Rethinking Fulfillment from Our Work : Barry Rowan
Why is it important for us to think deeply about fulfillment, significance, and meaning when it comes to our work in this world? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Barry Rowan. Barry is a graduate of Harvard Business School and has been instrumental in building and transforming eight different businesses, including one that was sold for $10 billion. Barry has immersed himself in connecting the daily grind with the divine, and he is the author of The Spiritual Art of Business. Together, Barry and Jason look at rethinking our view of fulfillment in our lives and ministries. Barry also provides some incredible wisdom and encouragement when it comes to work and rest, activity and contemplation.
Looking to dig more deeply into this topic and conversation? Every week we go the extra mile and create a free toolkit so you and your ministry team can dive deeper into the topic that is discussed. Find your Weekly Toolkit below… Love well, Live well, Lead well!
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- Additional resource links from this week’s conversation – so you and your team can easily find what is mentioned or referenced
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Additional Resource Links
The Spiritual Art of Business: Connecting the Daily with the Divine – In his book, Barry invites us to be transformed by God that he might transform the world through us as we begin to see our work as an extension of our faith. He says, “We don’t derive meaning from our work; we bring meaning to our work.” Relating his extensive past in high-ranking executive roles, Rowan beckons us into a connection with God that will infuse our lives, our offices, and our world with meaning.
Connect with Barry – LinkedIn
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Ministry Leaders Growth Guide
Key Insights and Concepts
- Any vocation, not just pastoral, can be an opportunity for ministry and for God to work in the hearts of His people.
- Accomplishments and achievements, while not inherently bad, can easily become gods and take priority over the Lord and His authority.
- People regularly experience disappointment when they believe what they achieve will bring them fulfillment.
- Achievement is the output. Relationship with God is the input.
- People in all vocations can use their gifts and talents to express Christ in their work and bring Him glory.
- Pastors and ministry leaders may often have a hard time developing a life-giving view of their work, whereas those in other professions may have a hard time viewing their work as meaningful to the Kingdom.
- Every moment contains a way to advance the Kingdom of God if there is the act of surrendering those moments to Him.
- Getting everything checked off a list is not the goal, but utilizing a list as an overview of how time was spent and if those tasks and moments were used to advance God’s Kingdom can be useful.
- Work was created for humankind before the Fall. Therefore, work should be viewed as a gift rather than a necessary evil.
- Pastors, ministry leaders, and the whole Church are all seamlessly in ministry together without any division based on profession or title because everything is under the Lordship of Christ.
- The life of a Christ-follower should align with God’s purposes and acknowledge a rhythm across the different aspects of life with others, such as work, marriage, friendship, and parenting.
- Pastors and ministry leaders can help their congregation by modeling and encouraging others to embrace a seamless, integrated life with God.
Questions for Reflection
- How can I recognize and embrace opportunities for ministry within my current vocation, regardless of its nature?
- How do I currently view achievements and accomplishments in my life and ministry? Do I tend to look to these for fulfillment? Are there changes I need to make? If so, what?
- In what ways am I actively cultivating and nurturing my relationship with God as the foundation of my life and work?
- When it comes to living a full life, how do I personally experience the “input” and “output”? How is this working for me?
- How can I use my unique gifts and talents to reflect Christ through my work and contribute to bringing Him glory?
- Do I sometimes struggle to find meaning and purpose in my work or seemingly mundane tasks, or do I view it as a way to advance God’s Kingdom? How can I shift my perspective?
- Can I identify moments in my daily life where I can surrender to God’s guidance and use those moments to advance His Kingdom? How can I become more intentional in this surrender?
- What is my current relationship with “To Do” lists? How do I use them in my life? Instead of focusing solely on completing tasks, how can I use a task list to reflect on how I’ve utilized my time to contribute to God’s Kingdom and His purposes?
- How can I shift my perspective from viewing work as a necessary burden to seeing it as a valuable gift from God, designed to be part of our human experience?
