The Role of the Christian in Public Speaking (Part 1)


This blog was adapted by a teaching session that Deb Knupp did for Resource Global’s New Teacher Cohort in Chicago.

Here’s some of what Deb shared:

I often say that presenting as a stand alone activity is like a muscle. You have the ability to stand, to command an audience, and to draw attention. As Christians, we have an opportunity to use every moment we have an audience, to be representations of Christ’s love, and to do it in a way where our presentations feel like a hug. I am going to give you some insights today on how you can take really classic boring status reports in your day lives, and as you think about the presentations you would undoubtedly do on mission, how do you create experiences where you hold space for people where they walk away and feel poured into, even if you are just giving facts and figures. So I will talk about how to be more effective when you do this and how to steward those moments. You get to be a light and a representation of your faith.

What I have learned in my work of bridging workplace ministry with vocational ministry is that sometimes both avenues can be useful and relevant to teaching the other. So in shepherding some of the workplace insights that I do in executive education, many folks who are doing more vocational ministry have said that we don’t necessarily get these same kinds of access or opportunities.

When we do stand up presentations, a lot of us think, if we get the content right, then we will have the ability to get everything else right. So, prepare to have your mind blown, because the content, in the grand scheme of things, is a very small percentage of how you move people. And while yes, there is a sense of you need to transact a communication that allows people to know how to do something, but the reality is, and it has often been said, people will forget what you told them, but they will never forget how you made them feel. That is what we need to recognize. The content is the easy part, and yet, as presenters, that is the thing we often stress about. The beginnings and the ends, particularly as we do the next two programs, we are going to really dive into mechanics, and today in laying the foundation, I want to give  you a relationship with content that says yes, it’s essential, and if you can recognize the ministry of your work, and how it serves, all of a sudden the content starts to come together.

The number one fear that human beings have, more than death, is public speaking. There are more and more studies that suggest people would rather get a root canal than stand up in front of an audience. So the fact is, if you already enjoy that, that gives you some unique strengths, in marketplace, and in ministries.

Next week I want to share some tips that Deb gave on public speaking.  

Tim Keller's Talk at the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast

What I learned from Tim Keller’s talk at the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast in June of 2018

I recently had the opportunity to work as the Program Director of City to City’s The Gospel and our Cities Conference.  I enjoyed working alongside a wonderful organization that is doing great things. I also learned a lot from Tim Keller, who heads the organization.  

I wanted to share a video from The National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast which Tim Keller spoke at in June of 2018, and some of the insights I got from his talk.

What can Christianity offer our society here in the 21st century? Tim Keller’s talk at the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast addressed that question. He references the metaphor often used in the Bible - the use of salt in meat. When salt is dispersed throughout the meat, it both enhances and preserves the meat. Like salt, Jesus says that Christians should be dispersed throughout society. In order to make a difference, Christians must exist in the culture but remain different from the rest of the culture.

Tim Keller gave the example of stealing from an old woman. It could be easy to steal her purse, run away, and not get caught. Yet, we don’t do it. Why don’t we? There are two reasons he gives...two moralistic views. The first reason is that to pick on a weak person would mean that you too, are weak. This is known as a self-regarding ethic, which stems from a culture of shame and honor, where strength is important. The second reason you don’t steal from the old woman is because you choose to think about her. This is the other-regarding ethic, of which the ultimate value is love. Research shows that most people resonate with the latter. Interestingly, the moral of love comes from Christianity. So, whether you claim to be Christian or not, you have been shaped by Christianity.

Christians love others for their sake, they do not have a person vendetta. In fact, the first person to fight slavery was a bishop. He argued that slaves are humans too, and deserve to be loved. Since, they too are images of God and cannot be sold. Imago dei. In case you are unfamiliar, imago dei is a term coined by Christians, meaning “image of God.” We are all images of God, and we all have the capacity to have fellowship with Him. As a nation, we must not forget that. There are no degradations in the imago dei.

Since you were made in the image of God, it is important to stay true to yourself. God made you exactly how He wanted you to be. So, follow your own inner light, and don’t let anyone tell you what is right or wrong for you. Christians cannot “benefit” society if they are like everyone else in society. Keller’s advice is to not to live for yourself. Live for God, and live for your neighbor.

