Today’s show features John Beckett, author and business owner. John Beckett was an engineer in the aerospace industry before becoming the president of his father’s small manufacturing business in 1965. The company has grown to become a worldwide leader in product engineered components for residential and commercial heating.
Beckett is the author of Loving Monday: Succeeding in Business Without Selling Your Soul, and Mastering Monday: A Practical Guide to Integrating Faith and Work.
Ray: Well, hello everyone, this is Ray Hilbert. I am your host here at Bottom Line Faith. And if you follow the program, you know that we get a chance to travel the country and speak with some of the top Christian business leaders, and athletic coaches, and marketplace influencers who are really living out their faith in the marketplace. And so we hope and pray that this program is an encouragement to you. And we are in Elyria, Ohio, and we are at the headquarters of the R. W. Beckett Corporation. And I have the incredible privilege of introducing our guest today, Mr. John Beckett. John, welcome to the program.
John: Thank you, Ray. Really wonderful that you’ve come over here from Indianapolis and that we can have a few minutes together.
Ray: I have to tell you folks, this is a real blessing for me. We, before coming on the air, I shared John, I’ve been here, this is not my second visit. Third time you and I have had the chance to meet and I sort of feel like I’m in the presence of a hero because you really have been a real pioneer in this whole space of seeing your business from a ministry standpoint. This is a place where God is living out his story and we’re going to get into that. But I just wanted to tell you, I just feel kind of like honored to have this chance for us to have.
John: You’ll have to get to the end of the discussion first. Well, it’s just a privilege to chat about a topic that is so real and so vital to me and has been for decades.
Ray: So, yeah, absolutely. Not hard to talk about faith in the workplace. This is going to be the real deal today. And so we’ll get to all that. But let’s kind of hit pause for just a moment and let’s go back and tell us a little bit about the company. We’ll talk a little bit about some of the ups and downs and in a moment, but tell us about the company. Who you are, what you do, and that sort of thing.
John: Well, it’s really significant that we’re here in the year 2018 because it was 80 years ago that our company was founded. And if you go back to 1937, 38, we were really in a pickle as far as where we were in the economy. And I just find it fascinating that my dad chose that period of time to launch into a business venture. In fact, we have a letter that he wrote to the person who became his business partner saying, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to start a business than right now. I love his optimism. Well, he was looking to the future. And so yes, here we are, we’re a manufacturing company. We make components that are used for heating systems. Our principal product in this facility is oil combustion, but we have a related businesses also in the area where we’re doing gas, combustion and air moving. And so we’ve branched out from that initial nucleus. The common thread though is that we’re in a lot of homes. We might be in 50 or 60 million homes across and we may not even know it, right? And somewhere buried down in the basement or appliance, we have some of our products. So we touch people at the level of their comfort, which I take as a kind of mission really, because you don’t think about being warm in the winter or having, appliances that dry your clothes or cooked your meals. But we’re there and that’s all adding to the comfort, the lifestyle of millions of people.
Ray: That’s really neat to hear. And so let’s talk just a moment about a couple of key pivotal moments in the history of the company. We’ll get to the ministry aspect and more of your personal story in just a few moments. But you know, you’ve had some moments of some real tenuous times in the company, pivotal points. Take us back and just give us some framework for just a couple of those.
John: Well, I mentioned the economic conditions when we began the company, but of course, looking at the calendar, you’d quickly realized that we were on the eve of the Second War. And that was an enormous test for our business because everything made of metal was diverted to the war effort. And so we couldn’t buy electric motors or hydraulic components or electronic components. So I find this fascinating Ray, because many people would have thrown up their hands at this point and just said, there’s no way we’re going to be able to survive this. But my dad actually went into a whole different line of business for the next four years. He insulated people’s homes and kept all of our people working.
Ray: What ingenuity.
John: Well, it was, it was fascinating to me because it was just that underlying resolve that we can get through this thing. It’s not going to go on forever and we’re just getting going as a company. We’re not going to stop now. And so that was one of the very early tests. There were more along the way. It just seemed like every few years there was something that we had to overcome, but it’s kind of baked into the whole process of building a business. There’s going to be adversity, no question.
