Friday, April 08, 2005

A Tale of Two Men

Today I read in the business section of The Tennessean that Lipscomb University president, Stephen Flatt, is leaving to become the Sr. VP of Development with National Healthcare Corp. Lipscomb University is a Church of Christ supported university. I don't know what Lipscomb pays Dr. Flatt, but I believe it is safe to say he would make substantially more in the same position at a secular university. Certainly his earning potential has greatly increased as he moves into the corporate world. Prior to Lipscomb, Dr. Flatt was a Church of Christ minister.

Also note that Lipscomb encourages faculty and staff to contribute a portion of their wages back to the institution. Most everyone who works for Lipscomb will tell you that the motivation to serve God is a critical factor to staying there, because you will make a financial sacrifice in doing so as compared to similar workforce positions.

Now let me introduce DS. I do not name him because his situation has not been publicly announced, I have not asked his permission to do so, and because he would not want attention called to himself. Until recently, DS was the head of ice cream sales for a very successful and enduring dairy company. This company, although local to the Nashville area, was noted for having one of the most successful brand identities, ranking right with companies such as Coke and Nike in brand recognition in its respective market. They were so successful that they were bought by a national dairy who kept the local name. The parent company did not change or attach its name so as not to jeopardize this brand identity.

Obviously, this man's career was doing well and his potential was better than ever. In March, our elders announced that DS had resigned his position with the dairy to accept a key ministry position at the church (a significant decrease in money and lifestyle). DS told us of his struggle with this decision, but that God would not leave him alone about it. In fact, if you know his whole story you will realize this has been a long walk of faith preparing him for this decision. He has walked away from what the world considers success and security--what many Christians would say was a reward from God to the corporate Christian. Yes, health and wealth gospel is alive and well, whether we call it that or not.

Which one of these two paths is true discipleship? Both? Which path would the university namesake and founder, David Lipscomb, have endorsed or have followed? Well, we know which one he followed most closely. I am not making value judgments on Dr. Flatt's life or decisions. He has to make his choices based on his relationship with God. But, I cannot ignore the dichotomy of these two men's decisions. I am very proud that DS is my second cousin.

What are your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Your comparison has to make the assumption that there is something good or noble about "Christian education." My oberservation would be that Dr. Flatt is simply traveling on a natural upward career progression just as anyone else in the business world.

I feel qualified to comment because I graduated from a "Christian college", and my opinion is that the only difference between my college experience and yours is that I was required to take a Bible class every semester and attend daily chapel services.

Daren Stanley

Tony Arnold said...

Thanks for posting Daren. I really appreciate it. I do make the assumption that faculty and admin at LU have an element of Discipleship in their choice of career and place of employment. I know that many do because they have stated this.

One point I feel strongly about is that Discipleship should be the core principle behind all our decisions and choices. I must admit that I have not lived at that level myself throughout my life.

It is interesting that your opinion is that other than Bible and Chapel, the "Christian college" experience" is not much different than a secular one. I would love to see you expand on that point a bit. The Christian universites do have a mission that is different than secular ones. I would hope their methodologies would produce a campus experience focused on Christ and that this experience would have a positive impact on the student body and the majority's actions. If not, then the University is not accomplishing its mission. If that is indeed the case, maybe it is because the administration setting more closely matches a secular career environment.

Again, thanks so much for the discussion.

Anonymous said...

Tony, I'll expound when I have a little more time--check back over the next few days. I appreciate your attitude and lack of defensiveness.


Tony Arnold said...

I will check back and look forward to your post. The whole purpose of the blog is to promote discussion and growth. I don't think it will be of much us if we all agree or share the same opinion. It is easy to comment in a vacuum, but you cannot grow in one."

Phil said...

I think the post makes the assumption that our churches also have the motivation to create disciples and that isn't always the case either.

Pardon my cynicism.

Jana said...

Isn't it possible that Mr. Flatt felt led to do "mission work" out in the corporate world? What better place to share the love of Christ? It is most certainly needed!

Tony Arnold said...

I think that has to be the assumption from a personal standpoint--you have to take Dr. Flatt's public statements that this was a spiritual decision at face value. But the two paths are still an interesting contrast that provoked me to raise the issue.

Thank you for posting and furthering discussion. That is the main goal of my blog. I learn so much from those whe do post.