By Dr. Garland Owensby | Professor and Coordinator for Youth and Student Ministries
“You can be wealthy and successful in business, and still make bad decisions.” That was the advice I gave my teenage sons as we sat at the dinner table discussing the recent disgrace of billionaires caught by the police in compromising situations. These men seemingly had all the world could offer and yet it was not enough. Obviously, these are not the role models I want my children to emulate as they make their way into adulthood and eventually the workplace. The personal mission I have for my own children is also the mission of Southwestern Assemblies of God University. We want to equip students spiritually, academically, professionally, and cross-culturally for their God-given careers and callings. Through the classroom teaching and guided/supervised internships, a student can be prepared to enter the workplace and make an eternal impact for the Kingdom of God.
Every semester I received multiple requests from churches looking for youth ministry interns. There are so many opportunities for students to be involved not only in the Dallas Fort Worth Metro-plex, but literally around the globe. Leaders recognize the type of students coming through our programs and find them desirable. They want people that are not only skilled but also bring intangibles to the job
Education typically focuses on giving people the right skills to succeed in their chosen vocation. Traditionally, if you have the skills, then your character is of lesser importance. I think everyone has worked for a boss or had a co-worker who was less than pleasant to work with, but was great at their job assignment. It disappoints us because we know it’s not the way it has to be. Yes, the person is skilled, but there is another component which is lacking. I look at my students and tell them they not only have to answer the questions “Can you?” but also the question, “Who are you?” The world ignores character to focus on competency. Character development is so important to success in one’s life and vocation. Dr. Judy Stamey, one of my seminary professors, told our class, “Your gifts may take you places that your character can’t keep you.” That is so true! We want to develop people whose skills will take them great places and their godly character will keep them there.
The Image of God
Carrying the image of God into the workplace is a necessity. Each one of us has the opportunity to demonstrate the nature of God on the job. The fruit of the Spirit belongs in the workplace. A spirit-filled person makes the work environment a positive and encouraging place. I think that is why many students transition from intern to employee at the same location, and are then recognized as outstanding in their field. It is because they prayerfully carry the image of God and the mission of the Kingdom into the marketplace. I see students who not only love their calling to education, counseling, business, and vocational ministry, but also find joy in being salt and light wherever they go. God put that call in their heart years ago and we have the privilege of helping them step into opportunities and the pleasure of watching them flourish.
A student’s internship is not just an opportunity to sharpen and showcase their skills and education. It is an opportunity to shape the ethos of the business. What is the emotional atmosphere they create because they do everything because of Christ? How is the work environment changed because the presence of the Holy Spirit goes with them into the workplace? We cannot discount the intangibles, that is the non-material things, that a Spirit-filled student or graduate brings to the workplace. I will never forget a manager I had when I was in high school working as a dishwasher. This man seemed incapable of complaining about a person. One day a couple of us were frustrated with a co-worker who was so slow he kept us at work later than we felt we needed to be there. The manager looked at us and said, “He’s very thorough.” Wow! He disarmed our complaint by pointing out the positive. What could happen in our workplaces if we chose to bring the peace and patience of the Holy Spirit to work?
But it is not just the fruit of the Spirit that our students can bring to the workplace. It is also the gifts of the Spirit. We recognize that one should not dichotomize their work from their faith. That does not mean praying instead of working. It does mean praying while working. Listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit as you engage with customers and co-workers. Bring words of wisdom to the conference room. Even prophetic gifts, saying the right words from God, to the right person, at the right moment. I would want to hire and work with someone who is not only proficient in their job skills, but also brings to the table a godly attitude and supernatural giftings.
Everything a student needs to succeed can be attained. One part is to acquire the knowledge and skills to do the job. The second is to participate in the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV) reads, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” Inside each Christian student is the fullness of God. His divine power is a resource inside each believer just waiting to be released. But how? I love the course Authentic Christianity which every student takes as part of their degree plan. This course prepares them to effectively utilize the divine nature, the power of God that is resident inside of them. A student goes to an internship not only able to skillfully do the job but also capable of making an impact in the spiritual realm.
Even when one’s character is solid, they may encounter a discouraging situation. I have had many conversations with students who were treated unfairly either during their internship or at their job. Some are frustrated when co-workers of dubious character are promoted. I remind them to be faithful. God will advance their career. In the Old Testament, Joseph brought God’s character and presence to Potiphar’s household. He did his job well and went from a common household slave, to the head of the household. And when given the opportunity to defy Potiphar and God, he chose obedience. The next years in prison were far from comfortable, but his character and faithfulness kept him sane and ultimately led to his rising to the position of vizier, the second in command to the Pharaoh of Egypt.
A story I love took place back in the early 2000’s but I believe it represents SAGU’s heart for living out the Kingdom of God in the workplace. The Dallas Mavericks merchandise vendor had four stands at Reunion Arena. He contacted Southwestern to see if there were a couple of students who could work. At the end of the season he contacted SAGU again stating that the two stands manned by our students were the only ones that weren’t missing merchandise or money at the end of the night. The next year a dozen students were working at Mavericks game. The other stands had equally skilled personnel, but those run by our students brought Kingdom of God values to the workplace.
Do you want to be skilled at your vocation? We want that as well. Do you want to carry the image of God into the workplace? We want that too. Do you want to stand firm in your integrity when the job doesn’t go as you wanted? We desire that for your life. Do you want to demonstrate Kingdom values in the workplace? Southwestern can help you achieve that goal.