Jeff Haanen



Architecture and DesignNonprofitWork

The Tree of Life: The Story of 600 Grant St., Suite 722


As I awoke, I heard a voice. “In the beginning, God created the tree of life.”

My guide took me to a garden, green and blooming, with four rivers running through it. And at the center, the tree of life stood tall, giving life to all of creation. A man and a woman tilled the soil, ate of its fruit, and were satisfied.

“But it came to pass,” he explained, “that man and woman ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When sin entered the world, so did death.” And I saw an angel drive the man and the woman out of the garden. With a flaming sword, flashing back and forth, the angel blocked the way to the tree of life.

Banished from the garden, the man worked the ground. But no longer did it produce fruit. Up sprang thorns, thistles, and the desire to rule. Work became toil. Splinters caused pain. A curse frustrated man’s best efforts to once again eat from the tree of life. Labor left him with an incomplete longing.


Wood gave way to bronze, iron and stone. “And men,” my guide explained, “sought to build their own city, forged in iron, as a hedge against death, a man-made source of life.”

Then I saw men from every tribe, tongue and nation build a tower, rising to heaven. It was a monument to Self. And suddenly I saw it crash to the ground, its workers babbling in confusion.

The curse worked its way from cement to cities, from single projects to civilizations. I looked onto the world, and I wept.


“What can be done?” I cried out. “Is there no way home?”

And then he said, “The ancient storytellers have seen far into the future. And they see another tree. Listen to their words.”


I lifted my head. My guide said, “I have seen the throne of God. And flowing from the throne down the great street of the city is a river, clear as crystal. And behold, bursting through the city street is the tree of life. It yields fruit forevermore, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of nations.”

5 - Tree of Life

“Let me sit in its shade,” I said. He replied, “You cannot. You must see one more tree.”

And he took me to a small, dusty carpenter’s shop. At the center was a man, humble yet fierce, crafting a table for his mother. “Why have you taken me here?” I asked as I saw the unfinished  table surface.


He simply replied, “Behold, the man.”

As I turned around, I felt a cool rush of darkness sweep over me. I saw a crowd, spitting, mocking the carpenter. As he lay on the ground, a soldier threw a beam on him, rough hewn, splintered. The solider forced the man to carry the harsh beam up the hill, as clouds overtook the sky.


They pierced his hands and feet, and hung him to the wood, the object of his work. “Why?” I cried out. “His eyes are good. Why?” And my guide simply said, “Cursed is the man who hangs on a tree.”

“Must I watch?” I begged. “There is only one way back to the tree of life,” He replied. “And it is through this tree of death.”

I wept.

And then there was silence.

“Look,” he said. I saw another garden. The sun was rising. And the carpenter’s tomb was empty. And two angels, clothed in light, said to me, “There is no death here. He is alive. He is alive! Now go and do his work.”

“What work shall I do?” I asked. Suddenly, I saw the city, but now light was streaming over the mountains onto its spires. And I saw the carpenter’s work before me, now complete.

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I received no answer to my question. He only said, “Come, follow me.”

“Sir, one more question,” I asked. “When may I eat once more of the tree of life?”

And he replied simply with a promise. “For like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.”

He finally whispered into my ear, “Behold, I make all things new.”

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The above pictures were taken at the new offices of Denver Institute for Faith & Work at 600 Grant St., Suite 722, home of the 5280 Fellowship. The furniture was made by Josh Mabe, owner of Twenty1Five, a reclaimed wood furniture business based in Monument, Colorado ([email protected]). 

ArtCraftsmanship & Manual LaborCultureEconomyEducationFinanceMediaNonprofitPoliticsScienceTechnologyTheologyWorkWorld

Announcement: Launch of the 5280 Fellowship

Today is a big day.

Today my colleagues and I at Denver Institute for Faith & Work, in partnership with Gordon College, announce the launch of the 5280 Fellowship, a 9 month experience for emerging leaders beginning in the fall of 2016.

After years of planning, design and forging partnerships, each element of the program has fallen into place. And now what we are now offering is, I believe, one of the best faith-based fellowship programs in the US, and perhaps Denver’s premiere leadership experience for young professionals.

I know those are big claims. But I believe the 5280 Fellowship has the potential to deeply impact Denver for generations to come. And I’m not alone.

Some of Denver’s finest pastors – like Robert Gelinas (Colorado Community Church), Brad Strait (Cherry Creek Presbyterian), Rob Brendle (Denver United), Brian Brown (Park Church) and Hunter Beaumont (Fellowship Denver) – believe the Fellowship can be a life-changing experience for young professionals who want to deeply engage themes of calling, work, and culture.

