Jeff Haanen

bike business close up daylight

Four doctrines that motivate me to work, build, and serve

Work can be a drag. Unreasonable managers, unruly technology, and unmet expectations – but work can also breathe life into communities.  Work, I’ve noticed, has a particular power when motivated not centrally by success or money, but by the biblical story.

The Doctrine of Creation

Dave Hataj grew up with a dad who struggled with alcoholism. His alcoholism seeped into the family business, a small manufacturing company in Wisconsin. Remember parties at the office and pornography on the walls, “By the time I was 18,” Dave remembers, “I knew something was very, very wrong. Something felt dark.” Depressed and drinking heavily, Hataj turned to running as an escape. One day on a long run through country roads, “I remember a voice coming to me. I said, ‘Who’s playing a trick on me?’ I just remember this voice saying, ‘You are not alone. I’ve been with you through all of it.” Dave realized for the first time that he was not accident, and that his life had purpose.

Today, Hataj is the second-generation of Edgerton Gears, a company that makes gears, that in turn make cardboard boxes, aluminum cans, food processing and other everyday items. Dave felt that God was calling him to redeem the culture of his family business. After his conversion, Dave had his work cut out for him to introduce openness, trust, and accountability into the business. A part of the solution was to hire young men of character.

 But it made an impact, “When I started working here,” says Clayton Flood, a Journeyman Machinist at Edgerton Gears, “I was nervous. It’ll probably be hardy, tough guys. But it was super nice people. But boss really cares for me here, and that’s why I felt comfortable becoming a machinist.” In a similar vein, “This is an actually happy environment,” says Andy Hagen, an apprentice machinist. “You feel like you can talk to your actual co-workers.”[i] Culture started to change around character.

Another strategy Hataj used was giving young craftsmen a sense of purpose. He found that many of the young men they were hiring hadn’t taken the college route, and had taken on an identity of being a failure or “D student.” Hataj, however, believes that every person is created to create (Genesis 2:15), and each has God-given talents and skills that their community needs. Hataj has written for his employees The Craftsmen Code, which he has new employees sign off on. It states:

  1. I am not the center of the universe.
  2. I do not know everything, nor nearly as much as I think I do.
  3. There is dignity and purpose in knowing my trade.
  4. The world needs me.
  5. Pay is a reward for my efforts, but not my main motivation.
  6. Every person has unique gifts and talents.[ii]

Dave’s renewal of the trades at Edgerton Gears is based on the doctrine that God himself creates, and we too are called to create what the world needs through our work. Or as Dorothy Sayers writes, “Work should be the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.”

The Priesthood of All Believers

Lesya and Nicholai Login live in the small town of Khust, nestled in the western mountains of Ukraine. They both have a lifelong love of biking and dreamed of sharing their love of the outdoors with others. As Lesya worked as a teacher and Nicholai as a bike repairman, they dreamed of opening their own business. But Lesya, who was only 22 at the time, was consistently rejected for a small business loan because of their age and inexperience.

A neighbor told them about Hope International, an international microfinance institution. With their first loan from HOPE Ukraine, they bought a few bicycles and began to rent them. It was a time of growth spiritually as well. Nicholai had shared his faith with Lesya years earlier and they both began attending Nicholai’s church. Their story of entrepreneurship and faith was bound together, “Choosing to take the loan was pivotal for me,” Lesya says, “I was full of excitement to have my dream come true—that our passion would become our work.”

Years later their business grew. They expanded to two locations, a retail brand, and several employees. Not only do they sell bikes and accessories, but they also believe their work is a platform for sharing their faith. “When God gives, we are called to give back,” says Lesya. Working with their local church, the organize an annual bike ride for children. They have also created a bicycle club for youth, giving them a positive alternative to alcohol or drugs through the power of community.[iii]

The Apostle Peter once famously wrote, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Peter got the idea of “a royal priesthood” from Exodus 19, when God said to the Israelites, just before giving the Ten Commandments, “Out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be fore me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” (19:5-6). The role of a priest was to intercede on behalf of the people and mediate to God. When God calls his people “priests,” he intends that through all of his people – not just clergy – he will make himself known to the world.  And that can and should take place every day and everywhere, even at a bike shop in a small town in Ukraine.[iv]

The Resurrection

Dan Reed is now middle aged. “I’m not in my thirties now, Jeff,” Dan told me over afternoon beverages. A long-time friend, Dan has been a life-long fundraiser. Short hair, beard, piercing green eyes and a quite attentiveness in any conversation, Dan is the founder of Seed Fundraisers, a coaching organization that trains “elite fundraisers.” His passion for fundraising came from years of raising money for the Morris Animal Foundation and seeing his peers in the industry. “Organizations that raise money aren’t necessarily the ones solving problems,” Day says. “Organizations solving problems aren’t necessarily raising money. And organizations receiving praise are not necessarily healthy places to work.” The nonprofit industry, noble as it seems from the outside, too is filled with brokenness.[v]

