Foundation for Faith at Work: Lessons Learned from Pixar’s Ed Catmull

by | Jan 12, 2015

Pixar Co-Founder, Disney Animation President and 2015 Leadercast Speaker, Ed Catmull knows a thing or two about making great products. From Toy Story to Finding Nemo, Pixar has had an unprecedented streak of box office success.

In his fantastic recent book, Creativity, Inc., Catmull says this:

“Don’t confuse the process with the goal. Working on our processes to make them better, easier, and more efficient is an indispensable activity and something we should continually work on – but it is not the goal. Making the product great is the goal.” 

This organizational philosophy is extremely relevant for the Christian life. And these insights are vital for our faith at work.

We have to know our goal.

What is the goal of the Christian life? At its core it is to know God. Not simply to know about God. But to know Him deeply and personally.

Everything else –every good and lasting work – flows from knowing God.

It is why we were created – to know Him. It is the good news of the gospel – through Jesus we can know Him again. It is our everlasting hope – that we will know Him fully.

At Workmatters, we capture this in the first of our Seven Pillars of Faith & Work: Love. Loving God requires abiding with God at work – to know Him. It is the beginning of faith at work.

The process is vitally important to the goal.

As Catmull says in the book, great ideas are not just hanging around, “waiting to be discovered.” Great ideas are painfully created through the collaborative effort of talented people. That takes work and rework through strong processes.

For the Christian, our aim to know God doesn’t just happen. The spiritual disciplines, sacraments and the community of the church are the necessary processes for Relationship, by God’s grace. It is naïve to think that we can neglect communing with God through the process He has provided and still achieve our goal of knowing God.

We tend to confuse the process with the goal.

The Pharisees were Jewish religious leaders and Jesus’ primary opposition during His ministry, mainly because they were fixed on serving their religious process: the complicated rules that had been created to keep God’s Law.

Jesus stated and ultimately proved on the cross that He was the way to know God, but the Pharisees were so fixed on the rules and their authority that they forgot the goal.

They didn’t always serve the process. Their rules were developed with the intention of preserving the Law – to keep Israel fixed squarely on knowing God. But by the time Jesus arrived the Pharisees had a self-serving process instead of a process that was achieving the goal of knowing and honoring God.

We are inclined to do the same thing. We easily – and often slowly over time – shift our focus from the goal. We are inclined to “check the boxes” of church and believe that is sufficient.

But we have to remind ourselves daily that the goal of life is not simply spiritual achievement. The goal is a deep and abiding Relationship with our Creator and Lord. Spend time with Him. Rest in Him. Embrace the process of prayer, scripture, and the church in order to know Him. And do it all for the goal of knowing Him deeply.

And the more we know God, the more natural and impactful our faith at work.

Photo of Ben Kirksey

Ben Kirksey

Ben Kirksey is the Chief Operating Officer for Workmatters. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas (2006, Economics and Political Science), and alumnus of Teach for America. He realized a passion for integrating faith and work while at Northstar Partnering Group (now Field Agent™) and subsequently co-founded the Workmatters Institute in 2010.