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Power Trips

August 26, 2010

Great article in Wall Street Journal this past week about the Abuse of Power by Jonah Lehrer. He starts off saying …

[power1]” When CEO Mark Hurd resigned from Hewlett-Packard last week in light of ethics violations, many people expressed surprise. Mr. Hurd, after all, was known as an unusually effective and straight-laced executive. But the public shouldn’t have been so shocked. From prostitution scandals to corruption allegations to the steady drumbeat of charges against corporate executives and world-class athletes, it seems that the headlines are filled with the latest misstep of someone in a position of power.
This isn’t just anecdotal: Surveys of organizations find that the vast majority of rude and inappropriate behaviors, such as the shouting of profanities, come from the offices of those with the most authority.
Psychologists refer to this as the paradox of power. The very traits that helped leaders accumulate control in the first place all but disappear once they rise to power. Instead of being polite, honest and outgoing, they become impulsive, reckless and rude. In some cases, these new habits can help a leader be more decisive and single-minded, or more likely to make choices that will be profitable regardless of their popularity. One recent study found that overconfident CEOs were more likely to pursue innovation and take their companies in new technological directions. Unchecked, however, these instincts can lead to a big fall.”
The key to this article is a question for everyone in the marketplace – which actually can be a place of common ground for leaders in any organization whether or not they are Christian, athiests, or agnostics – What is the “check” in “unchecked.”

For the most part (except for the most deluded) everyone can acknowledge that they have bad days and (as the Apostle Paul once said) do that which they hate, the things that are part of our “old man”, dark side – some might even dare say sin – which creeps up on us.

How do you deal with it?  For me the answer lies in the idea of repentance.

In repentance we acknowledge “the check” in unchecked.  I am not master of my own destiny (an influencer perhaps.) I am prone to sin and error; I need a good team around me; and I am not an island.   I am capable of mistakes, and I am also capable of owning them and (with God’s help) turning from them to not be owned by them.   Unfortunately power unchecked is rarely accompanied by humility.   Acknowledging mistakes and awareness of the ability to make them are the very thing which can build community and authority, to put group consensus and appropriate respect back into the ranks of the powerful.

Mark Hurd probably wishes he hadn’t been so arrogant that he couldn’t have admitted his mistakes earlier.  I’m almost sure from the circumstances that have played out publicly that he lacked a community that kept him accountable, and the internal drive (from an external Force) that is necessary to admit one’s mistakes before it is too late.

For more on the issues that this contemporary example brings up take a look at the following Moment of Truths in Professionals: Men and Women Partnering with the Trinity in Everyday Life. # 14 The Paradox of Servant Leadership, #18 Communicate with Integrity, #19 Sex sells but what have we bought, and #27 Go Natural.

Blessings on your day!  May you be given the Power to repent deeply.


No Regrets in Christ

August 3, 2010

I want to share with you an excerpt of life from my new friend Harvey Armour who I recently gathered with for lunch; and then comment on some underlying thoughts I have about his ‘condition.’   I think there are hundreds of thousands of men just like Harvey in the church, who don’t buy into the role of spirituality proposed by popular evangelicalism and who long for more, but lack models of what that might look like.

To start us off I’ll let Harvey do the talking …

“When I was in my mid-30s … my wife expressed to me that she would really like me to join her in seeking to take our life as Christians to a higher level.  I told her that I was content to be ‘straddling the fence’ as a Christian, and I didn’t have any desire to change.  I was willing to do most of the things that Christians were expected to do and to refrain from doing most of the things that Christians were not supposed to do, but I was not interested in going any further.

Many years passed subsequently.  During this period, my spiritual life ebbed and flowed, but didn’t show much net growth.  Then, following my retirement, I had ample time to undertake an extensive study to find answers to a number of questions I had that pertained to difficult biblical matters, some of which had troubled me for many years.”

