It's 6:30 a.m., and CEO Jonathan Cooper is driving to work to meet with a management group in his technology company in San Marco, California. His six-year-old business is a leader in technology, with several award-winning products to its credit. It is known industry-wide for its quality products and superior customer service to its clients.
Jonathan is humming to himself as he drives. Although in many ways he looks like the other early-morning commuters rushing along the highway beside him, Jonathan is different. For one thing, on top of his briefcase on the seat next to him, improbably, there is a shepherd's staff. . . .
Yes, this "staff" is invisible to the casual observer, but Jonathan himself is aware of it as he drives to his office. This staff relates to a story found in Genesis regarding the life of Moses. You see, Moses was a shepherd who was going about his normal workday when God called him to His Service. Since killing an Egyptian man 40 years earlier when he saw him beating one of his Hebrew brethren, Moses had been living out his days as a shepherd-a very lowly profession in the eyes of an Egyptian. He was now 80 years old, and the last thing on his mind was a new adventure. He was ready to collect his pension, his past life only a faded memory. Although deep inside he might have felt he was destined for something greater, the event 40 years earlier reminded him of a good impulse that went extremely bad.
So, Moses was minding his own business, tending sheep on the far side of the desert, when he noticed that a bush was on fire. Even more startling, it was not burning up! Then, alarmingly, a voice came from the bush-which I guess should be no surprise since he was standing on Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. If God were going to speak, this would be a good place.
The voice belonged to God. God told Moses in great detail about the huge rescue mission He wanted him to lead to free the Israelites from Egypt. Moses was not at all interested in this proposition and he argued with God about the whole idea. Among other things, I am sure that he remembered he was a wanted man in Egypt. In the midst of his protests, God asked Moses a simple question: "What is that in your hand?" (Exod. 4:2).
Moses was holding his shepherd's staff. What can that have to do with anything? he must have thought. God went on to explain, "Take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it" (Exod. 4:17, emphasis added). A few years ago, while attending a conference, I heard a message about the significance of the staff in the life of the Hebrew. The speaker had met a pastor who had just returned from Israel and who had brought back a replica of the type of staff a Hebrew would have owned in biblical times. He had learned that a staff was more than a shepherd's tool. When the shepherd made his staff, he added a creosote-type substance to the wood to insure its hardness so that it would last a lifetime. Typically, he marked his staff up and down to represent significant dates and events that had happened in his life. It was like a personal diary, if you will.
The fact that God wanted to use Moses' staff to perform miracles is significant because the staff represented not only Moses' work, but it also, most importantly, represented his life. The staff was a symbol of Moses' calling in life as a shepherd. It was the identifying tool of his vocation. God was saying, in essence, "I am going to take your vocation and perform miracles through it." He wanted Moses to look at his work in a new and powerful way.
It is your God-empowered vocation, through which you can expect to influence your daily life in the working world. You don't have to be a CEO to make a difference with your staff. Every working person has one, including students, stay-at-home moms and those enlisted in the military. Are you an administrative assistant, a retail clerk or a government worker? Are you reading this book on your lunch break from your janitorial duties? Are you a corporate executive, a small business owner, an anesthesiologist or a dairy farmer? You get the idea. Let's return to Jonathan to see some "staffs at work"-not only his but also those of his employees.
Jonathan has already spent an hour and a half in prayer and Bible study in his home office. Arriving at the office after a 40-minute drive, he goes immediately to a room that has been designated as the worship and war room. Furnished with several comfortable chairs and couches as well as a conference table, the room is more like a living room than a boardroom. Here, every morning, employees gather for worship and prayer. Prayer topics range from personal concerns to new ideas that will help the business to requests for wisdom in operating the business from a godly perspective. The employees pray for customers and suppliers-and even for their competitors.
Jonathan calls his business a Kingdom business, and the 15 to 25 people who gather with him this morning agree. As he enters the room, music from the high-tech sound system greets him. Several others have already arrived and are on their knees in prayer or singing and worshiping God.
"Brothers and sisters," Jonathan begins, "please be in prayer for our new product development team who is seeking the Lord's direction for our new PocketPhone, a new half-dollar-size technology device that is designed to make people more mobile, allowing them to communicate hands-free. It clips onto your clothing and has a wireless microphone. If successful, it will replace the cell phone. The project manager got the idea for this project two months ago during our 6:30 a.m. prayer gathering. Some intercessors told us that they felt God was going to give the company a new innovative product that will transform the cellular phone industry."
It's now 8:00 a.m., and the company staff meeting is about to begin. Jonathan sits at the conference room table with the other members of his team. To his left is Jenny, a former IT director who now spends more time praying for the company than doing IT work. Jonathan recognized her gifting and insight during a time of difficult transition for the company. Often, she would come to him with thoughts she gained while interceding for the company. She had an extraordinary ability to confirm the decisions he was making, as it related to a particularly volatile time in the company.
