The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are conducted and condensed by Bethany L. Jenkins, director of TGC’s Every Square Inch.
Bryan Lair is the lead pastor at Trinity City Church, a church plant that launched three-and-a-half years ago in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He graduated from the University of Northwestern in Saint Paul with a BA in biblical studies, and he holds an MDiv from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. You can follow him on Twitter.
Why did you start a church in Minneapolis-St. Paul?
Even though I grew up in the farmlands of southern Minnesota, I came to love cities and campus ministry when I worked in the Chicago area during and after seminary. So when my family moved to St. Paul, we wanted to plant a church in the city and for the city. The church sits between each downtown and in the midst of several colleges and universities. Even as a recently planted church, we’re about to send out a team to start another church near the University of Minnesota.
How does this setting shape the culture of your church?
In addition to having a lot of young professionals, we also have many college students. About a third of our congregation is made up of college students from a variety of schools across the metro area—-the University of Saint Thomas, Macalester College, and others. Both of these groups want to work for the common good, not just a paycheck. They want to connect their vocation to the grander narrative of the gospel.
TGC’s Theological Vision for Ministry actually inspired our church’s approach of faith and work. We believe God calls us to be stewards who integrate our faith with our work, that is, to work with distinctiveness, excellence, and accountability, and to develop business environments that can bring a measure of healing to God’s creation.
In practice, how do you embed this teaching into the ethos of your church?
Right now, since we’re still somewhat small, we’re organic about it. From the pulpit, I try to cast the vision of a holistic gospel. We also try to integrate its importance within discipleship and mentorship relationships. Since our community groups talk about working out the gospel in our daily lives, issues of occupation, calling, and vocation naturally come up, because work is a major part of what we do everyday.
How is this perspective shaping those in your congregation?
I’ll give you an example. We work closely with a college ministry that has an ESL program for international students. We recently baptized a student from a country in the Middle East. He has lost friends and added tension with family members back home. After he graduates, he plans to return home and work in the marketplace. Since he may not be in an environment where he can share his faith openly with his colleagues, especially not at first, he longs for a robust theology of work. We’re working with our partner ministry to provide that framework for him. From international students to young professionals, this vision of vocation gives new hope by showing them their field of work is part of God’s mission in the world.
What is your vision for the future?
As we grow, I’m sensing the need to do something more formal for our congregation. College students, in particular, have told me that they are looking for something they can put on their résumé—-like a fellows or internship program—-to equip them for stewardship and leadership in the marketplace. We’re reaching out to other ministries in our city, such as MacLaurinCSF, to collaborate on some efforts. Also, our church recently launched its first “vocational internship.” We worked with a writing major who used her God-given talents to launch a blog and write the history of our church as part of a journalism school project. We’ll continue to build on these ideas in the future.