Using examples from his life, a business executive shares ideas on how to be a Christian leader in your vocation.
Steve Hansen has had many titles in his life: business executive, engineering leader, technical innovator. In the business world, he’s served as chief executive officer, chief technical officer, vice president of research and development, among other high-profile positions. He currently is president of Nikon X-Tek Systems, based in London, England.
But three other titles in his life speak more about who Steve Hansen really is: a child of God, Christian leader, and reverse missionary.
Child of God
Steve became a child of God at his baptism, 45 days after he was born. He was raised WELS, baptized and confirmed at Trinity, S. Mequon, Wis. “My father is buried there, and my grandfather is buried there,” Steve says.
His faith and church life have remained important to him. Weekly worship and Bible study are priorities even during his long work weeks. Steve and his family were part of the group that helped start St. Matthew, Port Washington, Wis., in 1979. He currently serves as president of Gloria Dei, Belmont, Calif., and as the Synodical Council lay representative for the Arizona-California District.
He has kept his identity as God’s child through the years by God’s grace, even when others in his life have struggled knowing who they are. “When I was younger, my peers were asking, ‘Who am I? Why am I here?’ A lot of people struggle with those answers,” he says. “I have never doubted [who I was] because I always had Christ tell me, ‘You are my loved child. You are here because I made you. I knew you in the womb before you were even born. I called you. You are mine.’ I never doubted that I am a child of God who through faith will have eternal life.”
That knowledge strengthens and directs him, even when worldly opposition strikes. “I know the resistance to the gospel is coming, but I know the Lord will never leave me,” he says.
That confidence in Christ provides Steve what he needs to be a Christian leader in the world today. “It gives me an internal peace and patience and understanding,” he says.
Steve defines Christian leaders as people who “utilize their unique abilities in a positive manner while promoting Christ crucified for the building up of the church through their own spiritual gifts.”
He admits that in the business world, that’s easier said than done. “As leaders, we should expect not only to have resistance to our leadership but also additional resistance to how we’re leading.”
Christian leaders, says Steve, are servants, building up other people and helping them achieve their goals. “We’re encouraging others because our motivation is to serve them with our leadership skills,” he says. That is not always appreciated in a dog-eat-dog world where most are looking at the bottom line or how they can get ahead in this world.
When adversity strikes in the workplace, as a Christian leader you need to be able to determine if the issue is related to your leadership skills or if it is your cross to bear because you are a Christian. “As humans, we can always improve our skill sets, but as Christians we need to be bold and carry out God’s plan,” says Steve.
For example, when Steve as a Christian leader tries to move his teams forward with a positive, proactive approach, it can cause jealousy among his peers. “Their goal is to push you down,” says Steve. “What can you do? You can’t respond likewise. So don’t fret about it; don’t worry about it. Continue to persevere—trusting in the Lord.”
Think that’s hard? Steve says to take it one step further: “Think about those people who are coming at you. They don’t know who Christ is,” he says. “We have such a short time in this world. The more you realize this the more you know that you need to pray for them. That’s a Christian approach.”
That doesn’t mean that you can’t stand up for what you are doing. “Be prepared to defend yourself,” says Steve. “Say it, do it, record it. Hold firm on what you’re doing. But don’t give up on your values.”
Steve says the best advice he received from his father was to love everybody. “The love of Christ cannot help but be reflected in your life through your love for others,” he says. “Love everybody even if they hate you. By that you’ll be known as a Christian because no one else does that.”
He continues, “Build up your faith because the battle is strong and we’re in the trenches. But we’re conquering through love.”
Steve’s career in materials engineering in the field of X-ray technology has taken him around the world—Milwaukee, San Francisco, Los Angeles, China, Japan, India, and most recently, London. For most of his life, he has worked in places with very few Christians.
Yet looking back, Steve says he can see how the Lord directed his life and vocation at each step, giving him the opportunity to plant gospel seeds in people’s lives around the world. “I can’t tell you how many times the Lord brings people into my life so I can tell them about him,” he says. “I’m the reverse missionary. I’m just doing my vocation and I’m being sent to all these places and people come to me.”
Steve doesn’t wear a sign saying he’s Christian, but he shares that people recognize Christians in the workplace because they are different than everyone else; they aren’t involved in the backbiting, gossip, rude humor, and vindictiveness. “I don’t have to stand out on Michigan Avenue to preach,” says Steve. “I just have to do my job and follow Christ and reflect him in my life. Reflecting him is like a beacon— I guarantee you the world sees it.” That can bring challenges, but it can also open the door to tell people about Jesus, the true Light.
In his position, even as president of a company, Steve has an open-door policy and works hard to get to know the people on his team. That promotes trust and builds relationships. “Over time, people come into your life, and you have the opportunity to speak Christ crucified,” he says. “Don’t shy away from it, but don’t push it either. Hear them. Listen to them. The Lord always opens the opportunity for you to say something.”
Steve specifically remembers a time when he was asked to oversee and work with Japanese colleagues visiting the United States. He made friends with one of those men, a strong Buddhist. While keeping it professional at work, Steve grabbed any opportunity the Lord presented to talk about his faith. The two of them kept in contact after the man returned home.
Years later, after hearing the man’s mother was ill, Steve directed him to WELS missionaries in Japan. While the man didn’t contact the missionaries, Steve still knows he planted a seed.
“I never give up,” he says. “He clearly hears me; he keeps coming back [to talk to me]. He just hasn’t taken the step. The seed hasn’t taken root in his heart yet. But there’s time, and we keep going.”
He continues, “Everybody is hurting. Everyone is looking for something. What they’re looking for, we have. Pray to the Lord to open their hearts so they can have what we have.”
As Christians we can all be reverse missionaries, spreading God’s love and mercy and the peace we have through Jesus wherever God places us.
“No matter what your vocation is, no matter where the Lord has put you, you have the opportunity to lead,” says Steve. “Take your unique spiritual gifts and combine them with your natural abilities. Put those two things together, and every one of us is a powerful Christian leader specifically designed to accomplish the Lord’s will in some way.
“Let us never tire of doing that. This is our calling in this world: to glorify his name so that people turn to the Lord and call on his name for help so they can have the eternal life we all have.”
Author: Julie Wietzke
Volume 110, Number 4
Issue: April 2023
Three years ago, Steve Hansen never expected to be living and working in London, England. But when Nikon asked him to work with a new business there, he decided to pursue the opportunity.
About the same time that Steve began working in London, WELS was exploring the idea of sending missionaries to work with a core group to start a mission church there.
“Throughout my whole life, I see the Lord’s hands all over the place—moving me around and moving me at just the right time,” says Steve.
“Just the right time” means that Steve can help with the mission start-up in London. He also supports other core group members. “I’m not a United Kingdom citizen—I’m not here for the rest of my life,” he says. “My role is to encourage and uplift—to bring the message of support from the congregations in the US.”
As Steve lets his light shine at work, a new mission also offers another benefit. “As I talk to people who approach me [about my faith], guess where I can point them to? Our church in London.”
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