Two New eBooks at Amazon Kindle!

FacebookMySpaceTwitterDiggDeliciousStumbleuponRSS Feed

Starbucks coffee stores are virtually ubiquitous, one on every corner it seems and now one in every major grocery or discount store—certainly one in every airport. The one person we have most to thank for this is Howard Schultz, Starbucks entrepreneur and Chairman.

I just finished reading Schultz’s book written with Dori Jones Yang, called Pour Your Heart Into It:  How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time (1997). It’s a bit dated now, but the principles Schultz shares are not.

I’ve read a lot of corporate leader stories, the “How I became as successful, rich, and cool as I am now” books. Many of these books are just that—arrogant brag-fests. Some of these kinds of books are pretty shallow, quickly produced texts written primarily I think because the CEO wanted his name on a book. Still others are fairly well written and offer interesting and helpful insights. Schultz’s book is like that. I’d rate Schultz’s book with Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.’s, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside the IBM’s Historic Turnaround (2002) as the two best corporate leadership books I have ever read.

Five of Schultz’s principles include:

- “Every company must stand for something.”

- “Vision is what they call it when others can’t see what you see.

- “It’s difficult, if not impossible, to reinvent a company’s culture.”

- “Naysayers never built a great enterprise.”

- “Lead with your heart.”

I could apply all of these principles to Cornerstone University:

- CU stands for biblically Christian worldview in excellent higher education. For fifteen years we’ve worked toward this central goal. In the past five years we’ve added leadership. Christian Worldview, Excellence, Leadership.

- At CU our aspiration, our passion, is to develop a truly Christian University where Christian thinking, teaching, and learning take place and where students are energized to live for Christ in a way that changes lives and culture.

- Reinventing CU’s culture has been challenging to say the least, and the challenge continues. But we are making progress. We are today more thoroughly, biblically Christian, more professional, more excellent than we were ten or fifteen years ago. It is not impossible to reinvent culture, but it does take time.

- If we stopped moving forward every time the naysayers came out of the wood-work we wouldn’t have done anything. Naysayers sometimes have a point and always must be treated with respect. But you cannot allow them to discourage or distract you, anymore than Nehemiah did when he rebuilt the Jerusalem wall.

- More than anything else, I want students to learn that the Sovereign Creator God of biblical Christianity is truly a “Big” God—that Christian faith is not a list of rules but a vibrant interaction of God’s Word with God’s world—that we are his proactive stewards in this short but meaningful life wherein we are given unbelievable opportunities to serve him.

I highly recommend Schultz’s book to anyone interested in organizational leadership or anyone simply interested in the Starbucks success story. I highly recommend Cornerstone University to anyone wanting to find a university where Christian faith is our empowerment.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers’ resignation last week is an occasion to reflect upon what people want from a university president.

Summers’ five year combative reign at Harvard featured one battle with the faculty after another. Summers wanted African-American studies star professor Cornell West to actually teach classes. That battle ended when West left for Princeton. So who won the battle, Summers or West?

Summers reintroduced ROTC to Harvard Yard, a sin in the eyes of militant anti-militarists. Summers’ biggest faux pas in the eyes of Harvard’s tenured radicals was his audacity to wonder aloud whether “intrinsic ability” more than sex discrimination explained why there are not more top female engineers and scientists in America’s elite research universities. This politically incorrect indiscretion the Harvard faculty could not abide.

The ironic part of this story is that Summers is not a conservative tilting at liberal windmills. He’s a Clinton Administration liberal, ostensibly one who would fit in with eastern liberal establishment faculty.

Not all people think Summers was ill-suited for his role. What Newsweek magazine called his “missteps” others called “leadership.” Summers was appointed by Harvard’s Corporation with the idea he would “get control of Harvard,” that he would provide focus for a behemoth secure in a $26 billion endowment even as it still attracts $400 million per year in federal grants. He dared to try by questioning “sacred” precepts of academic culture. He made some progress, and students liked him. But his administrative demise suggests he not only didn’t gain control but that members of the Corporation failed to backstop him.

