In this episode, Nathan has an in-depth discussion with Pastor C.R. Wiley on the importance of mechanical competency, personal agency, and strategies for how families can be more productive and profitable for God’s glory. Pastor C.R. Wiley shares wisdom and insight from a vibrant career in general contracting, real estate, and ministry and offers practical advice for building strong homes through family businesses.
Resources From Our Conversation
Introducing C.R. Wiley
Nathan Spearing: All right. So today I am here with Pastor C.R. Wiley and I first met Pastor Wiley in my inaugural Warriors Tending Gardens training event and I had no idea that of the 12 guys participating, two were going to be pastors and many elders in the church as well. So that was encouraging to me to see church leadership serious about, I guess, just guns. And I build it as a theology of violence as well. So I got some photos of the pastor with some guns. And as I thought about, I think about that pastor that is in The Patriot that says, “A pastor must protect the flock and that sometimes that means fending off the wolves.”
C.R. Wiley: Right.
Nathan Spearing: So I was encouraged by you all being there and just want to give you a chance to give us a little bit of your autobiography and what brought you to this point. I think it’s a credit that you talked on Jonathan West’s podcast about not growing up wanting to be a pastor and so that’s an extra score in my book.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, so Nate, it’s great to be with you. Yeah, and that was a real fun event up there in South Dakota and I enjoyed it very much at the Rifle Ranch up there.
Nathan Spearing: Absolutely.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, that’s not the first time I’d ever shot a gun. I think I’ve got a few. But anyway, yeah, I enjoyed it very much and it was a great thing. I don’t know why anybody would not want to own a gun or be able to shoot a gun. It seems like the sort of thing that as Americans we should enjoy because we have a right to do it and it’s fun. So then of course, there are a lot of practical benefits that being able to defend yourself and hunt and all that kind of stuff. Since I’m from Western Pennsylvania, everybody that I knew back there hunted. Guns were everywhere. All the pastors were sportsmen. It was just a different kind of place. It was very blue collar. Have you ever seen by the way the film The Deer Hunter?
Nathan Spearing: I haven’t. This might get me in trouble with my listeners, but I’ll add that to the list.
C.R. Wiley Shares His Background
C.R. Wiley: Well, you all have to because it’s a Vietnam film, but it’s about Western Pennsylvania and some guys, it’s got Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken and all those guys in it, but it really gives you a picture of what life was like in the ’70s in that part of the country. But anyway, I’m running down this rabbit trail, a rabbit hole or whatever. I’m C.R. Wiley as you noted and people just call me Chris. You can call me Chris. But in terms of my biography, I’m in the Pacific Northwest now. I live in a town called Battleground which is a fun place to say you live in.
Nathan Spearing: Absolutely.
C.R. Wiley: And then I’m just right outside of Portland, Oregon. So I’m in the greater Portland metro area. I’m serving a church here. I’ve been here just a little over a year now and I’ve done a lot of different things. I’ve been a real estate investor and a contractor like you are and obviously pastor and I’ve also taught philosophy for about 10 years at the college level, undergraduate level.
Nathan Spearing: What college?
C.R. Wiley: Eastern Nazarene College in Boston. So, I did that and now I’m one of the guys on The Theology Pugcast which is another podcast. Anyway, we had you on the show one time.
Nathan Spearing: Absolutely. I think probably you’re aware that I’m not going to give you the boost in email signups or numbers that the podcast gave me early on in my beginning with Warriors Tending Gardens. So yeah, it was fun. I mentioned on there being intimidated with the cast and even just the listeners being a very philosophy-driven and deep theology-type stuff. But I think some of the stuff we talked about on there was trying to pull the church back to the martial virtues that we may have strayed from uncomfortable times.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. Well, you did a great job and everybody enjoyed the show. We’re basically, Glenn and Tom and I, we all have a blue collar mindset, so we’re not really academics in the sense that I think many people think about academics. But anyway, so we enjoyed talking about real-world stuff and the martial virtues. I think those are really important.
Nathan Spearing: And then you just had a third book come out and this podcast. I think I mentioned to you that I did my first four episodes after the introductory episode off of the languages of agency that you talked about in your book, Man of the House and specifically really love that and talking about agency equaling freedom, equaling the ability to affect your own end state within God’s order, not my truth, but what God has said his truth and then working with inside of his created order as a Christian. And so I guess I’ve mentioned your name probably 50 times on this podcast. You talked about the different topics in the book, but wanted to hear your story, how you arrived at that knowledge of general competency and being something that—because it is unique to have a pastor that’s a general contractor.
C.R. Wiley: That’s right.
Nathan Spearing: You talked about on Jonathan’s podcast, Being HUSBAND Podcast, about how you manage the addition of your church and you had to have the theological discussions with your church about why beauty matters, why quality matters. Not to hit too close to home, but we’re in the middle of a church remodel here. Sometimes feel like that same fight is happening in a pragmatic, gnostic, not full on like you talked about there, but just that Christians losing that belief that the physical things matter as much as they do.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, yeah. I’m really glad to hear that you’re involved in a project. So here’s my background. My father was an academic. My mother was really into the arts. They were kind of Bohemian in the sense that everybody is in the college world surrounding college campuses, artsy, intellectual ivory tower kind of stuff. So I was born in 1962, so I grew up during the ’60s and early ’70s when all the crazy stuff was going on with Vietnam War and dropping in and tuning in and dropping out or whatever it was all and stuff. But anyway, so that’s the background I’m from, but my family broke up. My father was involved in Scientology and all kinds of crazy stuff.
