Faith, Work & Technology: A Conference Reflection

Have you ever experienced that much of what you learn from a conference comes from outside the time spent AT the conference? That’s definitely been my experience of the Faith and Work Conference. The value of attending a conference is in:

  1. New Information
  2. New Connections
  3. New Insights and Awareness

At the Faith and Work Conference 2016, I learned a great deal of new information. The conference is hosted by the Center for Faith and Work, the cultural renewal arm of the Redeemer movement, connected to Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. The center focuses on helping workers in all different walks of life see the work they do in relationship to their faith and the intersection of the two.

Work is how we live out our role in the Kingdom of God – what we do, when we recognize it and live intentionally into where God is calling us – is Kingdom work. We do this Kingdom work in whatever sphere of work we engage in. Kingdom work isn’t just done in churches; the majority of Kingdom work is done outside the church.

This year’s conference theme was “The Wonder and Fear of Technology”. Addressing technology in relationship to Faith and Work made the conference more full and robust. This focus flipped my thought process.

Conference Insights

Did you know technology was used in the Bible? I connect the word technology to computers, smartphones and social media. But I learned technology means so much more. The folks at the Center for Faith and Work define technology more broadly. They connect it to the story of creation, where we are called to fill the earth and subdue it. Subduing the earth requires technology. For example, a simple lever is technology. When we consider technology in this framework, technology is an extension of who we are.

Uses of technology are potentially good. Technology brought us the app that provided speaker and attendee profiles for connections, the schedule and polling opportunities for each speaker topic. From a travel standpoint, the Uber app allowed me great flexibility in getting from one place to another in a vast city.

The speakers addressed many different facets of technology, from the possibilities to the costs. The relationship between work and technology was ever in front of us. One of our most impactful speakers was Derek Thompson, senior editor for The Atlantic, who addressed the meaning of work and what happens when we lose that, both as individuals and as a society. He wrote an in-depth article focused on what happens when we lose the structure of work in a community. The community where he did a great deal of his research is Youngstown, Ohio. As an Ohioan myself, this was quite interesting. His definition of work really struck me. He says work equals industriousness. Work provides three things:

  1. The production of the world
  2. Income
  3. Purpose

In his research for the article, he studied not just the financial impact, but the social impact of losing the sources of jobs in the Youngstown area. The costs have been high in many ways. You can read the article here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/07/world-without-work/395294/

Costs of Technology

Technology impacts our work in many ways. The costs are both opportunities and problems.

  1. Good – Accomplishing tasks is made easier through technology. Each of us experiences multiple benefits from technology daily. Just word processing instead of a typewriter is a huge benefit for me! Then there are the benefits of my smartphone, the spoon, the microwave oven, the stove, the refrigerator, the hot water heater, the list is endless!
  2. Bad – Job loss can be related to technology. In certain sectors of the economy, human contributions are replaced by technology.
  3. Ugly – Technology makes exploitation of others easier. There is a reason we have epidemics of pornography and other vices. The internet and social media provide a pathway for exploitation and unprecedented access to destructive materials. Social media and technology also have a dark side that interferes with developing relationships as a developmental part of growing up.

Conference Attendance Benefits

It’s been a while since I attended a live conference. I expected new information and insights, but I came away with a treasure trove of new information, as well as new connections that are leading to lots of unexpected interaction and opportunity.

Attending this conference stretched me outside my comfort zone. It gave me new knowledge, new insights and new connections – both in my knowledge and in my network. As has happened when I attended conferences in the past, I am seeing the fruit of the connections start to appear.

When was the last time you attended a conference that stretched you? What conference will you attend in 2017 that can stretch you in new directions?

Listen to this week’s podcast here.

Resources:

Center for Faith and Work: https://www.faithandwork.com/

Faith and Work Conference: http://www.cfwconference.com/

A World without Work, Derek Thompson’s article in The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/07/world-without-work/395294/

Every Good Endeavor, by Timothy Keller

American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, by Nancy Jo Sales

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Rhonda

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