Friday, August 10, 2007

Judas, CEO

Randall K. Osmet may seem at first glance like your garden-variety CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation, but he will tell you differently.

“It’s not of my own doing,” he demurs, “it’s only because I followed what the Bible teaches.”

I press him on this issue as we sit together in his office. Osmet sits across from me sipping a cup of coffee, surrounded by past accolades: the covers of Forbes and The Economist, an MBA from Harvard, photos of him with President Bush and Condoleeza Rice. And all of this because of the Bible?

“Of course,” he says, “without it, I’d be lost, personally and financially.”

Surely this is an allusion to Jesus CEO, the book that came out some twelve years ago, right?

“No, not Jesus,” he quickly corrects me. “Judas.”

And it is at that point where Osmet produces a copy of his book, Judas CEO.

“It comes out in a few months. Zondervan are dragging their feet a little.”

I feel compelled to push him on this point after getting over my initial shock. Judas? He was the one who betrayed Jesus to the authorities!

Osmet dismisses the concern, apparently used to the objection. “Well, we really shouldn’t dwell on that point. Judas knew what he wanted. He knew how to get it. My book explores those points.”

He finally hands me the copy of his book, encouraging me to look through it. I flip to the Table of Contents, which boasts chapter titles such as, “He Always Maintained Focus,” “He Was Honest,” “He Took Advantage of Vulnerability,” “He Had Secret Meetings,” “He Removed People He Disagreed With.” Sensing that my worries are not yet satisfied, Osmet continues.

“Now, this isn’t just some businessman trying to make a quick buck. This is for leaders of any organization. These points work well in church settings, too! You’d be surprised. I’ve tried some of them myself, but mostly I’ve just sat back and observed some of my church friends. They use them all the time.”

I return the book to Osmet, as I feel a story coming on. He takes another sip of coffee before slipping into a look of reverie.

“I remember this one occasion at United Purpose Church in Texas where I grew up…this pastor had been there probably two or three years, and the board was getting tired of his preaching. He was expecting too much personal transformation or something…wanting to go serve in soup kitchens and such. They sent out a secret letter to the membership and sprang a vote to remove him after worship one Sunday. Their next pastor was much more agreeable to what they wanted.

“Or consider Holy Borg Church of the Absorption where I attend now. They have a membership of 10,000, and it’s all because of Pastor Frank’s strong mindset. If he hadn’t run off the people who didn’t like his church philosophy, they’d still only be at a couple hundred.”

But what about the church’s call to follow Jesus?

He chuckles. “Well, of course they follow Jesus. He died on the cross and covered up our screw-ups. In the meantime, Judas’ way was much more efficient. We’re talking about growing churches and business here. You can’t do that while being meek and patient. This produces results, and we’re all about results. All the churches I’ve ever been a part of like this way better, anyway. This meets them where they are and affirms what they already know. Why fix what isn’t broken?

“I mean really. Soup kitchens? That pastor deserved what he got. People want to know how to better their own lives, not someone else’s. And churches that preach that sort of thing are depressing. Judas understood those things, and look where he got. He made a good chunk of money and he got rid of the depressing guy.”

I point out that he also ended up returning the money and hanging himself. Osmet seems to have seen this coming, too.

Chuckling, he replies, “Yeah, well, that’s what happened to Enron. See? Judas shows us both how to succeed, and what happens to people who feel sorry later. He’s the perfect role model all the way around.”

Osmet’s office phone rings at this point. He rises, still smiling, to see who it is. He chuckles again as he picks up.

“Pastor Frank, speak of the devil. When do I get to see the new yacht…”

Osmet motions that this will probably take a while, but that I can take the book with me. I do so, wondering what other tidbits of wisdom are inside.