Sure, Summers bears some of the responsibility for his fall from academic grace. He was arrogant, undiplomatic, and too often allowed his sharp tongue to overpower his sharp mind. Despite his Washington, D.C. experience Summers was not exactly politically savvy. He drove around campus in a stretch limousine, directed the chauffer to park it illegally, and appointed a personal press secretary. None of these actions are all that odd for government officials or CEOs of American corporations—except in academia. All this and more earned him a vote of no confidence by the faculty with another vote scheduled, until he made his resignation announcement. Apparently, he didn’t give the people what they want.

So what do the people want of a university president? It’s easy, really:

--They want unending growth and success without change.

--They want to keep doing the same things with ever different results.

--They want an academic bureaucrat, an “Educrat,” who manages but never leads.

--They want a president who speaks cautiously never courageously.

--They want a president who raises more money but doesn’t ask them to help.

--They want academic excellence without controversy.

--They want someone who wins the Friends of the Student Award, is beloved by Alumni, is a social butterfly, gives scintillating speeches and writes great books, is First Scholar among the Faculty, attends all university athletic, music, academic, and cultural events, never misses church, birthdays, or committee meetings, is always on campus, is always visiting friends of the university in other states, is here, is there, is everywhere.

--They want Everyman who is Superman.

Summers was not all that, nor am I, nor is any university president. But that’s still what people want from a university president.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

The defining characteristic of a Christian university is its Christian personnel—faculty and staff members who know Jesus Christ as Savior, who live dedicated Christian lives, who hold biblical doctrines in common, who have learned and can articulate a biblical worldview, and who can apply that biblical worldview to academic disciplines and professional activities.

Without this individual day by day commitment, no doctrinal statement, no set of policies or handbooks, no covenants or lifestyle statements, no rules or standards, no denominational affiliation, no historic affirmations can guarantee that a Christian university will remain truly Christian. What matters is people.

Cornerstone University is blessed with 285 people who fit this definition. I am proud of them and proud to be associated with them. They are intellectually energetic, hard working, dedicated, friendly, and professional. They are careful and critical thinkers. They love the Lord, love their disciplines and professions, love scholarship, love higher education, and love their students—or radio listeners as the case may be.

After nearly 15 years at CU, I know these people well. They are an outstanding body of people. That’s why I sometimes get a little testy when people periodically impugn our faculty and staff members’ integrity or their spiritual maturity or their dedication or their Christian commitment or their academic capability. None of these imputations are fair or accurate.

This outstanding body of people is also why I revel in their accolades. No part of my job is more fun than recognizing the accomplishments of our personnel. Presidents typically get more blame and more kudos than they deserve. I’d rather talk about what our people are achieving, for it’s a great story. God has blessed us with real Christians doing real work for him.

These faculty and staff members join me in affirming these Plumb Line Principles, our university core values:

Biblically Christian – An educational ministry committed to the principles of biblical Christianity, nothing more, and nothing less.

Theologically Conservative – A belief that the Bible is the Word of God in its entirety – inspired, infallible, and inerrant.

Christian Worldview – A Christian philosophy of life and learning forming the basis of the university’s approach to the world, history, and culture.

Intentional Spiritual Formation – A vigorous student spiritual formation program encouraging students to develop their understanding of the biblical faith and their desire to serve God.

Committed Christian Personnel – We want to attract, retain, and develop personnel who are Christians of character, credentials, competence, commitment, and creativity. We want people who look upon and perform their calling with the highest possible professional standards. We expect a Biblical work ethic, and we believe that our people’s talent is God’s greatest blessing upon Cornerstone University.

Quality – We believe that we serve a holy and perfect Creator God Who expects quality as our reasonable service unto Him. We therefore work to create quality in everything we do.

Stewardship – We wish to administer resources, financial, human, and physical, with the clearest expression of integrity, accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness. We believe that our decisions are a sacred trust before God, our students and parents, our personnel, our friends, and the public.

Higher Education – In the university we work to challenge, stimulate, stretch, inform, and motivate our students to serve. We consider teaching and learning a two-way street, with professors and students responsible for their academic work as a form of worship unto God.

Leadership – Christian leadership is not an option but an opportunity. Leaders with character can provide godly direction in a declining culture with no moral vision for its future.

