“We want to be a force. Jesus calls us to be a taste.”
Jordan Raynor sits down with Andy Crouch, Author of Culture Making, to talk about the difference between impact and influence at work and why Jesus calls us to be the latter, the simple exercise you can do today to value those you work with beyond their productivity, and what Scripture has to say about the intrinsic value of your work.
[00:00:05] JR: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Mere Christians Podcast. I’m Jordan Raynor. How does the gospel influence the work of mere Christians? Not those of us who are pastors or religious professionals, but who work as researchers, electricians, and architects. That's the question we explore every week. Today, I'm posing it to Andy Crouch, one of my favorite authors, by far, for the past decade. He wrote Culture Making, Tech-Wise Family, and his latest book, The Life We’re Looking For. I've read and loved everything Andy's ever written.
Beyond his writing, Andy serves as a partner for theology and culture at Praxis, which is one of my favorite nonprofits, working as a creative engine for redemptive entrepreneurship. Previously, Andy served as the executive editor of Christianity Today. Before that, he spent 10 years working for InterVarsity, on the campus of Harvard University. Andy and I finally got to sit down and we talked about the difference between impact and influence at work, and why Jesus calls us to be the latter. We talked about the simple exercise you can do today to value those you work with beyond their productivity. Finally, we unpack what scripture has to say about the intrinsic value of your work. Trust me, you're going to love this terrific episode with my friend, Andy Crouch.
[00:01:42] JR: Andy Crouch, welcome to the podcast.
[00:01:44] AC: Thank you, Jordan.
[00:01:45] JR: This is so fun. So, I've been following your work for years now, and somehow never knew this until my team pulled it up in their research for this episode. You got a shout-out from Lecrae, in one of his albums?
[00:02:02] AC: In his single, Non-Fiction, which is kind of the story of his life and work and how it evolved over time. Yes, I show up in one of the verses.
[00:02:11] JR: This is amazing. You have to have this line memorized, right?
[00:02:16] AC: Yes, I do.
[00:02:22] JR: So, it's coming. You have to rap, publicly.
[00:02:26] AC: I cannot, I cannot. That would be a mistake. That would make a mistake.
[00:02:30] JR: Was is he saying?
[00:02:31] AC: He says, “Andy Crouch, wrote a book called Culture Making, and I knew I had to make a change.” Which I think he means that this book Culture Making that I wrote back in 2008, helped him embrace a kind of bigger vision for his music than maybe the sectarian or sub-cultural models he'd been given, and encouraged him to make music for a wider audience and about more topics. So, it's amazing to be in the song. It's way better to have actually, like, been an encouragement to an artist. But I’ll take the shout-out.
[00:03:03] JR: I think the line comes like right after this Tim Keller shout out, too. Oh, Tim Keller changed my life, and oh, yeah, Andy Crouch changed my music. It's so great. Of course, we're going to be linking to this in the show notes. So, you guys can all listen to it.
[00:03:18] AC: It’s my walk on music for all my appearances.
[00:03:22] JR: It’s got to be. Alright, I got to ask this. Did you know the line was coming? Or was this like a surprise? Like a friend texted this to you, like, you're never going to believe this?
[00:03:29] AC: So, the crazy thing is, I did not know at all. And my son was then about, gosh, 11 or 12 years old and was really into Lecrae, which is awesome. And he was listening to this brand new single literally the day it dropped. He's sitting – I vividly remember, he's sitting like across the room from me on his headphones. He's like, “Dad.”
[00:03:50] JR: That is the greatest moment of all time.
[00:03:54] AC: Totally. My credibility with my son like went up a thousand-fold.
[00:04:00] JR: That's one of the best stories ever. That's really good. That's really good. Well, hey, listen, I told you before we start recording, but Lecrae is referencing Culture Making, first book I read of yours. It's extraordinary. I quoted a lot in Called to Create, and it was the first time I heard this mind-blowing exposition of the gold and precious stones underneath the Garden of Eden. I don't know that I've ever talked about this on the podcast before. Can you talk about it? Can you share what's going on here? And why you think these resources are there?
[00:04:36] AC: Yes, yes, I can. I think that I first – actually, myself saw this when it was pointed out to me by the artists and Makoto Fujimura, that the author of Genesis, of those early chapters of Genesis includes this detail about the Garden of Eden and its location. It says gold and onyx are found there and bdellium them as well. So, he names these three resources that are in the vicinity of though not in the garden itself, in the kind of general vicinity.
[00:05:08] JR: Yeah, the Pishon. Under the Pishon River?
[00:05:10] AC: Yeah. I mean, it's this intersection of rivers that even in the time that the book was written, that would not have intersected. So, it's not presented as somewhere – it's not like our treasure map. You can go there and get it now. But the gold of that land is good. It says onyx and bdellium are found there as well. What's significant about this is a couple of things. First, it implies that the Creator intends for his image-bearers to leave the garden. They start in the garden, they're placed in the garden, but they're not meant to stay because their divine command/invitation is filling the earth, right?
