The Table Podcast

Faith, Work, and Hamburgers

In this episode, Dr. Darrell L. Bock, Dr. Steve Garber, and Hans Hess discuss the integration of faith and work, including Hess’ entrepreneurial endeavor: Elevation Burger.

Timecodes
00:15
Hess’ and Garber’s backgrounds in the integration of faith and work
05:53
Understanding common grace in the workplace
10:35
How Hess began his restaurant, Elevation Burger
19:32
The importance of vocationally-minded pastors and theologically-minded Christians
21:28
Han’s advice to seminary students, church leaders, and pastors
25:16
Steve’s advice to seminary students, church leaders, and pastors
31:16
How Christian parents can engage culture
37:05
Evangelism, discipleship, and the integration of faith and work
Transcript
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, let me turn to our distinguished guests. We have Steven Garber here, who is Principal for the Institute of Faith, Vocation, and Culture in Washington, D. C., and has done a lot of writing on faith and work. When I told Greg Forster, who runs the Current Family Foundation, who helps us do these, that Steve was coming, he went, “Oh, that’s great.” So, Steve, we’re really glad to have you with us.

And then Hans Hess. Now what can I say about Hans. [Laughter] Hans is a DTS grad. He went to church at the church that I’ve been a part of ever since I was a student at Dallas Seminary. But he came more recently than that. And …

Hans Hess
Couple? years ago
Dr. Darrell Bock
That’s exactly right. And he is … I’m gonna identify him as the chairman of his own company. So tell us what you’re doing. Obviously, you had a successful theological education. So, how did you end up being the chairman of your own company?
Hans Hess
You want the short version or the long version?
Dr. Darrell Bock
The short versions. [Laughter]
Hans Hess
Well, I graduated from Dallas in 1994, and then I moved to Washington, D. C., and somewhere in there discovered that I was probably an entrepreneur. And so I started a chain of restaurants in 2005, and I have about 50 or them, so about 30 of them are in the United States, mostly on the east coast. There’s a couple in Texas, Austin and Houston. And then about 40 percent of them are overseas, actually, in the Muslim world, so over in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait. So that’s the short version. I’m the chairman of Elevation Burger, is the name of the company.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, that sounds …
Hans Hess
We do organic, grass fed burgers.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Okay. [Laughter]
Dr. Steve Garber
Or as the sign in the store says, burgers the way they’re meant to be.
Hans Hess
That’s right.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Now you might ask, why did we bring these two together to be a part of this chapel? And the short answer is that what Steve does is reflected in what Hans is doing. So, Steve, why don’t you tell us that story. First of all, talk a little bit about what the Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture is about, and then tell how Hans loops into that story.
Hans Hess
Sure. So it’s called The Washington Institute in shorthand, and then for IRS terms, the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture. And so it’s set in Washington, D. C., which is a city always of glory and shame. And you know that and I know that. But we’ve lived there for 25 years. I taught undergraduates for about 15 years, day by day, and worked out a lot of things in my own thinking in those years, and then got drawn into a project that the Lily Endowment was doing on vocation along the way. And out of that decided that maybe we should incarnate this and call it The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture, which has the pretty simple but far reaching and complex thesis that faith shapes vocation, which shapes culture for all of us everywhere, actually. That what a person most deeply believes to be true about life shapes how we live life, and that has consequences for life for blessing or for curse for all of us, really, all over the world. So, whether we’re Hindu, or whether we’re Muslim, whether we’re evolution materialists, whether were hedonists, whether we’re honesty Christian people, that our deepest convictions about life shape how we live life, and that has consequences for life, for blessing or for curse.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And so, how does Hans fit into …
Dr. Steve Garber
How does Hans play into this? Well, for years our office was on a certain street in Falls Church, Virginia, which is the little town next to Arlington, Virginia, which is now part of this large, suburban, metropolitan Washington, D. C. I noticed along the way that there was a new store getting started. They were redoing this corner building, and pretty quick they opened up, and I went in, had lunch, and discovered that Hans was selling hamburgers. And not just hamburgers, but French fries, and not just French fries, but french fries fried in olive oil, of all things. And I thought, “What are you doing here?” And within that first conversation, as he was making sure that the tables were all clear, and the customers were being fed, I found out he went to Dallas Theological Seminary, of all things. And I thought, “You did? I know about Dallas Seminary.” And we began talking about theological education, about vocation, about what I do and what he was doing. And we began to be friends. I began to bring my friends in to have lunch there. And since it’s obvious I’m no longer 18 years old, I can’t really at Five Guys anymore. [Laughter] And it’s only when you’re 18 that you think that’s a good meal. When you get to be 25 and 30 and 45, it’s no longer a good meal, cause it makes you sick to your stomach, really.