The problem at hand is in trying to form more people from our society to support these ideals. These ideals take sacrifices, such as giving up wealth and power to help the less fortunate. Another example of self-sacrifice is forgiveness. Unfortunately, we, as a society are becoming more and more incapable of producing people that can forgive. Our culture is becoming increasingly individualistic and teaches self-actualization. So, if there is no social benefit, why become a Christian? Keller leaves us with two reasons why Christianity is, and should be, seeked after:

  1. Christianity offers communion with God and

  2. Christianity provides us with a loving relationship (not just an opportunity to win favor).

Number 2 is my personal favorite - Christianity offers a loving relationship with God.

Interview with Todd Peterson, former NFL Kicker


J. Todd Peterson was drafted in 1993 by the NY Giants, leading to a 13-year career in the NFL where he also played for Seattle, Kansas City, San Francisco and Atlanta. He set a number of team records and two NFL records – one of which is since broken (most 40-plus-yard field goals in a season). He was named NFL True Value Man of the Year for the Seahawks in 1996 and twice received the NFL Players Association Byron “Whizzer” White award for excellence in character and leadership on his teams. He was twice nominated for the NFL’s Bart Starr Award. Peterson retired in 2006 as one of only 34 players to score over 1,000 points. He is the only player in NFL history to make game-winning field goals for five or more different teams. During his career he served three different terms on the NFLPA’s board.

Peterson lettered in football at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1988 and 1989 before transferring to the U. of Georgia. He graduated with a BBA in banking and finance in 1993 and was honored his senior season as the university’s first GTE Academic All-America in a decade.

The Petersons like to help families with influence and resources leverage those assets most effectively. They enjoy traveling with others to see missional opportunities and desire to see their peers experience the joy of giving.

Peterson also serves on several boards, including Global Generosity Movement, Passion Conferences, the Young Life Foundation, and as chairman for Pro Athletes Outreach. Peterson and his wife, Susan, live in North Atlanta and have two children.

For more information on Todd please see the link below.

I recently had a chance to sit down with Todd and catch up.  

What are you currently doing now? Can you please share about your previous NFL career?
I played in the NFL for thirteen years, starting in 1993 and retiring in 2006. I was a kicker. Most of my career was spent with the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, and the San Francisco 49ers. I was fortunate enough to be playing for the Falcons in my hometown, right before my retirement. I have been married for 25 years to my wife Susan, an incredible, godly woman and leader. We have two amazing children - my daughter is in her third year at Virginia, and our son is in his first year at Vernon.

Currently, I sit on a number of boards, both in the for-profit private and nonprofit company domain. I feel that Lord has blessed me with many opportunities during my career in the NFL. I got to meet some amazing people around the country and even around the world. Since my retirement, I felt an overwhelming calling to use the influences, resources, and relationships I gained during my career to build the kingdom through a variety of different ministries and business interests.

Did you know you were going to do this after you got out of the NFL? Can you please tell us about your faith journey?
I think that when we trust Christ, we experience salvation. Scripture says we are saved by grace through faith, not our merit, our performance, or our works. His work on the cross saves us. He says, believe this and I am going to invite you on a great adventure. Our faith in Christ invites us on a journey. When we start our walk with Christ, trust God, and begin to have the spirit of God lead us through life, it takes us on a journey. Spiritual maturity takes place over time through various experiences and circumstances. Relationships also help to shape us to be who we are today. Scripture is pretty clear that in life of a Christian, growth is normal. Philippians 1 says that God is faithful to complete the good works He starts in us, to the day of Christ returning, or if Jesus chooses to take us home before that. I think that I am in the process of sanctification. When I left the NFL, I thought that God may have some pretty cool stuff in store for me, but I don’t think I could have scripted it to be nearly as adventurous and amazing as He has allowed it to be. I think that God is always doing immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.