Young professionals like Steven Strott (Cool Planet Energy Systems) and Amy Wofford (The Commons at Champa) see the value of connecting to a community of faithful leaders in Denver and articulate how important work is to the flourishing of a city.

And Dr. Michael Lindsay, the president of Gordon College who has deeply studied the world’s most effective leadership program, the White House Fellowship, believes this program, which has been modeled largely on his research, will give young professionals:

  • “deep relationships that span the city,”
  • a vision for how “the gospel provides a kind of connective tissue, helping us to see how does science and technology relate to the arts and entertainment,”
  • and a “catalyst in your career for the prospering not only of the wider culture, but also your life.”

Needless to say, if you’re asking big questions about the role of Christians in culture; if you’re interested in the relevance of the gospel to all of life; if you’re wondering about your own calling; and if you’re up for a challenge that could catalyze your career — then I encourage you to learn more at an upcoming info session.

Some of you may also be interested why we built the program as we did. On this blog, over the next several weeks, I’d like to peel back the veil on the principles underlying the Fellowship and why we built the program as we did. Blog posts will cover topics like:

  • Why Some Doctors Read the History of Opera: Leadership and Liberal Arts Thinking
  • EQ: Why Being a Good Conversationalist Might Be More Important Than an MBA
  • Why Nothing Before Age 20 Matters (And Why Your 20s-40s are the Most Critical to Career Success)
  • Calling: Learning to Listen to the Caller
  • Spelunking, Cave Formations and Culture Change
  • Our Common Longing: Meaningful Work
  • The Church in the World: Reformation, not Revolution
  • The Future of Higher Education: Friendships and the Information Deluge
  • The Golden Web: Mentors, Networks, and the Hidden Leadership Curriculum
  • Mission: Larger Than A Two Week Trip Overseas
  • Scattered: Being the Church Monday-Saturday
  • Significant Work: Developing a Taste for Tackling Big Problems

The launch of any new educational experience is really just the beginning of a conversation. This is a conversation on what it means to be fully human in this time and this place. I’d like to take the chance to invite you into this community.

I’d love to hear any and all feedback as the conversation grows. I hope you’ll consider joining me on this adventure into our own souls, the life of our city, and the heart of God.


Stories of Hope: A Reason to Be Generous


Today is Colorado Gives Day, Colorado’s biggest one-day event to give to your favorite nonprofit. As I take a look at the past year, I can see all kinds of reasons to give to Denver Institute for Faith & Work (but hey, since I’m the Executive Director, I’m biased!). But perhaps one of the best reasons to give is the stories of hope we’ve told this past year.

As you give today to your favorite charities, enjoy these stories of men and women in Colorado being a cultural witness to the “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10) through their work. Merry Christmas!

Jim DeWeese, Owner of Trademark Electric, shares about his calling to hire a man from transitional housing and the satisfaction he finds in being a part of “God’s redemptive story” as an electrician.

Jim DeWeese – Trademark Electric from Denver Institute on Vimeo.


Ellen Snyder, a 91 year old volunteer, shares about her calling to serve at the St. Francis Center and live a more redemptive retirement.

Ellen Snyder – Saint Francis Center from Denver Institute on Vimeo.


Trevor Lee, pastor at Trailhead Church in Littleton, shares about his calling to pastoral ministry, and why he’s found joy in helping other men and women find their callings.

Trevor Lee – Trailhead Church from Denver Institute on Vimeo.


Matt Turner, CFO at MorningStar Senior Living, shares about how his company serves seniors and gives them a chance to live out their own callings in the last third of life.


Helen Hayes, a mother and former investment manager, shares about her struggle to balance work and family – and the joy of knowing she lives ultimately for an “Audience of One.”


“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams”: An Interview with Randy Samelson


“I have a dream!” It wasn’t only Martin Luther King, Jr. who said those words. Every entrepreneur – whether in a business or a nonprofit – has dreamed of building a great organization and accomplishing an inspiring vision.

But most of those dreams hit a few speed bumps on the way. And too many dreams are often left to “someday,” and never see the light of day. Randon (Randy) Samelson, the founder of Counsel & Capital, has spent a lifetime around Christian leaders. His new book, Breakthrough: Unleashing the Power of a Proven Plan, was written for dreamers who want to actually see their aspirations accomplished. In this interview, Samelson shares about his career as an investor, a strategy for accomplishing any vision, and why King David’s own plan to build the temple should guide those who still dream today. 

What in your personal work experience motivated you to write Breakthrough?

I’ve spent much of my life surrounded by Christian leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs. Almost all have had great and noble dreams. But at some point, all of them have been “stuck.” They have a goal, but they can’t seem to reach it. I’ve seen this with my friends and my children too, and even I have experienced the frustration of feeling “stuck.”

