Mere Christians

David Green (CEO of Hobby Lobby) and Bill High (Co-author)

Episode Summary

Does your work owe you? Or do you owe it?

Episode Notes

Jordan Raynor sits down with David Green, CEO of Hobby Lobby, and Bill High, Co-author of Leadership Not By The Book, to talk about why David has recently started giving less to missions and more to his employees, what Jesus might have told the 5 and 2 talent servants if they hadn’t doubled the Master’s money, and the best answer I’ve ever heard for why Christians shouldn’t retire.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Transcription

[0:00:05.4] JR: Hey everybody, welcome to the Mere Christians Podcast, I’m Jordan Raynor. How does the gospel influence the work of mere Christians, those of us who aren’t pastors or religious professionals but who work as database architects, crossing guards, and merchants? That’s the question we explore every week and today, I’m posing it to David Green and Bill High. David of course is the founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, the eight-billion-dollar retail giant. The most profitable retail chain per dollar in the United States, with more than 40,000 employees.


Bill High is David’s long-time friend and co-author of a new terrific book called Leadership Not by the Book: 12 Unconventional Principles to Drive Incredible Results. Guys, I love this book. I was highlighting it like crazy. I was like, “Oh my word, there’s so many things in here that are so relevant for my fellow mere Christians.” Hence, why David and Bill are here today. Bill and I recently sat down with Dave and to talk about why David has recently started giving less to missions and more to his employees.


We talked about what Jesus might have told the five and two talent servants if they hadn’t doubled the master’s money, and then David gave me the best answer I think I’ve ever heard for why Christians shouldn’t retire, and the 80-year-old was able to put it into four words. It’s perfect and worth the price of admission of this episode.


Please enjoy this great episode with David Green and Bill High.




[0:01:56.5] JR: David and Bill, welcome to the Mere Christians Podcast.


[0:01:59.9] BH: So glad to be here with you, Jordan.


[0:02:01.6] DG: We’re glad to be here, yes.


[0:02:04.3] JR: Hey, so Bill, you and David just published this book, I was telling you before we started recording. I loved it. Leadership Not By The Book, but I’m curious, why now? Why did you and David feel that this was the right time to share this message with the world?


[0:02:16.1] BH: Yeah Jordan, great question. So over the years, Dave and I have hosted events for leaders from around the country. In fact, we’re just coming off two days of that and as those leaders have come in to the offices of Hobby Lobby, they inevitably asked this question.


Now some of them, mind you, are from Harvard and Stanford and they come in and they hear the story of David and how he founded Hobby Lobby, and over the years, and they hear this crazy story of retail store that’s closed on Sunday, only open ‘till eight, gives away half of its profit, pays a minimum wage of 18.50, and they say, “How does this work when it shouldn’t?” So that’s one of the big reasons, that’s why it’s Leadership Not by the Book.


[0:03:04.6] JR: Yeah, it doesn’t make sense on paper but it makes sense to God, right? He’s using the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. David, I loved how in the book, you talked about how both your parents and all five of your siblings worked in church ministry in one shape or another. You didn’t, of course, leaving you to feel like a black sheep for a long time. How did you eventually come to embrace your work as a legitimate calling from God David?


[0:03:32.7] DG: You know, there was a particular experience in my life where God asked me, for instance, to give $30,000 and I didn’t have $30,000, and so this was really a change in my life when I didn’t have it. So my wife and I decided to write four checks, $7,000, seven five, a month for four months and so we sent this money in and we found out the day that we post marked it, it was the day that four missionaries was helped over to a big convention to pray because they didn’t have the gospel or literature for their gospel.


So I knew from that point that God could use me, he was using me. And so from that day on, I feel real comfortable in the fact that my brothers are called by God and they’re anointed. I feel like God anoints me to do what I’m doing. So I think us in business can be just as anointed as the pastor in the pulpit, and so as we come along and walk besides him and we’re praying and asking for him, his help, I believe we are anointed, and so I feel real comfortable where I am now.


[0:04:38.0] JR: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more and it’s so clear watching God’s call in your life. I find your use of that term anointing really interesting and you talked about it in the book. You don’t just describe your work as a calling, it’s an anointing. Unpack that word for us, we don’t use this word a lot. What does that mean to you, to be anointed for this work?


[0:04:58.8] DG: To me, it means that God has given us all gifts, and we can come along in life and accomplish a lot with our gifts but I don’t think we accomplish what He wants us to accomplish if we don’t walk with Him daily. The scripture says, pray without seizing. So that’s really important to me and one of the ways that helps me, to pray without seizing on a daily basis, is to know that He’s not in some far away place. He’s right there with me. He says He will never leave or forsake us.


