What We Do
November 20, 2017
What, exactly, does Opus do at Wheaton College?
We’re glad you asked . . .
Wheaton College makes it our mission to prepare prospective students to “make an impact in the world for Christ and his kingdom.” If the College is to fulfill this mission, we must help our students discover vocational purpose and prepare spiritually and practically for faith-work integration and civic and marketplace influence.
The front page of the College’s new website describes our mission to potential students like this: Wheaton “will prepare you to go out and make an impact in the world for Christ and his kingdom.” We’re saying this: If you come to Wheaton, we will help you become someone who will serve God and others effectively in your future work. You’ll make a real difference—a distinctly Christian difference—in the world. You will experience work not just as a practical necessity, but also as a meaningful, impactful vocation.
This is the same mission President Ryken describes in his strategic priority for excellence in the liberal arts—the mission to teach “the value of the liberal arts as vocational preparation, with the understanding that ‘vocation’ refers not only to one’s career, but more broadly to the multiple callings of a Christian life that takes the lead in serving God and others.”
Fulfilling this mission means helping our students discover vocational purpose and prepare for faith-work integration, the building blocks for Christian influence in their future lives and careers.
Living out Christian vocation in a secular world
The plain fact is that after graduation, many of our students will enter jobs in institutions that have no explicit Christian mission. And they may struggle. Many Christians today certainly do!
Most commonly, the church gives Christian workers in presumably secular settings a circumscribed vision: protect your Christian testimony against temptations and idolatries, share the Gospel with others, and send some money to church-sponsored work—where God’s mission is really served.
What’s missing is a vision of how the world’s many institutions are already serving God by providing for, protecting, and healing the people He created, and how Christians can help them do this even better in and through their work. To find vocational purpose, integrity, and influence, our students must discover what God is already doing in their workplaces and commit themselves to it. They must expect more from their work than just a paycheck or a platform for evangelism—though those, too, are good things.
This is why Opus is here at Wheaton College: to help prepare our students theologically and spiritually for a bigger vision of work in the world. Because they’re going to need it. And this is true not just for those entering marketplace jobs, but also for those in Christian-mission-driven organizations (who will both rely on and support their brothers and sisters in secular employment).
Purpose, integrity, and influence. Growing into these fully will take many years on the job. But we can start our students on the path to them now, during their college years. In fact, the mission of the College depends on it.
Opus serves this college priority in three ways:
First, by bringing a faithful, consistent theological language to our campus conversations about vocation. This language frames
- vocation in terms of image-bearing and communal responsibility as well as discernment of individual gifts,
- work in terms of common good as well as individual action,
- the mission of the Christian in terms of the Love Commandment as well as the Great Commission, and
- the kingdom of God in terms of God’s care for all people materially and socially as well as spiritually.
These are not abstract theological ideas. They apply directly to the urgent practical task of developing the vocational purpose and Christian integrity necessary to influence seemingly secular workplaces for Christ.
Second, Opus helps our faculty and staff integrate this fuller vision of vocation into their teaching and mentoring—through fellowships, seminars, research support, and curricular resources. If our students are to be prepared for lives of Christian purpose, integrity, and influence in their future work, they will need to experience teaching and mentoring enlivened by this understanding—and not just from one or two staff or faculty members, but in every part their Wheaton experience.
And third, we bring this vision directly to students, through such services as internship opportunities, lectures, and seminars.
In these ways and more, Opus supports Wheaton’s promise to “prepare students to go out and make an impact in the world for Christ and his kingdom,” wherever their working lives take them.