When the University of Kansas is brought to our attention, the very first thought that often comes to mind is college basketball. I must admit I am an enthusiastic KU basket ball fan and in our home especially during March Madness it is not uncommon to hear at a high decibel level cheers of “Rock Chalk Jayhawk.” The highly touted Jayhawks led by freshmen Andrew Wiggins will be interesting to watch this year. Yet there is something else going on these days in Lawrence, Kansas that while not getting national attention is also quite remarkable. It is called Waffles and Worldviews.
Recently I found myself on a chilly Sunday evening in Lawrence, Kansas to join in an ongoing conversation regarding faith, calling and culture. Waffles and Worldviews is sponsored by the Oread Center led by Chad Donohoe and Ryan Mayo.
Ryan Mayo and Chad Donohoe
The Oread Center’s mission is to ”seek the flourishing of the University, its students and its faculty through thoughtful consideration of faith, life and culture. The Oread Center’s focus is on the major questions of life and their personal, academic and moral implications in the lives of the University family.”
A Waffles and Worldview Conversation
I was delighted to see first hand the encouraging and strategic work of the Oread Center as well as have the privilege of speaking to an impressive group of KU students on why a robust theology of work is a central thread in the biblical narrative. I found the students delightful in every way as they embrace an integral faith and pursue a life of faithful Christian apprenticeship that addresses all aspects of life.
If you find yourself making a trip to Lawrence, Kansas anytime soon, don’t just go there to watch some great basketball, stop by the Oread Center and say hi. I don’t know if you will get a waffle, but I do know you will be encouraged by the good work that is going on with college students in Lawrence.
When I was a young boy growing up on a Minnesota dairy farm, I learned early on the importance of hard work and the God-honoring vocation of providing food for our world. Those days on the farm are now a distant memory for me and like most urban and suburban Americans, I take stocked grocery stores for granted. I am grateful my friend Randy Tosh does not.
Randy has an impressive resume of more than thirty years of experience in international marketing of agricultural products, and his vocational passion is to enhance global food production. The United Nations claims that 70% of the world’s poorest citizens are dependent upon the health of food-producing animals for their economic, social and food security. Recently Randy chatted with me about SmartVet, which is his latest entrepreneurial business endeavor he believes will enhance human flourishing by assisting a growing global population to become more effective and efficient in food production.
Randy put it this way, “SmartVet’s technology platform is designed to empower those who care for animals to deliver a range of health management practices more humanely, with greater efficiency and reduced cost. It is my prayer that God will use our products to not only allow for greater flourishing of His creation, but also greater sustainable prosperity among those who need it most.”
As an apprentice of Jesus whose vocational calling is international business, Randy continues to be excited and challenged as he increasingly sees how an integral faith speaks to all of life. Like a growing number of business leaders, Randy recognizes there are multiple bottom lines of business including profit, people and the planet. Presently Randy gives leadership to Christ Community Church by serving on the Elder Leadership Team. Randy and his bride Deb worship at Christ Community’s Olathe campus. Randy keep up the good work!
It may not surprise you that I am a guy who really does not like to shop. But what may be surprising is that I have always been a fan of Walmart. I am the kind of guy who likes to find a parking spot easily, spend a minimal time shopping, quickly find what I am looking for and get a good quality product at an affordable price. However my admiration for Walmart however goes beyond my loyalty as a shopper to its extraordinary corporate culture.
Don Soderquist, Former Chief Operating Officer, Walmart
Last week I had the privilege of speaking to a group of business and corporate leaders at the Right Now Work as Worship conference in Dallas. It was a special delight to meet Don Soderquist who played such a strategic leadership role along with founder Sam Walton in growing Walmart to become the largest company in the world. Under Don Soderquist’s leadership, Walmart grew sales from $44 billion to 244 billion.
I found Don Soderquist to be a true delight both as a person and as a presenter at the conference. I had the joy and frankly the sizeable challenge of speaking right after Don Soderquist whose leadership gravitas and seasoned wisdom were amazing. As an apprentice of Jesus, Don Soderquist is a tall tree on the corporate landscape.
In his engaging book, The Wal-Mart Way, Don Soderquist unveils the secret to Walmart’s flourishing corporate culture and continued marketplace success. Don writes, “When he looked into the future, Sam didn’t see Wal-Mart as the largest retailer in the world. He simply wanted to provide a better shopping experience for people living in small towns. He wanted to improve their standard of living by providing quality goods at low prices in a pleasant shopping environment. He wanted to accomplish this with a team of dedicated people.”
It has been noted that Walmart has been one of the most successful anti-poverty programs in America and what is not often reported in media sound bites is the massive number of people whose lives have been bettered and continued to be bettered because of Sam Walton’s mission and his team of dedicated workers. In a free market economy, business done well matters not only to God, but to human flourishing. Thanks Don Soderquist for your good work well done.
One of the delightful surprises in my life these days is the number of moms with small children who after reading our book Work Matters, let me know they now have a renewed spring in their step and a new shout in their soul. Connecting Sunday to Monday can be a herculean task when any mom finds herself up to her eyeballs in a host of seemingly never-ending, child-rearing tasks. Mothers with preschoolers often feel isolated and undervalued by a career-oriented culture that presently defines work in terms of remuneration instead of contribution to the common good.
