#179 – “Leading Faithfully” Basics – The Misses of “Faith as Usual”

ESSENCE: Faithful leaders seeking to lead with faithful integrity can get detoured from the ancient path toward business a better way.  The world–and our culture–does not want a faithful leader on the ancient path.  But the world and our culture are not the only stumbling blocks that can lead a faithful leader with the best of intentions to “miss the mark”.  Good-intentioned “faith” messages we call faith as usual can also lead to detours.  We call those detours Side Roads when they substitute a lesser “good” for the “best” of transformational heart-change in the organization–transformation of its WHY.  We have identified seven common Side RoadsAgonizingIndividualizing, Monetizing, Cosmeticizing, Monastecizing, Prosperitizing and Interimizing.  We believe these Side Roads flow from five common Placebos–messages about leading faithfully that we believe “miss the mark” of God’s purpose for work and business.  Unfortunately, the risks of relying on a Placebo and stumbling down a Side Road–“missing the mark”–include missed purpose for the organization, missed calling for its leaders, and missed flourishing of its people.

“Leading Faithfully” Basics is about going back and re-examining the basics of leading faithfully through business a better way–business in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.

In Leading Faithfully Basics post #160 (The Ancient Path), we said every faithful leader is on a path of some sort, but leading with faithful integrity requires getting on, and staying on, the right path.  We believe many good-intentioned, faithful leaders never find the right path to faithful integrity, or stumble off it, because of good-intentioned “faith” messages that send them in the wrong direction–“bad theology” or, at least, poor communication of good theology that create stumbling blocks that substitute the “good” for the “best”.

Those stumbling blocks are what we call faith as usual.

Refresher: The Ancient Path

We believe the only right path for a faithful leader seeking to lead with faithful integrity through business a better way is the ancient path referenced in Jeremiah 6:16.

Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.

Leading faithfully on the ancient path of business a better way in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities requires finding the on-ramp, getting on, and then not stumbling off.  It starts with creating an organizational purpose, values and culture centered on what God cares about–and that isn’t profit (or mammon).

If you search “path” and “road” in the Bible you get many occurrences. But there are only two references to the “ancient” path. One is the instruction in Jeremiah 6:16, and the other is a warning in Jeremiah 18:15.

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.

The world–and our culture–does not want a faithful leader on the ancient path.  The spirit of mammon at the core of business as usual is working against it 24/7/365.  It is the false god at the heart of Profit as Purpose!

But the world and our culture are not the only stumbling blocks that can lead a faithful leader with the best of intentions to “miss the mark”.

Faith As Usual and Faith/Work Integration

What is commonly called the “faith and work movement” is over 90 years old–the Christian Business Men’s Committee (CBMC) was started in 1930.  If you are interested in the theological history of the relationship between faith and work and the history of the “faith and work movement”, two good resources to start with are David Miller’s God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement and John Knapp’s How the Church Fails Businesspeople (and what can be done about it).

While there is no shortage of excellent content (hundreds or even thousands of books), conferences, ministries and coaches devoted to the “faith and work movement”, 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.

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.

Unfortunately, business as usual is not the only obstacle to be navigated by a faithful leader wanting to get on the ancient path.  A faithful leader needs to understand the path itself, but the application of Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities to organizational leadership is not standard fare in most churches. In the words of Max Depree:

Unless somebody articulates something different, you are going to adopt a secular standard without even thinking about it.

What we call faith as usual can block the on-ramp and divert well-intentioned, faithful leaders onto a Jeremiah 18:15 side road by offering various empty “feel-good” placebos advertised as the ancient path.  Often, the faithful leader believes they are pursuing the ancient path, but it is based on “bad theology” or, at least, poor communication of good theology.

We believe any faith/work message that leaves Profit as Purpose–the false god of mammon–at the heart of the organization is likely faith as usual.

Side roads are not inherently bad–in fact, they are better than doing nothing at all.  But side roads are not transformative and can lull the leader into believing they are on the ancient path when they are missing deeper purpose for the organization, deeper calling for themselves and deeper flourishing for their people.  In his book Ekklesia, Ed Silvoso writes:

The enemy of the ‘best’ . . . is the ‘good,’ because by being so satisfying, it deprives us of the hunger for the ‘much more’ that in this case God has in store.

The goal of Integriosity is to create the guard rails that can help a faithful leader seeking to lead with faithful integrity on the path to the “much more . . . God has in store“.  But that starts with calling out the stumbling blocks and the side roads they lead to so that a faithful leader can avoid them on their ancient path journey to faithful integrity through business a better way.