(c) Cornerstone University 2001

Each Cornerstone University faculty and staff members is a born again believer in Jesus Christ, each one annually affirms the university’s doctrinal statement, The Cornerstone Confession, and each one is faithfully involved in an evangelical and biblical church.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

Cornerstone University is reviewing its Personnel Lifestyle Statement. The point of the review is to assure the university is positioned to fulfill its mission “to enable individuals to apply unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world.”

In fall, 2004, I appointed a Personnel Lifestyle Statement Team comprised of five faculty and staff members, charging this team with reviewing the statement and recommending possible revisions in wording that would ground the statement in the university’s biblical worldview philosophy. This Team has modeled spiritual maturity, provided theological, philosophic, practical, and experiential insight, and conducted its work with the highest standards of professionalism.

The Team (with the input of colleagues provided electronically or in open forums) has taken four slightly disjunctive current statements (the discovery that the university was working with four existing similar-but-not-identical statements is reason enough to develop one new statement) and used them as a starting point to craft a new, beautifully written draft. The new draft calls upon each university trustee and employee to live a life of personal holiness and Christian cultural contribution to the glory of God.

In January, 2006, the Team discussed the new lifestyle statement draft with the university’s Board of Trustees. No vote on the draft was solicited or balloted at that time. The Team is now moving to the next step in its very thorough process.

Throughout spring, 2006, the Team will lead university personnel in evaluating the current policy listing three historic prohibitions: use of alcohol or tobacco and participation in gambling. These prohibitions are being reviewed for several reasons:

a) To determine whether the mission of the university requires additional agreed upon limits to employee Christian liberty;

b) To determine whether these prohibitions should be maintained but placed within personnel handbooks rather than the lifestyle statement—and if they are maintained to develop current rationale for the importance of such prohibitions;

c) To determine whether these prohibitions should be discontinued.

Once this review is complete, the Team will make its recommendations to the president and I in turn will report to the Board of Trustees. The current review is a conversation. Whether the Board of Trustees will ultimately add, alter, or discontinue these policies is still an open question. The university is genuinely seeking to understand what is best for its mission.

For all of its 65 year existence, the university has asked trustees and faculty and staff members to sign the school’s doctrinal statement (since 1999 called “The Cornerstone Confession”) and to agree to abide by a lifestyle statement listing community covenants wherein individuals agreed to abstain from certain behaviors. Trustees and professors have always signed the doctrinal statement annually, while staff members signed it at the point of hiring. In the past few years, staff members have also signed doctrinal statement annually. This university practice of annually reaffirming commitment to “The Cornerstone Confession” will continue.

While I do not think that use of alcohol or tobacco in moderation is intrinsically evil, in other words a sin, I do believe these commodities are dangerous to many and deadly for some. I am also on record via my book, Gambling: Don’t Bet On It, contending that gambling violates at least five doctrines of Scripture and is, thus, intrinsically evil. Not every Christian agrees with my perspective of alcohol/tobacco or of gambling.

I also believe that it is entirely appropriate for a Christian institution of higher learning to determine what “preferences” it wishes to embrace as organizational policy—beyond its doctrinal convictions. Historically, such preferences have run the gamut of virtually every conceivable issue from length of hair to music styles to movies to art to dance to fashions, and on and on. While institutions can act prudishly or legalistically in applying their preferences, the mere existence of such preferences does not ipso facto mean an institution is acting improperly. Institutions that establish preferences can simply be distinctive, and this can be a very good thing.

The same may be said for those Christian institutions of higher learning that have jettisoned certain preferences. This act is not in itself a signal the university is losing its faith. It may simply mean the university is being a careful steward of its responsibility to help students understand how to live “In the World” while being “Not of the World,” even as it encourages students to go “Into the World” as Christ’s ambassadors.

If you wish to read more on this subject, see my book, Christian Liberty:  Living for God in a Changing Culture. God gave us a limited but very important short-list of moral absolutes, any of which we ignore at our peril. Beyond these few moral absolutes, God gave us the doctrine of Christian liberty.

**No changes in the university’s student policies on these matters (i.e., No use of alcohol or tobacco; no participation in gambling) and no change in campus or university event practices (i.e., Alcohol and tobacco-free and gambling-free) are being considered.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

Mr. Doug DeVos visited campus today as Executive-in-Residence and speaker at the Executive Series Luncheon.

