The Table Podcast

Christian Identity and Influence in the Workplace

In this episode, Mikel Del Rosario and Marc Belton discuss Christian identity and influence in the workplace, focusing on Belton’s experience in the corporate world.

Belton’s background in the corporate world
Spiritual challenges to Christians in the corporate world
Christian identity in the workplace
How Belton’s faith impacts his work
Mentorship in the workplace
The importance of reading the Bible
Whole-life discipleship
Sensitivities Christians must have at work
What is the difference between integrity and honesty?
Developing a personal mission statement
Serving in the workplace
Belton’s ministries outside the workplace

Mikel Del Rosario:     Welcome to The Table where we discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Mikel Del Rosario, Cultural Engagement Manager at The Hendricks Center here at Dallas Theological Seminary, and our topic today is Christian identity and spiritual influence at work. I have one guest in the studio today, Marc Belton. Marc is the principal of Wise Fellow Consulting. Thank you so much for being here, Marc.


Marc Belton:               I appreciate it. Thank you.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah. Well I want to start out by asking you to tell us just a little bit about yourself. You’re from New York, right?


Marc Belton:               Yes I am. Born and raised, I grew up in Hempstead, or West Hempstead, New York, and went to college in New Hampshire at Dartmouth College, and then went to the Warton School and found myself out in Minnesota at the age of 24, and took on work at a place called General Mills.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Okay, okay. So how does a New Yorker like you end up in General Mills, and tell us a little bit about your experience there.


Marc Belton:               Yeah, it’s kind of funny. I wanted to do consumer packaged goods, and at the time there were a few companies that were what you’d consider best in class, and General Mills was one of those. I had never been further west than Pittsburg before, so for me it was a whole new experience, and a chance to do some very new things at a company that I thought was world class.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm.


Marc Belton:               And my goal was just to get to one of those top tier companies hoping to become an apprentice and really learn, and get better at what I did, and I’m surprised I was there actually for 32 years.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Wow. Now some people might be familiar with General Mills, but what are some of the more popular brands people would associate with every day? What do they see?


Marc Belton:               Yeah, number one you probably think of Cheerios, you think of Yoplait, you think of Betty Crocker, you might not know, but Haagen-Dazs would be a part of that, a part of the General Mills family. So those would be just a few of the companies that I think you would pick up and remember.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm, and what are some of the roles that you played while you were there?


Marc Belton:               Yeah, I started as a marketing assistant and kind of worked my way up from that, assistant brand manager, brand manager, marketing director, VP, I was the first president of the snacks division, I ran Big G Cereals, I started a new ventures area for the company. My last job was basically EVP over global strategy, M&A, marketing, the marketing field for the company, as well as new business development.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm. I was a marketing assistant as well right out of college.


Marc Belton:               Yeah.


Mikel Del Rosario:     And so you think about what does it take for you to have a bowl of Cheerios in the morning, right? You think about maybe everything from the farmers to who take care of the actual ingredients, into maybe retail distribution and stuff, but we don’t often think about the marketing that goes into it, and just people like you who make the company run and make everything happen, right?


Marc Belton:               Absolutely. Lucky doesn’t dance, and the Trix rabbit doesn’t go crazy, nor does the Sonny the Cuckoo Bird go nuts without marketing people to make those things come alive for kids.


Mikel Del Rosario:     That’s right.


Marc Belton:               And for adults.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah, it takes a lot of people to put this stuff together and just things we take for granted in everyday life. There’s so many people whose work is valued by God who are involved from driving trucks, to stocking shelves, to doing marketing assistant kind of stuff as well.


Marc Belton:               Yeah, absolutely. Every piece important.


Mikel Del Rosario:     That’s right. Well, as they used to say, if your job wasn’t important you wouldn’t be on the payroll, right?


Marc Belton:               Yeah, I guess so. I think of where we are in these days, with productivity and everything else, you certainly wouldn’t be there.


Mikel Del Rosario:     That’s right. Well, as we think about Christians who work in the corporate world, or in various areas, what are some of the spiritual challenges that Christians can face, and that you’ve seen, actually, in the corporate world? What are some of those challenges?


Marc Belton:               Yeah, I think the easy ones that not only Christians, but I think most people face are kind of the three Ps, perks, privilege, and power. Those are the three Ps that folks face. There are a variety of other ones, too. Other ones that may challenge your sense of identity, your sense of self-worth, but I think they almost start in that area of the three Ps. Those are a big deal.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Can you unpack some of those things for us, like how does perks – how does that challenge people spiritually?


Marc Belton:               Yeah, well if you – depending on where you are in the organization, especially as you talk about senior executives, there are a variety of perks that are available to folks who are in those jobs whether it’s flying on a corporate jet, or frankly just the way people might end up treating you. There are always people around who have something for you.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm.


Marc Belton:               And so perks are one of those things that I think can get in your way and cloud your vision a little bit.


Mikel Del Rosario:     And puff up your pride.


