by George A. Mason
Something is stirring in the soul of American business. From the boardroom
to the mailroom and from the rank and file to the CEO, a fresh wind is blowing,
invigorating the way America works. New software? No.Insider information? Not in the
wall Street sense. What, then, is it? It is the power of the gospel in the workplace.
Whether its the approach
of the millennium or the hollowness of our cultural antidotes to the "emptiness
epidemic" one thing is clear: Americas business heart is rediscovering the
profound truth that happiness, fulfillment, productivity, and profit are as much spiritual
concerns as they are material. Regardless of what the world ascribes as the cause of this
awakening, those who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior see His hand at work and welcome His
leading and in a country starved for moral leadership, people are ready to follow.
Evidence of this new interest in workplace spirituality is found in
both the secular and religious spheres. For example, not so long ago a book titled, The
Management Methods of Jesus, written by Bob Briner, would only have been found in a
Christian bookstore. Today, however, it is as much a staple of the secular bookstore as
its Christian counterpart.
In an article titled, "The Spiritual Side" in the February 1,
1999, issue of Industry Week magazine, Jim Braham writes, "The place of spirituality,
or religion, in the workplace has always been a sticky, often taboo, subject. Its a
personal issue, and most business leaders are content to leave the idea of God in the
company parking lot
There are signs, however, that spirituality, which usually
conveys a broader meaning than religion, is taking on more meaning and importance in
executive suites. At the least, its being talked about more."
In our culture we listen more intently and give more credence to men
and women who have reached a certain milestone or rank. Thus, the sports hero is accorded
more attention than the fan, pastors are quoted more often than members of their
congregations, and when the CEO or company president speaks we listen. For some,
this status is a means to drive their own agenda; for others, however, it is a precious
opportunity to share the life-changing message of a personal relationship with Jesus
One such leader willing to share the role Christ plays in his life is
Brian Sokol, President of Blue Coral, Slick 50 Consumer Products Group, a division of
Quaker State Corporation.
In an interview with Connection Magazine, Mr. Sokol spoke of his
relationship with Jesus, the importance of his wife and children, and the importance of a
Christ-centered focus in todays marketplace.
"As far as I can remember God has always been a major influence in
my life and the life of my family." Brian credits his parents love and example
for his strong and vibrant faith. In 1973, as an eighth grader at St. Brendan School in
North Olmsted, Ohio, he wrote and produced the play, Christ Alive, which followed in the
tradition of the contemporary works, Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar.
After high school he entered Bowling Green State University where he
learned to seek and rely on the Lords guidance and direction. His first career
decision is a shinning example of the power of prayer. Faced with offers by Locktite
Corporation and the May Company, Brian could not make a decision between the two. Similar
to Gideons use of the fleece to discern the will and confirmation of the Lord;
(Judges 6:36-40), Brian was in the Bowling Green library praying for direct communication
from God. According to Brian, "I walked to the periodical section, randomly picked up
a magazine, and opened it to find a full page ad for the Locktite Corporation. I had
prayed to really understand the voice of God and He answered with clear direction."
This pattern of seeking the Lords face in dealing with business directions and
decisions has been the essential component of Mr. Sokols business repertoire, which
has served him and his company well.
Popular media seems to push the idea that devotion to ones job is
the be all and end all of life itself. In fact, in some quarters workaholism is seen as a
badge of honor, an admirable quality regardless of its negative impact on the family.
Unlike some executives who seem more married to their jobs than their wives, Sokol is not.
In fact, he states categorically that his wife Margo is an integral part of his success
and growth both in business and as a Christian. "Aside from my relationship with
Jesus Christ, the biggest influence in my life is my wife, Margo; she has provided me with
the best fellowship", says Sokol. "I dont know how many marriages share
spiritual growth, but with us it is not a hobby it is a passion."
This passion is what we read of in Psalm 100 verse 5 where David tells
us, "For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues
through all generations." The kind of God-centered life Brian and Margo experienced
as children is what they are now passing on to their children, Brittany, age 7 and twins
Brianna and Bethany, age 3. "Family is the foundation", Sokol says, "life
is not about chasing a career, rather, it is about family values core to the home; those
are the fundamental premises. Margo and the children have taught me so much. In fact, it
was not until I became a father that I began to understand the relationship between God
the Father and Jesus Christ. Before I could not really appreciate that relationship, now I
One would think that an approach to life where the Lord is first, the
family second, and job is third would result in a less-than-exemplary career track record.
In Brians case and thousands like him, what we find is just the opposite. His
business skills and savvy are not diminished by his priorities, rather, they are enhanced.
As president of a company that is part of a 3 billion dollar
corporation, he knows firsthand the joys and agonies of leadership. Brian admits that in
his career he had to face extreme political pressures working to stop him from being named
vice president and later president. "There were severe political forces working
against me simply because of my age. People were jealous because of my youth. I thank God
that during times of stress and pressure I have the fellowship of Margo and my
relationship with the Lord."
With regard to workplace witnessing and the role of the Christian CEO,
Sokol quotes our Lord from Matthew chapter 22 verse 21, "
Give to Caesar what is
Caesars and to God what is Gods." He went on to explain that Christians
on the job ought to be the best workers with the highest integrity. Businesses,
stockholders, and co-workers are first impressed with the quality and quantity of our work
and only then with the person behind the job. In fact, the good example we set in the
workplace could be the perfect opening for a witness about why we work so conscientiously
and for whom we ultimately work. "As I have trusted the Lord to lead me in these
areas", said Sokol, "He has not let me down."
It is clear from the example of Brian Sokol that when climbing the
ladder of success it helps to plant the ladder on solid foundation and when you climb it,
make sure it is leaning against the right wall.C