Enlightening Influence

Enlightening Influence

Two Worlds

Imagine a world in which:

  • Businesses are typified by “greed, selfishness, manipulation, secrecy, and a single-minded focus on winning. Wealth creation is the key indicator of success.”
  • Business people are characterized by “distrust, anxiety, self-absorption, fear, burnout, and feelings of abuse.”
  • Interactions include “conflict, lawsuits, contract breaking, retribution, and disrespect.”
  • Scholars focus on “theories of problem-solving, reciprocity and justice, managing uncertainty, overcoming resistance, achieving profitability, and competing successful against others” (Cameron et al, Positive Organization Scholarship, 2003, p. 3).

Imagine another world in which:

  • Businesses are typified by “appreciation, collaboration, virtuousness, vitality, and meaningfulness. Creating abundance and human well-being are key indicators of success.”
  • Business people are characterized by “trustworthiness, resilience, wisdom, humility, and high levels of positive energy.”
  • Interactions are characterized by “compassion, loyalty, honesty, respect, and forgiveness.”
  • Scholars focus on “theories of excellence, transcendence, positive deviance, extraordinary performance, and positive spirals of flourishing.” (Cameron et al, Positive Organization Scholarship, 2003, p. 3).

For those familiar with the writings of St. Augustine, this sounds like his comparison between the City of Man and the City of God.  However, it is really a comparison between negative and positive worldviews in the Positive Organization Scholarship literature .  A key question is how those worldviews relate.  It is not one or the other.  POS “does not reject the value and significance of the phenomena of the first worldview.  Rather, it emphasizes phenomena represented in the second worldview….The second worldview merely calls attention to phenomena that represents positive deviance” (Cameron et al, Positive Organization Scholarship, 2003, p. 4).

In other words, the hope is that the second worldview, a more positive one must eventually transform or enlighten the first worldview.  This is also what St. Augustine had in mind.  We can participate in Christ and in that work.  That is the essence of a transformative worldview from a Christian, specifically reformed perspective.

Influence Strategies

Let’s make the concept of this worldview very concrete by applying it to the challenge of influencing others.  Suppose we wish to influence others toward creating a life of abundance and well-being.

There are distinct strategies we could use:

  • We could tell or persuade others to change.
  • We could force or coerce others to change.
  • We could invite others to influence an important decision toward change.
  • We could empower others to influence us.

As paradoxical as it seems, we best influence others toward creating abundance and well-being when we empower them to influence us.

Let’s begin with a discussion on influence.

What is Influence?

When we think of influence, we tend to think of power and politics. But influence is fundamentally a process through which people attempt to meet their needs by helping other people to do the same.  The venue for influence is decision-making.  The result is change.  Unfortunately, many times the direction of influence toward change is one-way: from the person with more power to the person with less power.

So what would influence look like in its enlightened, transformed state?  To explore this, we will return to our discussion of influence from a Positive Organization Scholarship (POS) perspective.

Influence from a POS Perspective

POS defines two states of leadership.  In the Normal State of Leadership

  • “[We] seek equilibrium….We are comfort-centered, externally-directed, self-focused, and [externally] closed.  We construct a world of social exchange and economic transaction.  The central purpose of anyone in such a system is to obtain status and resources while avoiding pain and punishment.  When emerging reality threatens our deeply held values by suggesting we need to move into the unknown, we resist.  We become self-deceptive because we say change is needed, yet we want to avoid the risk of losing what we have, so we seek to ‘manage’ change in ways we do not find deeply threatening” (Quinn, Building the Bridge As You Walk Across It, 2004, p. 69).
  • “In the normal state, we typically employ two general strategies of change: Telling, that is, making logical arguments for change and Forcing, that is, using forms of leverage such as threat or firing or ostracizing.  Less often, we use a third strategy, Participating, that is, using open dialogue and pursuing win-win strategies” (Quinn, ibid, p. 69).

Telling: Emphasizing the Technical.  The telling strategy is based on the technical (expertise of the speaker) and its goal is to persuade for, or in favor of, the speaker perception of truth.

  • “The Telling strategy assumes that people are guided by reason.  If others decide it is in their best interest to change, they’ll gladly do so.  Any resistance to change [the perspective assumes] could only be the product of ignorance and superstition….”
  • “The Telling strategy is most effective for situations in which people are not very invested…. “The Telling strategy is not as effective in situations requiring significant behavioral change because it is based on a narrow, cognitive view of human systems” (Quinn, ibid, p. 70).
  • See http://blogs.trnty.edu/businessdept/2016/05/27/a-social-science-perspective-of-influencing-with-power/  for what the social sciences have to say about influence strategies.

Forcing: Emphasizing the Political.  The Forcing strategy is based on the political (the power of the speaker) and its goal is to enforce something or force someone to do something in favor of the speaker–possibly to preserve her/his point of view or status quo.

  • “The Forcing strategy seeks to leverage people into changing.  Usually some form of political or economic power is exerted.  Efforts may range from subtle manipulation to physical force.”
  • “The Forcing strategy usually evokes anger, resistance, and damage to the fundamental relationship.  Thus, it is not like to result in the kind of voluntary commitment that is necessary for healthy and enthusiastic change….”
  • “In the normal state, then, we commonly seek to create change by engaging in a two-step process: first, tell others why they need to change; second, if telling fails, figure out how to force them to change” ” (Quinn, ibid, p. 71).

Participating: Emphasizing the Interpersonal. The Participating strategy utilizes participating strategies to help people create ideas or complete tasks with each other.  It is a “norming” (converging) activity in that it tends build consensus.

  • “The Participating strategy involves a more collaborative approach.  This approach recognizes that people are influenced by habits, norms, and institutional policies and culture.  Here the change agent welcomes the input of others, who are seen as equals in the change process.  Instead of trying to make change happen simply by providing information, as in the Telling strategy, the change agent focuses on surfacing, clarifying, and reconstructing people’s values and on resolving hidden conflicts.  The emphasis is on communication and cooperation….”
  • “Participating strategies and active listening require that each person allows the other to express his or her own truth while insisting that his or her own truth be heard.  The exchange can then give rise to a new and more complex truth” (Quinn, ibid, p. 71).

