Pursuing careers that matter was the focus of Following Christ 2008 (FC08), an InterVarsity conference in Chicago. Students, professors, and professionals attended the conference and dialogued about living their professional lives in a way that is fulfilling to themselves and honors God, their creator and savior.
Alec Hill, the president of InterVarsity, welcomed attendees to FC08. “It is my hope that this conference will encourage you to integrate your faith and work at a much deeper level than you had ever imagined,” he said.
“Almost all of the people I interviewed said that they want to integrate their faith into their work one way or another,” said Michael Lindsay, the author of Faith in the Halls of Power, How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite. “Ninety three percent of them said that that’s important.”
Speaking in one of the opening lectures of FC08, Lindsay said that the way Christians express their faith at their job varies widely. Doing business in an ethical manner is one basic expression. But many go beyond that. The number of corporate Bible studies has ballooned in the past decade, after former President Clinton signed a 1997 federal order declaring that religious expression in the federal workplace was an issue of free speech.
Lindsay, a professor of sociology at Rice University, said that his research suggested to him that the church needs to do a better job of helping people think more strategically about integrating their faith into their work. One of the questions he asked was “how often has your pastor come to visit you in your workplace?”
“I interviewed 360 leaders in government, business and culture,” he reported. “Only one said that their pastor had actually visited them in their workplace.” Lindsay said that the man recalled with great precision what was discussed that day, what they did, and even what they were wearing. “I say to my pastor friends, if you want to have an influence in your community, get out and pay pastoral visits to the workplace.”
Almost 1,000 students, professors, and professionals attended FC08, which was sponsored by InterVarsity’s Graduate and Faculty Ministries and InterVarsity Press. In addition to hearing from plenary speakers they participated in over one dozen career-specific tracks in fields such as law, the arts, business, natural sciences, and education. FC08 ran from December 27-December 31, 2008.
The audio from Michael Lindsay’s presentation, as well as FC08 plenary sessions, is available on InterVarsity’s audio resources page.