How did you come to your faith?
It wasn’t as a young boy, but it was before my NFL career. It occurred over the several years as I finished high school and early into college. From when I was about seventeen, or eighteen years old, to about twenty, I think the Lord was allowing me to see how my empty my world was. When we put our stock, or our faith in things of this world, (relationships, money, success, athletics, academics, fame, connections, anything other than Christ), we feel void and empty. God saved me from a lot of heartache. I didn’t have to go down a path of a lot of horrifying stuff to realize my need for Him. But I did go down a path that led me to feel empty at the end of the day and on a path of worry and self concern, fear, insecurities, and peacelessness. I finally reached a place where, as 1 Corinthians 1 says, the folly or the foolishness of God is wiser than a man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than a man’s strength. It quickly became apparent to me that I would be a fool if I didn’t ask God for His folly in my life. When His folly is greater than my wisdom and His weakness greater than my strength, then I would be crazy to think I should use my wisdom and my strength to live. I am better off with His folly and his weakness. I realized that I needed Him and was desperate for Him; and that He loved me and invited me into a relationship with Him through His son, Jesus. That is how I came to faith.

Can you talk about all the different ministries you are involved in, what drives you, and what you are hoping to accomplish through those ministries? My wife and I really sense that the unique opportunity the NFL presented was an Esther moment in our lives. God chooses times and places for us. So, at for that time in our lives, He had us in the NFL. My career in the NFL was clearly a “business” of making kicks. You get compensated well for playing pro sports. Wins and losses matter, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter as much as the eternal security of people. So, we saw the opportunity to invest in my teammates, to care for their families, and to be in relational ministry. Young Life is something we are very connected with, my wife is a trustee of Young Life, and we believe in relational ministry and caring for people. We have been cared for by God, and God says to imitate God. Therefore, we want to care for, love, and serve other people. I think that was the context of our NFL ministry. Most of that happens through our connection with Pro Athletes Outreach. We serve on that board, and I serve as the chairman.

The translation of The Bible has been a huge deal to us. We had the privilege of being introduced to Bible translation about 16-17 years ago and are now involved in ministries like Athletes in Action and The Seed Company. I am currently on the board of The Seed Company and have been serving as chairman for five years. From that came Illumination, which is an alliance between the ten leading Bible translation agencies. They are working together to eradicate bible poverty by 2033. The hope is that 100% of the world population will have access to the gospel and/or some portion of the scripture in their own language through the work of Illumination. More specifically, by 2033, 99.9996%, almost 100%, will have access to the New Testament in their own language and 95% of the world’s population will have access to the Bible in their own language. Scripture says that two things last forever, the word of God and the soul of man. We believe Bible translation is the collision and the intersection of those two things. We are really passionate about that.

For more information on this please see the following link:

As expressed earlier, we have a passion for the work Young Life does, which is ministry to young people: middle school kids, high school kids, and college folks. Another thing we are really passionate about is stewardship, and the movement of biblical generosity that is occurring in the church today. This goes along with nurturing and caring for others. We think It is important for believers to be philanthropic realizing that God has entrusted us with more than we need. Stewardship should be done in a way that advances the kingdom and helps other people steward well with what He has given to them.

What are some effective tips for ministries to partner and to work together?
I think that the key to partnering together is having unity. We found this out at Illumination. They really do a good job spurring unity. We talk a lot about generosity, humility, and integrity, fostering unity and collaboration. God clearly commands us to be honest, transparent, and operate with integrity with one another. He hates lying. I think when people from different agencies are generous like God and humble like Christ, towards one another, it breeds and fosters unity, partnership, and collaboration. The enemy has many names, and a few of them are the confuser and deceiver. What he wants us to be self-interested, stingy and deceive each other, sneak around each other, and accuse each other. But what God wants is for us to be generous, humble, and honest. I think when brothers lean towards each other in generosity, humility, and integrity, the end result is unity in the body. Ephesians 4 says be diligent to preserve the unity of the spirit through a bond of peace. The world is constantly trying to find kinks in our armor, and the enemy is constantly trying to divide the church. But when we are united and work together, scripture says in Romans and 1 Corinthians, that the body of Christ has many complimentary parts, and when they are working together they create a very beautiful effect. We find that we see people move from darkness to light and be raised from death to life. God is pleased when brothers come together in unity.

