By Gordon Govier

Integrating Faith and Business

Life is fragile, and all that we value can be taken from us in a split second. That was the realization that led Mark Washington to invite Jesus Christ into his life. It happened just after he had broken up with his girlfriend and survived a car-bike smash-up.

“The people that hit me with the car thought for sure I was dead when I flew over the car,” he said. “I wasn’t but it sure shook me up.”

Today Mark helps business school students look at the broader issues of life as the national coordinator of InterVarsity’s MBA Ministry, a part of Graduate and Faculty Ministries. He also works with InterVarsity business students at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Integrating Faith and Vocation

Working with business students energizes Mark because MBA students clearly are intent on becoming world changers. “MBA students by virtue of where they will be working, will have significant impact on the world one way or another,” he said.

InterVarsity’s ministry vision is to see students and faculty transformed, campuses renewed, and world changers developed. MBA Ministry is focused on developing Christian leaders who seek God in both their professional and private lives. InterVarsity currently has MBA chapters in 17 of the top business schools.

During a recent sabbatical, Mark visited and conferred with leaders of nine national organizations that focus on integrating faith and vocation. Based on these visits and input from InterVarsity staff, student leaders, and alumni, Mark spearheaded a new, five year strategic plan for MBA Ministry that will develop better resources for training students and double the number of chapters in business schools.

His vision for integrating faith and vocation also extends beyond business schools. “I would like to see communities of world changers develop for students after they graduate,” he said. “Because historically, the way change occurs is not through individuals but through communities.”

Catalytic Events

One of the best opportunities to focus on the integration of faith and vocation is the annual Believers in Business (BiB) Conference, which will be held this year on February 14-15 at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Hosted by the Yale School of Business Management Christian Fellowship (affiliated with InterVarsity), and an advisory board of MBA students from 13 other business schools, the BiB conference presents strategies to help business leaders live out their faith in the marketplace. Mark has played a key role in developing the BiB conference into a national gathering for Christian business students.

InterVarsity’s commitment to integrating faith and vocation extends back many years and includes national Marketplace Ministry conferences in 1980, 1983, and 1986. More recently, Mark helped lead Business as Mission and Business Changing the World tracks as a part of InterVarsity’s triennial Urbana student missions conferences. Integrating faith and vocation was also a major focus of InterVarsity’s Following Christ conferences, hosted by Graduate and Faculty Ministries in Atlanta in 2003 and in Chicago in 2008.

InterVarsity’s theology of serving God in the marketplace through ethical business practices has attracted interest not only from individual business students but also leaders of business schools who want to present a solid ethical component to their program. “InterVarsity has some unique things to offer for MBA programs, including a theology of the workplace and business,” Mark said.

Finding His Own Way

Having experienced, as a new Christian, the disappointment of working for Christian business owners whose business practices did not reflect their Christian values, Mark developed an early appreciation for the integration of faith and vocation as a powerful witness to those both inside and outside the business community.

Mark’s first contact with InterVarsity was Jack Irvine, a long-time volunteer staff member in California, who he met through his church. He was amazed that Jack would spend several hours at a time with him every week, talking about the Christian faith. “Here’s a man who is not a part of my family, loving me, caring for me, nurturing me, and seeing something worthwhile in me,” he marveled.

“Seeking to learn more about integrating faith and vocation, Mark left California and entered a dual degree program at North Park Theological Seminary, in Chicago. While working on a Master of Arts in Theological Studies and a Master of Business Administration Degree, he was also hired as the seminary’s Director of Admissions.”

As Admissions Director he negotiated partnerships for the seminary with InterVarsity and other organizations, and began attending InterVarsity meetings. He got an insider’s perspective on the fellowship and as he considered his career options after seminary, he began to think about joining InterVarsity, which he did in 2003.

Mark reflects on how God has been at work in his own life, integrating faith and vocation, and is thankful for a job where he can see God doing it again and again in the lives of MBA students who are committed to living out their faith in the marketplace.