I met my friend John Baker at his office this week. It was a special treat since we had lunch at a favorite restaurant in his building in Bellevue (and he bought).
I always enjoy talking with John. He’s been a friend for a
long time, being among those who were with us when we launched the congregation
that is now Pleasant Bay Church over ten years ago. He’s always been willing to
help, serving in leadership and singing in the choir. He has a background in
ministry, serving on a church staff and leading in para-church organizations.
These days John serves as Senior Vice President, running the
Greater Seattle office for an international consulting firm that specializes in
talent and career management for Fortune 500 companies. For example, John’s
firm might work with a company to help align their workforce with their
changing goals. If the new strategy results in needing to move some employees
around, or even out, John's firm provides services to help transition people
into new opportunities, and they work with the reorganized groups to help them
navigate successfully through change and on to success toward the new goals. In
addition to leading the office, John ‘s hands-on work includes strategizing
with corporate leaders, leading workshops, and one-on-one counseling with
people in transition.
During our conversation, John talked about work and calling,
and the way experience and training and passion and interests coalesce into
meaningful work. He said, “I’ve always believed that this work is right on the same
trajectory that began with my volunteer work in campus ministry, that led to
youth ministry in a local church, that led to work in Christian higher
education, and on into my current responsibilities.” He identified the common
thread in these expressions of his calling and vocation as “helping people make
decisions at critical times in their lives that impact their entire lives and
futures.” When John is working with people, it is often at a critical (and
often times stressful) point of transition. He brings his education and
experience to the table, helping folks make decisions and take steps that will set them up
for a successful future.
In light of what I’ve been working on these days, it is hard
to deny that John’s work is directly connected to God’s work. Keller is right when he says things like “work
– and lots of it – is an indispensable component in a meaningful human life. It
is a supreme gift from God and one of the main things that gives our lives
purpose.” So it is no stretch at all to determine that John’s work is at the center
of God’s design for us humans.
Given John’s expertise in the topic, I was interested to
hear what he is currently reading; these days it is So
Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. The subtitle helps us capture what is inside: Why Skills Trump Passion
in the Quest for Work You Love. The
publisher’s description says, “In this eye-opening account, Cal Newport debunks
the long-held belief that follow your
passion is good advice.”
I like the way John put it when he said, “It is
not just about pursuing mission; it is also about provision.” Provision… it is
both a matter of providing for yourself and your family, and a matter of
assessing the gifts and talents provided by God. More than merely chasing after one’s dreams
and desires, it is about determining how to be most productive with what one can
I really appreciate John’s practical approach. And I’m glad
I have a friend like John with whom to continue this conversation.