Was there a team or teammate that influenced you?
It was the guys that were older and more mature than me. They were mentors to me and discipled me, like Mike Singletary, Steve Largent, Jim Zorn, and Eugene Robinson. I think the guys that were my contemporaries were Jon Kitna, Matt Hasselbeck, Trent Dilfer, Brian Young, Scott Gragg, and Grant Williams. A lot of guys I played with became dear friends. We ran together and were brothers. We are committed to the same things and on the board of PAO (Pro Athletes Outreach). There is a biblical model of discipleship. If we don’t have guys in leading us, guys with us, and guys following us, then we aren’t really living the way God created us to live. Mike Cannon and Andy Lee were young punters that were coming into the league when I was retiring, and went on to have pro-ball careers. I think that I gave to them what a lot of guys had given to me.

Seattle was a unique team to play for, because PAO was headquartered in Seattle for about 25 years. There was a real concerted effort by a church up there, Antioch Bible Church, to invest in us players. The pastor of Antioch Bible Church,Kent Hutcherson, who was a former player and Karl Payne, the chaplain for about twenty years of the Seahawks, along with PAO, invested in many of us on the team. A lot of those guys that played in Seattle, went on to play at a lot of different places in the NFL, and I really believe, shined brightly for Christ.

4 Things I Learned from the article "Should Hierarchy Disappear in the Workplace"


This article was written by Dylan Walsh in the Stanford Business School Periodical.

Much of the article was based upon knowledge from Lindred Greer, a professor of organizational behavior. Walsh begins the article, “Should Hierarchy Disappear in the Workplace,” by mentioning two known business beliefs: defined hierarchy and commanding leadership. Surprisingly though, one of these is wrong. Greer states that real organizations that have a clear hierarchy within the firm result in people turning against each other when they face an outside threat. Effective teamwork in the midst of threats requires egalitarianism, a culture in which all voices matter, not a hierarchy that focuses more on centralized power.

Greer is not the only one who shares in this belief. The article mentions studies whose research backs this belief. The results from research reported that hierarchical teams that felt like they were competing against other teams and generally underperformed. Egalitarian teams, on the other hand, did not underperform. Below, I included two studies mentioned in the article that were performed by Lisanne van Bunderen of the University of Amsterdam, Daan Van Knippenberg of Drexel University, and their research team.

Study One

The first study was an experiment conducted with teams of three students. These students developed and pitched a consultancy project to a prospective client. Some of these teams were non-hierarchical, while members of other teams arbitrarily received titles: senior consultant, consultant, junior consultant. Some teams faced no rivals, while others were told they were competing with a rival firm for clients. The researchers found that the subset of hierarchical teams facing competition with rival firms struggled with infighting, while the egalitarian teams cooperated on their work.

Study Two

The second study was conducted within a Dutch health insurance company. Surveys were handed out to 158 existing teams within the firm. The surveys measured the degree to which teams felt egalitarian or hierarchical and how much they perceived conflict with other teams in the company. Company managers also rated team performance. The results were the same as in the first experiment.

Van Bunderen believes that egalitarian teams are more focused as a group, because they feel as though they are in the “same boat” and share a common fate. This shared mentality prompts them to work together. On the flipside, hierarchical team members feel as though they have to fend for themselves because they are at different levels. They are willing to fight to protect themselves even if it is at the expense of others. So the question is, should hierarchy in the workplace be avoided? If so, how can existing hierarchical organizations rearrange themselves? How do leaders lead then?

Greer emphasizes the fact that we need to consider specific contexts when answering the previous questions. For example, if there is no external threat, then a hierarchical structure should be fine. But for a company facing a competitive market, egalitarian tendencies actually may be best in order to encourage employee cooperation and performance. The reality is that hierarchy at work is unavoidable, but if properly moderated, many problems can be avoided and solved.

Walsh finishes the article with a thought-provoking quote by Greer, “I’ve always said that if there were a Nobel Prize for management, it would go to the person who finds an organizational structure that’s not based on vertical differentiation, on hierarchy, on leadership,” she says. “Other than Holacracy, there have to be ways to organize that don’t imply inequality and inequity-ways to organize that are more mutually respectful and reinforcing.”

Interview With Dale Gifford

Dale Gifford was a dear friend and mentor.  I met Dale in 2009 after he had retired as the CEO of Hewitt Associates.  It began the start of a nine year relationship where he was my mentor and advisor.  Dale was a role model to me and I love him so very much. I wanted to share an interview I did with Dale a number of years ago.  

