Monthly Archives: January 2018

29 Jan 2018

God’s Bottom Line Chapter Two

By | 2018-02-05T13:43:18+00:00 January 29th, 2018|God's Bottom Line|0 Comments

God’s Bottom Line

Mentoring with the Spiritual Challenges in Business
(A fictional adventure)
By Tim Bock & Jon Trott

Chapter Two

Tim waited at the same table. “Ha,” Jacob mused as he closed the door behind himself, glancing at the clock above a busy Zatha’s head. “He’s making up for being late last week.”

Jacob barely had gotten himself seated, when Tim spoke. “Can we pray?” Tim didn’t wait for an answer, and Jacob bowed his head. “Lord, I pray you’d help us as we vision together what our businesses can mean for you. And help me listen better than I did last week. Amen.”

Startled by the last bit of Tim’s prayer, Jacob looked up at the other’s face. “I didn’t notice you not listening.” His words floated off, unanswered, then he noticed their waitress.

Zatha stood at the table, pretending not to have noticed their prayer. “Coffee for both of you?” Tim again ordered his Ethiopian Blueberry, Jacob following suit. “And cream…” She nodded.

“Hot out there today,” Jacob said, sipping his coffee. Great. He was already talking about the weather! But Tim smiled, sipping his own cup before replying.

“Jacob, I felt I didn’t let you speak last week. Sure, your pastor filled me in some. He said you’d expressed interest in my being a sort of mentor for you regarding business. But before I can be of any use to you, I think we need to get to know each other better.”

Jacob paused only a second. “You know, Tim, I’d rather you tell me your story first.” Tim almost seemed ready to disagree, then looked at Jacob’s intense gaze and dropped the idea.

“All right. I guess part of listening is to respond to your cue when I talk!” Tim laughed at that, and Jacob smiled.

“Well, I mentioned last week about the intentional community I’m part of. I joined them when they were only five or six years old. Today we’ve been around just over forty years. There may be a lot of reasons we’ve lasted this long, but lets just say one of the ways we’ve made it from a financial point of view, is that we found ways to support ourselves.

In fact, we have had many businesses in our history.”

Jacob nodded. “Right, and you’d like me to contribute to what you’re doing. So what do you – “

“No, no.” Tim waved his hand. “I mean, if I’m going to pitch you that way, I’ll let you know. I’m trying to tell you how I got involved in doing what I call ‘mission business,’ or even ‘kingdom business.’” He stroked his chin, “See, no one noticed us. We simply didn’t have rich friends, or even moderately well to do friends. The Jesus People were, especially when we began, society’s cast-offs. So what we learned to do was to do… for ourselves.”

Jacob leaned forward, interested. “You started your own businesses? So you must have had some talent on board.”

Tim shook his head negatively. “We only had chutzpah… and our hands and backs. So some of the first businesses we ran were a painting company and a moving company. For furniture we’d rent a truck, or even use one of our old fleet of vans. We learned as we went along, how to do things, and when we made mistakes we made sure to eat the loss ourselves. That way, our customers spread the good word even when we didn’t quite measure up. We had a typesetting business, too, with those ancient Linotype machines. A custom cabinet-building business, though that was later…. I think I figured out once that we’ve had thirty plus businesses over our first thirty years.”

Jacob interrupted. “But how did you get involved in it all?”

“I was a young college kid with lots of zeal for God. I grew my hair long like a lot of the guys back then and how I wish I had some now. I had a real appreciation for what these folks were doing. They were involved in missions in the city meeting the needs of the neighborhood where they lived. It was a super hands-on approach to being a Christian. But there was also this internally aware thing – the spiritual bond, really – between the members. How many places do you know of where you could stop work, walk up to another guy on the crew, and ask for prayer? You might be getting tempted sexually, or maybe just be upset with your crew leader. But whatever, that sort of thing was and is normal for us.”

Jacob silently groaned to think of asking one of his employees for prayer. He resisted his impulse to hurry Tim along.

“Anyway, not long after I joined Jesus People USA – what folks call Jah-pooz-a nowadays for the acronym JPUSA – I started a roofing company. We again learned how to do all the different types of roofing. The art of tearing off a roof in 95 degree weather… we learned that one, and it is a rough lesson! You know if you are up on one of these apartment buildings in Chicago, the old roofs are often half a foot thick or more? You have to tear off the whole thing, all the way down to the wood deck. A big circular saw cuts up the old roof into sections, and then your guys have to peel it up one square at a time. Did I mention the fine pitch dust the saw makes, and how your sweat helps it get right into your skin and burn like the dickens? Anyway, get it all torn off, and then you start the actual roofing work all before it rains. Add ten or twenty degrees to whatever the thermometer says, and that’s what you’ll experience the whole time you’re up there.”

