Eden Chen spoke at The Gospel Coalition’s first West Coast Conference in Fullerton, California, in October 2018, on the topic of faith and work. He focused on three practical topics for church leaders seeking to engage their members on the subject: calling, excellence, and evangelism.
Chen addressed the role of the church in developing each of those aspects, and how Christians can use the workspace as an incredible opportunity for both excellence and evangelism.
This episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast is sponsored by The Good Book Company, publisher of Wherever You Go, I Want You To Know, a new beautifully illustrated kids book by Melissa Kruger. She helps parents say to their children, “Whatever you do, wherever you start, I pray you love Jesus, with all of your heart.” Learn more at thegoodbook.com.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Eden Chen: I guess being good TGC folks, I’m assuming some of you guys have read Tim Keller’s book, Every Good Endeavor. It’s like one of the early books I read on faith and work. I wanted to highlight a section. If you haven’t read it, I’m going to just talk briefly about … In the beginning, he kind of lays out eight different places where you see Christians able to interact with their work. Then I’m just going to touch on some of those. We don’t have enough time to sort of go and talk about every aspect of work, and I’m not also equipped to talk about every aspect of work.
I’ll talk about … There’s eight things that he mentions. There’s probably more, but he lays out eight of them. First, further social justice in the world. Second is like evangelism. That’s probably like the big one. Third is like skillful, excellent work, or just like the quality of your work. Fourth is creating beauty with work, the ability to reflect God with beauty. Fifth is like the motivation that you get into work, and then he also like ties in something called just like engaging with culture into that. I don’t know how those are related, but that’s the fifth.
Sixth is like working with a joyful heart, so like the way that you respond to certain circumstances in your work. If something goes bad, you’re joyful. If something goes good, you’re joyful, and the ability to sort of differentiate yourself in that way. Seventh is the whatever gives you the most joy, so pursuing things that we’re passionate about. Then finally, making as much money as you can and then giving it away.
Eight sort of different ways that we can be involved. What Keller says is if you say that one of those is the most important thing, then it sort of de-emphasizes the other ones or some of them may contradict each other. But if you say that all of those are different ways that with as Christians can be involved in our workplace, then you can see how you can do each one of those things in your given workplaces.
Before I get started on my topic, just out of curiosity from you guys, how many of you all are ministry leaders? Can I just get a show of hands, versus lay people? Maybe like about half I’m guessing, it looks like. Okay, so I’m typically used to speaking to a business crowd, so I tried to gear this a little bit towards how … Hopefully that’s still helpful for lay people, but also like how you all can engage with your congregations on work, since about half of you guys are ministry leaders or in vocational ministry.
I’m going to focus on talking about three different topics. Most of you are more qualified than I am to speak about the theological aspect of these things, so I’m going to speak more about sort of the practical ways that I’ve integrated some of these things in, and then hopefully it gives you guys some ideas on ways that you can interact with your congregation, et cetera.
The three things I’m focusing on are calling, excellence, and evangelism. Calling, excellence, and evangelism. Amongst those eight things that I mentioned, those cover some of them multiple ones of those and some of them maybe one of them, but I’m not covering every single aspect of work. Calling, excellence, and evangelism isn’t the full sphere of all the things that you can do as a Christian in your workplace.
Just to get started, calling. The framework that I would use when I … I’ll give a little bit of background on myself, but the framework that I would use when I kind of approach something is what am I good at, what is good in this world to do, and what do I enjoy, what am I passionate about. I think whether you’re Christian or you’re not Christian, a lot of people use that framework to sort of make decisions around work.
Now, I think something that the church, I’ve felt, has not done a great job doing is defining terms. A lot of times, we throw out a term like calling, or we throw out a term like good, but as a church we have the responsibility and also the opportunity to define what some of these terms are. For me, I think looking at those three questions, what am I good at, that needs some definition, at least for myself personally. Like what am I good at? How does the church help me discover my gifts? How does the church help me foster those gifts?
what is good in the world? I think that term good, right, what does it mean to be good? What industries are good, if any, and how are those industries good? Defining those things and trying to help people come up with examples. Then, what do I love? Giving people an outlet to discover things that they may enjoy doing.
A little bit of story around myself. I think there’s this quote that Brian Eno gives around … Brian Eno, he’s the audio kind of producer for like U2 and a really famous music producer. He said like, “If you want to make a lot of money, do one thing and do it well.” I’m like the opposite of that. I’ve done a lot of different things, so I’ve been extremely unfocused, and you guys will see that sort of complete chaos. But because of that, I’ve touched a lot of different industries and thought through how those industries relate to the gospel in some way or my faith in some way.