But also, is the implication there are these resources that are going to be discovered, or maybe even just stumbled upon in a way, by humanity as we fill the earth as God's image-bearers that we will then be able to take and, in the case of gold and onyx, literally, excavate and discover their properties, and then turn them into something even more beautiful gold and onyx, obviously, is for jewelry. The bdellium is actually a sap that oozes out of a tree, and it's very aromatic. It's actually more – I mean, it's beautiful to look at, looks kind of like a pearl if you form it into a ball. But it has this beautiful aroma. So, it's like appealing to multiple senses.
And human beings are going to have to gather these things, make something of them, and this is what I talked about in the book, is the transition from good to very good, that God has made the world good, but the very goodness of the world is waiting for human beings. Here are these resources, listed there right in Genesis that are going to be used by human beings in their image-bearing tasks.
[00:06:45] JR: Yeah. So, we see these materials show up in the second chapter of Scripture, but they also reappear in the second to last chapter of Scripture. It's so poetic. So, what do you make of the fact that those, all of those elements are mentioned as comprising the New Jerusalem? What do you make of that?
[00:07:10] AC: Well, I think that maybe the thing I make of it that is most comforting, in a way, is like God is not giving up on this cosmos. And also, not giving up on human beings. I mean, God could, God is recorded in Scripture is very nearly having done so just in the early chapters of Genesis. But instead, God decides freely, graciously, with every reason to do otherwise, to embark in this redemptive mission that's going to rescue us and rescue the whole growing world. So, that's maybe one thing, is like, whatever beauty we've experienced with the world, and some people get to experience more of it than others, because unfortunately, some people never get to see how good the world is, and could be. But if you have tasted that, like it's not going to be lost. It's going to be rescued, redeemed, reclaimed, remade, and renewed.
But I suppose the other thing is that the work of our hands won't be lost. Because in the New Jerusalem, it's not just natural resources. So, it’s streets of hammered gold. At least that's how I read this phrase, streets of gold. I think what – because John, the Revelator says, that they're translucent like glass and the only way you get gold that's translucent is if you hammer it to a very, very fine thickness, which human beings can do. And then there are all these jewels, including the onyx and there are pearls which echoed the bdellium. All those are things that human beings have fashioned.
So, I think, in addition to the fact that God is simply not going to let his good creation go to waste, or go to rot, or get lost forever. Also, the work of human hands to the extent that they participate in God's intention will not be lost, either, and that's amazing to think.
[00:08:58] JR: It's mind-boggling. I was talking about this with Makoto Fujimura on the podcast a couple of months ago, this vision of Isaiah 60 And Revelation 21, I believe, it is verse 26, the glory and wealth of the nations. I think it's this picture of human culture, the work of human hands. Some of it surviving the fire of judgment that Paul talks about in First Corinthians, chapter three. This is mind-boggling to us. Kingdoms don't just have people and Kings, right? They have culture. That's also going to be true in the Eternal Kingdom of God. What does that mean for us now, though, Andy? How does the fact that the New Jerusalem might contain some of the glory of the nation, some of the work of our hands? How does that shape the work we do as culture-makers right now?
[00:09:49] AC: Well, maybe two thoughts. I mean, one is I think simply it can give us hope to maybe slightly borrow and adapt a line from scripture, your labor is not in vain.
[00:10:03] JR: Yeah. First Corinthians 15:58.
[00:10:05] AC: Yeah, the work you do. I mean, I suppose in its original context, that refers to the sacrificial work of commending the gospel to the world. But I think it absolutely also applies to the literal work of our hands. The work we do to the extent that it is excellent, in the truest sense, it's not a waste. I think work often feels vain. I mean, Ecclesiastes unpacks, this universal human sense, is this really not all just kind of vanity and chasing after the wind? It's not. Ecclesiastes raises a question in a way that revelation answers. It is not all vanity and chasing after the wind.
I would say the other thing that maybe is a little more subtle, is that this isn't an invitation to be serious about craft, and serious about form. We often think of our work insofar as it has value, especially if we're trying to think as Christians of the value of our work. We think in terms of the content. Did I preach the gospel in some tangible, sensible, apprehensible way? I don't think that's a bad question for us to ask about our lives. I certainly hope there's enough evidence from my life to convict me as a Christian at the end of it, right? So, I want to have delivered a certain kind of message with some content from my life.
But the glory and the honor of the nations, it's not primarily about what's inscribed or written or what message is contained, it really is about excellence of form. So, this is, if you're a writer, like really asking what is the best possible arrangement of words and implied sound in each phrase, and sentence and paragraph and page. If you are an engineer, it's what's the most elegant, beautiful, economical, simple, and yet functional way to do whatever the thing is that needs to be done by this device of whatever kind. It's the invitation to excellence and beauty in the form of what we make without it having to have a message as well. Because ultimately, I think the message, I don't know that cultural products are the – the bearers of the message and the New Jerusalem are the martyrs themselves. The people are the ones who carry the story. But the work of their hands is like what surrounds and gives beauty and kind of infinite quality to the telling of the story of the Lamb who was slain and now reigns.
Does that make sense? So, I worry that we spend too much time worrying about the content of what we're doing, and maybe not enough time thinking about the form. Revelation 21 is an invitation to put the greatest craft you can into whatever you make.