For more information on Dale Gifford please visit Dale Gifford Memorial.

What role has your faith played in your career success?

My faith affects how I view my responsibility and my role in life. I wouldn’t say it has a dramatic impact every day, but it does have an overall impact in recognizing the importance of people and the impact I have on people. It is not just about valuing people for what they do, but valuing them for who they are.

Can you identify a moment where your faith may have been a driving force for what you do?

The recognition of the calling of my role affected me more earlier in my career than in the middle. I felt my calling was a result of my giftedness in mathematics and academics. I knew I should use them, but was unclear how. As I got into increasing roles of leadership, it was obvious to me that God had created a platform for me. This platform for influence and impact was one that I didn’t deserve on my own, or could orchestrate on my own. That is when it became clear that I had a responsibility to impact employees, their families, and those connected to our organization.

Do you use a different measuring stick when you measure the success of your past company versus charitable nonprofit?

The principle measuring stick of profitability does not apply the same way for churches or ministries. In fact, I wouldn’t want to invest in them if they accumulated a lot of money and didn’t use it for Kingdom purposes. It is important to be provided with stories, data, and information on the impact organizations are having. I look at which ones are driven more by stories rather than by financial impact. Also, in general, I would prefer to provide significant support to organizations that have a broader base of investors and supporters.

As a person in your position, how does one responsibly select investments of your time, resources, charitable contributions, etc.? How do you make those choices and selections?

It takes intentionality and discernment. What takes highest priority? I choose to focus financial resources on organizations that coincide with my passions and where I want to invest my time. For me, it is events and organizations related to my church, leadership, and those that help emerging leaders.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about leadership development and emerging leaders. I am becoming more involved with and concerned about the injustices existing in the world, such as poverty. I want my heart to be softened even more in that area, but know that my skills could be put to better use for leadership than injustice issues. To provide a greater impact on the Kingdom, it is important to help the next generation, and to help them better utilize their skills.

For these emerging leaders that you want to influence, what is the message you want to give them?

There are multiple messages:

  1. Pay a lot of attention to what your passion is. Ask yourself how God has influenced your capabilities and passions.

  2. While you are creating an impact, continue to recognize that your capabilities and passions come from God.

  3. Don’t be pulled into the world’s perspective of being too proud about what you accomplished. If we don’t do things for God’s will, then we won’t have as much of an impact.

What kept you from being engulfed in outside pressures?

I recognized that my gifts and interests didn’t come from a lofty role. My wife and and I both came from humble backgrounds. We have experiences that are different and interesting than most. I enjoyed applying my skills to whatever situation came my way. Rather than seeking, I got pulled into expansive opportunities. I feel content and a responsibility to work hard and be all that God wants me to be.

If you were to give yourself advice when you first started off you career, what would it be?

Dear young me, God has a plan for you. It’s a wonderful plan. You should have some intentionality, but don’t think you have to have it all figured out. It will become clearer to you as you become older. Continue to be goal-oriented and do the best you can do. Be the best you can be, and do it all for God.


4 Things I Learned From How Netflix Changed Entertainment

  The following article is based on the Ted Talk called   How Netflix changed entertainment — and where     its     headed

The following article is based on the Ted Talk called  How Netflix changed entertainment — and where its headed

In the preceding Ted Talk, Chris Anderson interviewed Reed Hastings, co-founder, CEO, and chairman of Netflix, to find out more about the evolution of Netflix and its influence on entertainment.

In the beginning, Netflix only sent DVDs to customers, but with the introduction of streaming, the company made a radical shift in its offerings. Netflix risked its growing popularity by deciding to create its own content and by introducing the idea of binge-viewing. Unlike regular television shows where episodes were released one at a time to build excitement, Netflix released all episodes at once. Even though this consumer mode had not been tested yet, Netflix chose to take the risk. Since linear TV did not have this capability, it made users feel powerful to have access to all the episodes at once.

Netflix is a company dependent upon subscriptions. If they had placed too much weight on just increasing subscribers or increasing viewership, their company would have been unlikely to grow and become great. Instead, Netflix focused on making the brand stronger, so that more people would want to subscribe to it. The risk paid off:  Netflix’s revenue in 2018 is expected to be eight billion dollars.

