Category: On Call in Culture

There’s a real business advantage to treating employees well, says Jim Sinegal, CEO of Costco Corporation, an international membership warehouse club. Boasting the lowest employee turnover rate in retailing, Costco pays 40 percent more than its closest rival, Sam’s Club, and provides health insurance to more than 90 percent of its employees.

“Wall Street is in the business of making money between now and next Tuesday,” Sinegal says. “We’re in the business of building an organization, an institution that we hope will be here 50 years from now. And paying good wages and keeping your people working with you is very good business.”

Chris Horst, Matthew Horst, Costco

For Matthew Horst, Costco has become much more than an employer.

And the advantages don’t stop at profit margins and good wages.

In an open letter to Sinegal and president Craig Jelinek, Chris Horst of HOPE International shares a beautiful story about how Costco gave his brother a career, a community, and much, much more: (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
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holiday_beach_356527Over at Think Christian, Aron Reppmann asks whether there is a distinctly Christian way to vacation: “We have learned to approach our work as vocation, a calling from God, but what about our leisure?”

Reppmann notes that one major temptation in modern society is to view vacation as a form of escape. Put in your 40, week after week, and hopefully, in Week X of Month Y, you’ll be able to leave your day-to-day activities behind. Close your eyes, sip your fruity drink, and let it all just slip away.

But escape from what? What does such a view indicate about how we’re approaching our daily work?

The word “vacation” itself doesn’t offer much help for this kind of reflection; with its echoes of “vacant” and “vacate,” it mostly conjures up a sense of absence. Vacationers commonly express a desire to “get away from it all,” but it’s hard to derive a positive sense of vacational vocation from that atmosphere of emptiness. While there’s nothing wrong with taking a break, stepping away – in a word, sabbath – there is also a trap in holding a merely negative definition of vacation…. Vacation understood simply as “getting away from it all” is a sign of a negative concept of freedom.

Reppmann goes on to argue that modern society over-elevates negative freedom — freedom from something — which has led many Christians to forget or ignore the positive freedom — freedom for something — that Christianity is all about.

This, he concludes, leads to an unfortunate imbalance in our thinking on work and leisure: (more…)

It’s become increasingly common for Christians to openly ponder and discuss the ways in which we might glorify God through our work. Yet even with this newfound attention, it can be easy to forget that the very businesses launched to harness and facilitate such work are themselves declaring the glory of God, albeit in subtle, unspoken ways.

In an essay posted at Christianity 9 to 5, author and theologian Wayne Grudem explores this angle a bit further, affirming the variety of ways we can glorify God through business — worship, evangelism, generosity, faith — but focusing more closely on one in particular: the act of imitating God. “God created us so that we would imitate him,” Grudem writes, “and so that he could look at us and see something of his wonderful attributes reflected in us.”

To imitate God is to glorify him, Grudem argues, and business, in its basic design and function, has enormous potential to imitate God through a variety of activities. Grudem offers the following five.

1. Producing Goods

We know that producing goods from the earth is fundamentally good in itself because it is part of the purpose for which God put us on the earth. Before there was sin in the world, God put Adam in the garden of Eden “to work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15), and God told both Adam and Eve, before there was sin, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). The word translated “subdue” (Hebrew: kabash) implies that Adam and Eve should make the resources of the earth useful for their own benefit, and this implies that God intended them to develop the earth so they could come to own agricultural products and animals, then housing and works of craftsmanship and beauty, and eventually buildings, means of transportation, cities, and inventions of all sorts. (more…)

The real estate crisis led to plenty of finger-pointing and blame-shifting, but for Phoenix real estate developer Walter Crutchfield, it led to self-examination and spiritual reflection.

“The real estate crash brought me to a place of stepping back and evaluating,” Crutchfield says. “I could see where I lost sight of the individual intrinsic value of work, of individuals, of community…Rather than asking ‘is the demand reasonable?,’ we just serviced it, and now we had a chance to think about what we had done.”