I became a Christian in high school. Wanted to be a youth pastor like a lot of Christians that become Christian in high school. When I went to college, I was on the path to sort of go into ministry. I was taking Greek and Hebrew, and getting ready to apply to seminary. I was a business major, because I thought for church planting business would be helpful for that. That was kind of the only reason. I wasn’t thinking like I would go into business or anything like that.
Before I was a Christian, I was really into like stealing stuff. My brother and I used to steal cars. We would take them apart, sell the parts. We would steal. We would hack online, steal Diabolo accounts and sell the pieces on eBay and stuff like that. Just all sorts of stuff.
I got a lot of like random skills from that period of my life. The computer skills I got from hacking accounts and selling things like that, I was able to use in college as someone that was going into business. In business, you learn about finance and things like that. I started to think about like how I could use some of the programming stuff that I learned in high school with the business stuff I was learning so I could make some money on the side.
I went to Emory for school. A private school, super expensive, and was in a lot of debt. Like by my senior year, I think I was going to have amassed $160,000 in debt. My options were pretty much like I could marry someone that’s super rich to help … I mean seriously, this is what I was thinking about, because I’ve got to go four years of seminary, right? 160K of debt, four years of seminary. When I’m done with that, it’s like 250K, right? As a youth pastor, you’re not really making money unless you’re doing something weird.
My view was like, okay, I can marry rich or I can make some money on the side. I started to try to apply some of those business things and basically got super, super lucky when I was in college. Me and a friend really had no understanding of risk, so we took some really ridiculous risky bets on trading, and through that got a lot of press when I was like 19, 20 years old on CNBC, Reuters, Bloomberg, and things like that for inventing this algorithm that ended up being like a famous trading algorithm.
That sort of like drove me to business, and my senior year I started doing some consulting for Lehman Brothers. This is before obviously Lehman went under. I could tell a lot more stories on that, but I was consulting for them. Long story short, consulting for them and just seeing like there’s no Christians in this industry. We had a Bible study at Lehman Brothers, and it was like I think maybe like three of us that were going at the time. I mean, it was just there’s like thousands of people there. It was just very secular. Most of the people were there to make money, and I was just kind of like, “This is like a great ministry opportunity.”
Because of that, I sort of felt that maybe like … Actually, part of what I was thinking was that like I’m probably too shady to be like a youth pastor. I need to go into business. I’m like not … Like youth pastors probably shouldn’t be, or pastors in general, they shouldn’t be like so numbers focused, but by nature I’m a very numbers focused person. I was like, “If I go into youth ministry or ministry, I’m just going to be constantly worried about numbers.” But it turns out that numbers is like great for business.
God sort of redirected me, was like, “You’re too shady to go into ministry. I want you in business.” I ended up working at a bank for a year, and then me and that same person that traded in college, we went and started a hedge fund together. That’s I guess when my first, some of the first questions that started up with calling for me. Like, okay, I wanted to be a youth pastor and now I’m trading stocks and moving around this money. It’s like what is the good that I’m producing?
I think that was the time that like the book Every Good Endeavor came out. I was actually thinking about writing a book at the time on like interviewing other Christians. I was like, “Who else is in business that’s a Christian? I want to learn about this.” Center for Faith and Work and all these like faith resources were coming out that were just super helpful for me as I was sort of seeking this question out.
I had a mentor that was challenging me like, “What do you really do at a hedge fun anyways?” I ended up leaving the fund, just because I couldn’t answer that question very well. Somebody may be able to answer that question. I wasn’t able to answer it very well, so I left. I worked at a church called Reality LA.
Then during that course of that year, I really felt that, again, that reconfirmation that God was calling me towards business again. Over the last five years, have been involved in all sorts of different businesses. Fishermen Labs, the business that I started, does consulting on the technology side for a lot of consumer and entertainment brands like Disney, Fox, Paramount, Nike, Puma, a lot of the kind of Fortune 500 consumer brands. I first started with that and then ended up starting a real estate fund, a construction company. We have a food company now and a software as a service account management tool. We’re sort of in all different random industries.