- How can I better integrate my daily life and faith, recognizing that all aspects of my life are under the Lordship of Christ? How can I pursue health in the areas and relationships He has called me to?
- How can I, as a pastor or ministry leader, authentically demonstrate and communicate the concept of a seamlessly integrated life under the Lordship of Christ to my congregation? What would that look like for our church?
- What steps can I take to ensure that my leadership promotes an integrated life in those I lead, fostering a sense of unity and purpose across all vocations?
- How can I actively encourage a mindset shift in myself and others, moving from viewing work as separate from ministry to recognizing the sacredness of every role within the Kingdom of God?
Why is it important for us to think deeply about fulfillment, significance, and meaning when it comes to our work in this world?
In this episode, I’m joined by Barry Rowan. Barry is a graduate of Harvard Business School and has been instrumental in building and transforming eight different businesses, including one that was sold for $10 billion. Barry has immersed himself in connecting the daily grind with the divine, and he is the author of The Spiritual Art of Business. Together, Barry and I look at rethinking our view of fulfillment in our lives and ministries. Barry also provides some incredible wisdom and encouragement when it comes to work and rest, activity and contemplation. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Hello, friends, and welcome to another insightful episode of FrontStage BackStage. I’m your host, Jason Daye. And it’s my privilege each and every week to sit down with a trusted ministry leader and dive into a topic all in an effort to help you and ministry leaders just like you embrace a healthy, sustainable rhythm for both life and ministry. And we are proud to be a part of the Pastor Serve Network. And each week, not only do we have this conversation, but our team also creates an entire toolkit that complements the discussion that we’re about to dive into. And in this toolkit, you’ll find additional resources, including a Ministry Leader’s Growth Guide, and you can take that growth guide and go through it yourself or with the ministry team at your local church. We really encourage you to do that to take advantage of these extra tools. And again, you can find those at PastorServe.org/network, so be sure to check those out. Now the team here at Pastor Serve, we love to walk alongside pastors and ministry leaders. And we are offering a complimentary coaching session. And you can learn more details about that at PastorServe.org/freesession. Now if you’re joining us on YouTube, please take a moment to give us a thumbs up. And be sure to drop your name and the name of your church in the comments below. We love getting to know our audience better and our team will be praying for you and for your ministry. And whether you’re joining us on YouTube, or your favorite podcast platform, please be sure to subscribe or to follow. You do not want to miss out on any of these great conversations. And at this time, I’d like to welcome this week’s guest to the show, Barry Rowan. Barry, welcome to the show!
Hi, Jason, thanks very much for having me. I’m glad to be here. And thanks for all the great work you do as well.
Thank you, I appreciate it. Now, Barry, super excited about this conversation I’m gonna dive into. You have a very unique background and have some incredible experiences. In fact, Barry, you’ve been successful in your work in the business world. You’ve built and turned around multiple businesses, one I understand that actually sold for $10 billion with a B. That’s a big number. Barry, whether we find our work, our vocation, in the marketplace, the business world, or in ministry, success, achievement accomplishment, all of these things will have an impact on who we are becoming, right? An impact on our character. And so, Barry, over the years, I would love for you to let us get a peek inside of what you have learned about success, about achievement, as it relates specifically to your spiritual formation, the growth of your soul, and the development of your character.