Here are four leadership points I took away from watching this interview:  

1. Don’t be satisfied

Anderson asked Hastings if there was something about Netflix’s culture that allowed such bold decisions to be made. The answer was, “Yes, absolutely.” Netflix was born on DVD, something the company knew would be temporary. Hence, they constantly worried about what would and could come next. This constant state of preemptive forward thinking worked to their advantage.

2.  Employee Retention

Netflix employees are the highest paid for their jobs in this field and the least likely to leave. Hasting focuses on how to run the company with no processes and no chaos. Netflix executes this through various mechanisms: highly talented people, alignment in core strategies, open talks, and an internal sharing of information. Hasting describes Netflix as the “anti-Apple” because instead of compartmentalizing, Netflix shares all of its information. The company tries to build a sense of ownership in their employees and helps them to focus on their own abilities to do things.

Netflix is open to debate among its employees. Their policy is, “To disagree silently is disloyal.” It is against their policy to make a decision without people voicing their opinions. This allows for good decisions to be made because they will be the result from curiosity and healthy debates.

3.  Algorithm

Netflix has its own secret weapon: algorithms. In 2007, Netflix released their algorithm in hopes of finding a better one. Netflix invests a lot in its algorithms in order to feature the right content for each person. Netflix’s algorithms focus on the revealed values of its consumers, rather than their aspirational values.

4.  Continued Learning

Education is a passion of his and he spends a lot of time and money on it. Right out of college, he became a high school math teacher. When Hastings later went into business and became a philanthropist, he gravitated towards education and trying to make a difference within that realm. He noticed that educators wanted to work with other great educators to help create unique environments for kids. He believes that more various, educator-centric organizations are needed within the system that we currently have. Charter schools are important to Hastings because they are public schools run by nonprofit organizations. This means the schools are more mission-focused and more supportive of the educators. Charter schools also serve low-income kids. The difference they make for these kids is the reason Hasting donates millions to this route of education.

Interview with Alan Barnhart - President, Barnhart Crane and Rigging

What does Barnhart Crane do?

Barnhart Crane is a company based in Memphis, Tennessee. What we do is, we basically pick up and move heavy things. We are a heavy lifting, heavy transporting contractor. We work primarily in heavy industry. We put up a lot of wind turbines. We do a lot of work in the nuclear power industry. We do a lot of work in the refineries: steel mills, paper mills. So, we are a niche contractor picking up and moving heavy stuff associated with heavy industry.

Why have you and your family decided to cap the amount of money you are making? How is the company structured and why have you decided to give the ownership away?

When my brother and I started talking about forming a business and being partners, I had just come through a process of reading through the scriptures and seeing what I saw as a lot of warnings about the negative effect of wealth, and about the concept that everything comes from God. He is the owner. I am a steward, not an owner. I have no rights. I am not my own. I have been bought with a price. So when we started talking about the business and becoming partners, I wanted to make sure that we nailed that down. And together we agreed that this business, all of it, belongs to God, and we committed that to our lives.

The second thing we did to shield ourselves from some of the negative effects of wealth was to cap our lifestyle. We decided to live a relatively simple life in terms of consumption. But then tried to invest heavily with our talents to have a great company that could generate a lot of profit, and use that profit to help others, to help the Kingdom.

Half of it is given away, giving it over to the National Christian foundation and helping them own the company.

How have you shared some of those values with your kids and family? Is there any tension?

My wife did such a good job teaching them contentment. If you spend their lives teaching them contentment, there will be a basis there where they can rear up.

Putting a cap on our lifestyle brings up a lot of issues - what should that cap be, and what should our lifestyle be. We basically said, let’s ask God and see what He wants us to do. We came up with a basic lifestyle and we lived it. We continued through that process. We tried to teach our kids to be content. We had a great, adventurous, exciting life. All the good stuff in life is free. There is so much adventure, so many good things. My kids just learned to grow up, not as rich kids, but as kids that live, relatively simply. We never bought a new car. We never went on fancy vacations, but we went camping, and went to the beach, and had some great times together, and still do. My kids didn’t resent it. There were times where my kids wanted something that didn’t fit with our lifestyle, and there were times we had to say no. But we always tried to communicate with them the alternative, the choice that was being made. So, instead of just saying no, we showed them the alternative. We took them around the world to see brothers and sisters who were amazing people that we were able to help with our funding. So, there was a reason for making the sacrifices that we made. My kids were able to see that and connect with it. So it helped them. They are human beings. There were times they wanted something that they couldn’t have...times we had to say no. It was much easier because they understood the reasons for the process and the alternative that they saw as a really good thing.

