“Is your work meaningful?”
This is the question that I often ask when I’m out walking my dog, Luther. Or variations of it:
- Is there a way to do business that pleases our trinitarian God?
- What does my business have to do with the kingdom of God?
- In what way, if any, do the products that I make have eternal significance?
- How do I disciple my 3 daughters in light of the answers to these and such questions?
I just want to know what it means to be faithful to God in my business.
So, I’m looking for answers.
It’s hard to evangelize when you are working
My conversion was very dramatic. I sat in the living room of Gene’s house. (He was the college Bible study leader) and gave my life to Christ.
I couldn’t speak for 30 minutes.
(Which is kind of ironic. Gene had just told me the story of God-fearing Cornelius, the uncircumsized Gentile soldier, and his and his household’s conversion. It was immediately a very noisy household with everyone speaking in tongues.)
Anyways, I couldn’t force a word out of my body.
But then the power of the Spirit was so strong in me, that you couldn’t shut me up.
Not even a freight train could stop me from telling you about Jesus.
Now, it’s really easy to know you are doing something meaningful when you are talking to someone about Jesus. It is a powerful experience of the Spirit.
I used to evaluate my days and weeks based on the number of faith conversations I had.
Evangelistic value was my measuring stick of meaning.
But now I own an online business with my wife, which consumes a majority of my days and weeks.
Try attaching evangelistic meaning to
- writing sales page copy,
- checking the css of responsive design,
- setting up email automation
- handling support cases
- improving your social media strategy
I enjoy this stuff, but it ain’t the Great Commission.
But aren’t we all tent-making missionaries like Paul?
Our plan has failed so far. With wide eyes we set out 3 years ago to create a passive income through selling singing courses and memberships online.
This passive income would enable us to do part or full-time ministry. Just like Paul used his tent making skills to finance his needs.
It has failed for 2 reasons:
Being an entrepreneur is not pizza delivery (a.k.a tent making)
I actually enjoy being an online entrepreneur. It entails
- taking risks,
- depending on God,
- and learning tons of new skills.
It sounds a lot like God’s Genesis 1:28 commission to “fill…subdue…and have dominion over the earth”.
Though I rarely have deep spiritual experiences while working on and in the business, I feel there must be some inherent (maybe eternal?) value in it.
Now, I think that there are times in life when the value of a job is in its means to an end:
- delivering pizzas to get out of debt
- working as a tutor to pay for tuition
- mowing lawns to buy baseball cards (questionable end, but that’s what I did as a kid)
I think this is what Paul’s tent making was all about (Acts 18). The value in tent making was mainly to serve his mission.
But Genesis 1:28 implies that there is inherent value in building a business. That it is an end in and of itself because by building a business we are being who God created us to be.
This is one reason why our tent-making plan has failed.
The second reason our tent-making plan failed:
I am a recovering dualist
I switched my major at university to one that would allow me to take all the classes of one Professor, Dr. David Naugle.
He introduced me to terms like:
- C.S. Lewis
- Abraham Kuyper
- St. Augustine
As well as:
- L’Abri Fellowship
- Comment Magazine
- Mars Hill Audio
In any case, this put me on a collision course with my evangelistic one-sidedness. Exposure to such influences makes it tough to compartmentalize work into either “profane” or “sacred” (i.e. dualistic categories).
But it is still hard for me to think that there is eternal value in running an online business.
Can I really treat online marketing as sacred work?
Nonetheless, I can’t treat my work as merely as a means-to-an-end tent-making anymore.
So this is what I plan to do in this blog:
Search for the answers to the above question(s):
“Is your work meaningful?” and other related questions.
My hope is to triangulate the answer from the reference points of
- my Christian faith
- my vocation (primarily as an online business owner)
- my responsibility to my neighbor and culture.
So, I’m looking for answers.
Questions mean more to me than answers
When I look back at key events in my life, they were accompanied by a question.
- “Would you like to be sure?” (Asked when I was not sure if I was a Christian. Then I became a Christian?
