Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Miscellaneous Faith and Work BOOK REVIEWS

Immanuel Labor—God’s Presence in Our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work by Russell E. Gehrlein. Westbow Press. 282 pages. 2018

Immanuel Labor is an excellent book on the subject of work, and a welcome entry into the growing library of books that help us to integrate our faith and work. In Part 1, the author looks at biblical and theological foundations. In this part, he writes that God created people to be His coworkers in expanding His kingdom on earth and that He is present in the work of His children in order to meet the needs of humankind and bring glory to Himself. In Part 2, he builds on what he discusses in the first part and gets practical. The author is a seminary graduate and his passion for this subject comes across on every page.
A main point he makes is that of God’s presence in the midst of our work. He writes that when he chooses to focus on the fact that God is present at work, it changes the way he performs his tasks, which enables him to fulfill His purposes. God is present whenever and wherever we find ourselves working. If God has called us to do ordinary work, and if it is work which He wants done in the world, then He will indeed be present in it.
I enjoyed the author sharing how he has experienced God’s presence as a government employee over the past thirty years. His desire is “to see ordinary workers who consistently integrate their faith at work experience God’s presence so that it becomes just as natural as experiencing His presence while reading His Word, praying on our knees, worshipping during a church service, or standing on a mountaintop”.
In this thorough treatment of work, the author covers many aspects of work, always backing up his points with scripture. He covers whether there will be work in Heaven. He tells us that many aspects of human work will continue in the New Jerusalem. He covers how a Christian is to work, telling us that we “work in proper relation to and in total dependence upon each member of the Trinity, allowing God to work in us and through us for His glory and for the good of His creation”. He writes that we are to obey our bosses just as we would obey Christ. I appreciated his look at the work of a mother from Proverbs 31 and how the Sabbath is critical to our understanding of a theology of work.
The author is well-read on the subject of work, and quotes from several excellent books on the subject. I appreciated his vulnerability and transparency as he wrote about his own job experiences.
He tells us that there are no perfect jobs, that all jobs will have thorns and thistles. God puts his people where they need to be at the right place and time for His glory.
The author tells us that God has placed us right where we need to be and that He has empowered you with all the skills you need to do this work for His purposes and glory. We must shine the light of Christ in dark places and become part of His work to bring common grace to all who are made in His image.

How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority by Clay Scroggins. Zondervan. 214 pages. 2017

The author is the lead pastor of the original and largest campus of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, which averages over 12,000 people in attendance each week. The book is written for those not currently in a “position” of leadership in your organization, but you have ideas and vision for how things can be done better. The book is about how to cultivate the influence needed to lead when you’re not in charge. The author writes about believing the lie that authority is a prerequisite for leadership.
He states that near the core of what makes a person a leader is their sense of identity. He indicates that your identity is the conception you have of yourself. He then reviews three common identity traps that snag young leaders, especially when they are trying to lead without being in charge. He reviews five basic components of identity. He states that nothing has affected his leadership more than listening to what God has to say about his identity. He states that if you fail to believe what God says about your identity, you will fail to reach the potential he’s put in you as a leader.
He addresses ambition of the leader, and that in its purest form, there’s nothing wrong with ambition. Believing that you need a position of authority to exercise your ambition is a lie. He looks at the two distortions of our ambition as leaders.
He states that when most people think about the challenges of leading when they aren’t in charge, the most common excuse they give for their failure is their boss. He tells us that if you’re working for a bad leader, at the very least, you can use this opportunity to learn how to avoid becoming the leader you despise when others are working for you in the future.
Among the other helpful topics he covers are self-leadership principles, the importance of critical thinking, passivity and “challenging up” (challenging your boss).
The author tells us that one of the best things you can do today is to begin asking yourself questions about how and why you want to lead when you’re in charge. Then, we should start leading with those answers in mind.
The author, in his 30’s, writes in such a way to appeal to young readers, using many references from modern culture (movies, television programs, music). He also uses many helpful examples from his own life when he was not in charge.
Below are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • Influence always outpaces authority. And leaders who consistently leverage their authority to lead are far less effective in the long term than leaders who leverage their influence.
  • The first step to master in becoming a leader who leads well when not in charge is how to model what it means to be a follower.
  • Every good leader is also a critical thinker.
  • Great leaders don’t get defensive.
  • Challenge privately. Champion publicly. Do not confuse these two!
  • You can tell the character of a leader not by how they are treated by their equals, but by how they are viewed by those under them.
  • Leadership is not about waiting until people call you a leader. It’s about doing everything you can to lead right where you are.