I just began to find out that actually that when I had lunch with Hans and his hamburgers, I didn’t feel badly. I didn’t feel sick, actually. I thought, “Isn’t that interesting, really?” A lot of my theology, probably like yours, too, is pretty intuitive. And I’m thinking, “Well, finger to the wind, what is it about making hamburgers and french fries in a healthier way … not in a fancy pants way. This is just for moms with kids and people like me for lunch, really … but healthier that makes us actually not get sick?” Which I thought was pretty interesting. So, we began talking about hamburgers and life and work and vocation in the world and began to become very good friends. For many years, Hans served as the chairman of our board.

Dr. Darrell Bock
And so the Institute is really about helping people see how what they do in everyday life matters, how what they do in everyday life is connected to the other things that God would have them do. We just did a podcast that we’ve recorded, be out in the beginning of the year, and we talked about the concept of common grace. Why don’t you talk a little bit about how common grace fits into the story, and then we’ll talk to Hans a little bit about how he fits in to this.
Dr. Steve Garber
It’s a difficult idea to get your mind and heart around, common grace. This is not Dallas Theological Seminary, but another seminary that all of you would know about. We were doing a D.Min program in a cooperative way with the seminary on these questions of faith and vocation and culture, actually. And they sent us some students one week to work out what this looked like in the City of Washington. We brought them to Hans’ restaurant for lunch one day, just to meet one of our friends who was conscientious and thoughtful about his work in the world, and theological convictions behind his work. Well literally this is true, that the seminary students from this very good seminary were suspicious that Hans actually was pretending to be a serious Christian, and a business man, ’cause he didn’t have Christian signs in the store. So the question was … seriously, this is not 1800 years ago. This was in the last …
Hans Hess
Three years ago.
Dr. Steve Garber
… three years ago saying, “Come on, Hans. I hear what you say about what you say God means to you, what your faith means. But how does anybody know that you’re a Christian here in this store, because there’s nothing about John 3:16 on the wall? You’ve got, ‘Burgers the way they’re meant to be.’ So what? We’re still gonna go to hell.” [Laughter]
Dr. Darrell Bock
At least they’ll be smiling when they go.
Dr. Steve Garber
So you see, if we don’t have a theology of common grace, then we stumble over things like that. The best theology argues that there is saving grace and there is common grace. Saving grace is God’s work in the world. We don’t do saving grace. That’s what God does, sovereign, merciful Lord that he is. We are called to take up the gifts of God and offer them to the world with, as the Anglicans put it, with gladness and singleness of heart, in and through our vocations, I think is our work in the world. And so if we don’t have a theology of common grace, then we stumble over whether you should have John 3:16 in every store owned by a Christian, or whether, as I’ve teased Hans, you must be back behind there, this screen, putting little cross shaped elevations sauce on the hamburgers.

Make sure that we’re having holy hamburgers today, aren’t you really? Because we can’t account for why it would matter to have a healthy, tasty, hamburger without having it be somehow justified or sanctified … to use two good words in a seminary … by somebody who actually is making them explicitly “Christian” in a way which we could sort of say, “I get it. Oh, that satisfied my radar.” We can’t understand why an ordinary gift, like a good meal, would matter to God, or should actually matter to us, ’cause we so often are dominated by thinking about life as either sacred or secular, in compartmentalizing ways. So Hans stepped into this with vigor and eagerness and thoughtfulness and passion and has made millions of hamburgers since then.

