Nobody is a Hero: Finding Balance When Everything You Do is Valuable

If you missed Jubilee Professional 2016 or want to relive our speakers’ insightful talks, we are making all the talks available on our blog!

Jena Lee Nardella

We often believe we should aim to be the superhero our world needs. Yet in this video, Jena Nardella speaks about the importance of loving and caring for the world every single day, rather than saving it.

Both in her career and personal life she found that striving to be a superhero could swallow her whole if she allowed it to. Her temptation as a social entrepreneur was to save the world but discovered her calling was to love and care for her part in it. As her life changed when she got married and had a baby, she learned again that she couldn’t keep up with the pace of her work and fully engage as a wife and a mother.

Jena reminds us not to lose sight of who we are and more importantly, whose we are just because of the depth of work we have taken on. Rather, enjoy the day of Sabbath, create a strong marriage, enjoy parenthood, live a life full of adventure and learning, and always remember, pole pole.

Check out Jena’s website:

Is it Better to Work for Government, Non-Profit, or For-Profit?

How do you measure the meaning of your daily work? Does your work encourage human flourishing? Does it make a difference?

There are three types of agencies in the world that make it their mission to improve people’s lives: government, nonprofit, and for-profit. Does one of these agencies have a higher calling? Jim Stout and Katie Tarara discuss their transition from one agency to another. Their jobs changed, but their faith remained the focal point of their journey.

Jubilee Professional educates Christians on how to integrate faith and work. God’s path for each of us is unique and diverse. There is no “right” job when it comes to living out God’s calling; you can do it anywhere.

If your calling leads you to transition agencies, don’t focus on the differences. Focus on your high calling to serve God wherever you are.

How to Overcome the Three Challenges Christian Professionals Face

Have you ever found yourself debating with others whether you must choose between evolution and creationism? This is one of many challenges Dr. David Lewis has faced as a biomedical scientist.

Sometimes, we are made to think that we must choose between belief in creation and acceptance of the theory of evolution, or simply, amongst religion and science. In the video below, Dr. David Lewis takes our audience through the story of his scientific career as a Christian who strives to apply God to all areas of his life.

Dr. Lewis addresses the three overarching challenges of being a Christian professional by looking at them through the lens of the Gospel and using examples from his own personal career path.

Challenge of Self

Ambition is great, as long as it is not selfish ambition. Allow God to teach you how to value of the success of others in the workplace.

Challenge of Anxiety

In the bible, we discover God’s responsibility for orchestrating the events on Earth. Dr. Lewis explains to us the importance of keeping faith in God rather than reality.

Challenge of Vision

Allow your knowledge of the glory of the Lord to speak through your work and actions in the work place.



The Role of the Local Church in Urban Economic Renewal

If you missed Jubilee Professional 2016 or want to relive our speakers’ insightful talks, we are making all the talks available on our blog!

Pastor Christopher W. Brooks.

Pastor Chris Brooks is integrating entrepreneurship into his church in Detroit. But what does entrepreneurship have to do with the church?

Why should we concern ourselves with the question of urban economic warfare?

The Moral Mandate:

“But seek the welfare of the city, where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7

The Monetary Motivation:

The Shifting Demographic realities facing our nation, require that any institution who wishes to remain viable and relevant take seriously the need for communities, which have a high percentage of ethnic minorities, to be reached and resourced.

An Entrepreneurial Mindset: Not Just for the Entrepreneur

When you hear the term “entrepreneur,” thoughts of starting a business, or designing a new technology may come to mind.

While it’s true that those are the actions of entrepreneurs, the idea of having an entrepreneurial mindset applies to everyone—including you, your coworkers, and even your pastor.

Having an entrepreneurial mindset doesn’t require you to run a startup company, it simply involves having innovative thoughts, and acting upon those thoughts. A person with an entrepreneurial mindset looks at their surroundings, and asks, what is it going to take to make this better, or how can I come up with ways to add value here? Then they pursue the necessary avenues to meet that need.

This mindset can be brought into any context, but it’s more than just about creating value—it’s also about valuing people.

As we make decisions throughout the day to create value, our world-view is a filter for those decisions; there is an ethic that guides a definition of the value we are looking to create. A biblical worldview calls us to value people as we work to create flourishing in the places we work, serve, and play.

Valuing people translates into recognizing the strengths and giftedness in oneself and others, which not only facilitates a solution to a problem, let’s say, but also contributes to human flourishing as a whole.

