What could a couple of business leaders do, together?

It’s amazing what a couple of committed people can do.

Were you groggy when you woke Sunday? You probably reset your clock before retiring; you shifted time-zones without leaving home. Cheri and I watched the sunrise from our hotel room in Malaga, Spain (that’s another story); the morning sun lit the ship that had docked beneath us, overnight.

The Octopus is a 414’ mega-yacht – one of the world’s largest – and it’s over-the-top. Two helicopter pads on the main deck, a 63’ tender docked in the transom (one of seven tenders on-board). It houses two submarines, used for scientific exploration. It was launched in 2003 for owner Paul Allen, co-founder – with Bill Gates – of Microsoft. (Allen died last year at 65 from septic shock, caused by Hodgkin lymphoma). The boat is currently for sale; asking price is $295 million Euros…

Amazing what a couple of techno-friends could accomplish. Childhood friends, Gates and Allen were both into computer programming when they launched their first venture – “Traf-O-Data” – in 1972. Their fledgling efforts led to the formation of MicroSoft in 1975 in New Mexico; they moved to Washington in 1979. Gates and Allen were partners, but company growth strained their friendship; Allen left the company in 1983 after his cancer diagnosis. He lived another 35 years; his estate was valued at $22 billion. He never married and left no progeny…

Sunday morning, my attention shifted from the yacht in the harbor to the book by my bed. How did that Bible get into a Marriott hotel room in Spain?

In the autumn of 1898, John Nicholson was a traveling salesman from Janesville, Wisconsin, at the counter of the Central Hotel in Boscobel, Wisconsin – 100 miles from home – without a reservation. The hotel was crowded, and the proprietor suggested that he share a room with Samuel Hill – another businessman, from Beloit, Wisconsin. Both consented to the arrangement, and they moved into the two-bed room.

They lived 13 miles apart, but they quickly found a key connection: both were serious Christians. They spent their evening in conversations about faith; their discussion naturally led to some time in prayer before retiring. Their stay at the Central Hotel ended the next morning, but their relationship had just begun…

Six months later, their respective commercial travels took them to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin (75 miles from home). While there, they conceived the vision for a collaborative fellowship of Christian businessmen who would benefit from mutual recognition, personal evangelism and Kingdom service. They decided to call a meeting in July – in Nicholson’s hometown, Janesville – at the YMCA to engage the concept.

Some meeting: their ranks swelled by 50%. William Knights – a traveling salesman as well – came to the meeting and embraced their core mission. In that meeting, the three men founded The Gideon Society, which continues today as Gideons, International, now the oldest association of Christian business people in the United States.

The vision to produce and provide Bibles to hotels – at no cost to the hotel owners – was a strategy launched in 1908. Today, they distribute over 80 million Bibles annually; in 2015, they crossed the two billion mark. Today, there are Gideons active in 190 countries…

Gates and Allen changed the world with their business careers. Allen has moved on; Gates will join him someday. They’ll leave positive results behind from their extraordinary professional efforts.

Nicholson, Hill and Knights built God’s Kingdom with their Calling. They’ve all moved on; their faith assured their eternal destination. But, beyond their respective careers, they made the Gospel accessible to billions of people over the last 120 years.

The yacht outside the window looked pretty impressive; the Bible in the nightstand was even more incredible.

It’s amazing what a couple of business leaders can do when they put their efforts together…

Bob Shank






6 responses to “What could a couple of business leaders do, together?”

  1. Kim S Avatar
    Kim S

    Love the point of view!

  2. Eric F Avatar
    Eric F

    Thank you Lord for Bob! Surround him with your holy presence today!!

    “God walks “slowly” because he is love. If he is not love he would have gone much faster. Love has its speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It is “slow” yet it is lord over all other speeds since it is the speed of love.” Kosuke Koyama

    There’s a reason people talk about “walking with God,” not “running with God.” It’s because God is love.

  3. Geoffrey G Avatar
    Geoffrey G

    Thanks Bob. Good stuff!

  4. Don S Avatar
    Don S

    Every now and then I hope you get some feedback from your efforts to “educate” us on Mondays. This story is brilliant, and it is the way you tell it that makes it so.

    Thank you, my friend.

  5. Curt H Avatar
    Curt H

    Wow, Bob, these are always good. But this one has some extra special threads to speak to the hearts of TMP folks.

  6. Scott L Avatar
    Scott L

    Awesome perspective Bob!

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