Do You Need to Tame the Lion? Entrepreneurial Liturgies for Relying on God


NIFW Executive Director, Missy Wallace was featured on Faith Driven Entrepreneur's blog and podcast. Listen to the podcast (click here) and read her article below:

One crisp fall morning in Nashville, six CEOs of entrepreneurial enterprises gathered to discuss their woe of the week. While the conversation started with the idle chit-chat of kids, traffic and weather change, an awkward silence overtook the room when our facilitator led with, “so what is really going on this week....”

Eyes diverted to the floor. The silence lasted and lasted. Typically one to fill the air with commentary, I had to bite my tongue to allow the discomfort to encourage vulnerability. Finally, John, a CEO usually full of theological wisdom and confidence, shakily shared, “I think this is really the week.”

He was referring to the week when the precarious house of cards might really fall. When the receivables aren’t coming in. When the cash on hand might not cover payroll. When that clinch “investor” is leaning towards a “no thank you,” and the bank is calling the line. The week when he just might have to call it quits. Pack up. Send 30 people home with pink slips.

Somewhere around his second sentence, the tears started falling, brushed with hints of both anger and hope. “Why the f*&$ did I leave a senior position at Google to serve God as a CEO if this is the outcome?... But I feel God is in this.”

Moments later, another CEO, David, sheepishly and after much cajoling, confessed that he would be experiencing his first “major liquidity event” later that week - “a low seven figure payout, not life changing, but significant.” To our surprise, he continued with his own vocal shake, “I know this seems really weird, but I am actually jealous of John right now.”

We all sat stunned. Again, awkward extended silence.

David went on, “The money makes me feel like a king. And that I need to do it again and again. I do not feel close to God.....It’s hard to be dependent on God when I just created this for myself. If I do not handle this with extreme caution, it could push me from God.”

Some say life in our weekly meeting, Entrepreneur Support Group, can occasionally seem like an AA meeting since the emotional vacillation of “entrepreneurism” can feel like something from which to recover. “I am Jane, I am an entrepreneur. I vacillate between my vision of 'it' working, bringing me wealth, fame, and of course making the world a better place...... And utter despair, because I am terrible, I cannot get it done, and it’s going to fail.”

And that vacillation is weekly, if not daily or sometimes even hourly. It is the norm for the call of “entrepreneur.”

In an article in Inc. Magazine titled “The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship,” Toby Thomas, CEO of EnSite Solutions likens the CEO role to riding beasts, 

“‘People look at (the CEO) and think, This guy's really got it together! He's brave!’ says Thomas. ‘And the man riding the lion is thinking, How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?’"

What is it about entrepreneurship that creates the swinging pendulum? Does entrepreneurship create the vacillation or is the person hard wired to the role and its consequences? And does the pendulum swing include turning to and from God?

Our group has found that some “liturgical” practices can reduce the swings:


Being a start-up CEO requires many situations where communication between aspiration and reality can diverge. Don’t create more than necessary. Surround yourself with other Christian entrepreneurs trying to work through what being dependent on God looks like in the context of building a business. Our group meets weekly with two facilitators to discuss key stressors in the business. We do not intend to solve the marketing problems, or advise each other on investor contract details - rather, we offer Kingdom perspective. We reiterate what God says about success and failure - about our worth. We anchor each other in God’s story instead of our own. As important, avoid groups which encourage you to posture unnecessarily about how well you and your company are doing.


Arm yourself with a theology of entrepreneurism. Understand what God says about work (we were created for it), and creativity (it came from Him and is a gift to steward), leadership (we are given opportunities to love people, places, and things to life), wealth (in and of itself it is not evil, but making it a god is), brokenness (we are broken, systems are broken), and startups (creating something out of nothing is God’s first act on the first page of the Bible).


Are you feeling jealous or overly controlling? Is your anxiety spinning out of control? Is fear taking over? Are you soothing yourself with alcohol, social media, or excessive work hours? See those as symptoms to your root areas of brokenness. Take one symptom and keep asking, “why, why, why.” For instance, Why am I jealous? Because I am scared their company will thrive and mine will fail? Well, why am I scared? Because if it fails my reputation might be ruined? Well, why does that matter? What do I need? Why? Ultimately our brokenness leads back to the fact that we either do not believe that God is in control, do not believe we are his adopted children and he plans for our good, or we do not feel good enough for him without performance. (P.S. Psalm 73 is a great balm for jealousy.)


Financial services can show God’s sense of order; entertainment can show His creativity. What about yours? What problems does it solve? Likewise, where are systems and processes not aligned with God? Are people extorted? Is greed a problem? Is the earth exploited? Can you shine light on the brokenness? Can you engage differently?


In one group meeting, one CEO queried, “how many of you dream of quitting every week?” All raised their hands. Every. Single. One. By understanding that thought pattern as the norm can help you carry-on steadfastly, until you believe God wants you to stop.


One of the questions we are most asked is “How do we know what God is telling us to do?” And our response is, “Are you making time to listen?” In addition to regular involvement with a church and personal devotional time with Scripture, we encourage the practice of a regular day of silence - a whole day. Ours consist of silently marinating on two Scriptures for six hours. No strategic planning, no to-do list making, no catching up on reading. Only time with Jesus. It renders peace, confidence, further belief in God, and likewise leadership encouragement. As the day approaches, everything can tell us to skip - too much to do at work, a child is sick, the company website is down, the lawyers have an issue. Mother Teresa, while building great networks of poverty alleviation which required incredible busyness, committed to the practice as noted by her comment, “In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. ... Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

And Most Important:


Does “upside” really matter? Do you really believe that God has your best in store for you? Do you really believe that you are good enough because you are a child of God? Do you believe your company is His for you to steward? Can you believe that the company's success or failure is not who you are? Rarely have I met a CEO who can live in these beliefs hour to hour and day to day, but some are on their way because they are grounded in Christ.

And that sense of calm, that only Jesus can offer....well it’s like taming the lion you’re riding. By the way, it’s been a year, and John’s company is still alive.

