God’s Bottom Line

26 Feb 2018

God’s Bottom Line Chapter Four

By | 2018-02-26T11:08:17+00:00 February 26th, 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 Four

The feeling of well-being went beyond happiness; in part it was the release from a feeling of oppression. Jacob looked at his coffee cup, across the room at the dark-haired Zatha, at the white woven metal chairs and tables of Everybody’s Coffee. It was the same room but things were very different. “This is what peace feels like.”

Tim smiled at that. “Well, after that it’s a bit hard to go back to discussing mere business!” Both of them laughed. “But we do still have an hour, maybe more if you want, to discuss it.”

Jacob nodded. “But I’ll admit something, Tim. I think everything is changing. I’m beginning to change my opinion of my business.

Tim again smiled, “I’ll tell you a story. We had a business meeting with our leadership staff – all the guys came in to talk about our mission. And one of the guys – he heads up our customer relations – says to me, to all of us really, ‘I am into this because I can reach our customers with the gospel. I hate selling roofing materials. I just want to tell ‘em about Jesus.’

“And another guy sitting there listening says ‘Wait a minute. You’ve got passion for preaching the gospel. That’s great. But where’s your passion for the business? Is that somehow not worthy of your passion? It’s as if the Edge in U2 told us he didn’t really care that much about playing guitar. No, the dude’s passionate about guitar… that’s why he’s good. Part of you being a good Christian ought to be you being a good businessman. Be passionate in everything you do. Yeah, put things in their right order. But burn with intensity, man! And your passion itself is a powerful witness, passion in the care you take to get it right, to make sure the customer’s satisfied and feels he’s been treated not just fairly and ethically but – well, like he’s important beyond dollars and cents. That takes passion.’

Jacob nodded, excitedly leaning forward. “But what you’re saying is that in Christ I can rediscover that passion for my business?”

“Yes,” Tim said, twiddling a fork. “But it has to be, like you were, reborn. That is, not to be obnoxious with my same old question… But what is it that you want and how far are you willing to go to get it? The answer once was ‘I want my business to succeed, and I’m willing to go to any legal length to make it happen.’ Right?”

Again, Jacob nodded, but added, “I was willing because I loved it. I mean, there’s pleasure in seeing something unfold that you worked so hard for, conceptualized in your mind, sketched out on napkins, researched, mapped out on the computer and finally coded out, then recoded until it worked just like you’d dreamed. And then the pleasure of creating the company to sell it, which I did almost by myself really. I was so excited when it took off and just kept going.” He sighed and rubbed his forehead. “But of course I can’t go back there. It’s like being a pioneer in the old west, the thrill of finding that perfect piece of land and building a house log by log and suddenly finding you had a home. But then after that come the homesteaders, and after them the towns. Even if they name the town after you, all you can remember is that first night in the new cabin.”

“Or,” Tim interjected, “It’s like you’re discovering now what Jesus warned about.” He flipped through his Bible, then went to the back for its concordance. “Sorry, I forget where the verse is.” Both men laughed. “Bigger barns… no, barns… Okay, here it is. Luke 12. Jesus sits telling his parables: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’”

Tim leaned back, his eyes almost closed in concentration. Jacob waited, but Tim seemed to have no more to say. Jacob dove in.

“That helps me realize something that may seem strange. The emptiness I feel about my business may be God helping me realize that it really is empty – just building bigger barns. That feeling of loss and unrest – of futility of stuff I buy, really – has been like the noise an engine makes when there’s no oil left and the whole thing is just about to seize up. It’s letting me know something’s wrong.” A large smile lit up Jacob’s face. “Funny to think of being glad about something that’s been so painful; God’s been trying to flag me down. But if I was building bigger barns, what do I do now instead? I mean, I need to be rich toward God, like Jesus says… but that’s where I get snarled up. What does that mean, exactly?”

Tim, elbows on the table, bridged his fingers. “What do you think it means?” Jacob smiled. “Hey, I was hoping you knew. Honestly, like I told you the first time we met, I’ve been giving to charity and missions. But that’s not scratching the itch.”

Tim’s silence provoked Jacob. “Ok, you’re probably doing that Rogerian psychology thing where all you do is ask questions. But I’m asking you not to do that. You’ve been running a business. Tell me what you know.”

“I don’t know about the Rogerian business, but yes, I am trying to draw you out. Fair enough, though. Jesus says this crazy thing to Nicodemus, who was to religion like we are to business. That is, Nicodemus was a veteran in his chosen field of religious leadership. He knew his way around. But here comes Jesus and says something, recorded in John 3, that we’ve lost the strangeness of. ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.’ John 3:3.