Ray: And so did you grow up thinking that you might come in to be part of the company? I know you went off to school and, but there was a point you came back into the business, but tell us a little bit about how you ended up here.
John: I actually went into the aerospace businesses and engineer after graduating from college. And I frankly was not thinking in terms of coming into the family business. That all changed. One evening I was at my parents home for dinner with my wife. And as casually as somebody might talk about the weather, my dad said, John, my business partner is going to retire. How’d you like to come to work with me in the business?
Ray: How old were you at the time?
John: I was 24. So fresh, fresh. Just, I’d been in engineering jobs for about three years or so. But you know, as I laugh when I look back yet my response, it was totally unpremeditated, but I just said, this sounds good. When can we get started? And it was that almost off the cuff transition that brought me into the work with my dad. And so that’s been a number of years ago that it was. It was 1963 and we were a small company and if there was a reason for hesitating, I think we had 12 employees and about a million dollars in sales at the time.
John: Yeah. The company had never really broken loose and in a way that we were prospering or flourishing. But frankly, it was the opportunity to work with my dad that was the strongest motivation. And I thought that would be at least a 10 to 15 year process. He was in his mid sixties at the time. And as it turned out, that wasn’t to be, and that was my first head on crisis, a call that came on a winter day just right around this time of year in February of 1965 from our police department that he’d been found slumped over the steering wheel of his car. He was driving to work. And so my world radically changed at that point. Mid-twenties. He was in his mid-sixties. And I realized that life would never be the same as I had envisioned it.
Ray: Yeah, and as I’m listening to that story, it’s fascinating to me because God’s never surprised, right? And so it seems like he had uniquely positioned you then to now take over and build the company for the rest of your life.
John: Well, I’m glad He saw that because I didn’t, right? I was just overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenge. I’m yet in a situation like that. You don’t have as many options as you’d think. You put your head down. And my mother was a great encouragement. But I thought we were starting to move toward making some real progress. I’d made a few key hires and another call came in. This one in the middle of the night. Beckett get out to your plant. The flames are leaping 20 feet. Oh my goodness. Out of the roof of the plant and our plant was on fire. I thought I was having a bad dream, Ray. I mean it was just like one of those nightmares kind of things, but I realized it wasn’t. I got out here and indeed, the place was ablaze and I just, if you think of something that you envisioned going up in smoke, this was literally happening right in front of my eyes. So that year, the combination of the death of my dad and then this horrific fire, which really only by God’s grace, we were able to extinguish it without it burning down the entire facility. These were incredible tests and yet in a way, those tests I think helped produce a kind of stamina in us that equipped us for future challenges that we would go through.
Ray: Yeah. So let’s talk about that for just a moment. So what did God reveal to you, about you in that season of your life? So you’re fairly new in the business, fairly newly married, he’s still a young man at that point. What, how did God begin to shape you in that season? What’d you learn about yourself? What did God teach you in that season?
John: Well, this isn’t totally comfortable to talk about, but I realized what a proud person I was. And I thought with a, you know, a fine engineering degree and a lot going for me that I could do just fine in my own strength and in my own resources. Well, these experiences, I think there’s always a silver lining, isn’t there? And I think they brought me to the end of myself and I realized that I was not going to be successful functioning just on my own. And I turned to the Lord in a way that I’d never had before. I knew about him, but this was different. This was getting to know him personally. So when you say what comes out of the ashes? In my case, it was the most precious discovery I’ve ever made. It was to become a follower of Jesus Christ. And that produced a dilemma because I didn’t know anybody who is serious about their faith, who was also engaged in the workplace. And I thought, what many people think today. What does this mean? Does it mean going into some kind of ministry, church-related work. And I was prepared to do it. I was prepared to give up everything. But there was an irony to that because I felt I was hardwired for business and I felt that there was a real responsibility for our family company. And so that put me on a kind of searching. I knew this was a decision I could not take casually. I needed to know whether I was destined to be in the workplace or do something else. Have you ever had God kind of speak to you and you didn’t hear the words, but it was just, it was a strong impression.