- “Why should I trust you?” (Asked of a guy on the street to me when I was pleading with him to believe me that the gospel is true. This led me into learning to defend my faith)
- “Will you marry me?” (I said on one knee at a lighthouse on the river Elbe.)
Jesus obviously knew the power of questions to change lives.
I’m sure you have noticed that for being such a great teacher, Jesus asked a lot of questions.
Socrates used questions to help his hearers to come to the right knowledge on their own.
Jesus’ questions did something similar but different.
His questions opened the lid of a stubborn paint can. Fence-sitting was not an option. They hammered a wedge splitting the personal realities of his hearers. Cozy worldviews and ways of living were cracked open and subverted.
It is a bit presumptuous for me to achieve the effect that Jesus had on his hearers, but The Tweed Cap will be as much or more about Questions than answers.
So I invite you to answer my questions and refine them, as well.
“Verbivores” are welcome
I took an aptitude test in College and discovered a lot about myself, that led me to enroll in the premed program (for only a semester). Part of it was an analysis of my vocabualry. Studies, they explained, correlate strongly one’s level of vocabulary with one’s level of success in a carreer. My level of vocabulary at that point was way below average. So they gave me vocab books to work on to get up to Oxford professor level. (Still working on that.)
Though deepening my communication resources with vocab was practical to my career, I found that learning new vocab was simply a joy in itself. It’s a little hard for me to explain, but there is a sense of discovery to me associated with learning words. It feels like I am taming a powerful beast.
So the Tweed Cap will further this life-long language project of geeking out on words. I will be building a glossary of terms and words I love as I go.
My Bio in the 3rd Person:
B.J. Lee lives with his wife, Sylvia, three daughters (as of early 2016 ages 3, 5, and 9) and golden retriever , Luther, age 12, in Hamburg, Germany.
He became a Christian in college, and was discipled by Gene Washburn, who fanned the flame of his evangelistic desires. For some reason BJ accepted Gene’s invitation to do street evangelism in downtown Dallas. He recalls being “freaked out” by approaching strangers to talk about Jesus. His first attempt was on the 3rd outing, where a man with a Jamaican accent tried to sell him weed.
Bj said, “Do you know about Jesus?”
Drug dealer, “Ha.Ha. [Jamaican style laugh] I like you man” [Pat on the should er] “Keep up the good work”
This moment was where the damm broke evangelistically for BJ.
Soon he discovered it wasn’t enough to just know how to communicate the gospel. He needed to be able to answer tough questions. Questions that he also wanted to know the answers to, too.
BJ switched to Dallas Baptist University to satiate his thirst for theology. He was strongly influenced by Philosophy professor Dr. David Naugle and tried to switch from pre-med to a major that would allow him to take all of Dr. Naugle’s classes. So he switched to a BS in General Studies, which sounds like a contradiction. He wasn’t sure what he was going to choose as a career, but something in a Christian organisation or a ministry made sense.
There the seeds of a wholistic faith were plante under Naugle’s tutalage.
He met Sylvia on the airport in Vancouver as he was flying back from a Labrí Conference with his friend Aaron Parish. She needed someone to watch her bags so she could grab a bit, so she asked Aaron. BJ was in the airport bathroom. Him and his future wife travelled together for a bit, and a year later He moved to Germany to make the future marriage a present reality.
That happend in 2003.
Vocationally BJ taught Business English and High School English as a Second Language. He got an MA in Aspects of Biblical Hermeneutics in 2007 from London School of Theology (distance learning). He grew sick of teaching English and an opportunity arose (a lack of a job) where Sylvia and BJ started a business together which they still have today. With online technologies Sylvia teaches other Germans how to sing.
BJ finds being an entrepreneur to be something exciting. He struggles with the commission of God in Genesis 1 to be fruitful and mutiply, fill the earth and subdue it and the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. BJ is an evangelist in Spirit and an entrepreneur by Nature.
This is where his questions for this site are born.