Ohio Business Leader Calls for Biblical Values in the Work Place

John D. Beckett is President and CEO of R. W. Beckett Corporation, the largest manufacturer of residential oil burners in the world. Gentle and soft-spoken, Beckett is a man of intellect, character, and high moral principles; but more than that, he is a man who actively lives his Christian faith.

by Shirley Tracy

Over the old roll-top desk in his office hangs a charcoal sketch of Jesus, the carpenter, carefully focusing on his work. This picture, by Francis Hook, testifies that Becket’s faith is a living reality, not only in his home but also in the workplace.

"To be complete as a person," Beckett says, "I really needed to align myself with Jesus Christ as my Lord, and that conversion experience of coming to him laid the foundation for the kind of spiritual understanding that later I would see applied in the work place."

Torn between a pull to religion and a desire for a career in business, Beckett eventually came to the realization that the two worlds were not in opposition; moreover, he concluded that business was a calling from God, just as some are called to the ministry. He says the sketch of Jesus, at work as a carpenter, inspires him because it really sets Jesus into the work environment.

"It is a reminder of the kind of excellence and dedication that Jesus brought to his work, and it’s an example for all of us."

Visitors to Beckett Corporation can immediately sense something different. A relaxed and professional atmosphere, warm congeniality among employees, and a prevailing positive attitude reflect the company’s commitment to quality, service and respect for the individual. The friendly work environment extends from the immaculate plant floor, where employees work in teams at each work station, to the front offices. There is a reasonably low turnover of company employees. Many of them have been there for more than twenty years.

"Mr. Beckett has a very unique manner of running his business," reports one Elyria resident who is familiar with Beckett Corporation and its impeccable reputation.

Senior company executives start their work day with prayer. Other employees are permitted–though not compelled–to participate in prayer and Bible studies during lunch or after work. Beckett is quick to point out that religious preferences have nothing to do with hiring or advancement policies. Not all employees share his faith, but all must adhere to the company’s basic moral tenets.

Early in his life, Beckett had felt God drawing him, calling him to some higher purpose, but he resisted. He explains it this way: "There was a war going on in my mind between intellect and faith, and I was concerned about setting the intellect aside on behalf of faith, not realizing that the Lord gave us our intellect, too. It isn’t necessarily at war with faith, but it needs to be subordinate to faith."

Through a series of circumstances–including the illness of a child, the death of his father in 1965 and his subsequent struggle of whether to keep Beckett Corporation and how to run it, and a serious fire that nearly destroyed the company–he finally came to a point where he lay down his resistance and allowed the Lord to come into his life.

In 1994, Beckett drew the attention of the national news media when he spearheaded a national effort to get rid of certain proposed EEOC guidelines which would have restricted religious expression in the workplace. A year later, ABC news wanted to do a story on Beckett’s company for Peter Jennings’ nightly news program. They were interested in learning more about how those at the company were relating their faith to their business practices. Beckett reluctantly agreed, and Peggy Wehmeyer (their religious correspondent), a producer, and a camera crew arrived at the R. W. Beckett Corporation the following day. Jennings’ people put the company under the microscope. It must have passed the test, because the story, that aired in the fall of 1995, was quite favorable. Next, Beckett turned his attention to writing a book. Published in May by InterVarsity Press, the book is titled Loving Monday: How to Succeed in Business Without Selling Your Soul. It is written from John’s own experiences and carries a clear message that integrity and excellence are needed more than ever in business today. It offers practical advice to anyone who wants to find purpose and fulfillment in their lives, including their work.

"I felt that God wanted me to write the book," explains Beckett, "and it was a priority, until I finished it."

Already in its third printing, Loving Monday is available at Christian book stores and other outlets. It is easy reading and demonstrates that there can be a successful merger of business, the Bible, and basic values. Beckett says it’s a little early to tell what kind of impact it will have on the business world, but he knows of two companies, one in this country and one in Brussels, that have already let him know they are adopting some of his concepts.

God has opened another door for Beckett to get the message out that you can love your work, be successful, and still hold on to principles and biblical values. Sometime in October, he is scheduled to appear with Pat Robertson on the Seven Hundred Club.

John and his wife, Wendy, live in Elyria. He is active in his community, and his hobbies are golf, tennis, skiing, and working with Wendy in the yard. He also likes to read. Although the couple’s six children are now grown, and some have moved away, the family remains close.

With today’s apparent decline of spiritual and moral values, it is uplifting to know that a successful and respected business leader like John Beckett has boldly integrated his work with his beliefs, and is encouraging others to do the same. (Prov 10:9 NIV) The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.