(Entrepreneur Support Group, co-led by Missy Wallace and Ken Edwards, is a project of the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work, an organization dedicated to helping individuals and groups integrate their Christian faith into their day-to-day work in a way that brings about human and organizational flourishing.)

Note: Some small details of the opening anecdote are changed to protect confidentiality.

Reflections on Work from Praxis’ Rule of Life


A few weeks ago NIFW’s Executive Director, Missy Wallace, had the privilege of attending a three-day gathering summit organized by Praxis, an organization dedicated to the concept of redemptive entrepreneurship.

At the conclusion of the event, a written “Rule of Life,” especially for high-capacity entrepreneurs in mind, was unveiled. Yet, a case can be made for the nuances of this particular Rule of Life to be relevant to anyone working in positions of influence where there is temptation to overwork and play God.

“At its best, a rule of life is an expression of community, undertaken in the belief that we need help from one another to live the lives God meant for us,” the Rule states. “It also expresses humility, recognizing that we are prone to specific pitfalls that require us to take extra care with our practices.”

These principles are impactful not only for the work of entrepreneurs but those in the workforce at-large who find themselves with tensions of overwork, ambition and influence.

Key elements of the Praxis Rule include the following:

Instead of endless productivity, we practice a rhythm of work and rest, attending to our need to grow in all the dimensions of being human: heart, soul, mind, and strength. We commit to take one full day every week for complete rest from our daily work, and to make Sabbath possible for everyone within our sphere of authority.

Instead of being preoccupied with money and possessions, we practice simplicity and generosity. We commit to give away a minimum of 10% of our gross income, with special attention to the needs of the materially poor.

Instead of having our imagination saturated by media, we seek to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. We commit to disengaging from screens of all kinds on a daily, weekly, and annual basis. We establish structured limits for our consumption of entertainment, in quantity, frequency, and moral character.

Instead of willful autonomy in decision making, we practice active dependence on God. We commit to daily prayer, and at times of major decisions, not proceeding until we have actively submitted our own desires fully to the will of God and have inner peace about the decision.

Instead of accumulating power to benefit ourselves or exploit others, we use it to generate possibility for those who have less access to opportunity. We commit to the practice of gleaning — frequently sacrificing opportunities for our own advancement to intentionally create pathways for others. We also practice chastity and fidelity, honoring the men and women with whom we work.

Instead of individualism and isolation, we practice real presence with others who are not part of our daily work. We pursue diversity across class and ethnicity in our friendships and mentoring relationships. (Praxis Rule of Life, 2018)

Visit the Praxis website to read the Rule of Life in full or to make a confidential commitment to the Rule as your own spiritual practice. Praxis also has small hard copies available for the Rule here.

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A Primer on Work for Recent Graduates


Summer months mean this: thousands of U.S. graduates from high school to university institutions walked across the stage to receive a diploma of completion over the past few weeks. And even more sat through the roll call of names waiting to hear just one familiar one, culminating decades of hard work.  

As freshly minted graduates transition into new day-to-day vocations and rhythms, the following Gospel principles can guide both good days and bad. These principles are for all - those who celebrated with the graduates and those who will welcome them into workplaces. It’s a theology of work for all to model as these new minds breathe new life into our organizations.  

1. You were created to work.

In the first sentence of the Bible, God creates.  Then He makes man and woman “in his image.” By being created in the image of God, you are created to work.  And like God did his first six days of creation, you can bring structure out of chaos over and over. Every job is some version of structure out of chaos - healthcare, starting a company, financial analysis, parenting.  Scripture also tells us to be “fruitful and multiply” and “take dominion over the earth” Can these extrapolate beyond agricultural work and child bearing? Analysis of scholars seeing the original text language help us understand that these passages can be interpreted more widely as “create flourishing.” How can you think of your job if you know it is to “create flourishing”? As noted by Tim Keller and Katherine Alsdorf in Every Good Endeavor, “we are continuing God’s work of forming, filling, and subduing. Whenever we bring order out of chaos, whenever we draw out creative potential, whenever we elaborate and 'unfold' creation beyond where it was when we found it, we are following God’s pattern of creative cultural development.” Work itself is a basic need for man and helps to provide both purpose for our lives and means to serve and honor the Lord through the labor of our hands.

2. Work is broken.

In the third chapter of Scripture, brokenness entered the world.  You are broken and work is broken. Because of this brokenness entering humanity, we now experience frustration and toil in our work on earth. Regardless of your job or industry, you should anticipate thistles and thorns in your work. The old adage “love what you do and you will never work a day in your life” is the American dream for a happy career, but it does not align with biblical truth. People are broken, systems are broken and therefore work will be hard at times.

3. God’s good work can come from anyone, not just those who believe in God.

The concept of common grace affirms that all good gifts in a person come from God, regardless of a person’s personal beliefs.  Every man and woman is created in HIS image. The world may be enriched, brightened, and preserved through anyone and that goodness is of God, even if the one doing the work does not see it. Because all human beings are image bearers, it should not surprise us that all are capable of doing great work.

4. Work is an opportunity to use the gifts you have been given.

Do you think of work only as a way to pay the bills, get ahead, or provide a convenient schedule for you? If so, you may need to reassess how you can serve the work rather than the work serving you. Regardless of your position, workplace, or title, your work serves a purpose in God’s unfolding story. Dorothy Sayers said it best: “Work is not primarily a thing one does to live but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker's faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God."

5. We are called to rest from our work.

God rested on the 7th day. And he commands us to rest. The pace of the American workforce and 24/7 connectivity can pressure us to be “on call” at all times.  Rest is not only a way to restore our minds, souls, and bodies (and many “secular” articles suggest that comes with productivity and creativity improvements), but it also increases our dependence on God.  In the words of Keller and Alsdorf, “To practice Sabbath is a disciplined and faithful way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward.”  He calls us to rest.

With these principles in mind, how can your day-to-day work be transformed with this renewed perspective? “The Gospel frees us from the relentless pressure of having to prove ourselves and secure our identity through work, for we are already proven and secure. It also frees us from a condescending attitude toward less sophisticated labor and from envy over more exalted work. All work now becomes a way to love the God who saved us freely; and by extension, a way to love our neighbor.” - Katherine Alsdorf and Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor.