A key point is that in the Normal State of Leadership, influence is the result of credibility and compliance.  In the Fundamental State of Leadership, influence is the result of an internalization of values.

The Fundamental State of Leadership

The internalization of values can transcend all of our behavior.  This can result in a deep change — a conversion.  When we are in the Fundamental State of Leadership, our values have transcended our behavior.  Unfortunately, it is a short-term phenomenon.  “The fundamental state of leadership is a temporary psychological condition. When we are in this state, we become:

  • [Less] comfort-centered and more purpose-centered.  We stop asking, What do I want?…Instead we ask, What result do I want to create?…[That] may attract us outside our comfort zone and into the uncertain journey that is the creative state.  As we begin to pursue purpose in the face of uncertainty, we gain hope and energy” (Quinn, ibid, p. 22).
  • [Less] externally-directed and more internally-directed….We begin to transcend our own hypocrisy, closing the gap between who we think we are and who we think we should be” (Quinn, ibid, p. 22).
  • [Less] self-focused and more other-focused.  As our sense of achievement and integrity increases, we feel more secure, less selfish, and more willing to put the common good ahead of the preservation of self” (Quinn, ibid, p. 22).
  • [Less] internally-closed and more externally-open.  When we meet our needs for increased achievement, integrity, and affiliation, we increase our confidence that we can learn our way forward in an uncertain and changing world” (Quinn, ibid, p. 23).

A Psychology of The Fundamental State

“Life is difficult….Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult” (Peck, The Road Less Traveled, p. 15).

“Life is a series of problems…. Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems.  Without discipline we solve nothing” (Peck, ibid, p. 15).  “[It] is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has meaning” (Peck, ibid, p. 16).

“Fearing the pain involved, almost all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, attempt to avoid problems” (Peck, ibid, p. 16).

“[The tools] of suffering, [the] means of experiencing the pain of problems constructively [i.e., discipline]: …delaying of gratification, acceptance of responsibility, dedication to truth, and balancing” (Peck, ibid, p. 18).  But underlying discipline is death and rebirth, and love.

  • Delaying Gratification.  “Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with.  It is the only decent way to live” (Peck, ibid, p. 19).  This feeling of being valuable is a cornerstone of self-discipline because when one considers oneself valuable one will take care of oneself in all ways that are necessary.  Self-discipline is self-caring” (Peck, ibid, p. 24).
  • Acceptance of Responsibility. “Whenever we seek to avoid the responsibility for our own behavior, we do so by attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual or organization or entity” (Peck, ibid, p. 42).  “We have…the freedom to choose every step of the way the manner in which we are going to respond to and deal with [oppressive] forces” (Peck, ibid, p. 43).
  • Dedication to Truth. “[We] must always hold truth, as best we can determine it, to be more important, more vital to our own self-interest, than our comfort.  Conversely, we must always consider our personal discomfort relatively unimportant and, indeed, even welcome it in the service of the search for truth.  Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs” (Peck, ibid, p. 50).
  • Balancing.  “Mature mental health demands…an extraordinary capacity to flexibly and continually restrike a delicate balance between conflicting needs, goals, duties, responsibilities, directions, etc….Balancing is a discipline precisely because the act of giving something up is painful” (Peck, ibid, p. 66).
  • Death and Rebirth. “The fact that the unconscious is one step ahead of the conscious may seem strange to lay readers; it is, however, a fact that applies to not only in this specific instance but so generally that is is a basic principle of mental functioning….What makes crises of these transition periods in the life cycle — that is, problematic and painful — is that in successfully working our way through them we must give up cherished notions and old ways of doing and looking at things.  Many people are either unwilling or unable to suffer the pain of giving up the outgrown which needs to be forsaken.  Consequently, they cling, often forever, to their old patterns of thinking and behaving, thus failing to negotiate any crisis, to truly grow up, and to experience the joyful sense of rebirth that accompanies the successful transition into greater maturity” (Peck, ibid, p. 71).  “It is in the giving up of self that human beings can find the most ecstatic and lasting, solid, durable joy in life.  And it is death that provides life with all its meaning.  This ‘secret’ is the central wisdom of religion” (Peck, ibid, p. 72).
  • Love. “Discipline…is the means of human spiritual evolution….[The] motive, the energy for discline…[is] love…. (Peck, ibid, p. 81).  “Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action” (Peck, ibid, p. 83).  “Love…is a form of work or a form of courage.  Specifically, it is work or courage directed toward the nurture or our own or another’s spiritual growth” (Peck, ibid, p. 120).
  • Attention. “The principal form that the work of love takes is attention.  When we love another we give him or her our attention; we attend to that person’s spiritual growth” (Peck, ibid, p. 120).  “By far the most common and important way in which we can exercise our attention is by listening….Listening well is an exercise of attention and by necessity hard work” (Peck, ibid, p. 121).  “An essential part of true listening is the discipline of bracketing, the temporary giving up or setting aside one’s own prejudices, frames of reference and desires so as to experience as far as possible the speaker’s world from the inside, stepping in his or her shoes” (Peck, ibid, p. 127).  “The energy required for the discipline of bracketing and the focusing of total attention is so great that it can be accomplished only by love, by the will to extend oneself for mutual growth” (Peck, ibid, p. 128).
  • Courage. “Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the making of action in spite of fear, the moving out against the resistance engendered by fear into the unknown and into the future” (Peck, ibid, p. 131).
  • Entropy“The essence of life is change, a panoply of growth and decay.  Elect life and growth, and you elect change and the prospect of death” (Peck, ibid, p. 133). “[All] life represents a risk, and the more lovingly we live our lives the more risks we take” (Peck, ibid, p. 134).
  • Serendipity. Serendipity is a gift.  It is a manifestation of grace.  Grace, “manifested in part by ‘valuable or agreeable things not sought for,’ is available to everyone, but…while some take advantage of it, others do not.”  Why not?  “[Let] me suggest that one of the reasons we fail to take advantage of grace is that we are not fully aware of its presence – that is, we don’t find valuable things not sought for, because we fail to appreciate the value of the gift when it is given us” (Peck, ibid, p. 257).

