As any competent, professional motivational speaker or personal executive coach knows, the most difficult thing is to find the key in someone that turns an individual from mere mental understanding to actually changing the way they think and behave. The conceptual is indeed Square One. However, many times, Square Two-genuine action- seldom happens, and if it does, it’s short-lived. We humans are hard to change. Our fallen, insecure nature resists it. As the script-writer of the film Godfather III noted, “Forgiveness is not the critical issue; it’s change.”
Having pastored people and leaders for nearly thirty-five years, I have seen more “smoke than fire,” in terms of lasting change. The problem isn’t on God’s side; indeed, He can change us. The problem is on our side. We are creatures of habit, and few people truly understand the real power of habits. Habits are the outward fruits of mental paradigms, shaped by life experiences, and driven by values and motives which are frequently unseen by the person who holds them. I have come to believe that virtually all permanent, redemptive change is a miracle. Most change in people is simply the old me in new clothes. Once we understand what a miracle real change is, when we sense the possibility for it to occur, we jump at the opportunity. Being “stuck” is the bonding agent for depression, cynicism, and the many faces of failure.
Jesus walked on earth as history’s master “change agent.” He constantly talked about true transformation. Birthed in God, it always involved the human heart, that is, the centering point of our human values and commitments. Accordingly, faith can be defined as the spiritual catalyst that jump-starts new values and perspectives. I am still not sure which is the greater miracle. Is it the ability to cast aside the safe old familiar ways, even if they aren’t working, or is it the knowing, somewhere in our deepest being, that change is mine if I but seize it? God knows. He made us.
If by now you are bored reading these observations in a business magazine, you should stop reading now. You don’t get it, and until you see that these issues far transcend “economic theory” or “best business practices,” you won’t change no matter how much new business information enters your skull. The conceptual part is the easy part. The next two parts are what separate the men from the boys. Phase two is measuring my current thinking and practices against the new information I may have received. That takes courage, honesty, and humility, something no MBA can give us. Phase three is even harder. Here we must fight, dig, and claw to find the end of the string, marked “lasting change.” The Bible calls this phase, “laboring to enter into His rest.” Yes indeed. It is often labor as in hard work and “labor” as in birthing someone new!
So here is my first bottom line. Business is about us as leaders, which means us as people. What is on the inside of us is what we actually create on the outside of us.
To change the outside, we must first change its source, the inside. We can talk about cycles, laws, marketshare, and all the rest of it. Good but no cigar. The real test of our success is first revealed on the inside of us, not the theories we intellectually affirm or even whatever short-run dollars we may accumulate based on new ideas.
So, where do we go once we say “Amen,” affirming that we really do want to grow and change? The right answer also happens to be the real answer. We go to God, our Creator, Coach, and Fight-Manager. He and He alone knows how we’re wired and what got us here. He and He alone knows the information we truly need to supply the missing ingredients to get us unstuck from depression, cynicism, and the many faces of failure. He and He alone knows the opponents we are ready to confront. New battles take us to new levels of confidence, skill, and conditioning commensurate with our next level of play. Obviously, we are talking here about a level of intimacy with God that exceeds casual self-interest requests of God for cash or success, or “now I lay me down to sleep” prayers. We are talking about the most important thing: regular, strategic time with God which precedes true, lasting change.
We have operated our School of Business Leadership for a number of years, both in the U.S. and abroad. Numbers of smart and successful people have gone through the material. It is unique, to my knowledge. The issue here, however, transcends our curriculum or the “smarts” of the people experiencing it. It all seems to come down to one thing. It is the pregnant question. Will you isolate yourself before God to let the material measure your life and business skills before Him, and will you intentionally and strategically measure your results against the questions the Holy Spirit will inevitably ask you? They are often painful questions.
Business is about change, especially in today’s globally intertwined markets driven increasingly by advancing technology. Change is about changing people, and changing people is about changing ourselves. Changing ourselves is about our exchanges relationally with God. Out of those exchanges come the power and insight to help facilitate change in others.
Because God builds relationally, all this strategic time I am talking about between us and God cannot and will not take place in a vacuum. It will involve some key people in our relational circle of intimacy.
For those of us who are married, it must include our “two shall become one” spouses. In a healthy family, it will touch and involve our children, if not now, certainly in the future. As a process, it must be re-enforced also by others who are in the game with us for true transformation and growth. It will definitely involve a trusted, experienced mentor or two. Biblical discipleship is Christ’s modeled methodology for both experiencing and promoting personal transformation. Transformation is not only a cathartic process, it is a relational “dance” between key people in our immediate circles of intimacy. All of this becomes real to us as God unfolds it when our conversation with Him moves from “my needs” to His critical-path strategy to grow me up on the inside. When this begins to happen between God and self, we can partner together to change an expanding circle of influence.
So where do we start or re-enforce the areas of our current needed transformation? We start with time, our most valuable asset. We must take the time to stop the “machine” and slow down to God’s conversation speed. The Lord seldom talks to us when we constantly live at warp speed. So, where is that extra time? It actually doesn’t exist. There is no extra time; there is only time. We all have 24 hours. The question is prioritizing what fits where and what gets passed over when our priorities change. When genuine strategic thinking and praying ascends in importance to the foundation of our being and priorities, everything else is not re-aligned; it is simplified as it becomes honed and made more effective by clear thinking and pinpoint praying. The problem is, until we see this level of reality, we don’t have time to learn the art of strategic thinking and praying; we only have time to do things relatively ineffectively and certainly in the wrong order. What is not first done in the spiritual realm with God’s insight is done poorly in the natural realm, and with a whole lot of wasted time, energy, and resources!
So what is the most important thing for Christian business people? Money? Skills? Results? No, the most important thing is learning to build with God. That doesn’t happen unless and until we begin to see what we have been talking about here and engage the process. Thirty, sixty, and one-hundred fold increase is the promise of God to those living in the process of God. Why settle for rate-of-returns of a meager 100 or 200 percent when thirty, sixty, and hundred fold returns are available? All it takes is “the most important thing,” and that is strategic, maturing, co-building with God from the spiritual realm out to the manifested realm. This is the real game, the eternal game.
By Dennis Peacocke. This article originally appeared in the July/August 2005 edition of Business Reform Magazine.