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How the Enneagram Can Enhance Your Work: A Q&A with Ian Cron


The Nashville Institute for Faith and Work and Lipscomb University's Spark Idea Center are excited to partner and present a weekend Enneagram seminar with Ian Cron, author of The Road Back to You and host of the podcast "Typology." Ian will help participants investigate how the Enneagram, a powerful ancient tool for understanding personality type, might inform us of our specific wirings and giftings to better understand the work we do and inspire us towards more fruitful work and workplaces. Join us for this Friday evening (5:30-9 p.m.) / Saturday (8 a.m.-4 p.m.) workshop. Read below to see a few thoughts Ian has offered as a preview for his talk in April.

Q: In what ways do you see that the Enneagram can help enhance the workplace?

A: The Enneagram offers amazing insight into how our personality types engage in relationships with partners, friends, and coworkers and what we most need and fear from those interactions.  It’s the best tool I know for cultivating self-awareness. Self-awareness means knowing your strengths and weaknesses, what your triggers are, and how you make decisions, among other things. It’s the ability to monitor and regulate your thoughts, feelings, and actions, and the effect they have on others. How does this translate to the workplace? Well, a leader who knows the inner workings of their personality type and those of the people they lead gets way ahead of the curve. They learn to understand their coworkers and use different techniques to motivate their team members based on their different personality styles. It changes the dynamic of the workplace when you can identify the different strengths and challenges of your coworkers by allowing you to move from a space of mindless reactivity to mindful responsiveness. You can really transform a workplace when coworkers learn to take a moment to pause and ask themselves, “What’s happening in this moment? And how do I need to regulate my response to actually bring about the healthiest, best outcome in this situation?” It improves the communication skills of your entire team and reduces conflict in the workplace.

You can really transform a workplace when coworkers learn to take a moment to pause and ask themselves, ‘What’s happening in this moment? And how do I need to regulate my response to actually bring about the healthiest, best outcome in this situation?’

Q: In what ways do you see that the Enneagram promotes dignity and flourishing for all?

A: For centuries great Christian teachers have insisted we can't really know God until we FIRST know ourselves. For instance, Calvin said, "Without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God” and St. Augustine prayed, “Lord let me know myself, that I may know thee." As we develop self-awareness and self-knowledge we learn to accept that grace requires nothing of us. We are all worthy of honor and respect just for being our authentic selves. Inside each of us is a hidden gift that reveals something about God’s heart. So, when we are tempted to prosecute ourselves for the flaws in our own character, the Enneagram helps us pause and remember that each type is, at its core, a signpost pointing us to travel toward and embrace an aspect of God’s character we need. Growing in this understanding promotes dignity for each of us and opens the door to true transformation. The Enneagram is a tool that helps us awaken both self-compassion and our compassion for others. When we learn self-compassion and allow our hearts to expand we can stop trying to change people and simply love them for who they are.  And, that’s when we truly begin to flourish.

We are all worthy of honor and respect just for being our authentic selves. Inside each of us is a hidden gift that reveals something about God’s heart.

Q: Do you have any specific examples of ways you've seen or experienced more fruitful work due to incorporating the Enneagram into the workplace?

A: On the most recent episode of Typology, I interviewed a band with 12 members (including staff). They tour together on one bus with 12 bunks for months at a time and are with each other day-in and day-out. For them, studying the Enneagram has reduced conflict among the group by giving them a new, common vocabulary that has helped them to understand where each other are coming from. They can better understand each other’s strengths and challenges and have used that knowledge to pause and act intentionally toward each other rather than mindlessly. They are learning to see themselves in real-time and self-regulate when speaking with each other. The Enneagram has given them each a new starting point for communicating with each other in a more empathic and compassionate way. And they are better able to see each other’s vision for the band and then take that knowledge to make decisions as a group that improve their performance at each show.

Ian Morgan Cron is a bestselling author, nationally recognized speaker, Enneagram teacher, trained psychotherapist, Dove Award-winning songwriter and Episcopal priest. His books include the novel Chasing Francis and the spiritual memoir Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me. Ian draws on an array of disciplines—from psychology to the arts, Christian spirituality and theology—to help people enter more deeply into conversation with God and the mystery of their own lives. He and his wife, Anne, live in Nashville, Tennessee.

You can register for the April seminar HERE or register for any of our other upcoming events HERE.

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Thinking Biblically Regarding Nashville’s Growth


How do the words of the Bible challenge our city’s incredible growth? The following is an editorial published in the Tennessean by Eddie Latimer, founding CEO of Affordable Housing Resources, a Nashville non-profit, and a NeighborWorks America Organization, on ways city residents can embrace a love for their neighbor by considering their impact on lower income neighborhoods and the workforce in Davidson County.Gentrification is a fact of the Nashville and with it comes tensions of many kinds. Eddie attempts to make sense of it in light of the Bible and causes us to think: What is the responsibility of a Christian in a high-growth city? This op-ed was originally published in The Tennessean on January 17, 2018.

Our next door neighbors were young, struggling musicians.

A few years back they made financial sacrifices to move to Nashville, as this was the best place to figure out their future in the music industry.

They lived in a one-bedroom duplex for $650/month, with the other side being rented by a senior on a fixed income. They had a decent landlord, but Nashville’s accelerating real-estate market consistently brought many investors (most from out of town) to her door wanting to buy their duplex for significantly more than they ever thought possible.

Being too wise to sell, the landlord did double the rents as a result of her experience with the investors.

Due to these new higher rents, our musical neighbors had to move back home, and Nashville lost more housing stock that was serving our creative class, food service and construction workforce.

The landlord promised the senior in the other duplex that she would keep his rent at $650, but when he moves out this rent will go to $1,300 and the unit will be lost forever to our seniors.

Do we care?

Nashville is actively displacing our lower income residents, similar to my former neighbors.

In 2015 and 2016 combined, we lost more than 5,000 affordable homes and apartments with rents that were under $750/month.

Redfin, a residential real estate data company, identified that much of Nashville’s real estate acquisitions and development funding are by wealthier residents originally from the coastal areas who are moving inland to urban communities like Nashville, Salt Lake and Atlanta, because here they can buy and develop more home for the buck.