But there is even something beyond the Fundamental State of Leadership and its psychology.

­­A Transforming Theory

St. Augustine (354-430) was one of the early influencers of what today we called the Reformed-Calvinist worldview.  A contemporary influencer is Richard Mouw (1940-  ).  In his book When the Kings Come Marching In, Mouw admits that those in the Reformed-Calvinist tradition have often stated their case in “too facile” a fashion, choosing to debate issues almost exclusively on philosophical and systematic-theological grounds.  In response, he chose to provide a biblical analogy based on Biblical passages concerning the new heaven (City of God) and new earth (City of Man, transformed by the City of God).   The analogy comes from Isaiah 60, Isaiah 2, and Revelation 21 and 22 (Mouw, When the Kings Go Marching In, 1983, p. x, xi). (Author’s note: much of the following comes from a similar paper by Steen and VanderVeen, “Will There Be Marketing In Heaven,” Perspectives, November 13, 2003.)

  • Isaiah 60 records a vision of a magnificent, transformed city: “many of the people and objects from Isaiah’s own day appear within its walls, but they have assumed different roles, they perform different functions” (Mouw, ibid, p. xii). Mouw pictures the Holy City “as a center of commerce, a place which receives the vessels, goods, and currency of commercial activity”; for instance, “camels come from Midian, Ephah, and Sheba, carrying gold and frankincense” (v. 6), ships arrive from Tarshish, “bearing silver and gold” (v. 9), and expensive lumber comes from Lebanon (v. 13) (Mouw, ibid, p. 7). Mouw notes that the animals “are primarily important as commercial goods and vehicles” and that, along with sailing ships and lumber, they are no longer “signs of pagan cultural strength or displays of alien power.” Instead, they now “proclaim the name of the Lord;” these things “are gathered into the Holy City to be put to good use there” (Mouw, ibid, p. 8, 9).
  • Isaiah 2, in contrast, condemns the wicked and their works. Isaiah “seems to picture God as destroying the same kinds of things which are then brought into the Holy City in chapter 60” (Mouw, p. 10). According to chapter 2, these things are to be judged by the Lord because “people trust in these things for their security” (Mouw, ibid, p. 11).

The Kingdom of God “Breaks” In

Mouw answers the contrast between Isaiah 60 and Isaiah 2 in the following way:

“My own impression is that the judgment that will visit the ships of Tarshish is of a purifying sort. We might think here of the ‘breaking’ of the ships of Tarshish as more like the breaking of a horse rather than the breaking of a vase. The judgment is meant to tame, not destroy. The ships of Tarshish will be harnessed for service in the Holy City–a process that will require a ‘breaking’ of sorts (Mouw, ibid, p. 13).

In other words, the function of the ships will not be destroyed, but their direction will be changed — they will bring complete praise to the Lord, for this is what they were created to do.  No longer will they symbolize “haughtiness and rebellion” (Mouw, ibid, p. 13), but obedience.

Likewise, influence is a function but also a direction.  It too can be transformed.

In short, a transformative view of influence toward positive change — toward abundance and well-being — puts the Fundamental State of Leadership in the context of becoming perfect; that is, holy, complete in Christ, what we were created to be, but not as God ourselves:

  • “The Old Testament is essentially the account of a God who forms for himself a people who are specifically called to be holy” (Smith, Called to be Saints, 2014, p. 17).
  • “Jesus uses language that makes some readers uncomfortable; he speaks of perfection (Smith, ibid, p. 18).
  • “When we view the human vocation and sanctification from the vantage point of creation, we see the human vocation as fulfillment of creation.  To be complete in Christ, to be ‘perfect,’ is quite simply to be what one was created to be” (Smith, ibid, p. 19).
  • God intended for us a life of abundance and holistic well-being.  That is what he called us to be.  But such a life for ourselves and others is the result of if not coincidental with a life of perfection.

Becoming perfect, which will not occur during our lifetimes, results from a biblical vision of life, which is a “radical dependence on God and in deep mutual interdependence with others” (Smith, ibid, p. 25); in short, such a radical dependence on God and deep mutual interdependence on others is a response to Special Grace.

Radical Dependence and Mutual Interdependence

What does such radical dependence on God and mutual interdependence on others look like?

  • “A holy person is a wise person.”
  • “A holy person does good work.”
  • “A holy person lives in a manner consistent with how God has loved us.”
  • “A holy person is a happy person” (Smith, ibid, p. 36).


How do we influence others toward abundance and well-being?

Here are four distinct strategies and two distinct humanistic worldviews:

  • Normal State of Leadership
    • We could tell or persuade others to join us.
    • We could force or coerce others to join us.  We could do this by politicking those above us in the hierarchy or moving ourselves into positions of power.
    • We could invite others to influence our decisions.  We could give them a voice but not a vote.
  • Fundamental State of Leadership: We could empower others to influence us.
  • An Augustinian State of Leadership: To this we could add a third worldview: a more positive one that must eventually transform or enlighten the second worldview that enlightens the first one.  That third worldview puts Christ at the center.  This is what St. Augustine had in mind.  We can participate in Christ and in that work of being a light to the world.  That is the essence of a transformative worldview from a Christian, specifically reformed perspective.  In this work we are radically dependent on God and in deeply and mutually interdependent with others.

