What is our particular calling as Christians in the academic workplace? Is it to share the gospel, or to contribute to the university, or somehow both?
Our twofold calling
Serving God in the context of our work, we pursue a twofold mission, moving:
- From Christ to our field. The gospel shapes our work, so in the light of Scripture we contribute to our field of study for the common good in this age; and vice versa,
- From our field to Christ. Our work can help us share the gospel: we trace the way reality points to God, bringing both its praises and our colleagues from our fields of study to the Lord Jesus who is in the age to come.
According to the first part, we are sent out each week from our local church into our studies. Here we pursue creation’s flourishing, working excellently and serving the good of the university under Christ’s Lordship, seeing the world more clearly through the lenses of Scripture, and so working from a Christian worldview. We don’t work in a way which second-guesses our work’s future usefulness for evangelism, and evangelism as such is not part of our work as a university student. On the contrary, we are doing good works which are the fruit of the gospel in our lives, echoing the royal stewardship on God’s behalf given to humanity in the beginning.
Conversely, as we become familiar with God’s world, we see more clearly how it exists from God and for God, and how it is now in need of Christ. So as we talk about our work – often with friends and colleagues outside and around our seminars and lecture halls – we will want to unfold it organically in a way which draws attention to Christ, both as we praise God for our field of work and as we bring others with us on our weekly return to church. We will want to show how Christianity offers the best explanation for reality as we know it, and humbly encourage our friends to repent in order to find rest in a restored relationship with the one from whom, and for whom all things exist. This evangelistic activity – creatures bringing our fellow creatures back to our Creator – has a priestly character which echoes Paul’s description of his own missionary activity (Rom 15:16).
Our mission in context
Clarity of mission is especially important owing to the fall-out from the modern West’s sacred-secular divide, which means it is not always easy to know how to relate our studies (and work more generally) to our evangelism. These can either become unrelated activities which polarise one another, or they can become confused together, leaving our understanding of both being somewhat amorphous and ineffective.
Understanding our overall mission as a single responsibility with two aspects helps us to remember that both elements share the same reality and should be informed by the same biblical thought-world.
At the same time, the specificity of these two aspects demands that we consider each context carefully. Sometimes it will be more appropriate to focus on implementing a good piece of work, and at other times it will be a great opportunity to speak about that work in its wider context, and how it makes best sense in relation to Christ. It is rare that both outcomes can be achieved in precisely the same moment or activity, and so we prayerfully ask help to use each opportunity wisely, including as we plan activities with particular purposes in mind.
As we serve God from Christ and to Christ, we celebrate his identity as the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, our Origin and Goal, from whom, through whom and to whom are all things.