Anyway, long story short, I ended up in Western Pennsylvania where I had been born and where my ancestors are from on both sides. My mother’s McCullough and then obviously Wiley, so Scots-Irish, that’s Scots-Irish territory there, Northern Appalachia, that kind of thing. So the Ohio River Valley, Southeastern Ohio, Eastern, Kentucky, West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, it’s all a same culture in that area, very blue collar, hunting, that kind of thing. So I was surrounded during my teen years by very different sort of men than I had known when I was younger. I was around academics and artists and then I was around guys who worked for the railroad and/or in Pittsburgh Plate Glass or that kind of world, those worlds.
And those guys were all very manually competent. They worked on their own cars. They fixed their own houses. They just did everything themselves. I was converted in a little blue-collar church. And I don’t think anybody in the church-
Nathan Spearing: What age was that for you?
Building Deck and Discussing Theology
C.R. Wiley: That would have been in my late teens. I don’t think any of them had a college education. They’re really just salt-of-the-earth, good-hearted people who knew how to do things. So, when it came time to build a new sanctuary, they said, “Well, we’re going to do it.” So they got basically a design build company to work with them, but they did most of the work themselves, everything from laying brick to framing it to everything. And so I was involved with that. That was enjoyable. And then when I went to study for the ministry, I went to Boston, met my wife and then was out in Kansas City. And when I was in Kansas City, my wife’s uncle was a big GC there in commercial properties, basically concrete and steel construction.
And so, I went to work for him and was essentially a gopher and the kind of guy that holds the other end of the board while someone else cuts it.
Nathan Spearing: Okay, so that was how you worked your way through seminary?
C.R. Wiley: Well, that was how I started, but then I actually joined in with a bunch of framers. I became a framer with a company that really built high-end decks. So we built decks all over Kansas City. And that was a lot of fun. So we were all seminary guys. I think there was one guy who wasn’t a seminary guy. We go to school in the morning in our trucks, and then after we got done with class, we’d hop in the trucks and go to the worksite and work the rest of the day.
Nathan Spearing: So a guy employing seminary students was able to make money is what you’re saying?
C.R. Wiley: Yeah. Sure. Well, actually the guy that ran everything was a seminary guy himself. And then the other guy, we had a really, really great framer who was a real veteran. We were competent, but he was obviously the best of the bunch. And so I did that for a couple years. I enjoyed that a lot.
Nathan Spearing: Studying? Were you guys talking about classes while you’re framing the deck?
C.R. Wiley: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, while we’re framing decks, we’re arguing about theology and stuff like that.
Nathan Spearing: The client was like, “I’m not going out there right now.”
C.R. Wiley: Well, often, we were working on new construction. So, we get a contract with the subdivision, and we put up all the decks. And some of the decks were pretty involved. And I remember this is just late 1980s. And I remember doing $100,000 deck. It’s about seven levels that went down a mountain.
Nathan Spearing: Wow. Lots of structural stuff that you had to do, I’m sure.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah. There was the hot tub place. There was the fire pit place. Everything you could possibly do with a deck, that guy did and it was all western red cedar. So, the framing was pressure-treated.
Nathan Spearing: That’s a $300,000–400,000 deck these days.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, right.
Nathan Spearing: Or maybe more than that.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, but as you know, working with red cedar is like cutting butter. It smells great. I remember being in… It’s summer in Kansas City and we all have our shirts off in the sunshine and we’re just covered with sawdust. And you’re surrounded by that aroma. It was great and we’re—
Nathan Spearing: You could have done a calendar shoot right there, seminary student calendar shoot.
C.R. Wiley: That’s right. That’s right. That would have been amusing.
Nathan Spearing: It would get you in trouble at this point in time. Somebody would dig that up on you.
C.R. Wiley: Right, right. Anyway, so that’s how I started to learn how to use my hands was during those days and then I did a lot of … When I got into being in the rental real estate world, I worked on all my own stuff. Even today, I work on my own stuff. Now, all my stuff’s back in Connecticut. My second son manages everything.
He’s a welder. He works for United Steel. He’s super competent furniture builder. There’s nothing he can’t do, so I’m in a very good spot to say, “Hey, Gabe, go over and install the dishwasher,” that kind of thing. It’s just done. So my oldest son is pretty competent too. They worked with me when they were young. When they were boys, they would help me out on the different job sites and the different apartments. So anyway, that’s how I acquired at least my construction skills.
Nathan Spearing: Deck building was the main point where it gave you the ability to branch out into other things because…
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, yeah.
Nathan Spearing: … you’re watching houses go up around you. There’s a bunch of different trades working there.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah.
Nathan Spearing: And your conversion experience was very intertwined with manual labor too.
C.R. Wiley: Oh, yeah, I’ve got very high regard, much respect for the trades. I’m pretty good with a knife when it comes to sheetrock. I’m pretty good with trim, obviously framing. So those are the basics. I’m passable. I can do some rudimentary plumbing, rudimentary wiring, that kind of thing. When it gets too complicated, I call in somebody, but it’s enough to take care of most of the things you have to deal with.