They made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient roads, and to walk into side roads, not the highway. (Jeremiah 18:15)

The Faith As Usual Stumbling Blocks and Misses

In exposing the stumbling blocks, we will talk about Placebos, Side Roads and MissesPlacebos are the “empty pill” stumbling blocks (remember our “Red Pill”/”Blue Pill” choice from post #157 inspired by the movie The Matrix?) that lead to Side Roads off the ancient path of business a better way, which result in Misses–missing God’s best for the faithful leader, the organization and its employees.  Not bad (i.e., better than business as usual at its worst)–just not God’s best.


We have identified five common “Placebos” that can lead well-intentioned, faithful leaders to stumble down Side Roads:

The “4-Hour Content” Pill:  Faith without context

The “Save or Give” Pill:  Faith on a limited platform

The “Add Some Faith” PillFaith as the frosting

The “Bless You” PillFaith as an ATM password

The “Success First” PillFaith when the time is right

Side Roads.

We have identified seven common Side Roads that can undermine leading faithfully:

AgonizeAll about nothing.

Individualize:  All about me.

Monetize:  All about money.

Cosmeticize:  All about symbols.

MonastecizeAll about us.

Prosperitize:  All about blessings.

Interimize:  All about success.


We have identified six problems that can result from the seven Side Roads that flow from the five Placebos (feels like there should a “Partridge in a Pear Tree” somewhere in here).

• Missed Purpose for the Organization:  We believe there is a bigger WHY for organizations than the profit maximization purpose characteristic of business as usual, but that WHY will be missed if the organization forgoes “heart” transformation by getting stuck on a Side Road.

• Missed Calling for Its Leaders:  We believe faithful leaders of organizations of humans are called to steward in a way that humanizes people, beautifies the world and, in the process, glorifies God.  Sadly, the Side Roads often make faithful leaders feel good about themselves (and can even lead to huge pats on the back and even notoriety from the church and the faith/work movement), so they don’t see the need to seek more. They will miss leading with faithful integrity and miss the best God has for them as leaders.

• Missed Flourishing for Its People:  If an organization gets detoured onto a Side Road that keeps it pursuing business as usual, it will miss the opportunity to glorify God by providing opportunities for individuals to express aspects of their God-given identities in creative and meaningful work, by providing opportunities, goods and services that enable families and communities to flourish and by creating a culture of Shalom conducive to the flourishing of all people it touches.  It will miss business a better way.

• Increased Misery:  Ironically, the Side Road of Monetizing can actually increase the misery of an organization’s people by seeking to extract increasing amounts of profit to give away to “good causes” by continuing to pursue business as usual.

• Increased Hypocrisy:  The Side Roads of Cosmeticizing and Monastecizing can lead to greater faith “hypocrisy” by pursuing business as usual while displaying overt symbols of faith.

• Unsustainability:  Even efforts at real “heart” transformation to business a better way are unsustainable if detoured on the Side Road of Prosperitizing because the motivation for change is dependent on receiving the continued “blessing” of financial success.

Side Roads keep faithful leaders and organizations they lead off the ancient path of the real “heart” transformation found through the red pill of business a better way. They keep the organization in the deep hole of business as usual and may even push it deeper–often while the faithful leader honestly believes they are pursuing God’s purpose for their work and organization.

We believe the more of transformation is much harder, but getting out of the hole is necessary and worth the journey. That journey is the journey of leading with faithful integrity pursuing business a better way.

PERSONAL NOTE (from PM):  I personally lived out Agonizing and Individualizing and dabbled in Monetizing.  I have observed and listened to examples of the others (often from leaders put on stage as models at faith/work events).

When my faith was renewed in 2003 and I began to think about what my new-found faith meant for my practice of law, I quickly entered a state of Agonizing.  I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do. I never found a “how-to” book for practicing law as a follower of Jesus in a large Wall Street law firm, and I certainly didn’t find any role models in the halls.  I put a Bible on my bookshelf and for five years never really got past Individualizing when God called me to walk a different path.  Although I never really detoured down the Side Road of Monetizing because I never really took The “Save or Give” Pill,  there was a significant increase in our giving (and a dramatic shift in the beneficiaries of our giving) and it probably assuaged some of my guilt for not really knowing what to do.

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Photo Credit: Original photo by iQoncept on Shutterstock (photo cropped)