The result is land and home prices are soaring out of reach for our normal residents. This is making living in Nashville difficult, if not impossible, for many of our neighbors in East Nashville and all over Davidson County.

But as a city we seem to feel that this is an unintended consequences of an economic boom—no malice intended.    

This fall my congregation has been reading passages from the Hebrew Scriptures on God’s concern for those with lesser and even no means.

I have been struck that there are consequences for a society whose actions displace the poor. A summary passage is, “I myself (the creator God) will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with your flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.”

One of the consequences of Nashville’s boom is that those with means are displacing those of lower means, intentionally or not. Ask my former neighbors.

I do not believe that as a rule our shouldering and butting out the weak is by design; but, nonetheless, it is the result of the last several years of unrestrained growth – growth without any formal city policy on preservation and replacement.

The focus of recent real estate business has been to serve the wealthy (the Barnes Fund being an exception).

This focus by the wealthy on maximizing profits is having negative repercussions on the lean sheep of Nashville.

We are told that we will be accountable for butting out the weak. We have to stop believing that because we had no intention to hurt someone, but we do, that we are innocent.

Many cities are driving out the lean sheep though real estate shifts. Nashville can say, “so be it, it’s a natural consequence of business;” or Nashville can say, “this is not who we are and we need to creatively find a way to make Nashville a city for persons of all incomes, professions, and special need challenges.”

But should we choose to change our negative actions on the lean sheep, it will require difficult purposeful choices and actions.

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Finding Hope in Ezekiel to Combat Workplace Brokenness


We all love our work, but there are aspects of every job that drive dissatisfaction.

While it’s easier to embrace work when we are satisfied, what is your thought process when things go awry at work?

As you ponder the the day-to-day stresses and frustrations of working in your specific company and/or industry, do you take time to think about ways you can leave your workplace better each day?

While there are surely aspects of your day-to-day work that are fulfilling, in fact, we assert that the broken areas of work demand responses and action rather than side-eyed complaints over the watercooler amongst coworkers.

Sitting in the tension of knowing you were created to work all the while feeling its toil calls to mind Ezekiel 37:1-10 and the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones.

In the passage, God reveals how He both keeps his promises for redemption and resurrection and uses the Spirit in us to breathe life into the dry and barren areas of existence.

It’s easy to think of the ways our vocations appear to be valleys of dry bones. Bones themselves represent something that once was—something that once contained inherent meaning, calling, and purpose.

But the dry and scattered wasteland of bones we see serves as a reminder that brokenness touches every area of our vocations, and it can often feel overwhelming to consider the brokenness and our needed reponses.

Our contributions to push back the darkness in our project, our department, our company or even our industry can more often than not feel like a drop in the proverbial bucket. So why bother fixing things like unhealthy staff meetings, water cooler gossip, indirect communication channels, broken evaluation processes, or even greed and inequality?

First, we must embrace work for work’s sake, and to embrace that we were created to do creative and/or redemptive work.

And second, we must embrace that we are called and equipped by God to bring about flourishing by pushing against the broken areas.

The power of our words to speak life into areas of our work is powerful. And God calls us to it.

So how are you wrestling and engaging with the broken parts of your daily workplace? Are you salt and light? Or are you at the water cooler.

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How Vulnerability Can Enhance Your Leadership


The Nashville Institute for Faith and Work is excited to welcome Pastor and Author Scott Sauls for our April Lunch & Learn on the topic of “From Weakness to Strength: How Vulnerability Can Enhance Your Leadership” on April 18 from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Read Scott’s thoughts below in anticipation for his in April.

Q: What inspired you to study the ways weakness can enhance a person’s leadership?

A: Two reasons, chiefly. The first was that in the course of eighteen months, five of my friends lost their positions of leadership due to a moral failure. The second was an awareness that, given the right set of circumstances, I might be equally as vulnerable to a collapse in character. You might say that I wrote the book chiefly for my own protection and that those who have read the book are eavesdroppers on my own internal monologue -- on the "sermons to a leader" that I regularly preach to myself.

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Q: Why do you believe traits like weakness and humility can be so transformative and foundational to a healthy leader?

A: The first reason is theological. When we find Jesus repeatedly saying things like, "The meek will inherit the earth" and "The first will be last and the last will be first," we are wise to tune in to discern what such declarations mean for us. The second reason is practical and intuitive. We are all drawn to follow those who lead from a place of humility and other-centeredness. Conversely, we generally struggle to trust leaders who do not assume these qualities.

Q: What does it look like, from your perspective, for leaders to practically gravitate towards weakness in their endeavors?

A: Henri Nouwen put it best, I think. Nouwen, whose career included teaching posts at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard, as well as a prolific speaking itinerary, spoke of a type of "downward mobility" that is far superior to our infatuation with upward mobility. Jim Collins called it the "Level Five" leader. It's the leader who is more interested in the flourishing of others and the organization than s/he is in hearing the sound of her/his own name.

Scott Sauls is husband to Patti, dad to Abby and Ellie, and serves as senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to Nashville, Scott was a Lead and Preaching Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City after planting two churches in Kansas City and Saint Louis. Scott has authored three books, most recently a book on the character of a leader called From Weakness to Strength, and blogs regularly at His work has also been featured in Christianity Today, Relevant Magazine, Qideas, Catalyst, Leadership Magazine, aholyexperience, OnFaith, The Gospel Coalition, and Key Life. Scott can be found on Twitter at @scottsauls.

You can register for the April lunch HERE or register for any of our other upcoming events HERE.

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Why All Good Work Matters Into Eternity


As part of a research study examining the connection between work and meaning, psychologist Dan Ariely paid participants to construct figures out of Legos.

For each consecutive figure, the price dropped by several cents. By decreasing the financial incentive, Ariely was trying to find other factors that influence productivity.

In a not-so-surprising conclusion, he found that one group of participants—a group who had their figures taken apart in front of them while they worked on the next one—was the least productive.

Ariely concluded, “In our view, meaning, at least in part, derives from the connection between work and some purpose. … When that connection is severed - when there is no purpose -  work becomes absurd, alienating, or even demeaning.”