In yet another marvelous video from Nathan Clarke and Christianity Today’s This Is Our City project, Crutchfield shares his journey from seeing work as aimless toil to being driven by the prospect of value creation:

Crutchfield concludes that work “pleases God,” and that through its fundamental function of serving others, it “declares the glory of God…just because it is.” For Crutchfield, this basic realization transformed his entire approach to doing business, leading him to focus on creating “real value,” rather than simply going through the motions. (more…)

tn-tithing-givingSelf-proclaimed “tithe hacker” Mike Holmes has a helpful piece at RELEVANT Magazine on how tithing could “change the world.” (Jordan Ballor offers some additional insights here.)

Holmes begins by observing that “tithers make up only 10-25 percent of a normal congregation” and that “Christians are only giving at 2.5 percent per capita,” proceeding to ponder what might be accomplished if the church were to increase its giving to the typical 10 percent.

His projections are as follows:

  • $25 billion could relieve global hunger, starvation and deaths from preventable diseases in five years.
  • $12 billion could eliminate illiteracy in five years.
  • $15 billion could solve the world’s water and sanitation issues, specifically at places in the world where 1 billion people live on less than $1 per day.
  • $1 billion could fully fund all overseas mission work.
  • $100 – $110 billion would still be left over for additional ministry expansion.

Such broad hypothesizing can be helpful in offering a small glimpse into what we might call the economic potential of the church. But, in addition to noting the more obvious questions about whether $25 billion (or any amount) can actually “relieve global hunger” (etc.), I would simply emphasize that such estimates are small glimpses indeed. The divine impact of the tithe stretches well beyond the material, even as it pertains to the material. (more…)

Over at Christianity Today, Andy Crouch confronts modern society’s increasing skepticism toward institutional structures, arguing that without them, all of our striving toward cultural transformation is bound to falter:

t-root-systemFor cultural change to grow and persist, it has to be institutionalized, meaning it must become part of the fabric of human life through a set of learnable and repeatable patterns. It must be transmitted beyond its founding generation to generations yet unborn. There is a reason that the people of God in the Hebrew Bible are so often named as the children of “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Like divine intervention in history, true cultural change takes generations to be fully absorbed and expressed.

Indeed, the best institutions extend shalom—that rich Hebrew word I paraphrase as “comprehensive flourishing”—through both space and time. Take one of my favorite institutions: the game of baseball. It is a set of cultural patterns that has lasted for several generations now, played at a professional level on several continents. A great game of baseball is mentally, physically, and emotionally taxing and fulfilling in the way that all deeply human endeavors are. It embodies the playfulness and competitiveness that reflects our God-given creativity and ambition for excellence. It is an institution, larger than any individual player.

But alas, such suspicion exists for a reason. As Crouch goes on to note, a competing temptation often prevails — that of “succumbing to institutionalism,” wherein we seek the perpetuation of institutions as ends in themselves. “If the biblical language of principalities and powers is taken seriously,” Crouch says, “it seems that human institutions can become demonic, opposed to the purposes of God.” (more…)

???????????????????????????????????The economic consequences of changing family structure are beginning to emerge, and as they do, it can be tempting to focus only on the more tangible, perceivable dangers. For example: “How many new babies are needed to keep Entitlements X, Y, and Z sweet and juicy for the rest of us?”

Such concerns are valid, particularly as we observe the lemming-like march of the spending class. But as harsh as the more immediate shocks of family collapse may be, we’d do well to consider the longer view of how we got here and how we might go about shifting things going forward.

As Nick Schulz points out in his latest book, the family serves a deeper, more formative function when it comes to cultivating human and social capital. “The family is the first institution within which we learn about empathy,” Schulz writes. “A healthy, well-functioning family is an extended exercise in self-control” — “the ability to put immediate needs aside for longer-run interests.” Indeed, without a properly grounded citizenry, economic prosperity and social stability will soon be squandered at the altars of blind hedonism and rash consumerism. (more…)

A new generation of evangelicals is beginning to re-think and re-examine the ways they have typically (not) engaged culture, with theological concepts like Abraham Kuyper’s common grace leading many to stretch beyond their more dispensationalist dispositions.