What does an entrepreneurial mindset look like in the arts? Working in the middle of a large corporation? As a retail manager? Leading a church?

Join 400 others who care about these questions and explore more about what it means to have an entrepreneurial mindset at Jubilee Professional on Friday, February 19th in Pittsburgh.

Jubilee Professional is an annual gathering of marketplace, church, and nonprofit leaders who want to explore the profound connectedness of faith, work, art, and enterprise.

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Faith & Work Labs: The Question of Vocation

Last weekend on November 20-21, the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation hosted a gathering called Faith & Work Labs. This new initiative brought together over 40 theologians, pastors, and practitioners to participate in real dialogue around practical integration of Faith, Work, and Economics.

Sponsored in part by the Made to Flourish Network and the Kern Family Foundation, this event proved to be a powerful environment for the merging of those involved in different spheres of influence in our city.

Guest speaker Pastor Aaron Richardson from Detroit brought a richness to the day’s conversations as he shared about his experience in collaborating with churches and entrepreneurs in his city over the past 13 years.

Two local entrepreneurs had the opportunity to be featured as “case studies” for the day, as they each shared the complexities of a real-time business challenge they are facing. A panel of pastors, scholars, and  marketplace leaders responded to the cases, each bringing a valuable perspective that provided wisdom and encouragement to the entrepreneur facing the issue.

For the attendees, there was a great time of shared learning and conversation at each table as some presented their own challenges to their peers for discussion.

The day concluded with remarks from Steve Garber. He later reflected:

Pittsburgh has a long and unusual history of collaborative commitment to the city as a city, and today’s convening organization, the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, has led the way. They are taking the question of vocation seriously, understanding that a revitalized social ecology is dependent on a recovery of that rich vision of human life and labor that allows us to see beyond ourselves into the common good.

May their tribe be blessed, and their city prosper.


Check out our Facebook page for some great photos from Faith & Work Labs!

Check out the Washington Institute for more information on Steve Garber and what he is up to.

Photo Credit: Steve Garber

Building Capacity in Pittsburgh’s Nonprofits

While Pittsburgh continues to experience economic growth and entrepreneurial flourishing, there is a large segment of the population that is disconnected from the “renaissance” happening in the city.   Those people and places are largely the same ones that are served by the non-profit organizations in the Urban Leaders Project.

In January 2015 we created the Urban Leaders Project to give Christ-centered non-profit leaders an opportunity to sharpen their leadership and prepare their organizations for long-term effectiveness. The initial cohort, including 12 executive directors of Pittsburgh non-profits, participated in 5 months of teaching, coaching, and collaboration.

This offering seemed to strike a chord in the non-profit community, where leaders are eager to build capacity and cultivate professional community.

Word of mouth has already filled our next cohort, starting in January 2016, and we are thankful for the individuals and organizations that have sponsored leaders to participate in this initiative.

We are grateful to be able to serve godly leaders that are committed to making Pittsburgh more than just the “most livable city,” but a city known for God.

God’s Economy: A New Way To Think About Alleviating Poverty


This week PLF had the pleasure of partnering with the Acton Institute and Tugg Media for a screening of the award winning documentary, Poverty, Inc. The screening was followed by an informative time of Q&A with co-producer Mark Weber, to a sold-out crowd of 156 people. 

This documentary takes a critical look at the “poverty industry” and raises thoughtful questions on whether international aid is actually working to alleviate poverty.

The antithesis of traditional poverty media, this film elevates the world class endeavors of enterprising individuals in our countries and highlights the critical need to restore power in the hands of everyday people by democratizing access to networks of productivity and exchange, and by building the fundamental institutions of justice such as property rights, rule of law, and freedom. -Dr. Kinoti Meme

For PLF, the alleviation of poverty through job-creation and supporting entrepreneurship is very close to the heart of our own mission to equip, connect, and mobilize individuals and organizations in Pittsburgh to create a more robust and inclusive economy.

Poverty, Inc. illuminates the “business” of NGO’s and global aid organizations as they negatively impact the people in countries where they intend to help, creating unhealthy dependencies. Many insights of the film can be applied to our own cities where aid has become normative in vulnerable communities, causing a widening gap in the economic flourishing among all socio-economic groups.

The film creates a powerful awareness of the challenging realities that people face when trying to contribute meanigful work amidst an economic system that doesn’t fully recognize the value of the human person.  

How should we respond differently in the way we approach charity and poverty alleviation?

It’s time to recognize and seek the positive contributions that all citizens can make to the economy. Whether in Pittsburgh or abroad, we must work to foster an economic system that invites people across all socio economic strata to participate.

