Book Review: In, But Not Of

 

They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. (John 17:16-19)

When I lived in Chicago, I despised the traffic on Lake Shore Drive going to and from work. I disliked it on the way home a little less, though, because it gave me a chance to listen to Hugh Hewitt on WLS 890 AM. If you’re not familiar with him, Hugh Hewitt is a law professor, broadcast journalist, and author. Most of what he talks about is politics, and I should note for my more liberal readers that he’s pretty conservative in his political columns. But having said that, Hugh Hewitt took a break awhile back from talking about politics to write what I consider a very valuable book called, In But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World. 

This is not a book about political ambitions, and it doesn’t contain much, if any, political subject matter. Instead it addresses a fascinating topic – how do Christians that want to change the world approach gaining influence in a way that is God-honoring?  Geared at people as young as high-school students, In, But Not Of includes a great deal of useful advice. It includes sections with titles like, “Managing your flaws”, “Find Interesting People” and “Tattoos: Don’t.”

This is not a deeply theological book, and there are a few issues that I’d gladly debate with Mr. Hewitt, but it’s valuable is in its practicality. I know of few books dealing with this important topic, and I think Hewitt’s efforts have created an insightful, thought-provoking resource. It’s relevant, interesting, and does a good job of putting Godly boundaries on ambition. While reminding us that influential Chrisitans can make an enormous positive impact on the world (think Joseph, Solomon, Nehemiah, etc.) it highlights many of the modern-day traps that can derail those with the best of intentions. If you know a young business person with their eyes set on an ambitious career, consider giving them In, But Not Of.  

Story time

 

Much is being written these days about organizational storytelling – using stories in the course of the workday to communicate key ideas. I couldn’t be happier about this. When I first started in sales I couldn’t stand the idea of rattling off a bunch of product feature & benefit information while a customer just stood there. Fortunately, I had some fantastic storytellers to learn from who helped me to see how much more effective storytelling is than most other forms of sales (and business) communications.

While I often think about the ways that the Church (big “C” church – churches, para-church organizations and other ministries) can learn from the marketplace, in this case the marketplace is most definitely learning from the Church. The best ministry leaders have used stories to educate, capture interest, and provoke imagination for thousands of years. And of course, no one justifies the value of powerful stories as much as Jesus himself. The fact that he used parables as his key means of communication shows that stories don’t just help uscommunicate – they are a chosen means by which God translates his immense and infinite wisdom into bite sized nuggets that we can understand.

Thankfully, fifty-slide PowerPoint presentations are out. No one wants to be bullet-pointed to death every time someone else wants to offer up an idea. Stories make complex things simple, are highly memorable, and can be introduced into light banter, turning a presentation into a conversation. For a great article about how to begin thinking about using stories (particularly from a brand perspective), check this great article at Brandchannel.com. It’s story time!

“Strategize no small strategies…

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…for they have no power to gain the approval of senior management.” That’s not quite Goethe’s famous quote, but it’ll do for our purposes.

 Yesterday I read a really good article in Rotman Magazine (from Rotman Management School in Toronto). It’s called “The Second Road of Thought” and to read it, click here and scroll down to page 46.

The article does a great job of challenging how only using logical thinking can keep us endlessly stuck in the status quo. It’s true of companies, churches and families. The author, Tony Golsby-Smith, suggests that we can only create meaningful change in our world by creatively envisioning ideas that tap into human emotion and put people, not data, at the center of our strategies. This is the forgotten path in business today, and it’s a path that is perfect for us as Christians.

As stewards of God’s earthly kingdom, it’s our jobs to create a the best possible future for our kids, our company, and our community. We know that God expects us to use these talents he’s given us – our minds, our resources, our time – to do big things, not maintain the status quo (see Matt 25). Have we really tapped into the unlimited potential that God has given us? I fear that we are much too focused on the present to create a new future.

My good friend Dave often reminds me that in the world of business (and elsewhere) that belief trumps proof. When it comes to big ideas and envisioning the future, proof is rooted in the past, but belief in an idea can fuel us forward and allow us to gain the support of others. If we have the power to use our gifts in bigger, bolder ways that we currently do, then we should do so – whether that’s improving the way we live, charting a new direction for our company, or fixing how we process our accounts receivables.

So what your idea?

Pride & Competition

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I don’t know about you, but there are a few business magazines that I really enjoy, and Harvard Business Review and Fast Company are pretty high on that list. Today I was reading this month’s Fast Company, which features a front page article on the world’s 50 most innovative companies. As I browsed the article (which I was thoroughly enjoyed since I’m an innovation geek) I saw that one of my company’s primary competitors made the list. Bummer!

I was reminded that I shouldn’t let my competitive nature get the better of me. One person who let a prideful, competitive mindset hurt him was King Saul. David (who at the time was a young, small shepherd boy) stole a lot of King Saul’s limelight as Israel’s commander-in-chief when he defeated Goliath. Saul ultimately threw away his kingdom when he became utterly consumed with David’s popularity (1 Sam 18) and became willing to sacrifice everything to remain the most popular in the eyes of the people.  They key learning is this: if you focus too much on beating them, you’ll lose what makes you great.

In truth, it didn’t really bother me too much that our competitor made the list – what bugged me is that we didn’t. In the end, that’s probably a good thing.  The truth is, without good competition we’d be much less inclined to be our best. We need them and they need us. As much as it might pain us, we should be thankful for good competitors.