John: And that happened to me, Ray. And as I clearly as I can remember it, it was John, I’ve called you to business. I want you to do it with all your heart. Now. The idea of a calling to business was totally foreign language. Maybe that assured me that it was God speaking, because that whole notion you could be called to ministry, you could be called to some other vocation, but called to business? And yet, I just had that very, very strong impression. And again, my response was right from my heart. I just said, I’ll do it and I’ll do it with all my heart. And so that launched me on what has become the most fascinating journey to bring these two worlds together. Worlds that I just thought were totally separated. Separate from each other; the world of faith, the world of work, and to start cinching those up through practical experiences and challenges. What does the Bible have to say about this personnel situation we’re dealing with here? And so it’s just a constant learning experience of trying to reconcile these two worlds.
Ray: I love that. This is one of the reasons I was so excited to have this conversation with you because you know, I’ve been in this kind of space of if you will, marketplace ministry, the intersection of business and faith and vocation and those sorts of things. Now on over 20 years, approaching 25 years actually, and back in that day, there were very few resources. There were very few models people you could go talk to. And I think that God’s really brought about a resurgence in that, an awakening. And in fact, I, I have a now this is a paperback version, my copy, then I’ll show this to you on camera here. For those of you who are watching this is a book you wrote called Loving Monday: Succeeding in Business Without Selling Your Soul. When did you write the first edition of this book?
John: Well, this was an, it was a project that began in the mid-nineties. It was actually published, well, it’s what, 20 years ago this year. It was not my intent to start codifying some of the things that we’d learned about, but ABC News contacted us right around that period of time and said they learned about what we were doing and they wanted to do a story on it for national television.
Ray: Can I offer that quote from, it was Peter Jennings, right?
John: Peter Jennings was the correspondent of, well, it was the evening news with Peter Jennings.
Ray: I would just for our audience like to read this because you got to understand gang that at the time, this is real cutting edge. This is not common language like we see now, there’s a lot of ministries like our ministry at Truth At Work and others that are out there in this space. But let me read this. I think this is fascinating. This is from Peter Jennings. It says, it seems to us that everywhere you turn in America, this is in 1995. It seems to us that everywhere you turn in America these days, millions of people are searching for greater meaning in their lives. That hasn’t changed right? Tonight we’re going to concentrate on the growing tendency of business leaders in America to have their personal faith make an impact in their companies. In other words, they are using the Bible as a guide to business. So what was that like really being even acknowledged as one of, you know, in this case, a totally secular news organization acknowledging this incredible work. What was that like for you?
John: One of the things that I subsequently learned by the way, Ray, is that Peter Jennings, who was probably the premier newscaster in the country at the time, he actually wrote that himself.
Ray: Oh, no kidding.
John: And I only discovered that because I was with him on a subsequent occasion actually at Harvard University. And I learned that he wrote that. And I thought, well, that’s fascinating because he’s got an insight into what is happening in the work world that the church hasn’t seen yet. And so I thought the way he captured it, they’re using the Bible as a guide to business was just a fascinating capsule of exactly what we were trying to do.
Ray: Yeah. And so let’s, if you don’t mind, maybe we could dive into a couple of specifics if we can. Cause you know, we talked to believers in business and they say things like, you know, I want to be honest. Well, okay, even a good heathen business person understands that’s a good principle for business and I want to offer my customers good value. That’s just great. Great. But give us a couple of specifics of how you have seen your business as a platform for ministry and how have you tried to live that out? Can you give us one or two best practices of what that’s looked like for you?
John: You know, it’s fascinating that you’ve asked this question because the ABC correspondent who did the story, was a woman named Peggy Waymire. And her driving question when she came in was to ask how it was different from the business down the street. Really the same you’re asking. And I wanted to be honest with her. And I said, you know, I can think of various specifics, but it’s really more a way of thinking. It’s a way of living. And so many of the decisions we make are made at the margin, how we treat and another employee when we walk in the morning, how we handle a phone call with an irate customer, how we deal with a quality problem. And what was happening Ray, was that our faith, which was more and more being anchored in the Scriptures, provided that compass.