[0:05:26.6] JR: Yeah and he’s anointed the business, but you said in the book that you feel like he’s anointing you specifically in your “one thing” of being a merchant.


[0:05:35.2] DG: Yes.


[0:05:35.6] JR: You feel like you got a very clear call like, “Man, this is the thing God put me on earth.” You know, talk a little bit about that.


[0:05:42.6] DG: I think God gives us all gifts, and in the Bible he gave some five and someone, and I tell people, “I think He just gave me one.”


[0:05:51.7] JR: One talented servant.


[0:05:52.4] DG: That’s it, you know? So my talent is, God has given me the talent, I believe, to be a merchant and so because of that, I like to spend a lot of my time in the weeds as a merchant but to do that as a CEO, you also have to have great people in all the different areas, whether it’s accounting or IT or store operations, all the different areas we’ve really got great people there as leaders, and most have been here over 25 years.


So God has given me such a great team. I’m able to not only be the CEO, which doesn’t take a lot of time, but I’m able to come here and get in the weeds and I think that’s what God has anointed me to do, because we carry tens and tens of thousands of items and you have to know which ones to buy, which ones not to, what the retail is. Literally, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of decisions.


[0:06:49.5] JR: Yeah, I love it. God’s gifted you in that regard. Bill, you know I’m asking about this, right? You know my book, Master of One, that I wrote a few years back, making the case that we Christians ought to pursue excellence in all things for the glory of God and the good of others, and I believe personally, the strategy for doing that is just intense vocational focus, and you pointed out something in this book that I’d never thought about before.


I can’t believe this has never crossed my mind that the apostle Paul had a “one thing” of sorts. Bill, would you mind sharing your perspective on this?


[0:07:20.8] BH: Yeah, absolutely and which by the way, I loved your book, Jordan, Master of One, loved that totally. The idea with Paul is that he was really called to be sent to the Gentiles, and if you think about a guy like Paul, he was so multi-talented, incredibly educated, intelligent, smart. Obviously a good writer, wrote the epistles, a guy that’s a theologian.


You know, really helps set the tone for the New Testament church and yet, he couldn’t get caught up in that. You know, you could imagine that he could have been the guy that’s in the University, could have gone anywhere and yet, he sat. And throughout his life he was focused on this one idea, “I had been sent to the Gentiles.”


And so that’s what you continue to see him do, even at great cost to himself and of course, the world has been changed because of that focus on that one calling that he had.


[0:08:17.9] JR: Bill, what’s your one thing?


[0:08:21.1] BH: Man, my one thing is this idea of—so you see it at the book by the way, it’s this idea of the 150-year family. So we just feel like that we’re called to help families succeed for generations. I think that’s a big idea that we’ve lost in our culture, we’ve allowed culture to define family instead of the Bible.


How did God change the world? Through one family. One family like Abraham, so they would become the descendants like the stars in the sky and David Green and his family are an example, a model of the family that’s trying to live this out on a generational basis.


So we just feel like if we can come back to the biblical definition of what family looks like, we change the trajectory of family, we change the trajectory of communities and our country and the world, ultimately.


[0:09:08.5] JR: David, one of the more memorable stories in the book was about your family. Going to them in 1985, when things weren’t so rosy in Hobby Lobby and admitting that, “Hey, things are really bad and I don’t know what to do.” Can you give our listeners some quick insight into the state of the business back then in 1985?


[0:09:31.2] DG: In 1985 in Oklahoma, there was really a oil bust as you would call it, and we had prepared ourselves by borrowing money, that it was okay and we didn’t borrow too much. If we were looking at the trajectory we were at, we were going to do X amount of sales, but it just didn’t happen. So it was not as though that we were wrong in our projections, it was just we were wrong in not knowing the future.


So the future came and sales went down, we couldn’t make our payments, we couldn’t pay our vendors, and the bank sent us a letter that they were looking to foreclose on Hobby Lobby. So, I just had to pull the family together and say, “Guys, here’s where we are.” The family, all of our employees, we just may not make it but a couple—three things really happened from that time and one of them is my oldest son says, “Dad, we’re not relying on you, we’re relying on God.”


And of course, that was a big thing for me to take the weight off of my shoulders, to know my family we’re not relying on me and Hobby Lobby, they were relying on God. Another thing happened in that was my younger son, right after that said, “Hey dad, I want you to come over for dinner, I want to ask you some questions.” Now, I look back on that and I really don’t recall any questions he asked me. 


He was just telling me what the Bible said of borrowing money, you know, that we shouldn’t be in debt and from that day, we started working towards no debt. Hobby Lobby has no long-term debt now because of that particular experience and the fourth experience that happened there is I think God wanted to work with me on my pride.