Tim paused, drinking again from his orange-green coffee cup, waiting for any questions. None came. “So, one day we’re up there doing this. And I begin thinking. There are a lot of small roofing crews in Chicago. We know them; they know us. But for roofing material, there are just one or two companies, and they treat the small guys like dirt. I know what roofing materials are needed. I know about the dibble bars, the nails, the spades for shingles, and other roofing tools. I know about the saw blades, the masks, the – I know my stuff! I’m excited.”

“But for what purpose?” Jacob asked. “I mean, you’re excited about making a bigger business, to make more money so that – what – your group can live better? I mean, what’s the bigger-better for, exactly?”

Tim paused, nodding. “I want to get to that. But why don’t I finish the rest of the startup story… if that’s okay?” Jacob nodded.

“I go home, think some more, and ask if I can speak to the JPUSA board. That’s a group of seven men and women directing JPUSA’s larger vision and decisions. I explain to them this idea of starting a supply business due to our recent purchase of a large building we bought for the Roofing company to hold all their tools and equipment. This building had a drive through area and could be used for a supply company also. They listened and then said ‘go for it.’ “

“But none of you know what this will cost yet, right?” Jacob envisioned spaced-out hippies nodding while muttering “cool” under their breaths to whatever cockamamie schemes Tim churned out.

“No, none of us really knew, but they gave me the go ahead to find out what vendors would sell us and how many roofers are actually in the Neighborhood of this building.. And when I came back with my ideas fleshed out some, we started. Small. And then as we were able to let the smaller roofer know that we knew our stuff and that we would supply them with quality products quickly, this helped us grow. And today, we’re one of the largest inner city roofing supply companies closest to down town Chicago. I have a couple of warehouse locations now and 13 trucks and the whole nine yards. That’s the short version, anyway.”

“Sounds impressive,” Jacob acknowledged. “But back to my question.”

Zatha reappeared, and refilled their cups. “Could I get one of those muffins you were working on when I came in?” She smiled slightly at Jacob, “They’re cranberry. I have –“No, cranberry is great.”

She went away, came back with the muffin, and went away again.

“Okay, you want to know why I was so excited about expanding our businesses. We live with a ‘common purse’– that is, with all the businesses we run, we transfer their monies into one pot and we all have all our needs taken care of through this means. Like everything, it is complicated, and there are many details that I wasn’t planning of going into them all. But what we found out was that even living like that, with low individual overhead compared to someone having to maintain their own house and car and bank account, the outreaches we felt necessary to do always stretched us to the utmost. We were always taking in more folks who were in need or felt the call to serve with us and some of them could not participate in the businesses and then were a real cost to us.”

“For instance, during the 70s and 80s homelessness became a huge problem. Our homeless neighbors came to us just one or two at a time, and would eat dinner with us. Then there were so many that we had to create a whole meal for them – we called them our “dinner guests.” That escalated to over 300 people per night. We needed staff to man the desk and care for them.”

“And just when that seemed hard enough to fund, it turned out a number of our poor neighbors were being priced out of their buildings by developers who were turning the buildings into high-end apartments and even condos. Now our neighbors had nowhere to go. And on top of that, we started seeing more and more women with children homeless. What could we do? We made beds for them on our dining room floor at night, got them up when our workers came down for breakfast.

“And that wasn’t the end. Their numbers grew and grew. We’re now running one of the largest shelters on the entire north side of Chicago. Our denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, has helped us in many ways, as have other large churches in the suburbs such as Willow Creek.”

Jacob’s pastor had mentioned homelessness in connection with Tim’s ministry, but the details were sketchy. Tim’s brief outline moved Jacob deeply. “So you’re saying your business’ profits help support those outreaches. That’s amazing. But…” and here, Jacob groped for words. “I’m not living in an intentional community. I don’t have staff working for peanuts because they feel called to live and work as you all do. I’m not sure you can help me, and I don’t mean that rudely. I’m a bit miffed… this is awkward, but I’m wondering if that very unique business model has anything for me in it.” Jacob grimaced in embarrassment.

