Faith at Work Summit Spotlight: Tracy Mathews on Neurobiology, Discipleship, and Our Work

The purpose of the Faith at Work Summit is to gather active participants and leaders in the faith at work movement from every industry sector to learn from each other and work together to extend Christ’s transforming presence in workplaces around the world. The 2018 Faith at Work Summit, held in Chicago at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare on October 11th-13th, is now open for registration! Early registration is now available at $239 per ticket, so be sure to purchase soon.

In anticipation of the upcoming Summit, I had the opportunity to interview Tracy Mathews, Executive Director of The Call to Work. Before taking on leadership in The Call to Work, Tracy spent eight years leading strategy and business development for Coskata, Inc., an industrial stage biotech company. Tracy brings a unique voice to the Summit, blending her background in science with an attention to character formation and how both should inform how we view the integration of faith and work in the “hour by hour.”

AK: What will you be addressing at the Faith at Work Summit this year?

TM: The title of my workshop is: Neurobiology and Transformation: Creating Conditions for Deeper Discipleship. I’ll be talking about how the science of neurobiology helps us better understand the process of character formation and transformation – which sheds light on the huge role God has given us to play in our own spiritual transformation toward Christlikeness.

In a nutshell, neurobiology shows us how our habits and character are largely shaped via repetition. For example, if we repetitively practice impatience in our thoughts, actions and feelings, we will most likely become more impatient people.  If we repetitively practice more patient thoughts, actions and feelings, we will most likely become more patient people.

As humans, God has given us the ability to intentionally form and transform our character, made up of the ways we instinctively respond to life. As Christians, God has given us the ability – motivated, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit – to intentionally transform our character toward Christlikeness.  We do this by practicing more Christlike responses – responses rooted in relationship with God, seeking to practice “not my will but yours,” as we respond to our hour by hour situations in life.

As we typically spend our largest share of waking hours working, this means most of our practice (aka “spiritual formation”) opportunities, happen while we are at work. But what does it look like to practice Christlikeness when my boss is micromanaging me, or when my three-year-old refuses to put his shoes on, or when I am confronted with a colossal logistical challenge?

To help people discern and practice more Christlike responses, we’ve created The Call to Work, a workshop-based experience guiding people to attune to God’s presence and guidance to help them respond well to their hour by hour situations of work and life. During the Summit, I’ll be providing a brief overview of the program, and how we create conditions for a deeper, every area of life discipleship journey.  We’ll also have a couple of participants share their experience with the program and this larger concept of creating and practicing more Christlike character.

AK: What inspires you about the Faith and Work movement today?

TM: I am excited to see more and more collaboration between leaders and organizations within the Faith and Work movement.  There is so much to learn from one another and so much to be gained from listening to how God is at work in all our various contexts.

The concepts behind The Call to Work largely came through the collaborative efforts of our Steering Committee and the insights of many other leaders in the movement.  I also sense that God has a fairly specific role in mind for The Call to Work, as just one of the many, many organizations God is orchestrating the paths of to collectively progress the movement.  It is both motivating and freeing to know that The Call to Work is part of a much bigger team.

AK: What do you see as current challenges facing the Faith and Work movement?

TM: We started out with The Call to Work by interviewing dozens of leaders in the movement, asking them a number of questions, including what the biggest challenges facing the movement were.  The two challenges that we sensed God leading us to address through The Call to Work were:

  1. A lack of understanding regarding how to practically apply faith and work concepts, such that it leads to spiritual growth and transformation. People are growing in their cognitive understanding of the theology of work, but only a minority of people are experiencing significant life change.
  2. A lack of lay leadership to help integrate faith and work concepts into the local church. Pastors/church staff are often receptive to faith and work concepts, but lack the bandwidth, experience base and “felt-need” to advance these concepts further into the life of the church.

AK: What are you looking forward to at the Faith at Work Summit?

TM: I’m looking forward to connecting with, listening to and learning from so many of the leading voices and pioneers in the movement.  These are the people whom God continues to use to teach, guide, encourage and inspire me and The Call to Work.

You can learn more about Tracy and The Call to Work athttps://www.thecalltowork.org/

 

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