An Orthogonal Experience, Or How Transformation Happens Outside Of Our Comfort Zones

Photo Credit: Acton Institute

A few years ago a good friend and very wise business leader, Doug Wilson, shared with me that he required his core leaders to schedule at least one “orthogonal” experiencing annually as part of their own development. After asking him to define “orthogonal” (of or involving right angles; at right angles), he explained that real transformational learning occurs when we are outside of our comfort zone and stretched in new ways. This stimulates creative thinking and often unveils a new perspective.

Real transformational learning occurs when we are outside of our comfort zone.

A recent trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan to attend a four-day conference called Acton University, was just such an experience for me. This annual event is a program of the Acton Institute, a think tank focused on the study of religion and liberty, that brings together the best and brightest around the integration of Faith, Work, and Economics. Their vision for a free and virtuous society is embodied in the week as more than 1200 people from 50 countries, and a multitude of Christian faith streams gather to learn, be challenged, and build relationships.

Attendees at Acton University choose from 121 courses to create their own 11-course schedule that integrates economics, business, theology, and intellectual history. The course faculty includes world-renowned theologians, scholars, and practitioners, while each session has plenty of time for Q&A to engage around issues relevant to your context, country, and culture.

This year, my fourth in attending, I had the privilege of leading a group of pastors from Pittsburgh who are participating in a new project PLF launched last month called the Vocational Infusion Learning Community.

It was a great joy to share the experience with these eight men and women as we had perspectives forever changed and engaged in conversations at levels that just don’t happen in our day-to-day work back in Pittsburgh. Together we explored topics like the dignity and value of the human person, and the intersection of liberty and morality. Perhaps most of all, we formed relationships with one another and friends from around the globe who share our deepest values in working for the Lord Jesus Christ.

While there is renewed energy in returning home with new knowledge and a deeper understanding of the impact of our work, I look forward to the long-term fruit of this week in the lives of these pastors and their respective congregations.

Thank you Acton, for providing such a remarkable and transformative experience. You have blessed PLF, these pastors, and ultimately our city through your good a faithful work over these last 25 years. We are grateful.

What Is In A Name: Why Our New Initiative is Called “VILC”

Last week Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation launched a new initiative called the Vocation Infusion Learning Community or VILC. Catchy name, right? Maybe not, but it was very intentional.

The VILC concept was launched in 2011 by Dr. Amy Sherman and Dr. Steven Garber, in partnership with the Acton Institute. The intent was to create a year-long learning experience to re-think vocation, faith, work and economics and why it should matter to the local church. That initial journey was shared by 12 pastors, each accompanied by a marketplace leader from their respective church, igniting a wave of change in these congregations.

The 2016 Pittsburgh VILC opened with a two-day retreat and an exciting group of 24 leaders from 11 churches in our region. These men and women have made the commitment over the next twelve months to open their minds, hearts, and spirits to see what God might do in their communities of faith through this work, for the common good of our cities.

So what do the words mean?

Vocation

The unique call that God places in each of us to bring Him glory and serve the common good. As Steve Garber says, “Vocation is integral, not incidental to the Missio Dei.” If this is true (and we believe it is), then the role of the church must be to disciple and help steward the vocations of their people.

Infusion

This initiative will not be simply more good information, but will provide each pastor and congregation with a practical, in-depth planning tool to transform the culture of their congregations and richly infuse it with vocational stewardship and a coherent theology of faith, work and economics.

Learning

If we ever stop learning, then we have likely stepped out of God’s will. When we recognize that learning will often push us out of our comfort zone to take risks and try new things, then we are on the path to creating flourishing for the common good.

Community

While we can absorb information and learn new things independently, we hold to a deep conviction that real transformation only occurs in the context of a community of like-minded people committed to one another.

VILC may not be the sexiest name for an initiative but it means what it stands for, and we’re excited to share the stories of transformation that have just begun. Stay tuned for updates along this journey… a journey that matters.