Yeah, that’s a really important question. And just to kind of jump on to what you talked about and being in ministry. While I’ve been called to business, though, I didn’t necessarily think I would ultimately be, I feel like I have been in full-time ministry through my work in business. I feel like it’s an expression of Christ in us and has really been an opportunity to express my faith in ways that have been very meaningful to me. And I was a product of achievement, I would describe myself as a windup toy for achievement. You know, show me something, and I’ll try to figure out how to be good at it. And I was really driven to achieve through my 20s and 30s. And it really wasn’t until I came into the biggest failure of my life that I realized that I had made achievement my God. And it wasn’t until the achievement went away that I realized that a part of my God went with it. And I was responsible for helping build a startup company, a very large-scale startup. But I’ve built or turned around eight businesses over my 40-year career and six were successful, two were not, and I usually talk about the ones that were not because I think we learn more from them. But anyway, I was building a telecommunications company in Brazil. We won the license to compete with the incumbent phone company, raised two and a half billion dollars, and hired 4,000 people in two years. Then after we got into it, and the stock price tripled and was off to the races, it was the fastest-growing company of its kind in the world. And then we started to see some cracks show up in the operations. And I got recruited to run the business in Brazil. And after I got there, things were much worse than I even thought they would be. And the difficulty of the business failure, we ultimately sold the company, but the investors, including us, didn’t get all their money out of it. But the pain of that business failure just paled in comparison to the spiritual anguish that I felt. And I just really concluded through that, that I had made achievement my God, and that God needed to put that to death in order for him alone to be on the throne. So I have found, throughout my career, that God has used my work to do His work in us and me, and my career has been the crucible for the formation of my soul, including the crucifixion of my own sense of achievement. And out of that came a very fascinating thing that happened, which was, I came into a place of profound freedom that I never knew really was possible, as I relinquished myself even further to Jesus’ call to anyone who doesn’t give up everything can’t be my disciples. So, the next part of everything for me, in that case, was to give up the God of achievement that I had fabricated through the first 25 years or 30 years of my life.
Yeah, that’s really helpful, Barry. Because, as I said, regardless of where we find ourselves in the marketplace and ministry, we can raise up that idol of achievement. And we can think that this is what we need to be chasing, this is what we need to be pursuing. And we can even kind of drape it with some Godly thoughts and language, like, we’re doing this for God, this is what we’re called to do. But I find it interesting, Barry, that you say that in some of that failure is where you learn some of your greatest lessons, right? That’s where some of your greatest growth was, it’s kind of almost the refining process that God takes us through. So, one of the things in ministry is, if we’re wildly successful, or we have great achievement, sometimes we get caught up in that and get off track. But then the flip side is if things aren’t going so well or if we aren’t hitting maybe the goals that we thought would be appropriate for us at this stage in our life and ministry, or whatever it might be. Sometimes we can be really, really hard on ourselves and think, Well, we’re not really doing much, we’re not making an impact. Barry, one of the things that you talk about in your book The Spiritual Art of Business, is you really touch on this idea that God is at work in us as much as we are kind of at work in the world, right? And that God uses our work to really do His work in us. Can you unpack that for us a little bit, about how sometimes we get the cart before the horse when it comes to our work and what God is trying to do in our lives?
Sure, yeah. You know, I think the genius of God’s design is that he accomplishes his work in our souls and in the world simultaneously. And he does it through the ordinary experiences in our lives. And if we begin to look for him and see him in every moment, we will see that each moment contains what we need to live our deepest purpose in life, which is to grow closer to Him and to love Him and to love other people. And so I think as we begin to see that we begin to see every moment as an opportunity to learn and to listen to God. And he has shown me things over and over again about ways that I need to be reshaped and transformed. To your point about achievement, one of the things that he showed me was I basically had the input pipes and the output pipes hooked up backward. That I thought achievement was a way to fill myself up. And by doing that, I would be filled up. And what it really is, is that the only input is the input from God Himself and that he flows into us. And achievement is the output, it’s the output of we love because he first loved us and as that relationship deepens, that love will flow into us and through us into the world. And so, for me, his call through my work is, as a starting point, surrender. And I really feel like surrender has to be the starting point because that gives God permission to do his work in us, he’s so gracious and he will never impose himself on us. But once we give him that permission, he will use every circumstance, every moment of every day, if we have the eyes to see it, to shape us into His likeness more and more. And so we will work, as you know, about 100,000 hours in our lifetime. That’s a lot of hours to have it go to waste. And I think that those are some of the most productive hours from the standpoint of God’s using our work to do His work in us. And that our work can then be an expression of who we are. Out of Colossians, Christ in us the hope of glory. As I began to see that, that if everything we do is an opportunity for the expression of Christ in us who is growing ever more deeply. And so our work is an expression of those talents and desires that He’s given us. And so it’s a beautiful way to express who He is in us.