Nathan Spearing: Well, I really was personally convicted when I read the part about like, “It’s not about necessarily whether you can get a washing machine for cheaper with respect to your time. It’s about being frugal and then also just that additional general competency.” Since reading Man of the House, I’ve tried to do some stuff with auto mechanic stuff because I can stay, all of us will stay where we’re comfortable and I feel like that even just it’s easy even when you own your own businesses or where you say, “Oh, well, I can make this much an hour stowed out,” and in some ways that comes into competition with the preservation side or the stewardship side of a Christian. So that was convicting to me and I’ve tried to do cheap fixes that maybe take a long time and frustrate, give me an opportunity to have good character with my children and not lose my patience and the many benefits of that.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, and sometimes you’re not going to have that work calling for you. Right now, we’re in a sweet spot where there’s a lot of demand and not enough to contractors and that kind of thing. So you’re probably busier than you want to be, but they’ll come a time, I’ve been through it like three or four times now where there’s a pretty significant lull.
And so those times, you got more time, and you can actually put to use some of those skills and save some money, but I think another thing that’s really important about general competency is that if you’re conversant with, say, your mechanic, then the person knows, “Hey, I can’t just …”
Nathan Spearing: Put one over on him?
C.R. Wiley: “… be as this guy. He actually knows what’s going on.” So I think that’s really helpful too.
Nathan Spearing: Yeah, and I guess even just on the jobsite today talking with the client doesn’t like what she’s looking at, but she doesn’t know how to get to the end state and so you’re sitting there translating for the carpenter and saying, “Hey, just pull that next layer off. I think this is what she’s reacting to.” And then they sometimes just say, “I understand. It’s a change. We got. Let’s take care of it,” and I like that aspect too, I guess specifically being able to say, “If you don’t want your last half of your check, I’ll finish this for you if you want.” Like, “If you say it can’t really be done, I’ll do it for you right now.”
C.R. Wiley: Right, right. Yeah, that is a way of motivating people.
Nathan Spearing: Yeah, for sure. And I guess that would be sometimes the difference between some of the labors that you have that are working for a guy and then somebody that owns the business, and I would say, “I’ve been encouraging Christian families.” You talked about it, and then in Durable Trades, there’s this postindustrial revolution model of the family and then there’s maybe a preindustrial revolution and then even just seeing Western and Eastern family methodologies being different. And can you talk about, I guess, even just saying, “In our current climate, some people, it’s speculation obviously, but there’s potentially a lull on the horizon not too distant horizon. You can’t keep creating currency like you’re doing. You can’t keep doing these different policies, paying people to stay at home. Where’s that money coming from?”
Practical Steps for an Ordered Household
Nathan Spearing: What would be your advice or where do you see Christian families and men specifically not doing a good job and then maybe some steps to, “Hey, this is what you need to get an order and get an order fast”?
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, well, I think with regard to the lull, if you can bring your debt way down, that will be a big help. If you get a good cash position, that’s a great help. But I think if you have a range of skills that give you a lot of options, then if you find yourself, for example, you’re self-employed, you own a business, there are going to be times when there are slow seasons. And if you have a range of other things that you can fall back on, it’s great. So in my case, before the last crash back in 2008, I was involved with helping small investors liquidate their holdings because a lot of folks knew what was coming.
C.R. Wiley: And so after that, of course, I was out of the ministry. I was between churches at that point. Because I had some skills, and there was some pent-up demand for home improvement, I did that for a couple years. So the real estate sales dried up, but then there was opportunities and so I built a cabin for somebody, a handicap ramp, different things. And so that was stuff that I was able to do.
Nathan Spearing: A wide range of stuff in the building trades, but not in the genre that you had already done necessarily, but your general competency allowed you to do it, figure it out.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, yeah. So I built a cabin for an artist out in the middle of the woods. So I had a Jeep Wrangler and I just drive way back into the woods and I just had a generator and all my power tools. So out there, I was most of the time working by myself. I remember when I was laying out the piers and had them all poured and everything and then I was putting down the beams for the structure that I could put the frame, the floor on and had this really long beam that got caught up on a strong tie. You know how it is? And so, I’m struggling with this thing and the next thing—
Nathan Spearing: Sliding down to the bottom.
C.R. Wiley: Right, it slammed down on my hand and I’m out in the middle of the woods and nowheresville. It was pretty painful. I ended up losing a nail over that one, but it was one of those moments where you’re like, “Wow, I’m all out of here all alone, I could die and not be found for a little while.”
Nathan Spearing: Yeah, been stuck in there still.
C.R. Wiley: Right, right. Yeah. I don’t know why I went down there to trail, but-
Nathan Spearing: Yeah, that is the ability to understand I think that having that spidey sense in those situations to understand how much on the ragged edge that you’re running and being able to make that decision and austere situations, “I may be hanging out a little bit too much right now.”
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, I would bring in people after that to help out a little bit every now and then.
