Does the Everyday Mundane Matter?

Do you believe the everyday activity of ordinary Christians has deep religious significance? The answer really depends on when in the history of the church you ask it.

Prior to the Reformation, Christians in the medieval church would have answered no. They believed only priests did spiritual work. All other activity was secular.

It was the sixteenth century reformers, men like Martin Lutherand John Calvin, who rediscovered the biblical idea that everything we do is important to God.

These men encouraged Christians to be salt and light in the world. They believed it was possible to maintain integrity of faith while injecting Christian influence within society.

They were right.

Western civilization is replete with examples of followers of Christ who positively shaped culture through their work in the fields to which God had called them.

Many American evangelicals during the last seventy-five years have let the sacred/secular distinction corrupt their worldview in such a way that they leave their faith at home when they enter the public square.

They are ambivalent about engaging with social and political matters, as the Reformers urged.

They fear involvement in such secular matters will compromise the integrity of their faith.

They are convinced faith is a private matter and best kept that way.

They have lost sight of the spiritual significance of their work.

To be sure, the risk they have identified is real. Being in the world but not of it is not easy. It is not safe. But it is what we are called to be.

These thoughts came to me recently as I was finishing Carl Henry’s Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, published in 1947. In this book, Henry, an American evangelical theologian who served as Christianity Today‘s first editor-in-chief, wrote a stinging critique of Christian fundamentalism in the late 1940s.

Almost prophetically, Henry argued fundamentalists did not present Christianity as a worldview with a vision for impacting culture. Instead, they chose to emphasize personal salvation. In doing so, they offered a truncated, impoverished version of the gospel to the world. This gospel was too other-worldly and anti-intellectual to be taken seriously.

And so, in their efforts to preserve orthodox Christianity from modernity and liberalism at the beginning of the twentieth century, evangelicals lost an important ingredient that has been a powerful influence throughout the 2,000 years of Christian history. They forgot how to be leaven in the loaf. (Matthew 13:33)

The good news is that sixty years later, many of Henry’s hopes for evangelicalism are beginning to be realized. Today’s evangelicals are re-engaging many social and political issues and working together to influence culture for the kingdom.

Yet the importance of our daily vocational work in the furtherance of God’s kingdom is still lost on many believers. Many still feel they need to quit their jobs and start working for ministries or non-profits to truly make a difference in the world. They don’t. They can be salt and light right where they currently work.

Bringing faith to work or anywhere else in the public square runs many risks, but it is essential if Christians are to be leaven where leavening is most needed.

If Christianity is to once again become a positive influence in American public life, all Christians need to be present within that life as salt and light. Christians need to leave the safety of their Christian ghettos and take the risks necessary for reforming, renewing, and recalling today’s culture.

The legacy of the Reformation invites us to engage the world. It instructs us in how to do so with integrity and as public witnesses to the power of the gospel.

So, do you believe the everyday activity of ordinary Christians has deep religious significance?

The real question should be “Does the Bible teach that the everyday activity of ordinary Christians has deep religious significance?”

The answer is yes, absolutely yes, in any age.


Originally published by the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE). ©Institute for Faith, Work & Economics 2015. Used by permission.

Leadership = Influence

Recently I have been doing quite a bit of “unfettering” in the area of leadership. The simple definition of leadership that I have clung to for years is … the ability to influence others to do great things. Breaking this down, what I love so much about this definition is … … the focus on ABILITY vs. title, possessions, power, compensation, rank, and so forth. And what is cool about that is everyone has ability. It is inside each one of us. Thus, we are all leaders because we all have the ability to influence.

… the emphasis on INFLUENCE. Leadership is an everyday experience because every day we are placed in situations where we are influencing others (intentionally and unintentionally). At work, at home, at the store, on the phone, waiting in line, driving in traffic, interacting with people. With our spouse, our children, our parents, our customers, our co-workers. A great story about Everyday Leadership is a TED Talk by Drew Dudley who shares what is a “lollipop moment” as it applies to leadership. Let’s don’t make leadership something so big that we are afraid of it or don’t believe it applies to us … leadership / influence is an every day opportunity.

… the priority on OTHERS. Leadership is primarily about serving others — not elevating one’s self. One can only lead to the extent one is willing to serve.

… the quest for GREAT things. Leadership and influence can be used for bad things, minor things, mediocre things, the ordinary, the normal. No … let’s use our influence to spark others to achieve greatness.

A passage from the book “Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson inspires all of us to lead and influence …

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

4 Domains of Strengths Based Leadership and Teams

Imagine dog sledding in Canada for the very first time. You're holding onto the back of your sled for dear life as you whip around steep curves at lightning speed. Up ahead of you is a sharp turn and you notice that your sled is teetering on the edge of the mountain. You are riding the thin line between falling off the mountain and creating momentum behind your dogs. This was my wife and my experience when we went to Canmore, Canada a few years ago. We had a dog sledding adventure—a first for both of us. (I highly recommend the experience.)

Dog sledding in Canada taught us so many things about leadership, teamwork, and strengths. On our trip, we met a young man named Jereme, who I call “the dog whisperer” because of his expert knowledge of his dogs and how to communicate with them. He was our guide and he took the time to teach my wife and I all about his team.

During our dog sledding adventure with Jereme, I couldn't help but think about the four domains of leadership, each containing a sampling of the thirty four talent themes as outlined in Gallup's Strengths Based Leadership book.

Lead Dogs – Executing - Work Harder

“Follow me, Brent.” He said commandingly and Rhonda and I did just that as Jereme led us to meet the first two dogs on the team.

“These are my lead dogs,” he explained to us, “Lead dogs are not necessarily the smartest, and they're not necessarily the fastest, but they're the best listeners, and they follow commands well.”