When you look at your grandkids, what do you want them to remember about what you and Katherine started? What legacies do you want them and your own kids to remember?

I really hope my kids, and my grandkids, can take away, and can grasp, is that it is not about the money. We serve a loving, heavenly Father. And it is about understanding who He is and embracing the generosity that comes from Him. He is a giver. It is not about a certain amount of money. It is about a concept, God owns it all, and that is good news. We serve a loving God, who wants to give us a rich, abundant, Christian life. It is not a life of sacrifice and struggle. It is a life of walking with a Father who loves us. I want my kids to grasp that, and I think they have been able to. I hope that for the grandkids as well.

How have your brother and sister participated in this?

My brother was involved very early on and has kind of struggled through his faith. He went through a divorce, so he has had some struggles. He is remarried now, and his faith has kind of rejuvenating a bit. It has been a struggle for him. He has never kicked against it. He has always been supportive of it. He is not a guy that would want to be on the committee, or figure things out. He would fall asleep in our meetings, but he is very supportive of it.

My sister is not a believer. She has worked in the company for many years, did a good job at it, and has kind of retired. All of it has been all inward focused, which is sad to me. She knows where I am and wants to have a good relationship but doesn’t want me to push on her. She is not at all resentful. She sees what we are doing as a positive thing but doesn’t understand it.

How did you share some of these values with your employees and is this something you look for when hiring?

Some of the primary beneficiaries of this lifestyle we have chosen is the guys that work for us. Those that are believers, many have come to the company because of the ministry component of the company, and because they want to live in a place that wants to strive for excellence. So we try to give them both. There are about 80 of the employees of the company that are part of the process to find out what God wants us to do with the money that we are generating. We invite them into that process. We have sent our team members all over the world, to really hard places, seeing what God is doing and coming back with recommendations about how we can step in. They have been key players in figuring out where the investment should be made, and that is life changing. They have interacted with brothers and sisters around the world. It has really changed them. We have plenty of employees that are not believers. We say that you can believe anything or nothing and still work in our company. We have a variety of theologies in our company. There is no litmus test on theology, but there is a litmus test on culture. We want our employees to embrace our culture. The higher they go in leadership, the more critical it is they embrace our culture. A culture of servant leadership, honesty, excellence, continuous improvement. Those are elements that we look for, not all believers have those elements. So not all believers would be a fit at our company, and certainly not all non believers would be a good fit.

Why do you consider yourselves as Kingdom investors, not just donors?

We wouldn’t consider ourselves as donors, or givers. We consider ourselves Kingdom investors. We approach our decision making, our stewardship of God’s resources, somewhat in the same way we approach our business decisions. We look for organizations that have Godly leadership- solid good leadership, that have a coherent strategy, good goals. We look for an organization that has a good track record. If we find an organization that has those elements, then we are willing to invest. We start off with a little and see how it goes. We are looking for a real return. We are looking for an organization that is producing. It is not a return that is a financial return, but it is a real return. We consider ourselves investors, not givers.

How do you see marketplace making a difference in the kingdom, and around the world?

Business guys can have a real impact in this whole kingdom world. I don’t think we need to say, let us write a check and these guys have got it covered. We need to interact with ministries: helping them think, challenging their thinking, asking hard questions, encouraging them. I think this can be a lot more valuable than the check. A lot of times just going through the process of evaluating a ministry can change the ministry in positive ways. We, in the business world, can benefit from elements in the faith community, and our faith can be enlivened. Ministries are basically businesses that are producing a product. A lot of the business principles apply, but not a lot of ministry leaders have been taught them. Working together and not being afraid to step over some bounds and asking great questions has been extremely beneficial. We have had ministry leaders say “you have helped me so much more by your advice, input, and your questions, than with your check.”

Come and meet Alan at our upcoming Christian CEO Roundtable in Chicago on Monday, September 24th.  