In his study, Ariely writes often of “meaning,” as “a connection between work and purpose.”

But he never explicitly names what seems to be the theme of his least productive group: their longing for permanence.

If we are to endure in our work, we want to believe that our work will matter into eternity. It often leads us to ask God if he, like the researcher in the Lego study, will ultimately dismantle our efforts.

Is work nothing more than part of the curse—a toil meant to punish mankind for our sin in Adam? Or has God given us work merely to distract us while He implements His plan for salvation?

Scripture suggests otherwise.

The implications of these two verses show that God is using the work of his people in his plans for the new heaven and the new earth:

This knowledge gives us the confidence to strive for excellence in all our work, knowing that God will use it in some way to usher in his salvation for all of creation. He’s not breaking down our proverbial Legos. He’s using them.

This knowledge gives us the confidence to strive for excellence in all our work, knowing that God will use it in some way to usher in his salvation for all of creation. He’s not breaking down our proverbial Legos. He’s using them.

There are many ways to find purpose in our work. We can and should contribute to the flourishing of creation and to the correction of injustice, but if our worldview tells us the end of all our work will be nothing, then any purpose we’ve found in our work becomes temporary at best and meaningless at worst. We become like Ariely’s Lego builders who found no purpose in their labors.

This is precisely why embracing biblical faith and work theology has breathed new life into the vocations of many Christians who have lost a sense of purpose in their jobs.

In the final reckoning, the efforts of our hands will not be disassembled like the Legos, but redeemed. In fact, looking around, there is evidence he’s doing just that, right now.

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Can the Enneagram Help Inform Your Work?


British mathematician George Box once said, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” Could this also be true for the Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a powerful ancient tool for understanding personality type that uses a 1-9 scale to categorize people based on their specific giftings and wirings. Recently, it has gained increasing notoriety in both personal discovery and work relations.

As part of our mission to equip you in both of these spheres, the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work will host a weekend workshop, “The Enneagram at Work: A Seminar with Ian Cron,” in conjunction with Spark: Lipscomb’s Idea Center, on April 20-21. Tickets are now available.

Cron, the author of The Road Back to You: A Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery and host the Enneagram-themed podcast Typology, writes in the opening chapters of The Road Back to You that understanding and applying the Enneagram in your day-to-day work can contribute to the shalom of your work and workplaces.

“I recently read a Harvard Business Review article in which the entrepreneur Anthony Tjan writes, ‘There is one quality that trumps all, evident in virtually every great entrepreneur, a manager, and leader,” Cron writes. “That quality is self-awareness. The best thing leaders can do to improve their effectiveness is to become more aware of what motivates them and their decision-making. Numerous other books and articles on the topic of self-awareness in magazine from Forbes to Fast Company all say the same thing: know thyself.”

We hope to see you there and continue the conversation on April 20-21.

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Creating a ‘Symphony’ Out of the Broken Areas in Your Job


What place does redemption have in your work?

And, how could reconciliation of relationships, systems, and processes impact your work?

A recent piece in The Atlantic tells that story.

It’s one of instruments - the damaged and discarded instruments from one school system - played by professional musicians and student players in order to demonstrate their potential.  

They played them in their broken states. Some of the instruments barely resembled what they were designed to do and didn't make the sounds they were intended to make.

Yet, somehow, the noise from the broken instruments enticed the symphony to support and fix them.

“Making new art,” the author notes, “is the best redemption imaginable for a broken instrument.”

So what are the broken reeds and bent trombones in your industry?

Depending on your line of work, this question could feel confusing. However, regardless of industry, work sphere, or title, we all experience broken systems on a daily basis that demand attention, affection, and action.

The same applies across each and every industry.

So as you engage your work in a new way, adopt an action-oriented intentionality that improves and redeems the "faulty trumpets" and "dented saxophones" you experience on a day-to-day basis.

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Finding Hope for the Music Industry Through Gotham


If you’re new to the Institute, you may have heard the phrase “Gotham” and felt a bit perplexed.

Gotham is the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work’s flagship nine-month faith and work intensive that helps leaders embrace how their work fits into God’s unfolding story.

Already in its third year, the program has 80 current or alumni Gothamites who have participated in Gotham Nashville.

Georgia Edgeworth, a pop music songwriter here in the heart of Music City in Nashville, shared a few thoughts as she reflected on her experience with Gotham this year.

Q: How is your Gotham experience still specifically impacting in your day-to-day vocation?

A: Gotham has helped me realize that, though sometimes my work feels tedious, it has a bigger purpose. Gotham has proved to me that I should use my gifts for God's glory, making His name great and not my own. In a business obsessed with success, this has been a recurring take-home point for me. Serving the work itself and being obedient to the gifts that God has given me has, in many ways, been freeing. Knowing that I am serving God by simply using the gifts He gives was a huge realization for me personally.

Q: What has been the biggest area of impact in your work due to your Gotham experience?

A: I have had to let go of a lot of my fears in my work, and I'm still working on this. A lot of times I'm fearful of what others might think, but sometimes God pushes us to take leaps of faith. To simply surrender and trust instead of being anxious and fearful has been a big learning curve for me this year.

Q: Could you discuss the ways authenticity and vulnerability have impacted your Gotham experience?

A: I think the authenticity of my fellow Gothamites has been so great to know. I feel like the whole group has been vulnerable, especially during prayer request times. Having this group has enriched my life in so many ways and I hope to keep up with them as much as possible.

Q: In what areas of your work do you find your identity that distracts you from God?

A: Definitely validation/approval. In music, we often just want to hear a 'yes.' Most of the time for most creative people in the music business, it's a 'no' (unless you are Adele!). It's highly competitive and sometimes I struggle with just knowing that I'm enough. Something I've learned is that God's "yes" is all that matters and that I have to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving on from the world's 'no.'

Q: What is an example of an area of darkness in your workplace where you are able to shine light?