Talent Magnet: How to Attract and Keep the Best People by Mark Miller. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 155 pages. 2018

In his latest book, given the growing need organizations have for talented people to sustain a competitive advantage, Mark Miller looks at what is really required to attract “Top Talent”. He tells us that what attracts and keeps Top Talent is different from what attracts and keeps typical talent.
I have read and benefitted from many of the author’s books. As is his custom, he teaches through an entertaining fable, much like those of Patrick Lencioni and Ken Blanchard. We meet Blake, the CEO of a successful high-performance organization. However, he has just been told by Human Resources that they will not be able to staff the company’s near-term plans, instead suggesting that Blake reduce the organization’s growth goals. You too may be dealing with this “war for talent”. This is not just a problem for Blake’s organization, as he realizes when he engages in a peer mentoring group of eight CEOs from a diverse set of businesses. Many, if not all, organizations are dealing with how to attract and keep talented people.
At the same time, for personal reasons, Blake’s son Clint desires to raise funds to buy a well in an emerging country. Clint and his friends decide to get summer jobs to raise the $8,000 to dig the well.
Blake wants his organization to become a Talent Magnet, a place so attractive, that Top Talent will be standing in line to work there. Blake and his team visit several organizations that have solid reputations for outstanding people to see if they can identify the primary motivations for Top Talent. Is Top Talent attracted by different factors than typical talent?
As this is occurring, Clint and his friends check out businesses that they are considering to work at that summer. As they do, they realize that they want something more in those organizations, and they slowly begin building a list of criteria.
Blake and his team then begin working to clarify the components of a Talent Magnet and the key leadership behaviors/best practices needed. Is it possible that he can learn how he can create a Talent Magnet from his son Clint?
Mark Miller has done it again in this entertaining fable built on new research. Highly recommended.

Why Does Your Business Exist? A Christian Business Guide to Creating your Mission, Vision, and Values Statements by Chris Patton. 40 pages. 2017

I have read and benefitted from the author’s faith and work blog for a few years now. He writes that you can come to a place where you have a clear purpose for your work in the business and for the business itself. That purpose can be meaningful and can give you the confidence that your impact will outlast your time in the organization. In this short book, he gives us steps to follow to do just that.
The author tells us that while the overall process described in his book is an extensive one, he recommends you compact it into the shortest time possible. He tells us that the steps in the book might stand on their own as individual meetings, or they could be segments of one or more larger meetings. For the purpose of the book, he describes them as individual meetings. At the end of each step the author provides a helpful “Action Steps Checklist”.

The steps are:
Step One: Determine the Team. The first step is to determine the team that will be charged with executing this process.
Step Two: Sell the Why. Get your team together and sell them on why this process is so critical to your future success.
Step Three: Pray Together. The author strongly suggests that once you have the team on board, you stop to pray together before moving forward. He states that if you are convinced that this is God’s business, then you need to seek His wisdom as you proceed.
Step Four: Brain Dump! The idea is to dump every thought or idea onto the table so that you can sort through them to come up with your eventual finished products.
Step Five: Create the Mission Statement. Why does your company exist? That is the core question that a mission (or purpose) statement is supposed to answer.
Step Six: Create the Vision Statement. If the mission statement answers the question, “Why does the business exist?”, then the vision statement describes what the business will look like in the future, where it is going, and/or what it will become.
Step Seven: Create the Core Values. The core values of a business are those qualities that will be true of the business regardless of the market, industry, or timeframe considered.
Step Eight: The Vetting Process. The author strongly suggests that you present your final drafts of the mission, vision, and core values to at least two to three other godly individuals for their review.
Step Nine: Launch! The key is to cast the vision to your employee base first. The author states that your job, as business owner or leader, is to over-communicate your new mission, vision, and values to your entire employee base.

This book provides a very helpful blueprint to follow in helping you determine why your business exists. It won’t take long to read, and the benefits will far outweigh the time you invest in reading the book.
You can subscribe to Chris’s blog here.

The Captain Class: The Hidden Force behind the World’s Greatest Teams, by Sam Walker. Ebury Press

The author is the former global sports editor of The Wall Street Journal. During his time as a sportswriter, he covered some great teams, including the 2004 Boston Red Sox. He would write down what he heard from the members of those teams. In this book, he writes of his eleven-year study of 1,200 sports teams since the 1880’s. From that study, he came up with sixteen teams which fit into what he calls “Tier One” teams. American sports fans might be surprised to read about which teams are not on his list – Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins, being two of them. He asks what the most dominant teams in history had in common, and answers that the key is the character of the player who leads the team.
He writes that elite-level captains are not the sort we imagine and shares seven traits of elite captains with helpful examples of captains who demonstrated each. The seven traits are:

  1. They were relentless, tenacious. They gave everything they had.
  2. They pushed the rules to the breaking point.
  3. They led from the back. They were “water carriers”. I particularly liked this trait as it spoke of servant leadership. The author states that the easiest way to lead is to serve.
  4. They were effective communicators.
  5. They motivated with non-verbal displays.
  6. They were not afraid to speak uncomfortable truths.
  7. They demonstrated the ability to regulate their emotions.

An interesting chapter was on “false idols”. Here, the author writes that while Michael Jordan was a great player, he was not a great captain, giving that credit on the Chicago Bulls to Bill Cartwright and Scottie Pippin, who were co-captains with Jordan.
Some of the sports teams and captains he writes about will most likely be new to American readers, such as soccer, rugby, handball and women’s volleyball. I most enjoyed reading about captains I was familiar with, such as Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics, Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees and Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs.
The book, which includes some adult language, focuses on the world of sports, but the principles included will easily translate to other organizations (businesses, churches and non-profits). The author references research studies and includes helpful takeaways, summarizing the main points from the chapter. Although you may not agree with all the teams which made the author’s “Tier One” teams, or his conclusions about Michael Jordan, I believe you will find this an interesting and helpful read.
I first heard about this book from Brian Dodd. Here he shares 25 quotes from the book.