The physical world is the reality check. You can spend all day building these sandcastles in your mind, but reality will just wash them all away.C.R. Wiley
Nathan Spearing: Yeah, for sure. One of the handymen were there working today at the job and we went down and flipped off the breaker, that said dryer. So orange wire come out. We went to the other end, cut the sheetrock, saw the orange wire coming up and they’re about to start messing and moving as we’re trying to get the dryer vent perfectly right. And I said, “Hey, let’s plug the dryer in and check it. Same color. Same color.” Well, I’ve grabbed the 60-amp wire before while I was working and so that’s just my standard as I plug something in and I make sure. Even though everything lines up and we plugged it in and we hit the dryer and it beeped, so that was still hot. So I had to grab ahold of this plug and try to move it to the other side. It’s just those are the things that … It’s a small example of how that knowledge helps you save someone else.
C.R. Wiley: Oh, yeah, I’ve always been electrocuted couple of times because of things like that.
Nathan Spearing: Oh, yeah. And I think that general competency in the time that we’re in and being somebody that has a bunch of skills, you talked about with Jonathan on his podcast that productive property in some sense, that general competency is intellectual property. That’s stuff in your mind that you keep with you forever, that you can turn into money. It makes you better at helping people around you. Financial margin, if you have knowledge to say, “Hey, guy. Hey, wait a second.” And I told the guy, I said, “Hey, I just saved your life, and you need to tell everybody about how I saved your life from here on now. I got you, man. I need to pick up the phone when I need something in the future or everything because we just saved you, man.”
Nathan Spearing: And so, I think that that’s in those situations when things are crazy or when you potentially could have something go wrong and could say, “Oh, lets hold it up for a second.” There’s going to be more of that and uncomfortable times.
C.R. Wiley: Well, you just demonstrated a kind of practical intelligence that often academics don’t possess. Academics can be so caught up in their own mental, I guess, egotism that they really lose sight of just really very fundamental need to stay in touch with the world and its realities. I actually think that if academics, generally speaking, had one foot in, say, the trades, we would have a lot less nonsense in the academic world. A lot of that stuff that you see being promoted in that world and finding its way out even into the larger world and politics and entertainment is due to the fact that these people have never actually ever done anything physically with their hands.
C.R. Wiley: The physical world is the reality check. You can spend all day building these sandcastles in your mind, but reality will just wash them all away.
Nathan Spearing: Yeah. Would you maybe lump pastors in that category?
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, yeah.
Nathan Spearing: Not to make you speak ill of your partners here in the ministry, but that’s one of the things when I read your bio on the back of Man of the House and then we talked in person out in South Dakota. It’s like, “Okay, I’m pretty sure I can get along with this guy. We can get over any theological issues being united in our understanding of the physical world and those realities.”
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, I think that’s huge. I think I would say the same thing for pastors. I really do think pastors should learn to work with their hands, work on their own car, whatever. It has to do with a few things. One of the things is what you just noted, being able to relate to people. So I think a lot of guys who are blue collar are, I guess, disenchanted with the church because they can’t really respect the clergy for different reasons. There’s sort of a sense that clergy being out of touch with the lives they lead and clergy sometimes can just be that aesthetic level, unpleasant to interact with. They just don’t have the kinds of, I guess, tastes and interests that a lot of regular guys have.
I really do think pastors should learn to work with their hands, work on their own car, whatever.C.R. Wiley
C.R. Wiley: So if you can have a foot in the real world and have some calluses on your hands, you can command the respect of a wider range of people than maybe you would otherwise. And I mean command in the right sense and I’m not like, “Respect me.” I’m not talking like that. I’m just talking about the way you conduct yourself.
Nathan Spearing: Gravitas.
C.R. Wiley: Right, right.
Nathan Spearing: Bringing it closer to home, what are you seeing in the households of the church and things that you’re focusing on with the men in your church and in your communities that you’re saying, “These are pillars of the household and things that men should be cultivating with their wives.” And maybe it can be in the negative or even the positive, things that are showing themselves now in the culture because of the family being the way it is, more on that.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah. I’m at a church right now that’s a very good church for a lot of reasons and one of the reasons is that when it comes to their understanding of households, pretty solid. They knew about me, I didn’t know about them and they invited me out because of the things I had written that were in harmony with the way they were already thinking. So we’ve got a lot of guys in the church who are quite capable when it comes to the trades business, that kind of stuff. And their wives are very supportive and involved in their lives in all kinds of ways. And we got a lot of big families. So fruitfulness and having children who are being raised to glorify God, that’s a big part of everything.
As I look out beyond the boundaries of my church, I think in the larger evangelical world, there’s a real crisis right now in self-understanding what it means to be a man, what the purpose of a household is, how men and women should relate to each other. All those kinds of things are just big issues everywhere I look. And the more sort of Big Eva or like seeker sensitive, the outlook of a particular church is the worse it gets. So I think a lot of blue-collar churches which tend to be smaller and unknown and they’re spread out all over the place in sort of different parts—
Nathan Spearing: The rural areas.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, those are those places are still okay. They’re feeling the pressures that everybody feels in our culture, but I think that they’re not in the kind of crisis that some of these headline churches are. I think a lot of those churches are in a bad spot, because of not just those things with wokeism and the other things I’d mentioned, but just the COVID stuff. Those churches have completely swallowed the government directives, hook, line and sinker, and then they’re sinking because of it. A lot of them are in crisis financially, members, all kinds of ways.