Marc Belton:               And puff up your pride, for sure.


Mikel Del Rosario:     It makes it kind of difficult to see people as – if you’re used to seeing people that’s just there to serve you, right? Not seeing them as fellow people made in the image of God who are valuable to God, but thinking everything revolves around you because sometimes it feels like it does, right?


Marc Belton:               Yeah, absolutely. They can either view them as someone who’s there to serve you, or you often can think of it as they’re someone who’s there who wants something from you.


Mikel Del Rosario:     That’s right.


Marc Belton:               And so it can either make you run because, “Gosh, everybody wants something,” and, “Gosh, I’m just tired of people who might not be authentic wanting something,” or on the other side, “Hey, you’re here to help me do what I do because I’m at the top of the house, and what I say matters. Neither of them are good.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah, so there is some insecurity that some Christians face as well. Sometimes Christians are kind of go undercover. Have you seen that in the workplace, and what’s sort of the causes of those things?


Marc Belton:               Yeah, sometimes I’ll talk about the undercover Christian. It’s the person you work with for two or three years and you don’t really even know that they’re a believer until some reason it actually comes out. A lot of times it’s because they are trying to disguise themselves to fit an image of someone who thinks they need to be a certain way to be successful in an organization. When in truth, most organizations just want people to bring their talents and gifts every day for a common cause. Sometimes people will actually view that as, “No, really what they want is they want me to fit a certain box,” and that can get in the way. Just allowing you to be free to do the great things you can do.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm. So you can fall into the trap of being this undercover Christian where nobody knows you’re a Christian. Then I guess the flipside is you can be the kind of person who when they find out they go, “No way. That guy is not Christian,” right?


Marc Belton:               Well yeah. I don’t know which is worse. Hiding, or maybe not representing God the way he wants to be represented. Neither are good.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Right.


Marc Belton:               I think the undercover one just represses you, and denies you the opportunity to fellowship with other people while you are in the workplace and see the great things God is doing through another pair of eyes beyond yourself. I think the second one is just – well, it’s just being a reproach to the kingdom, not living right, not doing right.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Sometimes just the desire for advancement does that to some people. Have you seen advancement and making a name for yourself kind of a thing impact a Christian as well?


Marc Belton:               Yeah. Well I think making people out there trying to make a name for themselves, boy, that’s a tough one for everyone. Because these environments are very competitive, and they do demand – you have to perform. And so on some level people think that performance is in the business, actually making the numbers and delivering, and some people think it’s part performance. And so one is helpful and the other one is not.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm. Yeah, thinking about these kinds of traps where Christians find their identities somewhere else. It’s so easy to say what’s on my business card, that’s me. I think for a lot of people, Christian and non-Christian people, feel like what’s on their business card defines them. Were a layoff did happen, a different season of life could happen, and accident, whatever, and then what are you going to say, “Hi, I’m nothing,” right? You can’t say I’m nothing because you’re not, right? But yet sometimes people have this identity that’s so wrapped up in their work. How have you been able to negotiate that with the work that you have done, and the work that you do now?


Marc Belton:               Yeah, I think first and foremost I think you need a clear sense of what your true identity is. Number one, you’re a child of the king, which is a high, high position. Number two, you’re made in the image of God. Number three, God loves you, not for what you do, not for your performance, he loves you because he created you. And number four, you’re here on this planet because you have a purpose. There is a reason for your being here.


And I think if you can anchor yourself in those things that gives you the – I think it just allows you to be a lot more free in your exchanges with people. It takes a lot of the burden away, and it takes away the necessity of the card as a defining variable for who you are. In truth, what you do does say something about you, but it doesn’t say the eternal stuff about you that you’ve been bought and paid for a price, and that you have an eternal destiny. So I think you’ve just got to spend time to make sure that you know who you really are.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm. Tell us about how you came to faith in the Lord, and how you came to the point where you realized that God actually impacts your work.


Marc Belton:               Yeah, well I was a – I didn’t really operate inside the kingdom until my 30s. I did go to church as a kid, was a Methodist kid, but I didn’t really – I didn’t really pick up – just didn’t make the connection. I got confirmed, but I just never really made the connection. I went off to college and graduate school, and frankly I threw the things of God certainly behind my back and just kind of moved on. I made it pretty much about my way, my plan, my life and things like that.


And so it got to a point where I ended up getting married, and I was kind of a guy with a great black BMW, and found a gal with a white BMW, and I guess on some level we thought maybe we had a lot in common, but we really didn’t. So even though I was, quote/unquote, moving up the corporate ladder doing really well, there was a hole there in my life, and there certainly was a hole in her life, and us together that wasn’t really a good thing.


So things, quote/unquote, devolved from there, and I won’t get into the gory details. But as things devolved I ended up living by myself in a house with a dog I didn’t like, and I had to start asking myself some hard questions. And even though I had some success I didn’t have the whole life I was looking for.