Over at Comment, James K.A. Smith offers some helpful warnings for the movement, noting that amid our “newfound appreciation for justice and shalom,” we should remain wary of getting too carried away with our earthly-mindedness. “By unleashing a new interest and investment in ‘this-worldly’ justice,” Smith argues, “the Reformation also unleashed the possibility that we might forget heaven.”

In strange, often unintended ways, the pursuit of “justice,” shalom, and a “holistic” gospel can have its own secularizing effect. What begins as a Gospel-motivated concern for justice can turn into a naturalized fixation on justice in which God never appears. And when that happens, “justice” becomes something else altogether—an idol, a way to effectively naturalize the gospel, flattening it to a social amelioration project in which the particularity of Jesus as the revelation of God becomes strangely absent…

…As a former fundamentalist, it was heirs of Abraham Kuyper who taught me the biblical vision of a holistic Gospel. But I’ve come to realize that if we don’t attend to the whole Kuyper, so to speak—if we pick and choose just parts of the Kuyperian project—we can end up with an odd sort of monstrosity: what we might call, paradoxically, a “Kuyperian secularism” that naturalizes shalom. (more…)

Faithful in All God's House DeKosterIn Faithful in All God’s House: Stewardship and the Christian Life, Lester DeKoster and Gerard Berghoef explore the range and reach of Christian stewardship, emphasizing that the practice of stewardship extends far beyond the handling of our money, stretching into life and time and destiny.

The practice of stewardship is “the supreme challenge of the Christian life,” they argue, and thus, we must strive to properly orient our thinking and behavior accordingly. The forms of stewardship are submitted to all of us. “None is beyond our reach — if the heart is aware, and the will bent to do God’s service wherever and whenever.”

Such awareness begins with a basic understanding of the fundamentals of stewardship, and DeKoster and Berghoef set forth five distinct principles to help lay the groundwork for their discussion. These principles, as revealed in Scripture, are summarized as follows:

  • God creates, sustains, and thus owns all things — man included. Not only in the beginning, but always. Every child born into the world receives life from God.
  • God brings us to life within this vast, beautiful, and challenging world and permits us to use and enjoy all that he sustains.
  • He intends, however, that his will shall govern our wills and his desires shall control our desires. He reveals his will in inspired Scripture. As we walk in his world, his word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our paths (Ps. 119:105).
  • Our use of God’s property, whether as faithful or rebellious stewards, is, therefore, what life is all about.
  • Our obedience, or disobedience, to God’s will revealed in his Word becomes the basis for the last judgment, which is the prelude to heaven or hell. (more…)

nfcoLast month, I had the pleasure of interviewing the folks at Neighborhood Film Company, a company that melds for-profit with non-profit to train, mentor, and employ adults in recovery through the process of filmmaking.

This week, Tim Høiland has an article for Christianity Today’s This is Our City project that expands on NFCo.’s story, digging deeper into the ins and outs of their business model and further exploring the dynamics of their community-oriented approach. Though big can sometimes be better, the founders of NFCo. believe they are called to orient the process of transformation in their business as they observe it in Jesus’ approach to discipleship.

Høiland summarizes:

Numbers are intentionally kept small; there are currently three apprentices, with plans for three more next year. “For us, the philosophy is shrinking our focus to people with names and faces and stories that we know,” says Dan Walser, 29, executive director of Working Film. “This is what we see when we look at Jesus and his ministry with his disciples.”

By working with a limited number of trainees at a time, NFCo. and Working Film can personalize the program while holding each apprentice to a high standard of excellence. “We tell our guys, ‘Look, the bottom line is that we need to run a company. So if you can’t cut it as an employee, there are plenty of nonprofit programs that will babysit you,’ ” Staub, 29, says. “That may seem harsh, but if I start looking at you like you can’t be the best, I’m not giving you full human dignity…” (more…)