There was no question that I had always been successful, everything that I touched just did well and He just let me know. In fact, I sense the Holy Spirit telling me, “Well, you’re just so smart, I‘m going to let you have it by yourself.” So, I found myself by myself, without God’s blessing.


Literally, physically under my desk every day, just crying out to God and asking Him for forgiveness and asking Him where would he want us to go from there and within a year or two, we saw ourself back where we needed to be.


[0:11:42.5] JR: Yeah, you said in the book, “God must destroy our arrogant pride if he is to bless the work of our hands.” I thought that was so good. It reminds me of Nebuchadnezzar, I can’t remember what chapter of Daniel this is in but Nebuchadnezzar’s really proud of his kingdom, right?


He’s looking out on, he’s like, look at these things I did with my own hands and God says, “No-no-no-no-no, you’re going to go eat grass in the field like the Oxen” but God used that circumstance for Nebuchadnezzar’s good and the good was, it led him to praise the one true God.


David, can you look back on the circumstances now? 1985 and say, “Man, that crisis was a gift from God.” Would you call it a gift?


[0:12:26.1] DG: You know, I speak about it as one of the worst times in my life and the best times. So the gift I think you say would be correct and that is, I’m glad that it happened because you don’t swallow your pride forever in one episode and it’s something that I think the Bible tells us, that we need to die daily.


And so I want to die daily but I do reflect on this time very often to say, I just don’t want to get up there again to where I have to fall because the Bible tells us we’re going to fall. If we get ourselves up on a pedestal so to speak, where it’s just inevitable that we are going to fall.


[0:13:00.9] JR: We’re a long way away from 1985 both in time and in the state of Hobby Lobby, but you guys are celebrating 50 years of business this year in 2022, right?


[0:13:11.7] DG: We did. In August, yes. It’s 50 years.


[0:13:14.3] JR: Congratulations, you’re the most profitable retail chain per dollar in revenue in the US and yet, I didn’t know this before reading the book, your salary is about 5% of the salaries of most CEOs with the size of company you're running. You haven’t taken a pay raise in 16 years. Talk to us a little bit about how you’ve thought about your personal income?


[0:13:35.2] DG: I think about my mother when I think about my personal income because we didn’t have a lot when we grew up. I mean I think, if you gave my mother a million dollars, I don’t think she would spend more than, maybe – she might buy a dress but the thing is, she was – the Bible talks to us about to be in content, you know? Wherever we are and wherever in circumstances we are.


Paul was content in places that we wouldn’t be content or, let’s say, it would be hard to be content. So I really want to try to do what Paul would do and that’s to be content with what I have, instead of wanting more and more. Because you can never get enough. If that’s what you’re after is stuff, you can never get enough stuff.


So I think my wife and I and most of my children are content with making a reasonable salary and that’s why I haven’t had a raise in over 16 years, because I just don’t need a raise. In fact, I make less because of cost of living but we’re good. We’re good and we don’t need any more but what we do get a joy out of is taking what God has given us and seeing people to come to know the Lord.


[0:14:45.2] JR: Yeah, that’s awesome. Bill, you’ve worked with a lot of wealthy founders, CEOs, families. Is this one of the primary tools you’ve seen people use to cultivate contentment in a real practical way? Is setting a somewhat arbitrary cap on their income?


[0:15:03.9] BH: Yeah, ultimately one of the big thoughts in the book, it’s a two-fold answer to your question Jordan is one, everybody’s got to get to that point , regardless of the size of the organization, whatever you do, is to recognize that God’s the owner.


Everything that He has put in your hands, He is the owner and we’re stewards and that is a noble task to be a steward, to be a good manager of what God has given us. Just that recognition of God as the owner changes everything.


Of all the people that I’ve worked with, that’s the number one breakthrough moment is to realize God’s the owner but then the second thing is then to realize, it is to establish finish lines. When do I have enough? It’s like what David just said, to be able to say, “I’m content with where God has put me and I’m good with that and the rest of my life, everything that I have is devoted to bring in people to know Christ.”


[0:16:03.1] JR: I love that and go a level deeper because you guys talked a lot about this in the book, right? The distinction between ownership and stewardship. Bill, go a layer deeper on that, what’s the difference between these two things?


[0:16:17.2] BH: Yeah, there’s actually in the appendix, there’s a little chart talking about the differences of ownership and stewardship. Now, one of the things that David talks about clearly is this idea that when you are an owner, you start to think that, “Hey, this is mine” and you start to look at, “What do I get out of it, what’s the benefit for me?” and it creates all kinds of problems, particularly inside of family-owned businesses, there’s the issue of entitlement.


