By John D. Pierce

A common introductory question is, “What to you do?”

The response is usually tied to one’s profession or educational pursuits.

Follow-up questions and responses often lead to connections — or at least the sharing of more information.

Those in sales or fundraising are encouraged to develop and deliver an “elevator pitch” that succinctly and persuasively describes a product or service in the time it takes to travel a short distance vertically.

Brevity and clarity are good in most cases. But how one responds to an initial inquiry may depend on what seems appropriate to share at the moment.

Over the years I’ve responded to the question (which I assume to be vocationally oriented) in a variety of ways from simply, “I work in publishing,” to more detailed descriptions.

At times I’ve said that I write, edit and beg. Then await the obvious follow-up questions.

Words matter, so I’m careful in their use and often discuss among our talented team the shared and consistent use of terminology related to our “expanding publishing ministry.” Such care and consistency avoids some miscommunication and clarifies our mission as well as specific offerings.

For example, we try to be consistent in what we call the various aspects of our weekly Nurturing Faith Bible Studies including the online teaching resources. And we do not refer to our Nurturing Faith Experiences as “tours” but rather personal experiences (since we don’t dress people in matching shirts and herd them along).

Words are our tools, and the basic material of our craft. So we pay attention to how we use them to describe what we offer and in how they form the very products and services we provide.

“What” one does is often communicated more clearly by “why” one does it. That is, the philosophy behind one’s work is an important part of one’s work. It conveys the values, purpose and mission.

Recently, I began using three words to describe the expanding work of Nurturing Faith that might help guide and explain our mission more clearly. At the least, they are goals.

INTELLIGENT – We want our work to be thoughtful, not careless. This doesn’t imply superior thinking or a know-it-all attitude. It just means we are not intellectually lazy.

For too long Christian laypersons have been talked down to and had their intelligence insulted. This is especially true in Sunday school settings.

The Nurturing Faith Bible Studies by Tony Cartledge (both the weekly lessons in Nurturing Faith Journal and short-term, thematic series) are scholarly, yet applicable. I have a file of responses from those who attest to learning biblical insights never before offered in such a format.

Nurturing Faith Books are also published with the goal of helping us to love God with our minds, hearts and souls.

ADVENTUROUS – Life may be best described as a journey or adventure. The mind and heart are often expanded by exposure to new people, places and ideas. We have that in mind when producing content for Nurturing Faith Journal.

Also, Nurturing Faith Experiences provide such opportunities from one-day events on the Civil War or Civil Rights, to week-long experiences in national parks of the west or on the Big Island of Hawaii with a gifted scientist.

Nothing inhibits our growth more than an adventure-free approach to life that simply reinforces what we already know (or assume) and have experienced before.

COMPASSIONATE– There is so much anger out there today, yet the defining characteristic of God is love. It is how Jesus said his followers are to be known as well.

Therefore, compassion must guide and infuse everything we do. The emerging Truth & Justice Project, led by Bruce Gourley, will develop new Nurturing Faith resources and services to help us be more compassionate and caring in a world often in conflict. We believe what Jesus said about “the least of these.”

I’m not sure my initial responses to the question of “What do you do?” will change very much. But now I look for opportunities to express how Nurturing Faith is evolving and expanding with its strategic offerings — often in collaboration with others who share our values.

And “what we do” will be intentionally intelligent, adventurous and compassionate. Because that seems like a faithful and meaningful way to live.

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