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When Jesus Was a Consultant

September 3, 2010

I worked as a management consultant for fifteen years before settling down with the company I am currently with.

Like attorneys and used-car salesmen, consultants are subject to their fair share of derision and ridicule. I honestly couldn’t tell you why, since it is such a fine and upstanding profession, but I hear it all the time.

For instance, how about this clever twist on the light-bulb joke:

Q: How many consultants does it take to change a light bulb?

A: It depends – How large is your budget?

Now that one really is funny.

You can go ahead and make all the consulting jokes that you want. The truth is, being a management consultant rocked. It was stimulating, challenging, and you got to see the direct results of your work. It was very rewarding.

I recently developed an even greater admiration for the profession when I discovered that Jesus himself had a brief stint as a management consultant.

That’s right, Jesus was a business consultant. You can read it for yourself, right there in the Gospel of John, chapter 21. At this point in the gospel story Jesus had already risen from the dead, but he was a little spotty on making public appearances. The disciples hadn’t seen him in a while, and I am sure they were getting antsy, unsure of what they were supposed to do next. Maybe they were bored, too.

One day Peter looks out at the lake and says, “I’m going fishing.” Just like that, like he couldn’t take one more minute of waiting around for nothing to happen. A few of the other disciples jumped on board. “Good idea, Peter. I’m with you.”

So off they went into Peter’s boat, back to their old fishing jobs that they knew so well. And who knows? Maybe they were even hoping to make a couple of bucks while they were at it, in an attempt to do something productive instead just sitting around all day in that stuffy Upper Room.

They ended up fishing all night long without getting any results. Not only had Jesus stood them up for the past few weeks, but they couldn’t even do their old job right. Nothing seemed to be going their way. Those fishermen were probably not in the best of spirits by the time the sun began to rise that morning. Next thing you know, Jesus shows up on the scene. He’s walking along the beach in a oh-it’s-no-big-deal-I-am-risen-from-the-dead-and-I-think-today-maybe-I’ll-just-make-a-fire-and-cook-breakfast-for-my friends kind of casual way. The disciples didn’t really notice him.

Jesus calls out to the boat from the shore, “Hey guys, have you caught anything?” And they shout back, “No!”

Then Jesus goes into consulting mode and offers some business advice to his client: “Throw your net down on the other side, and you will catch some fish.”

Well. I am a little surprised that none of those hearty fishermen had thought of that idea before. They had been working all night, after all, and I am pretty sure there were some seasoned professionals in the crew. But that’s how it is when you are a consultant. You always see the thing that is so obvious, yet no one else has noticed because they are so darn close to it.

Upon hearing this very basic suggestion on how to do their jobs better, the men shrug their shoulders. “Ok, what the hay,” they mumble, and down goes the net, across to the other side of the boat. And, Surprise! The net immediately fills up with fish, becoming so heavy that they can’t even heave it up onto the boat.

“Who was that mysterious consultant on the shore?” One of them probably asked. “We should hire him on a regular basis.”

Then it suddenly dawns on John. He lets the net slip from his hands as he slowly turns towards the shore. He takes a closer look at that consultant on the beach. He is frozen for a second, and the breath goes out of him. “It is the Lord!” he whispers. Then his face lights up. “It’s Jesus!” He shouts to the others. “It’s him! Jesus came back to see us!”

Hearing this, Peter plunges into the water, splashing and flailing back to shore so that he can be the first one to reach Jesus while the others lug in their awesome haul. As the disciples make their way back to the shore, they smell something good and notice that Jesus has a nice toasty fire going with a couple loaves of bread and some fish on the stove. Then they all share a very nice reunion brunch.

I think of how often that story plays out in our careers. We all have gone through periods where we are beating our heads against the wall trying to make ends meet, doing our best to hit goal or meet projections, and nothing is happening. And maybe you haven’t seen Jesus in a while, either. You are frustrated, sweating, cursing, despondent and exhausted, wondering where Jesus went and why he hasn’t shown up lately to help you out. “Why does he not understand my situation!” you think to yourself.

