This is the second part of a five-part series of blogs that chronicle the journey of a cohort of business leaders who together pursued deeper relationships with God and the integration of the resulting spiritual transformation in their personal lives into their roles as leaders in their businesses, and ultimately into the culture of their businesses as a whole. Click here for more information. You can read Part 1 of this series here.
Abe Schlott was drawn to participate in The Journey at the invitation of a good friend. As he arrived at the Ayres Hotel in Costa Mesa, CA, on April 5, 2013, Abe had some idea as to what to expect from the Journey as a result of input from his friend. Yet, as Abe came to realize, “I was not at all prepared for how powerfully God would show up, what my EPC [Extended Personal Communion] time spent with Jesus would reveal, and the friendships and connections that would endure.”
Abe is part of a family business in Omaha, Nebraska, that was started by his great grandfather in 1922. Their business is involved in the manufacturing of lubricants, primarily in the automotive retail market, and has about 600 employees. Abe has been in this business for fourteen years, but their company and his family have been in this business for ninety-four years. He has a passion for being a part of the business world in order to be “a light in the darkness of this broken world, encouraging fellow believers to stay strong in their faith.”
The EPC times, which were one of the first items on the schedule at each retreat, were one of the most meaningful times at The Journey for Abe. Learning how to spend four or five hours alone with God has been life changing. Abe affirms, “I have never experienced the presence of the Almighty as strongly as I did/do during EPC.” This experience of being bathed in the presence of God has brought both personal and vocational transformation.
The mentoring groups that each participant in The Journey was a part of were also a very powerful part of the transformation process for Abe. The mentoring clusters were made up of three to four persons who connected both at The Journey and in between Journeys. According to Paul Jensen, the founder and director of The Leadership Institute, which sponsored The Journey, “The purpose [of the mentoring clusters] was to update each other's personal and work lives, pray for each other, and discuss or do a spiritual practice appropriate for solitude, work or family." The clusters met by phone or video conference at least monthly and sometimes every two weeks.
Through being part of The Journey, the community support of The Journey mentor group he was a part of, and intimate time with God through EPCs, Abe was able to get through an incredibly challenging couple of years in his business during which a lot of tumultuous change was going on. His identity was so firmly wrapped up in his business that these changes were incredibly stressful for him to endure. But through The Journey process and the relationships that developed in that process, Abe says, God “(very painfully) pruned away most of the former things I found my identity in, drawing me ever closer to the only thing that really matters, which is finding my full identity in Christ.” As a result, he now is able to focus primarily on the people around him, both in business and personal relationships, and on helping each of them be successful and reach their full potential.
One of the ways in which The Journey participants are encouraged to focus on people is through abiding for others. This involves being still in the presence of God; acknowledging and joining in God’s concern and passion for people; bringing an individual’s name before God, thanking God for that person, and listening for the thoughts God gives concerning that person while considering their physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual needs; asking God how you might encourage that person in these areas; and committing to a plan of action in carrying out that encouragement. As Abe began to implement this process by praying in this manner for people he would be meeting with in advance of the meetings, God began to work in significant ways. When Abe used this process to pray for unity and building trust within his executive team in advance of a two-week executive education retreat at Stanford University, God came through in a mighty way. Abe shared that “walls came down in ways I never could have expected, and trust and unity have increased dramatically on our team following our time together.”
Overall, Abe found his experience in The Journey to be extremely beneficial. He sums it up by saying, “I don’t know how I would have navigated through these last several years without drawing much closer to God and the advice and prayer of my mentoring cluster. My expectations were blown away!”