[00:12:56] JR: Yeah, I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I think, in the church today, most Christians understand that their work has instrumental value, right? So, I use my work to explicitly share the gospel with others, which is great. We all should be doing more of that. It also has intrinsic value in and of itself. I think in a way this is rooted in a really narrow definition of evangelism and what evangelism is. We think evangelism is the Romans road. The Psalms say that the heavens declare the glory of God, the stars are evangelizing. So, just working to rid the world of smog is evangelism.
But I think that in the context of culture, just writing a really, really great book, and planting seeds in people's hearts for things that are transcendent and true, even if they don't explicitly mention the name of Jesus on every page, I think that's evangelism. I think that's part of this vision in Isaiah 60. One of my favorite quotes and culture making you say, “Knowing that the New Jerusalem will be furnished with the best of every culture frees us from having to give a religious or evangelistic explanation of everything we do.” That's it. Should we look for opportunities for evangelism explicitly? Of course, you should. But there's intrinsic value there, right?
[00:14:24] AC: Completely, yes.
[00:14:28] JR: It is weird to hear somebody else quoting you, like 20 years after you read a book?
[00:14:30] AC: It’s satisfying. I try to write, I mean, I have no pretensions that my books are likely to be read for generations. I think very few authors can hope for that. But I do try to write books that could be read for at least 10 years. So, it is actually encouraging. I think we're 14 years after that book was published that somebody is still quoting from it. It's encouraging.
[00:14:53] JR: And you probably forget what you wrote. That's true me. I don't remember what I wrote three years ago. Thank you for reminding me.
[00:14:58] AC: I know. But it’s also fun. I mean, I think I might have got this from Mako too. I've learned a lot from Mako.
[00:15:04] JR: Yeah, me too.
[00:15:04] AC: Every artist needs to be their own first fan and I sometimes pick up stuff I've written a long time ago, I read it. And I'm like, “Hey, that's really good.” So, I enjoy rereading, and finding that I said something well. That's a good feeling.
[00:15:19] JR: That’s a good feeling. Hey, speaking of new books, you just published The Life We're Looking For which I loved. Give our listeners a real brief overview of what this book is about.
[00:15:31] AC: I suppose it starts with a question, which is how do we become the most powerful people in history in many, many ways? Largely because of technology, what we call technology. We've got more power at our disposal that various kinds of human beings have ever had. So, how do we become that? And the most lonely, anxious and depressed people, I don't know if we're the most lonely, anxious and depressed in history, but surprisingly lonely, anxious and depressed, given the amazing success in one sense of technology.
So, it's really a book about the gap between what technology has given us, the life we thought we were looking for, which is a life of kind of magical power and possibility of being able to get things done in the world and be protected from the harms of the world. The gap between that and actually the flourishing life we were made for, especially as persons and why is it so hard to be a person in this world? That's sort of where the book starts at least. Does that sound right to you?
[00:16:27] JR: Yeah, that sounds right. And I loved this story you told early in the book on that topic. You shared this experience walking through the O'Hare Airport, in Chicago. Can you share that story with our listeners?
[00:16:40] AC: Yeah, it was a winter night. I had a long layover. The security lines were horrible. So, I couldn't leave, I was just stuck for a couple hours in O'Hare Airport. Probably, many people have had that experience. But there were plenty who are having that experience that night, I can tell you. So, I decided, I realized I could actually get in quite a bit of exercise, if I just were to walk all the terminals, because they're all connected, at least at that time, all those terminals were connected. And then I thought, I've been thinking about this idea that human beings bear the image of God. What would it be like to walk up and down every one of these terminals? And as I pass people to notice them, because normally, when you walk through the airport, you kind of just – I mean, you're so overwhelmed with how many people there are. You just kind of screen them out of your imagination in some ways, in your attention.
What would it be like to actually walk through, look at every face I can, in a non-creepy way, just notice every face and say to myself, image-bearer. So, I walked all the way from the one end of terminal one to the far end of, I don't know, if it's terminal three, or whatever that last terminal is, it's like A, B, C, D, E, F, G, K, like all these piers. I walked up and down every single one and I passed hundreds of people. I tried to keep my attention on the people I was passing as every single person went by, say, image-bearer, image-bearer, image-bearer. And it was absolutely one of the most overwhelming, I guess, I would say, spiritual experiences in my life.
[00:18:19] JR: Why?
[00:18:20] AC: Well, I think it was a couple things. It was kind of an exercise, in my own limited creaturely way and looking at human beings, the way God looks at us, that is, God does see each of us. We are not – there's this beautiful story in Genesis of this slave woman, Hagar, who is really mistreated by her mistress and ends up in the wilderness but has this experience of realizing God sees her and names God, the God who sees. It was just this invitation to actually, I can't be God, I can't see or know people the way God knows people. But just in the way I can, looking at every face, trying to actually see rather than just ignore, or maybe ask what use is this person to use me or whatever. Just to behold, and imagine, wow, God is doing this with seven billion human beings.
But actually, another part of it was, there's this incredible sense of dignity and tragedy when you do this. So, you feel when you name every person who walks by you, and this is airport workers, it's men in suits, it's grandmothers, it's babies. It's quite a range of human beings from every race and national background and so forth. You feel a sense of the dignity of being human welling up, at least I did, when I did this. At the same time, there was kind of this feeling of loss, like, “Oh, you look tired. You look disappointed. You look anxious. You look diminished.” I don't know that there was anyone I passed who I didn't sense like, “Oh, you've lost something.” I’ve lost, we’ve lost. We human beings have lost something.