Why is that mid-career men have such a struggle to integrate work and faith?  I would propose to you it is this (if you have additional thoughts please comment):  With regard to applying faith and repentance in day-to-day life, there seem to be very few models of men who are actually doing so in their day to day lives, and there is apparently very little talk about this subject.  Christian maturity has come to be defined primarily by volunteerism in the institutional church, highlighted by spiritualized examples of home and marital life.

I would commend men (and paid working women, especially now that there are more of them) to consider how faith integrates into their daily lives.  How do you treat customers, coworkers/peers, superiors?  What is the role of honesty and Biblical values in sales, communications, contracts and even research and development?  If Christianity cannot bring saltiness and light to these places, it has little or no value and is at best a cultural Christianity in need of deep reform.

Part of the problem is that integration is hard work.

It is easier to live a dichotomized life where spirituality can be segregated to the weekend rather than weekday.   Most workers are having difficulties trying to make ends meet, let alone figure out if they are doing the ‘right’ thing.  It is much easier to let the legal department at work handle the ethics of the situation and do what you are told.

In my friend Harvey’s circumstance, I’m not sure that any of these were factors in those early years, but with home life, productivity and financial pressures at every turn, I’m sure he is not alone in having to deal with the pressures of those years. What I would commend to Harvey (and to many of you who are subscribers to trinitypartners) is this: God is deeply pleased with your work and your struggle, no matter what or where it is. Struggle and risk (not perfection) are God’s desires for us.  Our progress and delight to know that God is wooing us should fuel our delight in God, as it has for Harvey.   God will love us, despite our sin.  He, in His incarnate form as Jesus Christ, came to conquer sin and woo us to Himself.

Any displeasure that God might have ever had or might have in Harvey fell away at Harvey’s conversion; it has been nailed to the cross with the sins of the world – past, present and future. When God looks upon you (and Harvey), He sees what I see now as well, men and women who have always been growing in Christ, struggling to be faithful in all the circumstances of life. I’m grateful for the ways that Harvey has loved me and reached out to me in love and service in the short time I’ve known him. I know that God sees more than I see and rejoices.

In closing, I want to leave you with some thoughts by Augustine, who also had remorse over his early years and delighted in his position in Christ in his latter ones. I have put these thoughts in poetic form, based on Augustine’s famous (but fairly cryptic) ‘confessions‘.


Too late have I loved you,

Beauty so ancient,

Beauty so new.

Too late have I loved you,

You were within me

but I sought You outside myself.

In my weakness,

I ran after the beauty

of the things You have made.

You were with me,

but I was not with You.

Created things kept me from You,

things which have no meaning,

unless they exist in You!

You have called,

summoning me aloud,

to pierce my deafness.

You have displayed Your glory,

and have shined out brightly,

to dispel my blindness.

You have released your fragrance,

and I have breathed it in,

in longing for You.

I have tasted You,

and I hunger,

to thirst for You again.

You have touched me,

and I have awakened,

I now desire Your peace.

For more on the struggles of Life and Career, see Moment of Truth 8 on Page 80 of Professionals: Men and Women Partnering with the Trinity in Everyday Life.  I’d also encourage you to visit Harvey’s website, to see some of his deep passion for apologetics, stewardship and finances in the life of the church, home and society.  Thanks for all the ways you’ve blessed me, Harvey. I’m grateful for the friendship.



The Original 30 Moments of Truth …

August 2, 2010

Click on Book to go to Randy's Publishers site

I’ve received so many great comments and thoughts in the last few days from folks that I need to expound on some footnotes in the book.  The 30 Moments of Truth paradigm really started with my mentor the late Dan Smick of Marketplace Network in Boston, which faded into non-profit corporate history a couple of years ago.   I owe my own awakening about theological integration to him and Pete Hammond during my days at GCTS.  I’ve built on that foundation with my own unique work, as have many others who have gone through the GCTS marketplace theology track since then.

