empowering others byyielding up our own power to decide.Our Master treats us with grace (a combination oftenderheartedness and tough-mindedness). Insimilar fashion we treat others with grace, “bejust and fair” (Col 4:1)
Power is the ability to exert one’s will in orderto create a result desired. A servant-leader is a steward of power, aconduit, both in acquiring it and giving itaway. However, a servant-leader uses it for God’spurposes, not his or her own, nor hoarding it
God is the ultimate power source, we are merelytransmitters of it. The purpose of power is not to benefit thesteward, but to accomplish the will of the powersource. Jesus did this in surrendering his power. How one uses power displays one’s character The ultimate power comes from giving it up. Phil2:5-11
Our world does not lack for problems to be solved.Who then is responsible?1. Christians have a role to steward their communities.2. Bakke believes that those working under theCreation mandate are primarily called to help meetthe needs of the world, i.e. providing electricity.3. We preach both an individual and a “publicChristianity”, see I Thess 4:1, 4:9-10.4. Genuine spiritual leadership is needed to producesocial systems that are fair and just
This relationship is seen in the followingexamples:1. The role of the Sabbath (Ex 20:8-11)2. The Sabbatical Year (Ex 23:10-12)3. The practice of gleaning (Lev 19:9-10;23:22)4. The Year of Jubilee (Lew 25:10-17)
1. God’s concern for the long-term welfare ofHis creation (Eccl 1:3-11)2. God’s ownership of all resources (Lev 25:23,Deut 8:18)3. God’s care for the powerless (Lev 15:17, IJohn 4:16-18; James 5:1-64. God’s stubborn provisions available evenwhen they don’t make sense (Lev 25:20).
Organizations that are intentional aboutdeveloping a strong healthy corporate culturehave. . .1. clearly stated values, known at all levels2. operating principles, that translate values intopolicies3. evaluation and correction, that is, reward forbehavior that contributes to the values
Values are the “rules of our work”, the moral andethical commitments an organization makes. Itis how the organization plays the game ofbusiness.Values are like the air we breath. They are vital tothe function of the organization, but are largelyunnoticed and often undefined.A successful organization is one that both lives outcertain carefully selected values and sustainsitself with adequate profit.
“Loving-kindness” expressed by God meansthat God has permanently committed Himselfto the welfare of human beings.God still cares for the same things after the Fallthat He did before. That includes: People, theCreation, Righteousness and Integrity.So God continues to care for “People”, and soshould we, in how we treat them in ourworkaday dealings.
Furthermore, “beauty”, as seen in the Bible and throughoutcreation, is not just a visual aesthetic. Beauty in both a person’slife and in the organization of which this person is a part, comesfrom the consistency in what is true and wholesome. STEMprofessionals have a special desire for coherency, symmetry, andbeauty.At the core of that consistency isLovingkindness CompassionTruth LoveIntegrity BeautyJustice StewardshipTrue Worship is defined in Micah 6:6-8 as: “To act justly and tolove mercy and to walk humbly with the Lord.”
We are called to “holistic” stewardship of allcreation in all five sectors of our lives:1. Family: to have children, to meet the need forintimate relationships, to be a community thatdisplays the love, authority and relationshipsmirrored from the Trinity.2. Church: to provide a focal point for theworship of God, for the practice of theSacraments, for the teaching of the Faith fromthe Word, for the formation of true disciples
3. Government: to oversee justice by creating legalsystems, laws, courts, and policies; to overseeeconomic and social order; to ensure thatinfrastructure is built and maintained; to create andmaintain currency for trade; to defend nationalborders.4. Commerce: to provide goods and services; toprovide stakeholders a fair return on theirinvestment; to build taxable value that providesresources for government to do its role.5. Nonprofit or Non-governmental organizations(NGOs): to provide charitable goods and services;to meet unmet societal needs.
In this course, we have learned that:1. We are made by God to work2. We are to find or “recoup” joy in our work3. Christians have the “first fruits of the Spirit”, that is,they have the unique ability to envision what workwas intended to be in its original state.4. The “Garden” vision, energized by our stewardshipresponsibility, compels us to work with joy andbuild workplaces of joy.
Yet, the reality is that there are obstacles to Joy: Selfish managers Shallow purposes Fingers of blame Inadequate information Condescending attitudes Impure motives Governmental constrictures Uninvested boards Social class barriers
Not only are workplace situations freighted withobstacles to joy, but our own characters arechallenged in three main areas: Power: Accumulating power for personal statusor privilege Money: Accumulating money for materialisticadvantage Sex: Manipulating one’s self and others forhedonistic pleasures
We usually avoid talking about these areas ofstewardship, perhaps because we are afraid of ourown responses and exercise poor self-control. Or wemay have to deal with the distortions of attitudes ofothers, in these areas.Yet these three areas are very important aspects of ourconscious and subconscious lives. To deny our roleas stewards forces them to the underground in ourown lives, in the life of our Church, leaving us lonelyin a vacuum unfulfilled.Christians are the only ones who can ultimately stewardthese areas as intended by God (Rom 8:12-30).
From the world’s perspective, the rewards of the STEM efforts oftenresult in. . . Financial success Relative fame and acclaim A sense of transcendence and permanence The euphoria of creation Products and results that are useful or neededMoney, power and success do not necessarily bring the sense ofpeace and purpose hoped for.
According to the Parable of the Talents in Matt 25:14-30,good stewardship discerns what the Owner wants thendoes it.We work according to the gifts God has given each of us(Rom 12)Joy comes from:• Faithfully doing what we were created and called to do• From hearing the words uttered to the good steward: “welldone, good and faithful steward . . Come and join in yourMaster’s happiness.”
Feel free in insert below your questions andfeedback on what you have learned in thisPowerPoint:220.127.116.11.5.
Persons Engaged in the STEM professions areoften the “rock stars” of the scientific world.As Scripture says: “To whom much is given,much shall be required.”As such the special gifting of STEM workersrequires a quality of leadership both in andoutside of the professions that can trulyinfluence positively the purposes of God bothin the Church gathered and in the Churchscattered.