The Deacon’s Bench

The Reverend Deacon Paul Bates 

I have been working on a book titled, For Others To Follow: An Ethos of Leadership Grounded In Faith. What follows is an excerpt from the introduction.

Not so long ago, a young man began a career as an auxiliary officer with the British police. It was the first morning of the first day of training for his new assignment. He arrived early for his first class. The first to arrive, he chose a desk in the classroom—two rows back at the left-most end of the row. He positioned his officer’s peaked cap at the front right hand side of his desk, centred his note paper and pen, and waited. Eventually, precisely at the top of the hour, the assigned senior instruction officer arrived. Before the assembled students, the instructor walked directly, in a very straight line, to the young man, to whom he barked, “I’m getting old, and I’m getting cranky! Put your cap on the hook outside, then come back and sit down!”

I expect that we can all recount workplace experiences that were as disappointing. Good, well-intentioned, people sometimes lose their compass. It can happen to us all.

Work can be a struggle. While people take pride in their chosen endeavours, they also experience work-related dissonance, to a lesser or greater extent.

Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.”  Abundance implies plentiful-ness: more than sufficiency. Our expectation of work—our daily contribution to our chosen field of endeavour—should hold the hope that as we contribute to the abundance of the enterprises that we are part of, we too will experience life abundantly—a sense of flourishing. Mary Shideler offers:

To be a person is to act, to work. In working we become our true selves and know ourselves and each other truly. Therefore work which is essentially trivial or shoddy, or consists of making things that are not worth making at all, diminishes the persons who engage in it at every level of production, exchange and use. In contrast, those who love their work, and love to do it well, grow into the full measure of personhood. 

We are called to be people who bring our faith to God’s workplace as God’s revelation unfolds, broken as we are. Work is a human response to a divine call. Thus, leadership becomes practical theology—theology in practice. 

I propose that Spirit-led leadership is a critical, learned, practice if people are to achieve a workplace environment that is conducive to human flourishing. Men and women are defined to a large extent by their profession. Their work shapes, to a considerable degree, their sense of worth and identity as well as their economic circumstances. 

A characteristic of leadership may be described as showing the way, both in the sense of organizing work processes, and in terms of safeguarding the ethos of the workplace.

Practising a life of faith, for many, means finding deep spiritual meaning in the great number of hours to which we devote our working lives—seeing the product of our work, and our contribution to the lives of others—as a commitment to God’s Kingdom. As Christians, we must make a deep commitment to the aspiration that every human being might flourish—to grow vigorously, succeed, thrive, and prosper. True human flourishing can only be achieved when, as Elizabeth Liebert writes, it is through discernment that we, “come to know ourselves in the light of God, thereby coming to know God.”  Given its centrality to our existence and fulfillment as persons, work should lead to this deeper knowledge of God.

As a Deacon I strive to fold together the experiences of my years in corporate, government and academic environments, into a role of listening and encouraging, as the Spirit guides.

Paul is serves as a deacon at Grace Anglican Church in Waterdown.