Because of LICC | Chanelle Leher: Civil Servant of the Lord
Four ordinary Christians share their transformative experiences with LICC – and how God’s working through them today. A civil servant in the Department for ...
Over the past 40 years, Stephen has worked advising governments and companies in power-related transactions. He’s been involved in deals that have had a huge economic and environmental impact. So why does he do his job? Spoiler: it’s not about the money, but rather the glory of God and the good of others. Read on to discover more of his story…
From childhood, it had been impressed on Stephen that he needed to do a job that would make a positive contribution to society – something that would make a meaningful difference, that would help further the common good.
After reading physics at the University of Oxford, he took a job in nuclear engineering. He designed new plants and equipment, and, in his words, he thought it was ‘the best job in the world’. Then came Chernobyl. This epochal explosion led to the decimation of trust in nuclear power. And, together with the discovery of North Sea gas, it became obvious nuclear power development would at least be paused for some time to take stock.
So, Stephen decided to draw on the skills and experiences he’d gained as an engineer and sidestepped into giving financial advice for the construction of power stations and gas lines. Since then, he’s been involved in a huge number of energy deals, and spends his days advising CEOs, government officials, and other big cheeses on all things power.
It’s a job that comes with huge responsibility, and it’s a responsibility Stephen takes very seriously. He recognises his deals have the potential to have massive economic, environmental, and personal impacts – so it’s important to try to get them right. As a result, he spends significant time considering the advice he’ll give companies. We’re called to do all we can to make a positive impact on the people and the world, wherever we are and whatever we do.
With all that in mind, when asked why he does his job, Stephen says: ‘Can I make a difference? Yes. Is it positive and constructive? Yes. I try to put the best that I have and am into my work underpinned by Christian principles of truth, integrity, and humility. I’m inspired by the example of Jesus. I work because I want to contribute to making our world a better place. That’s a motivation to get out of bed in the morning.’
For some, the words ‘positive contribution’ and ‘nuclear power’ don’t sit easily – how does Stephen reconcile the lives lost at Chernobyl with his choice of career? Well, Stephen does feel a strong need to act in good conscience and to promote good, fair, and just practices and business deals. Having dug deep into the mechanics of what happened at Chernobyl, he believes everyone in the nuclear industry has an obligation to consider and implement prevention strategies to prevent any future disasters. He remarks:
‘Especially as a Christian, you must look critically and honestly at these safety questions. It’s very important there are no more accidents – it would be wrong to just keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best just for reasons of toeing the line. The evidence shows that the actual risks are negligible, but the perceived risks can readily be fuelled by journalists and popular TV series: danger equals excitement, and so stories about the unbridled power of nuclear energy generate headlines and spark sales. But that said, we must respect the fact that some people are uneasy about the concept of nuclear power.
‘For example, the industry therefore builds power stations nowadays on pre-existing nuclear sites, away from population centres to reduce worry and fear. There is greater deference to these concerns today than, say, forty years ago, as government and corporations acknowledge a bigger picture perspective, not just to consider the economic benefits – there’s consideration of other stakeholders too.’
Stephen also notes that nuclear power, and electricity more broadly, underpin so much good – healthcare, food production, and heating to name just three examples. A sustainable and secure energy supply is foundational for the flourishing and functioning of society.
Aside from the pressures of big deals, what are the specific challenges Stephen faces as a Christian in a high-profile job?
Well, he notes that non-believers are inclined to think faith is a crutch for those who cannot face up to the world by themselves. This can lead to them questioning the strength of your character and leadership. We live in a deeply cynical society and are often judged by preconceived ideas about our faith rather than its lived reality. In Stephen’s words:
‘To announce your Christian faith in the workplace can often be interpreted as synonymous with admitting weakness. And, by and large, we like our leaders to be strong. But, for me, it’s okay to acknowledge that I’m not all-powerful and things happen that are outside of one’s control. My faith creates a reliable, decent, and consistent basis to react, whatever happens.
‘Though, I must say this is harder when you’re young and trying to build a career in a competitive environment – it’s much easier once you’re established in a corporation. It’s also a concern nowadays that Christians can be branded as intolerant. Sadly, some people find this narrative persuasive even though it is irrational as it directly contradicts our core directive to love our neighbours.’
He tries to let this shape his attitude towards all those he encounters in his workplace. After all, God works in and through us as we reflect his character.
In fact, this was how God drew Stephen to faith. He’d heard about Jesus whilst at school through daily chapel services and the witness of a friend, but had never given him more than a passing thought until he was at a stag do in his late 30s. The best man was animated and funny, but what was magnetic about him was his vibrant and joy-filled faith – a faith that spilled into every area of his life. He wasn’t rich in earthly terms but had true and eternal wealth because of his faith in Christ. What an amazing example of how God works through our actions and attitudes to draw others to himself, and to build his kingdom here on earth.
So, how do power-related transactions bring glory to God? Well, by spending his days scrutinising investment deals and labouring to maintain energy security in the United Kingdom, Stephen is investing in the kingdom. He tries to be a mouthpiece for truth and justice, making good work, modelling godly character, and using his gifts and talents to make this world a better place, and to point to the eternal hope he has in Christ – and this is our calling, too.
Stephen was speaking to Sophie Sanders, Marketing & Communications Executive, LICC