Honestly, it was a snowy day and I decided I wasn’t going to fake the funk, and I turned on the TV and I saw this guy, and he was preaching about the difference between religion and a relationship with Jesus. And I was like, “Really? A relationship with -” and I literally I got on my knees and I asked the Lord, I said, “Well if you’re for real I really need to know. If you are I’ll serve you.” Boy, if you ask a question like that you will get a response.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah.


Marc Belton:               And so that kind of started my journey of really wanting to walk with God, and to try to see about living that life. Because the life I was living, even though I had a lot of the trappings at that time, I was in Fortune magazine, and Black Enterprise, and front page of a local paper as a perfect executive, I knew that wasn’t true. And so I needed to start making a different – take a different path.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm. In one sense it was true with your corporate life, but then what people didn’t see is the personal side.


Marc Belton:               Right.


Mikel Del Rosario:     They didn’t see the personal toll it was taking on you, and where you were going.


Marc Belton:               Right. It’s the immaculate resume, right?


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah.


Marc Belton:               The resume was fantastic. All this accomplishment, going to these fancy colleges like Dartmouth College and the Warton School, and graduating at just turning 24, and a great job at General Mills, and running big businesses. Yeah, the resume looked great, but the life didn’t match that resume. I just think you get that kind of dissonance between your actual life and the external things that you see, and I think that pushes you to ask yourself some hard questions.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm. What kind of difference would that make in your life once you started asking yourself those questions, and confronting God with what was [crosstalk] in your life.


Marc Belton:               Yeah. No, I mean you’d love to get to the thing, “Well hey, I did these things. I asked these questions, and instantaneously everything was solved. Everything was solved.” It doesn’t work like that. I mean it takes years to get into the box, and it takes time to get out. But the good thing is the walking along with God, and walking alongside God, you could see yourself changing. You could see things around you changing.


Not everything changed instantly, and the sins of the past they do go forward in your life, but God also works in your life to bring new things, and to redeem some of the lost things, and to bring you new things as well. But the most important thing is you become a new person regardless of all the other things that happen or don’t happen. The truth is you’re changing, and you can appreciate that. And whether someone sees it or not it doesn’t really matter, whether someone accepts it or not it doesn’t matter. What matters is your relationship and what you think. I think that clears up a whole lot of stuff.


Mikel Del Rosario:     You know, for some people they think it – they look at marketing, and advertising, public relations, those kinds of things and they go, “How could God possibly be related to my vocation? How does God see my – People say we should see our work like God sees our work. I don’t know how I would connect advertising and marketing with something that God is doing through me.” How would you answer that for them?


Marc Belton:               Yeah, Well you know, you look at the mission of the company, and I actually helped work on writing that original mission. The mission was to nourish lives, and that’s what we do through food.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm.


Marc Belton:               So everything that’s involved in the production, the manufacturing, the sale, the distribution, the gaining of awareness, and the marketing of that product sums into the idea that we are here to sell food that nourishes lives. And the bigger idea which was to – frankly, we feed the world. We have the privilege of being one of many companies that feeds the world, and distributes food efficiently to people that provide nourishment that allow them to do the things they do. And if you can’t see a mission with that you need to get in another career. You need to go work in another place, and that’s okay, but that’s a high end – that’s a high calling actually to help feed the world and to do it in an efficient way.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah.


Marc Belton:               When we have more ways more people starve.


Mikel Del Rosario:     That’s right. I think common grace for the common good is something that can fit into so many people’s jobs when they begin to see what I’m doing. It’s not being a pastor, it’s not doing these things that we often immediately think about when we think of doing ministry, and yet you’re serving, and you’re serving the common good.


Marc Belton:               Yeah, absolutely.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah, that’s one way.


Marc Belton:               Yeah, I mean that’s one of the big things of the whole faith and work movement. To be honest with you is just to let people know that God cares about the things that they do, and the things that they do they matter.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm.


Marc Belton:               And you don’t need to feel guilty that you’re not in the Honduras doing something right now in mission work. When you’re serving the world doing the things you’re called to do to make everyone’s life better, and that’s a high and mighty calling. I think sometimes people don’t see it that way, and they kind of look wistfully over to some other kind of – other kind of life instead of actually realizing that we’ve been called to do this, and that our work is worship. And you look at the old Hebrew words and those things are the same, work and worship.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm. And we’ve got the great example from Jesus as well as someone who not only taught truth, but he loved people well, and you saw him serving in compassion. Not just preaching to people, but actually getting in their lives and serving them and being compassionate.


Marc Belton:               Yeah, absolutely. In a real and authentic way.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah. Well you talked about mentorship a little bit before we were on the show, on the air together, tell us about your mentor and kind of what that relationship was like, and what you learned from it.


