Have you ever heard of The Institute of Faith, Work, and Economics?
It is commonly referred to as IFWE and it is an organization that is well worth your time. If you have ever asked yourself,
“Why do I have to go to this grueling job day in and day out?”
or “How can I make my work useful for my community?”
or “What should be the purpose of my work?”,
then check out this organization.
*Note* I should make it very clear that IFWE is not sponsoring this magazine in any way. This article is written out of great respect and admiration for the work being done at their organization.
A Non-Traditional Journey in Ministry
I had the opportunity to speak to the CEO, Hugh Whelchel. When I started off the interview by asking Mr. Whelchel about himself, he insisted that I call him Hugh.
Hugh was a business man for most of his adult life. He has owned multiple businesses (both for-profit and non-profit) over the course of the past few decades and he was very good at what he did.
However, spending his entire life as a Christian in the evangelical church, he felt like a second-class citizen since he was not a pastor or a vocational minister. Based on his success in business he was obviously gifted by God in leadership, and people-skills. His passion for God brought him through the rigors of learning sound hermeneutics, and homiletics. Hugh even went to seminary. But despite all these wonderful skills he regularly offered to his church, he still felt inadequate because his life was spent doing business instead of 40-hour weeks at the church.
Have any of you ever felt that way? Is that feeling justified?
Through his learning at seminary, he became convinced that this feeling was most certainly not justified. Ephesians 2:8-10 says that we were created for a set of good works which God created us specifically to do. Our work which we do everyday is meant to cultivate God’s creation. And since the Psalms tell us that creation is meant for the glory of God, then simply put, our daily work is meant to bring glory to God. Hugh explained this quoting T.M. Moore in one of his blog posts on the IFWE website:
“So no matter what your job, or whatever your work might be, God intends that you should devote your labors to something greater than personal interest, economic prosperity, or social good, alone. God intends your work to contribute to the restoration of the creation, and the people in it, to raising life on this blue planet to higher states of beauty, goodness, and truth, reflecting the glory of God in our midst.”
In my interview with Hugh, he also quoted Martin Luther: “The work of the milkmaid is just as important to God as the work of the priest.” He was quick to explain that men like Luther, John Calvin, and Francis Schaeffer have helped him understand that the church used to teach with great emphasis on our work, but only in the last 100 years have we lost that element in our teaching.
Hugh knew that he had to help the everyday guy who felt like less of a Christian because he wasn’t in church leadership. He had to help him understand that his work has a purpose in the eyes of his Maker, and that it is even equal to the work done in the church by vocational ministers.
The Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics
With names of people like J.P. Moreland on their roster, this non-profit employs great Christian minds in economics, business, and biblical studies. They spend a great portion of their time doing exegetical and historical research to learn the true meaning of the many texts throughout Scripture that teach about man’s work.
Based out of Washington, D.C., they use this research to create high quality digital content which is accessible to people who do not consider themselves scholars. These researchers speak biblically to many issues that are important to our daily life but have traditionally been considered “secular” and therefore less important – issues like income inequality, flourishing while working with non-Christians, and ownership rights. They make the case that these kinds of issues are addressed in Scripture and are actually very important as seek to honor God through our work.
Hugh himself has written a book called “How Then Should We Work?”
IFWE focuses on reaching professors/students, business leaders, and pastors. They believe that if they can engage these three people groups, then the teachings will take hold in the everyday lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Leaders in IFWE do speaking engagements, workshops and retreats, and webinars.
Bringing the Gospel Back Into Our Work
It’s the perspective that makes all the difference. A man who sees his labor as valuable to God and worthwhile in cultivating His Creation will do better in his work. When a church community understands these things and goes out into the city doing great work and helping others prosper, then it is a testament to the city of God’s goodness. This true biblical perspective once again brings optimism for the church and extends hope into the city.