Or like my Bible says, ‘without being born from above.’ Nicodemus – this guy who knows the Scriptures and on top of it – unlike some of his associates – is truly discerning, asks the exact right question. ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’

Customers got up from another table. The electric chime on the door sounded as they departed.

Jacob sighed. “Funny you should mention that chapter. There’s one line of John 3 that always bugged me… because I have actually thought about it in relation to my life… my business. Jesus says ‘What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.’ And I know darn well that I built and nurtured my business from an unregenerate heart. So sure… it was from the dead old me, the flesh. It wasn’t Jesus’ idea.”

Jacob felt a rush of adrenalin. “I need to go back to square one, Tim. I built everything with no thought of God… or anyone else. I want to re-think everything, tear it all down in my head and…” the uprush of emotion faded. “You know what I mean? But… I suppose starting over with a new business is too simplistic. It’s like starting over with a new me that has no history. I mean, sure, I’m a new creature in Christ. But I’m still me. You don’t just pull a Cambodia – you know, the Khmer Rouge killing off millions of people – to try and erase a history that can’t be erased. I’m a Christian, sure. But I can’t destroy what I was or what I did. And I’ll botch it if I try. God doesn’t work it that way, does he? Am I making any sense?

Tim murmured an affirmative.

“So it’s that way with my business, too. If I were selling rocket launchers or something, I’d have to think hard about whether I could keep going. But I’m selling drafting software. The product could be used, come to think of it, for helping to design a rocket launcher…” he laughed at the absurdity, “but it gets used for more good than bad, I’m thinking. The real problem is –blast it, I don’t know what the real problem is.”

“But do you think there’s a problem? I mean, what you’re saying sounds like you do think so. Are you sure the issue is your business?”

“Yes.” Jacob’s response was emphatic. “I have other problems, obviously. I mean, the end of my marriage has definitely affected everything else. I’m a Christian, but really new at this. At my church, people treat me as someone who’s important, and ask me questions about God I can’t begin to answer. Why do they ask? They think I’m spiritual because I’m successful as a businessman. Nobody seems to wonder if my success is actually because I’m not spiritual HA. Sometimes I wonder if they understand spirituality themselves. Even Pastor Rivera seems to defer to me.” Jacob blushed. “And of course, I like it. Even while I hate myself for liking it, I like it – their attention, their deference.

“What would Jesus say to me if he walked into this room, I wonder? You’re telling me he’d say ‘I love you regardless of my performance’ But what I often sense at church is that I’m somebody because of my successful business. And that’s also the message I get from my non-Christian acquaintances. So it can be pretty depressing. In fact, you know why I go to church sometimes?” And at this Jacob’s jaw muscles visibly clenched before he spoke again. “Sometimes I go to church because it is one place where I’m the big fish.”

“We’re circling back to some of your feelings of being judged, I think,” said Tim. Jacob frowned. But Tim wouldn’t be dissuaded. “Well, hear me out before you disagree. You feel judged on one hand for your failures… but on the other for your successes. That is, your identity is in what others think of you. Isn’t it? Isn’t that even part of what motivates you in your business, that sense of success / failure, and how other people see it and see you through it?”

“I… I guess so.” But it was evident he didn’t fully agree.

“What if God’s main goal in your life was to help you see yourself the way He sees you, as his beloved son? And what if his hope is that you can in turn let go of everything else – all the false ideas about yourself that haunt you? God wants you to be haunted by his love, amazed by it, enthralled by it. If you’re focused on thinking about yourself, whether in terms of personal failure, corporate success, or what others are thinking about you… how can you dwell in God’s love? It’s like trying to whisper in a tin can factory. Way too much noise!”

Jacob nodded. “Right. And the more I think about myself, the less peace I have. I really like tranquility, which may seem a contradiction for a Type-A person. Yes I do like action and getting things done… but I yearn for that sense of rest.” He let out a long sigh. “I’m not good at love, either giving it or receiving it, and that isn’t something I’m saying out of self-pity. It’s something I know. But let me switch streams, Tim. Even if I do learn this lesson of love in my personal life – and that will be a miracle – how does it translate to me doing business? I’m back to square one there.”

Tim looked up at the clock. “Let’s do this.” He produced a typed pieced of paper from his Bible and handed it to Jacob. “Does this resonate with you? I carry it with me as a reminder.”