Yeah, Barry, I love that description of the input and output pipes. Because I think that often is something that we all can resonate with, right? So, let’s go a little deeper into that. Because something that we see prevalent in the world today, across vocations, including pastors and ministry leaders is burnout. And I think that oftentimes, we get burned out because we have those input-output pipes switched oftentimes. So, share with us a little bit, Barry, about what you have learned over the years and experienced about the importance of making sure you have those in the right order.
Yeah, I think burnout is a very real thing. And I really came to a surrendered faith out of a crisis of meaning and work. And the outgrowth of that was I stopped going to church for a while because I thought was hypocritical to worship a God I no longer knew existed, but I ultimately gave my life to it. I concluded, as the lawyers would say, based on the preponderance of the evidence, I think it’s more likely than not that God exists. But then it was what are you going to do about Jesus, and I just decided to take him seriously and to follow Him. But even after that, I still couldn’t make the connection between what I’m doing in this moment and my purpose in life. So I ended up writing 350 pages to myself over the next eight years, mostly in the middle of the night. And that is really the foundation of the book The Spiritual Art of Business. But out of that, what I realized is that I was looking at work all wrong. And one of the fundamental mistakes I was making was looking at life from the outside in instead of the inside out. I thought, if I’ll just get the right job, I’ll be filled up. Or if you’re a pastor, that you have the right job, so you can be filled up. Well, the corollary to that is I was trying to derive meaning from my work instead of bringing meaning to my work. And if you’re in business, or a profession like that, that has less what you could call “intrinsic value”, the onus is on the worker to bring that meaning more and more to work. For pastors, I think there’s actually the opposite challenge, which is, the meaning is very intrinsic. I mean, what is more gratifying than to be able to be an instrument of God’s will and the word, and to bring his word to people, and to see people grow? But I think one of the consequences of that is that sometimes pastors haven’t had to go through the hard work of developing a life-giving perspective of their work as seen through the eyes of God that brings meaning to their work in a way that works for them. So they said, I wanted to be a pastor and preach the Word of God, and I find myself sitting in meetings all the time and doing administrivia, and that’s not what I signed up for. And I think the degree that the pastor can have an elevated perspective of the work, and see that every meeting, even budget meetings, is an opportunity to advance the Kingdom of God. That every individual conversation is that. And I think that that can help free us from the bonds of, and the slavery of feeling like we have to be focused on achievement, which then does lead to burnout because we are thinking about it in the wrong way. So, it’s a daily practice, really. And I think it requires that we spend a lot of time alone with God so that we can stay in a place of shalom with him, with our families, with our work, with our time, with the stage of our careers, and all of those things. Because it’s very easy to kind of get out of whack from those things without spending that quality time alone in my experience.
Yeah, that’s vital. And what’s interesting, Barry, you’re talking about, and I was thinking sometimes in ministry also, there’s just kind of the assumed, hey, I’m doing ministry work, I’m doing work about God. So, I must be tight with God because every day I’m coming in and I’m doing this. But if, as you said, we’re not investing and being intentional about continuing to be filled, the idea of surrender that you talked about in the entire first section of your book is dedicated to surrender. But that surrender is not something that you do one day, you mark it off on your calendar and you move on. There is this kind of continuous idea of surrendering ourselves, as Jesus said, taking up our cross daily, right? So, talk to us a little bit about this ongoing sense of surrender and how that leads to the idea of transformation and how that becomes part of the rhythm of our lives.