Then Jesus breezes in and says, “Hi! Watcha doin’?” It seemed like he wasn’t paying much attention to you, but maybe it was the other way around. The truth is that Jesus knows much, much more about your little situation than you give him credit for. He usually has a plan, too, but for some reason he doesn’t think we always need to know about it.

But this is what I do know: Jesus cares deeply about the details of our business lives, as much as he cares about any other aspect of our lives. He knows how hard we work, how important our jobs are, and how discouraging and bleak our circumstances can be at times. And although he may not necessarily create a magical path to success for our every endeavor, he certainly is active, moving and breathing in and among our very existence, flowing through all of our creative efforts.

We should not hesitate for one second to ask Jesus to help us with our jobs, because he obviously wants to be involved. Sometimes he may even surprise us with a big catch, followed by a lovely brunch to celebrate.

Or, he may send in a consultant.

Photo by Nancy Rosback.

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24 Comments leave one →
  1. September 3, 2010 7:15 am

    Excellent! I often forget that Jesus wants to be a part of every aspect of my life! I expect a tremdously busy day, full of pressure on the job today, so your words have given me encouragement to seek His wisdom today! Thanks

    • September 4, 2010 6:33 am

      Glad it encouraged you, Soulbridge. Hope you find some fish and bread in the oven when the work is done.

  2. Drew permalink
    September 3, 2010 8:31 am

    A lot of times we forget the things that God has done/is doing for us (much like the nation of Israel in the Old Testament). Especially being in the business world, where the church culture has told us this is not a place for Christians (but getting much better at supporting their business men and women), it is hard to remember that God does want to be a part of our work. He does take interest in everything we do and wants us to succeed!

    Thank you for writing this today. It is always an encouragement to be reminded that “Jesus cares deeply about the details of our business lives, as much as he cares about any other aspect of our lives.”

  3. September 3, 2010 9:01 am

    I love the analogy about the consultant. As a business coach I want to be available to my clients but I don’t want to hound them or but in if they aren’t asking for help.

    Your post helped me remember the other side. These clients may be in despair, trying desperately to figure out how to make things work, sometimes missing the obvious, and not near a phone or stopping long enough to call for help.

    As a Christian business coach I believe completely that God cares about our business life too and He truly is the best consultant period.

    But maybe He wants to show up through me today. I think I will pick a customer I haven’t heard from in a while and check in on them. Who knows, maybe I can just stop and pray with them!

    Thanks for a great post.

    • September 3, 2010 9:09 am

      I agree with you Sue…I think the consultant analogy rocked!

      I think what made the illustration so startling is that He didn’t tell them to stop what they were doing just to change one little thing: “try the right side.” Most people wouldve been upset: “Who does He think He is? I’ve been doing this all my life!”

      That’s probably why He waited till they were at the end of their rope. It’s funny how much more open to suggestion you’ll be when failure’s staring you in the face:)

      Great post Brad!

    • September 4, 2010 6:36 am

      We’re all in despair, it’s just in degrees. Sue- get out there and care for your clients. That’s always a good start! And then the business improvement ideas will come.

      Michael – yes, I thought the same thing as I read this passage. They were professionals, and here is this stranger on the shore telling them what to do? I bet there was plenty of eye-rolling on the boat, and maybe even an argument and a few curse words before they dropped the net on the other side. But they did. Even at the end of our rope, we can still be pretty stubborn.

  4. September 3, 2010 9:21 am

    I love the whole story. “When Jesus cooks you breakfast after a cool plunge” is the best. Really, Jesus’ principles arent just for the ancients — they’re for us! I love Justin Forman’s highlights in Business as a Mission Network (http://www.businessasmissionnetwork.com/)

    He highlights people who create business, founded on godly principles, that seek to chang ethe world.

  5. September 3, 2010 9:25 am

    And you, my friend, are one of his consultants… you’re like his Post-It note!
    >clap clap clap< !

