The New York Times publishes “Corner Office” in the Friday and Sunday edition. Written by Adam Bryant, this feature consists the “highlights from conversations about leadership and management.” That is to say, Bryant interviews successful company executives in order to provide the reader with a weekly dose of leadership wisdom. Even if the entire five pounds of Sunday’s Times provides nothing else worth reading, “Corner Office” rescues the purchase price of the paper.
Although pastors must not conceptualize ministry in terms of a set of corporate executive skills (indeed, “we are not professionals“), we can find profitable insight from such voices.
For example, Bryant recently interviewed Marcus Ryu, the C.E.O. of Guidewire Software. I have no idea what the adversity and challenges would be for a CEO of a “maker of software for the insurance industry.” Nevertheless, I sure appreciate what he says is part of his regular communication to his team:
Q. Do you have certain expressions you repeat often?
A. I say “no wishful thinking” all the time. Another is this idea of embracing adversity. It’s been very hard to get here, and we should take pleasure in how hard it has been. It’s hard to build our products. Everything is hard. So my expression for it is “tunneling through granite.” I say that we have tunneled through granite to get to this point, and there’s an infinite amount of granite left. We’ll never get through it all. So you have to decide: do you actually enjoy tunneling and want to be part of this, because I’ve got nothing to promise you besides an infinite amount more of granite. People have said it’s a little gloomy. It’s like you’re just saying it’s nothing but blood, sweat and tears forever, for all of eternity. And so I’ve tried to lighten up about that.
Tunneling through granite. Yes, that metaphor works well for pastoral ministry. Though we are not trying to increase a financial bottom line, we are looking to do our part in advancing the Kingdom of Christ. Though we do not compete against other corporations for market share, nor do we compete against flesh and blood — we do war and compete against spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12).
And so, in the midst of another week of pastoral victory and pastoral defeat, let Ryu’s words sink in and give fresh courage:
“Everything is hard. …So you have to decide: do you actually enjoy tunneling and want to be part of this…?”
Even without knowing Ryu’s worldview commitments, this “everything is hard” sentiment seems to be more than stoicism. Ryu does not seem to be saying, “Life and business is hard, so suck it up and go on.” Rather, he purposely throws the language of “joy” into the mix:
“Do you actually enjoy the tunneling?”
In Christian ministry — and really, in all of the Christian life — there must be a tenacity and a commitment to hard work (tunnel through granite). But, even God calls us to a life of “doing hard things,” He also aligns us in such a way that we find our greatest joy in Him. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism begins: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”
Ryu doesn’t seem to know whether there will ever be an end to the tunneling. Christians know that there is an end, an eschaton, a consummation and wrapping up of all God’s designs for this present world. The present sufferings, trials, travails and “granite-tunneling” we endure — with joy — following the example of the Lord in whom we are united:
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
If you want to lead a big company to success, Ryu’s example teaches you to communicate — from the top down — such work is … hard work. And, joy.
In like manner, Jesus gives His disciples the grace to do God’s will in this world with great joy, even as we understand that this present world is not eternal.
We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. (John 9:3-4)