Dr. Darrell Bock
One more question for Steve. You shared, in the podcast, the imagery that John Stott taught you about common grace. Why don’t you share that with the students?
Dr. Steve Garber
This won’t be possible for all of you, because he’s now gone into the new heavens and new earth, but I had a lunch with him in his apartment, his flat in London, probably one of the best meals of my whole life, some years ago. It was a simple affair. But we were talking about a lot of things. And one thing he said there, which he’s said in his writing and his speaking all over the place was that, why would you blame the world for being the world? He said, “When Jesus calls us to be salt and light, he says those are affective commodities, salt and light. The affect their environments.” He said, “Why would you blame a room for being dark. Why wouldn’t you ask, ‘Why wasn’t the light turned on?’ Why would you blame meat for rotting. Why wouldn’t you simply, but with honesty ask yourself, ‘So why didn’t we salt this meat?’ Why do Christians blame the world for being … Why wouldn’t we say, ‘Why didn’t the church get involved? Why didn’t we step into these spheres of entertainment and the arts and business and law and medicine and on and on and on and on and onward.” And his argument was that world will be the world. The church is called to penetrate and permeate the world, being salt and light. And we should not blame the world for being the world.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And, of course, the relevance of this is to suggest that as you think about teaching and leading in the church, how do you think about talking to the bulk of your audience who are … I’m gonna inform you, when you graduate from here and you go to lead a church or have a ministry in a church, as many of you will, most of the people in the pew will not be full time church workers.
Dr. Steve Garber
No. [Laughter]
Dr. Darrell Bock
So, how do you talk to them about where they’re living their life? Not just in their home, but in the context of their job, their vocation. How do you connect to that? How do you minister to that well? Those kinds of things. Those are the questions that we’re wrestling with as we think about what it means to train pastors and ministers, to show that as they teach and preach that work matters, and that work matters significantly, that it actually grows out of the Genesis 1 call to manage the world well, to exercise healthy dominion over the world. Those kinds of things.

So Hans, you are the illustration of this. So tell us, how did you go from being Dallas Seminary student to gourmet hamburger restaurateur?

Hans Hess
Okay. Well, I guess I … I graduated from Dallas Seminary in 1998, and I thought I was gonna be a missionary. And so I moved back to California, where I’m from, to raise support. I got about halfway through raising my support, and I stopped sleeping. Literally, one night, I woke up with … I had two hours of sleep that night. And then the next night, two hours of sleep. Next night, two hours of sleep. This is getting really bad, now, ’cause I really need sleep. I’m one of these people … I’m not like Darrell who can sleep four hours a night. So, I started inquiring of the Lord. I started to say, “What’s going on?” ‘Cause this ended up going on for six weeks, where I’d get an hour and a half or two hours of sleep a night, and then maybe a half hour nap during the day.

And it was really hard on me. And I was going and raising support. So I would drive 50 miles to preach on a Sunday morning for the pastor, and then talk to people who were interested in supporting missions. And I was falling asleep on the pastor’s couch, or falling asleep as I was driving. It was just getting really horrible. So, I started praying a lot about this. And I started talking to people who knew me, people who loved me, and started pulling my community together and saying, “What do you think of this? This is happening, and I’m not able to make progress. I’m not able to get any sleep.” And, long story short, over those six weeks, I decided that God was not calling me to the mission field, and this was His way of speaking to me.

So I decided … it was a very hard decision, but I took this decision to resign from the mission organization. And I put my letter of resignation in the mailbox, and I walked home, and I made dinner, and it was 6
00 at night. And I thought, “Well, maybe I can get a nap,” because I was sometimes able to catch a half hour nap and get some sleep. I laid down on my bed and I woke up the next morning at 9

So, in part of those conversations in reaching out to my community of believers and friends who knew me and loved me, one of them was my best friend from growing up. And he and his wife lived in Washington, D. C. And he said to me, he said, “Hans,” he said, “I know, if you do this,” ’cause we were talking about it before I had decided to resign, he said, “If you do this, what are you gonna do next?” I said, “I really don’t know.” And I was substitute teaching at the time. And I said, “I don’t think I’m really cut out to be a teacher.” He said, “Well, you know,” he said, “just observing you over the years,” he said, “I think you would really enjoy working on the Hill for a congressman.” [Laughter] And I thought about it, and I prayed it a lot, and I finally, I decided, “You know what? I think that is really interesting to me.” So, believe it or not, I packed all my worldly possessions into a small car and drove to Washington, D. C. And I stayed with my friend and his wife. And after about two weeks of staying there, I was actually hired by a member of Congress.

So I worked as a legislative aid for a conservative Democrat from the State of Michigan, who was also the co-chair of the Pro-Life Caucus.

Dr. Darrell Bock
You can put all those words next to one another? [Laughter]
Hans Hess
He’s the co-chair of the Pro-Life Caucus. And it was interesting. I only lasted there a year. It was a harsh existence in some ways. But one of the jobs that I had as a legislative aid was I got to read all kinds of stuff that came across the Congressman’s desk. And you basically read it and kind of process it, and summarize it for him. Well, I got this paper, this white paper that came across my desk that talked about the use of antibiotics in meat. So a cow that we slaughter for meat, it’s stomach is designed to process grass. That’s the way God designed it. But what the factory farm system has decided is that you can make a cow gain weight a lot faster if you feed it corn and soy. Unfortunately, its stomach isn’t designed to process corn or soy. So what happens is the animal dies, within about three or four months. So what the industry has done, in order to keep the animal alive a little longer, so that it can get a little heavier, so they can make more money when they go to sell it, is they give it antibiotics, because, like antibiotics sometimes makes you better, well, more well, it also makes cows more well. And it also helps them gain weight faster, it turns out.