One of those who paralleled my time with Marketplace Network is Randy Kilgore who currently (with his wife Cheryl) oversees another marketplace and worklife oriented ministry

He has a great devotional that goes out all over the world, and in fact is sent to more subscribers in China than the U.S. now …. hey there’s a statistic for you.  He was recently on a speaking tour in Hong Kong!

“What makes our labor holy, what makes it eternal, is not just the work but the state of our hearts while performing that work. When we comprehend that truth, then we realize washing dishes is as significant to the Kingdom as operating on a patient; driving a truck is as eternally triumphant as leading a company. Then, even in the zig-zags of our careers, when life seems more random than ordered, when it feels like we’re running in thick mud with heavy boots, we can rest in the knowledge we’re serving God as we labor faithfully and diligently.”

— Randy Kilgore, Made to Matter

Two things I want to draw your attention to (in addition to the website) are his book “Made to Matter: Devotions for Working Christians” which works well within the 30 Moment of Truth framework he and I were taught under, as well as postings of free pdf workbooks that take your through a similar framework. (Both he and I have modified versions of the original framework that Dan mentored us under for our own preferences…. something Dan encouraged us to do … he always noted that the moments are symbolic and that in a persons career people would come up with similar case studies or ethical dilemmas that paralleled the original thirty.)

Made to Matter is aimed at the popular audience, while Professionals is more of an academic approach for the undergraduate / beginning graduate population for Christians at both (1) historically Christian Colleges where integration work is “mandatory”  and (2) students at secular institutions (if there are such things) who need integrative help because theological framworks are almost never mentioned in the classroom.

Randy went on to write for Marketplace Network and startup Made to Matter, and following that portion of my career at Boston Gas (I was part time student, part time executive at the time, as well as my internship at Park Street Church to kick off their marketplace Sunday School track with the help of Dan and Pete… ) I went on to be full time business executive in the marketplace helping fight off hostile takeovers by Enron and helping start up dot-coms.  After ten years – even now – I’m doing similar stuff, but on the staff of a church…balancing out being a teacher and practitioner.

So the workbooks are the early fruit of Randy’s career and the anecdotal stories in Professionals are mine.  God has woven all of this and the work of many others mentored by these two men (Dan and Pete) into a broader tapestry that He is creating  and beautifying … may He continue to be glorified in all of it.



Chapter 4 Handout: Hierarchy in Career, Calling, Profession – a Three Tiered Layered Cake of Progression

July 5, 2010

Career, Calling, and Profession are terms that are used fairly interchangeably, but there are nuances to each that I will endeavor to link and put in a type of progression.  This in my mind can be related much to the Piaget type ordering of learning of likewise a Maslow-esque hierarchy of needs.  I owe much of the seminal thought on this ordering to Paul Stevens of Regent University, my mentor Dan Smick of Marketplace Network Inc. formerly in Boston Massachusetts, and my friend Jack Wilkerson of Wake Forest University who is passionate about professional education  (And before all of them the Theological groundbreakers of Luther and Calvin, as well as plenty of other individual thinkers in between.)

Career, in its early definition referred to a well worn path taken by an object or person, perhaps daily.   There did not have to be purpose or meaning in the routine event, only that it be done regularly.   For most that provides a basic level of understanding for a chosen endeavor, career ‘path’ or job classification.  Although I would say this can be done at two levels.  (1) YOU DO YOUR JOB: Tasks are done with a personal awareness – in this case to please your employer and make a buck or two, and then secondarily (2) A JOB WELL DONE MATTERS: Your daily routine is done with awareness of those around you and you do it as a member of a community of people … ie you do it well with compassion and justice for neighbor whether they be customer or fellow employee, with give and take and neighborly love and care.

This understanding of career can also be understood theologically as what is called the CREATION MANDATE where God has placed individual humans over an area of creation to be a servant or steward tha fills in and subdues / tames the creation (which tends towards wildness and chaos) first in relationship to him as their rightful Creator (and his means therefore of being able to support themselves) and then secondarily to see that it is done in the context of a broader community – where the world is also filled and subdued through harmonious and cooperative roles which each has been gifted for (see calling below.)