Thus as influencers toward abundance and well-being we must keep fighting against our tendency to be independent and remain in control, as humans and as humanity, which leads to disorganization and undifferentiation.  The goal is to encourage others toward holiness which comes from being in Christ.  But the entropy of sin will be an extremely powerful force.  We are totally dependent on God in transforming ourselves and the world.

That may not be a satisfying, concrete answer.  It is, however, an answer of faith.  As Augustine said: “Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand” (St. Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel of John, trans. Rettig).

THE Goal (Part V): Called To Be Joyful

By Gordon T. Smith

Emotional Holiness

“One of the primary indicators and fruits of faith is joy in midst of a confusing and broken world….[Joy] arises from a life lived in wisdom, with a vision and passion for good work and with a resolve and capacity to love as we have been loved….[Joy is] the fruit of or the evidence of our union with Christ” (p. 154).

“What defines the church and the Christian, intellectually and emotionally, is the deep awareness that all will be well.  This means we will get angry; we will fear and we will get discouraged.  And we will mourn the deep losses of life.  And yet sorrow is not our true home.  We were designed to live in joy” (p. 157).

“[Holy] people are happy people.  They know how to dance….They are not happy all the time, of course.  It is important to stress that holy people feel keenly the fragmentation of the world.  They sorrow with those who sorrow; they know how to be angry without sinning. They know what it is to be profoundly discouraged without allowing their discouragement to go to seed so that they are nothing but cynics.  They know the pain and sorrow of mourning; they have experienced loss and they have walked with others who have experienced loss.  And yet what defines them is an emotional center, an emotional resilience, an emotional maturity that is perhaps most evident in deep and abiding joy” (p. 158).

By John Ortberg

“The decision to sin always includes the thought that I cannot really trust God to watch out for my well-being” (p. 69).


“There is nothing more winsome or attractive than a person who is secure enough in being loved by God that he or she lives with a spirit of openness and transparency and without guile” (p. 76).

“Some people use their intelligence as a veil.  Others use ignorance.  Some veil themselves in busyness, in their work, in their vast competence and success….Ironically, many people in the church veil themselves in spirituality” (p. 79).


“Acceptance is an act of the heart.  To accept someone is to affirm to them that you think it’s a very good thing they are alive.  We communicate this in a hundred ways, but the most powerful way is to listen with patience and compassion as they reveal their dark secrets” (p. 101).


“[Generally] people who don’t read others well aren’t aware that they don’t” (p 108).

“[There] is a direct correlation between the number of words you say and the number of sins you commit” (p. 111).

“Every human being you know is making a request of their friends, though it often goes unspoken.  Here is what they ask: ‘Motivate me.  Call out the best in me.  Believe in me.  Encourage me when I’m tempted to quit.  Speak truth to me and remind me of my deepest values.  Help me achieve my greatest potential.  Tell me again what God called me to be, what I might yet become” (p. 121).

Conflict and Confront

“To be alive means to be in conflict” (p. 131).

“Avoidance kills community.  Avoidance causes resentment to fester inside you” (p. 132).

“Scott Peck says that most of the time we live in what he calls pseudocommunity.  Its hallmark is the avoidance of conflict.  In pseudocommunity we keep things safe; we speak in generalities, we say things that those around us will agree with.  We tell little white lies to make sure no one’s feelings get hurt, no one gets tense.  We keep relationships pleasant and well-oiled.  Conversations are carefully filtered to make sure no one gets offended; if we feel hurt or irritated, we are careful to hide it.  Pseudocommunity is agreeable and polite and gentle and stagnant — and ultimately fatal” (p. 180).


Forgiveness is not:

  • Excusing
  • Forgetting
  • Reconciling.  Reconciling “requires the rebuilding of trust, and that means good faith on the part of both parties” (p. 158).

Forgiveness is:

  • “[When] we decide to stop trying to get even….
  • A new way of seeing and feeling….[When] we discover the humanity of the one who hurt us….
  • [When] you find yourself wishing the other person well” (pp. 159, 160).


“There are few joys in life like being wanted, chosen, embraced.  There are few pains like being excluded, rejected, left out.  At the core of Christian community is a choice, in the words of Miroslav Volf’s great book on the subject, between exclusion and embrace….It is part of our fallenness that makes us want to be in not just any group but an exclusive group….We exclude others because of pride or fear or ignorance or the desire to feel superior” (p. 186).

“The desire to make it into the Inner Ring is by its nature insatiable.  You will never succeed.  However, when it comes to the choice to include people, you can hardly fail.  They may refuse you, of course.  But the mere effort will expand your heart and bring joy to God” (p. 192).

“Bonding activities might involve people in the same ethnic group or economic status.  Bridging connections, by definition, are ‘outward looking and encompass people across diverge social cleavages” (p. 195).s

Be Grateful

“The ability to assign value is one of the rarest and most precious gifts in the world.  People who live deeply in community learn to discern and express the value of other human beings.  They are masters of expressing love in word and gesture.  They assign high worth, value, and importance to others by viewing them as precious gifts…In a word, what they give is called honor” (p. 205).  They are grateful for God and others.


THE Goal (Part I): Called

By Gordon T. Smith

The Essence of the Christian Life

“We are striving and running toward a goal — the telos of our Christian journey toward mature discipleship and  transformation into sonship” (p. 44).

“We are freed from sin, but to what end?  Clearly, it is to enter into the power and presence of God” (p. 45).

“In other words, our transformation is both an external transaction, by Christ and for us, and also a participation in the life of Christ Jesus through him as pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (p. 45).

“And that is our goal: union with Christ.  Our righteousness is not self-produced but arises from our union with Christ, and thus our only hope is to be participants in or partakers of the life of Christ” (p. 50).

“What we are after here is a theology of Christian maturity — or, it could be phrased, a theology of Christian character” (p. 50).

“Maturity in the Christian life is maturity in faith.  Nothing so marks faith as this: that a person recognizes and lives in the reality that there is another order of life beyond what we engage with our five senses” (p. 53).

