I first became aware of Pat Lencioni about eight years ago when I read his wonderful book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Over the following years I read many of his other works and formed an impression of him as a hard-charging, cerebral, business guru kind of person who would be very intimidating. Boy, was I wrong. I became connected to Pat in early 2009 when he, Matthew Kelly and Allen Hunt were formulating plans to speak to men all over the country about strengthening their Catholic faith. They chose St. Peter Chanel as the host of their first event. As Deacon Mike Bickerstaff and I worked and planned with him to make the event a reality, I was pleasantly surprised to find Pat is an incredibly humble man with a passion for serving Christ and His Church. He is genuine, values-driven and one of the most selfless people I know. The event held at St. Peter Chanel on April 20th of last year was an incredible success with over 1100 attendees and Deacon Mike and I began working with Pat and the others soon after to make Strong Men/Strong Faith a national ministry.
In our phone conversations and a few meetings on his infrequent trips to Atlanta in the past year, I was grateful to hear of Pat’s passion for his wife and four sons: twin 12 year old boys, a seven year old and a four year old. Pat has shared with me many times that he and his wife are committed to helping their family get to Heaven above all else. He is always thankful for what God is doing in his life and he shares his faith journey in a warm, inviting and transparent way that immediately clicks with people. He describes himself as a “seeker of truth” and he is grateful to have that truth in the Catholic Church. Pat is a lifelong practicing Catholic, but as you will learn in this interview, he credits his surrender to Christ (which is an ongoing process) for the wonderful faith he enjoys today.
Pat, thanks for agreeing to do this interview! I always enjoy our conversations and appreciate an opportunity to catch up. How are you? How is your family?
Glad to be part of this, Randy. I’m fine, but a little stretched. Maybe a lot stretched. The family is good. We’ve been blessed to spend a lot of time together recently.
I know how important time with your family is to you. How do you balance faith, family and the enormous pressures in your business life?
This is a constant challenge for me, and of course, it begins with faith. I am constantly struggling to be more disciplined in my prayer life. When I am disciplined about beginning my days with prayer, going to daily Mass as much as possible, spending time during the day in prayer, and really submitting to God’s will every day, every hour, my life much more peaceful and fulfilled.
That allows me to deal with my next priority, my family, in a much better way. And it’s only then that I can be my best in my work. It really begins and ends with prayer, and that is something I’m learning more and more in my life.
Many people know you as a best selling author and highly sought after speaker, but our readers are beginning to hear you speak and write more about your faith journey and devotion to the Church. Was there a significant event(s) which caused this growth in your faith?
It is hard for me to say that there was a specific event or events that caused my growth. I think for some people, there is a moment of epiphany or conversion. As a lifelong Catholic, I never walked away from the Church or my faith. But I certainly wasn’t actively developing it either. And I have certainly strayed, knowingly and unknowingly, from the things that I know God wants me to do.
My recent “reversion” experience has been a wonderful one, with fits and starts. But I think it was the gift of a book from a friend that may have been the first step. The book was The Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. Since reading it, I have heard it cited by others as a powerful tool in the growth of their faith lives too.
Meeting Matthew Kelly has been another important part of my journey, as has coming to know a number of priests who are part of the Legionaries of Christ. They, Kelly included, played a role in my wife’s conversation to the Church a few years ago, and that has been a major step, and a tremendous prayer answered, in my life.
How has the growth of your Catholic faith affected your family life? Your friendships? Your career?
My faith life has come to largely define my family life. My boys attend Catholic schools, we are very, very involved in our parish, and four years ago my wife converted. To be married to a convert is a true blessing because her faith and love for Christ have renewed my own and allowed me to better understand and appreciate God.
As for friendships, I have deep but all-too-often long distance relationships with brothers in Christ. People like Matthew Kelly, Allen Hunt, you and others. I so wish I lived nearer to them. Among my local friends, I do have a number of “fellowship” relationships, but not to the same extent of others who I’ve met in my faith journey.
One very interesting affect of has been the addition of priests to my list of friends. I have come to know a handful of priests as friends, something that was not really part of my life before. I suppose I had always seen priests as older, a little more distant in my life, given that they were men of the cloth. But now, in addition to having great respect for and love for priests and their role in the Church, I can count them as friends. That has been a great blessing.
As for my career, my Catholic faith has not had a direct impact. Certainly, God’s providence is everything. But I have not done a great deal of work with companies that are openly or quietly Catholic, and I have not done as much consulting to organizations within the Church that I’d like. I have done a lot of work with non-Catholic, Christian organizations and churches, and spoken at many Christian conferences. This has had a major impact on my career and life. Many customers and readers have come to know me through these experiences. And I must admit that my Catholic “reversion” came about through coming to know so many non-Catholic Christians. I have long considered myself to be an Evangelical Catholic, and loved spending time with my non-Catholic friends. And today, I am more passionate about and convinced than ever that we are meant to be part of one Church, and that I can play a role in helping them understand the beauty, depth and truth of the Catholic Church.
Pat, we met last April during the first ever Strong Men/Strong Faith Conference held at St. Peter Chanel Church in Roswell, GA. Over 1100 attendees came out on a Monday night to hear a wonderful evening of inspirational talks from you, Allen Hunt and Matthew Kelly. Where did the idea for Strong Men/ Strong Faith come from? Why is it needed today?