Yeah, I think surrender for me, like I said, is the train station that we have to leave from in order to go on the spiritual journey, it really is the only departure point. But it’s not a one-and-done thing. It’s a moment-to-moment thing. For me, it’s like, you can imagine our lives as just a succession of whys, and we choose one or another, any moment, we can either do it for ourselves or for God. Our kids had a song when we were growing up, it was called My Way or Yahweh. And I think that’s just a beautiful icon for how we can live our lives moment-to-moment. And I would encourage the people listening to just take five times throughout the day and say, Okay, in this moment, am I doing it for myself or am I doing it for God? Am I speaking up in this meeting because I want to look smart in front of my peers or am I speaking up because I want to advance the cause of the meeting? Because by that we’re going to advance the Kingdom of God. And so every moment contains that opportunity, I think. And I think it’s really important to have it oriented in that way. You know, somebody asked Mother Teresa one time, how was it that God led you to serve the poor, and she said he didn’t. He called me to himself. And this is where he led me. And it sounds very nuanced, and it is. but it’s profoundly different that God first calls us to Himself, in my experience, and then he brings the place where he would have us do his work. And so for me, it was to be called to himself, and to fall in love with him, and to develop intimacy with Him. And out of that friendship, that relationship, and the overflow of our hearts, our work will flow and our words will flow. So having that orientation is very freeing, I think. But it has to start from surrender. And it’s, Lord, what would you have me do in this moment? And as you begin to do it that way, our to-do lists can become our call from God if we approach them prayerfully, in my view. Lord, what would you have me do today? This is not my life, but your life to live through me. So what are the things that you would have me do today? And I realized, for example, that the purpose of to-do lists is not to get everything done on our to-do list. I’m sure all the people listening here never get everything done on your to-do list, right? That’s not the goal. The purpose of the to-do list is to be able to look at the way I’ve spent my time at the end of the day, or a week, or a lifetime, and say, Lord, did I spend my time the way you would have wanted me to spend my time? And I think if we begin to see our lives and our work, and even our daily to-do lists as those given from God, and by God to us, and the means of us living for Him into the world, it can be not only liberating, but inspiring, and motivating to say, Wow, Lord, we get to cooperate with you as the creator of the universe in the work that you’re doing every moment of every day in the places that you’ve called us.
Yeah, that’s the whole idea of rethinking. And that’s one thing, Barry, that stands out in your book The Spiritual Art of Business, is this idea that we have some things we’re thinking about… fulfillment, significance, and meaning through our work. And there’s kind of a narrative that the world offers us. But then as you pull back and you dig deeply into God, you see that it’s different. And oftentimes, again, we get things out of order, and that can derail us. As we’re thinking about this idea of leaning into work, not everyone thinks about work as being this beautiful space in our lives where we get to really honor God. Oftentimes, people look at work as a necessary evil or something that we have to do just to survive or provide. Barry, how can we kind of rethink this idea of what work really is, how we really define the idea of work?
Yeah, well, first, I would just trace it to the theological foundations and the people listening would be able to do that much more readily and deeply than I can. But it’s fascinating to me, in Genesis, that work was created before the fall, not after. There was no one to tend the earth so we are co-creators with God. So work is not a curse. Work was a part of creation and we have the privilege of working with God. And because we’re made in his image that work is an expression of our creativity, and our desires, and our very character. So viewing it and understanding it as a gift from God to me changes everything because if it seems like drudgery, and it is at some point, I mean, there are always parts of our jobs that are not always fun. But, if you understand that this is a gift from God, it really does change it and even the drudgery becomes an opportunity for us to serve Him in ways that are important. So, I think that the first point is just to recognize that it is a gift from God. The second is, let’s think about what work really is. I mean, I’ve come to really think about life, as I said, from the inside out. And I think about it not in sequence or hierarchy, I think about it in concentric circles, with Christ at the center. So it’s Christ at the center as an individual, and then our family, and then society. And each of those things is an opportunity for the expression of Christ in us. And so how I love my wife or our kids, or if you’re a stay-at-home mom, that is no less important. And there’s no hierarchy of holiness in any of that to me. I think it’s just as holy to be a pastor as to work in business. The secular and spiritual division is completely artificial. I think there’s a seamlessness to the kingdom of God. And so when we begin to see it that way, we see everything as an expression of Christ in us, that everything we do can be a call to holiness, and an opportunity to grow closer to Him. And that’s the way I think about work and our professional lives, the 100,000 hours that we work, or what we usually think about as work, but I view it all as very seamless. It’s really just a matter of deciding with God and for God, Lord, how would you want me to spend my time? Should we go to our kid’s soccer game today or should I work on that board presentation? And those trade-offs we always have to make. But at the end of the day, I think having a sense of priorities, even a sense of how we would ideally spend our time, is really important because all of the people listening here, you all have infinite jobs. We could all work 100% of the time. And so it’s a matter of figuring out how much time we think is appropriate to give to time alone with the Lord, with our families, in the work that we do in our professional lives and in society. So for example, for me, I limited my board work, nonprofit board work, to two at a time. Stephen Covey said it’s easier to say no when you have a stronger “yes” burning inside of you. And if I’ve said yes to my family, and yes to balance in life, and yes to time with the Lord, then I can say no more easily to the myriad of opportunities that come our way to use up our time.