Recognizing Jenny's value to the company, Jonathan created a new position for her: corporate intercessory director. Now, as the leader of a team of company intercessors, much of her time is spent praying for God's agenda for the company, for employees and clients, for other businesses in the city and for their city at large.
When asked about the unorthodox idea of having someone on staff who is paid to pray, Jonathan responded, "Funding the office of corporate intercessory director is the best investment I have ever made. The Lord has used Jenny to warn us of relationships that could have seriously derailed what we are doing. One time, we were involved in negotiations with a potential technology partner. Even though Jenny knew nothing about the negotiations, she was able to warn us that the company was not all that they portrayed themselves to be. We were able to close down negotiations and save time and money. I figure Jenny has saved our company hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last two years.
"Let me make this very clear: we do not use our intercessory team as seers. They are not crystal-ball gazers, but people who have a strong calling to prayer and a deep intimacy with the Lord that enables them to hear His voice clearly. However, it's not enough to have only them praying. I myself have a personal responsibility to intercede and seek God's direction on a daily-if not hourly-basis. Things work best when I'm faithful in that regard. I use the intercessor's reports to confirm the direction in which I've already sensed the Lord leading."
Now let's meet the rest of the management team. In addition to Jenny, there are seven people gathered around the table this morning; they are commonly known as the 411 Committee. Several years ago Jonathan's pastor taught on the five-fold ministry gifts found in Ephesians 4:11 and suggested that these gifts were applicable in the workplace as well as inside the local church. He encouraged Jonathan to put a leadership team in place that represented these five giftings. So, Jonathan began to identify those in his company who represented the office of apostle, prophet, pastor, teacher and evangelist.
Jonathan observed that as president, he modeled the traits of an apostle. At first that sounded weird to him. Me, an apostle? he thought. However, upon further study he learned that the word "apostle" simply means "sent one." Apostles often equate to entrepreneurs in the marketplace who have the vision and drive to start things. They lay new foundations just as the Early Church apostles did. He realized that was how he was wired; it was his spiritual DNA.
Jonathan could see the gift of a prophet operating in the company CFO, as he often forewarned the others about issues of which they should be mindful. The CFO had never thought of himself in these terms, but when Jonathan pointed out how he was already operating in the gifting, the CFO was encouraged to learn more about the role of the prophet. He learned that there were a number of variations of this gift, that there is an "office" of prophet and a "gift" of prophecy, and that the Bible says we are all encouraged to prophesy. As the CFO developed his understanding of this gifting, Jonathan saw how wonderfully it complemented his role at the company.
It did not take Jonathan long to realize that Bill, the company's sales director, probably had the gift of an evangelist. Bill often reported at meetings how the Lord had opened doors for him to have a conversation with someone about Christ. He had personally led more people to the Lord than anyone else in the company. It seemed to come so easy for him. In a way, it made sense: evangelist = salesman. So, whenever Jonathan does anything in the company that has an outreach focus to reach the lost, Bill is always front and center.
Janice is the company's marketing director. As Jonathan watched her operate, he realized that she probably had the gift of teacher. She is a great presenter of information and has an ability to cut right through to the core of the matter. She knows PowerPoint like the back of her hand. She makes the company look good in presentation meetings. She is detailed and does not like things to be out of order. She is a perfectionist to the nth degree. She leads a Bible study in the office and at her church. She also trains many of their employees about their corporate culture. People appreciate her professionalism. All these attributes of a teacher added up to "Jan." She could utilize her particular "staff" as she exercised her responsibilities for the marketing process in the company and for the corporate training.
Gerald is the human resources manager in the company. Following in the footsteps of his father, who was a successful engineer, Gerald had graduated from college with a degree in engineering. However, after a few years working as a mechanical engineer, his employer had fired him. Gerald had been like a ship without a sail when he met Jonathan at their church, and they became friends. Jonathan had listened to Gerald as he described working with many people from the church who were out of work. He seemed to have compassion for these people and was often a source of encouragement to them. Jonathan suggested that Gerald take a spiritual gifts test that was offered by his company's human resources department. Just as he thought, Gerald's results showed he was a pastor through and through. He began to talk with him about a career in human resources. Gerald loved people and loved helping them find their place. Now Gerald plugs people into the right place in the company and helps them become successful. He pastors the company and its employees in an ongoing way.
So, there you have it. The five-fold ministry is operating in Jonathan's high-tech company. He believes they have a solid spiritual foundation for all they are doing and he can attest that his company runs more smoothly than most churches he knows.
Jonathan credits his pastor and a local workplace ministry for helping him to understand and make these paradigm shifts in his work life. He receives a daily email devotional made available through his church that encourages him and others to take their faith to the marketplace. They even have a church website with articles and resources for those in the workplace. He considers his pastor to be very progressive. In fact, he has never heard of any other church doing what his church does. They regularly have people share testimonies on Sunday about how God worked in their lives at their jobs that week. He has received training in his church on how to apply the Bible in specific workplace situations. He has also been asked to be on a focus group with the pastors to help the church leadership know how to break down the Word of God for application in work life situations. Often, their church has drama presentations that demonstrate ways to live out their faith at work. This church is involved in city transformation efforts and is part of a local coalition of churches.