Tim laughed. “Oh, I seriously doubt that what we do is something that’s going to catch on. Out of all the Jesus communes of that era, I’m afraid we’re just about the last one of any size still around. So yes, you are right, you don’t want and probably couldn’t have a business set up as ours exactly, but I do believe the principles can apply”

Jacob sighed. “But that sense of purpose you must have every morning, I do want that. I’m not sure I’d move into an intentional community to get it” – and here he laughed painfully – “but I do envy you.”

Tim sipped his coffee. Jacob broke his cranberry muffin in two, handing a part to Jacob. “I should be dieting anyway.” The two men sat in silence for a moment, sipping and nibbling.

“Jacob, I think that a sense of mission for your business is the important thing. No, I mean it. Remember what I said last week, and maybe it sounded too direct. But I asked you: What it is you want, and how far are you willing to go to get it? That still seems to me to be the central question.

“We business folk are driven, more often than not, by the need to get things done, to succeed. And by “succeed” we usually use a measure of success that exists in our own minds. Sure, it has to do with profit, the bottom line. But how much of it – and I ask myself these questions almost daily, Jacob – has to do with ego? After all, even our roofing company and supply company, they were my idea. I feel like I owned them. But that is only wrong if I allow my ego and pride to run the business instead of surrendering the business passion to Christ.

“I need to continually surrender my business to God. I know that sounds like an empty platitude, I know. After all, invoking God is convenient. He can’t be directly seen or heard. So if I say ‘God told me to do x or y with my business,’ who can challenge me? I just played the ace card, Authority-wise. So I get my will and God’s will mixed together, and if I’m not careful I’m calling my own will God. You get that?”

Jacob nodded. This he understood, if somewhat dimly. And its implications made him uncomfortable.

“God’s will has got to predominate my will. If I’m not really truly surrendered to God myself, how can God do much with my business? My business is a reflection of my own spiritual condition. Or at least it tends to reflect that condition. It’s a lot like a marriage…” Suddenly, Tim stopped, obviously realizing too late where he’d taken the conversation.

“Its okay, Tim. Business IS a lot like marriage. Mine took my marriage. And maybe that’s why I don’t feel all that in love with my business any more. Let’s not get into that topic for now, though. Go ahead.”

Tim nodded, his face reflecting a compassion which Jacob noticed.

-Tim Bock

Chapter One < God's Bottom Line Chapter Two > Chapter Three

A free chapter will be released online roughly every 2 weeks until the end of the book, but if you would like to read the whole book right away, the digital version is now only $0.99.

Download God’s Bottom Line for only $0.99

Be sure to join the Nehemiah Challenge Facebook Group!

15 Jan 2018

God’s Bottom Line Chapter One

By | 2018-02-05T13:47:07+00:00 January 15th, 2018|God's Bottom Line|0 Comments

Image ©Copyright 2014 T. Wray Photography

God’s Bottom Line

Mentoring with the Spiritual Challenges in Business
(A fictional adventure)
By Tim Bock & Jon Trott

Chapter One

Jacob looked up again from his table toward Everybody’s Coffee front door, wondering where Tim was. “Not an auspicious way to impress me,” the dark-haired thirty-seven year old told himself. “Late for our first meeting.”

A pretty, dark-skinned waitress approached, but Jacob’s shake of the head sent her on past.

Why had he agreed to this? A meeting with Tim, a guy he did not know, who had been introduced to him by his pastor, Ramey Alvarez.

Jacob’s personal faith in Jesus Christ, only a year and a half old, seemed at first to comfortably fit with his Oak Park Company’s operation. Even before embracing this new faith, Jacob operated Corevex Software with a sense of ethical responsibility to both his customers and his small group of employees. He paid taxes and tried to be a good neighbor. He contributed to local causes and even a couple overseas philanthropic outfits, including one that reconstructed homes in Haiti. Regardless, his faith didn’t suggest adding much, other than his occasional personal contributions to Chicago-area evangelism efforts and those small overseas missions.

But as time went on, something nagged at him. Jacob questioned the pastor about what the Bible, what Christianity itself, really had to do with business. Or, to put it another way, wasn’t there something more to doing business as a Christian than merely ethics? Don’t cheat. Be a good neighbor. Okay, but where was the meaning in it? The mission? Or was there nothing more?

