Not in Kansas – Not Even Close

Not in Kansas – Not Even Close

There is an old saying, “We’re not in Kansas Anymore.” It describes a scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy transitioned from her home to an enchanted place unfamiliar to her. As a software executive working in the secular industry for most of my career, it is quite mind-bending to see the distinction between “business mindset” and “ministry mindset.” At best, I am a willing learner with open eyes, ears, mind, and heart. At worst, I stumble around trying to make sense of something entirely new to me: I cannot put God in a box.

As a Watchman Business Person, founder of the non-profit I Am A Watchman ministry, God is not constrained by my notion of best practices, logic, or policy and procedure! There are dynamics as I mature in Christ that are new and unfamiliar to me.

Classic Business Thinking

If you are a business person, no matter your role or level of responsibility, think about your day-to-day work for a few moments. It doesn’t matter what specific job description you hold, or what industry or function you serve in, there are everyday things we do. Let’s see if some of these might sound familiar:

You are tasked to make decisions that either seek to maximize or minimize “something.” That something can be profit, leading to a significant return on investment; it could be one or more productivity measurements: cost, time to delivery, logistics, or operational efficiencies. The list never ends.

These types of job responsibilities are almost always backed by Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). These are frequently tied to incentives or bonus-compensation policies. There is the notion of a target and a goal, and thus a differential can be quantified. Exceed expectations, and it’s good, but underperform, and it’s usually negative.

The thing is, there is a learned pattern in how to run a business, or how to perform a job or duty and it’s repeatedly reinforced and hammered into us. Soon, and this boundary depends on many factors, we find man-made artificial constraints controlling our thoughts and actions. An easy example you may have experienced is the first time you got involved in volunteer work for a good cause. Wasn’t that an eye-opening experience? It was for me.

Unlike in business, maximizing profit or minimizing cost isn’t exactly the appropriate focus when you are prepping ingredients to serve meals to the homeless. Yes—there is always the reality of available resources, and usually, some thought is given to cost optimization, just like a business. But it is not always a logical business process. There are other considerations, such as a strong desire to occasionally lavish a terrific meal for the homeless in your community. That’s not a differential calculus problem or something you measure with KPI’s. Do we agree?

As a Watchman Business Person, increasing my desire and willingness to finish well and respond in obedience in these days we live in, I’ve had some “We’re not in Kansas anymore” moments. My business thinking is being challenged by the LORD. Those thought patterns have served me well in my career, but they limit God; and, we all know God won’t be limited.

Sometimes, I imagine this is the perspective God has in coaching me into greater maturity:

“You are my servant, and you are making good progress in obeying as I have commanded you. I know your thoughts and see that you don’t know all my Holy character and attributes—and I want you to because I love you and want you to know Me more. So, here’s what I’m going to do…”

The older I am in the LORD (nearly 40 years now!), the more I realize how intimate a process it is to be shaped by the Potter’s hands. His hands…on me. The LORD is actively shaping me into the man of God He wants me to be. This truth applies to both men and women alike.

So, when He wants to achieve something in my life, and I’m just not getting it, there needs to be a breakthrough. I’ve experienced a couple of recent incidents leading up to the official launch of this ministry that I’d like to share. If you consider the juxtaposition between standard business thinking and how the LORD wants something done, it can be humorous. Please learn from what happened to me.

Our Ministry Launch

First, some background. As a longtime software guy, I’ve had to adapt to the evolution of best practices development. Silicon Valley tech companies have shed waterfall methodology to embrace agile, lean, and minimum viable product methodology. Without going into all that, simply put, although I am agile now, in my heart I’m a waterfall type of person. Think of waterfall methodology as a skunkworks effort that no one knows about until you’re good and ready to introduce a software product. So, in making investments to help create this ministry, I wanted it to be kept very much under wraps. This is business thinking. I was concerned about interference from distractions if word of what we were doing got out too early. Instead, I wanted to keep the team focused on all the bits that had to be accomplished.

Enter God’s tutorial. As we all do as Watchmen, GJRWM was doing research and ran across the Hear the Watchman Conference in Dallas, TX. Unknown to me, he began talking to JDKWM, our Managing Editor. Also unknown to me, JDKWM then reached out to the co-founders of that ministry, Mike Kerr, and Jeannie Moore to introduce himself and get more information. They responded very positively, and (literally) in only 8 minutes. This is the conference where we did, in fact, officially launch the ministry.

All this initially happened without my knowledge. As we’ve shared before, my notion of how to develop a ministry put God in a box. I was over controlling the visibility, timing, and scope of the very ministry I was accountable to help launch. In one of those moments where I got a big shove in the back, I realized it was time. Time to get out there. Waterfall phase was over; now we do agile all the way.