“Four Lessons God teaches me through my business.” Jacob’s eye followed down.1. Godly ethics from the bible are the only way we should operate business.

1. Ill-gotten gains are of no value. [Proverbs 10:2].

2. Jesus is, or should be, the Center of all that is planned and done. (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” [Mark 12:30].)

3. People are, or should be, my primary responsibility. People first then profits. (“Love your neighbor as yourself” [Mark 12:31].)

4. Business not done in, through, and by my utter dependence on God is a failure no matter what the spread sheets say. (“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” [Psalm 127:1].)

Jacob looked up at Tim. “Is this an answer to my question about love? I’m not seeing it. This seems too general again Tim, too abstract and even a bit too super-spiritual for me. I really need some meat and potato advice, direction…” Jacob held out the paper for Tim to take back.

“No, I’m giving you those. Read them over this week, pray about them. We’ll discuss ‘em next week, okay?”

Tim stood, waived to Zatha for the check. Jacob without thinking grabbed Tim’s hand. “Thanks. This meant a lot today all the talk of how I had my priorities mixed up with my marriage and all.” Jacob didn’t know how to say more. Tim squeezed Jacob’s hand. “I’m glad.”

Jacob turned to pick up his laptop bag, and as he turned back Tim was out the door. The clock read 12:17. He ambled to the front counter.

“Hey, you got any sandwiches?” he asked Zatha. She nodded, brushing her hair from her face.

“Yes we do. Ham, beef, veggie, 3-cheese, and turkey.” “Okay, what’s your personal favorite?”

“The smoked ham and provolone is really good; nine grain roll, too.” She held up a generous-looking plump roll with meat and cheese hanging from the sides. “The condiments are over here.”

Ever the businessman, Jacob couldn’t help but note that the condiments – generic packets of ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard – were rather haphazardly offered from one bin on the counter. One of the small packets had burst, staining some of the others. Gingerly he plucked out a couple mustard packets and dropped them into the bag with the sandwich. He paid and turned to go… then couldn’t help himself as he turned back to the counter.

“You know, you should let your owner know that presentation is important.” Jacob pointed at the condiment bin. “Each one of these should have its own small container. Or if I were him, I’d have you put them out of sight behind the counter so people see your baked goods and not a plastic bin.” Zatha listened with an odd half-smile on her face. “And as long as you’re telling him that you should also let him know that most places offer more than just three condiments, I mean, where’s his horseradish, his honey-mustard, or oils?”

“The owner is a she, and she is me.” Her half-smile turned to a frown.

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” He mentally kicked himself. “I really like your shop… just can’t help being a critic, I guess.”

Her frown blossomed into full smile. “I’m not upset… well, or I shouldn’t be. You’re right about that ugly ol’ thing.” And with that she pulled the bin behind the counter. “What you said… I’ll do something about that. And are there any other condiments you’d want to see?”

“Maybe some pickle relish?” She nodded, opened her mouth to speak but thought better of it.

“See you next week, then,” he said, taking his sandwich, headed for the door.

-Tim Bock

Chapter Three < God's Bottom Line Chapter Four > Chapter Five soon!

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5 Feb 2018

God’s Bottom Line Chapter Three

By | 2018-02-26T11:06:49+00:00 February 5th, 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 Three

Jacob put his hand over his eyes, which without warning had filled with tears. “Sorry,” he muttered, holding a hand up as a half-apology, half blocking maneuver.

Tim said nothing, but Jacob couldn’t regather himself. Again, he waved his hand ineffectually.

“It’s okay,” Tim offered, quietly, as the passing Zatha pretended not to notice the minor drama. Jacob, glancing at Tim through his fingers, saw the other was quietly praying. Still his own emotions wouldn’t let him speak.

After his brief, silent prayer, Tim called out, “ Zatha. Would you mind giving us some more coffee? And maybe some of that carrot cake… one for each of us?” Obligingly, Zatha came toward the duo and refilled their thick mugs.

Tim waited, but as Zatha withdrew he leaned forward. “I’m not here to judge you, Jacob. I’m here to be your friend.”

“This has nothing to do with business,” Jacob snapped, his emotions startling even himself. “I came here for help in understanding my business.”

Tim nodded. “And that’s fine, Jacob.” Tim’s gentle tone started to calm him. “As a Christ-follower – and I’m that before I’m a businessman – I have to tell you that life can’t be snapped off into neat little boxes. Everything is related to everything else. What happened to your marriage… you indicated that how you handled your business might be connected to what happened with your marriage.”