John: And so it wasn’t just a matter of pulling a Scripture out and pasting it onto the problem. It was living in the Word in a way that resulted in a certain kind of reaction that was being informed by the Word. And so I love this aspect of walking with the Lord because it’s inside out. We learn the ways of the Lord and then we have so many opportunities to apply them in the workplace. We’re just rubbing shoulders all the time, whether it’s customers or suppliers or fellow employees, people in the community. All of these opportunities to interact around life and the decisions that we make, the way we conduct ourselves as being watched all the time. And so I just find it’s such a fertile environment to not just be yourself, but to be a representative of the Lord in a real world situation.
Ray: I love that. And I had the privilege recently of interviewing David Green, founder and CEO at Hobby Lobby, and he shared
John: What a great guy, by the way.
Ray: What an honor. That was amazing. And he shared a story, a couple of stories specific, and I’m not going to give the goods away because people need to listen to that episode of Bottom Line Faith to get that story. But he shared a couple of examples when his faith was very specifically challenged with certain things that happened in the business where he was like, okay, I can either go the world’s way on this, or I can go God’s way on this. Does an example of that come to mind for you at time when, wow, this is a huge decision and I’m really going to lean specifically into God’s way that may be counter to the world’s way. Does an example come to mind while they’re there?
John: There are many frankly. One that comes to mind though, centered around a test of the application of our core values. Now I think that we must always translate what we believe in the language that people can work with, assimilate, live with. And one of the ways that we do that is with our core values. We have three of them, integrity, excellence, and a profound respect for the individual. Well, one day a plant floor employee walked into my office and he said, Mr. Beckett, I believe that we’re violating one of our core values. Well, he had my attention. And he went on to give the specifics. There we were. The details aren’t so important except that we were violating licenses on software agreements by copying the programs without making payments back to the manufacturer in this case, IBM. And I didn’t realize we were doing it. We immediately put a stop to the process. But the fascinating thing to me was that the value was alive enough in the organization that he could say, we’re screwing up over here. And so that would be one.
Ray: And he had the trust that he could bring that to you in that way.
John: Because the culture was reinforcing the importance of integrity in a very practical way. It wasn’t something up on a wall. It was something that we really wanted people to be living.
Ray: Yeah. So that, that brings to mind. Then another great a thought here or question I say I think for your consideration. So one of the things that we like to consider here at Bottom Line Faith is if this program can just encourage one person, if there’s a business person out there who’s going through a struggle, maybe they’re discouraged and they’re feeling like giving up or whatever. If this can reach one person, then in my mind it’s been been worth it. So I’d like you to maybe just for a moment, give a word of encouragement. Somebody right now is probably listening to this program with headphones on at work, walking on their treadmill, or maybe driving down the highway in their car. But let’s say that this person is really at a testing point right now and they have a really hard decision and they know that if they do it God’s way, it may not turn out in a way that they would want, but they’re at that testing point. What word of encouragement would you…
John: Well, I think, Ray, would be to not allow short term considerations to rob you of the longterm pattern of faithfulness. Let me just expand on that for a minute. There are so many opportunities that we have that appear to have a short term advantage. And yet the lesson I think of the Christian walk is that over the long run, those decisions made the right way, have us on a trajectory that has enormous rewards to it, including the lessons that we learn when we say no to something that’s opportunistic or is somehow cutting a corner with what we really believe in our hearts. Make those tough decisions. And then we see how God vindicates those decisions that seem tough at the time. And yet if they’re following his ways, he vindicates them. And I’ve seen that pattern over and over again. That he wants to reward those who really leaned into him. So the guy on the treadmill, we have to be careful that we don’t yield to the temptation of what is quick, easy, and expedient because there is another way that ultimately bears a kind of fruit that we can never get to if we just take that shortcut.
Ray: That’s really powerful. And I think John, it’s becoming increasingly difficult with technology today. You know, everything we can have it just right now, whether we can call up a piece of information off our phones or a song that we want or a movie, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to practice patience and delayed gratification and perseverance. And that’s what you’re describing. It really is that biblical principle at play. Would you agree with that?