A: I'm actually in the middle of wrestling with this right now as I'm exploring my Cultural Renewal Project. There are so many broken aspects of my business that I don't know where to begin. There is the fact that it's so hard to make money in music. There is also the fact that people don't have a safe place to go to play their songs and not feel critiqued by someone in the industry. There is the fact that there are so many artists in town who are hanging their whole life around 'making it' and end up disappointed and heartbroken; I've seen this happen. Then there are relational aspects that are truly broken, people pretending to be friends with 'important people' to get something out of them. I'm praying a lot about this project as it's so important to me to be a light in a very dark place.

Georgia Edgeworth is a mother to her two sons, Ladd (14) and Adam (11), and wife to Mike Edgeworth. Georgia is a Nashville based singer, songwriter and producer. Her songs have been on hit TV shows such as ABC’s "Nashville" and Showtime’s "Shameless". Focusing on music for TV and film, Georgia is currently a signed songwriter with Lyric House Co. based in Los Angeles.

Want to know more about Gotham? You can register for one of our upcoming informational sessions in March/April HERE or register for any of our other upcoming events HERE.

Applications open April 1 for the 2018-19 class. You can learn more about the Gotham experience and apply for the program on our website.

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A Theology for the Vocation of Politician


What is a faith-inspired framework for public office?

Recently Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam delivered his final State of the State address to the state’s General Assembly. And regardless of your personal politics, we can all likely agree on one of the Governor’s parting comments, as he emphasized a need for all Tennesseans to have meaningful work.

“Tennessee will lead,” Haslam stated, “because every man and woman, created in the image of God, deserves meaningful work.”

The Nashville Institute for Faith and Work was founded on the dignity of work and a desire to further instill that emphasis into our culture. So when we see the themes and purposes displayed in such public places, it’s encouraging.

Haslam’s SOTS address echoes a recent piece for Comment Magazine in which Haslam attributed a great deal of his vocational discernment to both his personal faith and John Senior’s book, A Theology of Political Vocation: Christian Life and Public Office.

As Senior states and Haslam agrees, “Christians should not shy away from political service, but should engage with a spirit of being about God's work rather than the passionate pursuit of our own political success.”

Below are a few excerpts from Haslam’s article in Comment which we found particularly poignant as examples of integrating ones faith into work in the public service realm. We hope you notice the thoughtfulness with which he combined his faith and work to see the flourishing of all.

  • "John Calvin's description of politics as being ‘the most sacred and by far the most honorable of all professions’ has always seemed like a little bit of a stretch to me. However, since I do agree with Senior that all of us are called to be a part of God's project to redeem society, I think that having a political vocation does give us a chance to multiply the influence our work has. I have often remarked that, while I ran for governor thinking I would be the CEO of the state, I more often feel like its senior pastor. I am amazed at how often our work, when done well, can change the course of a life. It is hard for me to imagine ever having a job again that will give me as much opportunity to change lives as being governor."

  • "For those of us in elected office, the challenge of political vocation means taking seriously Paul's call to "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Romans 12:2). As a candidate and as an office-holder, I experienced powerfully the pull to conform in order to succeed. The best way that I have found to counteract that magnetic pull is to remind myself that I am here because I truly believe that this is where God called me to be. As a matter of fact, nothing in my life has felt as much like a calling as serving in a public role. A campaign for office can either be an exercise in pushing Christ to the side, or a crucible for the formation of Christ in us."

  • “One of the joys of serving in office has been seeing the impact of various initiatives that contribute to the common good. A program to provide free community college has changed countless life trajectories. New drug courts can provide alternatives to incarceration for people struggling with drug addiction. Job training for adults with disabilities allows them to enter the workforce. These elements of the common good, and many more, rarely make the list on a voter's guide describing critical issues for people of faith. Add to this the historical difficulty of governing in a pluralistic society, and it is understandable that most potential office-holders would just throw up their hands and declare politics hopelessly broken.”

  • "As someone currently called into a political role, I am grateful for the insight that John Senior brings. Given today's political climate, Senior's thesis is an important one: Christians should not shy away from political service, but should engage with a spirit of being about God's work rather than the passionate pursuit of our own political success. However, those of us in elected office at any level could benefit from a further discussion of the practical pulls and tugs that are a part of our lives. The practice of a political vocation, based on a sound theology of political vocation, has rarely been more difficult, or more critical, than it is today."

You can read Haslam’s article in full for Comment here.

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What Makes a 'Good Job' in Today's Workforce?


We were created to work, but how can we make sense of what type works helps individuals thrive in their endeavors?


A case study from the service industry in the United States covered in the Harvard Business Review may offer some context to this question.

The recent article from the Harvard Business Review cited a case study where “Good Job Companies”—ones with decent wages, predictable hours, sufficient training, and opportunities for growth — are good for retailers.

“At good jobs companies,” the article points out, “store managers feel like owners.

“Taking care of customers and developing employees are their most important tasks.”

Part of developing good jobs for employees, the article notes, is that employers are noting engaged workers are more productive, as seen in 2016 by the 65% (retail) and 73% (restaurant) turnovers rates for employees. And since we know from Gallup studies that over 70% of American workers are disengaged to downright miserable, is there something to learn theologically?

Looking at this trend through a theological lens, the opportunity to create thriving workplaces for employees all along the supply line affirms the dignity of all workers and work and gives everyone the freedom to both put their hands to work and provide a living for themselves.

If we are to go out and love people places and things to life through our work, that includes creating work where people can thrive. What might be required in your place to increase employee engagement?

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Does Work/Life Balance Exist for Entrepreneurs?


The Nashville Institute for Faith and Work is excited to welcome Dr. Jeff Cornwall for our February Lunch & Learn on the topic of “The Virtue of Temperance in Entrepreneurship: Is Work/Life Balance Possible?” on February 21 from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Read below to see a few thoughts he has offered as a preview for his talk in February.

Q: What intrigues you most as you consider the concept of temperance in regards to the entrepreneurial vocation?

A: In my own personal experience, and in what I have observed in countless other entrepreneurs I have worked with over the years, temperance is virtue that entrepreneurs struggle the most with as the launch and grow their businesses.  Workaholism and a lack of balance in life is a daily struggle for most business owners.


Q: Can you name a specific example of a way you see a lack of temperance in today's entrepreneurial landscape?

