Making a Permanent Impact on American Society

Dear peers in the Faith & Work Movement, I often imagine what collective impact between our ministries and churches might look like. What would it look like for us to partner together to make a permanent, generational impact on American society?

When it comes to work, in many ways, our society is hemorrhaging. The labor participation rate for men age 24-55 is at its lowest point since the Great Depression; 10 million men are either unemployed or have stopped looking for work altogether; today there are 70 million Americans with a criminal background, many of whom can’t find a good job due to their past.

What if the Christian business leaders we all know decided to hire the millions of men and women with barriers to employment? What if, alongside of following Christ at work and running excellent businesses, God’s people stepped up to meet a critical need in America today? Instead of just critics of what’s wrong, could the Church blaze a trail and develop the knowledge, best practices, and vision for loving our neighbors and healing our society through meaningful employment?

This is a big task – maybe too big. But I feel like things are changing. Signs of hope are emerging.

TC Johnstone, a friend and filmmaker, has done an incredible new documentary that gives a beautiful, compelling case for doing just this. In the first episode of “Dealmakers”, he highlights Pete Ochs, the founder of Capital III, an impact investing company committed to social, spiritual and economic transformation. The film tells the story of Pete’s journey to starting a manufacturing company…inside a maximum-security prison.

Though Pete is wonderful in the film, it’s Louie, who spent 25 years behind bars, who really shines. Pete gave Louie another chance through employment; Louie gave Pete a renewed purpose for his own work.

You may want to think about screening the film in your network or having Pete and Louie come and share at a conference. Pete not only hits all the theological essentials in the story, but their story of learning from each other is just as powerful. I’ve seen the film myself, and felt deeply moved afterwards. (And I felt a renewed sense of commitment to my own vocation as a leader of a faith and work organization.)

As you think about illustrating the real-life impact that this conversation about faith and work can have on real lives, I commend this film to you. But even if you decide it’s not a good fit, I still want to continue the “good jobs” conversation with you. I believe this is the natural intersection between Christians who care about justice and those who care about vocation. I also believe it’s a strategic place where Christians in positions of influence can have deep spiritual, social and cultural impact on our world today.

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