As a businessman in the mid-90’s, Hugh Whelchel didn’t understand God’s will for his work.
He didn’t think that his business vocation mattered to God.
After all, how could his secular work further the kingdom of God?
But what God showed him next changed his life forever.
Whelchel was good at what he did, but he didn’t often think about the link between his work and his walk with Christ.
“The idea that my vocational work mattered to God never crossed my mind,” he admitted.
Whelchel was actively involved in his church outside of work, and he thought that his service to the church was all he could for God directly.
“If you had asked me, ‘what are you doing to further the kingdom of God,’ I would have answered, ‘I am an elder at my church, teach adult Sunday school, and work with several non-profit organizations,’” Whelchel said.
“I believed that as a Christian I should work in an ethical manner and take every opportunity to share my faith,” he continued. “Beyond that I saw no connection between my faith and my work.”
Whelchel’s internal struggle came to a head when he was faced with an intriguing question at a business conference.
One of the speakers asked the audience, “If you went home tonight and found that a long-lost relative had died and left you ten million dollars, would you be at work tomorrow?”
“A resounding ‘NO!’ came from all around the arena,” Whelchel remembered, and that answer was no surprise to him.
Many Americans report a strong dislike for their jobs, especially with the rise of 50-hour-plus work weeks and long commutes.
Even Christians are often in this group.
“For many Christians, work is often only a means to an end,” Whelchel reflected. “Many Christians have… been misled by the sacred/secular distinction, which teaches that working in the church is the only ‘real’ full-time Christian service.”
Even though the Bible teaches us to do everything “as to the Lord” (Colossians 3:23), there’s a prevailing idea in the modern church that our everyday jobs aren’t as holy as missions work or full-time pastorship.
Whelchel finally realized that this mindset wasn’t healthy for Christians.
“When I heard that question, ‘If you inherited a fortune, would you be at work tomorrow?’ I remember thinking, ‘Absolutely not!’” Whelchel said.
“I would quit my job and do something important for God, maybe go to seminary, become a pastor or possibly go on the mission field,” he continued.
“Yet even in that moment I knew something was wrong with this picture. I had a growing feeling that there was a greater purpose for work than just making money to pay the bills and give to the church and good causes.”
Whelchel eventually did go to seminary to study the issue of work, vocation, and serving God in the secular workplace. His study led him to start a ministry of his own: The Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics (IFWE).
IFWE exists “to educate and inspire Christians to live out a Biblical theology that integrates faith, work, and economics.” The organization seeks to advance “a free and flourishing society by revolutionizing the way people view their work.”
The ministry offers education on how God calls Christians to work for His glory, no matter the task (1 Corinthians 10:31). IFWE combines theological research and economic principles to help believers practice their faith in their workplaces.
The organization encourages Christians to view their day-to-day, “secular” work as an opportunity to serve God and further His kingdom, rather than a necessary evil to support their “sacred” work with the church.
For this purpose, IFWE provides resources such as blogs, videos, campus programs, online courses, and small group studies. These resources educate Christians from all walks of life on the Biblical connections between faith, economics, and work.
“Whether you are a student, business leader, homemaker, or even in-between jobs, we welcome you here and pray that our material is both relevant and revolutionary,” IFWE writes.
As the founder of IFWE, Whelchel is energized by the idea of bringing all work under the “comprehensive Lordship of Christ” (Matt. 28:18).
He encourages all believers to seek God’s will for their work, whether they are pastors, students, businesspeople, or stay-at-home parents.
“This is what we call whole-life, wholehearted stewardship,” Whelchel says of IFWE’s mission. “Properly understood, this biblical doctrine of work can give great insight and purpose to our daily work powerfully impacting the word for Christ.”
To learn more about IFWE, or to take advantage of the resources available, visit the organization’s website!