I think the idea came from me. I had long felt the need to do something for Catholic men, realizing that so many are detached from or stagnant in their faith lives. As I met so many strong Evangelical men, I realized that we needed to appeal to men in new ways in the Catholic Church. I didn’t know how, though.
Then I met Matthew Kelly, and decided that one of my purposes in life was to help people know him. I brought him to my parish twice, and have tried to introduce him to more people, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
And then, when I met Allen Hunt a year and a half ago in Atlanta, and learned of his conversion, I felt we had the pieces in place to do something special. Since then, Strong Men Strong Faith has been a leap of faith.
Can you go a little deeper on why Catholic men (and women) need what you, Allen and Matthew are offering?
I think Catholic men and women need to hear from lay, relevant, relatable orthodox brothers and sisters in the Church. It is so easy for tepid Catholics to dismiss priests and nuns and other religious, deciding that they could never be like them. But when a lay person, someone they can relate to, talks about how God has transformed their lives and continued to do so, then they become more open to the depth of the faith that can be communicated by theologians and religious.
I want our program, and my life, to be a bridge that helps stagnant or distant Catholics deepen their faith and discover the beauty of the Church, our history, the Saints, and of course, the Sacraments. If, by hearing a ninety minute talk by Allen, Matthew and me, a Catholic man (or woman) decides to read more about their faith, go back to Mass, or have a longer conversation with a priest, then we are playing a role in bringing people closer to God. Of course, what we do is only what He allows to happen, and we are mere stewards and servants.
Your ministry’s website – http://strongmenstrongfaith.com/ – and the talks I heard last year centered on the simple themes of Read/Pray/Talk. Why these themes? What will attendees be seeking when they leave the Strong Men/ Strong Faith events? How can Parishes meet these needs?
Read/Pray/Talk was our way of making the experience of deepening faith practical and actionable. Matthew Kelly has always been such a proponent of reading books, and exhorting people by saying “books can change your life.” So, the way we hope men get traction around their faith lives is by exhorting them to read five pages a day about their faith. We provide them with four books to choose from, and ask them to keep them handy and read just a little every day. I can say that the reading I’ve done over the past five years has impacted my faith life in ways that I could never have imagined. And I am drawn to books now that I would have never imagined even picking up before.
Of course, prayer is the heart of all this. We need to get on our knees, figuratively and often literally, and be with God every day. That goes without saying, I suppose, but needs to be said again and again.
And as for talk, we want men to talk to one another, to their spouses, and to their children, about faith. Though St. Francis encouraged us to preach the Gospel at all times and occasionally to use words, when it comes to influencing our families and friends, we do need to share the joy of what we are learning. Too often, especially among Catholics, it seems, there is a reticence to share our joy. While that is understandable, though sad, in the workplace, when it comes to the home and “the BBQ”, there is no good reason not to talk about Christ.
I am reading your current business book Getting Naked, and love the focus on being open and transparent with clients. What else are you working on? Are you considering a book about your faith experiences?
Well, I am just starting another business book about how to build a healthy organization. But I’m also working on another book, one that I am more excited about than any other I’ve written, about faith. I’m working with a wonderful priest (by the way, almost no one knows this), on a fable about five Catholic strangers who come to explore and discover the beauty of their faith in an unlikely setting. I’ve written five or six chapters, but I can’t wait to see what the Lord brings about in that book.
Thousands of Catholic men and women will be reading this interview. In light of the challenges the Church is facing today, the unwarranted attacks on Pope Benedict XVI and the often ruthless attacks from the secular media, what message would you like to share with your brothers and sisters in the Church?
Well, first I’d just say that I am as susceptible to frustration and even anger as anyone else. But then I am reminded, again and again, that everything we need to know and think and do was made so clear by Christ. He said that the world would hate us. It does. He said that we should rejoice when that happens. Do we?
Now, I think that by rejoicing in our suffering, we will then be better able to help people understand the truth, and to do so out of love. We must constantly come back and ask the question, “is my frustration with the media and secular culture based on my own pride, or on the fact that they are preventing others from knowing the singular beauty of Christ?” We must constantly purify our intentions, offer up our frustration and suffering to God, and then joyfully, fearlessly and lovingly speak His truth.
Easier said than done, I know. Trust me. I know.
Pat, it has been a pleasure speaking with you and the Integrated Catholic Life eMagazine staff is incredibly grateful for your time and candor. I truly hope we can do this again. Before I let you go, when and where is the next Strong Men/Strong Faith event?
The next Strong Men/Strong Faith event will be May 10th in Nashville, Tennessee. We’ll be in Atlanta again later this year, with events in Kansas City and Birmingham in the works.
God bless you, Randy, and thanks for inspiring me to continue making Christ the center of my life.
Pat, we will be praying for you, Allen Hunt and Matthew Kelly this Monday night in Nashville and for the continued success of the Strong Men/Strong Faith ministry. We will also pray that you continue to be a light for Christ in the world and a great example for others to follow.
God bless and thank you!
Pat Lencioni Biography:
Pat is the author of seven best-selling business books including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which has been on the Wall St. Journal best-seller list for more than seven years. Fortune magazine recently named Pat one of the top ten gurus that readers need to know, and The Wall St. Journal described him as one of the most in-demand speakers in America. In addition to his work as a speaker and consultant with his firm, The Table Group, Pat is married and has four boys, and lives in Northern California.