So, it was that gap between – like elevating the gap between who we really, truly are in our created reality. But who we are in our fallen reality, were both like far more present to me in that hour or so that I did that, than they normally are, and just invited me into a different kind of prayer and a different kind of consciousness of who I am and where I was in the world. In O'Hare International Airport, kind of crazy.
[00:20:35] JR: Yeah, I love it. What do you think would change if the mere Christians, listening, went to work tomorrow, looked at everyone in their offices? Everyone at the all-hands Zoom meeting and silently named them as image-bearers?
[00:20:54] AC: If you can do this on Zoom, you were a more spiritual human being than I am. That's like next level. Well, I will tell you one thing, I think it does, and I've tried to do this exercise periodically since then. It really requires a commitment. I don't know that you can wake up and just say, again, today, I will do this. Because it's sort of a –
[00:21:15] JR: It’s an exhausting discipline.
[00:21:16] AC: It is exhausting. It's like going on a pilgrimage. It's like walking the Camino de Santiago or whatever. You have to prepare yourself for it, commit yourself to it and follow through. But I do think everyone should try it. And when you do, I think one thing that happens is it slows you down. Because for a couple of reasons. I mean, for one thing, like other people are, if I can put it this way, by and large, beautiful, and I don't mean physically attractive, or some people are. But there is a beauty that you don't want to just pass by when you start seeing them the way God sees them. So, you slow down because you're not just sort of moving right to well, what's the agenda? What's the purpose? What do I need to get done? You get more into the holding mode, I would say. Like, oh, my goodness. Wow, what's it like to be you? What's it like to be you?
It will slow you down, I think it reframes what's important, especially if one does it, as you said, if we're mere Christians, then Christ is living in us. We've invited him to live in us. And so, we're trying to do this with Christ living in us, and it's going to reorder our priorities of like, what do I most need to get done today? It might not be the thing that I thought when I got up this morning. There may be some interruption or some brokenness that needs to be repaired, some grief that needs to be attended to, some joy that needs to be celebrated, some affirmation that needs to be offered. There's lots of different possibilities and you won't know until you try. But I think you might well find at the end of the day, when you set out to do this, that you do did completely different things than you expected, and they were way more important than the things that were on your to do list.
[00:22:52] JR: Yeah. You've already mentioned it a couple of times. But you talk in the book about the difference between exploitation and contemplation, right? Exploitation looks at the people I work with and says, “What can these people do for me?” Contemplation is, “Who am I beholding, without regard? Disconnected from their utility, their usefulness to me to the business?” How can our listeners value – because this is an important nuance intention, I think, right? We do value both what our colleagues at work for us for the business, especially as entrepreneurs, and who they are, irrespective of their productivity, how do you hold that tension well? What does that look like, practically?
[00:23:38] AC: I think you sequence it. So, it is absolutely – I think it's actually a part of human dignity that we are of use to each other, like we can help each other. And together, we can create things that none of us can create on our own. Especially, the domain of work is the domain where we do that. We create value together in any good job. But it's the order. So, if I start with what use are you to me? I'm positioning myself with the risk, or likelihood, maybe of exploitation. That is, I'm going to jump right to how do you fit into my agenda, what I think I need?
So, I have to begin by contemplating. If I may say this, you did this. We started recording a little while ago. But before we started recording, we had to reschedule this interview from a couple of weeks ago, because I've had some very complex things happening in my family. And rather than just saying, “Okay, Andy, you're ready for the recording?” What you would have been entirely, within your rights to do, we're here to get this podcast recorded. You asked about that situation. And then when I talked about, you ask the names of the people involved, and that didn't contribute anything to the podcast until I brought it up. You didn't do it for material for the podcast. It wasn't like pre-interview. It was just the holding me.
While in one sense it makes – it's not on the recording. I mean, we could talk about now, but we can't recapture what we said and we don't need to talk about right now. But it actually does change what we now produce together that rather than me thinking, “Yeah, I'm here to fulfill Jordan's request and be a good guest and do the best I can and make the most of this conversation.” The first thing was, “Wait, tell me about that thing. That sounds like it was hard. And tell me the names of the people and I'll pray for that.” That's huge. And thank you for doing that. It was very moving to me that you did that.
[00:25:32] JR: Truly, my privilege. So, you work with a team, right? You practice, you're working with the team, what does this look like institutionally? Within the organization's culture? For example, like at all hand’s meetings, I'm assuming you guys don't just like jump into the agenda. What does this look like at a tactical level to behold to contemplate before we exploit? I hate that word. But that's the right word.
[00:25:59] AC: Well, a couple things. I mean, first of all, I don't think every meeting has to start with like a deep contemplation. There’s a time and place to just say, “Okay, let's get this thing done.”
[00:26:09] JR: Yeah, let’s get to work.
