After years of being involved in a manufacturing industry, which also includes getting products sold and distributed, I’ve always been intrigued by the “conversion factor” of raw materials. I first came upon this term thirty years ago when a person at a wire manufacturing company was telling me that his conversion factor on small gauge wire was much greater than on larger sizes. In other words, his profit margin on wire the size of a pencil lead was greater than that of a larger diameter wire.
I had been involved in the manufacture of both concrete brick, as well as injected molded products. Our margin on brick would be far greater than if we just sold sand, gravel, and cement separately. When we convert raw materials into a finished product, we do so with the intent of selling something at a multiple that hopefully is enough to add to company profits. The farther up the manufacturing chain we get, and the more complexity, the higher the conversion factor – a la the iPhone. When one or more processes or ingredients come together to contribute to a new result, we have a conversion factor and it can be measured by the finished product, as well as profit. Typically, more than one ingredient, as well as multiple processes, result in a higher conversion factor. Similarly, with human capital, if you choose to go it alone and become an island, or leave God out of your life, you’ll have a lesser impact than if you partner up wisely.
I had the privilege today of having breakfast with my buddy, Vernon, and one of his son in laws, Chris, who lives in the Minneapolis area, while he attends medical school. During this conversation, we landed on the conversion factor of human capital, and what happens when we take an ordinary life and team it up with God’s plan. We were visiting about priorities, life decisions, etc., and Chris’s good intentions for his future really impacted me. At this point, his desire is to be involved with pediatrics at some level. He mentioned how Jesus was concerned about widows and children, and how he believed there was a future in helping children as Jesus did. He shared about someday pursuing a dream to do some work in Haiti with kids, as well as his wife, Candace, who is a midwife, also helping alongside Chris on short trips to Haiti. Vernon shared how his kids would remember this so much more – watching mom and dad make a difference on mission, as opposed to just another day at the lake house in the summer. It was an energizing conversation. I really felt it was about personal mission.
It made me realize anew that each of us also have potential for a human conversion factor pertaining to our human capital, (human capital, plus a God-sized dream), a formula much like the combination of raw materials adds margin in a business sense. Let me explain. I believe it has to do with dreaming dreams that include God. In this example, there’s a lot of doctors out there who are good people but have never felt the call of God on their lives. I’ve said before that I believe a majority of doctors are motivated by compassion, or they wouldn’t be in their profession. Yet others could be in it for the money or prestige, leaving much less of an impact.
But when we take a life that God gets a hold of, and dream dreams that include God’s plan, and the ensuing partnership with God, the human conversion factor, or leveraging up, becomes an immeasurable factor with eternal consequences for many. The added margin and resulting productivity produces fruit that would be unthinkable without this partnership. If we want to become difference makers, we need to dream dreams that have God and his plan for us in the middle of them. Two guys go to med school. Thirty-five years later one is seeing patients, bought a few houses, owns his office building, has a vacation home, and by all appearances, things look good. The other has a little more balance in his life. He also has survived, but after several trips to the mission field, he’s got a couple of clinics started south of the border, and each year takes a team of doctors, nurses, and volunteers as he performs minor surgeries, dispenses meds, tells people about the love of Jesus, and becomes a part of a community of appreciative, new friends. One included God in each key move of his life – that began with a God-sized dream. The other, went to work everyday and went through the normal motions of life. One capitalized on God’s conversion factor by adding God to the formula. The other may not have been aware of the option, or perhaps ignored God’s desire to be involved.
One capitalized on God’s conversion factor by adding God to the formula.
Most of us are not going to start a clinic, or take a mission trip to another country. However, we clearly have the opportunity to trigger an exponential difference-making event by inviting God into the formula of our own margin and multiples and leveraging. It gets down to issues of the heart, and our willingness to be intentional about dreaming dreams that include God and his people at the center of those dreams.
In the formulas eluded to here, we’ve used as examples a large wire being drawn down to a more expensive wire, or sand, gravel, or cement converted to an item that sells for more, plastic and electronics made into a car or an iPhone, and so on. We talked about one person that dreamed of making a difference in God’s kingdom, versus another that hadn’t really thought much about it.
What about you?
Do you dream – and plan, and scheme about your future days here on the planet? Have you thought about adding to your formula, or partnering with those in and around your life to elevate your personal conversion factor? You have your own personal opportunity to partner up with some of God’s very own workers, and God himself to leverage your time here. What if this year, you specifically asked God to intervene and reveal to you how He would come alongside of you in your work, your business, and your closest relationships? How could you leverage yourself this year to make a difference in your family, or at the office, that could, in fact, have eternal consequences? Can this year be a year when you are involved in building God’s kingdom more than ever before?