Figure 1: Career

The second consideration here is Calling.  Calling can only be done on the foundation of a career. Knowing a job and knowing what it is to do it well.   Calling is best understood as the motivator beyond self that gets a person out of bed in the morning and helps them internally return to a job day in and day out.  This can often be (and is best) understood in the context of their being a “Caller” – an active Creator/God/Force who has ordered and is ordering the universe towards a greater purpose or direction.   (1) GOD IS THE CALLER / WE ARE THE WORSHIPPER – At the primary level it is an understanding and acceptance of the knowledge and reality that the individual is uniquely gifted for a task and role in society by God and that only he/she can fulfill that role.  (2) WE DISPLAY GOD’S CHARITY/CARE AS GOD DOES IN OUR WORK – At a secondary level it is the knowledge and awareness that the individual is working in a broader network of individuals also uniquely called by God to similar ends and purposes in human history, and that part of the individuals role is caring for those individuals as a means or way for God to dispense mercy and justice in the world.

From a theological understanding this calling can be almost directly related to the idea of the GREAT COMMMANDMENT where when asked how to sum up the law Jesus said that the law is summed up in these two truths.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength … and Love your neighbor as you would love yourself.  The first part allows our work (in itself) to become a scattered type of worship where we do our work knowing that God is watching, and it is done well because we do it for and unto Him.   The second part is that work done as worship is done for neighbor as an expression of charity …. Because we have been treated and loved well by God we can treat our neighbors well in our work.  Rather than facing deals as win lose propositions we earn a fair price and sell at a fair price, always thinking of (and treating fairly …. As we would want to be treated) the other stakeholders in any transaction or work endeavor.

Figure 2: Career and Calling

This brings us to the notion of a profession or professions.  Rightly understood professions have always required some sort of formal education as well as a testing or formal acceptance by a group of peers.  I say rightly understood for this reason, professionals are ones who are capable of bringing others along and hold wisdom that is worthy of being shared within specific vocations as well as special knowledge of what calling looks like in those careers.  Is a person in the chosen profession just for themselves or others, can that be seen in their actions.  Do they understand the proper tensions and skills involved in every career. Professionals share wisdom, examine and even ‘ordain’ others into a chosen field.   This my be formal or informal, but it flows out of the idea of mastering a skill, knowing who to properly dispense that skill at an individual and societal level and then being in a position to catechize and teach others in that same skill … a willingness and ability to have apprentices.  The two levels that this is displayed at are (1) SPEAKING THE TRUTH – At the individual level, understanding ones profession enough to not just master the task, but formally being examined to speak and instruct knowledgably, and then (2) BRINGING ALONG OTHERS – Developing and instructing apprentices in a field of study or skill that move up the hierarchy to one day fill the shoes of the master teacher.

From a theological standpoint this is the idea of the GREAT COMMISSION played out.   Can you be ready to speak give a word to the reason why you do the things you do, a word of testimony as to your internal motivation for your job skills and profession.  Have you been instructed in this area and mastered an understanding of the basics as well as internal struggles in any position.  Secondly, do you have disciples that you are building into and bringing along.   Are you readily recruiting and caring for others as a master teacher who understands the full spectrum and is willing to share skill, motivations and your own internal struggles in a life giving way for the sake not of yourself, but instead of the profession.  Do you embody the reality of the profession?

Figure 3: Career, Calling and Profession

I have endeavored to show here in a fairly simplistic way the inter-relationship between Career, Calling and Profession rightly understood.   The relationship is hierarchical and progressive, and each has both a personal and communal dimension to consider (These are often dealt with in tandem.)

