“I Wish We Heard More Sermons on This:” An Interview With L.T. Jeyachandran

L.T. Jeyachandran hails from Tamil Nadu in South India. He worked in several parts of India for 28 years as a Senior Civil Engineer with the Central (Federal) Government and took early retirement from the Government in November 1993 to join Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in India. He functioned as Director of Ministries there until December 2000. He also served as a Bible teacher for RZIM and other conferences. From January 2001 to September 2012, L.T. was working as Executive Director of the Asia-Pacific of the same organization, based in Singapore. On retirement from RZIM, he and his wife Esther have relocated to India and make their home in Pune.

The Green Room: Tell us a little about your background.

LT: I came to Christ as a university student through InterVarsity work in India. The main thing we were told as Christians was that we should be honest- keep one’s hands and consciences clean. That was the background with which I joined my government job. But I soon realized that was only one part of what it meant to be a Christian in the workplace.

I began looking at my workplace in the early 1970s when I started reading Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer doesn’t speak specifically about faith and work. But his book, Genesis in Space and Time, got me thinking about creation as something made by God of which we were stewards.

I Joined Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in November 1993 in India, taking early retirement from my government job.  I had always been interested in apologetics; it was not that I considered my government job as less spiritual. I was just exercising a different interest. Even in RZ Ministries, although the main aim was apologetics, I was interested in the approach of how the Bible makes sense of the whole of life, not just belief. In India at that time Christians considered their work only as a means of earning something to give to the church and missions. I knew something was wrong with that view.

TGR: Tell us about how you became involved with the faith and work movement in the U.S.

I did some speaking and writing when working for RZ. My first paper was called “A Right Theology of Matter Precedes a Right Theology of Work.” I read this in 1998 in Sydney at a seminar which was organized by Paul Stevens and Robert Banks, where I met Gordon Preece and Alistair Mackenzie for the first time.

Will Messenger heard me present the paper in Hong Kong. This led to my joining the Theology of Work Project board in 2010.

TGR: How would you compare Indian and Western contexts?

What Will has often mentioned to me is that my background as an Indian believer in Jesus is helpful. The Indian view of reality does not always contribute to a meaningful engagement in work.  When I meet people from a background where the Christian message has had a deeper influence, it’s very different from the background in India. My way of reading the Bible is very different. In the Indian perspective nature is considered to be divine. The Bible makes it clear that nature is not divine but is a creation of God which we can operate upon.

There is a similarity between the Christian context in India and Christian context in the West: the average Sunday sermon in a Church has very little to do with the person who will be working Monday-Saturday. It’s essentially a sermon on how to be religious and reduces to good moral advice.

I think things are changing. Here in India we’ve started small TOW groups. What I think you are trying to do in the U.S. is to bring this idea into seminary curricula. We have still a long way to go here. I’ve been using two adjectives recently: we’re reading the Bible for therapeutic and utilitarian reasons, for what we get out of God rather than what God wants us to be.

The understanding of the Christian gospel itself seems to be more an escaping from this world into the next. I just finished reading a book by N. T. Wright where he says that the call of Abraham was a call to be blessing to all of creation. I wish we heard more sermons on this: it would impact the workplace.

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