So, the consequence of this is that this widespread use of antibiotics in the animal supply has caused super bugs to develop. So bacteria that are not susceptible to the antibiotics. So what the point of this paper was, was that at the time, in the late ’90s, about 10,000 people a year were showing up at hospitals with a bacterial infection that was fairly common, but it had mutated in them to be resistant to antibiotics. And so they would die, because the antibiotics were ineffective. I thought, “This is awful.” We have a food system that systematically kills people, basically. I thought, “This is terrible.”

And this is when my Dallas training came back, and remembering Genesis, remembering that we have this obligation to care for the creation and each other. And so, about three years later I was doing another job. I was working as a consultant, and I had this idea. I said, “You know, if you could make a burger restaurant that used beef that was grass fed instead of grain fed, this would be incredible.” And I had just been married. And so we were thinking about kids. And I realized, in the marketplace, this was a complete hole. There was nowhere I could go and take the kids my wife and I were planning on having, there was nowhere we could take them where we would feel good about serving them a convenient, quick meal, like a hamburger, the classic American meal, hamburger and fries without serving them commodity beef. And so, I said … I talked my wife into it, basically.

We talked, we discussed it. And I actually worked on the business plan for a couple years, and then finally opened up the first one in Falls Church, Virginia, just a couple … actually just a couple blocks from the church that Steve and I went to, Falls Church.

So that’s how I got into the burger business. It was public health motivated, which was theologically motivated. And my time at Dallas was the foundation for realizing that if you’re gonna take scripture seriously, the way Dallas Seminary does, that should have actual consequences for your life. For many people who come to Dallas Seminary, that means going into the ministry. And that’s great. But for also some of us, it means something else, working somewhere, or being an entrepreneur, or something. And so I said, “Well, how can I take very seriously what I’ve learned and what I know to be true about God and implement that in what I felt I was called to do, which is start this hamburger restaurant. Last thing I ever thought I’d do. I have an undergraduate degree in physics. [Laughter] Master’s degree in Theology. Yeah, let’s go start a hamburger restaurant. [Laughter]

Dr. Darrell Bock
So you can throw hamburgers against the wall and understand what’s happening, is that right?
Hans Hess
That’s right. I know why they stick.
Dr. Steve Garber
Here’s a commentary that relates another Dallas Seminary alum to this. I have a very close friend who is, I think, here in some kind of setting last year, Tom Nelson, who is a graduate from some years ago, and pastor of Christ Community Church, Leawood in Kansas City. And we do a lot of work together over time. But he has made the argument that what we need … what is needed, what the world needs, what the church needs, are more vocationally minded pastors and more theologically minded people in the marketplace.

So in some ways, this conversation we’re having here, when Dale said, “Would you come?” I said, “I’m glad to come. I’d love to come. But can I bring my friend, Hans, with me?” Because in some ways, we are talking together about something which it matters to the church and the world, this idea that, as Tom puts it, more theologically minded practitioners, or people in the marketplaces of the world, people who are more vocationally minded in the pastoral positions of the world.

So you can see for Hans, I mean it is the businesses of somehow he’s anything other than trying to think more coherently and seamlessly about his vocation in the world, vocation being the complex, rich word that it is. He doesn’t see himself making secular hamburgers so that he can make enough money in the course of six days to give a good tithe on Sunday, though he is very generous with his … in his resources, I would say, watching him. But he sees, actually, in some strange, odd way that the hamburgers themselves, like Bach put it, SDG, are to the glory of God. He’s not only selling Christian hamburgers to Christian people, like this seminary students wanted us to be doing, but he’s selling, in some ways, Darrell, common grace to the common good here, for all of us who are looking for something which actually would be both tasty and healthy at the very same time. Which, as I’ve said to Hans, they’re kinda like eschatological hamburgers, aren’t they, Hans? [Laughter]

