Wheaton College Color Logo
OPUS Faculty Fellows in reading room
Two Girls Talking Together at an Event
Group Photo Inside Meyer Science Center

Opus: The Art of Work

Opus exists to help Wheaton College prepare its students for life-long work that honors God and fosters human flourishing. Through curricular enhancements, staff and faculty development, direct-to-student programming, and speakers, Opus provides resources on vocational discernment, institutional & civic responsibility, and redemptive imagination for the workplace and the world.

Graduating Students at a Graduation Ceremony

Need and Response

Our society faces all manner of challenges related to our work lives including rising student debt, unemployment, dissatisfaction at work, and vocational aimlessness. Opus exists to help Wheaton students begin addressing these issues before they graduate.

The Need and Our Response

Defining Vocation, Work and Career

Vocation is a historical Christian term denoting how we serve God and neighbor through many kinds of work - both paid and unpaid. The Christian idea of vocation points to creative, redemptive, and protective forms of work that honor God and promote the flourishing of others. This category is extensive, as God provides for the needs of his people through the vocations of many.

The Christian Church has historically used the word “vocation” to refer to callings from God. The word is based on the Latin vocare, meaning “to call.” Thus we use “vocation” and “calling” synonymously. In the thought of Martin Luther and John Calvin its usage was expanded from a limited medieval meaning, denoting the special status and calling of the clergy. The Reformers spoke of at least three biblical levels of calling:

  • the Creation calling to be fruitful and multiply and to cultivate and keep the earth (Gen 2:15) and exercise dominion in the earth (Gen 1:26),
  • the Gospel calling to love God and neighbor (Matt 22:37), serving them both by preaching, making disciples, and teaching (Matt 28:16-20) and through practical, physical help (Matt 25:31-46), and
  • the particular callings in which we serve others through our particular gifts, doing all as unto the Lord (Col 3:23).

These particular callings—which are what we usually have in mind today when we say “vocation”—should reflect and help to fulfill the Creation and Gospel callings. They are just as truly kingdom work as are preaching and evangelizing. Through our ordinary vocations, as Luther taught, God meets the needs of all people.

We understand “work” to include all human activities that create value and promote the flourishing of others. This certainly includes unpaid work, such as work done in the raising of a family or in civic participation, volunteering, etc.  But it excludes, for example, activities of consumption or leisure that create no value for others.

In its myriad contexts and permutations, work should be understood as that part of our activity which creates value for others, helping them to flourish. By this definition, all of our work should qualify as “vocation” in the terms described above. However, there are dimensions of what the world recognizes as “work” that do not conduce to the flourishing of others (and the same is true of our careers). But by God’s grace, we can work to bring more and more of these arenas into service of God and neighbor, as true vocations.

"Career" is a term we use to describe an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life and with opportunities for progress. In popular usage, careers usually involve paid work related to institutions that serve the public good.

Technically, “career” implies longitude and progress. A career is the course, or one significant part, of a working life. The English word comes from an old Italian term for “road” or “a running,” which was itself derived from an older Latin word for “chariot.” “Career” was first used to describe the course of a working life in the early 1800's.

Because it points to a progressively growing service in public, paid vocations, “career” implies that we should be wise and practical in stewarding our gifts, abilities, and opportunities for the good of others. Our careers are, for most of us, our primary public vocations, usually carried out within institutions, and usually rewarded with pay—a share in the public value we are helping those institutions to create. However, career is, for the Christian, most fundamentally not about remuneration, but contribution.

Close Up of Chris Armstrong
Meet the Staff

Meet our staff, led by Dr. Chris Armstrong, Director of Opus: The Art of Work.

Our Programs

Grasping the societal and kingdom value of work is central to the call of the Christian. For most of us, work will dominate our waking hours. It will be the primary arena for our personal discipleship, stewardship of talents, and service to the world. This is why Opus seeks to stimulate and support the faithful exploration of vocation across the curriculum as well as in mentoring conversations with staff as well as faculty at Wheaton College. 

