Southeastern Hosts Second Annual Faith at Work Conference
Chad Burchett | May 06, 2022
On May 6, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) hosted its second annual Faith at Work Conference. Encouraging a missional approach to business, the conference seeks to equip students, alumni, and business leaders to steward the workplace as an opportunity for ministry.
“Over the years we have met with a number of business leaders who ask us how faith intersects with the workplace,” commented Jonathan Six, Acting Vice President of Institutional Advancement. “Therefore, we thought it prudent to provide a resource that could offer ongoing training to business leaders who are seeking to serve Christ in the workplace through their business. At Southeastern, we are deeply committed to helping the Church fulfill the Great Commission, and we believe the marketplace offers a unique opportunity for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be proclaimed.”
At Southeastern, we are deeply committed to helping the Church fulfill the Great Commission, and we believe the marketplace offers a unique opportunity for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be proclaimed.
A seasoned businessman turned informant during the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) price-fixing scandal, the keynote speaker Mark Whitacre shared with attendees about God’s work to transform him from a selfish leader to a servant-hearted leader. At the age of 32, Whitacre accepted a lucrative package to become the president of the biotech division for ADM and the corporate vice president of the company. After Whitacre had become enfolded in ADM’s price-fixing scheme and cartel, Whitacre’s wife Ginger confronted his greed and lack of moral compass and convinced him to go to the FBI. Whitacre had to decide between a long prison sentence or life as an informant, and at the age of 35, Whitacre became the highest-level executive informant for the FBI.
After three years of wearing a wire, Whitacre enabled the FBI to build and close a case against companies that participated in the price-fixing scheme. After complicating the legal process for himself, Whitacre received an eight-and-a-half-year prison sentence, which brought him to the end of himself. After reading about Whitacre in the news, two Christian leaders, Ian House and Chuck Colson, sought Whitacre out and shared the gospel with him, answering Ginger’s decade-long prayer for Whitacre.
Whitacre was converted to faith in Jesus Christ and began discipling others in prison, eventually discipling over sixty inmates during those eight and a half years. “I had been imprisoned to a life of greed, but I became a free man in prison,” Whitacre shared. Having now walked with the Lord for 24 years, Whitacre champions strategic discipleship in the workplace, encouraging Christian business leaders to build Paul-Timothy discipling relationships at their work.
To help attendees strategize how to integrate faith and work into the regular rhythms of the workplace, three experienced business leaders joined Whitacre for a panel discussion led by Benjamin Quinn, Assistant Professor of Theology and History of Ideas and Associate Director of the Center for Faith and Culture at SEBTS. In addition to Whitacre, panelists included Craig Williams, a professor in the College of Business at East Carolina University and former HR executive at various major corporations; Chad Merrill, a successful entrepreneur and corporate leader who founded Impact 2:52; and Bill Peterson, an experienced corporate leader and the founder and managing partner of mpact3.
“Mark Whitacre provided attendees with an amazing story of God’s grace,” shared Jonathan Goforth, Development Officer at SEBTS. “Moreover, his work today along with the panelists’ businesses offer tangible resources for attendees to access in helping them consider how to utilize their business as mission. Attendees of our annual Faith at Work conference are provided tools to help them consider ways that their business culture, finances, and HR, can all be utilized for the kingdom of God and human flourishing.”
Panelists discussed how they have moved toward meaningful engagement with their corporate leaders and employees and how they have instituted internal practices of care and discipleship as well as external practices of community outreach and investment. “No matter what role we are playing in an organization, we are to be the ‘salt’ of Jesus in the workplace. Our work should be a display of worship,” commented Peterson.
No matter what role we are playing in an organization, we are to be the salt of Jesus in the workplace. Our work should be a display of worship, commented Peterson
“Every Christian must ask how they can use their gifts, talents, resources, and careers for the good of others and the glory of God,” shared Seth Brown, Director of Convention Relations for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina — a sponsor of the conference. “I am so thankful for a conference like this to equip business professionals to declare and demonstrate the gospel in the marketplace.”
The date for the 2023 Faith at Work conference is yet to be announced, but SEBTS is excited to continue equipping alumni and business leaders to fulfill the mission in the workplace. Through conferences and resources like Faith at Work, SEBTS provides an enriching support network for alumni and local leaders, helping them glorify King Jesus by serving the Church and fulfilling the Great Commission.
To learn more about Whitacre’s story and his advice for Christian business leaders, check out episode 73 of Southeastern’s Christ and Culture Podcast, entitled “Mark Whitacre: How ‘The Informant’ Learned to Do Things God’s Way.”