Wealth becomes a curse. People sit on the sidelines, just waiting for their dividend. It’s that right entitlement but when you go to the level of stewardship, you experience freedom because it’s not yours. You’re just trying to do what God calls you to do and David, you call it the idea of that your business is a ministry, maybe you want to talk about that, David.


[0:17:12.9] DG: Yeah, I think probably, if there was only one takeaway from this book. Only one, I have my two and three but, number one is, you don’t own that business, okay? Not because I say so, because God says so.


[0:17:25.6] JR: It’s Deuteronomy eight, right? Wealth and honor come from Him, although I’m quoting I Chronicles but wealth and honor come from Him alone, right?


[0:17:32.2] DG: And then also, He says, “I own everything. I own everything” so how can you own what God owns? Here’s the thing, almost every Christian person business man will say God owns it but what they do with it is exactly, in almost every case, is what the world would do, the secular would do.


They would do the same almost exactly. So I think that’s the biggest takeaway from the book and that is to say, “What does it look like when God owns it?” and that’s what we had to come to is, we had to say, “What does this really look like?” So I had professionals come in here that work with business men, Christian professionals, to tell me what to do with the business and they told me the same thing as a secular person.


Is that, one, they’re worried about taxes and you pass this on to your children and then their children. What they were asking me to do is making millionaires, if not, billionaires out of my great grandkids before they were born. I couldn’t sleep. It was the most restless time in my entire life. It’s for us to get to the point where we’re stewards and not owners and so, we developed a situation where that we are only stewards.


We have no right to Hobby Lobby because it belongs to God. We owe it. If you’re in a ministry, you owe the ministry but if you’re in a family business, most people think, “Well, the business owes you.” We don’t have that mindset here. It is a ministry, God owns it and we’re here to get a salary that we earn and of course, our children and our grand children only get what they earn.


So, that’s not a bad idea, is get what you earn and only what you earn. So those are the things that we decided to do, and we just feel like that the Christian world and business men needs to know and understand that they do not own that business because the Bible says so.


[0:19:26.7] JR: Yeah and I want to put a finer point on something because I think this is a big idea, none of your family members get money from the business unless they work in the business, right?


[0:19:35.5] DG: That’s exactly right. Here’s another problem is paying dividends. If you want to mess up a business, there’s a lot of ways to mess it up, about a hundred times more ways than to do it right, and that is to pay dividends. We’ve never paid a dividend. No one owns this company because all the voting stock is in one trust that is a stewardship trust and the only one that gets paid at Hobby Lobby are the ones that work here.


We have a committee that comes together and says, “This is what you earn for what you do.” Now, you can be different because God owns the tree and if you pick a bushel of apples off that tree, you get paid for a bushel but if you pick five bushels, you get paid for five. So we have a committee that – the family of the committee that comes together and says, “This should be your salary” they set my salary as well.


[0:20:24.1] JR: Bill, I’m curious if you see a connection between this idea of stewardship and risk, right? Like because in my mind, a willingness to take smart risks should increase if we view ourselves as stewards rather than earners. Do you see this connection?


[0:20:45.3] BH: Totally, yeah. I mean, if you go back to the parable of the talents, you know, there’s the five and the two and a one and what you see is with all of them, they all had equal opportunity but how did they steward it? They stewarded it all differently.


The one, the guy with the one took no risk but the guys with the five and the two, they took all of the risk. Now, one of the things that I think we don’t realize is what would have happen with the guys that have the five and the two, if they would have came back to the master and said, “Master, man, we went out there and we took a big risk and we didn’t earn anything.”


I don’t think the response of the master would have been any different. I think he would have said, “Well done, way to go, you risked for me” and that’s some of the idea in that chapter, maximize the risk. Man, when God puts something in your hands, take the risk to grow it. Make it bigger, more beautiful, better for the sake of the kingdom, and that’s the big difference.


[0:21:51.9] JR: Yeah and I love this chapter. It may be my favorite chapter in the book and David, you guys talked about one of those risks, one of those risk you guys take for the right motives is sharing the gospel, unashamedly, with your tens of thousands of employees. I was really struck by the story you told about the first time you did this and the intentional way at one of your co-manager meetings, would you mind sharing that story with our listeners?


[0:22:19.2] DG: Yeah, I think it was about 10 or 12 years ago that we started actually witnessing to our co-managers. So we bring in about 300 co-managers, we got about a thousand stores and we have three managers in each store. So some make it, some don’t, they get promoted, we add more stores and so that’s about the number we bring in here.


So every year, every one of those co-managers are here and we just pray the sinner’s prayer with them, and we do it in such a way that they have a little piece of paper in front of them and they can say whether they accepted Christ or not.