Yeah, Barry, I love that. And a couple of things out of that response were absolutely incredible, by the way. A couple of things stuck out to me that I want to dig a little more deeply into. And the first is, you talked about the seamlessness of the kingdom of God. And this kind of partition that sometimes we set up between like the clergy and then everyone else who’s working in the world. And I have found in ministry that oftentimes those who are not clergy, not vocationally in ministry, may tend to think, oh, ministry is for the professionals, for the clergy. And we preach, we teach, we try to disciple people into Hey, we’re all a priesthood of all believers, we’re all in ministry. Barry, from your experience, I mean, you’ve lived this yourself and I’m sure that you’ve shared and discipled many, many people along the way. You’ve written a whole book on it, The Spiritual Art of Business. So how can we better help everyone understand, because you put so beautifully that the kingdom of God is seamless, that we’re all in ministry together, regardless of your title? How can we better encourage people in that and disciple them in that?
Yeah, I’ll give you kind of a two-part answer. One is Os Guiness was helpful to me in this in his book The Call. He describes the Protestant distortion and the Catholic distortion. The Catholic distortion is to have it be hierarchical, in other words, the clergy or the priests are at the top, the committed religious, and then the rest of us are sort of at the bottom. So there’s this hierarchical distortion. The Protestant distortion is kind of lateral, it’s between the sacred and the secondary. That if you’re a pastor, then that’s more sacred. And all of them are untrue. So, I think just to recognize that it’s all under the Lordship of Christ, every square inch, every thought has to be held captive to him. So everything is in the Lordship of Christ. So there’s nothing that is more or less holy when you think about it in that way, or more or less a part of God’s kingdom. So, to me, that’s a really important starting point. And then I think the other part of it is Jesus. And it’s so interesting to see his life. And he really confused people by going from the physical to the spiritual. And they would say, Destroy this temple and I rebuild it in three days. And they thought he was talking about the physical temple, but he was talking about the spiritual temple of his body. You must eat my body and drink my blood or you can’t be my disciple. And again, they thought he was in the physical. And then there are other times when he was talking about the physical and the people thought he was talking about the spiritual. When he met Martha, for example, at Lazarus, do you believe in the resurrection? Well, he was talking about resurrecting Lazarus in that moment. And so, to me, just seeing the life of Jesus that way, and just seeing how fluidly he went from one to the other. And not even went from one to the other, I think he lived in both kingdoms of the physical and the spiritual. And we’re designed in that same way. And so the kingdom of heaven is within us. And so when we begin to see it that way, everything is under the Lordship of Christ. And there’s this beautiful oneness to what we do and it just shatters the hierarchies, it shatters the horizontal distortions, it, I think, puts us in the right place, which is that we are all made in the image of God, and are called to come to know Him and to love Him. And so, to me, it has just been really helpful to think about it in those different ways than the world usually does.
Yeah, love that. Love that. Excellent response. Okay, Barry, so the other thing that piqued my interest was we’ve been talking a lot about work, right? Talking a lot about work. But there is, and you alluded to this, this balance. There’s always the trade-off, we’re always processing through work versus rest or what does that look like? So, share with us a little bit, Barry, how you kind of have learned over the years, how you approach this idea of a sustainable, healthy rhythm for life and work and what does that look like?