Dr. Darrell Bock
And we hope they’re post tribulationally experienced. Hans, … by the way, the microphones are up so that if you want to ask some questions in a minute we’re gonna open up the mics to student questions. But let me ask you this question, Hans. As you think … you’ve been on … You’ve switch hit. You’ve been a theological student, thinking you’re headed to full time ministry in one way or another. And now you’ve been an entrepreneur. So you’ve been on both sides of the fence. What advice would you give to prospective pastors or church leaders about how to minister to people who are now where you are?
Dr. Steve Garber
It’s a good question.
Hans Hess
Go get a job. [Laughter] That’s a joke. But no. But in seriousness, I think you have to experience some of what people in the pew are experiencing. So, it’s half a joke.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So what does that mean? If you were to think about a pastor getting themselves equipped to minister to people, the bulk of whom have what we would call … misnomer … but we would call a secular vocation? What would you tell them?
Hans Hess
I would say, get into their world, and try and understand what it is they’re dealing with. I think that the church Steven and I went to, we had a pastor who was a pretty good model of that. He was older, of course, a lot more life experience. But he didn’t shy away from entering into, in some ways, I think, the day-to-day of people’s lives. Ultimately, I think it just comes down to unless you have experienced the work world in the way that most people have experienced it, then you may not understand it as well. So then you have to look for other ways to get that experience, whether that is having a job, or whether that’s … not saying that working in the church doesn’t have some of the same dynamics. It does. And you can certainly learn a lot there. But if you want to know what it’s like for somebody who’s working at an eight to five job where they work with colleagues who hate them, or constantly maneuvering around them for advantage or whatever, then you might want to experience that.

I don’t think, though, that in some ways the question almost deepens the divide between … like there’s these two different things. The reality is, and my view is, that whatever you’re doing, whatever work it is your doing, whether you find yourself in ministry or you find yourself in secular work, or whatever you want to call it, God is using that to make you more like Christ. It is His custom made schoolhouse for you. It is the place where you’re gonna learn the way of the cross. It is the place where the theologian of glory, as Luther would say, gets knocked out of you. And it doesn’t really matter if you’re in ministry or if you’re in some other line of work. It is all designed, I believe, to conform you to the image of the son. And you can resist that, like a lot of us do, or you can embrace it, and then it doesn’t really matter if you’re working in ministry or working somewhere else.

So, to me, it’s about that. It’s not about experiences of the particular work that you do or don’t have. It’s about the work that God is trying to accomplish in you. And he does that no matter what you’re doing, if you’re receptive to it.

Dr. Darrell Bock
And Steven, a question for you, because you’re, obviously, if I can say it, the middle man in this conversation in many ways. And that is, you have given your life and ministry to trying to connect theology and vocation and, if I can say it this way, theology to people who are in vocations that normally you wouldn’t connect to theology. So, what advice would you give to students who are training for theology, but also need to have this outreach that you’ve urged us to be sensitive to?
Dr. Steve Garber
Yeah. It’s a very good question, and it’s one that I think seminaries are asking all over the country, in part because of the Kern Foundation, actually, which is funding some of this conversation across the country. Here’s a man, a Mr. Kern who made a gazillion dollars, truly a gazillion dollars he made, by making something you don’t even know about.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That’s more zeros than you can count.
Dr. Steve Garber
And he sold the company and has a gazillion dollars, and he wants to give a lot of it to seminaries to rethink the meaning of work. Why? ‘Cause, you see, he was an engineer and an entrepreneur and industrialist, and worked to develop something. And he always had thought that the church, as the church, didn’t really understand what he was doing, and didn’t have much support for what he was doing. In some ways it was like, “We’re gonna pray for Young Life staff people and church planters in Kazakhstan, but those of you who actually are supporting this ministry, we’re glad you made money this week, but we’re never gonna pray for you because you do secular work.”

And one of my arguments the last number of years with seminaries across the country, as I’ve talked to them, is … and pastors. I talk with pastors a lot in my work, really … is saying, why don’t you simply just add to the list of the pastoral prayer on Sunday, those who are butchers and bakers and candlestick makers? Name them by name and by vocation. Add three or four to the list, along with the Young Life staff worker and the Bible translator. It isn’t you should stop praying for missionaries, so to speak, but why don’t you pray for the people of God, too, not only in their private lives, so to speak, but in most of life, and to say, as we do in our church, try to, let’s pray for Meg Garber, a librarian. Let’s pray for so-and-so at NPR, a journalist. Let’s pray for so-and-so who’s a this, and right alongside other people.