Dan set out to look for the gold standard in nonprofit fundraising practices. He found organizations led by visionaries; he found organizations that built sustainable solutions; but he also found that the best fundraisers were more concerned about activating generosity than raising money. Fundraisers, says Reed, are often seen instrumentally, meaning that leadership and boards often functionally say to them, “You go find us money so we can do the really important work.” And relationships with donors were often just as broken. Fundraisers would either “manage” donors to hit their revenue goals, or they would take on a subservient posture toward donors, bowing to an unhealthy power dynamic. But what if fundraising itself was intrinsically valuable work, apart from the causes it supports, simply because it inspires generosity, and hence, virtue?

Dan’s career was shaped by his understanding of vocation, which, for him, meant that his work had intrinsic value on a daily basis apart from the impact it made. It had value because work itself is a participation in the new creation.

Paul writes, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come,” (2 Corinthians 5:9). The Jews of Jesus’ day did expect a resurrection of the dead, but they thought it would happen at the end of time when Israel would be restored and a new, earthly Davidic kingdom would come at the end of time. But when Jesus’ was raised from the dead there was confusion. After the resurrection, they fully expected an earthy restoration of the Messiah’s rule (Acts 1:6). What happened instead was that the key event of the end of time – the resurrection – happened now in the middle of time. Theologians called this the “inaugurated kingdom,” or as one Anglican liturgy puts it “the Lamb who was slain has begun his reign.” The new heavens and earth are not just a future reality; they have already begun, right here, right now. Even as a fundraiser.

New Testament Scholar N.T. Wright puts it succinctly, “Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project to not snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s prayer is all about.”[vi]

When Dan Reed looks intently into how he does his work as a Christian, and why, he’s asking the right question as a person of faith: since Jesus is raised from the dead and now reigns, how now should I live?

Stewardship of our Gifts

Meagan McCoy Jones grew up in the family business. McCoy’s Building Supply is a supplier of lumber, building materials, roofing supplies, and farm and ranch equipment in Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. She recalled as a teenager her parents would often have significant conflict. They worked through marital challenges with they help of a counselor, and the process ultimately influence Meagan’s own leadership of the company decades later. “They became committed to being relationally different, which is incredibly powerful,” Meagan recalls about her parents after their marriage crisis.

As a result, the McCoy family brought tools of building healthy relationships into the leadership of their company, which transformed how they do their work at McCoy’s. “Our leadership training includes tools like conflict resolution, which is a cute term until you have two super-angry people.” As a result of her parent’s marriage, she now works to deeply understand her co-workers. Leadership for Meagan is “me more deeply knowing you, and then caring about you. The next time I walk in, and I see your project as deserving of both praise and probably some constructive criticism, I’m going to make sure I’m very specific, and make sure to mention both the really good things and things I wish were different.”

Today, Meagan believes healthy conflict resolution is critical to a healthy workplace. “I have told my team that if there is any conflict among us, the only work of the day is to resolved the conflict between us.”[vii]

Generally, when Christians talk about stewarding our gifts, we think about using our skills and talents, whether they be designing a prototype or caring for injured patient, for God’s purpose. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,” writes the Apostle Peter, “as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms,” (1 Peter 4:10). Yet we rather think about stewarding our pain and suffering as a form of God’s grace. Meagan and her parents turned painful family memories into a means for building a healthy, redemptive workplace culture because, in part, they believed that even their difficult circumstances were gifts to be stewarded.

We’re called to see our talents and our pain, our skills and our suffering, our experiences and our frailty, as one mysterious gift we are called to steward on behalf of those we are called to serve.

“For some reason,” says Meagan, “we were given a lumberyard chain. And that’s our universe to care about and steward.”

This is an excerpt from my latest book Working from the Inside Out (IVP, 2023). Learn more about the book here.

[i] This story is from the film: “Turning,” Faith and Co, Seattle Pacific University,

[ii] See:

[iii] “Bikes and Baptisms: One Ukrainian Couple’s Journey,” Hope International,

[iv] For a more in-depth treatment of Exodus 19-20, see my sermon: “A Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation,” Wellspring Church, 26 July 2022,

[v] Dan Reed, “In Search of Best-In-Class,” Seed Fundraisers, 4 June 2021,

[vi] N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2008).

[vii] These quotes are taking from a Denver Institute for Faith & Work podcast interview, which can be found at:

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