“And so evangelism is about fostering and cultivating the opportunities for a person to meet Jesus: to meet Christ Jesus in real time.  In the end it is all about Jesus.  It is not about persuading [someone] of certain truths or laws, or even about believing that Jesus has done something — that if the “believe” it will lead to their “salvation.”  It is rather about meeting Christ Jesus in person and in real time (p. 57).


By John Ortberg

We have a need to connect.

“The yearning to attach and connect, to love and be loved, is the fiercest longing of the soul.  Our need for community with people and the God who made us is to the human spirit what food and air and water are to the human body” (p. 18).

“Neil Plantinga notes that the Hebrew prophets had a word for just this kind of connectedness of all things: shalom — ‘the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight'” (p. 19).

“Community is the place God meets us” (p. 21).

“[Attack and Withdraw] express the only two ways that many…people…see for dealing with each other….At root they are the two expressions of the one great sin, which is a lack of love, the violation of the one great commandment” (pp. 23, 24).

“Our task is to create little islands of shalom in a sea of isolation” (p. 25).

“Community is rooted in the being of God” (p. 34).

“The Trinity exists as a kind of eternal dance of joyful love among Father, Son, and Spirit” (p. 35).

“In the Bible, a person’s name generally stands for his or her character and identity.  To gather in Jesus’ name means to relate to other people with the same spirit of servanthood, submission, and delight that characterizes Jesus in the Trinity” (p. 40).

How do we be in the Trinity at Trinity?  How do we “meet Christ Jesus in person and in real time?”  How do we “create little islands of shalom in a sea of isolation” and “engage in “fostering and cultivating the opportunities for a person to meet Jesus” to invite more to “gather in Jesus’ name?”  How do we become a “holy people?”  What does doing business have to do with that?

What Leads to Well-Being?

Being Engaged in a Career

Research from Gallup indicates that people who work according to their strengths are 6.0x more likely to be engaged in a career; and people engaged in a career are 4.6x more likely to experience well-being.

Why Does Being Engaged In A Career Lead To Well-Being?

God created us to work and manage his creation.  Humans flourish when they have the opportunity to be engaged at work.  They are engaged at work when they are empowered to discern, develop, and deploy their gifts and callings.

Our big “C” calling is be holy.   A contributor to becoming holy is using our gifts in ways that glorify God.   A lot can be said here.   But simply stated, we glorify God when we use our talents (Matthew 15:14-30) and walk humbly, love mercy, and seek justice (Micah 6:8).  Our little “c” calling is to do that.

What Leads To Being Engaged In A Career?

Here’s what we know: the odds of being engaged at work are…

  • 2.6x higher if college prepared students well for life outside of college
  • 2.2x higher if students had mentors who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams
  • 2.0x higher if at least one professor made them excited about learning
  • 1.9x higher if professors cared about students as people
  • 1.8x higher if students worked on a project that took a semester or more to complete  (Gallup)

In short, God created us to help others discern, develop, and deploy our gifts and calling.

We believe organizations have a responsibility to create those experiences.  This is what we seek to do at Trinity.


Want To Become A Millionaire?

Education of Millionaires

By Michael Ellsberg


“[E]ven though you may learn wonderful things in college, your success and happiness in life will have little to do with what you study there or the letters behind your name once you graduate.  It has to do with:

  • your drive,
  • your initiative,
  • your persistence,
  • your ability to make a contribution to other people’s lives,
  • your ability to come up with good ideas and pitch them to others effectively,
  • your charisma,
  • your ability to navigate gracefully through social and business networks (what some researchers call ‘practical intelligence’),
  • and a total, unwavering belief in your own eventual triumph, throughout all the ups and downs, no matter what the naysayers tell you” (p. 11).

Why does your success in life have little to do with what you study?

“[J]ob security is dead….You’re going to have many different jobs, employers, and even careers in your life.  So where you get your first, entry-level one–the single thing that a BA credential really helps with–becomes less and less relevant.  Building a portfolio of real-world results and impacts you’ve created, over time, becomes more and more relevant.

“[T]he internet, cell phones, and virtually free long-distance calling have created new opportunities for flexible, self-created, independent careers; this trend has been helped along by the gathering storms of millions of hungry, highly educated young men and women in India, China, Eastern Europe, the Philippines, and elsewhere, happy to do the work that entry-level Organizational Men would have done in years past, for a fraction of the cost” (p. 14).

“For knowledge workers in the developed world, the tools of the trade have become so ridiculously cheap that the ‘means of production’ have once again become affordable to individual workers” (p. 16).

“Education is still necessary to learn how to do the great work that gets you paid.  But these days, almost all of the education that ends up actually earning you money ends up being self-education in practical intelligence and skills, acquired outside of the bounds of traditional educational institutions” (p. 17).

Success Skills Needed

  • Putting meaning and work together.
  • Building networks and relationships, finding mentors and teachers.
  • Marketing
  • Selling
  • Investing (Bootstrapping)
  • Building your brand
  • Having an entrepreneurial mindset (pp. 19-20).

To elaborate…

Putting Meaning and Work Together

I don’t think Michael Ellsberg really answers the question here, although he does tell us how to begin to experiment and take risks.

Building Networks and Relationships, Finding Mentors and Teachers

The secret, believe or not, is giving (p. 73).


“Good marketing…speaks to the prospect about their deepest emotional realities, their innermost desires, and about helping them achieve what they want in those realms” (p. 115).


“Sales is simply persuasive face-to-face communication.  It’s relevant anytime you are talking with someone and you want a specific outcome to arise out of the conversation” (p. 129).

“[E]ffective sales isn’t about spewing off a slick pitch.  It’s about asking a lot of questions.  The right questions.  And then listening” (p. 136).


“Bootstrapping is a concept central to the themes in this book.  In the world of business, it’s a strategy that involves getting to the point of profitability as quickly as possible–even if the profits are small–and then continually reinvesting profits to fuel growth” (p. 158).