    • September 4, 2010 6:38 am

      Thanks DLD – I love the comparison to a post-it note; A little sticky reminder. That’s just great.

  6. September 3, 2010 11:01 am

    yes, we are good at “not” expecting God to be in the little situations.

    the world is busy looking to the big things…
    when all along, God is doing “big work” in the “small things”.

    and i think that if we look there,
    in what the world might consider the
    small things that are not worth looking at,
    that we might just catch a glimpse of heaven.

    • September 4, 2010 6:40 am

      You capture it so profoundly. So much is in our expectations, or lack of. But to think of God doing Big Work in the small things – if we can really see that, and accept it, it changes everything. Yes, we might even see God’s kingdom at work. In our work!

  7. September 3, 2010 3:10 pm

    I started reading, thinking you were making a bit of a stretch, but the way you wrapped it up… Thanks you for the encouragement. I needed that just now.

    This one’s a keeper.

  8. September 3, 2010 3:25 pm

    For some reason I feel like I’ve read this before. Is that weird? 🙂

    Of course, you always make me smile, even an imagined second time around.

    • September 4, 2010 6:42 am

      What? It must be the medication.

      Really, I have a rule about that. (the rule is that it’s okay to repost a really great piece after one year. Readership turnover, ya know?)

  9. September 3, 2010 5:21 pm

    love this.

    and I’m glad you didn’t try a story about how making a career out of taking packages is so WJWD 🙂

    • September 4, 2010 6:43 am

      “So WWJD” – can I steal that? That is a way cool adjective full of spiritual irony. Only from you, Deb, could such a contemporary literary gem be mined!

  10. September 3, 2010 6:05 pm

    Actually I bet it was the COO – little brother Andrew – who hired Jesus to tell CEO Peter to do what he, Andrew, had been saying for hours. Isn’t that the biggest value for consultants – to give us legitimacy before the powers that be? Sorry ex-consultant Bradley ..

    As always this is a great post and so true. Jesus’ inspiration isn’t necessarily a “voice in the head” or bright light or whatever. It may be just a change in perspective, a looking out from our navel-gazing and seeing a little of what He sees. It changes everything.

    A good piece for your book … hint, hint …

    • September 4, 2010 6:48 am

      Oh yeah – this is the last bit of chapter 1.
      At least for now.
      “God cares about your work”

      Thanks for dropping in, Graham. And, yes, the rank and file always know more about what’s really going on than the CEO. Who do you think the good consultants go to for all the scoop?

  11. September 4, 2010 6:24 am

    Thanks for this – had a really difficult week last week with one of our Senior Consultants being charged with Fraud – this lightened my load and gave me a smile !!

    • September 4, 2010 6:46 am

      Holy smokes, that’ s a rough pill to swallow. Both for the employees and the firm, not to mention the one who was charged. These kinds of things can shake us up quite a bit. I’ll say a prayer for you, David, and for your company.

  12. September 4, 2010 9:21 am

    Bradley,

    Nicely written.

    Reminds me a HS football coach who hadn’t had a win all season. They were down to the last play of the last game and they were losing again. He prayed that Jesus would help them win. After praying, a play popped into his head. He said, “What the hay,” and sent it in. Long story short they won the game.

    His remark to me. “I didn’t know Jesus knew anything about football.”

    True story that cracks me up every time I think of it.

    Best to you,

    Leadership Freak,

    Dan Rockwell

  13. September 4, 2010 1:20 pm

    It’s interesting to think of Jesus as a consultant. I guess that’s because I find myself trying to play consultant to Him more times than I care to admit. “Sounds great Lord, but have you considered …” He lovingly, and gently, reminds me that He’s thought of everything. I’m glad He doesn’t scold me like God did Job – even if I do need it.

  14. September 4, 2010 3:40 pm

    Thanks for the reminder. I needed to hear this and appreciate you bringing Him into our business world.

  15. May 16, 2011 10:45 am

    Being Jesus in the marketplace! Yes! I like this!

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