I was part of a conversation recently where a person in our circle asked, “How do you make Truett better each day?” I thought it was a superb question. And I took my time before answering, listening to others as they made their offerings, wondering if I would have anything of value to add, and ordering my impressions as they emerged. I arrived on three ways I think I make my workplace better each day.
First, I pray for those I work with and alongside. I pray for the institution. I pray for needs of which I am aware. I pray for people I encounter as I walk the halls, and those who pass my window I see and wave at. As I see students, faculty, staff, and guests, I consciously will the good of everyone in prayer to God. In other words, I bless them. In doing so, I apply an insight I gleaned from Dallas Willard. I concede that I do not know how or in what way my prayers make the seminary I serve better, that the answers and the workings of God are hidden behind the veil, but I trust God works in and through the prayers of Christian people.
Second, I learn names and demonstrate a genuine interest in the lives of those I work with and alongside. I do not learn the name of every student, though I do try to match names with faces and call each individual by name when we meet. I come to know some students better than others. Coming to know faculty and staff colleagues differs, slightly, in that the overlapping spheres of my work and the work of others varies. I do make an effort, however, to be friendly and to strengthen relationships, as I am able. Passing through the COVID-19 pandemic slowed my effort to know others better, and for others to know me, in obvious ways. I’m still learning about my colleagues, and as personnel changes, there are new people to come to know.
Third, I keep the church in mind. I think beyond Truett, and even beyond Baylor, and consider people in congregations large and small and in-between. I want what we do to make a difference in Christian communities and the broader communities within which those churches live and move and have their being. I think that makes us “better” because it keeps in view who we serve: Christ and the church.
Truett Seminary “exists to equip God-called people for gospel ministry in and alongside Christ’s Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Not everyone that we educate serves a church in a leadership position after completion of a degree. But I hope that everyone who receives an education at Truett is part of a church somewhere, and I hope these individuals strengthen a local body through service, making good use of their gifts, graces, talents, and abilities. I also pray they would offer sound biblical and theological knowledge to those with whom they share fellowship so that the church might be built up.
For those outside a seminary and friendly to Christianity, you likely hope those within it would pray, care for individuals, and keep the church in view! Pray for us; Lord, have mercy.
Not everyone works in a seminary, like I do. The word “seminary” originated in the fifteen century; “from Latin seminarium ‘plant nursery, seed plot,’ figuratively, ‘breeding ground.'” The seminary is a place where the Word of God is cultivated, where a person comes who, having received the Word, is nourished so that they might mature spiritually and then proclaim the Word more faithfully. It is plausible that a student could receive the Word for the first time while in seminary, moving from a knowledge about God to a knowledge of God. Heaven forbid that we, as a seminary, would hinder the Word, though that, too, sadly, is plausible. Jesus, in the New Testament, often spoke of the Word as seed. It is my desire that the Word would go forth, find good soil, and grow, yielding thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold. We plant and water. God gives the growth.
Workplaces other than the seminary, however, can prove to be fertile ground for ministry and Christian witness, a place within which you can take actions that make the working environment “better.” Prayer, collegiality and care, and keeping in view the constituency you serve can be commitments of any Christian in any place of work. In addition to these, doing your work with excellence, so long as the work you render is moral and good, can be valuable and worthwhile, not only for the organization you serve but for the prosperity and flourishing of others.
How do you make your workplace better each day?