COBA has a rich heritage of faculty members who contribute to helping the college excel in many areas. This is shown in several ways – research being one of them. Faculty members Dr. Monty Lynn, Dr. Sarah Easter, and Dr. Ryan Jessup- all professors in the Management Sciences Department – recently finished a collaborative project titled: “Harmonizing Work and Faith”, which was completed with the help of music professor and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Greg Straughn. “COBA faculty engage in creative research which keeps them sharp and contributes to knowledge,” Dr. Monty Lynn explained.
Dr. Lynn shared that the project’s inspiration stemmed from a common interest in seeing how Christians approach and practice business, both in the past and today. They came across a database of Christian hymns that peaked their curiosity earlier this summer, and the question was posed: What message do Christians communicate to each other in worship regarding work and do these messages change over time?
The three COBA faculty were very familiar with conducting research, but knew they needed professional insight into ‘hymnology’ – the study of hymns – in order to enrich and deepen their findings. They reached out to Dr. Straughn who graciously agreed to contribute to the project.
The specifics of their research focused on hymns written between the years 1500 and 2000, with content addressing vocation. They applied qualitative research methods and identified 28 different messages Christians sing about regarding work. Some of the themes that emerged were being diligent in our work, work can be offered to God in worship, and work can be toilsome.
Looking to see if these messages have shifted over time, the team found strong stability in the themes – with occasional shifts. These shifts seemed to align with different global events at the time which largely impacted the world.
For example, the theme of being rewarded for faithful work, both here and in Heaven, is strong. Yet, the theme declines after World War II, as the theme of solidarity with global workers rises. These findings, along with others, are shown in the data.
Lynn added, “For those who might say hymns are fading from many worship assemblies, we’re happy to report that contemporary music still connects with work – often indirectly, but sometimes in wonderful ways such as the hymns produced by The Porter’s Gate, such as their ‘Wood and Nails’ and ‘Your Labor is Not in Vain’.” The group presented their research at the Christian Business Faculty Association at John Brown University and their findings were highlighted on the Hymnary.org site (click here to read).
The group’s hope is that this study will be helpful in understanding the meaningfulness and spirituality of vocation. Speaking for all the contributors, Lynn closed with this: “This project was a distinct pleasure because of the complementary skills of the researchers and because we couldn’t help but sing our data!”