Jacob felt the agitation flow out of him, leaving him wrung out emotionally. “Yes, I see that. But – “

“Jacob, I wonder if maybe instead of talking about your business, we should start by talking about your marriage. It is up to you. If you don’t want to do that, we won’t. And I’ll follow your lead. But I have to tell you…” Tim’s voice trailed off.

Jacob began, haltingly, to explain, even while writhing inwardly at the cliché way it sounded. Business…. busyness. Doreen hung on for 17 years as he drilled deeper and deeper into a passion that became obsession. “I knew I was losing her,” he remembered. “But I didn’t understand why… or maybe I didn’t stop to really ask why. Doreen found someone else.”

“I was going to tell her about my new life in Christ,” and Jacob’s voice shook slightly. “But I was afraid to do it, because within a day or so of my becoming a Christian I also realized I was married to my business. I was…” Jacob shrugged. He couldn’t find a word.
“Condemned? Found guilty by your own heart?”

Jacob nodded. “I was ashamed. I thought instead of making a big deal out of the past, I’d just try to do better. So I started buying her flowers, offering to take her out. And she looked at me like I was from outer space. The end came soon after these attempts. Doreen told me about her lover, a guy who’d recently left my company to work for a competitor.”

“She moved out, divorced me. We share custody of our 11 year old boy, but that’s a mess. He’s angry at me when he’s with me, angry at her when he’s with her. And me? I’m angry at myself for my failure.” Jacob clenched his right hand into a fist. “What does my business mean to me now?” And again he had to stop speaking or risk emotional melt-down.

“Where do you see God in this situation?”

Jacob turned his inward eye away from himself and toward this other man who now knew his deepest secrets. It was more than irritation; he felt an irrational fear, a need to leap up and walk (or run!) out the front door of Everybody’s Coffee.

“Where do I see God? I don’t know. Okay?”

“Okay. If that’s really true. That you don’t know, I mean…” Again, Tim’s tone softened his words.

“I see God in the fact that I can get up in the morning, go to work, and not just start smashing things. I see God in the fact that I don’t go to a bar and pick up whatever woman, young or old, I find there. I see God in the fact that I even go to church and sing worship songs and pray the Lord’s Prayer and listen to a sermon that just leaves me emptier than I was when I walked in the door.” Jacob’s voice offered this in an icy whisper.

“Good.” Tim paused, seemingly unsure himself what to say. He nibbled at the cake, angling for time.

“I don’t think God’s listening.”

Tim looked at Jacob’s face, which had settled into a hopeless blank. “But are you listening, Jacob? I mean,” he hurried on, realizing Jacob’s patience had limits, “are you willing to take everything – your business, your personal life, especially your guilt and self-condemnation – and give it to God?”

“But I am guilty! I destroyed my marriage! I failed my wife and son!”

Tim slowly shook his head. “The failure of success is that there is always the next moment to succeed in.” Jacob shook his head at what had sounded like a motivational speaker’s catch phrase.

“No, Jacob. Listen. The issue isn’t failure or success. These questions remain. What is it you want, and how far are you willing to go to get it? Jesus not only talked about building a tower and counting the cost before you start. He also talked about a pearl of great price.” This time, Tim pulled a small Bible from his computer bag, began flipping through it. Jacob nervously sucked down more caffeine, though he knew he’d already had enough to get him feeling shaky.

“Okay, Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of heaven. And in Matthew’s account he tells a few parables. ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.’ So Jacob, here’s this entrepreneur who sees a fabulous business opportunity; buys a field and gets a complete treasure along with it for no extra cost! But… what does he pay?”

Jacob raised his eyebrows, not quite understanding the question. “Um, he pays all he has.”

“Okay, but what is the field worth? Way more, right? I mean, there’s a treasure buried there, like a chest of pirate booty or something!” Tim laughed. “So the field is like a super-bargain. Kind of like buying a box of Cracker-Jack and getting the Hope Diamond inside. I mean, there’s no comparison between what you paid and what it is worth. Right?”

Jacob nodded to the rhetorical question as Tim again looked down at the pages.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls.” Tim looked up at Jacob before continuing. “On finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

“Okay, Jacob. Jesus is talking about that one thing – that one, precious, unique thing – and he’s talking to us as businessmen as well as human beings. What is that pearl of great value?”

