#024 – Faith As Usual – Placebos and Side Roads

We started Integriosity #001 by saying that many leaders who are guided by the Bible in their personal lives and sincerely want to live an integrated faith life at work are confused or frustrated or even intimidated. Some have given up. Others think they are doing it, but they are actually missing the mark.  We call the problem faith as usual, and we believe it is rooted in five Placebos that lead to six Side Roads.

Unfortunately, the risks of relying on a Placebo and stumbling down a Side Road include:

  • Missed purpose for the organization
  • Missed calling for its leaders
  • Missed flourishing of its people

What is commonly called the “faith and work movement” is at least 90 years old–the Christian Business Men’s Committee (CBMC) was started in 1930.  Anyone exploring the topic of faith/work integration will realize that there is no shortage of excellent content (hundreds or even thousands of books), conferences, ministries and coaches devoted to the “faith and work movement”, but the disappointing statistics cited in earlier posts about workplaces, work and workers being broken and about the vast majority of self-identified Christians lacking a Biblical understanding of faith/work integration suggests something isn’t working.  There seems to be a surprising shortage of understanding among people of faith and, even more so, of institutional “heart-changing” implementation by business leaders of faith. Our mission is not to add more “content” to the already voluminous pile of faith/work material–it is to help leaders and organizations imagine and implement a bigger “Why” and actually do “business a better way”.

We believe these problems frequently are the result of hearing a misguided message, an incomplete message or a purely theological message (and then wondering how it practically applies “back at the office”).  Unfortunately, much “faith/work” content and rhetoric leads well-intentioned leaders astray and they end up with a “Placebo” instead of the red pill.

Sometimes, leaders with the very best intentions of integrating their faith and their work get sidetracked down paths that are “good” but not transformative.  Jeremiah 18:15 talks about this in relation to the “ancient roads” of Jeremiah 6:16–we can stumble onto SIDE ROADS:   “But my people have forgotten me; they make offerings to false gods; they made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient roads, and to walk into SIDE ROADS. not the highway.” (Jeremiah 18:15).  We believe these “false gods” can be presented as the red pill of “business a better way” but actually be empty capsules or “feel good” Placebos.

But my people have forgotten me; they make offerings to false gods; they made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient roads, and to walk into side roads, not the highway. (Jeremiah 18:15)

The next several posts will explore five common “Placebos” that can lead well-intentioned leaders to stumble down “side roads”:

  • The “4-Hour Content” Pill
  • The “Save or Give” Pill
  • The “Add Some Faith” Pill
  • The “Bless You” Pill
  • The “Success First” Pill

These placebos can divert leaders down six common “Faith as Usual” side roads that are often advertised as the red pill of business a better way but, we believe, actually miss the ancient path.  In the next few posts, we will explain these six reactions to the five Placebos:

  • Agonize
  • Individualize
  • Monetize
  • Cosmeticize
  • Prosperitize
  • Interimize

It is important to emphasize that none of these “side roads” is bad–they are better than doing nothing.  BUT, they are not the best–we believe they are not what God calls us to in stewarding organizations of humans pursuing their humanity through work.  Sadly, the “side roads” often make us feel good about ourselves (and lead to huge pats on the back and even notoriety from the church and the faith/work movement), so we don’t seek more.  We believe more is much harder, but it is necessary and worth the journey. That journey is the journey of Integriosity®.

PERSONAL NOTE (from PM):  As God drew me down the road to Integrous and the concept of Integriosity, I believe He opened my eyes to these Placebos and Side Roads.  I became involved with the faith/work movement and observed the stories and testimonies of many good-hearted, well-intentioned business, non-profit and organizational leaders who were actively trying to live an integrous life of faith.  At the same time, I was profoundly impacted by several books that began to reveal that there was more–a more transformational way of looking at the nature and possibilities of work and organizations in the context of God’s Kingdom.  Several speaking and teaching opportunities (including opportunities to deliver the keynote address at a YMCA Good Friday Prayer Breakfast, to speak to a Priority Associates gathering in New York, to speak on panels at InterVarsity’s Believers in Business and Christian Union’s DOXA and NEXUS conferences, to help plan the Movement Day Professionals and Marketplace Track for several years and to serve as a mentor to entrepreneurs in the early days of the Praxis accelerator) focused my thinking and prayers on topics like ambition, trust, purpose, identity and integrity.  That led to recognizing some common patterns and responses that seemed to miss the best for the good–the Placebos and Side Roads.  These are the book that most shaped that journey:

  • James Hunter’s book To Change the World when he launched it at the 2010 New Canaan Society national retreat.
  • Jeff Van Duzer’s book Why Business Matters To God when I heard him speak at the 2012 InterVarsity Believers in Business Conference
  • NT Wright’s books After You Believe and Surprised By Hope after hearing him speak at the 2013 New Canaan Society national retreat
  • Michael Stallard’s book Connection Culture (and its original version, called Fired Up or Burned Out after we became friends through the New Canaan Society)
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