Blog Alumni, Faith, Leadership

Approaching business leadership from a biblical perspective

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

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Philip Struble admits that he doesn't know exactly how it happened.

What he does know about that day two years ago is that he was driving from a Christian networking meeting in Kansas City and suddenly felt God's prompting: to change his engineering firm into a Christian business.

The 2008 recession had forced Struble to shrink his business from 70 employees to 18. He'd trusted God's provision through the past few years but struggled to understand exactly what a "Christian business" meant or how to build one. Neither his engineering degree nor his MBA had equipped him for that.

As he drove, he heard an ad on Life 88.5 for Northwestern's online Masters of Theological Studies. In his spirit, he felt prompted to call.

Doubt crept in.

  • He didn't have the time.
  • He was a business owner already crunched for time.
  • How could this work with his schedule?

The Call

Over his hesitations, he clearly heard, "You need to make the call." He did and was greeted by a UNW admission counselor. Classes were starting in less than two weeks, she said. But, she'd be able to help him through the application process so that he could join that next class. Every time he thought he'd found an excuse not to enroll, the counselor had an answer. God was not going to let him back out now that once he'd started the process.

man standing next to construction equipment

In his business, he had to skip some meetings and delegate some tasks to keep his weekly study commitment. At times, it was hard to see things done differently than he would have done them. But he kept his blocks of time open for studying, often coming to work early or staying late to read and work on papers in his office. God began opening his mind to the Bible, and his faith—already obvious to his employees—was further demonstrated through his concentrated study of the Word.

The MATS program was challenging, and it changed his perception of online education.

"I thought that getting an online degree was probably second rate," said Struble. "It had to be the easy way out. And I could not have been more wrong. In a classroom, you can sit on your hands and not answer but in an online class, you can't hide in the back. You have to participate in the forums and do the research to respond well."

A New Ministry

On November 22, 2015, he hit "send" to submit his final paper for his last class. He thought, "Well, that's done." Immediately, God impressed on him that he was NOT done—all this had been training for something more.

Struble felt called to write a book. Since he was already in the habit of reading and writing every day, he kept at it. He started researching and writing on what the Bible says about business, unsure where it would lead.

One day in church he heard a sermon on Matthew 4, in which Jesus calls the disciples to leave their nets and become fishers of men.

graduates wearing caps and gowns
He saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets...They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.
Matt 4:21-22

Struble was struck by how Zebedee, a small business owner like himself, was left sitting in the boat alone. What do you do when someone walks off with your two employees? Or when a project manager leaves with your client list and starts competing with you? The story captivated his thinking, and his writing took on a new intensity and focus. He began drilling down into topics like accountability, hiring and benefits, employee evaluations, searching the scriptures for answers.

He felt called to serve the audience he knows well—entrepreneurs, who need skills ranging from human resources to IT to sales and more. Most business books are written for corporate employees, but he wanted to equip these small business owners—the Zebedees—to operate successfully by using biblical principles. In reading business blogs by today's success gurus, Philip sees many principles that were written thousands of years earlier in the Bible.

After six months of writing, Struble completed his book, "Zebedee and Sons Fishing Company—Business Advice from the Bible," which will be released this summer.

What began as a prompting to learn more about the Bible, led to a new mission for Struble and an impact that will extend to the small business community.

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