Conflict Avoidance is Impossible Today
Nathan Spearing: Yeah. Well, and in some ways, I feel like that there is a tendency specifically as man, I feel like, going through COVID and I’m a deacon at our church, so I get to see some of what’s going on as I’m working and managing the building and the hands and feet side of things. I think there’s a real crisis that we all face to want to please everybody. We had this democratic means of leadership. And that’s ingrained in American culture, that majority rules or even the loudest minority rules. Yeah, because they, in a sense, scare cowardly leadership into complying. And instead of there being a truthful foundation, it’s not there.
And I think that Michael Foster talked about that “white knight syndrome” which I think nails it on the head. Is it truly just to try to make this person not upset? What are they upset about and is that something Christ would say is a priority?
C.R. Wiley: Right, yeah. If we have confidence that God is leading us, then when we are taking a position that may be a little risky, but we think is in keeping with the truth, then there’ll be some fallout, but we’ll find ourselves in the other end of that in a better place most of the time. So yeah, the idea of conflict avoidance at all cost is a real problem. I think that this is another way that maybe pastoral education is not providing the kind of preparation that we would like or should expect. So my friend, Aaron Renn, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Aaron, but he wrote something, it just was published here a couple of days ago and first thing is about the need for mental toughness for pastors. And it’s—
Nathan Spearing: I just two podcasts ago did a mental toughness thing.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah?
Nathan Spearing: Yeah, I’m going to check that article out.
The idea of conflict avoidance at all cost is a real problem.C.R. Wiley
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, yeah, and basically, his point is that conflict avoidance is impossible right now, so don’t even think that it’s something you should pursue. It’s just the way things are. There’s going to be some conflict. And who is your model? Look at the apostle, Paul, here’s a guy who wrote a whole beautiful chapter on love and had a way of offending everybody all the time. Riots would start when he came to town, and he was beaten and just all kinds of stuff. So, I think that we just need to accept, “Okay, there’s going to be some rough days, stormy weather every once in a while, and just accept that.”
Nathan Spearing: Yeah, I think the aspect of we had just recently my pastor went over, I invited myself over after church. He was talking about this stuff. I know you probably tracked the tweet heard round the world recently where the pastor was talking about modesty on Twitter.
C.R. Wiley: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Nathan Spearing: Brian Sauvé and Eric Conn and they did a discussion about it. And I have been, in some ways at this point, delicate with how I treat some of this stuff and I’m trying to lay a foundation and say, “Here’s the truth.” And I felt convicted even just talking with my pastor, because initially, I was on the side of like, “Man, you’re going on Twitter and you’re saying these things. What do you think is going to happen? And don’t go on Twitter and do that. Just preach to your church and you got what you deserved,” was where I was, but then even pulling Paul’s talking to Timothy and saying to avoid foolish—but in some ways, that was stuff that came after he spoke the truth. That wasn’t never speak the truth. That wasn’t never offend. That was the continuation of people’s reactions after. My pastor pointed that out to me and that really reframed things for me. I don’t know what your thoughts are on some of that.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, I’ve never met Brian personally, but I remember when he posted something on Facebook about this big flare up. And if I remember correctly, he wasn’t talking about anyone in particular. And he just said—
Nathan Spearing: He actually used Christian verbiage that may have been lost to the culture because they don’t know how Christians —he was addressing Christian women.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, if you say, “Christian women, please don’t post pictures of yourself in these situations and these states of undress.” That was it. Who can have an issue with that? But apparently, some people did and some people pretty high up in the evangelical world, to name a name, Beth Moore, I saw her initial response before she took it down. I was like, “What is your issue, woman?” So anyway…
Nathan Spearing: Yeah, and I guess that would be … I really like Doug’s framework about principles of war and then there being a difference between principles and then means and methods that change with time. So I guess I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on we have these principles about the truth, about what a marriage is, what a productive household should be, having productive property, but then the means and methods that we should be using in this as men specifically, but then maybe families in the church, the current means and methods that we should be employing as men and women out of faith, specifically men.
Men Should Lead the Way in Building Productive Property
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, I think men should endeavor to lead the way in bringing productive property back home. So that’s not to imply that working for somebody else is a bad thing or anything like that. So I’m a pastor. I obviously serve the church and that occupies a lot of my time, but I also have productive property that I own apart from that. So I think that the ownership of productive property is something anyone can aspire to, even a person who works for somebody else. But if you bring it home and you’re the one who leads the way with it, you should also find ways for your family members to work with you on it because that’s one of the big benefits of having it. So in our situation, my kids, my wife, over the years, we had 18 tenants at one time and we had lots of things going on with the different units and they all had some role at some point to play in things.
C.R. Wiley: So sometimes I take my daughter with me when a tenant had moved out and I’d have her clean the place, clean the stove, all kinds of stuff or have my sons work with me on the outside or different things. So there was always something to do. And then I think it’s a good thing to assess the abilities of the people in your household in the interests that they have and think about ways that you can encourage them to work and pursue those interests in a way that’s serves the household when they’re at home, your household that they dwell in, but later on, hopefully, I know the homes that they establish and find a mate to help work with in that household.
