Sunday, March 24, 2013

Keller's Every Good Endeavor - Chapter Two

I'll be facilitating a discussion on chapter two (pages 44-53) of Keller's work Monday evening. Here are some questions I've pulled together for discussion.

  1. It has been said that we (humans) were created for worship, or even fellowship, but Keller says that we are created for work (48).

    Which is it? Or are there even better answers?
  2. Keller states that "the material world matters" (51).

    How do we know that the material world matters?  

  3. Keller asserts that manual labor has no less dignity than knowledge work, and he goes on to say "that secular work has no less dignity and nobility than the sacred work of ministry.

    Do we believe that? Do we act like we believe that? What in our behavior might betray such a belief?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Congrats Dr. Taylor - New President at Evangel U

“Let your career pursue you,” Taylor said in a 2012 Evangel press release. “As women, our paths are diverse and unique. If you had told me when I was a student at Evangel that I was going to be president of a university someday, I could not have even imagined it. I am convinced that if we live each day of our lives in obedience to Him, everything else takes care of itself.” 

It is truly significant that the next president of Evangel will be a woman... but what is even more extraordinary (at least from my limited perspective) is that the next president of AGTS and CBC will be a woman. With consolidation, AGTS and CBC aren't disappearing; they are uniting the AG schools in the headquarters city under a new structure. It is great news that the Assemblies of God elected a woman to lead our national liberal arts college... but it is even bigger news that the AG elected a woman to lead our graduate seminary and undergraduate seminary. Great move; I'm proud to be an AG guy today!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Helping Students Connect Their Work With God's Work

Teresa Gillespie made some time for me today in her busy schedule. It was great to get caught up with her as we chatted in her office. 

Teresa serves as Dean of the School of Business and Management at Northwest University. She began her career as a school teacher on her home turf in the public schools of Los Angeles. Her pursuits then led her to the University of Washington to study law, and then to a 17-year career as a corporate attorney for US West.  She began to teach as an adjunct at Northwest in 2000 and then joined the faculty as a full-time professor in 2006. In 2008 she was promoted to serve as Dean, leading the business faculty, administering the University’s business curricula, and building new programs. 

In reflecting on her career she said, “I never expected to serve as Dean of a business school, but I can see that the Lord used my experience to thoroughly prepare me.” Her background and experience in teaching provides valuable tools she shares with her colleagues on the faculty. Her career at US West occurred during a time of constant, rapid change as the communications industry was being rebuilt and redefined as the Internet was taking hold. And her solid grounding in faith gave her the skills to integrate faith with life and work; the kind of integration that is unique to a place like Northwest. 

I asked her about what works when teaching students about work and calling. What seems to land with students as she and her colleagues endeavor to help students connect their work with God’s work?  

One of her teaching and research interests lies in the field of business ethics. She explained how she recently reworked her whole approach to the topic (an approach she’ll be presenting to peers at an academic conference in the coming months).  

She had been teaching courses in the tried and true ways, reviewing philosophies and evaluating case studies. There was one specific episode that stood out to her as a turning point. A graduate student turned in a paper that was part of a capstone course focused on business ethics in which the student needed to evaluate an ethical dilemma according to the philosophies and processes presented in the course. Teresa said, “The paper was an accomplished example of thorough analysis. But the problem was that the student arrived at the wrong conclusion… disappointingly justifying a self-serving decision.”  In this case, the professor took this as an opportunity to not merely assess the student’s performance, but courageously asses her own performance.

Now her approach includes leading her students to
  • Establish and adhere to codes and creeds,
  • Identify and emulate heroes (role models), and 
  • Anticipate and prepare for tough decisions and ethical crisis (practice).
She acquainted me with the MBA Oath, a movement that binds MBA graduates and students to each other and to higher ethical standards. Codes and creeds like this serve as a basis for students and professors to call one another to high standards; it is a new call to integrity and accountability that results in greater good.  

This approach is landing well with students, resulting in productive conversations and work. Teresa is seeing evidence that this new approach is making a difference.  

From my perspective as an MBA graduate, I’m impressed. It seems that such an approach steers students away from the selfish ambition that has been common among business students to a focus on stewardship.    

Way to go Teresa for your efforts to help students connect their work with God’s work!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

By the Numbers

I occasionally listen to the Freakonomics podcast; I find it interesting and entertaining... and appreciate the data-based analysis.

Following up on yesterday's post about Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, I noticed a Freakonomics episode from last month entitled Women Are Not Men. It is a good 37-minute spin on gender equality from a uniquely Freakonomics point of view.

