Two weeks ago on July 14, 2006, a dear friend, mentor, encourager and spiritual champion was promoted to heaven. Dr. Ted W. Engstrom, president emeritus of World Vision, left behind a legacy of gracious management. His insights and interests were sharp and keen even at age 90.
I had lunch with Ted in April to say thanks for lending his name to the stunning and surprising award I received in March from Christian Management Association. In announcing this new award, CMA noted that “The Ted Engstrom Award is presented on rare occasions to those individuals who have provided extraordinary, extended service to the Christian Management Association and whose lives have influenced individuals and ministries throughout the Body of Christ.”
Yikes. That’s a tall order. It fits Dr. Ted perfectly, not me. To keep pace with Engstrom, I’ve got 30 more years to make the rhetoric a reality. Ted was a category of one—and he blessed the socks off of just about everyone he met. He was generous with his time and even more generous with his network.
Two years ago, I was putting together a talk on “10 Trends in Ministry Management…That Sneaked Up on Us When Nobody Was Looking.” Over lunch at his favorite hangout, at his favorite table, I asked him for some hot trends and sage advice for my audience.
“Expect the unexpected,” he said.
I used it. I know good stuff when I hear it!
“Expect the unexpected” was typical Engstrom counsel. His Christian Leadership Letter (co-authored for years with Ed Dayton) was a read-immediately-upon-arrival welcome management letter. His 55 books astounded the rest of us—especially because each one had such powerful take-away insights. Talk about a life-long learner and mega-mentor!
In May, Ted sent me a signed copy of his latest and last: Book #55. What a great title for a life’s bookend: Compassionate Leadership—Rediscovering Jesus’ Radical Leadership Style. His co-author was Paul Cedar, Ted’s former pastor and now chairman/CEO of The Mission America Coalition.
Well…we expected Ted’s homegoing some day, but when the news came, it was unexpected and sad. We’ll miss him. I’ll miss his encouraging letters, his optimistic spirit and his heart for ministry and management excellence. He was the recipient of CMA’s 1986 Christian Management Award. Ted defined that award.
When I talk about the Strategy Bucket, one of my 20 Management Buckets, I’m always reminded of Ted’s wisdom. No matter how savvy we think we are, no matter how many charts and graphs we’ve got in the appendix to prove the point of our BHAGs and Big Visions…and yada, yada, yada…Ted’s voice will always loom loudly and strategically, “Expect the unexpected.”
* * *
My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you prosperity.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:1-6 (NIV Student Bible Revised)