John: Yes. And we’re in a kind of a unique setting here. If the camera is picking up some of the World War One memorabilia behind us. If there is one amazing reality that came out of the story of my dad’s involvement in the First War, it was how he learned perseverance that played out through the rest of his business life and career. We cited a few examples earlier on, but it was a lifestyle to face challenges go through them that I think was forged in the trenches of France in that terrible, terrible war. He came through it, he persevered, but he learned lessons in that, that had every possible application for a business person. And so I agree with you that I think that these easy outs that we have may be denying the very thing that, or that God has designed to put fiber in us and enable us to be able to go through tough times. These are very practical lessons. But the guy on the treadmill, hang in there, you know. Just get through because there’s a larger lesson that’s playing out.
Ray: So you just mentioned like lessons learned and good advice. So one of the best pieces of advice I ever was given was by this old black inner city pastor. He was just a godly, godly, saintly man. He said, Ray, and I just still see his face. He said, you know, the problem is too often we settle for the ATM when God’s got the Brinks truck right around the corner. And so we grabbed a grand now. So what’s maybe one of the best pieces of advice that was ever passed along to you that you’d like to pass along?
John: I go to an aspect of the nature of God because I think that if we can understand who he is, understand his character, understand how he is able to guide us through various life challenges that attribute becomes an anchor. And there would be perhaps many I could cite, but I would really say that his faithfulness. If I could just put it in three words, God is faithful. And I would want our children and grandchildren to know that beyond any equivocation. Because when the tough times come, and they do, to know that God is faithful. We may stumble and fall, but he is always faithful is a reality of God that I just think is so precious and so practical and so able to help us in our time of need.
Ray: And there’s joy in your face as you’re sharing that. That’s a lifelong of experience that you’re expressing matter of his faithfulness. Fantastic. So on this whole theme around advice and so forth, this may be a kind of a curve ball question, but I want you, John Beckett of today to advise John Beckett at age 25. What would you say to your 25 year old self?
John: Wow, that is a question that I had really not thought about. A moment to ponder that. It’s hard to see the end from the beginning, but if we leverage this concept, we were just talking about the faithfulness of God. And to know that those decisions we make when we’re 25 can have lifelong consequences and that we always win. If I can use that term. We always win when we elect to follow the will of God to the best of our ability. Doesn’t mean we always will. We’re going to stumble, we’re going to fall of course. If our heart is inclined toward knowing God’s will and following it, I don’t think we can go wrong, because he’ll continually bring us back on track. He’ll help us to get through the next situation. So if I had been able to lay hold of that at 25 the way I understand it today, I would have had just a different measure of joy and perseverance I think in the midst of the trial.
Ray: Incredible. Folks, we’re getting close to the end. We often say this is the fastest 30 minutes in broadcast. It goes fast for me anyway. And usually it does for our audience. And so we’re getting near the time at the end here. But folks, we’re speaking with John Beckett, he’s the chairman here at the RW Beckett Corporation in O’Leary, Ohio. And I pointed out earlier, a true pioneer in this whole space of ministry and business and understanding the platform that God has given us in business. And if you’re not familiar with it, if you haven’t read it, this is a classic, it is called Loving Monday. Wrote this book. You tell me the year again that you wrote this.
John: Well, it came out in 1998.
Ray: Yeah. And I have one of the old original hardbacks, but it’s called Loving Monday: Succeeding in Business Without Selling Your Soul. There’s a video study, there’s materials, all sorts of support that you can read if you’re a business person wanting to really understand as John had shared, he codified how the best practices of how they run the business here. And you can leverage this as a great resource. So John, if someone’s listening to the program or seeing this video, how can they find this? How can they learn more about the company, about yourself and such? How would they find everybody that goes to a website today? What is that site?
John: Yep. BeckettPress.com BeckettPress.com. And books and other related material are available there, including by the way, some of the World War One stories. That’s our most recent edition.