Because, you see, if we don’t change the mind about this, Darrell, then we just continue to stumble forward into a future of a compartmentalized faith, where we really do blame the world for being the world, ’cause we’re not really involved in the world, with, in and through our vocations. So, I would just say … I’ve often asked, what would you want if you were the king of the world, and a seminary education? I’d say, well, I wouldn’t want to be that, anyway. But I would just simply say, maybe not just one course on vocation, thought I’d be glad for that. If vocation is integral to the Missio Dei, then why wouldn’t we reflect that in homiletics, and in pastoral theology, and in systematic theology, and in the different disciplines of the theological education. Why wouldn’t we actually see that what God’s doing in the world is done mostly done in and through the vocations of His people?

You see, that’s a different mindset, a heart set, than what we’ve typically had within the evangelical church, where we have carved up God and His world and said, well, it isn’t quite like that. We would rather have John 3
16 on the wall, because making a good hamburger doesn’t matter that much.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah. I’m reminded, at our church in … the pastor’s in the audience, so I’ve got to watch how I say this. [Laughter] But at our church, we traditionally, in a benediction, make the point that this is not a benediction in which we’re sending you out, and this is the end of the service, but really you’re gathering together is the beginning of the rest of your week, where God is going to be present with you wherever you go. And it makes me wonder that, when we do the benediction at the end, rather than doing this general benediction and send everyone out and go, if it might not be a good thing, every now and again, to pray specifically for particular vocations from week to week, as we give the benediction, to reinforce part of the point …
Dr. Steve Garber
So this is Labor Day Sunday. It’s also the beginning of the school year for a lot of people in America. I have said to some people in the last week or two, why not, on Labor Day Sunday … we could do it every Sunday, of course, in some honest way … but why not at least once in the course of the year, why don’t we actually remember the meaning of labor, as given to God in the world? And some way for the church, for the sermon, for the praying, for the singing … why don’t we reflect, actually, our theology here? ‘Cause as I’ve traveled across the country, Darrell, this is not as if somehow this is not our theology. I’ve talked to deans of seminaries … not this one, frankly … but all over America the last years, asking this question of, how do you teach vocation in your seminary? I’ve heard these words almost exactly across America, “That’s our theology. We don’t teach that here.”

And I would … I don’t know why that’s true … I know why it’s true, but it grieves me, of course. But if it’s our theology, why isn’t it reflected in our liturgy? Why don’t we worship that way? Why don’t we preach and pray as if this is really true? And so, why wouldn’t it be possible, this Sunday, for those of you who have pastor responsibilities, to at least say, “For all the kindergarteners and the 8th graders and the 12th graders, and those who teach them going off this year, why don’t you stand up today, and we’re gonna commission you to be common grace for the common good in the City of Dallas this week. And through this year, go off and be salt and light in this world, in and through the vocations you have as students and teachers.” It isn’t rocket science to do that, really. It’s a pretty simple thing, but it matters.

Dr. Darrell Bock
Because what it does is it wraps … part of what it does is wraps a theology of life around the life of your church.
Dr. Steve Garber
That’s exactly what it does.
Dr. Darrell Bock
And that’s where most people are most of the time.
Dr. Steve Garber
Most of the time.
Dr. Darrell Bock
So, … Well, the mics are here in case any of you have a question. Yeah, go ahead. Come on up and ask your question.
Audience
I would love to hear the opinion, y’all’s opinion on school. So, Labor Day, start school. My wife is a teacher. We have this conversation about if we were to be blessed with children, where would our kids go to school? My pastor and boss, several good friends of mine, we live in this area, and DISD school aren’t awesome, to say the least. And so, what does it look like for us to engage with the culture around us, our neighbors, who are non-believing, whose kids go to Lipscomb Elementary or Robert E. Lee Elementary, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of believers in those schools, because all the believers in this area send their kids to private schools. So, how do we engage with the culture and be salt and light when there’s this tension of, do I put my kinds in this situation? Or do they get to be salt and light?
Dr. Steve Garber
Grab it, Hans. [Laughter]
Hans Hess
You have more children than I do. [Laughter]
Dr. Steve Garber
I’ll just say that I’ll pass the ball here to Hans, but there aren’t any cheap answers to the questions that matter a lot in this world. So I have nothing cheap to say back to you about this, well, all good people will do this, you see, one, two, three. I think God’s call upon parents is to, before his face, to do their darnedest to teach their children to see and hear and feel the world as God does. That’s the charge that God gives parents. How that happens is not given in the scriptures. I’ve met serious Christian people over the years who have said to me, in my face, “If you really love Jesus, of course you’re gonna send your kids to this Christian school.” “If you love Jesus, you’re gonna keep your kids at home and home school them, of course. All serious Christians do that nowadays.