[00:26:11] AC: I think you need rhythms built in to your life as a team, that do in some meaningful way, put contemplation first, or sometimes put it in the middle. I mean, one thing, we have the good fortune, in a way, at Praxis being a Christian organization. So, we scheduled prayer into the middle of our day. And at noon, most days, we stop. And if we're remotely join on Zoom, and we – it's 15 minutes, it's not long. But I'll tell you, all we do is we say the first half of the Lord's Prayer, and that we stop after on earth as it is in heaven. It's very strange to stop in the middle of the Lord's Prayer which most of us have memorized the whole thing. But we do that because we're in the middle of the day, and we've got stopped in the middle of the prayer, like, it's not all done. There's more to be done. But let's just stop with this opening kind of invitation for God's name to be called, God's will to be done, God's kingdom would come.
And then we read it, just a little bit of Scripture and then we have actually name of our community who we've selected ahead of time. And we've actually reached out to them and said, “Is there any way we could pray for you when your name comes up?” That's five names a day, we just bring them before God along with anything that's going on in our team or that we are aware of. So, I know not everybody works in an environment where that can be done. But I do think the fact – I think you can – if you're working in a pluralistic context, where you don't pray with your team, you still could take the first 15 minutes of your lunch break, to just pause, say half the Lord's Prayer, read a Psalm, and then name some people who matter to God and matter to you.
[00:27:43] JR: It's good.
[00:27:43] AC: I think, also, we do try – we have another interesting thing that we've been doing for about a year. We got this from our friend, Kurt Thompson, who's influenced me and this new book quite a lot. Kurt's a psychiatrist, and has really wonderful thoughts on how to create these kinds of communities of he calls them confessional communities. But it doesn't just mean confessing our sins, it means kind of telling our whole story to other people. He has this exercise that we have adopted as longings, and greetings, and gratitude. And in all of our supervision meetings.
So, when I meet with our Managing Partner, Sogen, who's my direct supervisor, the first question in our biweekly one on one is, Andy, what are you longing for? What are you grieving? And what are you grateful for? That's a very vulnerable way to start a supervision meeting. So, it takes a lot trust, and you have to really trust both ways. But it is really powerful to start that way. Some weeks, a lot of it is about work. Man, I'm longing to get this project done. I'm grieving how this meeting went, I don't think it was as good as it could have been, or you know whatever.
But honestly, a lot of weeks, the most important things are not necessarily work related. But there are things that are part of my story and my person that are in the room, and that that maybe need to be named. And if Sogen can hear those and support those, then when we turn to the work, and this is only the first 10 minutes or so the meeting generally. But when we turn to the work, it's with the whole person kind of interview.
I think even that language might feel like a stretch in some work environments like that just not feel too intimate, to be safe in some places. But there are ways you can ask the same questions open endedly, wait, hear what the other person has to say, and then move into the other things, and then you've contemplated and then you're not going to exploit. You're now we're going to collaborate, you're going to create, co-create together.
[00:29:38] JR: Yeah. And I'm thinking about those mere Christians listening who are in the position to dictate which questions get asked at the beginning of these meetings. You want to talk about a way to be distinctively Christian, caring about that whole person and showing and demonstrating in a genuine way that you care about the person and not just their productivity, that'll preach. That’s pretty otherworldly. Right?
[00:30:03] AC: It is. I almost think it's like the, what's the word I'm looking for? Is the secret thing – I don’t know how to put it, Jordan. It is the secret – I don't like secret sauce, either. I can’t think of the right word. This is the distinctive thing we can do, because we are not in the world to provide for ourselves. So, we don't have to go to work and make this thing work, to provide for our families, to provide for our sense of status, whatever the thing is that you're chasing, or feel you most need, God has got that, and God cares most about persons. If we care most about persons, especially in the world of business, the world of business is full of human beings who want to be treated like human beings. But they're in systems that tend to deform their relationships into merely instrumental relationships. Christians are the ones who always have the backup, the divine backup, to say, we're going to start with the person. There are different ways to do that, that are appropriate in different settings. But it's so noticeable when you do it. I mean, people just really notice it.
[00:31:12] JR: This is kind of at the core of your exposition on Tertius, from Roman 16, right? Tell us a little bit about who this guy was and the point you're trying to make about him in the book.
[00:31:22] AC: So, it was actually when I started to unpack this part of the book of Roman, that I realized I had to write a book, strangely.
[00:31:29] JR: Really?
[00:31:30] AC: Yeah, you wouldn't necessarily say this book is about Tertius, this guy, but in some ways, it really is. So, we learned Tertius’ name, in the midst of this long list of greetings in Romans 16, which is the last chapter of the book of Romans. The book of Romans is mostly this amazingly dense, beautiful, theological kind of treatise. But in chapter 16, it's basically just a bunch of greetings. Greet all these people who Paul apparently knows or knows of, or knows their family in Rome.
Towards the end, it actually seems as you read, you're like, “Oh, he's gotten to the end of the list.” And you think the letter’s done, and then along comes this sentence. “I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.” You realize the voice we're hearing now is not the voice of Paul, which we've been hearing. It's the voice of the scribe, the guy has been taking dictation for – I mean, can you imagine how long it would have to take him to get that all right and learn from? He's been taking dictation, probably for weeks, I would guess. This is a job in the ancient world and most people couldn't write. We know that Paul himself, even when he does write, one time, he writes in letters, see the big letters I'm using. He's basically saying, “I don't write very well.” Most people didn't. They relied on scribes to take down dictation.