Marc Belton:               Yeah, it’s kind of funny because after I made my decision to start to walk with Christ I said, “Lord, I need some help. I need some help. I need to really – I need help quickly.” And interestingly enough a few weeks after I met a gentleman named Kerry Humphries, and he was a business leader, and he was vice chairman of Cargo, which is one of the largest companies in the world. He was from Virginia, had that strong Virginian accent, and he kind of said, “Marc, you know, some men and I we get together to look at the word of God in a men’s group. Would you be interested in doing it?” I was like, “Oh, absolutely.” I felt like it was something – a gift from the Lord.


And over the years he not only became a great role model and teacher, but he was – I just used to call him my spiritual father because he helped birth me in the – into an effective life as a business person, and as a Christian. I mean he did all kinds of things for me, just getting me involved in different things, if the national prayer breakfast was going on he’d get me there, if it’s the local one he’d get me there, if it’s Billy Graham he’d be on the finance committee and he’d be dragging me along. And he dragged me into – willingly dragged me into a variety of different forms of Christian ministry that were available to guys in business, and where business folks could actually make a difference, really make a difference.


And the other thing is he just kind of role modeled what did it look like to be a Christian business leader today. I know that was just a gift from God. I didn’t realize I would move up so far in our organization and have a role very similar to his, but it was certainly helpful to have been able to see that, and see what that looked like being a person of integrity and things like that.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm. You find that that fellowship actually helps Christians avoid some of these traps of the insecurity, the making a name for yourself kind of thing. Was that something that was so important to you?


Marc Belton:               Yeah, well I think yes indeed. But this idea of role modeling is a really big one for folks. And I know people say I’m not a role model and all of this kind of stuff, but I do think people need mentorship and role modeling. I mean Paul talks about it, about being a role model, and the imitators of me as I imitate Christ. So this isn’t unusual stuff. This is actually real stuff, and I think it’s important, important to do, to share what you’ve learned with others, and share your life, and it’s important to learn from those who look like they’re trying to do that, right?


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm. How would you counsel a young Christian executive who wants that mentor to go out and find someone? How would you counsel a senior exec who sees somebody who needs a mentor and wants to start a relationship like that?


Marc Belton:               Yeah, I think that’s tricky. Number one, pray and ask. I mean it sounds really silly, but I think asking for one. And then I think when you ask I think you should look expectantly for one. I think as a very senior leader there are lots of things you can do, small things and big things. One thing I just started about four or five months ago was I started a young men’s group of African American business guys who are trying to move up that corporate ladder and started a study, a Bible study with them.


We meet every other week on Thursdays. We read great, great books together, and we send out questions, we sit around the table, and then things happen and you begin to mentor with others. And some get really close and call you up before a presentation, “What do I need to do?” Others do it differently, but I think you can create opportunities as well just by sitting around the table and calling through the good book.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm.


Marc Belton:               So we’ve read a couple already, Play The Man, Mark Batterson, and we’re reading Basic Christianity by John W. Stott right now, and just to anchor the brothers in the truth of God’s word and what’s going on, and walk together alongside some folks. The ones that are organic they’ll continue and get stronger, and maybe the things that are more contrived they won’t stay.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah. Well you’ve said that we’re – what did you say, over resources and under read when it comes to scripture, right?


Marc Belton:               Yeah.


Mikel Del Rosario:     How would you admonish a Christian who says, “Man, I just got to get into the word more, but there’s just not enough time in the day, and I don’t know what happens, but my day is just gone.”


Marc Belton:               Yeah, I’ve just gotten to the point on that where I just say, “Look, stop making excuses. Get up 20 minutes earlier. Put your TV and social media, or whatever else down for 20 minutes.” It’s almost a Nike thing, almost just do it. I mean find the time. God makes it so that we have time to spend time with him, so you just have to do it and just stop making excuses at some point. I hate to say it like that, but it’s kind of the way it is. Eventually you just have to – you have to do it. You have to make the decision that it matters.


Maybe the other part of it is is when you’re reading read it as if he’s talking to you. Not as if you’re some distant observer, or some student at seminary or something like that. I mean read it as if you need to know, and he might be saying something that might be helpful for you today, or helpful for someone else.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah, I always say, “Try to learn as much as you can because even if you don’t think you’re going to use it now God may have some things for you in the future.”


Marc Belton:               Right, you’ve got to believe that somehow this is not in vein. We know the word does not return void, but you actually have to believe that.


Mikel Del Rosario:     That’s right.


Marc Belton:               If you do then you’ll take some time and read.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah, so in the second half here we want to talk about being a spiritual influence at work. But first, unpack for us this idea of whole life discipleship that you talk about. How is someone who embraces the faith and work movement wanting to share whole life discipleship with people, what’s kind of the main takeaway there?


Marc Belton:               Yeah, well I guess there’s two different things. I think there’s one – the essence of the faith and work movement, which is that your work is truly valued by God, and there’s no need to look to the right or to the left, but to trust that God is somehow is using your work as a form of worship to build for the common good, and the glory of God, and the good of man, right?