Yeah. So I kind of view myself like a tree. I’ve kind of finally realized that, with roots and leaves. So for me, the roots are going deep with the Lord and spending time with him in solitude. And if I don’t get that time, the leaves are kind of a pale green and they just aren’t very vibrant. On the other hand, if I were just focused on the leaves, if I didn’t have the leaves as an opportunity for expression, I would turn into a potato, just being underground all the time. And so both are really important to me. So it’s like, contemplation in action, the contemplation is what really drives the action. And so for me, it’s helpful to know that it’s a both/and, it’s not an either/or. And what I learned in contemplation infuses what I do during the day, and so, for me, prayer is 90% listening. That’s really where I spend my time. And I think we can get too caught up in intercessory, nothing wrong with that at all. But for me, it really is listening. And, I’ve come to understand what I call a prayer of immersion, which is immersing myself in my circumstances. And as we read the Scripture every day, you can do Lectio Divina if people like that, or ways of listening to Scripture, entering into Scripture. And as we enter into scripture, it enters into us, and that we too become the Word made flesh. And so this prayer of immersion is to listen to Scripture, and God will bring me right into the place of the challenges at work. Or in my life, not just to work. But I encourage people to go to the place of your unrest and there’s a spiritual infrastructure underneath that unrest. And if we do a kind of archeological dig on our feelings with God or the five why’s that we talk about in businesses. Why this, why the next level, and the next level? That he will reveal what’s underlying that? Why am I afraid of presenting at this conference? Well, to go through the five why’s, is it really because I care about the image that I’m trying to portray and that I will look like an idiot? Well, isn’t that pride, right? So God will make the connection between fear and pride for me as an example. And that is the process of transformation. So for me, it’s recognizing that we need both prayer and that we have the opportunity for expression. You know, the other thing is to be clear about what the boundaries are. When I was about 30, our first child was born and I came home and I thought I was having a heart attack. And my wife said, Well, you better go check yourself into the hospital because she was home with our 6-month-old. So I drove myself there, and they gave me a shot or whatever they gave me. And I wasn’t having a heart attack, but what it was was stress. And I realized that the way I was spending my time was not the way I wanted to be spending my time, I wanted to be home with our son. And previously, my wife and I both worked 60 to 80 hours a week, which was great, we were investing in our careers. But I was now spending 8 or 10 hours a day in meetings and doing “my work” at the end of the day or on the weekends. And I didn’t want to do that anymore. So out of that, Linda and I developed what we found to be the right set of boundaries. And we wrote it down. It was working 50 to 55 hours a week, it was traveling less than 30% of the time, I could travel full time, and my job was being home for dinner every night when I’m in town, it was praying every day, it was exercising three to four days a week. And it was not being involved in more than two civic boards at a time. And it wasn’t every week, but over a pattern of a year or 10 years, we did live our lives that way. And what was most important was that we took the time out of this pain to figure out what was balance for us. And I think about our lives in two dimensions, vertically and horizontally. Vertically is kind of congruence, how does my work line up with God’s purpose in my life, and everything is an expression of that? For me, that has been the biggest challenge is figuring that out. And a big part of the book, especially for businesses, is around that question. Balance is kind of the horizontal view, how much time do we spend in each of these activities that are all under the Lordship of Christ? And both are important. But if we don’t have a sense of balance and how we want to balance our lives, we will literally get off balance. And we will live our lives feeling that way and won’t be as effective instruments for God.
Yeah, that’s fantastic. Barry, thank you for that. And as you shared, you and I had talked a little previously, you put this digging roots, this idea of action, and digging into God into practice in a very, very real big way. You said it was your one bucket list item, I think. And that was a time of solitude. So, Barry, I’d love for you to share with us just a little bit about what you did. Why was this a bucket list item for you? And what did you experience?