C.R. Wiley: So like in my case, each of my kids pursued their interests and we’re getting different things going from home that in each case has led to their current means of livelihood and the kinds of things that they’re doing. So like my oldest son is musician and now lives in Nashville and he’s got a studio and it’s at home. He’s got the studio at home and-
Nathan Spearing: That’s the one that edits the podcast too, right?
C.R. Wiley: Yup. Yeah. Yeah, that’s Caleb. So he’s got that and he’s got a number of clients, everybody from other podcasts. He’s got a number of podcasts, a number of churches. Lifeway Music and those guys, he works with them. So he’s got a lot of different things going on, but he owns his own business and he’s at home. And his wife is in education and they’re right now working through … They just had their first child and she obviously wants to be with the baby all the time. She’s got abilities with regard to her background in education, so they’re thinking along the lines of how do we get things going with her to bring in income that she can use the gifts that she has because Caleb doesn’t need her to help out with what he’s doing, except maybe in certain times. There’s stuff that she can do and so they’re working on that.
C.R. Wiley: So in my situation, my wife is a piano teacher. She’s got about, at any given time, 25 to 35 students.
Nathan Spearing: Wow.
C.R. Wiley: So there’s a steady stream of people coming through the house. It’s been like that for years. And then she also does hair. She’s a hairdresser. So our household has always been a place where there’s been a lot of productive activity. And my second son learned this blacksmithing skill in his shop, in the garage.
Nathan Spearing: In your house?
C.R. Wiley: Yeah.
Nathan Spearing: So you had to buy a forge form and stuff and help set that up or what was the-
C.R. Wiley: No, he built his own forge.
Nathan Spearing: Okay. At your house?
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, yeah. So yeah, he built a couple of forges at the house and he’s really good. He even casts his own rings, his wedding rings.
Nathan Spearing: Wow.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, he’s like Ron Swanson. You can do anything. Have you ever seen an episode with Ron Swanson where he makes the rings?
Nathan Spearing: I don’t think I saw that. I’m very unfamiliar with the theology according to Ron Swanson stuff, the books and I don’t think I’ve seen that particular episode.
C.R. Wiley: Oh, it’s hilarious. Look it up because it’s there’s actually a scene from Parks and Recreation where they forgot the rings. So they’re at a wedding, they forgot the rings. And so, Ron says, “Hey, let me take care of this for you.” He goes in the back and he pulls a sconce off the wall and he melts it down.
Nathan Spearing: On Target material, for sure.
C.R. Wiley: And he casts the rings on a waffle iron.
Nathan Spearing: Yes.
C.R. Wiley: And he says, “It took me all 20 minutes.”
Nathan Spearing: “Yeah, No problem. I’m a man.”
C.R. Wiley: That’s right. Sure. But anyway, my second son actually did that. But anyway, and then my daughter, she’s a baker. I think about your household with your kids is like a Skunkworks like starting new enterprises, new businesses, “What are your interests? What are you into?” that kind of thing. “How are you going to make money? So my daughter is a fabulous with knitting and stuff like that, pretty high end stuff, but she’s realized that in order to be paid at the level that she would need to be paid to survive, she would starve with the projects. So she thought on her own-
Nathan Spearing: There’s probably a demand. The majority of the demand is much more lower level mediocre work than she’s capable of and so that’s the ceiling in that market. You’re not paying … In my old … Everybody that leaves the military from my line of work goes into shooting instruction.
C.R. Wiley: Oh, right.
Nathan Spearing: But there’s the difference between a ranger that’s been in six years and a guy that went my route and did more things or whatever. The vast majority of the market doesn’t identify the difference. They don’t know nothing. And so to get paid that premium and it’s saturated market, there’s so many guys that are war veteran that are in our market right now. And there’s just not a demand for that at a level that I can feed my family.
What’s Your Cutting Board Business?
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, yeah. One of the things I talked to my kids about is, “What is your cutting board business?” So anyway, there’s a story behind this. So there’s a documentary about a guy, he’s up in Minnesota. He’s a high-end furnituremaker, makes beautiful stuff. We’re talking like $20,000 desks and things like that. Now, that’s a pretty rarefied kind of thing and sometimes the hours invested even at that price point doesn’t make sense.
Nathan Spearing: The margin is not there.
C.R. Wiley: Right. So it’s like what he did is he started a cutting board business, the most boring thing you could ever do, but he has this high-volume cutting board business. So he supplies the cutting boards for Crate & Barrel and these different places.
Nathan Spearing: Okay.
C.R. Wiley: So he’s got this boring business and his wife works on that and he’s got a couple of guys who work for him on that and that frees up his time to make this high-end furniture. So, when I talk to my kids, I’m like, “What’s your cutting board business? What’s the thing that’s the steady, boring income that frees up the time for you to do the stuff that you really love to do or would be the thing you’re growing into?”
Nathan Spearing: What was it? Do you know, remember the name of that documentary or anything or what the-
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, I wish I did. It’s—
Nathan Spearing: I can try to find it and put it in the show notes because that seems like something that I like especially letting my kids see that. It’ll take an hour or two to let them physically understand what’s going on with that business and then that becomes that, like you said, “What’s your cutting board business?” and becomes this mantra. The discussions on that with your kids, when did you start that and when was the … You’re saying you’re identifying the talents and you’re saying, “How are you going to make money?” And I guess specifically what I’m reacting to on that in my household, my father’s household growing up, I have five sisters. In some ways, we emphasized the fruitfulness of a wife and a mother in our home, and it was great.