Other people who say, “Well, all serious Christians, of course, send them off to be missionaries in their public schools.” I’ve heard all those words in my life, really. The Bible doesn’t speak about that. And we shouldn’t mandate on that point, really. I think it’s a difficult question, having to be worked out in community, with discernment and courage and humility and maybe it’ll change over time because you hope there’s a good answer for this year, may not be a good answer in three years.

The charge you have as a parent is, full of longing as you are for your children’s hearts, is that they would somehow learn to be in the world, but not of the world. How that gets done, probably will get done differently.

Hans Hess
Yeah, he’s so much more articulate than I am. [Laughter] But I could share a story. My son, or actually my daughter, in this case, she started at a particular school one year, and she had switched from a different school, and now she was going to a new school. And at the old school, she would come home every day, extremely happy. She’d learn stuff. She was excited to go back to school the next day. Then, when she made this transition into the new school, ’cause it was a grade change. She was going from … the old school didn’t have the new grade. So she was going to this new school, she would come home every day just like a wilted flower. It was just awful to watch her. She was not happy or excited about school. She was focusing on some of the wrong things, like what this person said or what that person said, getting gossipy almost, and there were just so many problems. So we … this went on for months. And we tried to work with her, we tried to work with the teacher. And we moved her. We moved her to a different school. We had that luxury at the time.

But, I don’t know. I would just say that, in trying to answer your question, it’s so much a function of the particular circumstances. And maybe your child should be at that public school, and should be salt and light. Maybe it shouldn’t, like Steve was saying. But you’re gonna just have to just navigate that as you go. If that’s your only choice, then I would embrace it as from the Lord, and figure it out.

Dr. Steve Garber
And I would just add this word, too. Everybody in the room here knows this is true, but I’m just gonna say it out loud. We live every day more fully into a secularizing, pluralizing, globalizing world. That is the hard face of the year 2015. It’s just true. And working out what we believe to be true and real and right in the face of those realities is very difficult. And I have nothing cheap to say to you. But we could talk about it more if you wanted to.
Dr. Darrell Bock
I’m gonna chime in here, ’cause I think there’s another part to the question that needs some reflection and it works like this. Whatever you choose, you’ll be affirming certain values, and you’ll be risking certain values by the choice. There’ll be some things that will come with the territory of your choice. There will be some things that will be neglected because you’ve made the choice that you’ve made. In making the choice, you’re gonna have to think through, what else do I wrap around that choice to make sure that I don’t lose the balance that I need to have? So however you make that decision … and it’s not an easy one, and it’s family specific and child specific and location specific and all those kinds of things … you’ve got to be sure that whatever you choose, whatever you lose in the deal, is compensated for in some other way. And when you’re thinking holistically, that’s how you’ve gotta think about this kind of a decision, because it’s not just the choice of the school, it’s what’s coming in life with the choice of the school that makes for better life, that you also have to consider.

Okay. Well, we don’t have anyone at the microphone, so I’ve got time for … oh, see? It’s amazing how that works. Go ahead. [Laughter]

Audience
So, I come from a church background where it’s already fairly encouraged to do something vocationally for the common good. So I’ve worked with guys doing roofing and siding and things like that. When a church has already embraced that, how do you then encourage evangelism and discipleship? That’s the question. [Laughter]
Dr. Steve Garber
So, we could go for long walk together. You want to do that? [Laughter] So, again, I mentioned already John Stott, and I think his thoughts, in a frail, finite way. But after the first Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in the early 1970s, a few years after, he was asked to give a series of lectures at Wycliffe Hall at Oxford. And he did these. And because they’re John Stott’s lectures, of course they became a book. IVP published Christian Mission in the Modern World, it was titled. And there were five chapters, five lectures. He chose five words to take up in the lectures. The first was the word mission. And so it’s typical John Stott, if you understand his work. It was the best biblical, theological, exegesis of the idea of mission, and working it through history, and identifying … in the church today, we have tended to divide the question between what we call evangelism and social responsibility, in the late 1970s. We don’t talk those same words all the time today. But that was the paradigm then.