We don’t do it where we get in problems legally. We just say, “Hey guys, this is what works for us, Jesus loves you, He cares about you and if you want, you can put on that piece of note whether you accepted Christ or not.” And every year of these 300, approximately a hundred of them accept Jesus for the first time and another hundred rededicate their lives.


So we just think that we should take that risk. I had my attorney come running in my office the first time and he says, “You can get into a lot of trouble here, do you know what this can cost you?” and I said, “You know, we just had 15 people accept Christ. Their life has changed eternally” you know?


And so I saw a little tear in his eye after a while in a second or so, he didn’t say anything else and I tell people I haven’t seen him on that subject in 10 to 12 years. So we need to take the risk. You know, we go out here and take a risk every time that we open a store because someone could stumble and we get lawsuits, all kinds of lawsuits.


So we take a risk to earn profit, so why would we not take a risk for something that had to do with someone’s life for eternity? So we hoped to do that.


[0:24:03.1] JR: Yeah, it’s not that it’s not risky. It is risky but we’re called to do risky things.


[0:24:08.3] DG: That’s right.


[0:24:08.8] JR: For the sake of the Kingdom of God. Another risk you guys have taken David very recently as of December 2021, is significantly increase pay for your team. So today, wages at Hobby Lobby start at 18.50, as Bill said before. The cost of about a 100 million dollars to Hobby Lobby. What was the genesis of this significant pay increase for you David? What got you convicted on this issue?


[0:24:37.5] DG: I think what convicts me is it was a particular time that I felt the Holy Spirit, because I have these six or eight times in life that I feel like the Holy Spirit talked to me and every one of those times have been pivotal. This was one of those pivotal times when I just knew the Lord was telling me, “You know, I am putting these people in your charge.” Now, that’s a big responsibility, so I have to think about them.


I think how important my family is, it is such an important thing for me, “Well, how can I be selfish and make sure that the family has everything right for them but not for everybody else’s family?” So that’s when we really wanted to do everything we can for the employees that work for us, not having to work in 60 hours or 50 hours a week and being closed on Sunday. It was all about families and also, just their pay.


We’ve had, for instance, single moms and we started giving these raises, tell me that they didn’t have two jobs and so it’s been a really, really positive thing. I like to tell people or think to myself, we do it because it is the right thing to do but by the way, it’s really, really good for business. It is to care about your people.


[0:25:50.4] JR: A hundred percent, yeah, no doubt. You know David, you and your family have a long history of giving exceedingly generous amounts of money to ministries, missions, organizations. In the book, you said something I really appreciated and found fascinating. You said, “If I have only one dollar today, I am going to give it to our people and not to missions” and you said that you would not have said that years ago.


Go a level deeper, how did this change come about in your heart? How are you or maybe you’re still processing this but how are you thinking about the purpose of profit outside and inside the four walls of Hobby Lobby?


[0:26:28.8] DG: Because of my background as a preacher’s son and appearance that really loved to witness and do missionary work, I came over to the company and that was where I was and I think at the time happened when as I said, when God says He put them in my charge and that’s when I had to start thinking differently that I am first responsible for those that are working here.


We have about 50,000 employees, that is my first responsibility and so I think that is when it happened, when I knew God says, “These people, you’re out here sending missionaries all over the world and doing missions all over the world but right here is your mission as well, and you take care of these people.” And there is a lot of scriptures relative to taking care of the people and give them what they have earned and so we really want to do that.


[0:27:16.9] JR: I love it so much. You know, I think a lot of times we think that the only God on renews a profit, be it on a business or personally, is to give it outside of the four walls of that business, right? That’s great, I think the Lord’s honored by that work but if we believe that the work we do inside of our businesses and places of work is ministry then surely, that’s an equally God-honoring use of profits to pour back into those people, right?


That God has entrusted into our care, I love that. Bill, I want to go back to something you touched on before because I think this is really fascinating. You do a lot of work with the Greens and other people on planning for the next 150 years. Why that timeframe and what in the world does that process look like at a high level?


[0:28:06.5] BH: Well, the timeframe first and foremost comes out of Psalms 78 verses five through seven, and if you read that passage of scripture, it really basically says, “Hey, take these commands, take this law, this code, this way of living and the ancestors they will pass it onto their kids, their kids, their kids.” And it talks about five generations and so if you will, the model. Now by the way, the whole concept of generational family doesn’t limit itself to a 150 years.


But that is a good start in that 150 years. Well, five generations, depending on how you quantify a generation, that’s 20 to 30 years times five, there is your 150 years, but that is the Biblical model is that family. God really intended for family to be multigenerational. Again, you take a look at Abraham and the whole idea that from Genesis to Revelation, Abraham is mentioned. God was going to bless the whole earth through Abraham.


