by Mark Russell
Editor’s note: Mark Russell recently interviewed Elizabeth Knox by email on the topic of work as calling, mission, and worship. A working professional, Elizabeth blogs regularly at elizabethknoxonline.com to “encourage and equip women at the intersection of faith and work.” She and her husband, Andrew, live in Washington, D. C.
Mark: Tell us about your job.
Elizabeth: I’m a program manager at CSC, a technology and business solutions company. I provide budgeting oversight for one of our larger ship building programs for the US Navy. I work with the operations team to make sure we’re meeting the client’s expectations within budget. I also work on our business development efforts, to increase our presence with our clients and find new ways to deliver services.
Mark: How is your work a calling?
Elizabeth: I used to think of my calling as the one, unique, end-all activity that, once I achieved it, would give me total confirmation I was exactly where God wants me to be and would simultaneously bring me professional and personal fulfillment. Easy, right?
I don’t think I was alone with that perspective on “calling.” We tend to put a lot of weight on one particular thing: our job, our role as a parent, ministry, a particular skill or ability. We believe that once we perfect that role, we’ll know that it was God’s call on our life.
I now see God’s call in relation to the person I am becoming—at work, yes, but also with my family and community. My work right now, my vocational calling, is a part of the holistic calling on my entire life.
I believe God’s current vocational calling for me is to contribute to successful businesses management. Every moment isn’t thrilling (in fact, many of them aren’t), but I feel like I am living out God’s call on my life when we deliver a better product to our clients.
Mark: How is your work a mission?
Elizabeth: As Christians, we’re called to contribute to the good of society. Economic and political systems are critical institutions in our culture. It matters how these systems operate, and I think a vital part of our mission is to be involved and help them run well.
My work is part of fulfilling that mission. I enjoy helping organizations sort out their strategic problems so they can better fulfill their purposes. I like helping companies deliver better products to their customers. Consulting to these government organizations or working directly for a company allows me to contribute to our mission of a good, functioning society.
Mark: How does your work express worship?
Elizabeth: Most people think of worship as something related to music or a verbal expression of praise. But for me, I see worship as using any of the gifts God has given me (musical or not) to honor Him and to bring Him glory.
God has given me problem-solving, organizational, and people skills. When I use those skills in a way that honors Him, I see that as an expression of worship.
Mark: What is your view on gender in the workplace?
Elizabeth: Thanks for saving the easy question until the end! Gender in the workplace is a pretty loaded topic. It covers issues like equality, opportunity, leadership, compensation, healthy relationships between genders, and more.
But for the sake of not writing a novel, let me start from the bigger picture. I think Paul gives us instruction for how we should perceive anyone in Galatians 3. In writing to the Galatians about the difference between living under the Old Testament law and the New Testament promise, Paul says that, through Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NIV). In his day Jews were thought to be better than Greeks, free people were superior to slaves, and men were valued above women. Paul is saying that in God’s ultimate plan, we will not rank ourselves according to those lines. Instead we will understand that in God’s eyes we are not loved more because of our gender or ethnicity or socioeconomic status. One of our jobs as believers is to bring God’s kingdom here to earth.
So while men and women bring different skills or personality types to the workplace, we should not view one as superior to the other. We should make full use of the gifts of each gender and each individual, without ascribing more honor to one over the other or reserving only certain types of work for each specific gender.
Mark Russell, author of The Missional Entrepreneur, is a widely respected voice in the missional community. He has lived in Russia, Chile, and Germany, and has traveled to more than 70 countries to carry out a variety of business, educational, humanitarian, and religious projects. Contact Mark through www.russell-media.com; www.facebook.com/marklrussell; www.twitter.com/marklrussell.
Scripture quotation from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.