At MomCon 2013 (MOPS International Convention), I got a host of chuckles when I reminded mothers of preschoolers they share something in common with those of us in the pastoral vocation. We both get asked the same dreaded question, “What do you do?” This past week, I was privileged to speak to the MOPS leadership as well as two workshops during the MOPS convention held in Kansas City. It was simply a delight to meet the MOPS leadership and a get a first hand glimpse of such a warm and inviting organizational culture led by CEO Sherry Surratt. As a pastor who is committed to embracing God’s desire and design for all of life, I am truly grateful for the excellent and faithful leadership of MOPS. In the last 40 years MOPS has directly impacted over 13 million moms including many moms in the wonderful local church I have the joy of serving.
Karen Parks, Director of MOPS Organizational Development & MOPS Board Member Cameron Doolittle
A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Karen Parks who serves as the MOPS Director of Organizational Development. I am deeply encouraged that Karen Parks and the MOPS leadership including MOPS board member, Cameron Doolittle have a growing burden to help moms better connect Sunday to Monday.
If you hang around MOPS very long you will repeatedly hear that better moms make a better world. I hope in some small way more moms who know their work matters will now better connect Sunday to Monday and in doing so will make a better world. Thanks MOPS for your good work!
Taylor Honors Conference On Vocation
After having driven a good distance from the Indianapolis airport, my friend Steve Garber and I arrived in the midst of the starry lit cornfields of Upland, Indiana. Having just come from Boston and connecting through Philadelphia we were quite the weary travelers to say the least. A quick stop for some munchies heavy-laden with sugar gave us the necessary boost to make it to a very welcomed bed and breakfast just outside of Upland. Though our sleep was short, the warm hospitality of Taylor University refreshed our spirits. Steve and I had the privilege of being part of Taylor University honors conference entitled, Vocation: A Call To Faithfulness. Our message to the Taylor honors students was that vocation is integral not incidental to the Christian faith and that their work matters.
Jennifer Moeschberger and Jeff Cramer
Jennifer Moeschberger who serves as the Director of Honors programming at Taylor University was a most gracious host for the conference as well as her enthusiastic staff. Jennifer’s husband Scott was kind and gracious to pull up a chair at lunch and provide a storied history of Taylor University. Dr.Jeff Cramer who serves on the faculty of Taylor was also a delight to meet.
Many are not aware that Taylor University, founded in 1846 is one of the oldest evangelical Christian colleges in America. Though surrounded by seemingly endless cornfields, something truly good is on the march with Taylor’s intentional focus on the centrality of vocation and the integral nature of faith. Interacting with faculty, staff and students it is no longer surprising to me that U.S. News & World Report has ranked Taylor University the #1 regional college-Midwest seven years in a row. Having experienced Taylor University first hand, I am convinced this long-standing institution of higher learning is truly a bright spot on the American landscape.
Out in the midst of Indiana cornfields, you will find a field of dreams. It is called Taylor University. A truly Christian university where faculty, staff and students embrace an integral faith that says work really matters.
One of the early leaders of the growing faith and work movement has been the Howard E. Butt Jr. Foundation. For several decades, The Foundation For Laity Renewal has been and continues to be a bright spot on the American Christian faith horizon establishing thoughtful initiatives and convening leaders from all vocational walks of life.
A vital program of The Foundation For Laity Renewal is The High Calling. The mission statement of The High Calling is to seek to create opportunities for Christian leaders to encounter God through new media tools for the transformation of daily life, work, and our world. Christian leaders are in all aspects and activities of daily life—including home, community, leisure, as well as occupation.
I have had the joy of spending time at Laity Lodge and meeting a devoted team of individuals who are committed to promote an integral Christian faith and bring renewal to the church. Two of those dedicated individuals that I have had the privilege of meeting are Mark Roberts and Marcus Goodyear. Both Mark and Marcus have been a source of encouragement to me for which I am grateful. If you have not had the opportunity to visit The High Calling website, I would encourage you to do so. It is one of the finest and most informed websites devoted to faith and work.
This week I have the joy of partnering with Mark and Marcus and their team in their High Calling Daily Reflection that is sent out by e-mail each day. The High Calling Reflection is an encouraging resource available to you. If you have not yet signed up for this daily encouragement, I would encourage you to do so.
A special thanks to The Howard Butt Foundation and the entire High Calling team. Keep up the great work.
One of my earliest memories growing up was listening to my oldest brother’s stereo blaring out in high volume the siren song of the 1960′s, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love, it’s the only thing there is just too little of..” Though I wasn’t sure all that was being said by singer Jackie DeShannon, somehow it stuck with me that love was in short supply in the world.While the turbulent 1960′s are now a distant memory for most, the restless 2000′s seem to be singing a new siren song. “What the world needs now is jobs, sweet jobs, it’s the only thing there is just too little of…”
Perhaps this is why my heart skipped a hopeful beat recently as I was able to attend my first 1 Million Cups gathering sponsored by Kansas City’s Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman is hearing the siren song of the world for jobs, sweet jobs and is a leader in fostering a greater entrepreneurial spirit in our nation.
I was invited to 1 Million Cups by Chris Justice who along with George Brooks are members of Christ Community Church as well as thoughtful entrepreneurs in our city.
1 Million Cups is a 1 hour weekly gathering devoted to giving visibility to new entrepreneurial start-ups. The morning I attended, a start-up school security company as well as a start-up Kansas City branding company presented. Following their short enthusiastic presentations, the audience of over 300 had the opportunity to ask questions, forge new networking relationships and provide possible venture capital for those embryonic start-ups they deemed worthy of financial risk.
I left the 1 Million Cups gathering very encouraged and found myself pondering what opportunities are being presented to the church at a time when what the world needs now is jobs, sweet jobs.