Today's guest post is from Rev. Beth Blackwell Allin, who says her favorite part of ministry is being able to be on the journey with people and point them toward Christ.
During the summer after my first year in seminary, I found myself at a wedding reception in line for the buffet behind someone I had barely seen since junior high. I didn’t know him super well way back then (he was about as cool as you could get in the 80s — which is to say, much cooler than I was) but with potentially years and years of conversation topics to cover, he asked me what I was up to. When I told him I was in seminary and studying to be a pastor, he looked at me and said, “Oh, I don’t know anything about that,” and turned right back around…and quickly! Needless to say, it was a long, slow, and painfully quiet road up to the beef tips.
It struck me in that buffet line back then, and even more so now, that there is a unique and wonderful calling to be a Christian in a secular workplace. God has given each of us an amazing opportunity whenever and wherever He has called us to serve. Though obviously not without its challenges and difficulties, the beauty of being a Christ-follower in a secular workplace is that there are so many different ways that we can be faithful to God within our individual contexts. With Missional Centrality and Jesus-shaped Identity as two of ECO’s core values in mind, I wanted to share a story of someone who I feel does an inspiring job of living out his faith at work.
You often don’t get rougher around the edges than your average construction worker. But everyone knows there is something very different about the guys who work for Ben Ewart Construction in Santa Barbara, California. From the beginning, Ben, the son of two Presbyterian pastors, set out to do things differently with his business. Ever since, he has loved watching Christ at work among his crew. In an industry that is known for bosses who work their crews to the bone without many benefits, Ben’s main priority with his crew is to foster a genuine sense of community and to always let them know how much they are appreciated and valued. “I’m not faking it,” he says, “I really like them. I truly appreciate them and I make sure they know it. Their jobs are demanding. They get up early and work really hard for our clients all day. So I stay positive and let them know I really value who they are and what they do.”
About two-thirds of Ben’s crew are Christians. The guys who know Christ understand well the culture Ben has created and continue to build a mentoring environment (spiritually and otherwise) on the jobsite with their co-workers who may have no faith background at all. In fact, they value their work community so much that they get up early before work once a month to have breakfast out together. They all love this time and wish they did it more often, even coordinating to get together when Ben has a conflict and can’t make it. One of his guys even recently brought a round of smoothies to the jobsite one morning for everyone to celebrate the birthday of one of the crew members, further cultivating the culture of value, positivity, and community.
Ben tells the story of Tony, who came to work for him shortly before Christmas a few years ago. At the staff Christmas party every year, Ben and the crew reflect back on the year as a team, watch a slide show with their wives of what they’ve accomplished, and share both funny stories and stories of what they appreciate about each other. At the party, Tony sat nervously in the back of the room wondering what in the WORLD was going on. He had certainly never experienced anything so relational and affirming in his life!
Fast-forward to the next year’s Christmas party and Tony was a willing participant. By the third year, he was all in. He was laughing and sharing with the guys, and was the first one to gather everyone up to put their arms around each other and take a group picture. Over the two years of working with his crew and experiencing Jesus’ love (whether he knew that’s what it was, or not), Tony felt loved and valued, knowing that he was an important part of this unique community.
“It’s my dream that someday the guys will realize what is so different about working here and why they love it so much is because we love Jesus, and that they’ll want to know Him, too,” says Ben, who sees a large part of his job as ministering to his crew and always staying approachable. “Carpentry and running this crew is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. If what I’m doing is not making the Lord happy, I should be doing something else.”
It’s a privilege to share Ben’s story because of the ways he has found to live for Christ in his own unique setting. No matter where God has called each of us right now, we can be confident He has called us there for a purpose and will use us to facilitate His mission in our world.
What ways can you help to foster community in your workplace or your everyday context?
How can you help others that you work with or encounter on a daily basis feel valued and appreciated?
Rev. Beth Allin has a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Seminary and a BA in Sociology from Westmont College. Her favorite part of ministry is being able to be on the journey with people and point them toward Christ. Beth is currently the Church Planting Assessment Coordinator for ECO. She lives in Santa Barbara, CA, with her husband Dana and their three kids. They also have two guinea pigs, one of whom may be pregnant.