To arrange a viewing of this fantastic film, visit

How the Leaders Collaborative Is Transformational

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly…”

Sometimes you don’t recognize the significance of something you go through until after you have gone through it. That was the case for me as I look back at my experience in the Leader’s Collaborative.

I went through the Leader’s Collaborative in 2012, I was 27 years old. I remember going to the opening retreat having no idea what to expect. Little did I know that going through the Collaborative would transform my life.

I remember sitting around the bon fire the first night of the retreat. I shared with the group that I was coming out of a season where I was deeply wounded. I wasn’t sure if I could be used by God in a significant way, I was struggling with my identity, and I was not very optimistic about the future. God used the Collaborative in my life to deal with all three of those issues.

As I look back on the collaborative, the most significant things God taught me were:


Lisa often says, “You will become the best version of yourself only in community.” Perhaps the greatest benefit of going through the Collaborative is the community you become a part of. I’ve built relationships with leaders in our city that continue to help me become the best version of myself two and half years after I’ve gone through the Collaborative.

I’ve built relationships with leaders in our city that continue to help me become the best version of myself two and half years after I’ve gone through the Collaborative.


We all have strengths and weaknesses and it’s critically important that we become aware of how both our strengths and weaknesses impact the lives of others. The Leader’s Collaborative is tailored to help you become more self-aware.

It’s critically important that we become aware of how both our strengths and weaknesses impact the lives of others.

Self Confidence

During Bruce Bickel’s lesson, he made two statements that significantly impacted me in this area. He said, “Ministry is not a job, ministry is who you are, where you are…” and “If God’s called you to do something, He’s the only one that can stop that from happening.” For so long, I thought my calling and my ministry were based on who I knew, where I worked, and what people thought of me. For the first time in my life, I realized that the fact that I am a child of God and am growing into the person God created me to be is enough. That truth set me free.

Challenging Idols

The Importance of Consistently Challenging my Idols – Prior to the Collaborative, I hadn’t given much thought to the possibility of having idols in my life. As I was receiving feedback during my final presentation, one leader said to me, “Doug, challenge your idols: ministry, health & fitness, marriage, and influence.” As I reflected on that challenge, I realized that I had put all of these things in an improper place in my life. Learning to challenge my idols has been a lesson that has continued to challenge and sharpen me in the years since the Collaborative.

New Ideas

I was recently interviewing a leader and he said, “One of the mistakes I see leaders making is that they keep relearning the same things over and over again. They need to get out of their comfort zone by exposing themselves to content that challenges their thinking.” As I went through the Collaborative, I was exposed to content and influencers that helped me grow and develop to another level both personally and spiritually.

A Vision for our City

I gained a new perspective on having a vision for our cities, and God began dealing with me about my role in reaching our city. As a result, my wife and I established a leadership organization to help develop young leaders in our city for Christ. I do not believe we would have started this organization if it weren’t for the impact the Collaborative had on my life.

Since graduating the Leader’s Collaborative, I feel that I have emerged into a young man who is growing more and more confident in who I am and whose I am.

Lisa often shares this quote, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly…” When I started the Collaborative in 2012, I was an insecure and wounded young man. In many ways, I felt like my world was over. However, since graduating the Leader’s Collaborative, I feel that I have emerged into a young man who is growing more and more confident in who I am and whose I am. I believe I am a better worker, a better husband, a better leader, and more like Christ as a result of the Collaborative, and for that I am eternally grateful.

You may be asking yourself, “Why do I need go through the Leader’s Collaborative?” You may be thinking that you have already learned all of the lessons that I learned. My challenge to you is this: I don’t think God wants to teach you the same things he taught me, but I do believe there is something in this experience that God does want to teach you, and just like me, you may not realize the significance of what He has for you until you’re on the other side of this experience. If that is the case, then my question to you is, what are you waiting for?


dougsmithDoug Smith is passionate about adding value to peoples lives and helping them reach their maximum potential. Doug is currently employed by Light of Life as the Manager of Outreach and Major Gifts and founded Learning to Lead, which explores what Christian leadership looks like. Check out Doug’s website,


Amazon: Easy to Critique, Easier to One-Click

This article was originally published on The Gospel Coalition website.

Last week I received an e-mail from one of my clients, a CEO who hired us to launch a culture change initiative for his executive team. Linking to The New York Times scathing exposé on Amazon’s corporate culture, he simply wrote, “This is the opposite of what we want to create.”