I kind of want to give you guys a taste of how I’ve thought about how these businesses relate to my faith, but I also … There’s two elements I think that are really important. One is like having a vision and having sort of like a theology of the work that you’re doing. Then the second part of that is like the actual execution of doing that. Those are two like very different things. There’s a lot of people that have … Well, I’d say most people don’t even have a theology of why they’re doing what they’re doing. They don’t have a view of … If they’re in work as a medical professional or whatever, I don’t think most people, at least that I talk to, have a strong view of this is why I’m doing this and those eight things that I mentioned, how those relate to my work.
Now, some of the people that do have those, there’s very few people that can … They may have a view of what they ought to be doing or that they wish they could be doing, but then the execution is like another huge challenge. I’m going to give you like some of the vision. The execution on my end has not always been great. In fact, more of the time it’s probably been bad than it’s been good. But at least there was a vision. Sometimes there was some execution.
Technology is a very unique industry. Every industry is a unique industry, because they’re all different industries. Technology, the unique parts of technology are that there’s an ability to be remote in nature. There’s generally a high income, highly educated staffed person. Those are like a couple kind of interesting parts of technology.
When we started to think about technology and the ways that it can work with something like missions, we were pretty excited about the opportunity for that. Missions we looked at had a bunch of different issues at the time. One, long term funding is an issue in missions, right? If you’re a missionary, your funding base has always been the US. The US has become more secularized. There’s less funding base.
Two, visas are very difficult to come by, especially nowadays with the US going crazy. Then people associate US with Christianity, right, so like China doesn’t want Christians in China, because Christians are all Americans and we don’t want American influence. Visas are harder to come by.
Three, reaching working people has already been something that’s been difficult for missionaries. Typically, missionaries start by working in healthcare, education, generally in like a lower income segment. If you want to reach like a working population in India for example, very, very difficult as a missionary because you don’t speak their language. You’re not a programmer, so how are you going to break into that space?
Fourth, short term missions has kind of I think been … There’s been like a lot of good, When Helping Hurts and things like that around how short term missions can hurt by enabling and these kinds of things. Short term missions have been a problem. You have like a programmer that goes to India and he or she is making houses, right? It’s just like not … There’s like people that are way better at making houses, right?
All those are issues, and we saw like, okay, how can tech serve some of those issues? Tech is remote in nature, right? I can hire someone in India. I can hire someone in Poland, and Ukraine, and Czech Republic. It doesn’t really matter. I could hire people anywhere and they can all work for us.
Two, governments love technology. They’re very interested in working with profit producing technology companies. Technology is like cool now, so whether you’re in Pakistan where we have an office or any other place, you can gain the favor of governments, get access to visas, things like that.
Funding, business makes money. You can fund missions with business. I can go through all of them, but this is like your traditional business as mission. I think that technology has a very good foundation for doing things like business as mission.
Food, we started a food company that does instant noodle called Common Foods. The interesting thing with food is that there’s lots of manufacturing that’s involved.
My wife and I live in a low income neighborhood. A lot of times, we’re thinking about how can I use technology to really like employ people in my neighborhood. The reality after thinking about it for a long time, there’s education and things like that, but the realty is it’s very, very difficult. The opportunity to get somebody who grew up in a single household that has very sort of … is behind in education, that they will become this world class programmer, it’s not impossible, but it’s very difficult. At scale, there’s no real kind of solution for that.
We started thinking about what are the different ways that we can employ people using business, and food was one of those things where we can create. Food is this thing that creates a lot of manufacturing, and we had the opportunity to do that. That’s food. Then food you can also … the output is something that you can use to feed people, et cetera.
I could go down every single one of these, but like real estate is generally based off of community. If you want to have redemptive real estate, there’s ways to create community. You can better your … We’re in low income neighborhoods for the most part. There’s ways that you can better those neighborhoods in certain ways, et cetera.
Every single business has sort of a … there’s a foundation for why we went into that business and how we felt that it could ultimately have some kind of impact driven metric that we could derive from it. We haven’t always succeeded at that, but in cases we have.
Calling is like I think you can take that framework and apply that to any industry, and you don’t have to be an entrepreneur either. You can do that in any industry. I think like encouraging people to think creatively about how their industry can be used in some fashion.
I think a big part of … I’ll talk about observation later, because I think there’s so many ways that we can see the gospel in almost everything, but let’s just more to excellence. Excellence is something that I think Christians, there are certain natural advantages that Christians when it comes to excellence, and there’s some disadvantages as well.
One disadvantage I’ll throw out there is like there’s some people that can work like 20 hours a day every day and that’s their lives. Christians, there may be seasons where you can do that, but in general that’s like idolatry. There’s a disadvantage in that you can’t do that. I mean you can argue that that’s an advantage, because a lot of people burn out, et cetera. But to some extent, not being a workaholic is a disadvantage.
There are a lot of natural advantages as Christians that we have as well. I’ll throw out some of these advantages. These advantages are things that I think are theologically true but don’t always happen. I think these are things that need to be taught in the church about why people need to be doing these things.
The first one, and maybe the most frustrating one for me, is like risk taking. I think Christians have this unique ability to take risk for many, many different reasons. They have the ability to take risks because we believe that God is sovereign and therefore ultimately we can take no risk. Our ability to do something and know that God is sovereign and therefore we’re able to be comfortable in that risk is better that someone that just does some random thing and expects a random outcome, right?
Then we’re also called to take risk. If you go and look at the parable of the talents, right, something like that, I mean there’s a lot of different parables on this, but look at the parable of the talents. I can read it. It would be like going on a journey, a servant, who called his servants and entrusted them to property. One of them he gave five talents, another two, another one. He who received the talents went at once and traded with them, made five more. He who had two made two more, and then he who had one, he dug in the ground his master’s money.
You guys know the story. After a while, the master comes back and he says, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” to the other two, and then he goes to the guy with the two and he says, “What have you done with what I’ve entrusted to you?” The person says, “Master, I knew you’d be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathered where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid,” lack of risk, “And I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” Then that guy gets destroyed. You guys know the story.
What is the issue there? Most people in Christian circles talk about stewardship when they talk about risk. I think actually this is both a stewardship issue and a risk issue. This person was stewarded with talents, given something that the master expected a return out of, but was afraid to take risk, and therefore there was no return. Business is all about risk. Everything in business is risk. Like the more risk you take in general, the higher return you get.
Christians historically have been great risk takers. Like you look at how fast a church expanded, the way that church served people during huge health crises, the historical missions and business. Throughout history, Christians have been great risk takers. Whether it’s our reputation or whether … I think there’s a truth to that reputation is that Christians in this day and age are kind of the safest, conservative … I’m not talking about politically conservative. I’m just saying kind of conservative, safe, protectionist type people, right?
I think in churches, you have an opportunity to encourage people to take wise risks. Not foolish risks, wise risks. I think there’s an opportunity to teach that risk is actually like a key part of what we see in all these great figures. If you look at Paul and the amount of risk that he took going from place to place and getting stoned, and you look at Esther and the risk that she took, Joab and Abishai, there’s story after story about the crazy risk taking that people have had.
I think shame in Christian circles is a huge thing that pushes people away from risk taking. Like being afraid of failure. I think we need to teach people that failure is not … like God uses failure and weakness to speak to us. Encourage people to take risk. Not everybody needs to go out and start their own business, but risk needs to be something that is … Healthy, biblical risk is something that needs to be taught more in churches, and encouraged, and celebrated.
Secondly, relational. Christians are just relational in nature. We believe that it’s through relationships that people change. Ultimately, as someone that hires people, if someone’s very smart and then someone’s less smart but one person’s more trustworthy than the other, I’d say like trust to me is almost like the most important value when I go out and hire someone. If you’re known to be a trustworthy person, you have a huge advantage to the people that may be smarter than you, maybe have more experience, but are not trustworthy. That’s just a natural kind of advantage that they have.
Then humility I think is huge too as well. These are some of the most important hiring things that we look for when we hire. Someone that’s humble. If you throw a bunch of people in a room and you’re trying to do a critical thinking session, you need someone that has critical thinking. That’s important, but if someone’s not humble and they’re not willing to listen to other people, that person is like completely useless from a creative session. The Bible, obviously there’s tons to unpack around humility, but these are things that not only are biblical principles, but that give us a huge advantage in business.
The excellence factor, the sad and difficult thing about it is that some of the most un-excellent things that we see tend to be things that are produced by Christians. I think that we need a standard of excellence that says here are all the things that give us an advantage to be excellent. I mean there are weaknesses, like we can’t work as hard, blah, blah, blah.
There are things that we can’t do, but let’s stop producing things that are not excellent, because it really hurts our message when we put out, whether it’s art or culture, entertainment, or whatever it is, stuff that really just doesn’t have anything outside of just like the movie … Not that all Christian movies are bad, but a lot of them are. Let’s be honest, right? Just making some Christian movie for the Christian community that encourages fathers on how to be a better father. Whatever it like, let’s make like excellent … If you’re going to do something like that, make an excellent film that speaks to Christians. That’s excellence.
Then finally, evangelism. This is … What time do we have till? Does anyone know? Is it 2:30 or is it 2:00? Hopefully it’s not 2:00, because then we’re done.
2:30. Okay, good. All right. Evangelism is … Oh, till 3:00. Okay, great. Just because I want to leave some time for Q and A as well. Evangelism is another one. This is something that I thought about a lot of.
Humble brag. Well, it’s not humble at all actually. Just brag. I, in general, have gotten almost every single interaction that I have with … I spend most of my time with non-Christians. Most of the interactions that I have with non-Christians, I’m able to tell them about my faith, in almost every conversation that I have. It’s not something where I’m in people’s face about my faith. I just want to give you guys some maybe strategies on how I’ve been able to do that.
I think in general, my strategy has always been like it’s very, very awkward to say to someone, “I’m a Christian,” in the middle of a random conversation, right? If I’m discussing Viacom’s new Nickelodeon app or something, we’re working on a new Nickelodeon app, it’s going to be very hard for me to just be like, “Hey, I’m a Christian.” It’s something that doesn’t come up in normal conversation.
There needs to be something that gets that person to ask me about my faith. What are the things that we can do to get people to ask us about our faith? I think that’s like the overarching question for me. I think there are tons and tons of different things that we can do, but that we usually don’t want to do because those things are hard things.
Typically, the way I think about it is that if you do something that’s weird or just out of the norm, people are going to ask you why you did that thing, right? Like if you wear something weird to work, people are probably going to ask you about it if it’s really weird. That’s not the point of like wear weird things to work every day, but what are the things that you can do that will make people ask you about your fath?
Here are some things that … I don’t know a better … They’re sort of like stumbling blocks is the way I think about it, but the stumbling block hopefully leads to Jesus. These are the stumbling blocks that sort of like people stumble upon in my conversation with them, and then that leads to a gospel conversation.
For me, my wife works on Skid Row, which is just a weird … Get your wives to work on Skid Row, or get your husbands. Obviously not realistic for a lot of people, but my wife works on Skid Row. That is a conversation that comes up very often where people ask me about my family. I talk about my wife’s job. She works with the homeless on Skid Row.
That often leads to gospel conversations around why Jesus cares for the poor and the homeless, and people that are disenfranchised and that are addicted to things and all sort of things. That’s something that just comes up in normal conversation. It’s normal for people to ask you about your family. When your wife makes a … I didn’t force my wife to go work on Skid Row. She’s just crazy. But the fact that she does, it does come up in conversation a lot, which leads to a gospel conversation.
Two, I have this ring that’s a little tattoo here. A lot of people ask me about this ring randomly because it’s weird to have a tattoo ring. It’s a nail, and most people are like, “Why do you have a nail on?” You guys all know obviously. That leads to conversations around, “Why did you decide to do that?”
I mean at the time that I got married, I could’ve just bought a ring. The tattoo ring and a ring, it’s about the same cost. Tattoo ring is like 80 bucks. You can buy a ring on Amazon. You might lose the ring multiple times, so maybe the tattoo is actually more economically efficient. But point being, it wasn’t an economic decision. My point is, no one’s going to ask me about a ring, but the tattoo at least may open up some conversation. That’s the ring.
My wife and I, about five years ago, we moved to south LA, more well known as South Central. Five years ago, South Central was a place that people didn’t move to, especially Asian people. Asian people still don’t move to South Central. Some white people are, but no Asian people are. Definitely a lot of Latinos. But five years ago, there were helicopters, gunshots. All the stuff that you hear about South Central was there.
We grew up doing a lot of inner city things. We feel, for us, it wasn’t one of those things that we want to be the savior of South Central. It was that we felt that, A, Jesus, we’ve experienced Jesus when we’ve spent time with people that have very little. That’s just for us, we have experienced the presence of God in those situations, so we wanted to seek that.
But another great reason is that almost any conversation that I have with anybody when I’m in a business context, almost everyone just kind of like just random talks, “Oh, where are you coming from? Where do you live?” These are just like random conversations that come up. I say, “I live in South Central,” and nobody lives in South Central that works in my business, works in my context. Most people are like, “Oh, is South Central gentrifying? Why are you coming from South Central? What’s the reason for that?”