Often these issue and dimensions are worked through in a developmental pattern, each of which gives rise to new issues.  The questions of who am I, How do I therefore relate to others are foundational (career issues)  secondary issues include ideas of How should I relate to my creator, and what is my unique role and place among a broader community (calling issues), and then finally questions of leadership .. what type of legacy do I want to leave, how should I communicate this and who am I bringing along in the next generation (profession issues.)  Turned on its side the pyramid can be represented along this spectrum.

Because of the discipleship and mentoring in work/faith integration can and should be treated as a process, with early developmental efforts focusing on career issues.

A fuller treatment of these ideas (along with activities and discussion questions) can be found in Professionals: Men and Women Partnering with the Trinity in Everyday Life. I hope these graphics and storyline have helped.   My thinking is being transformed and more fully developed as well as I interact with all of you in considering these things.

Blessings –

Tim Keller on Vocation

July 4, 2010

The following Quote is attributed to Tim Keller:

You can’t just disciple people on how to be Christians in their private lives (e.g. prayer, witnessing, Bible study). Center-city people don’t have much of a “private life.” If you are in finance, or art, or acting or medicine, your vocation dominates your life and your time. Discipleship must include how to be distinctively Christian within your job, including how to handle the particular temptations and ethical quandaries, and how to produce work in one’s own field from a distinctly Christian world-view. ”

“The Church today can’t just teach objective knowledge about the Bible. It can’t just focus upon spiritual praxis. It can’t just just provide moral teachings as well…not anymore. When non-Christians are exposed to the Church’s message, they really need to see how it looks like if they were to step into the light.  The only way to do that is to build communities where this intentional integration of the Gospel into vocation is vibrantly embraced and highly visible. The new rules and approach to evangelism now take on a wholistic ministry approach.”

For a more detailed understanding of the role of evangelism and the great commission in a broader understanding of career, calling and profession consider reading Professionals: Men and Women Partnering with the Trinity in Everyday Life.

John Calvin on Vocation

July 4, 2010

The following quotes are attributable to John Calvin:  

“We know that men were created for the express purpose of being employed in labor of various kinds, and that no sacrifice is more pleasing to God than when every man applies diligently to his own calling, and endeavors to live in such a manner as to contribute to the general advantage.”

“The Lord commands every one of us, in all actions of life to regard his vocation…. to prevent universal confusion being produced by our folly and temerity, he has appointed to all their particular duties in different spheres of life. And that no one might rashly transgress the limits prescribed, he has styled such spheres of life vocations, or callings. ”

“Every individual’s line of life, therefore, is, as it were, a post assigned him by the Lord, that he may not wander about in uncertainty all his days.”

“It will also be no small alleviation of his cares, labours, troubles, and other burdens, when a man knows that in all these things he has God for his guide. The magistrate will execute his office with greater pleasure, the father of a family will confine himself to his duty with more satisfaction, and all, in their respective spheres of life, will bear and surmount the inconveniences, cares, disappointments, and anxieties which befall them, when they shall be persuaded that every individual has his burden laid upon him by God. Hence also will arise peculiar consolation, since there will be no employment so mean and sordid (provided we follow our vocation) as not to appear truly respectable, and be deemed highly important in the sight of God”

For a more detailed understanding of Calvin’s approach in the broader historical spectrum of career, calling and profession consider reading Professionals: Men and Women Partnering with the Trinity in Everyday Life.

C S Lewis on Vocation

July 4, 2010

The following quotes are attributable to Clives Staples Lewis, ( I really enjoy his frank terse style… much like Luther in these regards!)

The work of a Beethoven, and the work of a charwoman, become spiritual on precisely the same condition, that of being offered to God, of being done humbly “as to the Lord.” This does not, of course, mean that it is for anyone a mere toss-up whether he should sweep rooms or compose symphonies. A mole must dig to the glory of God and a cock must crow”

“Every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, which will turn the necessity to glorious gain”

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal…But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit.”

“Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”

For more information on the historical view of vocation and how careeer, calling and profession inter-relate take a peek at Professionals: Men and Women Partnering with the Trinity in Everyday Life.