“Make small, incremental investments in your human capital and earning power.  Buy some books….Take workshops and online training programs to learn different success skills.  Invest in your network of connections and mentors by going to high-quality conferences, workshops, expos, trade shows, meetups, and retreats related to your field….Find a high-quality business or career coach….a snowball effect” (pp. 160-161).


“Your brand is what people think of you when they hear your name” (p. 179).

Entrepreneurial Mind-Set

“We don’t get to choose what happens to us.  But we get to choose what it means.  And in that choice is a tremendous power….become the active ingredient in your own life” (p. 196).

“It all boils down to one thing.  [The self-educated millionaires featured in the book have] chosen to do whatever it takes teao create the lives they want, including exercising the effort and initiative to figure out what ‘whatever it takes’ is” (p. 200).

Ironically, “[Money is] like breathing; we don’t live to breath.”  (Max DePree, as quoted in On Moral Business, p. 912).   See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/bill-gates/9812672/Bill-Gates-interview-I-have-no-use-for-money.-This-is-Gods-work.html.

Life is about becoming holy — called to joy, even in business.

Believe it or not, this is what students learn in Trinity’s Business Department and Center for Entrepreneurship and Community Empowerment.

Want To Be A Good Leader? Let Your Life Speak

Let Your Life Speak

By Parker Palmer


“Vocation does not come from willfulness.  It comes from listening….Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue.  It means a calling that I hear” (p. 4).

“[There] is a great gulf between the way my ego wants to identify me, with its protective masks and self-serving fictions, and my true self….The difficulty [of sensing the difference between the two” is compounded by the fact that from our first days of school, we are taught to listen to everything and everyone but ourselves, to take all our about living from the people and powers around us” (p. 5).

“Today I understand vocation quite differently — not as a goal to be achieved but as a gift to be received.  Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess.  Vocation does not come from a voice ‘out there’ calling me to become something I am not.  It comes from a voice ‘in here’ calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God” (p. 10).

“Biblical faith calls it the image of God in which we are all created.  Thomas Merton calls it true self.  Quakers call it the inner light, or ‘that of God’ in every person.  The humanist tradition calls it identity and integrity.  No matter what you call it, it is a pearl of great price” (p. 11).

True Vocation

“True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need’” (p. 16).

“The Quaker teacher Douglas Steere was fond of saying that the ancient human question ‘Who am I?’ leads inevitably to the equally important question ‘Whose am I?’ — for there is no selfhood outside of relationship” (p. 17).

“Most of us arrive at a sense of self and vocation only after a long journey through alien lands….It is more akin to the ancient tradition of pilgrimage — ‘a transformative journey to a sacred center’ full of hardships, darkness, and peril.  In the tradition of pilgrimage, those hardships are seen not as accidental but as integral to the journey itself.  Treacherous terrain, bad weather, taking a fall, getting lost — challenges of that sort, largely beyond our control, can strip the ego of the illusion that it is in charge and make space for the true self to emerge” (pp. 17, 18).

“Vocation at its deepest level is not, ‘Oh, boy, do I want to go to this strange place where I have to learn a new way to live and where no one, including me, understands what I’m doing.’  Vocation at its deepest level is, ‘This is something I can’t not do, for reasons I’m unable to explain to anyone else and don’t fully understand myself but that are nonetheless compelling” (p. 25).

Self-care vs. Projections

“Here, I think, is another clue to finding true self and vocation: we must withdraw the negative projections we make on people and situations — projections that serve mainly to mask our fears about ourselves — and acknowledge and embrace our own liabilities and limits” (p. 29).

“[Self-care] is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.  Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care if requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch” (pp. 30, 31).

“Where do people find the courage to live divided no more when they know they will be punished for it?  The answer I have seen in the lives of people like Rosa Parks is simple: these people have transformed the notion of punishment itself.  They have come to understand that no punishment anyone might inflict on them could possibly be worse than the punishment the inflict on themselves by conspiring in their own diminishment” (p. 34).

Implications of Our Nature

“Each of us arrives here with a nature, which means both limits and potentials.  We can learn as much about our nature by running into our limits as by experiencing our potentials” (pp. 41, 42).

“When the gift I give to the other is integral to my own nature, when it comes from a place of organic reality within me, it will renew itself — and me — even as I give it away” (p. 49).

“[If] it is true that we are made for community, then leadership is everyone’s vocation, and it can be an evasion to insist that it is not.  When we live in the close-knit ecosystem called community, everyone follows and everyone leads” (p. 74).

Authentic Leadership

“The power for authentic leadership…is found not in external arrangements but in the human heart.  Authentic leaders in every setting — from families to nation-states — aim at liberating the heart, their own and others’, so that its powers can liberate the world” (p. 76).

Good Leadership

“Good leadership comes from people who have penetrated their own inner darkness and arrived at the place where we are at one with one another, people who can lead the rest of us to a place of ‘hidden wholeness’ because they have been there and know the way” (pp. 80, 81).

“It is so much easier to deal with the external world, to spend our lives manipulating material and institutions and other people instead of dealing with our own souls” (p. 82).

Shadows of Our Souls

“The first shadow-casting monster is insecurity about identity and worth….The second shadow inside many of us is the belief that the universe is a battleground, hostile to human interests….A third shadow common among leaders is ‘functional atheism,’ the belief that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with us….A fourth shadow within and among us is fear, especially our fear of the natural chaos of life” (pp. 86-89).

How Do We Educate Students To Succeed?

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the skill needed for all aspects of life.  As M. Scott Peck says, “Life is a series of problems.”  Best to be able to solve them.

Personal Leadership Development

Personal Leadership means being able to manage oneself.  Peter Drucker famously wrote:  “Now most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will have to learn to manage ourselves.  We will have to learn to develop ourselves.  We will have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution” (Drucker, HBR Leadership Fundamentals, p. 7).