C.R. Wiley: Sure, sure.
Nathan Spearing: And my dad owns his own businesses and does things and I got that from him, but in some ways if I’m being really harsh in the critique and something that I’m trying to do with my kids and my daughter specifically is it’s okay for a woman to make money. And I’m specifically benefiting with my wife helping me manage our Airbnbs and she’s styling them and she’s picking colors. We’re even looking at potentially selling one because we’re having these talks about where our debt is and what the market’s doing and, “Hey, maybe it’s actually a good position to exchange productive property and sell it.”
Nathan Spearing: And she’s helping manage the brokers and do the write-ups and it’s all happening today while I’m under these crawlspaces and things and then just I texted her right before. I said, “Thank you for doing these things,” that nobody sees, right? The wife is just back there, just crushing it and then sometimes that we get caught in this thing that we got to go off to the office and then just, “Hey, woman, handle everything.” That’s what a godly woman does, “Just handle this. You clean up the spit up.” And in some ways, as men, we’re hurting Christ’s cause because we’re putting the women in this pretty narrow spectrum of what they’re capable of and our daughters even growing them up and saying, “You can be industrious. You see that in Proverbs 31. You can make money.”
C.R. Wiley: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I think that many women would actually blossom in a setting where they could do all the things that God made them do in terms of motherhood and working with their husbands but also have some kind of creative outlet that either directly tied to the family business or maybe a sub-business within a larger household structure. So that’s how it’s always worked for us. And yeah, I think that we shouldn’t be at all shy about that. I think-
Nathan Spearing: Did you start having those discussions or what did those go with your kids to plant those seeds and then let … And also I guess that balance of not … You said, “He built his own forge,” I immediately went to like, “That would be buying a forge for him,” is taking away the learning and the general competency that would come from, “I’ll give you the corner of the garage, but you got to figure that out now.”
Invest in Your Kids’ Strengths Early
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, yeah. Well, that goes back a long way. So even as little people, I kept my eye on them and was looking for their gifts. And now we try to encourage them with their gifts. It’s like my oldest son, he’s the athlete. So his first word was ball.
Nathan Spearing: “Ready to go.”
C.R. Wiley: “Ready to go.” So he played for the town baseball team. He played basketball in high school, all these different things. Our second son would have no interest in athletics, but he had a good hand and a good eye when it came to making things. And then he also had this remarkable capacity for figuring out the most efficient way to do things. I’m a potterer. My overseers would always be frustrated with me because I was not efficient in my movements and stuff like that. But I noticed with my second son, he would stand there, he’d look at the job, whatever I gave him to do, I wouldn’t tell him exactly what to do. I tell them what needed done and he figured out the most efficient way to do it. Now probably because he wanted to go do something else.
Nathan Spearing: I talked about how in homeschooling that I didn’t have to do it at the time, but that was the standard. “You finished these math lessons, you’re done with school,” and why I like homeschooling is because you get to, as a kid, learn, “If I can do the work efficient, I can be done with the work early and then I can go do something else.” And that’s extremely valuable for a young person to be able to do. And then specifically, like you’re saying, it seems like you’re giving him a job, give an example maybe an age where you’re seeing that for him when you think of-
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, I can think of a particular situation in my head. We were working on a chicken coop together and I wanted him to enclose it with the wire. And I just said, “Here’s the materials. Here are the tools,” he’d used them many times before. And then I walked away and just let him work on it. And I looked at him every once in a while as he was proceeding with the job. And I realized that he was doing it very efficiently. There wasn’t a lot of wasted movement or anything like that. I thought, “This kid is”-
Nathan Spearing: He knew, “I got to run this vertical, not horizontal because of 36 inches,” and he was figuring that kind of stuff out, not a bunch of overlap or whatever kind of thing.
C.R. Wiley: Yes, yeah, he had that down pretty easy, but even in terms of how he laid out the wire and how he approached the job and just the whole thing-
Nathan Spearing: So what age would that be generally you think?
C.R. Wiley: Well, he was maybe 11 or 12 at that point.
Nathan Spearing: Okay. So he knows the tools. He’s had his hands on them.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah.
Nathan Spearing: And I know I face, for a guy that’s competent, it’s very hard for me to watch my nine-year-old and my 13-year-old struggle through stuff. And in some ways, it’s convicting for me to be, “Man, I’ve just done too much already for them,” and they should know. They should know the trailer. They should know where everything is. And then—
Help Your Kids Embrace the Struggle of Learning
C.R. Wiley: Well, here’s a funny story. So my second son learned to drive on a standard, the stick shift. And my wife was helping him with the process and she was in the car while he was driving. And he was doing what every kid does when they’re learning, they’re stalling out all over the place. And I told my wife, I said, “Here’s the thing. Leave him in the parking lot down the street and just come home in the other car, and when he gets it, he’ll drive home.” So he had to figure out how to-
Nathan Spearing: He set the conditions for them to learn.
C.R. Wiley: Right, right. “If you want to come home, you’re going to have to learn to drive this.”
