Through the many years of developing this Community of Practice, we call Design Group International, I have been a member of the clergy. Because of that, I'm often asked if I expect people to be Christian in order to work with me, especially when speaking with people about my Executive Advising practice.
I hear a different question just as often: why reference spirituality at all, especially Christian spirituality? The assumption is that someone might be offended.
These often-asked questions are shifting at the root. What was once a doorway to conversation has become a door of expectation that might open wide or slam shut depending on my response. These questions have largely moved from conversation starters to Inquisition-style interrogation. They used to be friendly. Now, they are hurdles to relationship.
I'd like to think my approach in responding to these questions has been consistent, regardless of the question or the manner in which it comes. Read on and see what you think. Perhaps it will help you with your own responses. Perhaps it will give you some suggestion to send me about my own. I welcome the conversation.
MY RESPONSES TO THESE QUESTIONS:
- I don't try to do the work of anyone else's spiritual development and am resistant to them diminishing mine.
- The majority of people on the planet participate in some form of religious life on some level. Why would it be helpful to remove a spiritual lens when engaging in thoughtful, learning, and growth-oriented conversations?
- I do not want someone's religion to be a shibboleth nor an expression of cancel culture.
- I resist a sacred/secular divide. Just as I do not wish to eliminate religious conversation, neither do I need to demand it.
- My work is not faith-forward and it is not faith-hidden. I pursue a deeper faith integration in myself and my work along with other dimensions of personal and professional growth.
- Spiritual development is a part of human development, and it is still needed. Lene Rachel Anderson's work on meta-modernity will jump-start deep thinking on this.
- I don't limit religious conversation to a segment/sect of Christianity. or even to Christianity in general.
READ ON, IF YOU WANT TO GO DEEPER IN THIS CONVERSATION:
My conversations with Executives will likely touch on, rather than ignore, ancient and growing wisdom - especially wisdom that emphasizes an increasingly humble and wise righteousness motivated to build hope for and in our grandchildren's grandchildren.
Who can aspire to and achieve this all by themselves? Who can pursue this without constantly bumping against failure, even as they grow and celebrate that growth? Who can paint majestic and good strokes for the future without deep and reflective consideration of how others have done it or failed to do it?
AND NOW WE GET ALL THEOLOGICAL ABOUT IT AND USE BIG WORDS:
(I'm writing in a condensed manner here, believing that some who read this know the definitions of these words and that lifelong learners will actually look them up.)
I remain doctrinally agnostic on most matters, and minimalist/essentialist when I work with biblical interpretation. Stubbornly so. My Ecclesiology has become sacramental, local, simple. In this grateful and penitent posture, I've gained a deep conviction that life and all its facets are a steward's responsibility and a holy vocation. I am privileged to live this in marriage and family, among neighbors and colleagues, and with abundant opportunity to love clients who in turn are bringing good to a broken and breaking world. I intend to move more deeply into this life of faith rather than be dissuaded from it, whether by those who think faith should be diminished/diluted or by those who think one's faith should be ever more particular, exclusive, or militant.
The faith that keeps growing and integrating in me can be summarized as the posture of a grateful penitent. In those two words - grateful penitent - I live a life response to subjects such as Theology, Hamartiology, Anthropology and Eschatology.
The source and model I lean on for this grateful penitence is Jesus the Christ. There are worse examples to follow!
Jesus the Christ points me to loving and serving neighbors rather than alienating them and turning them into enemies. He invites me to take share in a cross of suffering alongside others rather than picking up a sword that causes others to suffer. So yes, a response to Christology and Soteriology are also found in this life posture. Even more, grateful penitence keeps me in touch with the location of God's word and witness, which is a starting point for the disciplines of Exegesis and Homiletics.
SETTING THIS AT REST
In an Executive Advising practice, it is not about my spirituality anyway. It is about the Executive's whole person and the whole organization they serve. What do they choose to work on? How do they wish to strengthen wholeness and integration? What are the values (relational, religious, spiritual, social) that sustain their multi-generational focus? In walking with them it is good for me to have worked at these dimensions in my life deeply, reflectively, and integratively, ever growing so that my agenda is settled when I then sit attentively in the agenda of another person.