Author, The Integrated Life (2010)
Founder & CEO, Living Stones Foundation
BA and MBA, Stanford University
PhD, Bellhaven College
Married to Roberta; 3 sons
Ken Eldred: Integrate Faith and Work
The 700 Club
A WHOLE, INTEGRATED LIFE
Ken says he struggled about coming to the Lord. He was sure God would make him preach.
Trained in business at Stanford for five years, he thought that becoming a minster after coming to God just would not fit into his plans. But he could not resist God’s love.
Ken accepted Christ one Sunday morning after church over thirty years ago as he sat in his car, fully expecting God to call him to preach. “I thought I had to give up business to become a pastor,” says Ken. “I wrestled with this concept when I was struggling with what I should do with my life: ministry or business.” God opened the doors for him to be in business in the 1980s, he started a successful mail-order computer accessories business, Inmac, which went public in 1986. Ken also started Ariba Technologies, which also went public.
Ken says this early misconception he had about having to choose faith or business is common with Christians. When we come to Christ, fundamental changes take place but we don’t let Him into all areas of our lives. We “compartmentalize” our lives and don’t operate in our new life in Christ as a whole. In Christ, you have a whole, integrated life. Jesus says that He is the Lord of all. How can He be divided?
Ken says God needs to be brought into every part of your life. To integrate faith and work, live the way the Bible tells you to live at work and work unto the glory of God. When you let God into all aspects of your life, wonderful things can happen. To start this process, you need to change your mindset in all areas of your life and review them. When it comes to faith and business, Ken learned there is no divide.
The roles of the Church and business are the same - to serve others to the glory of God. Though the methods are different, both are ultimately for the same purpose and objective. They can even work together. A misconception of business is that it’s about maximizing profits and the bottom line. Ken says profits from business are the oxygen that gets you to the end of the race, but they are not the end.
FAITH PRINCIPLES IN BUSINESS
Being a “weekend warrior” wasn’t an option for Ken as a new Christian - he wanted to exercise his faith everyday. He read Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (NIV) Ken prayed that God would change his desires or help him to see business opportunities. A few weeks later after trying to buy a company and having it fail, his friend brought Ken some business ideas. As they were going through them, at about the sixth idea, Ken heard the Lord say “That’s it…” Ken and his friend built a business strategy around that idea.
Shortly after this, Ken decided to go on a church retreat. He got the scripture I Timothy 5:8, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (NIV) He also received the passage Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (NIV) Ken learned to set his priorities: God first, your spouse second, your children/family third and then take time for your professional development and everything else. He went to his other business associates and told them he would only work 40 hours, 5 days a week. Ken was integrating his faith with his business practices.
FINDING GOD’S PURPOSE FOR YOU
Ken sought the Lord more and found that business was a desire and a purpose God had placed in him. He went on another retreat, took a personal inventory, and set goals. Ken says if you want to stay on track with the purposes God has, he highly recommends you do this. He asked God to show him what God wanted him to do and the whole process took him over a month. From this, Ken put a plan together so he could accomplish the purposes he felt that God had for him. He wrote down three purposes and then set priorities to make sure they lined up with his three purposes. After more than thirty years, Ken still follows this plan.
God wires people with desires and He has specific purposes for everyone. For example, Jesus knew His purpose. When he was on the cross He told God “It is finished.” He knew that He completed the purpose God had for Him. He says the problem people have when they try to do this is they are double minded. They haven’t taken the time to figure out their purpose. Ken says when discovering your purpose it is good to have three. Also, don’t think that these three purposes are set in concrete! Change them if they need to be changed. If you don’t get it right, don’t worry, God will tell you. Another mistake Christians make is they often take the view their work is never done. Ken says this is a trick of Satan - he would love to push you to burn out. When you are following your purpose and your plan, God will help you accomplish the purposes He has for you.
Again, it is important to set priorities. Time is limited and people tend to burn out because they are trying to make up for lost time and wear themselves out. When Ken decided to only work 40 hours a week and start his company he had to make some hard decisions. People of faith have to figure what to do.
Ken cites Romans 15:16, where the Apostle Paul knew what he was supposed to do. Unless you know what your objectives are, you won’t know what to give up. The concept of time management can be misleading. People want more time to do more of the same. Ken strongly urges Christians to have a plan and priorities, and then time will clean itself up. Make a list of priorities everyday. Make sure they line up with your objectives and you accomplish what you set out to accomplish for that day. Set boundaries wisely and well.
At work Christians should expect God to do wonderful things and declare these works like Psalms 106. We can see throughout the Bible that God does miracles, like the parting of the Red Sea; however, we need to talk about the miracles that God is doing in our lives today. When Ken first started Inmac, he and his business partner were going to mail the first catalogs during Holy week.
Ken told his partner he was going to take a vacation with his family for nine days. His partner didn’t think this was very wise since they were just starting the company and much needed to be done. Ken told him he would do what was necessary when he got back. As a result, God honored Ken’s decision to spend time with his family. Another story is also from these early days of Inmac. The company’s sales were declining and it looked like it might fail.
Ken and his wife, Roberta, agreed to pray for ten days for a sign. For confirmation, they asked God for three $7000 days in six weeks, which was nearly triple their volume. On three successive Mondays God gave them $7000+ days and then the figures dropped back to an abysmal $2500 a day. But they knew they were doing what God wanted them to do. God has continued to give them consistent growth through the years.
Ken wants to offer a challenge to people. What is the one thing you need to change? Write it down. Do it tomorrow. Discipline yourself. Ultimately things in your life will change. Do you really want to do something radical for God or end in disaster? That is the choice. Ken especially wants to reach out to young people. You can make a difference in your work. Do what you need to do and don’t do what you don’t need to do. You have opportunities to live and share your faith in the workplace. Integrate your faith and work and see what God does!
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