Other software executives (also wearing the ubiquitous flip-flops, like me) will immediately get this. For all others, just trust me, there is nothing that scares a software guy doing profoundly complex development work than to get a proverbial shove in the back! Sidebar note: shoves almost always come from the CEO, so good luck ignoring them!

What I learned is that the LORD had His way, and He used my teammates to effect and influence the trajectory of our roadmap. Although I raised an eyebrow when I found out the team reached out to Mike and Jeannie, there was peace (after the panic) that it was okay.

Lesson Learned – For those of you who invest your own wealth into ministries within your sphere of influence, remember that you’re on a team. Make room for other seasoned Christ followers to receive nudges from the Holy Spirit that may impact you. Respect what is going on and don’t flinch-and-control as we are so programmed to do in business. Let God be God and may you yield to Him and fully cooperate!

One Shot to Make the First Right Impression

In a separate incident, I got a shock when a ministry contact that I was saving for the right timing, was unexpectedly contacted by someone on our team. My business instincts yelled: “Nooooo..!”. After all, as most business people usually do, don’t we all strategically mull and plan our launch process with great precision and—as the saying goes—you only get one opportunity for a first impression? As a pre-launch ministry, it was incredibly important to me that we steward the timing of beginning to communicate to the outside world about what we were doing. This is doubly true of a VIP.

Enter God’s out-of-the-box moment—I did not know this immediately, but something amazing happened. The LORD is also working in the heart and mind of this VIP, challenging this Watchwoman to begin writing. Unknown to us, the VIP disclosed that she was receiving nudges from Holy Spirit and affirmations from others that she should begin to write. Wow. So, when our team approached her, it was further confirmation of this effect. God is God. God does not like to be put in a box.

My box was me trying to use business thinking to time the introduction to our ministry perfectly. I learned that I had to yield to something far more important. We are the Body of Christ and as brothers and sisters spending all eternity with our LORD—and in community with each other—we need to stand back in awe as God moves way past our own self-interests. He loves this VIP more than he respects my step-by-step launch of this ministry. He worked to give this VIP a voice by writing to a new audience. This superseded my business thinking, and I am so glad He did!

“Thank You, Jesus, for instructing (read: humbling) me once again and teaching me that You have purposes so much higher than my puny business mind can comprehend. Thank You for allowing me to witness Your goodness and love for others directly. Thank You for loving me enough to instruct me in Your way! Amen”

Further Reflections

As I have said before, it is not an easy calling to be a Watchman, nor is it any easier as a business person. The LORD is profoundly changing me. I sometimes feel like I’m late arriving at a ministry mindset. God has humorously used several we’re not in Kansas anymore moments to educate me. And this has led to the realization that I do not actually want to be confined to my own thinking or subject to this world’s dynamics. I want more. I want this for you as a Watchman Business Person, too!

As you respond and develop your calling, don’t be surprised if the team God assembles around you is part of His instruction plan. We each do our part. I drive innovation and create new software products professionally. This leads to a fearless version 0.0 to 1.0 mindset, but it comes with some baggage from the business world that really limits my understanding of the LORD.

My KPI’s are in Heaven

It is difficult to break out of measurement systems that are so deeply ingrained, isn’t it? Yet, as we hurtle towards the climax of the end of the Church Age, I’m keenly aware that the Key Performance Indicators that wrap around my life are much more about faithfulness to my calling as a Christ follower. Faithfulness is not the yardstick of the world, where quantified results are what matter. In the Parable of the Widow’s Offering found in Luke 21:1-4, we see evidence of what really matters: Total commitment, total drive to finish well, total stewardship for what the LORD has entrusted to us.

Tears of Joy

I get to witness the LORD’s work in my life as I actively lay everything down at His feet to the best of my sinful, imperfect, and self-absorbed ability to do so. So often when I pray, there’s just nothing there in my brain, nothing constructed, nothing prepared. Many times, my prayer consists of heaving emotion and tears. Somehow, I muster up the courage to pray: “I will follow…” and then “…help me.” These are tears of joy because I know the LORD loves me and has revealed Himself to me through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is calling me to acts of service, stewardship, sanctification, and holiness so that I may be used to reach the lost and confused in this world. What joy to know He knows me, instructs me, and places me in the world as His ambassador.

Are you a Watchmen Business Person?

I urge you to pray for your calling…that you ask the LORD for what it is that He wants you to do in these last days. Time is short! It is a powerful motivator to push hard to reach the lost. I trust that having me share parts of my stumbling, halting, uneven steps as a Watchman Business Person inspires you to take your next steps in your own journey. It’s so critical that YOU UNDERSTAND how the LORD can use you for His glory by opening up your hand, use your skills and abilities as a business person, to further His work throughout the Earth.

Maranatha!

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