Q&A with FTN supporter John Manning
1. What does "redeeming vocation" mean and look like for you? Why is loving the nations an important part of that?
I wrestled early in my career with that exact question. I had studied pre-med at Texas A&M University and was trying to discern whether to pursue a path in medicine, ministry, or the marketplace. Through prayer, Bible study, and great conversations with a Christian mentor, I gained the perspective that it's not so much what you do but who you do it for. I could have chosen any of these vocations in order to build my own kingdom. But God desires us to build His kingdom. When you decide to work for God and His glory, there is freedom in whatever calling you pursue.
Today I work in a for-profit company with other believers and we've decided to set our values in a similar way to The Austin Stone—to love God, love the church, love the city, and love the nations. One way we do this is by seeking to invest in eternal things with the money we make. I think of Romans 10:14 and how people won't hear the gospel without someone being "sent" first—goers can't go without senders! There's a lot of joy in being a sender of people to the nations and therefore a part of God's Great Commission.
2. What led you to want to incorporate practices of serving the nations through prayer and giving into your regular rhythms? Was that a challenging thing to begin or maintain over the years?
I realized pretty quickly that it's easy to get excited about sending and supporting goers on the front end of the process as they're stateside preparing to go. It's a lot more difficult to remember to regularly pray and reach out when they're gone—even if you have the best intentions. One way I wanted to pursue intentionality in this area was by incorporating regular rhythms of prayer into our daily meetings at work.
On Thursdays, we pray for the nations. Specifically for the Christian, each of us is called to work to finish the task to see disciples made in all nations. Stopping to pray is such an easy way to remind us of the ultimate purpose of our work. By prioritizing prayer as part of my work day, it doesn't get crowded out by the busyness of life.
3. What would you encourage The Austin Stone body with when it comes to people finding their role whether stateside or overseas in God's Great Commission? Why is it important we all play a part?
God asks us to be faithful in working unto Him—we can't confuse calling with assignment. Calling is what you're made for and what you're wired to do—the unique ways you're gifted to serve the body. Assignment is the expression of those giftings in one's current season of life. When you find those ways, then you can employ them to be a sacrifice to loving the nations and seeing God's kingdom advance in all the earth.
I remember, for me, this was made clear when I went on a vision trip for "business as missions" in 2008 and saw how I could use my role in the marketplace to send many more laborers. I knew my first calling was to love God, my second calling was to love and build up others, but the third calling is contingent on how God has gifted and wired me. When you find that, and it's something I'm still growing in 20 years later, be faithful to use it for the glory of His kingdom!
4. What are some practical ways you'd suggest to someone who wants to love the nations through their vocation here in Austin?
There are three practical was that come to mind—pray, give, and bless.
Start with implementing a regular rhythm of prayer with the team you work with or community you're in. This has become my favorite part of the day and serves as a daily reminder of who we are ultimately working for and why we are doing what we do. Make it specific, too. Is there a goer you're supporting? Is there an area of the world you want to focus on that you can pray for? Then grab a few coworkers or pop on a Zoom call, and pray.
Next is give. Find a specific initiative or opportunity you're interested in—whether it's translating the Bible into a new language or helping a goer build a support team. Then draw attention to that opportunity and invite others to give alongside you.
Last is bless. As believers we should move from transactional relationships in the workplace to relational. Seek to love and spend time with the international coworkers you have, the vendors or clients you regularly interact with, or the people who come from all over the world to Austin. Have a mindset of serving those that you interact with.
To be a sender is not less than. Jesus was a goer, and God the Father was a sender. It is not a matter of better or lesser than. If it's true that "it is better to give than to receive" (and it is!), then there is much joy to be found in praying, giving, and sending. Investing in God's kingdom can produce remarkable returns: thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold.