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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Interview: Faith, tech, and workplace groups

Recently, LICC’s Josh Hinton caught up with Stephen Doel, who’s worked in the tech industry for the past 25 years. Stephen believes our Christian faith has real value in our workplaces – for us, our colleagues, and our customers. He’s also benefited hugely from being part of a Christian group at work.

 

 

JH: Hi, Stephen! First of all, tell us a bit about your career so far.

Stephen: Back in the early 2000s, I joined a UK tech company, which was a reasonable size back then, and these days is huge. I started off as a project manager, then moved into being an operations manager. My main responsibilities were to keep a particular business unit working smoothly and efficiently: to lead change, oversee the finances, and to make sure we had the right people. This summer, having been there for over 20 years, I moved to another company.

 

JH: And have you been a Christian throughout this whole time?

Stephen: Yes! I found out about the project manager role through a Christian friend who already worked there. Not long before I joined, he’d sent an email round the company saying he was a Christian, and he’d love to know if there were other Christians within the company. That simple email turned into a group of around 20 Christians meeting together each Monday to eat, read the Bible, and pray together. It was great to start off in the company with that already in place.

 

JH: That sounds great! Tell me more.

Stephen: Yeah, it’s been a really important part of my life over the last 20 years. We read through different books of the Bible, sometimes encountering some of the famous workers in the Bible, but also looking at some less obviously work-related passages. And we always finish by asking ourselves the same question: ‘how am I going to take this into my work this afternoon?’ The spreadsheets I’m making, the relationships I’m building, the emails I’m writing.

I’ve found that enormously helpful; to be reading about Daniel, Joseph, Paul’s letters, and thinking about it from a workplace perspective. It’s about connecting the Bible to the actual work we do, as well as our relationships at work. If you look at the beginning of Genesis, the first thing God gives Adam is work to do, and a relationship – so these seem like pretty significant areas to focus on!

 

JH: It sounds brilliant – I’m sure lots of people would love to be part of a group like that. Can you tell us a bit about how being part of that group has helped you?

Stephen: Well, it taught me about the importance of connecting faith to work. I spend most of my day in the workplace, so I’ve realised that my mission field is in the workplace. I seek to bless those around me with the work I do, and to honour God through the work I do. I guess I get some of that teaching at church, but a lot of it comes from the group.

It’s also the benefit of being in relationship with one another. I’ve been supported pastorally and have likewise supported others. That’s really helpful, because the kind of pastoral support you get at the company is good, but obviously it doesn’t come from a Christian faith perspective. Being able to get alongside each other – both in personal and work situations – has been so helpful.

 

JH: How does the wider company view this group – this bunch of Christians that meets together to pray and study the Bible on company premises?

Stephen: Back in the day, we were completely accepted by the company. Some of the senior leaders were Christians, and that probably helped. As the company changed and evolved, some of that feeling of welcome began to disappear, particularly as policies were introduced that appeared to separate religion from the workplace. This reached a low point when we went to put on a company Christmas carol service, but weren’t allowed to publicise it at all within the company because it had religious content!

But as Diversity and Inclusion became more important, the pendulum started to swing back, and various groups were founded – groups for women, people with different sexual identities, different ethnic heritage, and neurodiversity. Coupled with this, the pandemic really highlighted people’s spiritual needs, and so I got in touch with the Diversity & Inclusion team about our group, and how it was an important part of our identity. They were really positive: it was a way we could be explicit in bringing our identity into the workplace.

By the time I left, our Christian group was one of the company’s official Employee Communities – and a member of the Executive Team was the main speaker at our company carol service, that we hosted on the company’s facilities!

 

JH: As well as your Christian faith and this group being good for you, and for the Christians who are part of it, do you think there are any ways it’s good for the company, and those the company seeks to serve?

Stephen: Yes, in all kinds of ways. When we pray together, it’s not just praying for each other, but also for the leaders of the company, our customers, our colleagues – at one point the previous CEO got in touch to thank us for this. And as well as being able to pastorally support my Christian colleagues, I’ve been able to be there for my non-Christian colleagues too. And at an away-day for our senior leadership team, when we had to describe each other with single words, the main words people used to describe me were about my integrity and my faith – I was pleased about that.

It’s also about the actual work we do. So much of what we do – both in my previous company and my current one – is really ground-breaking. God has given us this unbelievable world, and in his goodness is revealing it to us through brilliant minds and new technologies. It’s my privilege to be somewhere that’s constantly finding ways to make people’s lives simpler and better. And it’s not just about me doing this. Through my role I’m enabling others to do that – to make it as easy as possible for them to do that.

 

JH: There might be people who hear what you’ve said about being part of a workplace group, and think ‘I’d love to have something like that in my workplace!’ What would you say to them?

Stephen: I would definitely encourage them to set something up in their own workplace. I’ve certainly seen the value of doing it. People often say, ‘I don’t think there are any other Christians in my company’. But I work on the statistic that one in every 14 people are a practising Christian, so chances are there are some Christians in your workplace! Find ways to find out who they are, and to encourage one another.

One of the things I do is to keep my Bible on my desk. Partly this is for personal accountability, but also so other Christians see it. I also keep a card from LICC’s Fruitfulness on the Frontline resource on my desk, which reminds me what it means to be fruitful. This is also something other Christians can see. And in my work relationships, I aim to make sure people know I’m a Christian within a few minutes of meeting me. So yes, have confidence in making your faith known and try to find out who the other Christians are, so you don’t feel so isolated.

I would also encourage them to connect with organisations equipping Christians in the workplace like LICC, TransformWork UK and Faith in Business. For example, I went to a Faith in Business conference, and it was transformational for me – hearing business leaders talk about their struggles, their temptations, and the difficulties of laying off staff and that kind of thing; not just the blessings, but also the difficulties of being a Christian leader. I found it so helpful to be among people who were honest and biblical about leading companies.

TransformWork UK has a huge database of Christian workplace groups and organisations – if you go to their website, you may find there is one in your company already! And I’ve found it really helpful to use LICC’s resources, especially the book Thank God it’s Monday, and Fruitfulness on the Frontline.

Comments

  1. This is a most encouraging and important contribution by Josh. It shows how God can overrule competing interest in the workplace and use His servants in any environment for His glory. It also highlights the importance of LICC and other ministries highlighted in reaching others for Christ on the frontline and encouraging fellow believers. Keep going for His glory!

    By Uel  -  31 Dec 2022
  2. Now a retired Pastor Emeritus, thank you for the encouraging interview. I know one thing, if we are not ashamed of Christ then He will not be ashamed of us when our time comes to leave this earth. Before our 20yrs missionary in Romania which ended in 2015
    my late husband and I were in secular work and I am so grateful your interviewee encouraged everyone to start or become a part of a Christian group in the workplace.

    By Florence Holmes  -  31 Dec 2022
  3. Thank you Josh and Stephen. I call myself a Workplace (Frontline) minister since 2000. When I left my day job in 2006, I have made it my personal mission to encourage Christians to practice their Faith wherever they find them selves.
    Will you give me permission to quote from the article and to repost on social media?

    Blessings

    Mike Smith

    By Mike Smith  -  31 Dec 2022

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