I think the most interesting segment of the podcast is their answer to the nature -v- nurture question.

And, as usual, they have some fun with numbers. For example, they pointed out that gender equality may not be all it is cracked up to be since men suffer a disproportionate amount of lightening-related fatalities (85%). Divine judgment?

If you are thinking about issues of gender and work and calling with me, take a few minutes and listen to the podcast, available by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lean In

Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, is in the news these days on the occasion of the release of her book: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. I haven’t read the book yet… but I have listened to a few interviews (check out the HBR IdeaCast interview by clicking here). Her December 2010 TED talk put her on the map regarding this topic, available by clicking here

One of the main points, if not the main point, of the interviews isn’t a technique or philosophy or new discovery; the point is that we need to talk about gender and work. Talking about gender and work in all the various contexts of our work, from all our various perspectives, makes a real difference. We need to continue to talk and study and think about gender and work. 

It isn’t just a matter of talk, of course, but no real change will continue to occur unless we continue to talk (and listen and discuss and even argue). This appears to be universally true; I know that it is especially true in my networks of influence (church, higher ed, nonprofits and such).

The topic of this blog, work and calling, won’t be complete unless we consider gender and work. 

Just this week I was talking to a friend, pointing out one of the deficiencies of this blog. Specifically, the work and calling stories I’ve written so far have been mostly about men. I explained, “While I have made some efforts to connect with women for project, so far I’ve taken the easy road and merely picked the low hanging fruit.” It is easier for me to meet male friends for lunch or coffee, easier for me to have a free-flowing conversation, and I have taken the easy way (I tell myself that it has been the efficient way… efficient sounds less lazy than easy).

But it is just that kind of attitude that consistently excludes women from full and meaningful engagement in work. I’ve never had any problems dealing with women in formal contexts. Working for and with women at the office and in meetings is a non-issue; serving with women on committees and boards has always been natural for me. But not all work is accomplished in formal contexts. Informal contexts (like recreation, or casual conversations, or road trips, or coffee) are important places where real work gets done; that doesn’t come so easily for me. 

I’m not sure what the entire answer is, but I know that it involves (1) not settling for the easiest ways and (2) continuing to include gender in the conversation about work and calling. 

Listen to Sheryl Sandberg’s important views and let’s keep talking.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Do Your Best

I met my friend Aaron for lunch a few days ago. It was really more of a dim sum feast… one of Aaron’s superpowers is ordering dim sum

We have a habit of getting together for lunch a couple of times each month. We generally solve all the world’s problems in the sixty minutes or so that we spend together. 

It seems that we have so much in common. Aaron was born and raised in Singapore, in a pastor’s home. After serving in the Republic of Singapore Navy, he has had a hi-tech career that has had him based in several countries around the Pacific Rim over the years. He speaks several languages. 

I guess we don’t have all that much in common… except we were born in the same year, we each have a couple of great kids, and we love the Lord. It appears that we have plenty in common for a great friendship. 

These days Aaron serves as a program manager at Microsoft. His expertise is generally tapped to help executives maximize the impact of their workforce. Among his projects is one that plays a vital role in successfully ramping up employees on new policies, commitments and tools for the company, worldwide. 

Aaron has been reading Keller’s Every Good Endeavor with me. I asked him how he was applying the concepts to his work, and how he was thinking theologically about his work and responsibilities. He said, “For me it starts with the basics; it starts with doing your best.” Aaron works hard, and he works smart. What he said resonated with one of my favorite verses of Scripture:

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus… (Colossians 3:17)
When we start from the basis that our lives are God’s, and that our work is connected to God’s work, a simple statement like “do your best” is packed with meaning… profound, eternal meaning. It means working hard, and working smart; it means doing the right thing, and doing things right. 
For Aaron, a big part of it is keeping commitments. It is never enough to just talk about delivering or even planning to deliver; it is about actually delivering. It is about having a record and reputation of meeting expectations… not merely the high expectations demanded by the job, but the high expectations demanded of one’s self when endeavoring to do the work and be the kind of person that brings credit to the God who calls and enables us.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sales and Calling

One day last week I set up camp at a local coffee shop (thanks for the wifi and refills Starbucks). While there I had a chance to get caught up with my friends John Griffith and Dennis Kessner

John has been a realtor for years ( I enjoyed getting reacquainted with his story. He’s been in sales since college; in addition to real estate he’s sold for companies like Nabisco and his own specialty foods distribution company (apparently there are still people who refer to Big John as “the Cookie Man”). I also learned something I never knew about John: he’s in the Washington State Slow Pitch Softball Hall of Fame! 