Learn More about Opus Programs
Right Align Image

Faculty Fellowship

Every year, Opus selects an interdisciplinary group of faculty to study the literature in several areas including theology of work and vocational discernment processes among millennials and to integrate their learning into their teaching and mentoring. More Information

Staff & Faculty Vocation Seminars

Opus: The Art of Work offers a seminar each semester designed for faculty and staff to explore questions of vocational meaning and purpose for themselves and their students. More Information

Opus Vocation Scholars

Opus Vocation Scholars is an interdisciplinary group of Wheaton faculty convened to generate new scholarship at the intersections between themes of theology of work and human flourishing and their own fields of interest. More Information

Q & A with Opus Leadership

Chris Armstrong:  We are here to help students integrate their faith into their vocational journeys. We often work behind the scenes with faculty and are beginning to contribute to curriculum. 

Ben Norquist:  Opus is at Wheaton to help students catch a vision for meaningful work for their lives. We accomplish this primarily through working with those who work with students.

Ben: We’re bringing current conversations on theology of work and vocational discernment into the culture of the College to help students think beyond making a living to making a life.

Chris:  Protestants have historically recognized two kinds of vocation: general and particular. All Christians share the same general calling: to faith in Christ. Since Christ came to fulfill the Law, we may consider this general Gospel calling to include all that God has commanded—for example, to be fruitful and multiply, to be a good steward, to obey the Ten Commandments, to love God and neighbor. What we usually mean by the word “vocation” in the college setting, however, is our particular vocations. These include our jobs, careers, and family and civic roles—really anywhere we find ourselves in relationships with others. For Christians, all these particular ways we serve others—in the process both “making a living” and “making a life”—both reflect and help to fulfill our general, Gospel calling. Each of our particular vocations is just as truly kingdom work as are the vocations of the preacher or evangelist. And when we submit these particular vocations to our general calling as Christians, we become fruitful in whole new ways—and our identity as workers falls into proper, subordinate relationship to our ultimate source of identity, in Christ.

Vocation? Whatever!

Opus Director, Chris Armstrong, explores his vocational journey and the applications that can be made today.

Watch Video

Our Projects

One of the most important ways that Opus pursues its mission is in the form of purpose-built projects and working groups. This allows Opus to be responsive, relevant, and efficient.

Small Group of People Listening to a Speaker

Making Entrepreneurs

Students are showing increasing interest in preparing for entrepreneurial leadership as seen in a variety of student initiated activities such as an annual startup competition and a student-founded co-working space just off campus. Opus supports these diverse efforts through a new series of opportunities.             

Our People Variant

Social Enterprise Internship Scholarship

The Social Enterprise Internship Scholarship provides funding for rising juniors and seniors to take internships with selected early and mid-stage businesses and nonprofits, led by Christian founders. This program contains opportunities for talented students from almost any major.

Wheaton College Campus Blanchard

Curricular Development

The center of the Wheaton experience is located in the classroom. It’s for this reason that Opus creates and offers curricular resources to Wheaton faculty designed to relate faith, work and vocation to the range of subjects taught at Wheaton.

Our People Variant

Collaborative Projects

Opus does not operate alone. We work collaboratively, seeking to pursue our mission alongside other departments on campus and mission-relevant organizations from around the country.

Our People Variant

Research

As with all organizations, Wheaton College benefits by the presence of reliable data for its strategic planning and decision-making processes. That’s why Opus conducts research on key programs that impact student vocational preparation.

Student Discussion in the Classroom
Invest in Opus

An investment in Opus is a strategic gift that will help prepare students for their future vocations for many years to come.

Buswell Memorial Library

Take Advantage of Our Resources

On behalf of the college, Opus collects and makes available a wide variety of helpful faith and work resources, including books, articles, videos and audio clips. The Opus resource collection on faith, vocation, and work is available in Buswell Library at Wheaton College. 

See Our Resources
Micro Content
Meet Our Alumni

Opus serves Wheaton's students both directly, and by serving our faculty and staff. The "alumni" of our programs are the real stars: through their participation in Opus programming on vocation and work, students prepare for vital kingdom roles in their future vocations and careers.

  • Connect with Us

  • Opus: The Art of Work
    501 College Ave
    Wheaton, IL 60187
  • 630.752.7297
    opus@wheaton.edu