Sure, yeah. It was, like I said before, the one thing on my bucket list. And that was to do a month-long silent retreat, which I just finished. So I retired from my full-time executive role in March of this year, and then immediately spent the month of April in a month-long silent retreat. And, you know, it was a cumulative effect of building over time. I mean, for me, it started 10 minutes a day in the upper room when I first came to faith, and then I grew into 30 minutes of prayer a day. And then I went through the spiritual exercises in everyday life when I was about 40, I guess. And that was a call to pray an hour a day. And we sold one of the businesses when I was 50 and I didn’t know if I’d go back to work. I took what my wife and I called a purposeful pause just to get recharged. I’d just been running flat out for 25 years. And that was the first extended silent retreat I did. And I did an eight-day silent retreat. And then I’ve done a week-long silent retreat most years, except when the business turnarounds got a little too intense and I couldn’t do it. But by and large, I did them most years and so then I wanted to do a month-long silent retreat. And it was the most profound and life-giving month of my life. And I can barely talk about it in any detail without weeping, just experiencing the closeness of God. And I just sensed him saying many times, Barry, thank you for giving me the space to love you so deeply. And I would just encourage people out there, not that you can do a 30-day silent retreat, but just to take the time, and give God the space and the room to breathe and to love us that deeply. And it was an experience of his love and his leadership. I could never have predicted where it was going to go. And I had five prayers going into the retreat. And God just dramatically answered those more than I could have asked or imagined. And he just led, as he does in our whole lives. So it was kind of a microcosm of living this life. And now the challenge is to live that experience of God into daily life even more fully.
That’s wonderful. What an awesome experience. Barry, as we’re kind of closing down here, I would love to give you an opportunity. You have the eyes and ears of pastors and ministry leaders. I’d love for you to just be able to share some words of encouragement with our brothers and sisters who are serving.
Yeah, first I would just say thank you, thank you, thank you. The work you’re doing is so important and we need you, the world needs you. So I just want you to know that on behalf of all of us who are the recipients of your love, your work, your education, your thinking, and your pastoral care. So thank you for that. And I guess the second thing I would say to you is, this idea of bringing meaning to our work and this perspective of work, I think, is something that you all can bring to the pulpit in evermore important ways. Because I will just tell you that there are lots of people like me who are wrestling with these questions. And I think the more you can meet us where we are, in that place of wanting to live in integrated life, that’s really what we want to live an integrated life, one life under God, a life of seamlessness. And so I think, for you to be able to take these ideas in, make them real for yourselves, that they might become real for others, I think would be my encouragement to you. But mostly, I just want to say, thank you and keep it up. And we all recognize how hard you work and how much you care for us.
Awesome, thank you, Barry. Certainly appreciate that. And I want to encourage you guys, The Spiritual Art of Business is Barry’s book and as pastors and ministry leaders, this is a great read for us. But this is also a phenomenal read and will be a great book to gift to leaders within your church or to families within your church. Absolutely fantastic. Barry, I love the way you wrote this, you structured this book, it’s very bite-sized. Like quick read, lots of chapters, but all of them are quick read chapters with opportunities for reflection in each of them. It’s a very, very encouraging and practical book. So thank you for putting that together. And if you guys are interested in learning more about the book, again, you can find all that information in this week’s toolkit. We’ll have links to Barry’s book there as well as additional links to resources that will help you in this journey. And you can find that at PastorServe.org/network.
There’s a discussion guide that we’ve written, which takes people through five sessions to be done in small groups, which we expect will be a very helpful tool for people to do in small groups. So I’m even going to make myself available to sit in on some of those because I really want to continue to feel the pulse.
That’s awesome. That is excellent. Yes, so there you go, a great resource, a great tool that you can use in the ministry of your local church. So be sure to check that out. Barry, it has been an absolute pleasure having you on FrontStage BackStage. Thank you for just your heart. Thank you for your wisdom, thank you for allowing God to pour himself into you and allowing it to be an outlet as he works through you into the world. So thank you, Barry,
Thank you so much, Jason, it was a real privilege. Appreciate being on your show.
Awesome. God bless you, brother.
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at PastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.
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