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.
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This post was published September 23, 2013
Doug Smith is the Assistant Dean at the College of Engineering and Applied Science, CU Boulder.