I asked John what kept him going in real estate. He explained, “I’ve been at this for a long time and have become a pretty good problem solver.” There isn’t an obstacle that John hasn’t seen before when it comes to helping people get into the home they want.  

Dennis is in sales too. These days he serves at Purdy & Walters at Floral Hills helping families with pre-planning funerals. Dennis is a world-class helper, serving in various ways at Pleasant Bay Church and leading the Divorce Care ministry with Cindy at Cedar Park. 

Dennis told me a story about how he’s always on the lookout to help people. Recently while at a local store, he could tell that the clerk helping him check out was having a hard time keeping it together; it appeared she was crying. Dennis carefully and politely asked if he could help. He explained to me, “when I see someone stressed out like that, I figure the odds are pretty good that it may have to do with divorce or death… and I have tools to help with either.” He also said, “and if they need a lawyer, I can help them there too” (Dennis has a business helping people obtain legal services). 

In addition to their history in sales, there were other things in common with Dennis’ and John’s stories. They were both motivated by helping people solve problems and meet important needs. Also, they both seemed to do a great job of fitting their work into their calling within the context of their entire lives. Their work in sales is not the sole focus of their lives, but it is aligned well with their gifts and callings. Both characterized their work in sales as part of the mix, but their calling encompassed their entire lives including family, church, friends, volunteer work, and even recreation. These friends are great examples of connecting their work with God’s work, especially when work is considered in the most broad and integrated ways.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Called to Do or Called to Be?

This was the week for former youth pastors to buy me lunch. At the beginning of the week it was my friend John near his office in Bellevue; at the end of the week it was my friend Steve Sankey near his office in Renton.

One from the archives; Steve and I on the HSC site at NU
Steve and I worked together at Northwest University; he preceded me by a number of years and then joined my team after I was on board for a few years. During our time together at Northwest, Steve and I built, acquired, and renovated several buildings on the campus. 

It was eight years ago when I asked Steve if he was ready for people to call him “Pastor Steve” again. Since then, Steve and his family have been partners in ministry as we’ve served the congregation at Pleasant Bay Church. For most of the past decade, Steve and I worked together both at the University and the Church.

These days Steve’s day job is at Boeing’s facility in Renton where they make 737s. He serves as a project manager, doing similar work to what he did at Northwest… but rather than creating space for students and professors, he’s creating space for manufacturing airplanes. He manages aspects of projects that keep things on time, on budget, and according to spec. 

While I was there for lunch he showed me one of the projects that he was wrapping up. As production of the 737 increases, they needed additional bays adjacent to the Renton Airport. Think of them as full-hookup spots… but rather than parking an RV, they park a 737 there for a week for final testing before it takes the first flight. They plug it in and test every system, including a full load of fuel and firing up the engines. Steve showed me the three bays that will be in use next month and the two additional bays that will be available in coming months. 

This is good news for our region. All the 737s in the world are made right there in Renton. Increased production of that airplane is a healthy economic sign for our entire region, and even severs as a marker for the economic vitality of the world. 

We talked about work and calling, and the paths that the Lord leads us along. It seems that for some people, the vocational path is a pretty straight line. Education leads to employment and advancement through a career; it could be that the path aligns pretty closely that one might have mapped out as a young person. For others (like Steve and me), the path seems to make the most sense when viewed through life’s rearview mirror. While on the path (the curious path, as Steve likes to say), it doesn’t always make perfect sense. But when we look back, we can see that the Lord was in control and making things work together. 

Steve put it this way, “my calling, and fulfillment of that calling, makes most sense when I think in terms of what I’m called to be, rather than what I am called to do.” Right now, Steve does project management at Boeing. He doesn’t concern himself with the question of whether that is what he is called to do, because it aligns well with what he is called to be. Steve will tell you that he is called to be an implementer and helper; he’s called to be someone who helps people succeed and attain their goals. 

With that calling to be that kind of person, bringing his skills and experience and hard work to the task, it is easy for Steve to connect his work with God’s work.

Friday, March 1, 2013


My friend Aaron passed along an article from the Harvard Business Review's site titled Embrace Work-Life Imbalance. This short post is worth a read when considering the topic of work... especially hard work.

It seems to Me that the term workaholic is often less than helpful. Hard work is not a disease.

While there are certainly excesses when family and health is set aside for work pursuits... but in most cases hard work is a great thing... not something to be characterized as a disease.

Take a minute and read the article; let me know what you think.