So, this was like a low-level job often done by a slave. Almost always done by someone who is anonymous. You normally have no idea who took down the dictation. I mean, who took the message on the answering machine? It's not something you record. And what's so striking is that in this letter, and it's almost without parallel in other Greco Roman letters, there's a couple other times where the scribe knows the people being written to and said something that's very rare. And Tertius says, “I who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.” And then he actually goes on to say, “Gaius, whose home we're staying in, greets you.” I think it is, who's the treasurer of the city of Corinth greets you and the brother Cortes creature as well.
So, he lists these other people who are there. And you realize Paul must have stopped in his dictation of the letter after this long, long letter. Rather than just saying, “Okay, we're done.” He's like, “Oh, Tertius, you should say hello.” That is such an amazing moment of like, recognition, invitation, elevation. You also are a brother in the Lord and then we learn this guy Tertius is a guest in the home of someone who hangs out with the treasurer of the city of Corinth, and he's there as another brother. We know Phoebe is there. She's got to carry the letter of the room. So, these brothers and sisters are sitting around this table and when they walk out into the street, only Gaius and Aristarchus, that's the name, only Gaius and Aristarchus get any recognition. The others are nobody.
But inside that community, they are known, and they are not just greeted, but greeting. The one other crazy thing, as you know, from the book is the meaning of his name. Tertius is just simply the Latin word for number three, or third. He wasn't even given a proper name at birth, because by the time the third baby comes along, in a family, that's probably a family of slaves, like, “Gosh, number three.” But here's number three, who is now a brother in a family. And to me that just encapsulates like the revolution, the Christian movement sets in motion in the midst of the Roman Empire, this revolution of recognition and personhood that changed our world and I actually think we needed another revolution like that in our very impersonal and lonely world now.
[00:35:03] JR: Yeah, it's pretty wild. So, what would that look like in an office setting in a workplace? Who are the Tertisues of our modern culture? How do we recognize them as image-bearers and appreciate them both for their productivity and just their simple God-given personhood?
[00:35:22] AC: Well, I think the super simple thing, and it's interesting that it isn't natural and doesn't just naturally happen is simply to learn the names of everyone who you encounter on a regular basis. Interestingly, Sonia Sotomayor is a justice on the Supreme Court. She was just speaking to a group last week, as we talk, and she started talking about Justice Clarence Thomas. Now, if you know anything about the politics of our court, there probably are the two justices furthest apart from one another politically, are Justice Sotomayor and Justice Thomas. But she actually just brought him up out of the blue, and she said, “Do you know Clarence Thomas knows the names of every single person who works in the Supreme Court? And he talks to them and greets them by name, from the janitor to the security guard to the first-year clerk. He knows every one of them and treats them with dignity and attention and respect.”
And he had made such an impression on this person who is his ideological opponent, that it just came to mind for as like, wow, like my colleague does something different from anyone else. I actually think if we just did that, that you'd probably find out the next step. I love that. Because in the course of learning someone's name, and then then realizing you remember and know, you'll get into conversations with people and you'll discover like, what else do I need to do to make this a place where this person is really valued? Where this person is really seen and known?
I mean, I'm sure Justice Thomas does this at a level, I might never be able to get to even just in terms of powers of memory, and so forth. But I actually have gotten to the point where I can be in a room of about 30 to 40 people, and if you go around the room and have everybody say their name, I've worked, I’ve practiced this for years, like literally decades now. I actually can remember about 40 names. So, then I go back around the room, and I'm like, wait, let me just make sure I got all your names. By the way, in order to do this, you have to be willing to fail. You have to be willing to forget someone's name, just say, “Oh, I'm so sorry. Can we do it again?”
Part of why we don't do this is we're afraid we'll forget and the truth is people expect you to forget. So, they don’t mind if you do. But actually, a lot of the time, I can do 40 names, and people are like, “Oh my gosh”, and the reality is I'm coming in, everybody knows my name, because I'm the guest of honor or whatever, and it changes the room when people realize, oh, he actually was paying attention when I said, I'm so and so and I work in the media department or whatever. Yeah, like, so and so your name is this, and I was paying attention. It just changes what the next hour however much time we have, is like, and I think that could happen in any workplace. It'll change what it feels like to be there.
[00:38:06] JR: Yeah. It's really simple, but really profound, and really rare in this world today. One more thing I got to ask you about the book, I just thought this is a really interesting distinction, the contrast between impact and influence. Because I mean, listen, you're talking to a group of Christian professionals, all of us want to have an impact. Talk to us about the difference between these two terms?
[00:38:37] AC: Okay. So, I'm going to attempt some math. Okay, so please, don't kill me. Impact is F over T, it's F divided by T. Force divided by time. It's a large amount of force over a small amount of time and that's impact. When I comment – God forbid, it's the Earth. It happened to the dinosaurs, it might happen to us, if God allows. It's a huge amount of force and it happens very quickly and that's impact. That's like literally the impact of a meteor or comet or whatever. A lot of us think, wow, that's changed, and it is changed. Things change really fast when something impacts. When you ever get in a car accident, like huge amounts of force over a matter of half a second are redistributed, you might say, and the metal and glass all rearrange, and hopefully your body doesn't.
