For Mark Szatkowski, it all started with a conversation in Shanghai.
Szatkowski (M.B.A. ’14) started his journey to Cornerstone University’s Professional & Graduate Studies the way most professionals do—with a desire to further his education. A native of Kalamazoo, he enrolled in PGS since there was a campus right “in his backyard.”
“I was a self-ascribed Christian,” Szatkowski said. “I went to Calvin for my undergrad for two years and ended up graduating from Western. I was comfortable with the idea of blending faith and school when I got my master’s.”
According to Szatkowski, his faith had never really caused him to live any differently from any other decent, non-Christian individual. “Achievement and accomplishment were my focus,” he said. “I was the definition of lukewarm. I would sacrifice until it affected my plan and give generously of my time and finances until it affected my standard of living or comfort.”
His time in PGS led him to an overseas trip as part of a business class, which brought him to Shanghai. While there, he talked to Bill Job, president of Polygon Composite Materials, who has lived in China since 1987. It was that conversation that led Szatkowski to face some difficult truths about his life.
“My conversation with him forced a lot of reflection,” Szatkowski said. He said that Job’s viewpoint of work and success were radically different than his own. “Bill said it’s not his business—it’s God’s business, and he is simply a steward of it. He doesn’t need to worry. If God wants something to succeed, He’ll make it succeed—there’s nothing he can do to stop it. If God wants it to fail, who am I to stand in the way of that?”
Szatkowski graduated from PGS in 2014 and continued his successful career with this idea in mind. It was not easy, however; Szatkowski admits that he often blocked out thoughts of trying to re-evaluate and reprioritize his life. Shortly after graduating, he became a da Vinci Clinical Sales Representative for Intuitive Surgical and is now in Senior Clinical Sales. He knew that he needed to spread the faith-focused message of Job’s testimony with other driven business leaders, but he continually found himself falling back into a focus on achievement and financial advancement. For years, Szatkowski wrestled with what God was calling him to carry out because it didn’t fit into his own plans for his life or financial goals.
“A lot of ‘what ifs’ invaded my mind,” Szatkowski said. “I knew God was pushing this idea, but I wasn’t ready. It didn’t make sense to me.”
Finally, in early 2019, Szatkowski knew it was time to answer God’s call. Despite his doubts and fears, he could feel God pushing him to start something new, and The Movement Leadership Summit was born.
“God said, ‘Book a date, book a venue and I’ll make it work,'” Szatkowski said. “That was when my relationship with God became real and personal.”
The road ahead of him was not easy, however. As Szatkowski started curating the event, he hit multiple dead ends. He reached out to well-known Christian business leaders only to find out they charged exorbitant fees to attend and share their faith. He knew those were not the type of Christ-led business leaders God had put on his heart for the event.
“Being the high-focus planner that I am, I kept trying to fix it and get everything into place the way I saw fit. It wasn’t working and I started getting frustrated and even questioning whether or not this ‘Christ-focused, transformational leader’ I was looking for even existed. Finally, my wife Tara asked me, ‘Is this your thing or God’s thing?'” Szatkowski said. “And that’s when I realized that this is His thing, and He’ll make it work.” That night, he and his wife prayed, and as soon as the next day, speakers started to fall into place.
“I didn’t personally know any of these incredibly successful kingdom-focused business leaders,” Szatkowski said of the speakers slated for the conference. “I had no first-line connection with any of them, but they all started falling into place within days. I’m a very type-A, plan-ahead kind of person, so to start something like this without a plan was a bit foreign to me.”
Szatkowski has planned the first Movement Leadership Conference for April 28, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Mich. Speakers will include New York Times bestselling author Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of “Love & Respect”; Doug Mazza, former COO of Hyundai and retired president of Joni and Friends; Ron Regenstreif, founder and CEO of Regency Lighting; Alex Willis, CEO of Leadership Surge and former NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneer; Bob Doll, senior portfolio manager for Nuveen; and Bruce and Sue Osterink, founders and owners of Osterink Construction in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Szatkowski is thrilled by the lineup God has enabled for the first Movement Leadership Summit and has a large vision for what it will become. “We are currently discussing a second event in Los Angeles, Calif.,” he said. “God has made it clear to me that the long term growth and impact of this will be bigger than I can even comprehend at this point. This will lead to a movement among Christian business leaders across the country, who will begin to use their unique skills, experiences and influence to have broad kingdom impact within the workplace and beyond.”
The first Movement Leadership Summit will take place on April 28, 2020, at Calvin University’s Prince Conference Center.