Jacob sighed, knowing he was on the receiving end of a Sunday School lesson. “I suppose… Jesus, I guess.”

“Are you sure?” Tim looked at him directly, intensely.

“Yes. I mean… yes. Jesus is the pearl. Or maybe the Kingdom of God is the pearl. Salvation, so that when I die I will be in God’s Kingdom. But I have the pearl, Tim. I’ve …–“

“You mean you’re a real Christian. You believed the gospel and you’ve accepted Christ’s death and resurrection as having to do with your sin and need of redemption?”

“I have Jesus. Yes, I have Jesus.”

Tim paused. “But Jacob, does Jesus have you?” Before he could stop himself, Jacob rolled his eyes.

“No, really. Think about this. Jesus says something that we gloss over in that parable. What did that businessman do? When he found that pearl, that special one-of-a-kind pearl, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Tim paused while Jacob processed. “So, Jacob, what did you sell to get that pearl of great price?”

Jacob held up a hand, then dropped it. “I… I think I’m hearing you. Go on.”

“No, I need you to tell me what you think you sold… what you traded, if you want to put it that way.”

“I gave God my life. I mean, my old life. My sins. My porn… I threw away my collection of porn mags and a few videos.” Jacob blushed. “I scaled back on the recreational drinking.” Unsure of his answers, suspecting he was being judged by the other and found wanting, Jacob stopped.

“That’s OK! Seriously. But Jacob, let me put this a different way. Are there things you are still holding onto that you haven’t given to God?”

Jacob’s anxiety spilled out. “Honestly, Tim. I think you are judging me. I know I’m not all that spiritual, I know I failed in my family and that’s the big measure of a man – even more than my work is. So you don’t need to rub it in. I failed. I get it. I’m a failure as a Christian. I’m here to say you can tell me what to do, but you don’t need to tell me I’m a failure because I know that.”

Tim’s face was a mixture of wonder and confusion. “Is that what you hear me saying? That you are a spiritual dud?” Tim’s voice was a mix of horror and astonishment. “Listen, Jacob. If I’m going to talk about human failure, I would start with myself. This is a level playing field! I’m with you, not above you. I’m your fellow struggler. I’m hoping to become your friend. But judging you? Dear Lord, I am the last person on this planet to have that right. What we’re talking about aren’t your failures in marriage, business, or parenting. Remember what you told me when we first started meeting?”

Jacob’s head was swimming; he honestly couldn’t remember. And his heart grasped at Tim’s words about friendship; tears nearly threatened him again. He was so terribly lonely.

“You wanted to know how your faith could impact your business. You weren’t content to just be a Christian who had a business; you wanted to see your faith transform your business. Or am I wrong?”

Jacob gave an unhappy chuckle. “Yes, I mean, no. You are right. But – I’m sorry, I’m feeling multiple levels of stuff here. Kind of bewildering, you know?” Tim nodded. “You know, Scripture says there is NO condemnation in Christ. It is possible that I was too intense – and I’m sorry about that. But I think you may be hearing me through the static of your own sense that you’ve blown it. Or maybe you think you are forgiven, but that you feel you are disgusting and – really – God can hardly stand you.
I’ve got news for you, though. That is a stinking lie from the pit of hell.”

“You are loved. Your life is hidden in Christ. This isn’t some game we’re involved in here; pretend people doing pretend Jesus stuff because pretend is nicer than reality. We’re struggling to love God as much as he already loves us. He’s not ticked at you. He’s not disgusted with you.” Tim reached across the table and touched Jacob’s arm. “He loves you like you love your son, Jacob. Like you want to be with your son, like you are sad when your son’s not with you and so glad when he is with you…. Even when it hurts because he’s angry with you. Think about how much you love your son.”

Jacob blinked his eyes, trying to hold on to his emotions.

Tim’s hand squeezed Jacob’s arm. “Now think about God feeling a sense of anticipation just like when you anticipate your son coming to be with you… think about him looking at you the way you look into your son’s face. That’s your son, Jacob. He’s totally special, one of a kind. God loves you like that, except times infinity.”

Though it did sound kinda cheesy, it didn’t matter. Jacob felt an unseen weight that had been there for months suddenly lift from his shoulders. His eyes rose toward Tim’s. “I accept that,” he said, slowly. “And thank you.”

-Tim Bock

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

A free chapter will be released online roughly once or twice a month until the end of the book, but if you would like to read the whole book right away, the complete digital version is now only $0.99.

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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

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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

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