So, that's one model of how change happens. The other model is influence and this is where the math gets a little tricky. It's F to the T, F to the T power, that is, it’s force exponentially growing over time. And here's the thing, when it's influenced, the initial force is much smaller, and the time is much longer. So, within that you want big force, short time. For influence, you don't need a big force. In fact, it's very, very to sustain huge amounts of force for a real long amount of time.
A bomb can't go off for hours. It goes off once. But when things grow in the natural world, like olive trees, or vines, or mustard seeds, it's a very, very small amount of initial force. But the amount of time is such that over time this thing just keeps growing, and what does Jesus say the kingdom of God is like? He doesn't say it's like a meteor crash, or a car accident, or a Roman military invasion, which is also impact like mass your army, have them all attack at once burn the city, right? That's impact. Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, starts out very small. But because it keeps growing, it actually can change and reshape more of the world than any near impact could.
So, I have been – the language of impact just kind of rolls off her tongue and I use it too. But I've been trying to reprogram in a way my imagination and realize I don't actually want to be something that all of its energy is expended in one big blow, and then there's a few aftershocks, and then it dies away. It just dwindles into nothing. I want to be more like a mustard seed. I want my life to have that kind of long-term exponential year after year, multiplying power, that maybe if God chooses in His grace could have real influence on the course of the world. Because I think that's what we're here for, as human beings.
[00:41:29] JR: Totally. You quoted a friend of yours in the book. This is like a gold quote. He said, “Most of us want to be a force. But Jesus calls us to be a taste.” It’s so good in such an encouragement to the mere Christians, listening to this podcast. Most people listening to this show aren't able to make massive “impact” at work today. But they can be a tremendous influence over a long period of time.
[00:41:55] AC: Exactly.
[00:41:57] JR: You can’t go to work and do your work with excellence and love and in accordance with the Lord's commands and over time, make your workplace. We're like the kingdom of God and be in a room of Christ, that's winsome to your coworkers. So, that's a really, really good word, Andy. What's going on with us to where we're so obsessed with impact? Is this just like basic impatience? Well, we're infatuated with the idea of impact. What's going on? It’s particularly for believers, like theologically, at the core of this, that's leading to that desire?
[00:42:38] AC: Well, I think there's probably two layers to it. I mean, one is Constantine. So, when the Emperor converted, and suddenly you could get things done with the power of the state, the state, especially the Roman Empire, at the time of Constantine. I mean, it can generate impact. You can decide to conquer Europe, and make all those people Christian. And that was the Emperor's modus operandi. Emperor is going to Emperor. He's going to use the force available to him, and it will be concentrated in amazing quantities for its time. I mean, if I were a Christian in the fourth century, and suddenly the emperor is finally not, you know, literally murdering my brothers and sisters, I'm sure I would be very glad the Emperor converted.
But in the long run, I think we got kind of infatuated with the idea that there's a quicker way to get the kingdom done, and Constantine was kind of the first taste of that not the best taste of a different kind of Kingdom and, like, “Oh, okay, let's do it that way” because that seems more efficient, more powerful, and more scalable. I also think that this is a particularly modern thing. I don't think you find – before the modern era, you don't find Christians obsessing with impact. They think organically. They think long-term. They build, I mean, they start building projects that literally will not be done for 200 years.
[00:43:55] JR: Like La Sagrada Familia, is the perfect example.
[00:43:59] AC: Exactly. That's interesting, because even that's relatively moderate. But this is an architect steeped in the ancient way of thinking, and the traditional Christian way of thinking, which is if you're going to bother to build a cathedral, don't do an impact cathedral. Do an influence cathedral, right?
So, we live in a modern world where we have seen F over T. I mean, first of all, we all live post nuclear bomb, where more force was unleashed and less time in a way that ever in human history, ended a war, put the rest of the world on notice that this could happen again, and that whoever could wield this kind of power could control the destiny of history. Now, I don't think we're conscious of thinking like, I want to be a super human, nuclear or I'm superpower, but it kind of resets your imagination of what power is in the wrong direction, I would say. And then, technology as well. I mean, the iPhone has had impact. I mean, it was introduced, and it's the vastest adopted technology in human history, in terms of how quickly you get to 90 percent of the planet having one, and it changes a whole lot of things really, really fast. Does it change them for the better? Well, it's really complicated, right? But boy, it changes things fast.
I think that we, in the same way that a fourth-century Christian might have been infatuated by the idea of the Emperor becoming Christian. We now are like, “Wow, if Christians could act the way technology acts. If we could flood the zone with our product, wouldn't that change the world for the better?” I think that's a mistake. I think that's certainly not how Jesus chose to do it and he could have done it however he wanted, but he chose like, mustard seed 100 percent, and iPod 0 percent. So, why are we so – I think, we're very overawed by what technology can do, what worldly power can do, and we're not sufficiently enough in awe of what God's Kingdom is like and can do when it grows.
[00:45:53] JR: Yeah. It's a good reminder. Jesus called us to be the mustard seed. The yeast, working its way through dough. The Kingdom doesn't come in a flash. It comes slowly over time. That's a beautiful reminder. Andy, three questions I love to wrap up every conversation with. Number one, which books are you gifting most frequently these days?