The public response to the story was immediate and visceral. One publication said Amazon had “a sweatshop-like culture.” Another noted its work-life balance score: 2.6 out of 5. In a memo to his employees, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos went into damage control mode, saying he didn’t recognize the company portrayed in the article.

Although the exposé is being criticized as based on “generalization and anecdote” and a more complete picture is emerging, an important question for all of us arises: If a company is meeting our needs as customers, why should we concern ourselves with how they run their business?

Greatest Place I Hate to Work

Amazon has exactly the culture it intended to create. Unlike many companies, where creativity and innovation is characterized by ping pong tables, buffet lunches, and spa treatments, Amazon seems stark. It doesn’t boast the typical perks and benefits of other tech firms because itvalues frugality.

It also values confidence and competence. As one journalist notes, “Bezos abhors what he calls ‘social cohesion,’ the natural impulse to seek consensus . . . and he has codified this approach in one of Amazon’s 14 leadership principles [Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit].”

Bezos isn’t a hypocrite. He’s never been coy about the kind of culture he wants to create. His leadership principles include an intense focus on “constant friction” and “adversarial competition” in which employees simultaneously feel frustrated and proud. One former executive writes, “A lot of people who work there feel this tension: it’s the greatest place I hate to work.”

Purpose of Business

Bezos understands the market. Since the 1970s we’ve seen increased focus in businesses on maximizing shareholder value. By that standard, Amazon is successful. Last month, it surpassed Walmart in market capitalization, making it the most valuable retailer in the country. In August 2005, one share of Amazon was worth $43; this year, it’s worth almost $500. If profit is purpose, then Amazon’s doing quite well.

What if, though, human flourishing is the main purpose of business? In Why Business Matters to God: And What Still Needs to Be Fixed, professor Jeff Van Duzer describes a “Genesis” model for business, where business is a means to steward all that God has entrusted to the care of his image bearers:

[A]s stewards of God’s creation, business leaders should manage their businesses (1) to provide the community with goods and services that will enable it to flourish, and (2) to provide opportunities for meaningful work that will allow employees to express their God-given creativity.

Some competitors of Amazon have taken a different route to success. Hearts & Minds, an independent bookstore in Dallastown, Pennsylvania, is owned and operated by Byron and Beth Borger. Their craft goes well beyond stocking and shipping. They want to accomplish Van Duzer’s two purposes of business. The value they create isn’t primarily in their transactions but in their relationships, as they serve their customers by writing delightful reviews, curating book lists to help customers grow in their love for God and understanding of vocation, and hosting gatherings for readers and writers.

Real Culprit

We may publicly condemn large companies like Amazon and praise small businesses like Hearts & Minds. But when it comes to buying our books and placing our orders, we usually go with the company that offers the fastest and cheapest option—without regard for how it treats it employees.

Who, then, is to blame for “bruising” workplaces, where people are treated like cogs in a machine rather than humans created in God’s image? It may very well be us, the consumers.

Knowledge Creates Responsibility

As an Amazon Prime customer, I contribute to the corporate culture Bezos has created and encouraged. I’m “implicated,” as my friend Steve Garber might say, by what I know. The only question, then, is “What must I do?”

First, I might consider working for Amazon as one of its more than 115,000 employees. After all, since God became man, leaving the riches of glory to enter the messy world of human beings, I can work as salt and light in places of darkness. I can be an agent of hope in a difficult work environment.

Second, I might thoughtfully consider changing my shopping habits, choosing to frequent businesses that value and invest in human flourishing. My small changes may not make a difference to the overall economy, but they might play a part in bringing together my “inner” and “outer” person (Matt. 23:27).

Finally, I might consider building or running—or encouraging my friends to build or run—a company in ways that celebrate a culture that values people as image bearers. This is one thing I hope to do with my clients. In our last meeting with the CEO who hired us to launch a corporate culture change, he remarked:

We’re too proud of our financial success. Our investors love our return on investment (ROI), but our employees and our customers don’t feel valued. I’m not motivated by money; I never have been. I’m here for the people. I’m inviting you to join me to make this a place where people love to work and customers love to buy, where human lives and relationships are valued above all else.

I’ve asked the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation (PLF) to work with us to create a culture where safety is our priority, excellence is our standard, and character is valued above expedience. But I can’t do this alone. Will you join me?

Healthy cultures are deeply intentional and develop over time when we implement values and invest in good people, processes, and environments. They needn’t be lavish, but they must value people for who they are, not simply what they do.