Prayer, faith, Scripture not lost in the workplace
Michael Meggison’s office is somewhat similar to those of other commercial real estate brokers – planning maps, performance awards, piles of faxes and e-mails and plenty of family photos.
But more noticeable are the differences: Bible verses, one cross-stitched in a frame on his desk; Christian music coming from the computer speakers; and framed photos of his baptism in the Raccoon River.
His cell phone vibrates, and he recognizes the caller as one of a dozen “brothers in Christ” who will call throughout the day to wish him well and, as he sees it, prevent him from succumbing to Internet surfing or other distractions that would keep him from focusing on God.
Meggison, an associate in Grubb & Ellis/Mid-America Pacific’s multifamily/land advisory group, attributes not some but all of his professional success to his relationship with God.
“I’m successful by the earth’s standards because God follows me around because I try to put first things first,” he said. “That sounds so arrogant in the wrong context and I don’t desire for it to. But God’s blessing tracks me down.”
After a period of rebellion years ago, Meggison followed through with a promise – to serve God for the rest of his life with everything he has.
He spends Tuesdays ministering in Marshalltown. One recent weekend was spent in constant prayer at the International House of Prayer Missions Base in Kansas City, Mo. From August into September, he went through a 40-day silence fast, though he was primarily on sabbatical. He owns a townhouse in Urbandale, called “The 8” because of the message in Romans 8:28, which he calls his life’s verse. Everyone is invited to visit, pray, reflect and even write messages on the walls. He regularly prays for co-workers, clients, projects –even competitors.
“The Word says that without faith, it is impossible to please God,” Meggison said. “So if it is true that it is impossible to please God without faith, then we have to have faith in the marketplace.”
Meggison is one of several Greater Des Moines business people who strive to make faith more than a Sunday experience, which includes bringing it to the workplace.
“I think most people really, really want to live their faith,” said Todd Dorr, vice president of Farrell’s U.S. Martial Arts, where some employees gather for Monday prayer meetings. “They go to church on Sunday and they really want to go in and be not only a talker of faith but a walker of faith.”
Other businesses executives and professionals have found both overt and subtle ways to integrate faith and religion into the workplace. Most say that they do not think about how living their faith at work could have a negative impact on their professional lives. They cannot live any other way.
A new calling
Russ Matthews said God’s call was his reason for leaving his job in pharmaceutical sales at Pfizer Inc. He is raising funds so that he and his wife, Cathy, and their three children can move permanently to Australia in 2005 to become missionaries of the Christian faith, particularly in the Sydney business district.
“[Australians] don’t go to church,” Matthews said. “It’s not a part of their culture. So what we have to do is take our ministry and go and find the people where they are and show them the relevancy of the Bible in their lives, in that primarily being their workplaces, because for those of us who work outside the home, we spend the majority of our lives working.”
In preparation, Matthews has worked with faith-based groups at such major employers as Principal Financial Group Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and the Iowa Department of Transportation in Ames. His JAWbreak ministry – Jesus At Work – is intended to show people how they can apply the Bible to their daily lives, thus creating a better workplace environment.
“What we’re doing is not church,” he said. “I’m not supposed to replace church, but just help with the message from that. It’s kind of like putting the cookies on the bottom shelf.”
Matthews reflected on the correlation between workplace ministry and the Biblical story of Jesus gathering his 12 disciples – he found fishermen at the dock along the Sea of Galilee and said, “Come, I’ll make you fishers of men.” Jesus, Matthews noted, found them where they were working and spoke to them in a language they could understand.
“It’s not like I left (Pfizer) because I hated what I was doing,” he said. “I know that I had the impact where I was at the time and this is where the Lord wants me now.”
Turning to God
Mitch Matthews, Russ Matthews’ brother and a personal coach, says that though he didn’t found his company, A Kick in the Pants, on Christian principles, they slowly worked their way into his mode of operation.
He described himself as “a master of the self-help practices,” but said that as his faith was growing, it became harder to point people in the direction of self-help.
“When I started to point people in the direction of God’s help, that’s when I felt like I was in the zone and when our business started to take off,” Mitch Matthews said. “I think that when we use the gifts that God gives us, that’s when we can really be blessed, and I don’t just think that means financially.”
Bob Mitchell, a human resources consultant, also works one-on-one with clients, often in career counseling situations. Though he does not incorporate prayer into sessions with clients, he advises and counsels individuals in “an ethical and faith-based interpretation of events.” He often refers to the parable of the vineyard workers from the Gospel of Matthew to illustrate that people occasionally get “pruned back so they can bear more fruit.”
“It helps people understand that what’s happening to them is providential and it’s up to them to figure out what happens next,” he said.
A key ingredient
Several friends introduced Todd Dorr to Christianity six years ago, and his subsequent spiritual journey has allowed him to discover how he can apply Sunday’s teachings during his workweek.
“I was passionate about the way I taught [martial arts] and I was very passionate about the students,” he said. “But getting to know Christ like I have has been like throwing gasoline on that fire.”
Dorr and a few co-workers at Farrell’s Beaverdale school continually found themselves discussing Sunday sermons and faith-related issues. They began to see the value in those conversations and have since begun to meet every Monday morning for a prayer meeting. All staff members are invited to attend, but never obligated to do so.
Dorr said he and his colleagues feel prayer is “a key ingredient to what we’re doing” and feel a definite sense of purpose about their work.
“It certainly doesn’t mean that now that we have prayer meetings that we don’t have any challenges or that there are no struggles,” he said. “I think that there are more challenges and more obstacles and more struggles now, because we’re just letting God kind of take control of things.”
They are careful not to promote Farrell’s as a Christian martial arts academy, so as not to alienate children and adults from other faith backgrounds who can also benefit from the martial arts.
Body and soul
Krause Gentle Corp. co-founder and CEO Bill Krause decided to include a chapel in the company’s West Des Moines headquarters when it opened four years ago. Noting that the building contained a fitness center, he said, “If we were going to build something for the body, we should do something for the soul.”
“I think people know that we’re not doing it for ulterior motives,” Krause said. “We’re doing it for the people who want it, enjoy it, use it. And that might be a small percent of the individuals here.”
In June, Krause and other company executives were in Tulsa, Okla., working on the acquisition of the Git-n-Go convenience store chain when Krause received a message from his son, Kyle: “We are all in the chapel hoping for the best.” Through a $9 million purchase agreement, Kum & Go acquired 68 stores, increasing its number of stores by 22 percent.
The staff even held a private service two years ago when a former employee died. It was standing room only, Krause said.
“I think faith would not permeate the air at Krause Gentle,” he said, “but it’s certainly not lost.”
Practice what you preach
Faith Lutheran Church in Clive has attempted to tackle the topic of faith in the workplace through a periodic series in its adult discovery classes, which thus far has involved panels of small business owners and business executives.
“Where you spend the majority of your day and when what you do there makes a difference in a lot of lives, it’s important to discuss how your faith informs you in living that out,” said Diaconal Minister Diana Sickles.
Sickles said the business executives found that living out their faith at work and making business decisions based on their faith was fairly easy. But the small business owners, she said, found that living their faith at work was more difficult. They occasionally feared that a Christian work environment could pose a threat to client relationships.
“The realities of keeping your bottom line in the black and living your faith can be a challenge,” she said. However, most of the panelists said they felt they had to live their faith at work, despite the risks.
Mitchell, a co-facilitator of the seminars and said one consistent message from the panelists was “practice what you preach.”
“We’re not evangelists,” he said. “We just try and live the way we think we should live and set that as an example. So we’re not trying to convert anyone or quiz them on whether or not they were born again. We just practice our faith.”