Jereme emphasized that it was important to know your lead dogs names so you could communicate with them frequently. After all, they are the leaders of their team. The other dogs respect them and follow them because of their leadership strength.

Lead dogs in dog sledding are not so different from what Gallup calls executing leaders. These domain of strengths are all about production and working harder.

A leader with Arranger – Achiever may work tirelessly to create the perfect configuration of systems.

Point Dogs – Strategic - Think Smarter 

Jereme pointed to the next two dogs directly behind the lead dogs. “These are the point dogs. They have vision and help navigate the direction of the team towards the destination.” These dogs apply just enough pressure to steer the lead dogs.

Point dogs, like those of us in positions of strategic leadership, are the thinkers, the heady intellectuals who tend to strategize and point us towards the future. They help the team to think smarter.

Leaders with Context – Strategic talents are exceptional at reviewing the past and finding the best route to grow their organization.

Swing Dogs – Influencing - Motivate Faster 

“It's very interesting,” Jereme said about the next two dogs. “You take an old dog and a young dog, pair them together, and you have swing dogs.” The older dogs have been around the mountains for many years, trekked endless trails, and accrued their share of bumps and bruises along the way. Of course, they have lost a bit of their zest, their energy, their pep.

But then you pair this older dog with a younger dog who has loads of enthusiasm, energy, and ability but lacks experience and wisdom and they influence and bring out the best in each other so that the team accomplishes its goal. This pair of dogs helps the team handle change and sharp turns.

The swing dogs fall into the influencing domain. These are the leaders who use their strengths to influence, sell and motivate others faster.

An influencing leader may shine with Communication – WOO drawing in new clients with likeable entertaining stories.

Wheel Dogs – Relationship - Care Better 

“These are the strongest dogs and biggest hearted dogs,” Jereme pointed, “and they're called wheel dogs.” The wheels dogs just want to please the driver. Easily the strongest dogs on the team, they love to pull, they love to work, and they love to do their job usually with very little recognition.

The wheel dogs have relationship strengths. They are the people adept at social - emotional intelligence, relating with others, and showing empathy and love. They help teams care better.

Leaders are like stars. The have unique edgy points that make them standout differently than anyone else. Teams need to be well rounded. Incorporating all types of talent and strengths for greater effectiveness.

Dominant relationship oriented leaders with Relator – Developer will build long term loyalty and mentorship.

Would you and your organization like to better understand your strengths based leadership styles?

Bring GALLUP Certified Strengths Coach and Convene Resource Specialist, Brent O’Bannon to your Forum Day or organization. Learn more at

Two Leadership Lessons I Wish I’d Known

I was asked to talk to a local high school class about leading a business.  Great kids, who were quite attentive (or just may have been glad to not have homework). Leading…hmm…what did I not know back in my high school days?  What did I assume it took?  And as I thought about it, what do my employees think it takes?  What ideas am I intentionally, or unintentionally, communicating about what it takes to succeed at our company?

So I started our time by asking the class - what do you think it takes to succeed in business?  As you might imagine, they listed all sorts of things – intelligence, luck, skill, creativity, who you know, money, good looks (obviously, they weren’t talking about me), power, etc.

I then asked them how things got done in a business – “By hard work,” they said.  “Through planning, by getting the right people together….”   They all quickly came to one conclusion – through people.

How interesting…the first list included a lot, but not people.  And then the realization that people are what makes it all work.

Lesson One I Didn’t Know – People are the thing that makes our business grow.

“So,” I now asked, “how do you lead people?  What is leadership?”  They had all sorts of definitions, but we talked further about two we’ve all heard before:  leadership is influence (Maxwell) and leadership is getting things done through others (various).

Given that, who has influenced you the most?  How did that happen?  The names that came to mind included coaches, teachers, grandparents, parents, friends.  OK – then tell me what you thought about them.  What was it about them that you chose to follow them in those moments?

The thoughts came quickly as I wrote them on the board…“Respect (for me), they listened, he was patient, she cared, they stuck by me when it was hard, he explained things to me, she didn’t get mad when she should have, they forgave…”

Looking at the list, themes came through.  Patient, kind, self-control, humility…  Is that the kind of leader you want to be?  “Yes” was the resounding answer.

Since it was a Christian school, two scripture passages came to the forefront – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and Galatians 6:22-23.  You might want to look them up if its been awhile.   I’ve since learned also of a book call “The Servant” by James Hunter - a great business fable that covers this second lesson.

Lesson Two I Didn’t Know – Lead by loving your employees.

Love people to lead.  Serve.  Go figure.  I wish I’d learned that earlier, and am so glad I know it now.  You?

No Hero Without a Mission

Ever notice that heroes always have a mission? Without a mission, there simply is no hero. In comic books and superhero movies the mission often involves “saving the world” or “saving millions of lives from disaster” or some other dramatic quest. Businesses and organizations often have mission statements that ideally translate into “missions” that drive and influence day-to-day behaviors and choices. Heroes in organizations are those that significantly advance the mission. Steve Jobs, Cheryl Bachelder, Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson, Ewing Kaufmann might be good examples.

Then there are heroes that have a national mission such as our military veterans, Presidents (e.g, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy), Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Ghandi.

We have religious heroes who advance and defend their faith — the saints, the Pope, Billy Graham, pastors.

Parents and grandparents theoretically have a mission related to raising their children. If done well they are viewed as heroes. “My mom is my hero.” “My dad is my hero.”

Who are your heroes? What was or is their mission? More significant … WHAT IS YOUR MISSION?

Define and state your mission … and BE A HERO!