Ray: You are now involved with many global ministries. God has given you some great passions. We’d be remiss to not talk about that just for a moment. What’s captured your heart these days as far as kingdom impact and just give us a synopsis there.
John: It was just, do the math here, 15 years ago that the Columbia space shuttle broke up on reentry. And this in my own case was taking tragedy and trying to turn it to good. I’d been in the space program earlier on and I was fascinated with this whole arena. And yet when I saw the pictures of those U.S. and one Israeli astronauts, that morning that the Columbia broke up, my heart was just gripped with the question of whether they knew the Lord. And so I wrote what became a little booklet called Coming Home while that went up onto the internet Ray. And now 12 years later, we have seen 60 million people come to a website with a sensitive presentation of the gospel for business and professional people. Is currently up under the name Can I Know God? That’s the website. That’s what I know. Can I know God?
And now here’s the thing, people have an opportunity on that website to indicate whether they want to become a follower of Jesus Christ. And that’s on the basis of a clear but compact presentation of the gospel. I was thinking about those astronauts. And you know, that 6 million people have said that they want to become a follower of Jesus Christ on the basis of that testimony. And so when I think about the things that I’ve been able to touch and reach, that rises to the surface just because it was so improbable. The advent of the internet, the tragedy that spawned it, the capacity for a business guy here in Ohio to write a little booklet that translated into this message, such that so many people have come to the Lord and we have these high points in our experience. I’d put that right at the top.
Ray: Folks, do you see why I wanted to have John on the program here at Bottom Line Faith and why he has just been a real spiritual hero to myself and so many others literally around the planet? And so, just thank you for, for just sharing with us today. This is, this has been great and fun and I hope we can come back and capture more of our time together. So I told you there was going to be one last question, right? And for those of you who are regular in listening or viewing here at Bottom Line Faith, you know, this is always the last question that I ask every guest. And it’s what I call my 4:23 questions. It’s based out of Proverbs chapter 4, verse 23, where Solomon writes, he says, above all else, guard your heart for from it flows the wellspring of life. It’s from our heart that all of life emanates. And so some people believe this is some of the last advice he gave, right? Above all else, guard your heart. So, John, if you wouldn’t mind, let’s close the program today by let’s imagine you have a chance to gather your family, your friends, the most precious people on the planet, and you have a chance for them to sit it around you and you now get a chance to pass along your most important encouragement or piece of advice. So complete the sentence for us. Above all else.
John: Pursue a personal and vital relationship with Jesus Christ. The relationship with Jesus can happen at different layers. That initial acceptance where we yield our heart to him. We can be attempting to walk through life as a believer. But ultimately the joy comes in that direct personal, intimate relationship where we draw from him, where we dwell with him, where our thoughts are informed by his thoughts. And so we have 18 grandchildren. We’re all together at Christmas. And we had these kinds of conversations because it’s tough navigating in the world today. But if they could understand the vitality that comes from that close, warm, personal relationship, it becomes the mainspring for everything else. And, so I would hope that for family and friends and have that bond.
Ray: Thank you. Thank you. Well, what an amazing time. Well folks, we’re going to come back if he’ll allow us. We’re going to come back and capture more cause this, as you’ve seen and heard today, this is one of God’s warriors in the marketplace. And thank you for just pioneering and setting a pace for those of us who have come along behind and are seeing the marketplaces as mission field. And so folks, this is what Bottom Line Faith is all about. Where we’re celebrating and we’re lifting up some of the greatest people who have been called into business in this country and across the globe. Eventually, we want to celebrate these stories and share them as encouragements to use so that everyday when you get up and go about leading in your company, in your organization, you know that you’re not alone. You’ll be encouraged, you’ll be strengthened by the stories of others. And so, we are so grateful. Check out the other episodes at BottomLineFaith.org. There’s dozens and dozens of interviews there. If you’re not a regular subscriber, scroll down to the bottom of the page, become a subscriber because these episodes are coming out on a weekly basis. So until next time, I am your host to your Bottom Line Faith, Ray Hilbert. And God bless and serve the Lord faithfully in the marketplace.