But the process of working with families really has three big building blocks and so you see it in the book. It’s the idea that you got to work on the relational components, the health of the family, put the family first, all those kind of ideas on how you live that out but the second big thing that we see from a process standpoint Jordan, is that you got to put the structure in place. There is a governance system on how you do that typically.


This applies whether you’re a Hobby Lobby or you’re a guy that’s trying to make it work as a construction guy, you’ve got to define your mission, vision and values as a family. It’s the same idea of living by the code, the law if you will, the idea that man, we have a set or a way of life that we’re going to live by that is different from the rest of the world and as a result of that, the world is going to be attracted to us and say, “What’s so different about you?”


Then the third big component of the process is once you put that structure in place, how do you do that from a training standpoint, how do you train generationally so that you will affirm the covenant from one generation to the next? We say often times that we won’t know if a family’s going to be successful until you’re into that fifth generation. By the time you get it to that level, it’s going to stick and you’re going to see that family succeed from one generation to the next.


We don’t see a lot of great families modeled in scripture but you do see some, and you’ll see them last hundreds of years and when you do that, you have this huge opportunity to impact the world truly on a generational basis.


[0:30:45.1] JR: Bill, you’ve worked with a lot of wealthy people. Why is this so important to not aim for financial independence as we typically think of that and keep your nose to the grind, because that is a lot of what you guys are talking about in the book is like yeah, just keep it out and keep working hard because sloth can be disastrous for our families and for our souls.


[0:31:04.7] BH: Yeah, it’s a bell curve, it’s a cycle. So what you see is families start out as highly interdependent but they start out interdependent by necessity. They need one another, you know, you start a business and you are just trying to figure out how to make it work. Everybody’s got to wear a different hat, you know, you’re fighting for survival and that’s what David and the family did.


You know, you had his kids making picture frames and Barbara working for free, so you start out very interdependent but when you hit the peak if you will of financial independence, man, you could send those kids off and they can go do whatever they want. They don’t need one another. John Adam said it something like that, “I go to war so my children can be the mathematicians, the engineers, the lawyers, the doctors, and they go do their practice so their kids can be the poets and the artists and the like.”


So you’ll always see this generational diffusion but what you have to get to ultimately is this place of interdependence by choice, that we choose to follow a set of values together, and that frankly is the idea of the church. I always say that the family is the micro chasm of the church. So in the same way that Paul talked about how you can’t have just a foot or a leg, you need all the parts. So inside the family, man we need one another because we model the church.


[0:32:32.1] JR: David, there’s this theme of diligence that runs throughout the entire book, urging senior leaders to pursue vocational diligence and those who are earlier in their careers. I love that you pointed out Joseph as kind of this ideal case study on diligence and faithfulness. Can you talk for a minute about how you see this theme of diligence before distinction in the life of Joseph?


[0:32:56.0] DG: Yeah, I think so. I think one of the ways that I try to speak about this is you know, I have a lot of, what do we call them? Gen, they’re not –


[0:33:05.9] BH: Millennials.


[0:33:06.7] DG: Millennials, and that is I got a lot of grandkids that fit in that category and so all of them want to know where they fit in life, and so they’re asking me for advice and I don’t know if I have a lot other than the fact that I look at my own life, and I think what really worked for me is just the scripture that says whatever your hands finds to do, be diligent. Do all you can, be the very best and you already said it earlier in this, the fact that God wants us to be the very best.


I don’t want to be – I want to be the very, very best craft store that’s ever lived and I never want to stop not improving it. I keep going back and back and relooking, reinvestigate, study, study and really look to see how I can I make it better but that is what God and we caught choirs of that. Think about one of your kids that’s in a – flipping hamburgers some place.


I just say, you need to be the best hamburger flipper in the world because think about it, if you’re there saying, “This is not what God wants for me” you are starting out in life, you know what? The guy that’s running that store, that owns that store doesn’t want you and neither does God because God has asked you to be obedient and being obedient is finding whatever we are have to do, whether it’s in McDonalds or wherever, be really, really, really good at it.


That is when God sees you, notices. It is God that gives you the increase, it is God that gives you that promotion. It is not man, it is God and He will take you where He wants you if you’re diligent in terms of being the very, very best of whatever your hands finds to do.


[0:34:48.1] JR: Amen and Bill, this is what we see in the life of Joseph, right? He was an excellent slave. He was excellent in prison. He was excellent when he was serving Egypt, right? Isn’t this the theme we see throughout his life and others throughout the scripture?


[0:35:02.0] BH: Every position that Joseph had he excelled. Now of course, when he started out, he had some pride and so God was breaking of that but he excelled at every level to the point that the head of the country would say, “Who else would I look to, to run these next 14 years of trouble coming in our country?” What a great testimony. I loved too, by the way, David will say it too, speaking about the life of David.


That you may be called to be a king but unless you’re a great shepherd, you probably won’t get there and what lessons did David learn in the wilderness by being a good shepherd.


[0:35:40.9] JR: Yeah, I was thinking about this reading for Samuel 17 a couple of weeks ago. When David shows up at the scene, he’s like, “I am going to slay Goliath” and Saul says, “You’re crazy kid, you are totally unqualified.” David doesn’t like flex his muscles. He doesn’t talk about his killer slingshot strategy. He points to his history of diligence and faithfulness.


He says, “No, no, no, you’ll get it. I’ve been doing a great job taking care of my father’s sheep. I killed the lion. I’ve killed the bear and so this Philistine will be like one of them” right? But it was this tracker that I think, you know, hundreds of years before Jesus comes onto the scene in Bethlehem in the town of David, David understood what Jesus when they say that whoever could be trusted with little could be trusted with much, right? That has been the story of you all’s careers, yeah?


[0:36:31.8] BH: Totally and you know the same kind of take off on that life of Moses, why up to then, 40 years in the wilderness taking care of sheep and David would tell you too, here at Hobby Lobby, it’s been 50 years of one brick at a time.


[0:36:47.4] JR: Yeah. David, I love that you said in the book, “If it ain’t broken, make it better.” I don’t know if I have ever heard anybody argue this. Usually, we pour all of our attention on the things that are broken and then fixing it but talk a little bit more about this philosophy and just always plus-ing, always getting better within the business.


[0:37:08.8] DG: You know, you can either do that or you can leave well enough alone and time makes what was good yesterday not good tomorrow. Time itself and so, so many times I do something and I fought through it. It was the right for today and then I look at it some years maybe later with our buyers, with our officers and I see that it was right for them but not right for now.


So even without time, sometimes you have better knowledge, sometimes you have more information, but I think we always should go back and try to make it better and so it is leave well enough alone, I think you keep that philosophy forever, you’re just going to go downhill. Things are going to get worse and worse.


But I think it’s up to us when we have something that God has entrusted on us, why would we not get in there and scratch around and do the very, very best we can and ask all of our people to do the same thing, and see if we can make it better than what it is already? We could rest on our laurels right now because God has blessed us where I think we’re way ahead of our competitors.


We could rest on that but we don’t. We constantly say, “This is God’s, let’s do it better because if we do it better, then we have more profit” and more profit means that we may be able to tell more people about the goodness.


[0:38:28.8] JR: Yeah, I can imagine that Jesus the carpenter left well enough alone. I just find that really, really hard. David, you’re 80, is that right?


[0:38:39.2] DG: That’s right.


[0:38:39.8] JR: I’m sure a lot of your friends are retiring, have retired, how are you thinking about the concept of retirement?


[0:38:47.6] DG: One of the things that I think about is what the Bible says. The Bible says, if you don’t work, you don’t eat. I want to eat and so that’s why I work and the other reason is unfortunately and I don’t recommend that for anybody, I don’t have a lot of hobbies and so my love is coming down here to work and working with different individuals, as a team, not as the boss because that is not so good, but as a team and working with merchandise and trying to make this thing better, and I love doing it.


So I do it six days a week. I tell my wife on Saturday, “If you feel like a widow, you call me. I’ll come home. I don’t have to be here” but she always has something to do. She’s good with it and so I work six days a week. I ask no one else to do that but I do it because I love what I do, because I know the results of what we’re doing is going to be ministry and that’s what gives us joy.


[0:39:45.0] JR: Who needs a hobby when you’re CEO of Hobby Lobby?


[0:39:47.8] DG: Yeah.


[0:39:48.3] JR: I mean, yeah, gosh, the work is fun. The work is joy, right?


[0:39:53.4] DG: Exactly. You know, it’s great. I can spend all day working on Pony Beads, you know? I can spend two days on scissors and another week on ribbon and on and on and on. So there is great people that have all of those departments but together, we come up with new ideas and make it better.


[0:40:13.0] JR: I literally laughed out loud in my living room when I was reading the book and I heard you talk about Pony Beads because I’ve got three girls under the age of eight and so my house is littered with Pony Beads, and you were saying that you can sit there and lay in bed at night thinking about Pony Beads and that’s how you know God made you to be a merchant, right?


[0:40:31.4] DG: That’s right, yeah.


[0:40:33.8] JR: I love it so much. Hey Bill, this podcast is all about how the gospel influences the work that mere Christians do in the world and I think, considered you have such a unique perspective getting to know David so well, from your perspective, what would be different about Hobby Lobby if David Green wasn’t a serious follower of Jesus Christ?


[0:40:55.5] BH: You know, we’ve had the opportunity to be around this family for a lot of years now and the thing that people see, number one, is that they are still humbled by the work of the gospel, the idea that there are people who don’t know the person or Christ still motivates them. It’s what keeps them going and it is hard to imagine even them having a different posture, a different view.


So it’s humbling to be around them but it is so motivating at the same time, to see their care for not only the people and their company, but the gospel going out to all parts of the world with what David just said, the motivation of why they do this business. It is to be the best merchant so they can certainly make the best profit to be able to give the maximum way.


It is life changing and that’s why we do these CEO events, where people come in from all over the country just to hear some of the story to be changed. We have people that come in there and they say, “Best day of my life,” crazy.


[0:42:02.7] JR: Guys, three questions we wrap up every conversation with, Bill, you first, which books do you tend to recommend or gift most frequently to others?


[0:42:11.1] BH: You know, I am still that guy of course because I am in the family legacy space, I am encouraging people to read books about family. So there is a handful that I look at but always that idea, I am trying to keep growing. So one of the ones right now I am reading about is, The Prodigal. There are so many families that are experiencing the loss of kids who walked away, turned away from the faith. So that is one of the areas I’m deep into right now.


[0:42:37.0] JR: Yeah, how about you David? Which books do you tend to recommend the most?


[0:42:40.1] DG: I’m glad you asked Bill that question first. I don’t read as many books as Bill, so I am going to leave that one for Bill.


[0:42:49.3] JR: That’s good, that’s fair. All right David, how about this one, who would you like to hear talk publicly, maybe on this podcast about how the gospel influences the work they do in the world?


[0:42:59.3] DG: You know, one of my heroes is a guy named Alan Barnhart. In fact, he is one of my heroes, so everybody likes to watch someone that really influences their life and Alan is one of those that owns a really large business and you know, he has people telling him what his salary is going to be and I admire him because it’s a lot less than my salary.


So I really admire him of how he handles money, which belongs to God and so I kind of watch him to try to emulate him and what he’s doing because he is really into God’s word and understands how much the finance can really mess our lives up. So he is really spend a lot of time on that. So Alan Barnhart is really one that I would suggest that you interview.


[0:43:49.0] JR: I know Alan’s story a little bit and I think he’s fascinating. I love his perspective and we’ve never invited him on, so we’ll do that. How about you Bill, who would you like to hear on this podcast?


[0:43:58.2] BH: Frank Harrison, Coca-Cola bottling, one of the largest public companies out there in the bottling world and Frank is I think third, fourth generation in his family running this company but it is a public company and so immediately, you raise that question like David, which is how do you take some risk for the sake of your faith and so Frank is really lived this out, written a book even called, The Transformation Factor, runs something called the T Factor, where he teaches other leaders about how they incorporate faith into the workplace. So I really love Frank.


[0:44:32.3] JR: I love that. Bill, what is one thing from our conversation you want to reiterate to our listeners before we sign off?


[0:44:37.7] BH: Man, the big thing I would say because I realized Jordan, you have a broad swath of listeners is no matter whether you’re the CEO of a big company, public company or you’re the guy flipping hamburgers or you’re somebody just still trying to figure it out, man, just turn and look and say, “God, what have you put in my hands? Let me be a good steward of whatever you put in my hands excel with that, and then wait on you to bring the next chapter, the next story, because it is going to be good.” Amen.


[0:45:21.7] DG: I would say it’s not to you, you say that God owns that. We all say God owns it but take a serious. Seriously look to see, what does that look like? It looks different than maybe we think it looks. And then the other thing is whatever your hands find to do, God tells us, whatever it is, I think it’s when we are obedient in that, that that’s where we find out where God truly wants us.


[0:45:45.4] JR: That’s great. David, Bill, I want to commend you for the exceptional work you guys do every day for the glory of God and the good of others, for showing us what it looks like to lead by the book, God’s holy word, and for reminding us of just how powerful a vehicle worked outside the church can be for advancing the kingdom of God.


Guys, I loved this book. It’s called, Leadership Not By The Book: 12 Unconventional Principles to Drive Incredible Results. I highly recommend it, you could pick it up today. David, Bill, thank you again so much for joining us today.


[0:46:21.6] DG: Thank you.




[0:46:22.7] JR: So much gold, so many great one liners in that episode. I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did. Hey, if you did, do me a favor and go leave a review of the Mere Christians Podcast on Apple, Spotify, wherever you listen to the show. Guys, thank you so much for tuning in, I’ll see you next week.