The pastor’s response proved that, despite a sincere desire to help, he had no idea how to answer. Maybe in part because Jacob himself barely knew what he wanted! But to his credit, Pastor Alvarez did come back to him later and suggest the meeting with an inner-city acquaintance, Tim Burlingame. “Tim runs a business. It is part of an intentional Christian community in Chicago. He might have something you’re looking for.”

So Jacob had made the phone call. And here he was, waiting. The sun-shaped neon clock above the waitress’ head read 10:25 – almost half an hour late. He pulled out his iPhone and began futzing with the daytimer.

“Jacob?” He looked up to see a tall, gently grinning counterpart. Tim pulled up the chair across the table from him. “Sorry, I have an employee whose wife has terminal cancer. He came to work today but I had to send him home. Anyway, again… sorry I’m late.”

Good excuse and directly communicated, but Jacob’s irritation didn’t subside. He tried to work past it by explaining why he’d come and that Pastor Alvarez seemed to think Tim had answers. He then digressed into explaining his business. “What is it that you want, Jacob?” Jacob had no words for the sudden question. “I mean, what is it that you want, and how far are you willing to go to get it?”

“I want my faith to influence my business.”

The waitress leaned toward the duo. “On me,” Jacob said to her. “I’ll take whatever your house blend is… and leave room for cream, please.”

“Zatha, I’ll take the Ethiopian Blueberry. Black. Thanks. Oh Jacob, I wanted to introduce to you Zatha, she belongs to my church and is the resident scholar among us. “Zatha shrugs off the comment.

“She is always helping us when we have any celebration at our church with amazing skill and great coffee and treats.” “Now the great coffee part I can agree with, I am a coffee geek.” She admits.

“Nice to meet you and I look forward to some tasty treats here.” States Jacob

“Now… where were we? You want your faith to influence your business. Okay. But at what cost?” Tim moves on.

Jacob shook his head. “I don’t exactly follow.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be so blunt. But didn’t Christ say something about building a tower after first examining the cost? Otherwise when the builder can’t finish, he is open to ridicule? *Luke 14:28-30, NRSV

That’s good business sense on Jesus’ part, right?”

Jacob nodded, his irritation again rising. “I don’t mean to be rude, Tim, but this doesn’t seem to be going anywhere for me. You’re dealing in spiritual vagaries. I’m asking for specifics.”

Zatha returned with their coffee. “Tell me when,” she said, pouring thick cream into Jacob’s stoneware mug.

“When.” Jacob winced as he took a draught from his coffee cup, which was hotter than he’d prepared for even after the cream. “I want to know how to implement my faith in a deeper way. My life is my business; just ask my ex-wife. But since I decided to follow Christ, I don’t really do anything that differently. So how can I count the cost when I don’t even know what tower I’m trying to build?” Tim laughed, lines along his eyes proving that laughter was something usual for him. “You’re right. What is the tower we’re trying to build? Well?”

Jacob, still irritated began to find himself somewhat amused. Tim seemed to be gently playing with him, provoking him. “Look, I am finding out all the time new stuff about Christianity that I didn’t know. I’m new at this, as Pastor Alvarez probably told you.” Tim nodded. “So no, I don’t know what tower I’m trying to build, except that I want it to honor God.” “That’s good,” Tim encouraged. “No, I mean it.”

Jacob leaned forward, feeling the rush of an emotion he barely understood. “I want more. I want way, way more. Inside I feel so totally changed. My business used to be my life and now it sometimes seems more in the way. I’m frustrated. I want the way I feel about Christ to somehow find expression. I’m selling people drafting and schematic software but my mind is a thousand miles away. There just has to be more to following Jesus than selling software.” It was all coming out in a rush, and Tim seemed content to let Jacob continue.

“Jesus says to Peter and the other fisher guys, ‘You, and you. Come and follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.’ My heart feels like he’s calling me. But I don’t know what he’s calling me to. I want to say, ‘Yes,’ but to what?!” He moved his coffee cup’s handle aimlessly with a finger. “Sorry, but now you know how I’m feeling.”

Tim looked at Jacob and again smiled. “I have a lot of respect for you. I heard how you started this business a few years ago with no money and only one employee, and now you have 20 people working for you and that you give them a good living wage. I read that your company won an award of excellence a couple of years ago too.”

