Technically, I wasn’t supposed to making this presentation. The leaders of all the various staff functions were required to present on organizations, functions, goals, and results to a group of executive–level reviewers. This was a serious situation – the executive-level review team was to make recommendations on staffing levels and resource (dollar) support.
The person scheduled to make the presentation was to be our function’s vice president. She decided she had a conflict (she also didn’t know the organization very well). Her second-in-command, who would have then made the presentation, had retired for health reasons and no one had been named to replace him. For whatever reason, she decided that I should do it. I was a speechwriter and had responsibility for two other functions. Perhaps it was because I knew the reviewers better than the vice president did. Or she thought I did.
This was not expected to be a fun exercise. In fact, it was expected to get bloody. I knew I would have at least one sympathetic ear – an executive who attended the same church I did. At least, I thought, one of the lions in the den was a Christian.
I was prepared. I had the right PowerPoint slides. I had backup material. I knew the numbers and the staffing levels. I knew what the organization had accomplished. I took nothing for granted, including my Christian executive.
The presentation was an ambush. The alpha wolf was my Christian colleague. I held my own, and I had no compunction about pushing back as hard as I needed to. I didn’t expect the main opposition to be the Christian executive, and that the non-Christians would have to rein him in.
He was vicious. Uninformed. Nasty. Refusing to acknowledge when he was caught out with wrong information or perceptions. He just came back hitting harder.
When the session ended, and I was collecting slides and notes and preparing to leave, he came up to me, smiling. “How are you doing?” he asked pleasantly.
Still reeling from what had just happened, I said the first thing that came into my head. “Have you been to church lately?” I asked.
He turned beet red. He made no reply, but turned around and walked away, leaving the room. He understood my meaning.
One of his executive colleagues came up to me and apologized. He said he didn’t understand what had happened, but that they should have intervened sooner and stopped what had been happening. And he said I had more than held my own. It was nice of him to say it, but I still felt like a beaten, bloody pulp.
I’m not sure whose values were reflected in that presentation. I could say the Christian executive was reflecting the values of his peer business group, but then even they were rather appalled. He wasn’t reflecting what was taught at church, although at that time there was still a prevailing belief among many Christian businessmen at our church that church and work were two entirely different realms, and when at work one had to abide by the values of work. My Christian executive certainly reflected that belief.
“It seems that in many evangelical circles we do have morality by consensus,” says Jerry Bridges in The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness. “We may not be doing what is right in our own eyes, as society around us is doing, but neither are we living according to biblical standards. Instead we live according to the standard of conduct of Christians around us. We not only have morality by consensus, we have sanctification by consensus. We expect to become holy by osmosis, by the absorption of the ethical values of our Christian peer group.”
Attending a church is not sufficient. Thinking we’re okay simply by going to Sunday School or being part of a small group or supporting a ministry is not sufficient. Sanctification takes work. Hard, personal work. I know first-hand how difficult it is to live one’s faith at work, and how easy it is to fail. And how easy it us for others to fail.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges. To see what others had to say on this chapter, “The Discipline of Commitment,” please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines.
Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.