Managing ourselves is a primal skill because at our core we default to being emotional, rationalizing beings.  Today we refer to the skills that manage our primal instincts as emotional intelligence: “The key…to making primal leadership work to everyone’s advantage lies in the leadership competencies of emotional intelligence [EI]: how leaders handle themselves and their relationships” (Goleman, Primal Leadership, p. 6).

For example, if you tracked high IQ people over time, who would rise to the top of organizations and stay there?  You guessed it: emotionally intelligent people.

Vocational and Career Discernment

Like Critical Thinking and Personal Leadership Development, Vocational Discernment is a necessary skill for success.  Vocational Discernment, however, not only defines success differently, it empowers the development of Critical Thinking and Emotional Intelligence skills — more than any extrinsic motivator ever could.  And it is not a gift to be achieved, but received.

Note Vocational Discernment is different that Career Discernment.  Although they could be the same, they don’t usually entirely overlap.   One might say that one’s Vocation transcends and transforms one’s career, much like one’s eulogy virtues might transcend and transform one’s resume virtues (David Brooks).

A Gift To Be Received

Some people find success by learning the rules of the game and using them to get ahead.  Others break all the rules, or at least some of them.  “I believe that God doesn’t want us to be satisfied with just the status quo.  I think in a sense everyone is called to be an entrepreneur in a way. We are all called by God to approach life as an opportunity to use our skills that God has given us to better the world for the glory of God” (Jordan Rose).

Another work for calling is vocation: “True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need’” (Parker Palmer).

Interestingly, David Brooks tells us that we don’t find out calling, it finds us.  That may be true.  As Parker Palmer writes, “Today I understand vocation quite differently — not as a goal to be achieved but as a gift to be received” (Parker Palmer).

In other words, it is a gift to be called to make the world a better place doing that which combines one’s deep gladness and the world’s deep need.  The concept that pulls those concepts together, believe it or not, is Holiness.  Can striving for holiness lead to joy?

Our Vocation Is To Become Holy

We are called to holiness (big “C” calling).  In other words, God intends for us to be perfect.  But perfection is not something we can obtain this side of heaven. However, in accepting it and then seeking it we can experience wisdom and joy!  Joy and wisdom come from radical dependence on God and interdependence on others.  Sounds crazy!

We can strive toward holiness, believe it or not, by accepting we have a calling and seeking to discern, develop, and deploy it (little “c” calling).   Doing so is incredibly empowering and motivates us to become even better at critical thinking and personal leadership.  There is nothing more energizing than doing that which brings us fulfillment and joy.

Discerning, Developing, Deploying

Discerning can occur when we listen to what God speaks in our lives and in our hearts — our holy discontent.

Development can occur when our Adam II transcends Adam I (when our eulogy virtues begin transcending our resume virtues), and our  “fundamental” state of leadership transcends our “normal one” such that it reflects the fruits of the Spirit.   It is no long conforming to the pattern of the world (Romans 12:1,2).

Deployment can occur when we actively pursue God and his will in our work.  This is also the source of wisdom, which is both understanding and practice, “for we do not understand until and unless we live this understanding” (Gordon Smith).

Therefore, if we wish to set students up for success, we need to enhance their critical thinking and personal leadership skills.  But most of all, we need to help them accept and discern, develop, and deploy their gifts and calling.  How do we do that?  In the classroom but also outside of the classroom via experiential learning and mentoring.

What is experiential learning?  Learning that includes:

  • Reflection, critical analysis and synthesis
  • Opportunities for initiative, decision-making, and accountability
  • Holistic learning: learning that engages the head (intellect), heart (emotions), soul (beliefs and values), and hands (physical engagement)

Which learning opportunities bring us joy?  Why?  Which meet the the world’s deep needs?  How?

Soul Entrepreneurship

By Richard J. Goossen and R. Paul Stevens (2013):

“Note the significant dimensions of Christian spirituality.

  • First, it starts with the initiative of a loving God who is seeking a relationship with his creatures.
  • Second, spirituality then is not our attempt to ascend to God by spiritual practices or to discover our own internal divinity, but takes the form of ‘recognition and response.’
  • Third, the result of this responsiveness to seeking God is not that we become angels or religious persons, but more fully human….
  • Fourth, spirituality then is not a once-for-all event but a continuous process that is concrete but never finished.
  • Fifth, the practical outworking of this spirituality is that we align ourselves with God’s intention for his creation, which is the kingdom or pervasive and life-bringing rule of God on earth.  Creating wealth and bringing well-being to people is part of this….
  • Finally, this spirituality is not cultivating extraordinary experiences but rather the infiltration of ordinary life with kingdom justice and holiness” (pp. 64, 65).

“Life, for biblical persons, is total and cannot be segmented into two parts: a disposable and normally evil shell (the body), and an indestructible spirit core (the soul).  Thus the familiar psalm ‘Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name’ (Psalm 103:1) may be simply and helpfully translated “Praise the Lord, with my whole life!’” (pp. 65, 66).

“Most significant of all, the New Testament hope is not for the immortality of the soul–an essentially Greek concept that involves disparaging the body as a useless encumbrance to the life of the spirit.  Instead, the great hope in Christ after death is the resurrection of the body–full personal and expressive life in a new heaven and a new earth” (p. 66).

“When we receive Christ, we get saved, not just our souls in the Greek sense.  This is a two-stage process.  First, our souls, our inner and longing persons, are substantially saved by being inundated by God’s Spirit, thus giving us new bodily and personal life on earth.  Second, after our death and when Christ comes again, we are given a new and perfect embodiment  through the resurrection of our entire selves, bodies included” (p. 67).

