When Hunter Beaumont worked for one of the Big Four accounting firms in Dallas, Texas, his office looked out a 55th floor window. Far below, on the other side of the city was Dallas Theological Seminary. During day, he was an accountant. But during the evening, he took seminary classes. The distance between his 55th floor office and the seminary was what Hunter Beaumont, now the pastor of Fellowship Denver Church and a presenter at Leadership Journal’s recent “Redeeming Work” conference, called “the gap.”
The gap between his work as an accountant and his theology seemed unbridgeable. The two worlds had nothing to do with each other. On the one hand, he knew how to amortize loans and calculate a firm’s credits and debits. Yet on the other side of his life, he learned about the Hebrew jussive and the case for progressive dispensationalism.
The gap, Beaumont recalls during an interview with Skye Jethani, the Executive Editor of Leadership Journal, became painfully real during the Enron scandal. Enron had essentially used accounting tricks to show profits that they didn’t really have. The CEO of Enron was Kenneth Lay, a self-professed Christian, son of a pastor, and a Sunday school teacher.
Beaumont remembers thinking, “There’s something he [Kenneth Lay] didn’t get..something that didn’t allow him to see what was going on. He couldn’t see the idols in his work…Because he didn’t get it, 85,000 people lost their jobs. And $68 billion in wealth was lost.
How could this happen? How could this happen? The question that now animates Beaumont is, What could pastors have done?
Beaumont, now a pastor, is animated by this question, and has committed his church to teaching a gospel that touches all of life, including issues of work. He does this primarily in three ways:
1. “I listen to the riches of Christian theology and I listen to the work of the people.”
Beaumont, an Acts 29 pastor and area director, is committed to knowing about the work of his people. He regularly takes opportunities to listen about people’s work lives, and, as able, visits them in the workplace.
Though he believes it’s unrealistic for pastors to understand every kind of work in a modern world with highly specialized industries, he believes they can know enough to be conversant. He also depends on partnership with organizations like Denver Institute for Faith & Work to help his congregation understand the implications of the gospel for their particular industry.
2. “We need to give them a theology for both creation renewal and personal renewal.”
From Beaumont’s preaching and study, he sees that evangelicalism is still trying to reconcile two versions of the gospel: one about the kingdom of God and his reign over life and the earth, the other about atonement and personal salvation. He endeavors to give his people a clear theology that touches both creation renewal and personal renewal – both the far reaching effects of Christ the Lord and King’s heavenly reign into every sector of human endeavor, as well as a story of personal salvation and Christ’s atonement for individuals.
This theology, which comes out in his preaching and teaching, he believes is core to people not segmenting off their work (as, say, accountants) from their faith.
3. “We need to move people from a view of work that says, What is this doing for me? to one that asks, What is this doing for the world?”
“It’s not my experience,” says Beaumont to Chris Horst, an audience member, “that [Denver] is an especially driven city. People are content to live simply – as long as they have a lot of outdoor gear! But underneath that, however, is that same individualistic impulse that drives the work-a-holic in Dallas. How is my work a piece of the pie that serves the ‘ideal me’ and the ideal life? How does this contribute to me?”
If we are going to make progress in helping people to see their work in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a suffering servant, Beaumont believes that we first need to challenge this ideal of self-actualization. A default attitude about work that first asks, “What will I get out of this?” is not sufficient.
Here is the truly counter-cultural message of the Christian faith for work. The question we need to be asking is not, “What might I achieve?” or “What is my ideal life?” It is “What might I give to the world?”
This post first appeared on the Patheos “Mission: Work” blog.
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This post was published September 12, 2014
Jeff Haanen is a writer and entrepreneur. He founded Denver Institute for Faith & Work, a community of conveners, teachers and learners offering experiences and educational resources on the gospel, work, and community renewal. He is the author of An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life and an upcoming two-book series on spiritual formation, vocation, and the working class for Intervarsity Press. He lives with his wife and four daughters in Denver and attends Wellspring Church in Englewood, Colorado.