The chances are you’ve been going through the motions by yourself. Perhaps even isolated from your wife or family. What if you did a better job including your wife in your decision making and dreaming? I know I tend to just keep charging ahead, with a headful of thoughts and dreams, and only when I get Margo involved do these dreams get leveraged up or sifted out. I’m stronger with her in the loop. If together, Margo and I want to get involved in a given ministry and in some way build the kingdom, we’ll be more productive if we know God’s hand is involved. It’s the difference in the formula between having lasting results, or just going through the motions. I know that to be fully leveraged I can’t be an island, and I’ll usually need a direct line to God, and probably someone else to partner with. I can try by my own strength, or get God into the plan. It seems fairly obvious which formula gives me the highest conversion factor and corresponding leverage. By the way, one formula leaves me completely powerless, and the other completely empowered.
Look at just a few examples.
One that comes to mind is that of Jonah. The scripture says he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord. As God’s prophet, he was supposed to deliver a message to the city of Ninevah. Instead, he catches a ship in the wrong direction, doing exactly the opposite of what he was supposed to do. He was using a reverse formula and went from a multiple of two (one of which was God Almighty) to a factor of one. He ended up in the middle of the ocean in a raging sea, in the bottom of a sinking ship. He knew it was his doing that caused that storm and after being cast overboard at his own direction, the storm calmed. God gave him a ride in a whale’s belly leading him back to his mission. Finding himself away from God’s presence, his utility shrunk to nothing. He, in fact, had a negative conversion factor as they found him sleeping in the hull of the ship, hiding out and non-productive. It was only when he got back on mission, and in step with God’s plan that God mightily used him. You won’t achieve a thing mushing through life on your own.
Perhaps Jonah was going through a mid-life crisis. He wasn’t a young college student. He is known as God’s prophet, so he was a seasoned man of God. Yet he decided to run in the opposite direction and go it alone. Wrong Way Jonah! It got him nowhere fast. The word clearly says in black and white that he was running from God. God’s gracious, second chance display of grace still stands as our way back this very day. God was still willing to use this wrong-way prophet to accomplish his will. That tells me today can be a great day if I partner up with God and march to his orders. If we’ll be obedient, that same grace still applies, and we can do great things with God. We need to include God in our formula for life, and continue to work on a lasting legacy in and through the lives of those around us.
God was still willing to use this wrong-way prophet to accomplish his will. That tells me today can be a great day if I partner up with God and march to his orders.
Moses without God was a murderer with a speech impediment. When he finally yielded and said yes, he was a leader of millions, hand-delivering God’s law to mankind. He gave up his life and routine to find God’s perfect plan. His conversion factor is legendary. Moses, plus God, equals an obedient, profitable life.
Abraham was a mere human who had made mistakes that could have been his only legacy. But the scripture says “he believed, and God counted it to him as righteousness”. He is remembered as a great man of faith for the simple reason that he trusted God. His formula was that of simply trusting that God would do what He said.
Peter and John healed a lame man, and were arrested after preaching the gospel. But not before five thousand became believers. They were on the front lines for Christ, where grace would need to be present for God to work out his will. They were completely dependent on God’s intervention for the delivery of the message, as well as their own safety. God was their mutual partner. The conversion factor, in this case, was quite literal. They leveraged their personal margin exponentially, and the result continues to multiply to this very day. Their mission trip still lives on.
And so it goes. Ordinary people, dreaming a dream that is in sync with God’s plan, or just being obedient, whatever the cost. This can be you and me. If only we would sign up for duty. Let’s dream some dreams together this year. Let’s ask ourselves what our lives could count for if we opened up for a formula of: Me + One = Incredible Margin. Involved in Mission. Incredible legacy.
By the way, what are your kids witnessing in you these days? Are you pointing them to Jesus by your mission? Or by chance are you in the belly of a ship, going in the wrong direction?
We don’t need God’s grace or his power when we’re on the sofa watching football.
This can be the year that your life shows the evidence of God’s power as you say yes to him. We don’t need God’s grace or his power when we’re on the sofa watching football. Is God calling you to something bigger? To answer in obedience to him? If so, let’s be sure to respond and answer his call. I want to be in a place that I know I’m out on a limb, and without God showing up, we got nothing. That place is called ministry and mission. It’s called obedience. And it won’t happen without an invitation to Him to show us the way. Let’s invite Him to do just that.
I have a friend that organizes mission trips to Guatemala and Nicaragua. I know others that have places we can serve in Haiti. I had to cancel on a trip to Central America three years ago. I think we should see how many are interested in taking a trip late summer of 2018. If I can get a few guys that are interested, I’ll get us booked. Just respond to this email and we’ll head out as a group of Bozemanites. These trips are so rewarding and life-changing. Let me know if you’re interested and we’ll make a plan.
Secondly, we didn’t get it done last year, but I talked privately about a mid-summer men’s retreat in our local mountains. We’ll be working on this as we head towards summer. I hope you will be able to join us.
In the meantime, remember your human conversion factor needs to be continually amped up. Remember the formula for each of us is simple: Me + One = Incredible Margin. That’s another way to say, I can only make a lasting difference if I’m partnered up with God. That’s a purpose-driven life.