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!

The risk and rewards of Christian enterprise

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Most of my blog posts are about what it’s like to be a Christian in corporate America, but today I’d like to touch briefly on something even more specific – Christian companies. There are a small number of entrepreneurs that have started these organizations – companies that have explicitly Christian missions – who try to balance profits with purpose.

I’ve been aware of some of the most famous of these corporations, mostly large ones such as Servicemaster, Curves, and Chick-fil-A, for some time. I’ve learned, though,  that there are many more smaller Christian companies out there as well.  As an example, I’ve passed this sign many times here in Grand Rapids and only recently went on their website to learn more about this Christian company.

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I applaud those who start Christian companies, as doing so comes with a lot of risks and rewards. On the upside, it allows someone with a mature faith to express it in their organization’s culture, to nurture employees in a holistic manner, and to differentiate their organization in the marketplace as a company that can be trusted to behave with integrity. 

However, there are big risks as well. As an example, Christian entrepreneurs risk abandoning non-Christian clientele, although this is relatively minor given that a majority of Americans identify themselves as Christians. More importantly, though, they expose their behaviors and the behaviors of their employees to tremendous scrutiny and risk tarnishing the reputation of Christ in doing so. If taken seriously, this risk can become a source of tremendous accountability if a business owner is willing to do whatever is necessary, including sacrificing profits, to protect the organization’s reputation. There is one other less-understood risk, and that’s the risk of hurting, rather than encouraging, their employees’ faith. Whenever Christianity becomes highly institutionalized (as an example, say… Western Europe) the faith can be percieved over time as imposed and legalistic, usually resulting in an abandoning of the it.

To do it right, owners of Christian companies must maintain a vibrant Christian culture that doesn’t just permit, but actively encourages, employees to live out their faith at work. A clear, simple message about the role of faith in the company is best, and legalism should be avoided. One strong example would be the approach that Truett Cathy has taken with Chick-fil-A. To read his “recipe” for business success, click here.

Deuteronomy 6 encourages us to write God’s word on our doorposts and our gates. For some faithful business owners, that also includes putting it in their mission statement and exterior signage.

Space and Sparrows

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I had a blog post in mind for today that I’ve decided to put on hold until tomorrow. Why? Because I stuck my head out our front door this evening to get a glimpse of the lunar eclipse and have been thinking about it ever since.

The very first words of the Bible say that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis paints a magnificent picture of God creating our planet and others, and of his spirit hovering over Earth before unleashing a torrent of creation – light, water, land, plants, animals, and ultimately us. Seeing the Earth’s shadow cast upon the moon was a reminder of how big he is, and how small the moon and sun are relative to him.

But somehow, we’re not small to him. He created this for us. He created us for him.

In Jesus, God entered our world to bridge our relationship with him. While he was here, he informed us that God doesn’t forget even a single sparrow in his creation, and that we’re far more valuable to him than sparrows (Luke 12). He has our names written on his hand (Isa 49:16); he knows the number of hairs on our head.

And what does this have to do with work? Well, it’s no accident that we spend so much time there. He designed us to serve others, and he created us as representatives (those that literally “re-present”) him to the world around us. The God of our lunar eclipse cares about our where we work, how we work, those with whom we work, and I’d suggest that if he knows how many hairs I’ve got, he probably knows how many will turn grey this year because of my job. He may have created the Sun, but everything we know of him through the Bible and our own experience suggests that he cares about whatever might be challenging you and me at work today.

Amazing.