Then we tell them, “Well, hey …” I just tell people, “We experience God when we spend time with people that have less than us, and we wanted to be part of a community where people have been around for a long time, have lots of roots.” There’s a lot of things I can get into for why specifically that, but that’s a gospel conversation.
Fishermen Labs, our business name, people always ask us, “I mean, you’re a tech company. Why are you guys called Fisherman Labs?” That leads to conversations. “Hey, my business partner and I, we met in church. We’re followers of Christ. We felt that fishermen, a bunch of these fishermen were kind of the most impactful people in the history of civilization.” Whether you’re Christian or not Christian, that’s just fact. “All the cities and everything, governments, all this stuff impacted by these people, and we want to make impact, so that’s why we call ourselves Fishermen.” That’s leads to gospel conversations.
My wife and I, we’re in the process of getting foster certified. Tons of people ask us about why we’re doing that. “Can you guys not have kids? Is a dog not good enough?” Dogs or cats, or stuff like that. We love animals in LA. But the foster system, adoption, stuff like that, I mean I could get in a whole rant about the foster system. The foster system exists because we are Christians are not taking up our calling in taking care of orphans and widows.
But there’s so many opportunities for … Most people that are not Christian are not going to get involved in the foster system unless they’re either old and they want a head start. There’s a movie coming out called Instant Family that Paramount’s doing. We’re working on that. But the director, he fostered, but they did it because they were older and they wanted kids that were older. A lot of times, there’s infertility issues.
In our foster classes, what we found is that you have like a few archetypes of people. You have like the single mom that wants to foster the relative. You have the just sweet Christian person that wants to foster. That’s awesome. Then typically like a lot of those people that we see in those classes are sort of lower income, or they don’t have huge houses, but they just felt the call to foster. Amazing. Then you have the people that are infertile, and therefore they’re fostering.
All cool things, but my thing is like there’s a lot of rich or higher income Christians out there. Where are the higher income Christians in the adoption and foster space? It’s like as if the more that we have, the less we’ve involved in brokenness and in helping other people. Just a rant on if God’s blessed you with stuff, do things that are risky, that are out there that people are going to ask about.
Then the biggest thing I’ll say from an evangelism standpoint has been transparency, which everyone can do in every context, whether you’re an entrepreneur, or you work somewhere, or wherever. When I first got into business, I felt that if I was super successful, and I made a lot of money, and a lot of people followed me on Twitter, and all this kind of stuff, I would have the opportunity to influence people for Christ, right? That was like I thought that that was … Like if I have influence, people will listen.
Turns out that like no one really cares. I mean no one really is going to ask about Jesus because you’re influential. They might be impressed with your success, but they’re not going to ask about Jesus. Now, when you’re transparent with people about brokenness, those people will ask about Jesus.
I’m wearing this shirt, Talitha. My wife and I, we just had our first daughter, who’s seven weeks old. We were told at 13 weeks that she was not viable. Our doctors told us that maybe we should abort the child, all this kind of stuff. We ended up keeping her. She’s seven weeks old, was five weeks early. She has something called a cloacal anomaly. Very, very rare. Like one in 30,000 or less than that.
Basically like all of us have a cloaca. The cloaca typically differentiates into a vagina, a urethra, and an anus. She did not have any of those things happen. She has one common channel and no anus, no vagina, no outward vagina and things like that. She had to have surgery right after she was born.
Her thing is one of those things where it’s a very hard thing, right, obviously. It’s not something that gets fixed. Like it’s one of those things where her anatomy is a certain way. We can have surgeries and things like that, but that’s something that we have to deal with like from a long term management standpoint for a long time.
The opportunity here is that a lot of people, it turns out, struggle with some type of … It may not be a cloacal anomaly. It may be something … It may be a preemie. A lot of women, I didn’t know this, a lot of women have miscarriages, and it’s not talked about very much. In fact, I think that I’ve heard some stats like two-thirds experience a miscarriage at some point that are trying. But there is so much brokenness out there that is not talked about.
My wife and I, we just tried to be very open about what was going on. We blogged about it. I posted a blog on Talitha’s condition a couple times, and I got hundreds of responses from non-Christians that reached out to me and said, “I’m praying for you,” or, “Hey, I had this situation as well with my son,” or all sorts of opportunities to talk about Jesus in a lot of work contexts, because I was blasting this on Twitter, on Facebook, everywhere.