Some years ago, I read the Bible story of King David and Solomon. David had a dream of building a great Temple. I noticed that he followed a simple, six-step sequence to complete it, and along the way, he never seemed to get “stuck.” I was stunned when I realized that those same six-steps are where most people I’ve ever known have tripped up and become “stuck.”

So I decided to write Breakthrough to demonstrate how relevant the Bible is today, and how the story of David and Solomon can help people become unstuck. The more I’ve studied that story, and the more I’ve helped people who feel “stuck,” the more I’ve realized that following those six-steps can greatly enhance your ability to achieve your dream. I’ve realized that the Bible contains a perfect blueprint for turning dreams into realities.

Can you further explain the gap you often find between ‘right-brained’ ministry leaders and ‘left-brained’ business leaders?

The human brain has two hemispheres – the “left brain,” which is largely analytical and sequential, and the “right brain,” which is largely intuitive. In each person, one side usually dominates (sometimes a little, sometimes a lot) and this affects how he or she processes and responds to information.

Not surprisingly, many “left-brainers” pursue professions that complement their method of thinking: bankers, scientists, lawyers, accountants, and so on. Similarly, many “right-brainers” find themselves best suited for more creative endeavors: artists, writers, counselors, etc. This isn’t the rule, of course, but it’s often the norm.

I’ve seen this pattern in the Christian community. Very often, ministries are led by creative, passionate “right-brainers,” but their major donors are very often “lefties.” I regularly have ministry leader’s call to say, “We have great ideas, but we don’t have enough money,” while at the same time, wealthy donors call to say, “I have money and a desire to give, but I lack confidence in most nonprofits.” There’s a gap separating both groups, and it’s often because each side speaks a slightly different language based on right or left-brain thinking.

Thus, I believe the biggest opportunity is building bridges of confidence between these left-brain donors and ministries, while still maintaining their effective outreach to right-brain donors.

What can King David and his calling to build the Temple teach nonprofit executives about accomplishing their mission?

First, rely on the wisdom found in the Bible. King David had a dream that was an enormous and remarkable undertaking for his time. Not only did he achieve his dream, but his Temple remains a wonder of the ancient world, and still sits in the center stage of human history. King David followed six simple steps to turn his dream into a reality. Your dream may not be to build a Temple, but it’s still worthwhile to study the sequence David followed. No matter how big your dream, you can (and should) follow the same six steps:

  1. An Inspiring Vision
  2. A Credible Plan
  3. The Right Leader
  4. Initial Funding
  5. Going Public
  6. Sharing Credit

Breakthrough walks readers through these steps in detail, but anyone can start by reading the full story in 1 Chronicles 28-29. Understanding and applying this simple process will change your life and empower you to turn your dream into reality.

How does the model you laid out influence the strategy of Counsel and Capital? 

First, we apply the six-step strategy to ourselves, and then we advocate it for others. We always start by asking our “key log” question, a concept we picked up from the logging industry. A long time ago, loggers discovered that the easiest way to transport felled trees is to put them in rivers and float them downstream. This is usually an efficient and effective method, but logjams inevitably occur somewhere. Instead of tackling the whole mess, the workers instead hunt for the  “key log” – that one log causing the problem that, once removed, untangles the logjam.

We apply the same concept to individuals and ministries who are stuck or trapped in their own version of a logjam. So we ask them, “What one opportunity or obstacle, if captured or removed, would most advance your vision?” Usually, “money” is somewhere in the answer. But money is rarely the real problem.

So we work through the same six-step sequence until we find a problem or deficiency. Almost always, we find that the “key log” is in one of those six steps. And once that key log is identified and addressed, most ministries experience bursts of progress that get them back on track and out of their original logjam.

What practical advice would you give either business leaders or nonprofit leaders who have a dream they want to accomplish? 

Read our book Breakthrough – Unleashing the Power of a Proven Plan. The single best piece of advice I can offer anyone with a dream is to follow David’s six-step sequence, in order. Start with a personal, inspiring, clear, and measurable vision. Follow that with a detailed, credible plan. Then, make sure your dream has the right leader. Secure initial funding first, and only then go public. Finally, share credit with those who helped you along the way. David followed the same six steps, in order, when he pursued his dream of building the Temple. If you have a dream, start by following the same sequence.

Beyond this, let me offer a few final pieces of advice. As hard as it may be, don’t jump from your vision or dream right to broad, public fundraising. I know that impatience is difficult to tackle, but planning is absolutely critical. Don’t make the mistake of skipping or skimping on your plan, and always put your plan in writing. If planning isn’t your strong suit, ask for help from someone who knows how to do it.

Finally, stay focused. Don’t chase the latest trends or hottest fundraising need. Build no more than three operating “silos” for your nonprofit. Know exactly what you want to do and then, to quote Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”

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