Among the handful of magazines that reach my mailbox every month are Fast Company and Christianity Today. This month I opened up the latter and thought I was reading the former. I am referring to “The Makers,” the cover story for the July/August issue of CT, which highlights twenty Christian “business leaders, artists, and nonprofit founders” who are “investing in novel and fun ideas while also pioneering important changes.” Among the twenty are the following:
- Chris and Will Haughey, brothers who moved from St. Louis to Honduras to start a toy company, Tegu, that transforms sustainably harvested hardwoods into colorful, magnetized wooden blocks. These “slow toys” are built to last, encourage kids to engage in “boundless play,” and help Tegu provide jobs and boost one of the poorest economies in the world. A portion of each purchase is used to replant trees and fund education for children in slums.
- Christine Mosely, supply-chain innovator and founder of California-based Full Harvest, a start-up that uses technology to more efficiently track, manage, and monetize produce, resulting in more revenue for farmers, cheaper healthy food, and less food waste. “I could not get through the difficult trials and tribulations of starting a business without my faith and the grace of God,” Mosely told “It takes small to large miracles every day for an innovative, disruptive business to work. As my business grows, I know it is God’s work unfolding, not my own.”
- Pete Docter, winner of Academy Awards for directing Up and Inside Out, who hopes that his films can draw out “the importance of relationship, because I think that’s the heart of Christianity.”
- Rev. Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest and founder of Nashville’s Thistle Farms, a company that gives survivors of trafficking, addiction, and prostitution a chance to earn a living. Some manufacture bath and body products made with essential oils; others serve fair-trade coffee and tea at the Thistle Stop Café. Besides covering employee salaries, Thistle Farms’ revenue pays for legal advocacy, therapy, and case management for hundreds of women each year. “There really isn’t much difference in the work of justice between success and failure,” said Stevens. “Love teaches us both through grace. We can set aside our fears and just do the work.”
- Eric Wowoh, Liberian refugee and founder of the Dallas-based Change Agent Network (CAN), a nonprofit that sets up schools and offers computer training programs in Liberia. More than 1400 students have graduated from CAN’s schools, among them the current press secretary for Liberia’s president. “It’s hard to talk about what I do without talking about the story of God and the sovereignty of God,” said Wowoh. “I couldn’t do the work and still believe in humanity and still see good if it weren’t for God.”
The stories go on, of course. I confess, I’m a sucker for inspiring examples of people using their gifts in creative ways that have positive real-world impacts. In part, this is because I study purposeful work for a living. We’ve learned many things from research in this area, but one is that a sure way to experience purpose in work is tying one’s work to a broader, beyond-the-self purpose. To be sure, there are many pathways to purpose, but the Christian worldview provides a particularly coherent one.
The CT article quotes the Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper, who famously said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” If that is true, as Christians believe, then the implications of Christ’s lordship over the work domain—in whatever field of work a person finds oneself—are immense. It means that believers have a redemptive mission to carry out in every corner of the work world, be they butchers, bakers, candlestick makers—or toymakers, supply-chain entrepreneurs, or animated feature directors.
Indeed, the desire to work on this mission has prompted a recent influx of resources, such as study centers (like the Faith and Work Initiative at Princeton), websites (like TheologyOfWork.org) and church-based faith and work ministries (like the Center for Faith and Work in New York City). Such projects can be difficult, but they are richly meaningful too.
“The Makers” gives readers a great set of examples of people who have found success living at the intersection of faith and work. Here’s to hoping you and I can live purposefully at that nexus, too.