[00:46:12] AC: Well, actually very, totally related to this. I'll say two. One is an old one. I mean, reasonably old. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson. I think reading that was the beginning of my adult Christian life. I read it in college, it’s like this invitation to depth, that I just – I had become a Christian in high school. I’m very grateful for the people who discipled me in high school, but reading that as like a 19-year-old or 20-year-old, I was like, “Oh, this. Okay, this is what it is.” So, I still recommend and give that away. And a more recent one is very related. It's by a Mennonite historian, Alan Kreider, who sadly passed away a couple of years ago. It's called The Patient Ferment of the Early Church. It's a historical investigation of how the church before Constantine, did grow, because it actually grew by 30 percent per decade for three centuries. So, incredible exponential growth. But through a completely different strategy than a kind of flood the zone evangelistic strategy. And it's a beautiful, it's a dense, thick, but beautiful book about the patience that the first Christian leaders tried to develop in their people and how that actually led to evangelism, and the spread of the gospel and the conversion of probably half the Empire by the time Constantine comes along.
[00:47:30] JR: That sounds interesting. That doesn't sound like a Sabbath read.
[00:47:35] AC: It depends on your definition of Sabbath, Jordan.
[00:47:38] JR: Did I read this? Do I remember this from the Tech-Wise Family? I think I got this idea from you. I have a Sabbath-only book that I’m reading. it's like a lighter. Did I get this idea from you or am I making this up?
[00:47:51] AC: I think it might have emerged from your own creativity, which is awesome.
[00:47:58] JR: I thought I got this from you, to read lighter stuff.
[00:48:00] AC: Yeah. I think it is good to like not read your workbooks, definitely. Professional books. This is good. For me. This is my vegetables book. I like that.
[00:48:09] JR: Hey, Andy, who would you want to hear on this podcast talking about how the gospel shapes the work of mere Christians in the world?
[00:48:16] AC: Well, you've already had Mako, so I would have said Mako. But having back, I would never come away from a conversation with Mako, not having learned something new and thought something and felt something new. But someone you may not know and your listeners may not know. If you could get him, is a guy named Mike Ullman. Have you ever heard of Mike Ullman?
[00:48:33] JR: I don't know that I have.
[00:48:34] AC: It's interesting that you haven't heard of him. And it's not surprising at all. Most people haven't. But Mike was actually the Chairman of the Board of Starbucks for about a decade. Before that, two times, he was the CEO of JC Penney, the big American Retail.
[00:48:46] JR: Yes, I've heard of – I think Mike and I have actually been connected before. I got to reach out to Mike.
[00:48:51] AC: Yeah, he ran this crazy, crazy wealth generating business, that was like all the duty-free shops in the world were owned by a really interesting guy who gave away literally every cent he ever made after Mike helped him make it. Mike has been you know, in the CEO seat in big companies. He has accompanied people in those roles and he is the most humble, godly person of that, who's lived that life I have ever met. It is partly because he lives as he will very plainly share, and part of this is evident when you are with him with two disabilities. He has a learning disability that really was a challenge. He barely got through college because he found it so hard to read and kind of process information the way typical people do.
But then in later in life, he developed a degenerative physical disability that makes it very, very hard for him to walk. And if your image of a CEO is this kind of imposing like Roman Centurion type, alpha male, Mike is nothing like that. Yet anyone who has worked with him or for him, will say, he is the best person they've ever worked with. His faith has very, very deeply shaped how he understands his leadership. So, he's an inspiration to me. He's not someone who ever wants his name spoken or known. He'd probably be a little upset that I'm talking about it. But he has a public figure. Nothing that I'm saying is not stuff I haven't observed in public, but he’d be a great guest.
[00:50:25] JR: That's a good recommendation. Andy, you're talking to an audience of mere Christians who aren't religious professionals, they're working as baristas, and carpenters and entrepreneurs, and marketers. What's one thing from today's conversation you want to reiterate to them before we sign off?
[00:50:40] AC: Oh, I think it's definitely there are some names you can learn. There are some people who you could everyone would understand, if you just treated them like a face, like, someone who serves, someone to do business with, somebody who gets the thing done. But you have a chance to learn their name. And through that, to honor who they are. I think that's probably the most important thing we talked about.
[00:51:02] JR: And honor the Lord who made them.
[00:51:04] AC: Exactly.
[00:51:05] JR: Andy, I want to commend you for the exceptional redemptive work you do every day, for reminding us to view every person we work and interact with as an image bearer, for reminding us of the eternal significance and the intrinsic value of our work, and for focusing on influence rather than impact and trusting the results to God.
Guys, Andy’s latest book, which I cannot recommend highly enough is The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World. But go read all of Andy's books. I've read them all. I've loved them all. And we only had time to talk about two of them today. But maybe we could get to back, Andy, and discuss the others sometime. But thanks so much for being with us, Andy.
[00:51:47] AC: Thank you, Jordan.
[00:51:50] JR: Man. I love Andy so much. That was so much fun. Seriously, go check out with grace on. It's pretty great. Guys. If you've got people you want to see on this podcast, I want to know. Go to jordanraynor.com/contact. Fill out the form there and we'd love to see who you're recommending. Hey, if you're loving the podcast, do me a favor and go leave a review of the Mere Christians Podcast now, on Apple, Spotify, wherever you listen to your shows. Guys, thank you so much for tuning in this week. I'll see you next time.