The Beauty of Agenda-Free Relationships

“Missional Moments” are short, weekly updates sent out during the year by Faculty Commons. As we finish up the academic year, here’s an outstanding recent example by Professor John Chen. If you’d like to begin receiving Missional Moments, you can do so here.

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The Beauty of Agenda-Free Relationships 

As I reflect back to when the COVID-19 crisis started, it saddens me to realize that the crisis did NOT have a profound impact on my relationships. 

Yes, it impacted the group gatherings I enjoyed. 

I felt intensely the loss of meetings with my church, my small group, the faculty luncheons, and my classroom. 

But that’s not what I am talking about.  

Being isolated at home made me acutely aware that my personal relationships are more arms-length than I cared to admit. 

This realization hit me like a lightning bolt.

In the normal course of my life, I video-conference with my co-authors since almost all of them are at other universities.  And I even sometimes video-conference with the co-author sitting two doors down from me. My interactions with most of my acquaintances are largely through texts and emails.  

The COVID-19 crisis had no impact on those relationships.

Yet, Hebrews 10:24-25 admonishes us:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

As the crisis worsened, I noticed something interesting taking shape in me. 

I wondered when was the last time that I had an agenda-free time with someone? 

To just be with them, to fellowship, to minister or be ministered to? 

So I asked God to reveal to me which people to call to say “How are you?”

I tried to forget my pre-crisis protocol of “when would be a good time to connect, three weeks from now at 2:43 for five minutes? Glad we could work it out.”

Now, I am going old-school and just picking up the phone and calling. 

As I write this, I just got off the phone with a friend.  Before we hung up, we both remarked what a deep, rich time we had. I had in my mind maybe a fifteen-minute call. It turned into nearly an hour and a half.

Why in the world did I wait so long to re-connect? 

COVID-19 has provided me the wonderful opportunity to reverse this trend of  “impersonal text preferred, call only if necessary, and avoid meeting in person at all costs.” I’m trusting God that I can be fully present with people, beginning with my family, but also my colleagues, my students, my friends, and extending to those on the fringe of my social circle. 

So why not think of at least three people with whom you rarely interact but know in (or outside) the academy and just call them?

If you feel the need to text or email first, that is OK. In our current situation, they are almost certainly at home, probably free, and, at least with everyone I have called, eager to hear another’s voice given our unprecedented circumstances.

While it took a crisis to awaken me, I pray for transformation towards a new normal where I replace agenda-driven interactions with Spirit-directed conversations to touch another with the love of God.

Dr. John Chen (Management, Warrington College of Business, University of Florida)



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4/23/20 Delve: C.S. Lewis’s thoughts on truth

Join us Thursday 4/23/20 11am as the Cal Poly Veritas Forum hosts a virtual “Delve” –  featuring Dr. Marc Horney (Animal Science) discussing C.S. Lewis’s thoughts on truth from Mere Christianity   Meeting ID: 801 540 692


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Virtual Veritas Forums: Coronavirus & Quarantine links

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This past month, faculty and students from Cal Poly participated in the first ever virtual Veritas Forums. Panelists from Harvard, Columbia, Wake Forest and elsewhere interacted with students, answered questions, and presented outstanding responses to the COVID19 pandemic. One professor at Cal Poly was so impressed with the quality of the discussion he’s planning on integrating some of the content into his class this quarter.

If you’d like to listen to watch any of these three Forums, here are links (below) to each one. Enjoy. 

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3/24/20 “Coronavirus and Quarantine: What Big Questions Can We Be Asking?” with David Brooks (New York Times), Andy Crouch (Praxis), and Lydia Dugdale (Columbia University Medical School). YouTube or Podcast.

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4/2/20 The “Economy, Career, and Jobs” edition with Arthur Brooks (Harvard), Andy Chan (Wake Forest), and Alfa Demmellash (Rising Tide Capital). YouTube or Podcast.

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4/8/20 The “Lament, Hope, and Creativity” edition with Lecrae (musician), Alissa Wilkinson (film critic) and Mako Fujimura (artist). YouTube or Podcast.

Founded at Harvard University in 1992, the Veritas Forum works to “engage students and faculty in discussions about life’s hardest questions and the relevance of Jesus Christ to all of life.” 


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Faculty/Student Prayer Tuesdays 1:30-2pm

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Please join us as faculty and students pray together 1:30-2:00pm every Tuesday this Spring Quarter. Please contact us for the Zoom code. 



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4-8-20 Virtual Veritas Forum: The Lament, Hope, & Creativity Edition

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Wednesday evening April 8th, the Cal Poly Veritas Forum will again be co-sponsoring the final installment of a three part series on COVID19, featuring panelists Lecrae, Alissa Wilkinson, and Mako Fujimura. 7pm Eastern, 4pm Pacific. To watch or listen, you can register here.  

The April 2nd virtual Veritas Forum, focusing on the economic impact of COVID19 and featuring panelists from Harvard University, Wake Forest University, and Rising Tide Capital, can now be viewed on YouTube here


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4/2/20 Virtual Veritas Forum: Coronavirus & Quarantine — The Economy, Career, and Jobs Edition


Tomorrow, the Cal Poly Veritas Forum will again be co-sponsoring a 2nd Virtual Veritas Forum, featuring panelists from Harvard University, Wake Forest University, and Rising Tide Capital. To watch or listen, you can register here

If you missed it, last week’s virtual Veritas Forum, which was EXCELLENT, can be viewed – or just listened to – here on YouTube. 


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3/24/20 Virtual Veritas Forum

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Within the span of a week, things have changed quickly, unexpectedly, and uncomfortably. Over 250 colleges and universities have gone virtual overnight. What now?

What if this disorienting season of quarantine is not simply isolating and inconvenient? What if it provides a space for reflection to ask some of life’s biggest questions and reorient ourselves around the truth to be discovered?

Join us with students from colleges and universities around the country as we ask big questions. We will hear from David Brooks (NY Times), Andy Crouch (Praxis), Lydia Dugdale (Columbia Medical), and Andrew Schuman (Veritas Forum).

Tuesday, March 24
7:00-8:30pm ET
Live Q&A

Register here:


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