The idea of whole life discipleship, I kind of played around with this idea today with some of the students, and we talked about GPS. It’s a Global Positioning System, right, but we talked about God empowered servants. The first system is incredibly elegant in terms of how it’s actually structured. There are 32 satellites that use trilateralization to actually pinpoint you at a specific point, atomic clocks, distance and distance between objects to actually pinpoint where you are, and can do it at an incredible level down to the foot. The autos have sensors inside them, and those sensors have a responsibility enrolled to identify different things and help the user respond in appropriate ways.


And then there’s this VICS system, which actually is kind of a vehicle communications system that actually is the one that tells you when you ought to pick a different road versus your traditional road because of the traffic, or maybe the street, or maybe there’s something else that’s going on. It’s almost a brain that’s in the back.


And we use that analogy to think about our life in the kingdom, God being, quote/unquote, this satellite who’s providing purpose for all of us, as well as a variety of spiritual gifts. The word being a map, and all of these GPS systems rely on maps, and thy word is a lamp unto thy feet, and a line until thy pass, so that’s a lamp. We talked about sensors, different forms of sensors that are important. And as you know, sensors can get clouded, and in many ways today issues around integrity, or humility, or around grit and resilience, those are sensory things where we have to see situations and respond accordingly.


And we’ve kind of put together this little construct to share with people for that user, that person who’s in the center of it. And so that was kind of what we talked about today, and I hope it landed fairly well. I think people thought it landed fairly well at least.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah, so in this analogy you have God as the satellite.


Marc Belton:               Yes.


Mikel Del Rosario:     God has this vantage point that we don’t have, right?


Marc Belton:               Right.


Mikel Del Rosario:     And God can direct us because we’re honestly just off and quite lost in this world, and we’re bumping into things. We don’t know what’s going on, neither does the next guy, unless we tune into God because he’s got the perspective, right?


Marc Belton:               Right.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Talk about the sensor part of that analogy a little more. What are some of those things that we need to be sensitive to in our lives as we seek to be spiritual influences at work?


Marc Belton:               Right, I think that the three things that I kind of highlighted at least today was integrity, which I think is one of those traits that frankly we’re in bad need of here in our society. I also talked about humility, and that’s one I hadn’t spent much time talking about, but I feel in the last few years it’s something where, boy, we really need to put this back on the table. It does impact your business performance.


As I said earlier today, I think the greatest mistakes I made were when I did not exercise humility. They weren’t lack of knowledge, or lack of information. In business there’s risk and there’s return. You’re going to have some things that work, and there are going to be some things that just don’t work, but you ought not to have things make mistakes that you could have avoided by just doing what’s right, getting wise counsel, looking at the facts, listening to your consumer in humility, not versus what you’d like to do. And denying reality, or denying the facts. Those will get you really in trouble, and frankly you’ll tank your business. So humility is really important.


And then there’s just an aspect in life from just having some resilience and grit. Just being able to hang in there, grit it out, and understand that difficult times will come. The scripture says, “A righteous man will fall seven times, yet he rises again.” Another scripture in Psalms says, “Many of the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers them from them all. He guards all of his bones. Not one is broken.” So we’re going to have adversity, and yet we are to stay near to him to walk through the adversity, not to operate in denial, or seek a quick solution to a difficult and challenging process that then makes us better.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah, Jesus says, “In this life you will have trouble.” That’s a favorite memory verse people like to crochet on little baby blankets or anything like that.


Marc Belton:               That’s right. Don’t worry, I’ve overcome them all, right?


Mikel Del Rosario:     The Bible is very real when it comes to that adversity that we all face. Yeah, tell us about the difference between integrity and an honesty. Because sometimes people get those two things kind of mixed up together.


Marc Belton:               Yeah, absolutely. It’s an interesting – Stephen L. Carter wrote a book called Integrity, and he had three main points. The first point was you must spend time to discern what is right and wrong. The second point was really to be willing to communicate what you discern. What have I learned? And then the third was to be willing to do that which I have learned even if it’s at a cost to me.


But there’s a huge difference between integrity and honesty. And many people you’ll hear they’ll say, “Well I’m just being honest.” Well they’re honestly wrong. They’ve failed the first case. They haven’t actually discerned what is right and wrong. They’re giving some flip response, or some kind of a response based on their personal experience to a situation and then extrapolating it somewhere else, but the truth of the matter is they’re wrong.


And today we have a lot of people running around, quote/unquote, being honest, but not actually doing the hard work of discerning now that which is right and that which is wrong. And so yeah, so integrity is definitely not honesty.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Can you think of a time where in your life you’ve had to count the cost, and you went ahead and stuck to your guns and you kept your integrity, but it cost you something?


Marc Belton:               Yeah, I mean a number of different times, especially in the corporate world. I was running the – one of our largest divisions, the cereal division, and I had done research and study in some areas about new movements with consumers. And I could, when I moved into that area, I could tell that that challenge was actually coming on and it was on its way to impact the cereal business. I tried to write a number of presentations to articulate what these forces were that were going to impact cereal, and maybe explain why our growth was starting to slow, and starting to decline as a category.


And I remember working with my boss at the time and we were writing a pitch to the board of directors. And I kept trying to insert the forces around the cereal, of the cereal business in a bowl, and him kept writing that out, and taking it out of the deck until we went back and forth a couple times until eventually kind of wrote the deck for me. I finally figured out that we weren’t going to have that conversation.


But during my time in that business I certainly tried to represent that point of view, and we had some great success. We actually took over number one in the industry versus Kellogg’s, and we’ve never been number one as a company, and frankly haven’t been since. We grew profits, but not at the rate they were hoping for. It’s probably a little bit because of some of those issues, and maybe some of my issues, but they moved me into what I called exile at the time and gave me a few nice businesses to run like Yoplait, and some emerging organic businesses which I had acquired years before.


I took that as a time of feedback, and I was kind of resilient about it. I thought about trying to leave, but I honestly I think the Lord had a plan for me there, and I just worked on getting better, just getting better, improving what I do and having great performance. Years later that same boss called me into his office. He was the CEO, and he said, “Marc, you’re getting promoted today,” and I was like, “Wow. Okay, great.” He says, “Do you know why,” and I said, “I thought I was in exile. No, I don’t.” And he said, “Hey, the reason why is because you had the courage to tell us what we didn’t want to hear about this industry, and we need guys like that on the team. You were willing to do it.”


So that’s a classic example of where sometimes there’s a short term cost, but maybe, maybe there’s a longer term gain. But there’s not guarantee. Sometimes there’s a cost and there’s no promise that you’ll see the fruit of that, and there’s a lot of scripture. And we talk about Hebrews 11, the heroes of faith. Many of them never saw the benefit of their trials, but they saw it from afar, right?


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah.


Marc Belton:               By faith they saw it.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Right. Some of them are real popular names, some of them they don’t have names that we know about, right?


Marc Belton:               That’s right.


Mikel Del Rosario:     And so God honors those who you might think when nobody sees, God sees.


Marc Belton:               Yeah.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Right?


Marc Belton:               Right. You have to believe. You have to trust.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah.


Marc Belton:               You know, the other thing that’s interesting about that issue of the stuff is – you know, the scripture says, “Fear of man is a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm.


Marc Belton:               So on some level you’ve got to be willing to stand up for that which you’ve discerned to be right. Please don’t stand up if you’re just being honest about something because you can take a hit that God has nothing to do with because you haven’t done the work. But if you’ve really discerned it and figured some of this stuff out I think it’s important that you be willing to communicate it.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah. Now you’ve been involved in writing mission statements and core values and things like that for corporations. How can a Christian who wants to be a spiritual influence at work begin to think about writing their own personal core values for how they’re going to be an ambassador for Christ in the workplace?


Marc Belton:               Yeah, now that’s an interesting question. I guess the first part if it just starts with figuring out what your own core mission is. That is one that is done, I would have to say, done with much prayer, and maybe even some counsel working with you to kind of work through what your personal mission statement is, trusting God that you’re doing what is right.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Maybe with a mentor as well?


Marc Belton:               Yeah, yeah. Well counselor, mentor, any of those things. If you’ve got one use it. So that’s the approach that I took as it related to working on one of them. We even did it – the crazy things we’ve done. Was my wife and I when we got married, after all of the other stuff went down and God was gracious to me, our pastor said, “I want you guys to write a family mission statement.” And so we spent the summer working our family mission statement, and we put it on the back of our invitation to the wedding. And then we asked people to covenant and pray for us and with us, and hold us accountable to living it. So when you walk into our house there’s the Belton family mission.


Mikel Del Rosario:     There you go, and what is it?


Marc Belton:               Oh gosh, it’s really long. It talks about loving each other magnificently, making ourselves servants of God. It talked about how we want to raise our kids in the way of the Lord, how we want our home to be a place of blessing, and that in our endeavors together we want to somehow make him smile through the things that we do and serve. As we had kids we then modified it because I wrote it – we wrote it together in really high language, and our kids were young, so we changed it to just be for God, just be you, and be in service to others, and made it kid friendly.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah.


Marc Belton:               Yeah.


Mikel Del Rosario:     I like that.


Marc Belton:               But I think the idea of having those things can be a good compass for you. So we would actually look at our family mission every year at our anniversary and ask ourselves at dinner, “Hey, are we living it out? Are we doing this,” and you can do that with your own personal mission as well.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm. And so that when you’re in a corporate setting and you have both of your managing people, or whether other people are managing you and you think about how am I going to relate to these people, you can bring that to bear, right?


Marc Belton:               Yeah.


Mikel Del Rosario:     And you can ask, “How can I serve the people that I’m working with?”


Marc Belton:               Right.


Mikel Del Rosario:     How are you able to counsel people to see their workplace as a place where they can serve those around them as well? How could we be on the lookout for those kinds of things?


Marc Belton:               You know, that’s a tough one. I don’t know if I have a great answer to it, but I think we need to be servant leaders, so in every endeavor we are to lead through service. I think the most important one, if you’re in a company, is to serve your customer, right? And I think sometimes companies get in trouble when they lose sight of the fact that they’re number one job is to serve their customer, and then their number two job is to serve one another.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm.


Marc Belton:               Not to say we should put people in terrible situations so that we only serve our customer, but very often companies become enterprises and it becomes all about them.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm.


Marc Belton:               It becomes all about serving themselves instead of actually remembering that the only reason why we’re here is to serve our consumer. It’s interesting, we have a business called Hamburger Helper, and that would – you would consider today to not be a highly affluent oriented consumer base supporting that business. And maybe people who are a little less affluent but still love their children and want to value their kids, and are trying to give them something good to eat, but it’s obviously not picanha steak or something like that. It’s hamburger.


A lot of times I have to kind of wake people up and say, “Hey, wake up here. The only reason why you’re driving that BMW is because you are serving this consumer. Don’t disparage this consumer. These folks are hardworking good people. They are trying to figure out how to make it work and stretch that dollar, and take care of their family. And it’s your job to serve them. And the only reason why you’re driving that fancy car is because you are doing a good job serving them.”


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm, and ministry is actually service, right?


Marc Belton:               Yeah.


Mikel Del Rosario:     And so we take the word ministry and it sounds – it’s a Christian word and we automatically think we know what ministry is, but we have a little bit of a narrow view sometimes because we don’t see serving others outside the church as a ministry a lot of the times.


Marc Belton:               Right. It’s absolutely a ministry. I think that’s why the faith and work movement has such a strong platform for growth today because you’re trying to help people unlock the truth that what they do matters, and their work is a form of worship, and they are there to serve and make other people’s lives better through the things they do.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah, and so having this idea of extending common grace for the common good really takes it away from just you’re just giving me money.


Marc Belton:               Yeah.


Mikel Del Rosario:     And the only reason I’m doing this is so you can give me money. No, but you’re helping people flourish, and then I think people can see that. I think there’s an authenticity that really attracts people to the gospel. And I like to say when it comes to faith and work that when we talk about our faith, when we talk about apologetic arguments as we defend the faith. These things don’t happen in a vacuum. They don’t hear your arguments in a vacuum. They’re wrapped up in this beautiful wrapper that is your life.


Marc Belton:               Yeah, right.


Mikel Del Rosario:     And so who are you? Who are you who’s sharing the love of Christ with people? If they trust that you’re serving, if they trust that you’re trying to help people for the common good, that’s going to go a long way.


Marc Belton:               Yeah.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Have you seen in –


Marc Belton:               And leading authentically.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah.


Marc Belton:               The term authentic leader, a transparent whole person who’s trying to, with all the failings that we have, do what’s right to the very best of their ability knowing that we’re going to make mistakes. That’s part of the game.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm.


Marc Belton:               I just think people can see that. I had a young man, he’s not young, he’s my age, but we had worked together 20 odd years ago, and I got a call from him a year ago and he said, “Hey, can you come to breakfast.” I’m like, “Great. Of course.” Basically he wanted to talk more about the things of God, and he basically said, “I saw how you lived and worked at General Mills, and I felt like you were an authentic person so I’d like to ask you some questions about that.” I’m like, “Wow. This is great. I’m in. Let’s do this.” I said, “Any time you want to get together we can get together.”


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm.


Marc Belton:               Because he was truly searching. I’m not going to sit here and say somehow he became a Christian because of what I did. I ascribe to the scripture that I planted, or I watered, Apollos planted, but God gets the increase, or something like that. I’m a believer in that that there are many people along the way that touch a person. The last time we get together I thought we were just going to have another one of our sessions, and he told me he became a Christian.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Wow.


Marc Belton:               So then I gave him some study guides and some stuff to think about to help with the walk. You know, that’s incredible. So a lot of times it’s less about handing out tracks and trying to somehow convince people about God. It’s maybe more about being the right kind of person and loving people in a way that they ask, “Well what is unique about this person” more than having our mouths flap all the time about a variety of things.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm. Yeah, everybody plays some kind of part in your journey. Everyone that the Lord has you encounter, and oftentimes it’s because of relationships that even people who say they have intellectual issues with the scriptures. Maybe they do, but for a lot of it it’s that emotional relational piece that really attracts them, the gospel. It makes them go, “You know what? I’ll give this another look.”


Marc Belton:               Yeah, I think it’s absolutely correct. It’s not always just your ability to argue someone. I don’t think people get argues into the kingdom. They get loved into the kingdom, and the biggest message is God’s love for us, right?


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah, we have the Holy Spirt who is involved in that so that God can take what you use,  your personal story. It might be a good argument, it might be a Bible verse, but God is happy to use it.


Marc Belton:               Yeah, absolutely, yeah.


Mikel Del Rosario:     So tell me a little bit more about some of the ministry things outside of the corporate world that you’ve been involved in.


Marc Belton:               Yeah, I’ve had the wonderful privilege of guys just open doors for me to do a variety of different things. I serve on the national board of the Salvation Army, and of course I’m working in their marketing area leading their marketing in a community.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Do you have a rank? Are you a general or something? Did they give you a rank?


Marc Belton:               No, they don’t. I wish. It would be nice. So I serve there on their national board, and I lead their marketing and community relations area. That’s really great fun for me because I know through the skills that I’ve learned over the years are being used for the kingdom to help them crystalize their awareness and position of what they do, reach people, and also help them raise funds so that the people who are doing the service can give the best service they can to help the – as many people as possible. I mean that’s just one that’s just great fun.


Mikel Del Rosario:     The Salvation Army is a very interesting case because when I was working in marketing in a Christian nonprofit we would say, “In a day and age where people want to shy away from Christian words like salvation, or military terms like army, the Salvation Army is rocking it, and no one is offended by the work that the Salvation Army does.”


Marc Belton:               It’s phenomenal. They have an incredible brand if you think about it, and the true brand in terminology and thinking. High awareness, and people respect it. Even people who don’t care anything about the kingdom respect what they do. Because you know what? They do the hard gritty work that other folks don’t want to do. They serve those who are most in need. And the people that they serve, because of God’s great love, these people they’re sustained to go forward, and many of them become transformed. And when they see that, even the lay guy can see the difference in the bum on the street who’s now driving a bus, and living a good life, and raising a family, they can see the difference.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Mm-hmm.


Marc Belton:               You don’t have to really advertise it per say, it sells itself. It’s just a tremendous brand.


Mikel Del Rosario:     It is, it is. And you’ve done some work in Africa as well.


Marc Belton:               Yeah, interestingly enough it’s just the crazy way God works. We’ve had the privilege of building schools in Sierra Leone, and working with One Village Partners in that country as well. We wanted to help educate young people. And when the schools that are built we always – we have a mandate that they learn the things of God. We don’t have a mandate that they are Christian because these schools are there to educate these young people, and we don’t know when they’re going to come into the kingdom. And many of them were planted in countries that are in the country that parts of the country that are Muslim in that sense. We’re not trying to legislate things, but we’re just trying to say, “Hey, we’re here by the love of God. Please make sure you’re sharing the love of God to these young people.”


We do things in a variety of other places as well. I talked earlier today about the Gospel Association of India. We’ve been working on building an orphanage there, and finishing and orphanage there, and supporting youth and lay ministry things that go on in India. I had the wonderful privilege of going and doing ministry with the leader of that organization, and sharing the word, and doing mission work there. And there are just a variety of others that just seem to open up and come our way. You just have to be open to them.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah, well could you have imagined God’s perspective that that satellite perspective on the world when you were just getting into General Mills, all that he would have you do?


Marc Belton:               No, I mean that’s the great thing. You would never do it if you thought that you had to do it. I just think as we progressively grow in grace I think he opens up opportunities for us to get involved, and to use the skills that he’s already given us, and the talents that he’s given us to give him glory and help transform the areas that we touch.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah, it’s that common grace for the common good.


Marc Belton:               Yeah, absolutely.


Mikel Del Rosario:     You see people who are living, just living the authentic Christian life that attracts people, and people who say, “I know you have my best at heart whether I come to Christ or not.” That attracts people. People take notice of that kind of thing.


Marc Belton:               Yeah, we shouldn’t be selling stuff in that sense, but is a free gift, and it’s a free offering. And again, just being real and transparent or authentic, there’s no perfect person sitting around here in any of these places, but I do think people can see your heart with all your flaws, with the things you’re still working through. I think people can see your heart.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah.


Marc Belton:               And if they see that, hopefully that is a window into the great things of the kingdom. But if you’re walking around trying to play the perfection game and all of that, people sniff through that. Because again, we are imperfect people who maybe the only difference between us and anyone else is that we’ve been redeemed.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Yeah.


Marc Belton:               Right.


Mikel Del Rosario:     That’s right. Well thank you so much for being with us today, Marc. It’s been a pleasure. And just thinking about our identity in Christ, and being a spiritual influence at work. We’re glad that you were here to share your expertise with us today.


Marc Belton:               Well thank you. Certainly was an honor. Thank you so much.


Mikel Del Rosario:     Thank you so much. Stay with us on The Table where we discuss issues of God and culture.

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Mikel Del Rosario
Mikel Del Rosario is a PhD student in New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Project Manager for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center, and Adjunct Professor of Apologetics and World Religion at William Jessup University. Mikel co-authors The Table Briefing articles in Bibliotheca Sacra with Darrell Bock, manages the Table Podcast, and helps Christians defend the faith with courage and compassion through his apologetics speaking ministry. He holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from DTS and an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University.
Y. Marc Belton
Marc Belton is a former General Mills executive leader who has founded Wisefellows Consulting to help values-based, mission-driven companies and not-for-profits gain strategic clarity and create sustainable growth.
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