Reawakening God’s Imagination for Vocation

Laura Bernero

Brandon Addison and I spoke recently about how he engages people in conversations about faith and work, the moral dilemmas encountered across industries, and the importance of community through it all.

Why did The Neighborhood Church choose to join the Denver Institute’s Church Partnership Network?

I just moved from Nashville about seven months ago, and I was connected to a similar organization there. The key benefit in partnering with organizations like Denver Institute is in helping people to seek discipleship opportunities in all areas of life. There is huge value when the church helps people connect the physical to the spiritual, reawakens our understanding of cultural engagement, and gives people practical tips on how to live out their faith. This is an important passion point and a growth point for our church. And the key thing is that no one can do it on their own. In order to pursue faith-work integration, it takes theological formation and likeminded colleagues, both of which Denver Institute offers.

How do you engage members of your church in conversations about faith and work?

When talking to people about faith and work, the frustrations I hear are often founded in the tension between what we see as “sacred” and “secular.” We have to begin by seeing our work from a larger perspective. Not only are we making a difference in our relationships, but also in the physical products we create and the systems we contribute to.

Recently, we looked at the four-part gospel – creation, fall, redemption and restoration – in a four-part sermon series. When we began in Genesis, we looked at God’s original mandate for work, and encouraged people to see their work through this lens. We asked questions like “What do you do for work, and what do you love about it?” “What makes you come alive?” “How does it connect to God?” “What’s hard about it?”

Then, we were able to give really practical tips. It begins as an academic and theological conversation, but ultimately we need to equip people with the practical advice. They want to know what to do differently when they get to work on Monday.

What are some examples of recent conversations you’ve had with members of the church about their work?

I was talking to a member of our church recently about her job as a counselor. She shared with me that she’s learning that her job is not just about listening well, but helping to establish interpersonal peace, which contributes to the flourishing of society. That is just one example of how we can see our work with bigger perspective.

Another guy in my congregation works in aluminum – manufacturing large equipment and machinery. Because of the extraction machines they make, one of his largest clients is in the cannabis industry. Recently, as he told me about the volatile oil that his machines extract from cannabis, he literally wondered how much longer he could ethically support that line of business. It was one of his largest clients, and generated funding that helped their business do well, but that’s a tense conversation.

People are confronted with real, difficult dilemmas like that all the time, no matter their industry. We have to be able to talk about it together, remind ourselves of the big picture, and look at what we’re providing downstream. There aren’t a lot of easy answers, but we just keep asking these kinds of questions together.

Have you felt the tension between sacred and secular in your own life?

Before I was a pastor, I was working for the government in leadership development. I remember the long, tough weeks when I was focusing on the next day off. I remember being motivated by the paycheck. But later on, as I studied shalom, I began to see how fostering peace and purpose in leaders actually helps the team and greater culture. It took me a while, but I began to see how important it is to equip believers with theology and vision in order for the work of their hands to foster good for the greater culture. That helped me gain perspective beyond a personal paycheck and performance.

In one sentence, why are you passionate about the integration of faith and work?

It helps us reawaken God's imagination for vocation and facilitates a  more robust view of life.

Tell us about The City Forum, and why you’re passionate about diving into difficult conversations about our culture and social issues.

The City Forums exists to work for the flourishing of the Denver area and Colorado through the lens of civility. I have often heard my friends say that there is not enough respectful discourse about tough issues today, and I agree. We hope that by our presence we can model thoughtful engagement on the pertinent topics of our day and set an example of a new conversational tone as we navigate life in a divided and reactive age.

City Forum plans to hold quarterly events featuring experts in thoughtful debate and discussion about various hot topics, from the refugee crisis to gender identity issues. Events will feature two hours of dialogue between two or more experts with divergent viewpoints followed by discussion and Q+A. To learn more about City Forum and see upcoming event topics, visit their website.


Laura Bernero

Laura Bernero is our blog curator, overseeing both internal content and contributions from our amazing network of writers. She loves all things creative communications, acting on the belief that we all resonate with great narrative and connect to one another through story. In addition to her role at DIFW, she manages media storytelling campaigns at SE2, a Denver-based communications agency. She was 5280 Fellow in the inaugural 2016-17 class and can’t wait to see the program continue to empower leaders throughout Denver in their unique gifts and callings.