Now back to the meeting. There are two others sitting around the table this morning. One is Jim, who works in the shipping department, but who also fulfills a much different role for the company.
Jonathan had attended a workplace conference not long ago in which a speaker urged business owners to get involved in city transformation, telling them that the pastors and churches could not achieve it alone without the broad-based involvement of the marketplace ministries. Jonathan began to pray about this and to take this exhortation to heart. Hearing that a group of pastors, marketplace ministries and intercessors were meeting on a regular basis for the purpose of transforming the city of San Marco, he decided to go and check it out.
Over time, as Jonathan sat quietly in the meetings and listened to the pastors' passion for their city, he began to get to know them. Occasionally, a need arose that Jonathan knew how to meet. It was not usually a financial need, but rather a technology issue that he knew how to solve for them. As time went on, this happened more and more. The pastors began to see Jonathan's contributions as more than just financial, and he became their friend and ally. Finally, the pastors embraced him because of his servant heart. For his part, Jonathan came to realize that pastors had a hard job and were often unappreciated, especially since they were expected to serve so many roles in their churches that they could not effectively lead at times.
As time went on, Jonathan became the marketplace representative in the group. He decided to allocate a portion of the profits from his company to the goal of city transformation-which is where Jim, the employee in his shipping department, comes in. Jonathan asked him to allocate a portion of his paid work time to this effort, and Jim became the transformation director for the company.
The big event that the company is planning at the moment is a citywide prayer gathering. Jim is the point person. Jonathan's company decided to rent the stadium in the city in order to rally all of the churches and marketplace community around a day of prayer. In the process, pastors are beginning to become more unified with the marketplace ministries and business leaders in the city. It is becoming one of the most exciting things Jonathan has done through his company.
Finally, the last member of the 411 Committee sitting around the table this morning is Gwen, the director of Compassion for the City. Several years ago, Jonathan read in his Bible about how Jesus did not turn his head from the down-and-out of society, but had compassion for them and responded to their needs. Jonathan recognized that there was a big problem in San Marco. Many people were homeless in the city, and many others lacked the basic necessities of life.
At first, Jonathan assumed that other ministries were taking care of this need. But then he had an idea. He wondered what some of the major packaged-goods companies did with their excess or damaged goods. He made a few phone calls and found that some of the companies actually threw away some of these damaged goods. He could not believe this. He wanted to use these resources for the impoverished people of San Marco, so he decided to see if the companies would give their excess and damaged goods to him so that he could channel them to some of the downtown ministries.
Little did Jonathan know at the time that this would lead to the establishment of Compassion for the City. Now in its third year, Compassion for the City will distribute more than $100 million in goods through the urban ministries in their city. They have even sent goods overseas to Iraq and other needy parts of the world. Gwen, who is now the director of Compassion for the City, also happens to be one of the key intercessors in Jonathan's company.
It is now 6:00 p.m. and Jonathan is driving home from a full day of work. There was a time in his life when he seldom arrived home in time for dinner. His two kids never saw him. Rarely does he get home later than 6:30 p.m. now, which is certainly an improvement, as far as his family is concerned.
This represents a big change in Jonathan's life. He is a shaker-mover kind of guy who is motivated for success, but it almost cost him his family. A good friend challenged him one day by saying, "Jonathan, you are a great guy. You do so much for the community. You are successful. But you are blowing it with your family. If you continue down this path, you will wake up one day and have a rebellion in your household. Your kids will be seeking love in all the wrong places and your wife could leave you." His words cut Jonathan to the core. He realized that what his friend was saying was true. He saw how his wife and kids were becoming disconnected from him. He had been a committed Christian, but his business success had become too important to him.
Jonathan began to get help to discover the origin of his workaholism. He found that it was rooted in fear from the early days of his life when his father had died and the family insurance company failed to pay. His mother would often say that they did not have enough money for the needs of the family. Jonathan recalls saying to himself that he never wanted to experience that again. Jonathan decided to take a course at his church on generational strongholds. This led to freedom from this fear, and his work habits began to change.
Jonathan will tell you that his life is very different from what it used to be. His company is truly a Kingdom company. He does not know what the future holds, but he does know Who holds the future. He feels privileged to be a partner in business with the Lord Jesus.
This story is a realistic composite of the many lives profiled in my book, The 9 to 5 Window. It gives us a glimpse into how we can experience the power of our "staff" when we experience Jesus' presence and power in and through all aspects of our lives-especially our work lives. God has called you to be in an intimate and exciting relationship with Him. He wants to use you to transform lives, workplaces, cities and nations.
Are you ready to begin?