Soul Entrepreneurship

  • “First, it means you go to work as a whole person — not just mind or body, but all that inner yearning and expressiveness that links us with God….
  • Second, as soul persons with capacity to relate to God, we are given ideas, visions and perspectives that can be implemented through entrepreneurial activity.  These may be in the area of church life but also in family life and enterprises in the world….
  • Third, our actual experiences of envisioning, inventing and implementing as entrepreneurs are an arena of spiritual growth….
  • Fourth, being a soul person (and a whole person) means being relationally alive through love.  We are most godlike in relationships….
  • Finally, Christian spirituality and its recognition of a soul dimension to human life and work means that personal growth is not a human achievement (through disciplines and practices) but a response to the Spirit’s initiative….Christian spirituality is…God’s empowering presence calling human beings into dynamic relation and expressiveness” (pp. 68, 69).

The Workplace is the Primary Place for Spiritual Formation

“The marketplace is a location for spiritual formation in three ways.

  • First, it is the place where we get revealed as persons.  Our inside is revealed by what we do outside, bu the way we work, by our relationships with people, by the realities of how we go about doing day to day enterprise….
  • Second, the seven deadly sins, seven soul-sapping struggles that include pride, greed, lust, anger, envy, sloth, and gluttony, are revealed not in quiet times and prayer retreats but in the thick of life, in business meetings, as we struggle over this month’s sales, when we have to deal with an awkward customer or employee….
  • But there is a third reason….The work we do, if it is good work, is some part of God’s own work in creating, sustaining, transforming or consummating (bringing things to a good conclusion).  We are actually partners with God in our daily work” (pp. 70, 71).

The Grand Narrative

The Bible describes the meta-narrative of God’s grand work in the history of the world: creation-fall-redemption. These historical themes apply to the entire created universe.

  • “God created all things good. Humans, elephants, trees, rocks, sand, stars—they were all created in a wonderful harmony. This includes [business]. The cultural mandate [found in Genesis 1:28] implies that God built the potential for [business] into the creation. God created humans in His own image, and so the creativity and ingenuity necessary to [engage in business] comes as a gift from God. He also endowed creation with the natural resources necessary for [business]—wood, metal, silicon, electricity, and more.
  • “By man’s choice, represented in the Adam and Eve, sin entered the world. The fall affected every part of creation. Even [business] is stained by sin. The goodness built in from creation is still present, but warped and darkened by sin.
  • “In the third era of history, Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection broke the power of sin and provided redemption to those that have faith. Believers in Christ Jesus have forgiveness of sins through Christ. Christians in the Reformed tradition stress that Christ’s redemptive light shines not only on our own souls, but on all creation. Christ’s rule and His kingdom stretch from shore to shore of the entire universe” (Quentin J. Schultze, Communicating for Life: Christian Stewardship in Community and Media, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2000, 118–121).

communicating for life

Thus, in whatever role we play we must uncover, practice, expand upon, and celebrate the good and minimize the evil in God’s creation.  Our goal is to be in Christ and be Christ-like in the world.  As Abraham Kuyper famously said:

abraham kuyper

“Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”James D. Bratt, ed., Abraham Kuyper, A Centennial Reader, p. 488.

In the end God will re-reconcile all of creation to himself.  In the meantime, we are called to be co-workers with him in making the world as he intended it to be.  This work not only blesses others, it makes us more spiritually mature. Holy.  Morally sanctified.

Imagine a world in which each person is empowered to discern, develop, and deploy their gifts and calling for the benefit of others for God’s glory!

It begins with relationships.

Grand words.

The Grand Narrative.


Some Thoughts on Love

by M. Scott Peck

The Road Less Traveled: Discipline, Love, Spiritual Growth

Love Defined

“Discipline…is the means of human spiritual evolution….[The] motive, the energy for discline…[is] love” (p. 81).

“I define love thus: The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth” (p. 81).

“Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action” (p. 83).

“[Nirvana] or lasting enlightenment or true spiritual growth can be achieved only through the persistent exercise of real love” (p. 97).

“Dependent people are interested in their own nourishment, but no more; they desire filling, they desire to be happy; they don’t desire to grow, nor are they willing to tolerate the unhappiness, the loneliness and suffering involved in growth” (p. 106).

“Love is not simply giving; it is judicious giving and judicious withholding as well.  It is judicious praising and judicious criticizing” (p. 111).

“[Genuine] love is self-replenishing activity.  Indeed, it is even more; it enlarges rather than diminishes the self; it fills the self rather than depleting it.  In a real sense love is as selfish as nonlove.  Here again there is a paradox in that love is both selfish and unselfish at the same time.  It is not selfishness or unselfishness that distinguishes love from nonlove; it is the aim of the action.  In the case of nonlove the aim is always something else” (p. 116).

“Genuine love…implies commitment and wisdom.  When we are concerned for someone’s spiritual growth, we know that a lack of commitment is likely to be harmful and that commitment to that person is probably necessary for us to manifest our concern effectively” (p. 118).

Love As Work

“Love…is a form of work or a form of courage.  Specifically, it is work or courage directed toward the nurture or our own or another’s spiritual growth” (p. 120).

“The principal form that the work of love takes is attention.  When we love another we give him or her our attention; we attend to that person’s spiritual growth” (p. 120).

“By far the most common and important way in which we can exercise our attention is by listening….Listening well is an exercise of attention and by necessity hard work” (p. 121).

“An essential part of true listening is the discipline of bracketing, the temporary giving up or setting aside one’s own prejudices, frames of reference and desires so as to experience as far as possible the speaker’s world from the inside, stepping in his or her shoes” (p. 127).

“The energy required for the discipline of bracketing and the focusing of total attention is so great that it can be accomplished only by love, by the will to extend oneself for mutual growth” (p. 128).

“Since love is work, the essence of nonlove is laziness” (p. 130).

Love as Courage

“Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the making of action in spite of fear, the moving out against the resistance engendered by fear into the unknown and into the future” (p. 131).

“The essence of life is change, a panoply of growth and decay.  Elect life and growth, and you elect change and the prospect of death” (p. 133).

“[All] life represents a risk, and the more lovingly we live our lives the more risks we take” (p. 134).