Not everyone is maybe called to be that open, but transparency with brokenness, and weakness, and things like that lead to gospel conversations. Anyone can do that. I mean all these things are hard things that anyone can do really, and we often don’t do those things because they’re hard.
I guess my general point is that the only things that are going to cause people to really ask us about our faith are the things that are counter cultural, that are hard. Of you want to speak to people about Jesus, do things that are difficult. It’s going to look different for every person here or people in your church. But gaining influence and being successful, those things don’t lead to gospel conversation, but being transparent about brokenness does. Those are just a few examples. Like I said, there are lots of examples of things that you can do to talk about Jesus with people.
Then I’m going to talk briefly about some trends real quick that I see in the workplace, and then we have probably 10, maybe 15 minutes for some Q and A, if you guys have any questions. These are some trends I see in the workplace. I would ask like, how do these impact my congregation in terms of the work they do? How does this impact the culture of my church? How does this impact the people, myself?
More remote work. People are freelancing more often and people are working multiple jobs. I can’t get into the implications of each one of these. There are implications to all of these things. I’m not going to have enough time to get into those, but think through some of the trends that are happening in the workplace and what the implications of those are.
The example of this one is relationships look a lot different when people are freelancing, and working remote, and working multiple jobs. The church is a great place to process some of those changes, and it’s often not a place that that happens. Great opportunities to see trends and have conversations around this.
People switch jobs more frequently and there’s less loyalty, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that you’re incentivized to leave your job more frequently. I can get paid more if I continue to switch jobs than if I stayed at a job for 50 years, because that job’s not going to give me a pension anyways. What’s the point of staying there? That’s the reality. People are switching jobs more frequently.
There’s less pensions and retirement options out there, so people are probably working for a longer period of time than they used to. Retirement is not really an option. I mean there’s like tons of stats out there on really the lack of savings in the American public. People basically don’t have savings.
Increasing disruption of lower income jobs. I think that’s true and not true. I think a lot of times … Everyone does this. Christians do it a lot too as well. We tend to be overly negative on certain things. The reality is like the economy is very, very strong right now and unemployment’s at an all time low. But there are trends that would disrupt a lot of low income jobs. Now, I’m not saying that those low income jobs won’t be replaced by other jobs. They could be, but there are people that are going to have jobs disrupted. Helping them get additional training or whatever it is, that’s important.
People interact and get addicted to technology more. I think people get addicted to … People throughout history have got addicted to things. I think the thing with technology is that the tools out there to addict people are more powerful, because there’s more data out there and that data is getting smarter. The ability … When you’re incentivized as a company to monopolize people’s time and you have unlimited amounts of data and understanding of behavioral psychology, you can addict people to anything. I mean obviously, I don’t need to tell you guys. Everybody’s addicted to technology, including myself.
People are looking for jobs that provide more personal fulfillment. People find meaning in their jobs instead of outside their jobs. That’s a trend that can lead either to like more obsession with their job or you have … I think in general I see a couple types of people in the church. You have people that are working and they spend all their time in the church like serving, on multiple small groups, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Then you have some people that are like very involved in their work and they spend very little time in the church. Helping people find that balance of what does it mean to be an excellent church member but also excellent at your work.
Technology allows people to work on less monotonous tasks. That’s going to be a trend that we see more and more. There’s less stay-at-home people. You guys, some of these are obvious.
Younger people are in leadership roles. There’s less hierarchy. A lot of people in your church that are like me and younger are being put in leadership roles at a very young age. I think you see that in the church too as well. There’s less of a sort of seniority and what not.
Also, the idolization of entrepreneurs and technology and all that kind of stuff. All your congregation members are reading the stories of Elon Musk, and Zuckerberg, and all these people. There’s an idolatry there. I think most people are not called to be entrepreneurs. In fact, I think there’s an assumption sometimes that that’s like the way to go, when it often isn’t. But a lot of that is born out of this idolization of these people that everyone wants to be Elon Musk and what not.
Those are some trends. James 4:13 to 16 has been a huge help to me for work. You guys I think know the passage. I’ll just read it and then I’ll open it up for Q and A. It says, “Come now, you who say today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” That’s such a business, I mean, passage, this one, which was so helpful for me. “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.” I mean this just speaks to business people. This is exactly what we do, right? “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say if the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that. But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”
A few takeaways. It matters how you speak about business. It’s important to remember that we’re all going to die, and also important to remember that God is in control. Thank you all for the time, and it’s great meeting you all. Yeah.