Methodist Pastor Takes Bible Study to Downtown Houston Law Firm
By Lindsay Peyton
Finding faith in the workplace can often feel like a difficult task. As senior pastor at a church in downtown Houston, Rev. Andy Nixon is making it part of his mission to bring the business world and faith community closer together.
First Methodist Houston was once one of the largest congregations in the country. Members have been drawn to the Gothic exterior and grandiose sanctuary since the church moved to its current location in 1910. Now this historic destination is deep within the hustle of downtown Houston, hidden sometimes amongst the high-rises and office buildings.
The church’s location, neighboring Houston’s business community, got senior pastor Rev. Andy Nixon thinking – and dreaming. What if there were a better way for faith and business to function together? How could the church truly serve its community, which includes the office buildings?
Making Bible study easy for executives seemed like an ideal first step. “We do Bible studies in church all of the time,” Nixon said. “It would be really great to extend that into the city.”
He mentioned the idea during a church service -- and not long after, a lawyer volunteered to start a Bible study group at his firm.
The attorney spread the word to his co-workers, and a group formed about a month ago. They meet at lunch and are working through the Gospel of Matthew.
“It starts a lot of conversation,” Nixon said. “These are educated, smart guys, who are very driven. It gives them a chance to use another part of their brain and to talk about real life and what matters even more to them than being an attorney.”
The pastor explained that often when individuals are at work, they have to put their spirituality on hold for almost the entire day. This can result in feeling somewhat out of touch with identity – and a sense of loneliness.
“A lot of Christians wonder in a workplace, ‘Am I the only one here?’” Nixon said.
He added that sometimes Christians feel forced to focus on the bottom line instead of their ideals, instilled in them through their religion.
“Christians struggle when there’s such a drive for profit,” he said.
The Bible study sessions can serve as a spiritual touchstone, a way to remember other worthy causes and important aspects of life, Nixon said. The group also offers participants a way to connect with like-minded individuals.
“To be there for each other, and to have someone to pray with you, that’s huge,” Nixon said.
The group can also be a means for stress relief, he added. At work, individuals often find themselves competing for advances and promotions. They want to perform at their peak. Bible study gives them an opportunity to reconnect with deeper goals.
“They’re also committed to their faith and want to be good stewards,” Nixon said.
He enjoys seeing this Bible study flourish and hopes they inspire other businesses to host sessions.
“Different work places have different rules, and you have to respect that,” he said. “But there are places that could definitely do this. There’s no pressure, and it’s a great way to get the Word out there.”
It’s also easy for group members. “It’s convenient, because they’re already at work,” Nixon said. “And they have to eat lunch anyway.”
When a Bible study group is not feasible at the office, Nixon said individuals can still take steps to keep their faith and spirituality part of their daily lives.
“Whatever vocation you have, you probably do that more than anything else you do,” he said. “You work more than you are at home.”
Keeping your beliefs alive in that environment is essential. “I think it’s extraordinarily important,” Nixon said. “It makes people healthy and whole. How do I stay a person of faith? There are ways to do that in our world.”
John Esquivel said that people of faith should not have to compartmentalize. He retired as chief ethics and compliance officer and associate general counsel at Shell Oil Company about eight years ago – and now serves as lay leader for the Texas Annual Conference.
Esquivel is also a member of FUMC Houston and attends services at the Westchase campus.
“I came to realize I could not put spirituality on hold,” he said. “I can’t compartmentalize my Christian values and views. If the Word is true, then it’s true in all aspects of my life.”
Esquivel said that upholding those values makes business sense. “It makes good business sense to have a reputation for integrity, to have a reputation for truthfulness and to have a reputation for fairness,” he said. “Studying the word of God brings that to your life and your business life.”
He used to keep a compass on his desk at work as a reminder that he had a guide above to help him. ‘Whenever I felt lost, on a business issue or whatever, I knew I could find that north star and find my way out,” he said. “Prayer and the Bible will guide me home. That will guide me to the right answer.”
For more information about FUMC Houston, visit www.fmhouston.com.