“But you know, God isn’t in the habit of letting people know ahead of time what his plans for them entail. A friend of mine wrote a song with this line in it: ‘Whatever one can ask of faith, obedience will give.’ God typically doesn’t answer all our questions immediately, that’s where faith comes in. But He is not a negotiator when it comes to wanting total commitment and obedience from us.

Zatha walked by, glancing at the men and at their still-full cups.

Jacob sighed. “Look, maybe you can tell me about your business. Pastor Alvarez says you sell roofing materials.”

“Alright. But it is an odd story, or I guess you might say out of the ordinary. Ever hear of the Jesus movement? You know when some of the hippies in the late sixties and seventies became Christians?”

“You mean like ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’?” Jacob was very foggy on the idea of the Jesus movement.

“Not exactly. During that time, spirituality was all over the map. And a lot of the hippies were searching hard for meaning beyond money and profit – “

“Though they weren’t afraid to spend their parents’ money, I’ll bet!” Jacob laughed, provoking another smile from Tim.

“Anyway, many of the hippies started communes, experiments where they tried to live for relationships instead of stuff. Because they didn’t even know what they didn’t know, almost all of those experiments failed. In this revival of Christianity among the hippies, the community of Jesus People USA, was born. But for reasons only known to God, He kept us together for over 4 decades, serving the poor and creating a welcome place for believers to heal and grow in their faith and other stuff.”

Tim stopped to swig some of more of his now-cooling coffee, allowing Jacob to slide in a question. “What were the reasons for living together, and what was the other “stuff’.

“Simply put, in Acts 2:44 it stated that the newly found believers in Christ’s time, had all things in common, that by doing this they were able to meet all the needs of the group the best.

The other “stuff”, well long story short, we found that serving our neighbors where we lived, meant caring for them by opening four shelters, one for single men, one for women with kids, another for intact families and one for single women. We also have many bands that share the gospel in many different types of styles. “

“Who paid for all this stuff.? “And HOW did you make the money? Who organized all this?”

Jacob watched Zatha refill his cup. Distracting. Again, he poured his cream and refocused on the discussion. “Something worse. Let me guess. Somebody got elected dictator.”

Tim nodded. “Exactly. One extreme or the other; the communes tended to fold due to disorganization or turn into personality cults led by one self-appointed guru. Most of the Jesus communes followed the path of disorganization or at least of disintegration. And maybe in some ways that was good. Some folks ended up in the mainstream churches, which helped revitalize them.

The communities that went for a plurality of leadership seemed to make it. Jesus People USA adopted this after they too endured a one man show for a short time. The deacons at the time removed this leader and set up what is current today; a 7 person leadership team.

And where, Jacob wondered aloud, did Tim’s story connect with the roofing supply company he manages now?

Tim continued, “This Jesus People USA began back in 1972. They lived communally, landing in Chicago on their bus in 1973. And to make a really long story short – they survived. They joined a larger denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, in 1989. And –“

“But how did you end up at Jesus People USA? And what about that roofing business? And how does that work in a commune, anyway?” Tim smiled at the barrage of questions, but that didn’t stop Jacob from adding another. “And just how can I use things you do in a commune to further what I’m doing in the suburbs as a – well, more mainstream – American businessman?”

Tim looked up at the clock. “You know, I have a proposal. Let’s meet here again next Thursday. We’ll discuss it then.”

This seemed less than ideal to Jacob. He wanted his questions answered now but he said nothing, merely nodding.

“One more thing,” Tim added. “How about each of us pray and think about that question of yours, ‘What tower are you trying to build?’ We can talk some more about that, too. And I’ll try to block out a bigger chunk of time, say two hours?” Again, Jacob nodded.

Tim breezed out. Jacob, having a warm cup of coffee still sitting in front of him, stayed.

“You need a refill?” asked Zatha.

Jacob thought about the way Tim’s Ethiopian Blueberry had smelled. “How about I buy a new cup of what Tim had?”

Zatha laughed. “Sure. I have some fresh poppy seed muffins, just out of the oven. Want one of those?” Again, Jacob nodded, and watched as she walked back to get his order.

-Tim Bock

God’s Bottom Line Chapter One > Chapter Two

A free chapter will be released online roughly every 2 weeks until the end of the book, but if you would like to read the whole book right away, the digital version is now only $0.99.

Download God’s Bottom Line for only $0.99

Be sure to join the Nehemiah Challenge Facebook Group!