How 130 year old National Geographic became the top social media brand


As we scroll through our social media accounts—whether it be Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or another platform—there are certain things that capture our attention and cause us to pause for a few seconds and other posts that we just pass right on by. What makes the difference between the content we stop on, and the content we don't?

According to Carolanne Mangles, Digital Marketing Executive and Editor at Smart Insights, the difference is found in powerful visuals and great storytelling. Some businesses place an image in front of you and expect you to know what it is and why it is there. Other groups, like National Geographic and Humans of New York, tell us specifically why we should stop, read, and engage. It is these three components that make all the difference.

National Geographic has an impressive 81.7 million followers on Instagram and a combined global following of 350 million across all of their social platforms. They are the the most popular brand on Instagram and the biggest brand on social media. But the impressive part is that they are able to convert these subscribers of free social content into paid subscribers of their print content. National Geographic has found the “sweet spot” of visual marketing through the use of  powerful visuals and great storytelling. Hence, their followers on social media stop scrolling, read and engage with the content, and then choose to purchase other content.

National Geographic is known for their unique, stunning, high quality photographs, but not every great image taken by their photographers is posted to their social accounts. If a great visual image was all that people cared about, the National Geographic’s largest following would be on Pinterest, where users have the perfect platform for creating visual boards. Instead, the images National Geographic chooses to share have a "wow" factor. The “wow” being an element that makes us stop and wonder where it was taken, who or what is in it, and what the story is behind it. That is why NatGeo's largest following is on Instagram, where users are privy to a long description or a short story accompanying each post.

There is a consistency in the type of photographs National Geographic posts that their followers have come to expect. I believe that the reason their images repeatedly hit the mark is because their visual content regularly falls into one or more of these four categories:  

it is interesting.

It is unusual.

It is shocking.

It is emotional.

National Geographic's visual content constantly falls into one or more of these categories.

Most of us are captivated by things that we might never get to experience, see, or do ourselves. If we see a post about something we find interesting, we tend to want to know more. The same can be said about content that we find strange or foreign. When we find ourselves asking the question “what is this,” we are more likely to pause and investigate. Shocking content does not have to make our jaws drop, it could simply be a photograph of the last animal of its kind or of the tallest mountain in the world. An image that conjures up an emotional reaction can also cause us to pause—whether it reminds us of a historic event, an experience we relate to personally, or because it is relevant and happening to other people in the world today.

Sometimes, even if the photograph were to be removed, the written explanation posted alongside the image itself is enough to paint its own picture. NatGeo's captions are rich in detail with the descriptions of the subject of the image, the reason why the photographer or journalist is at a certain location, why the event or setting is important, and a description of the surroundings or environment. Although important,  it is not just the image and the caption that are compelling.

National Geographic is also an expert at crafting the "hook"—the first few words of the text before the "more" button. Those words make us want to click for "more." When we talk NatGeo's content having a "wow" factor, we are talking about their whole package - the way their visuals, hook, and story consistently come together in a way that is so engaging that their followers are compelled to respond.

Another unique aspect to National Geographic's content is that images and written copy are credited to specific people. We all long for personal interactions, and this approach helps NatGeo's marketing feel less corporate and more personal. More than 100 photographers have earned the right to post directly to National Geographic's Instagram from their on-site locations. Sometimes a photographer's skill set does not always translate into producing perfect Instagram or Snapchat Stories. Fortunately, NatGeo's social team will help these photographers by suggesting questions they can answer in the posts and/or providing tips to showcase themselves in a way that helps them to be a vehicle for the story, but not the main attraction. National Geographic's posts are then, therefore, not the voices of their editors, but the voices of the photographers themselves - telling us what things looked like to them, felt like, and smelled like in real time.

The reason why we pause when scrolling is because the image grabs our attention, the hook draws us in, and the story provides us with information that we want to know about. The story is made personally relevant to us by virtue of it being a firsthand account from the source, not a sales pitch from a marketing department. We want to engage because we feel as though we are interacting with a real person. A person who shares our same fears, hopes, and dreams and is on the frontlines for the sole purpose of bringing interesting and important information right to our doorsteps. We pause for an organization's content because the person who posted  feels like they are our friend.