John D. Beckett, chairman of the privately held R. W. Beckett Corporation in North Ridgefield, Ohio, wrote one of the leading books on living out Christian faith in the marketplace, Loving Monday (InterVarsity, 1998). Now Beckett, 68, has written a sequel, Mastering Monday: A Guide to Integrating Faith and Work (InterVarsity, 2006). Senior associate editor Stan Guthrie recently sat down with him.
Why did you write this new book?
There have been something like a thousand books written on this subject. [Christians] have been set in positions of significant leadership, but their business influence has accelerated way past their spiritual preparation. This next book tries to build a more solid foundation under them and to help guide their thinking.
Do you think churches still don't understand business as a calling?
I do. Relatively few churches and pastors are reinforcing the legitimacy of a call into so-called "secular work." I have colleagues with tremendous business influence who are starving spiritually in their local churches. There's zero feeding; there's zero reinforcing of the call they have in the marketplace.
Some prominent Christian leaders, such as the late Ken Lay at Enron, have become embroiled in business scandals. What's gone wrong?
I've asked myself whether Ken Lay is typical of a broader problemand I really don't know the answer. But frankly, like so many of my peers and contemporaries, I think he separated his work world from his faith world. Enron had a code of four values. Three are very close to my heart, because they're identical to the ones at our company: integrity, excellence, and a profound respect for the individual. What happened to these [values]? People close to it told me that they basically set them aside. They breached their own integrity for the sake of doing these deals. Apparently, this happened at the board level, and it happened with Ken Lay. We don't know the extent of his guilt, but I cannot absolve him for failing to stand up, pound the table, and shout, "We're violating our core values by going in this direction." He didn't; nobody else did.
So what good are core values?
That's the question. I don't think they're any goodin fact, they may be counterproductiveif they're not worked into the fabric of the organization.
You don't put much faith in formulas for business success. Why not?
The problem with formulas is that they can be a substitute for being sensitive to the Lord. Take, for example, "Love your neighbor as yourself." That really is a heart issue. I can't love a person as a formula. Formulas may get you part of the way, but ultimately they break down. Unless a person's heart has been transformed, you'll just never get there by pushing levers and turning dials.
So what do you think of the popular notion that a Christian running a company by Christian principles is guaranteed success?
What's success? If success is never losing a customer or having a bad product go out the door, or never having a failure in your organization, whether it's moral or financial or whatever, it just doesn't work that way. But if success is honoring the Lord, if it is being faithful to him, then we can go through mountains of success and valleys of failure and still come out serving the Lord.
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