Mr. DeVos spoke in a student and personnel chapel, conducted a question-and-answer session with students and personnel, visited classrooms, and spoke at a university business luncheon. At the luncheon, Mr. DeVos recommended four values, all grounded in his Christian faith: Partnership—shared values; Integrity—Who are you when no one is looking; Personal Worth—everyone is special and important; Achievement—success is not sinful, but one should not stop at success…the next step is to help someone else.

A warm and engaging speaker, Mr. DeVos clearly loves his family and leads his business with an eye toward honoring God. He belies the current culture and sometimes media caricature of all business leaders as nothing more than unscrupulous robber barons ready to cheat the next person out of one more dollar. His commitment to integrity was on display as he shared both successes and some less than successful personal and professional experiences.

Mr. DeVos is the president of Alticor and its subsidiaries, global direct-selling giant Amway Corporation, North America’s e-commerce leader Quixtar, Inc., and business-to-business supplier Access Business Group LLC. As president he oversees the $6.4 billion enterprise and shares the chief executive office with Chairman Steve Van Andel.

The Cornerstone University Executive Series Luncheon is distinctive in that it encourages Christian business leaders to share how their faith influences them in the marketplace. The Series is now in its tenth year providing a venue about four times per year for discussion of Christian faith, business, the economy, and leadership. The lunch is provided to attendees without cost by Executive Series Luncheon supporters Integrity Business Solutions; Grotenhuis; and Mika, Meyers, Beckett and Jones, all of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Series reinforces the university’s mission “to enable individuals to apply unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world.”

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

There’s probably not a week that goes by that I am not called upon to defend the “Christian-ness” of Cornerstone University on some issue or in some fashion. Usually I find this phenomenon rather fascinating. Sometimes, I confess, I find it frustrating.

People question the university's Christian commitment based upon their understanding of the phrase, and the number of these perspectives seems infinite.  No real consensus seems to exist anymore in what it means to be Christian.

Words that used to work in this defense no longer seem to work. For example, if I say CU is “conservative” people will assign their own definition to the word, which may include---theological understanding (which is what I mean when I use this word: CU is theologically conservative, which is to say that we believe the Bible is God’s Word and that it is our guide for faith and practice), political positions, rules or lifestyle commitments, or an organizational style or orientation as in not innovative, risk averse, or cautious. But CU does not demand that its employees always adopt politically conservative positions, CU bases its spiritual formation program upon spiritual discernment rather than rules, and CU is actually a rather progressive and innovative organization.

If I say that CU is “evangelical,” then people will think of everyone from Jim Wallis on the Left to Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson on the Right. I do not and CU does not niche on either end of this continuum. Or people hear the word “evangelical” and think CU is representative of the “Values Voters” who put Bush back in the White House in the 2004 election. Or people hear that word and think Fundamentalist, legalistic, or a group that doesn’t work and play well with others, has a vision for the world that brooks no disagreement, and in general is comprised of people who would not make good neighbors. Actually, if I say CU is “evangelical,” I mean that we believe the Bible and we believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son through whom one may receive salvation from sin.

If a university student goes to a dance, than it must mean the university is no longer Christian. If a professor uses a book in his class that was produced by a non-Christian, than this must mean the university no longer cares about its faith. If the university hires according to its faith principles this must mean people at the university stand in judgment of all others who may affirm slightly different views of Christian faith. If an university athlete does not comport himself or herself well on the court or field of play, than this must mean the entire university is given to poor sportsmanship and non-Christian attitudes. If people give to the university and allow it to build a beautiful structure this must mean the university is more about materialism than missions or ministry. If a faculty member writes something someone else does not like, this must mean that the professor’s view is the university’s view and, thus, the university is no longer to be trusted. And so it goes.

Cornerstone University is a Christian university. What does this mean? It means that all of our trustees and personnel are authentic and dedicated Christian people. It means that our academic, athletic, student development, seminary, and radio programming are intentionally constructed upon a biblical worldview with the purpose of teaching or propagating a biblical worldview. It means that we make decisions we believe will advance our mission—“to enable individuals to apply unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world.” It does not mean we are perfect, but it does mean we strive for excellence, consistency with our biblical worldview, and effectiveness.

Sole Deo Gloria.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogrers.