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Wealth: A Tool or a Trap? 33 Questions for Reflection

by Evan Keller

Is wealth a tool or a trap? Well, both. Before we can sharpen it into an effective tool to serve others, we have to ask God to free us from the ways that money entraps our hearts. No surprise: with God it always comes down to the heart. Does how we use wealth reveal worship of God or of self? Who’s at the center of our story? The answers expose our two biggest money problems: pride and idolatry. Those may be our most serious and stubbornly entrenched sins – like insidious garden weeds that seem to spring back as quickly as you pull them out. Pride and idolatry sneakily capture our hearts, replacing God as our go-to for security and fulfillment.  

Pride intentionally forgets the source of all abundance. King David admits to God that “wealth and honor come from you” (1 Chronicles 29:12), And pride is only one of many pitfalls of the heart that come with wealth. 

How can I guard my heart from its sinful tendencies? I’ve developed this list of reflection questions to help me do just that in the coming months and years. Please join me in using these to see where our hearts are at, discovering in what we are placing our trust and finding our joy.  Read more

From All About Me to What About Me? A Personal Journey

by Evan Keller

Obviously, it was “all about me” with the “rich fool” (from Luke 12:15-21) we discussed in the previous post; let’s flip now to one whose heart was all about God. We’re jumping from the New Testament to the Old, from a fictional character to a historic one.

King David was much richer in wealth, fame, and power than the nameless “rich man” in Christ’s parable. Yet he saw those accomplishments for what they were: gifts of grace from God. On the other hand, the “rich man” couldn’t see past his inflated view of himself. He didn’t even acknowledge God. Twice in his psalms, David wrote: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). And “fool” is precisely what God calls the “rich man” upon his death in Christ’s parable. Conversely, God called David “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22).

Everything Comes from You Lord

Old Testament scholar Christopher Wright explains: “David’s example of putting his personal wealth into the temple project (1 Chronicles 29:2-5) motivates the rest of the leaders to do the same (29:6-8), which then seems to motivate the rest of the people in turn” (29:9). (Christopher Wright, The Righteous Rich in the Old Testament) He prays in disbelief: “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chronicles 29:14).  Read more

Creating Wealth and Being Rich Towards God

by Evan Keller

Scripture doesn’t condemn wealth, but is very concerned about how we get it, what we do with it, and whether it takes precedence in our hearts above God’s “house”. Gifts from God are not like the new, shiny bike you got for Christmas as a child, meant for you alone. No, gifts that come from God are to you but for others, “not a privilege but a responsibility – the Abrahamic responsibility of being a blessing to others. (Gen. 12:1-3)” (Christopher Wright, The Righteous Rich in the Old Testament)

This message doesn’t quite sit well with us fallen (yet being redeemed) humans. We want our shiny gifts to shine our own reputations. The Apostle Paul knows this, so keeps insisting that gifts are meant to serve the Body of Christ – the church – and bring glory to God. Likewise, the Old Testament prophet, Haggai asks: “Whose house are you building? Yours or God’s?”

Each of us use our gifts to build something every day. Are our efforts focused more on building our own little empire or God’s glorious one? According to 1 Kings 6:38-7:1, Solomon built God’s temple in seven years but spent 13 years constructing his own palace! As someone who’s currently building a house for my family, am I spending even more of my time and my gifts to build God’s house? I would say so, but those who know me best should make that call given that I’m not immune to self-deception.  Read more

Four Hands in Two Countries: A Parable of Talents!

by Evan Keller

What brings a stone carver and a mechanic together? Although they‘ve never even met, this story connects two (of my favorite) people who revel in lavishing generosity on others. Both Josue and Don beautifully embody the joy of giving that my new book explores. They are master craftsmen who love blessing people through their handiwork: Josue’s hands work in stone and Don’s hands master mechanics. Their Haiti-Florida bond was born in February of 2012 as we at Creating Jobs Inc mentored Josue Jean-Gilles in his business of creating plaques and gifts carved from stone.

At the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake, Josue suffered damage to his Léogâne home and workshop while fellow church members lost their very lives. Important foundations of his life continued to crumble as his mother died of a likely curable illness and his wife abandoned him and their children. After we heard Josue preach with passion one Sunday morning, his divorce forced a year-long furlough from teaching and leading at his church, which shook him further. So, you can see that his youthful face masks more heartache than a young man should have to bear. Yet his soul has not shrunk in self-protection but keeps giving, hoping and investing in others. It would have been natural to closely guard what remained, including a regional monopoly on his type of artisanal stone carving. Instead, he spread his skills far and wide by sharing his well-honed techniques with not only employees, but many orphans, and several new competitors he helped to raise up. Now that’s a mindset of abundance!  Read more

Seven Reasons Why Everyone Needs a Coach

by Larry Sharp

When I was a collegiate hockey player, it never dawned on me that I might not need a coach. Not only did the coaches help me with personal skill development like skating, passing, shooting, and checking, but also how to develop my team play so together we could be successful.  Although I had good coaches and poor coaches, I always knew that I needed a coach.

Why then did it not dawn on me that I needed a coach when I was supervising 120 employees just months after graduating from university?  It was not like I had a super-mentoring boss because I did not, and I don’t think I was arrogant and thought that I knew it all.  Why did I not think I needed a mentor?

While it is true that my management career began long before Bill Gates affirmed that “everyone needs a coach”, I have often reflected on why it is that people still today think they don’t need a mentor, or a coach or consulting help?  These few thoughts are intended to help encourage business owners and managers to seek a coach, mentor or consultant.  Read more

Five Essential Reminders if you are Managing a Crisis

by Larry Sharp

I was responsible for matters related to a crisis for many years as the VP of a mid-sized mission agency. During that time I faced the challenge of evacuating an unconscious child from a high risk country, rescuing an imprisoned employee in East Asia, a mega-earthquake in Haiti, famine in Africa, automobile death of an employee in France, child abuse situations, among other similar critical incidents.

Our English word crisis comes from the Greek krisis which was defined as a “separating, distinguishing, discrimination, decision, judgment”. The sense of “decisive moment” in reference to crisis is first recorded in English in 1627 as a figurative extension of the original medical meaning. Crisis historically signified “a turning point in a disease; a sudden change for better or worse.”1

The COVID-19 crisis of 2020, as with all crises, indicates a sudden change and a turning point and has many components; however only one is treated in this article. 

A response to crisis is dependent on company policies, risk assessments and contingency training and planning, all of which prepares one for the actual crisis. Once the crisis “hits” comes the actual management with functional team roles to include the crisis manager, information officer, financial officer, consultants, and others. So then, when it comes to managing a crisis such as COVID-19, what are the managerial components, especially in light of the “decisive moment” for all of us?  Read more

Business Response Plan: From Intensive Care to Recovery

In Part 1 of this blog, we identified four stages you can take to proactively lead your organization through the uncertainty and down the road to recovery.

Once you have taken care of the most urgent tasks in the “Emergency Room” phase, it is time to start treating your business to lead it towards longer term stabilization, recovery and repositioning.

2. Moving through Intensive Care

Main Priority: Address the unhealthy areas in your organization and enlist the larger organization in your response.

Establish stakeholder communication plan

During times of uncertainty, increased communication is vital.

Who are your key stakeholders?

How often should you be in contact?

What is the best media and approach?

Implement employee care & development plan

During times of crisis, more care and attention is needed, and development challenges are available.

What current needs are your employees facing?

Who can you give development challenges to?

How can you build your culture during this time?  Read more

Three Things I Learned During the Epidemic of 1974 That Apply to BAM in the Pandemic of 2020

by Larry Sharp

In the early 1970’s I was living, along with my family, in the Brazilian Amazon port city of Belem where I was the administrator of a school for children of expatriates. The Amazon Valley Academy is a K-12 school following an American curriculum but also in the 1970s and 80s taught a German program for grades 1-10 and tutored British O-level classes.

In the spring of 1974, we noted children getting ill in unusually high numbers and eventually it was determined that Hepatitis A had struck the community. We were forced to close the school and it did not re-open for five weeks.

Hepatitis A is a communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water. Most adults with hepatitis A have symptoms, including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice.

But in those days, the doctors did not know any of that. In fact, they theorized that the condition might be caused by a mosquito. And so the government epidemiologists set up tests in the community and on campus to capture and test mosquitos; meanwhile the children from our three boarding homes and others from the community were required to stay home and rest since there was no known cure and no vaccination.

After five weeks had passed most students seemed to be returning to normal health so we decided to re-open the school and most of the children returned. But then another emergency – most of the teachers got sick – yes – Hepatitis A. What should we do now?

There were a few teachers and myself (I was the high school principal at the time) who had escaped infection. As we sat around one evening thinking and praying through some options, one of the math teachers came up with an idea. “Let’s take high school seniors and juniors and use their strengths to teach the middle school students” he said. We settled on Charles to lead the science teaching team, John to lead the history team, Bruce to lead the math team and Anita to lead the English language team.  Read more

The Coronavirus Pandemic and BAM: Seven Things We Can Do

by Mats Tunehag

The effects of the coronavirus are disruptive beyond comprehension. The situation is changing by the hour. The consequences vary from difficult to dire for billions of people, and nobody knows what the timeline is for this crisis.

Media across the world updates us constantly on the negative effects on businesses and on people’s lives, so this short article will have a different focus: what can we do?

But first let’s note that throughout history the Church has a track record of serving others in the midst of major plagues and catastrophes.

The sociologist Rodney Stark has written (in The Rise of Christianity) that one reason the church overcame hostility and grew so rapidly within the Roman empire traces back to how Christians responded to pandemics of the day, which probably included bubonic plague and smallpox.  When infection spread, Romans fled their cities and towns; Christians stayed behind to nurse and feed not only their relatives but their pagan neighbors.” (Living in Plague Times – Phillip Yancy)

Why has the Church done this for centuries and why should we do it now? One fundamental reason is that we are to love God and our neighbors, and the two are connected. As Bishop Barron says: “Why are the two commandments so tightly linked? Because of who Jesus is. Christ is not simply a human being, and he is not simply God; rather, he is the God-man, the one in whose person divinity and humanity meet. Therefore, it is impossible to love him as God without loving the humanity that he has embraced. The greatest commandment is, therefore, an indirect Christology.” [1]

Many businesses are facing challenges with cashflow, lockdown, sales, having to let staff go, supply chain disruptions, bankruptcies, et cetera. So, what can we do now?

Let me suggest seven areas for action as it relates to BAM businesses and the global BAM community. We also invite you to add your suggestions.  Read more

Discipling Marketplace Leaders: The Power of Church and BAM Partnerships

by Renita Reed-Thomson & Dr. Phil Walker

A Kenyan pastor approached us following our workshop and said, “Church begins on Monday. Sunday is ‘garage/maintenance time’ to prepare for that.” The lightbulb had gone on. It is the lightbulb that reminds pastors and church leaders that the Church gathers on Sunday for the purpose of being equipped to be scattered on Monday, shining the light of Christ everywhere they go. Unfortunately, the Global Church tends to be inward focused, defining itself as a building or by programs, rather than the people. While the majority of adult members in our churches spend the majority of their time in their workplace, we do not disciple them to the purpose of doing their work as an act of worship. Discipling Marketplace Leaders is seeking to remedy this as it brings the work of Business as Mission into the Church.

Finding Common Ground

In 2012 Dr. Phil Walker (President and co-founder of International Christian Ministries) was conducting a leadership seminar in Accra, Ghana. Renita Reed-Thomson (Regional Director for a BAM ministry) was attending the seminar with her team. At the break, she began sharing with Phil about the challenges of the BAM movement. While successful in helping Christian business owners grow in their ability to operate successful businesses, she was concerned about their spiritual journey (Deuteronomy 8:18). It was easy to see financial growth, but hard to know if they were growing in their walk with the Lord. Phil discussed his frustration with the local church and its inability to substantially impact the community by empowering members to be light and leaven in the community. Phil invited Renita to Kitale, Kenya, to teach a course on Church-based Business as Mission at ICM’s Africa Theological Seminary.

Over the initial months of teaching pastors, Renita saw a dramatic change in their perspective regarding business and work. Teaching business as a calling, supported theologically, pastors shifted from business as a “necessary evil,” to business as calling, contributing to fulfilling the Great Commitment of Genesis 1:28. Renita shared with other BAM practitioners about integrating BAM formally with the church. They said BAM and the local church could not find common ground for working together. Some stated that the church is “too difficult” to work with and therefore should be side-stepped. Renita decided on a research project to test whether the faith and work movement was possible within the local church. From 2013-2015, Renita conducted an 18-month research study, in three cities with six churches and 260 businesses.  Read more