A: A lack of temperance leads them to put their business ahead of everything else in their lives. As a result, many have nothing left for family, faith, or friendships. We see higher-than-average divorce rates among entrepreneurs and many have difficulty maintaining relationships with others. We also see high rates of burnout among entrepreneurs who do not create balance in their lives.

Q: Do you believe it's possible for those in the entrepreneurial world to exhibit and enjoy a healthy work/life balance? And if so, how is that possible?

A: Absolutely! However, it takes an intentional effort to bring the virtue of temperance to life. It must be a part of every step of the business -- from the initial planning stage, to its launch, through its growth, and finally during the exit process. The entrepreneur's goal is not just to maximize the potential value of the business, but to build a business that allows them to live a life that is well lived.

Dr. Jeff Cornwall is the Jack C. Massey Chair in Entrepreneurship and Professor of Entrepreneurship at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Cornwall has spent more than forty years as a serial entrepreneur and teacher of entrepreneurs. In the 1970’s he started several small businesses and was involved in various family ventures. In the late 1980’s, following several years in academics, Dr. Cornwall co-founded Atlantic Behavioral Health Systems in Raleigh, NC and spent nearly a decade leading the company as President/CEO. Dr. Cornwall remains active as an entrepreneur with the digital content venture he co-founded in 2014, Entrepreneurial Mind, LLC. In his academic career, Dr. Cornwall has received national awards for his work in curriculum development and teaching. In 2013 the United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship named Dr. Cornwall the National Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year. He has authored nine books and numerous articles on entrepreneurship.

You can register for the February lunch HERE or register for any of our other upcoming events HERE.

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A Q&A on Appreciating Workplace Diversity


The Nashville Institute for Faith and Work is excited to welcome Lawrence-Blank Cook for our March Lunch & Learn on the topic of “Appreciating the Value of Workplace Diversity” on March 7 from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Read below to see a few thoughts she has offered as a preview for her talk in January.

Q: What intrigues you most about appreciating diversity in your workplace?


A: That everyday really gives us a new opportunity to be inclusive--every single interaction we share with someone presents a new way of connecting. I work for a global company, and our Hermitage office is often the hub of significant groups of teams gathered to build solutions for Deloitte. Often, you can be walking down the hall and have multiple groups speaking different languages in the hallway. It is the bringing together of people from different cultures, perspectives and from unique individual positions that help us be successful. We truly do believe that strength and success comes from diversity.

Q: Can you name a specific example of a way you struggle to appreciate diversity in your workplace?

A: Remembering to slow down and listen. I'm leading a large program right now that introduces a fair amount of change to our organization. And I have in my head where we are going, but not everyone has that same vision or even understands the business needs for moving in that direction. And they come to the table with different experiences. I have to remember to listen, understand their points of view, and hopefully come to the middle ground that is successful for all of us.

Q: Why do you believe appreciating diversity is important in today's workplace?

A: As we move towards more technology-enabled solutions and as we continue to support a global economy--dealing with climate and political events, it is really important for us to put ourselves in each other's shoes and truly understand others' points of view. And here in Nashville, we have so many new folks coming to town and new businesses opening up. How can we afford not to appreciate diversity in the workplace?  

Lawrence Blank-Cook is a Technology Managing Director for Deloitte. She works with business owners in Risk, Regulatory and Office of the General Counsel to develop the technology strategy and leads the digitization efforts for these group. Additionally, Lawrence is an Inclusion Champion and served as the Inclusion leader for the Hermitage office for 5 years. She is the National Deloitte leader for Million Women Mentors, serving also as the Middle Tennessee Co-Captain.She leads the United Way Leadership Giving Campaign for the Hermitage Office. She also serves as a board member for St. Luke’s Community House and Cable Women’s Organization and is a reading volunteer at Warner Elementary. She served as a Sunday School teacher with her husband for 18 years, retiring in 2017.

You can register for the March lunch HERE or register for any of our other upcoming events HERE.

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Created to Work: A Primer on Layering Faith and Work vs. Integrating the Two


In the last decade, more and more people are engaging in discussion about integrating their faith into their day-to-day work. As such, church leaders are re-engaging Dorothy Sayers’s prescription from her essay Why Work: “It is the business of the Church to recognize that the secular vocation, as such, is sacred.”

Teachings that demonstrate how our work matters to God provide comfort for Christians who feel alienated from their jobs. Yet we must not neglect to develop an eschatological, or end-times, stance regarding our work.

Without a proper perspective on the eternal implications of vocation, perseverance in our work may diminish when we encounter inevitable challenges in our jobs.

Before examining this eschatological view of work in next month’s post, let’s first consider three common views that are in fact spiritual, but in isolation can actually devalue the function of work for work’s sake in God’s design.

The examples include: “Our work matters to God because it can be a vehicle to evangelize,” “Our work matters because through it we can gain wealth to ‘bless’ others,” or “Our work matters if it temporarily alleviates poverty and suffering until Jesus returns.”

Though Biblical and inherently good in nature, these responses flow from views of work that are not an integration of faith and work but a layering of one’s faith on top of one’s work.

Though Biblical and inherently good in nature, these responses flow from views of work that are not an integration of faith and work but a layering of one’s faith on top of one’s work.

The Bible unequivocally advocates for evangelism (Matthew 28:16-20), selflessness with wealth (Malachi 3:10), and tending to the poor (Matthew 25:35-40). But each of these views places ultimate value on a spiritual good beyond work itself.

Consequently, if work is a mere vehicle to other, more spiritual goals, then will work have any function in heaven where sin is no more and souls no longer need to be saved? How can we expect Christians to give their all to something with no lasting significance?

Without a theology that values work for its own sake, we end up seeking value in some external outcome unrelated to the work itself in order to avoid feeling hopeless about an endeavor that consumes the majority of our time.

If we believe that God created and cares about us, sent us out to "take dominion" and "be fruitful,” and is a sovereign God, then can't we believe that he cares about what we do everyday—that he cares about companies, art, education, and government?

Without a theology that values work for its own sake, we end up seeking value in some external outcome unrelated to the work itself in order to avoid feeling hopeless about an endeavor that consumes the majority of our time.