And what he was arguing was, that the paradigm or the question was the wrong question, really, because it was based on flawed anthropology. So for Stott, he was working anthropology together with missiology in this lecture. And essentially he’s arguing that to see us as bodies and souls, with certain needs for bodies, certain needs for souls, simply was not a biblically informed anthropology. And so the missiology is skewed at that point. He’s arguing to a pulling together actually who we are as human beings, and therefore a view of the mission of Christ which grows out of that or is attentive to that. What he says, interestingly, at a certain point in the lecture, he says, “If we get the mission of Christ right, we won’t think in terms of this back and forth between evangelism and social this or that.” But he says, “We must, though, begin with a rethinking of what we mean by vocation. Because we’ve miss taught the meaning of vocation in the church and the world.”

So we have to, first of all, address why we’ve taught vocation wrongly as we’ve done, because we’ve gotten off there. We’ve become distorted there in how we teach this. And so we have … we labor over this tension between. And he says, “It is not as simply as it is not the way it ought to be for us, because we ought to see things more held together.” It is not as if somehow I’m discouraging Hans from noting to people who might be interested that he’s making hamburgers to the glory of God. But I think, in some ways, it’s a more elusive … what he puts up on a sign on the wall, very beautifully imagined and graphically done, “burgers the way they’re meant to be,” you see, for Jesus, it was more often, as I read Jesus in the gospels, he would tell a story like, we call it a parable, the soil and the seeds, and he would say at the end of the story, if you have ears to hear, then hear. And he walked away. It was only if you wanted to understand what he was saying you’d say, “What do you mean by that, Jesus?” That he would say, “Well, I mean this by that, actually.”

And I think there’s actually things that can be done in and through the context of the lives we have, the labor we offer that actually can be their own stories of the world that ought to be. And if you have ears to hear, then hear, and ask me a question about it. We could talk a lot more about it, though.

Dr. Darrell Bock
I think there’s a lesson from Luke 4. You watch Jesus preach in the synagogue and he says he’s been anointed by God to give liberation on the one hand. And then what do you see him doing in the next scene in Capernaum? He is ministering to people so that his words have flesh. It’s what I call a word-deed theology. There’s what he preaches, and then there’s what he does that shows that he believes in what he preaches, and he models what preaches. And the whole thing goes together. And somehow we’ve managed to take a set of scissors and cut those two things off from one another, when in fact, when we get up and say, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” and the unbeliever …

I did not grow up in a Christian home. I grew up as an agnostic. And so my question would have been, if someone said that to me, “Well show me, how does God love me. How can I see that God loves me? Show me. What is it in your ministry that shows that?” And so, those two things very much go together. How do you care for the person in a way that shows that you’re reflecting God’s love for them? It’s no accident, the great commandment is love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. ‘Cause those two things belong together.

Unfortunately, our time, all too quickly, has run away. So let me close this in a word of prayer, and let’s thank Steven and Hans for …

Let’s pray. Our Father, we often take as far too common the common things that you do for us in life, even the eating of a hamburger. And our prayer is that as we think about how you are involved in the everyday parts of our life, the airs that we breathe, the creation that we’re a part of, the roads that we travel on, the workers who build it, the trucks that bring goods from one place to another so we have something in the grocery store, that we might be reminded that in many of the mundane things of life your hand is actually at work in your common and your common grace for us. Help us to affirm the people in our churches who do that kind of work. Help us to appreciate that we are cared for in many ways, sometimes that we forget about and do not appreciate enough. And help us to be deeply appreciative that you have made us in your image, and you have given men and women the capability to care for one another in these simple ways. We appreciate who you are and how you serve us through the people that you’ve made, and through the way you love us. And we thank you in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

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Hans Hess
Hans Hess is the founder of Elevation Burger. In 2002, he focused his energy on creating a burger that truly stood apart from the rest in terms of taste and sustainability. After three years of careful planning and countless hours of research and development, Hans and his wife, April, opened the first Elevation Burger in 2005. Driven by a passion for good food that’s organic, sustainable, and fresh, Elevation Burger began franchising in 2008.
Steve Garber
Dr. Steven Garber is a teacher of many people in many places. In his work with The Washington Institute he focuses on the meaning of vocation for the common good. For many years on the faculty of the American Studies Program in Washington, DC, and for several years the scholar-in-residence for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, he has studied the relationship of belief to behavior for much of his life. A consultant to businesses, foundations and educational institutions, including the Murdock Trust, the Praxis Labs,  the Wedgwood Circle, the Blood:Water Mission, the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, the Made to Flourish Network, and Mars, Incorporated, his most recent book is Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good. A native of the great valleys of Colorado and California, he is married to Meg, and they live in Virginia.
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