I have worked in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) business for the past 45 years. I’ve gone from field engineer to Chief Executive of companies and an executive officer in a publicly traded company. Throughout my career I’ve tried to integrate my faith into everything I do whether at work, at home, at church or on the golf course.
In my early years that looked like a young evangelist preaching to his co-workers and hanging out with only his Christian friends. As I advanced into the management ranks it became clear that preaching the gospel to my co-workers and subordinates was not the only approach to expressing my faith. So I changed my emphasis to living out the values of ethics, truth and being the best at what I did, and I began to care more about those with whom I worked. This change was accompanied by a personal discovery to be less critical of others, and more accepting and caring for all made in the image of God.
In the early nineties a friend shared an article with me from the Conference Board journal written by a Harvard professor named Laura Nash. The article was about integrating your faith and your life, particularly faith and work. Although I had been trying to live an integrated life, this was the first time that I had seen it articulated so well. I actually preached a sermon on this topic at our church in Tampa, FL to my fellow congregants whose eyes quickly glazed over! It was a huge breakthrough in my thinking, but seemingly foreign to most of my fellow worshippers.
Soon after that I moved to London, England to take over a couple of companies that our firm had purchased, and was charged with turning around their performance and changing their culture. In the midst of that turnaround and change I discovered how to change the culture to one that valued people, operated ethically, was highly competitive, but still saw that life was much more than work. As a result our company was ranked in the top 50 companies in the UK as a place to work, and began performing profitably.
Late last year I was preparing to teach an adult bible school class at our church using the work that Laura Nash had published in her book Believers in Business, and as I was searching Amazon to purchase the book, it suggested that I also might want to buy Tim Keller’s latest book Every Good Endeavor. I followed Amazon’s suggestion, and it changed my life. I studied Keller’s book, taught the course and understood more of what I had been seeking for the two previous decades, and was completely smitten with the concepts that Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf put forward.
As a result I visited Redeemer Church’s Center for Faith and Work and attended their A/E vocational group meeting. I immediately began to seek out others who had been touched by this same need to live an integrated life without the compartments that we tend to create. A good friend put me in touch with Jeff Haanen whose life had been changed in a similar fashion and who had stepped out to lead Denver Institute for Faith and Work. Now just a few months later I am working with Jeff and others on the board of DIFW to create an organization that will promote, nurture and champion an integrated life of faith.
Doug Smith is the Assistant Dean at the College of Engineering and Applied Science, CU Boulder.