In our fallen world, work will inevitably become alienating to some degree. So when it does, will your theology embolden you to confront and correct the alienation, or will your theology ask you to push disappointment in your work to the side in order to focus on “more important things”?

When we value our work by its external spiritual effects, it becomes easy to ignore (and sometimes participate in) the real and negative consequences of work that must be completed in a broken world.

These consequences might be dehumanization in our businesses, injustices in the marketplace, shoddy craftsmanship, and secular influence in culture. Instead, we should embrace a theology that empowers us to reform that which is broken.

We can more easily redeem and approach our work wholeheartedly if our theology tells us that our work is not only good, but that it will continue into eternity—not in the form of more Christians in heaven, but as itself.

So the art, politics, business, sports, architecture, agriculture, education, technology, economics and more we push forward will become, as Sayers says, “a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God.”

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Why ESG? One Entrepreneur's Thoughts on NIFW's Weekly Group


James is currently participating in the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work’s (NIFW) Entrepreneur Support Group (ESG) and offered a few of his thoughts on the group below.

Q: What did ESG illuminate for you in your work?

A: So many things! For starters, ESG showed me that, among fellow entrepreneurs, there is much universality in the joys and struggles I experience in my work. Therefore, the community of fellow entrepreneurs I found at ESG, with whom I share a similar faith, has provided both a sounding board and a comfort. Further, ESG reminded me that how I engage with the community that defines "my work"—my co-workers, my partners, my investors, my vendors—matters.

Q: What is one of your greatest struggles in your day-to-day work?

A: Deciding how to use my largest non-renewable resource: Time.

JamesGranberry Web.jpg

Q: How does your faith intersect with the work you do as an entrepreneur?

A: I believe that I was uniquely gifted for the work I do. My calling is to do my work to my utmost abilities—no more and no less (both limits are hard to come to terms with) and provide a platform for those who are called to similar work (whether they realize this calling or not) to be able to live into their unique gifts.

Q: What has ESG done for you personally and professionally?

A: Through ESG I better understand the integration of my daily faith with my daily work. This plays out in the way I help others flourish with their investments so they can impact the people, systems, and structures they interact with and bring glimpses of the already (heaven) to the not yet (earth). I've also become more cognizant of the beauty and goodness that can come from the average, everyday moments at work, specifically through practically and intentionally loving the co-workers and clients I interact with on a day-to-day basis.

James Granberry is a founding partner of OakPoint Investments, a full-service real estate advisory and investment firm shaped by creativity, and focused on progress and growth. His efforts center on overseeing the performance of the company's 1.7 million square feet of owned assets across the US. Additionally, he heads up the acquisition efforts for the company's multi-family portfolio. A native of Texas with an undergraduate degree from Furman and an MBA from Vanderbilt, James provides expertise in portfolio and asset management, financing, and multi-family acquisitions and dispositions. Over the course of James’ career, he has been responsible for acquiring more than 3.5 million square feet of commercial and multi-family investments. He is also a co-founder and past chairman of Mere Christianity Forum—a collegiate ministry at Furman University promoting the thoughtful exploration of Christian faith through thoughtful conversations and authentic community.

NIFW’s Entrepreneur Support Group is currently accepting applications for the Spring 2018, group. For more information on ESG, visit our webpage and apply today.

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Phil Gwoke Mends Generational Workplace Frustrations at The Gen Divide Forum


How might you change the way you work if empathy served as a driving force for reconciling the generational differences you experience in your job?

This was at the core of BridgeWorks Consultant Phil Gwoke’s message as he headlined the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work’s Fall Forum, “The Gen Divide: Bridging Age Gaps at Work” at Houston Station on November 9.

“Our formative years shape the way we think, communicate and approach life,” Gwoke said to a packed room. “This is what we study at BridgeWorks. Birth years, that’s just the beginning: what shaped you is what’s most important.”

It was evident from those attending that a sense of frustration over generational attitudes affects a majority on a day-to-day basis. Survey data via a live text-in poll revealed that 65 percent of attendees feel “frustrated” on a daily or weekly basis by something the “other” generation says or does at work.

Our formative years shape the way we think, communicate and approach life.

Of those attending, 49 percent identified as Millennials (1980-1995), 30 percent identified as Generation Xers (1965-1979), and 21 percent identified as Baby Boomers (1946-1964).

Gwoke engaged the audience beyond stereotypical finger-pointing generational divisions and instead helped participants in every generation better understand the “other,” so workplace relationships, and in turn the work we do, might be fortified moving forward.

The evening also featured insight from Lyft Nashville Marketing Lead Joel Rakes, who represented a Millennial's perspective on work, and Adams & Reese Managing Partner Gif Thornton, who represented a Boomer’s perspective on work.

You can view a full photo gallery from the event below.

Tickets are also now on sale for our next citywide forum, “Completing Capitalism: Heal Business to Heal the World” at Nisolo on February 1, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

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Are You 'Cheering for the Underdog' at Work?


What is your framework for redemption and reconciliation? How do you handle the tension between your faith and the inherent brokenness of your day-to-day work in your workplace and industry?

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall highlighted his view of this question while speaking about inmates at NIFW's forum, Redemption Through Innovation.

"I've always thought of Christianity as being defined as cheering for the underdog," Hall said. "It's just who I am.

"But to be honest with you, in my job, they're all underdogs. The reality of why I do what I do is because I want to do something about why rather than just focusing on the person and what they have done."

Hall, at the time, noted that 3 out of 10 people arrested on the streets of Nashville every day suffer from mental illness.

I’ve always thought of Christianity as being defined as cheering for the underdog. It’s just who I am.

"It is a crime in itself how society arrests people for an illness," Hall said. "And we house them and treat them in an environment that you would call horrendous."

Those of us in other careers probably do not work with the level of brokenness as our Sheriff, but we all likely have a team member who needs greater understanding beyond simply performance or intent. And we all have broken systems that exacerbate problems in the workplace.

How are you fighting for the underdogs and seeking out the why behind each of the who’s in your day-to-day vocational spheres?

You can watch the full clip of Sheriff Hall's comments below:

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