Nathan Spearing: Nice.
C.R. Wiley: So he’s a master at it now, but that’s how he got over that because you know when you’re in a car and you’re trying to figure out, learn something new or anything, your attention is divided between the person who’s watching you and what you’re doing and you’re self-conscious and you’re just thinking, “I don’t want to look stupid,” and you end up looking stupid because you are so concerned about looking stupid. But if you had just been left alone, you would have figured it out a lot faster.
Nathan Spearing: I think that’s worth the podcast for me saying, “Hey, son, I’m going to go work on this. Good luck,” because I think that specifically with fathers, that is probably between fathers and sons is huge, not wanting to disappoint dad, not wanting to mess up and there’s literally probably … I can even just see my kid’s face right now that, “There’s this 90% of the bandwidth that should be allocated to the task, is allocated to what’s dad think of this right now.”
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, it’s important to let kids alone sometimes, so they can figure things out.
Nathan Spearing: Awesome. I guess one of the things too I would say is you had a roundtable with Michael Foster and Doug, you talked at Dominion and one of the things of this podcast is when I start talking to people, I’m going to talk stuff that I want to know from these guys and I’d say, “What are you saying to these Christian men that are in different positions where they’re talking to people or they’re around people about what’s important to be discussing? What’s important to you to be focusing on as a man individually?” I have been building the self, family church, concentric circles that build on each other and then just how we’re engaging in the culture where we are and what we’re focusing on as men.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, I think that’s great. Keep it up.
Nathan Spearing: I’ll say, well, what are you—
C.R. Wiley: What am I doing?
How C.R. Wiley Orders His Day
Nathan Spearing: Yeah, what are you doing specifically, your strategies for how you order your day and how that maybe relates to productivity, to efficiency, to having Dominion over the whole self and things like that?
C.R. Wiley: I tend to break up my day into three parts.
Nathan Spearing: Okay.
C.R. Wiley: So for me, about four hours is about as much as I can give to any task and stay focused. So the mornings are generally given over to intellectual work. So writing, working on sermons, that reading, heavy reading, that kind of thing. The afternoons generally are more for like the necessary administrative tasks, communication, meeting with people. I try to use my meal times to connect with guys. So I’ve got a fairly big entertainment budget wherever I have served because I’m probably taking guys out to eat maybe three times a week for lunch.
Nathan Spearing: Okay.
C.R. Wiley: I’ll do my morning thing, meet with a guy for lunch, we’ll talk about anything. We’ll talk about family issues, work issues.
Nathan Spearing: Those mainly in your church?
C.R. Wiley: Yup, yup, mainly. Yeah, yeah. Although I have an increasing demand on my time, is due to a lot of guys reaching out to me. Tomorrow, my entire afternoon is phone calls. So when one after another, these guys who have wanted to talk to me about something. Very often, it’s stuff related to productive property and stuff like that and, “How do I get going with this or that?” So I talk with them a little bit about that. And then the evenings are often for entertainment stuff. So when I was back in Connecticut and I had all my tools in my shop, I was probably maybe two, sometimes even three days a week in the afternoons working on something physical. I missed that. I don’t have my stuff here. So, if I’m here long term, I got to remedy that. I think I might go crazy.
Nathan Spearing: Are you going to buy a whole new set of tools or are you going to have to transport them? What’s the-
C.R. Wiley: Probably the cost of moving them would be the same as buying a whole new set.
Nathan Spearing: I like the logic. You got to get a whole new other set for sure.
C.R. Wiley: That’s right. Yeah. So I still have my place back in Connecticut. So I’m back there maybe every couple of months. And so I probably should just keep that stuff there, because of all sorts of things, I can use it for there. But if I do something here, it’ll probably be when I … I’ve thought about building a house out here. So if I do that, I’ll definitely have some dedicated space for shop.
Nathan Spearing: Nice. And you have your license out there now as well or they have some allowances to let a homeowner do his own work?
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, I don’t know. Yeah, I have to look into it. I haven’t done a whole lot of thinking about that yet, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while and we got a lot of great timber out here. There’s lot of great Douglas fir and all that kind of stuff. So I’d love to do a timber frame, a small timber frame, real small, maybe not huge because it’s just my wife and me now. So I have this dream of doing maybe a 1,500 square foot really nice finished home for her and me and then maybe having a bunkhouse in the back for all the grandkids when they come to visit and maybe a shop, something like that.
Nathan Spearing: Awesome. Awesome. I guess this would be out of left field, what do you think about the crypto currency thing? You talked about a cash position, and I haven’t really touched that, but I’ve actually had several people say, “What do you think about this? And some people are saying this.” I say, “Well, I know I don’t know enough to prescribe myself as an expert, but I know I own some as a hedge in a sense,” because I’ve read some stuff where you talked about a hedge being something. You diversify yourself so that when one goes down, the other goes up and that’s what a hedge is for a household in a sense.
C.R. Wiley: Right, right.
Nathan Spearing: Or maybe other ways you feel you talked about being competent, generally competent, diversify what you do as potentially a hedge, but other things that you see.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, I don’t know enough about the crypto world. This whole NFT thing is just really crazy. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that, the non-fungible token. Doug TenNapel made a million dollars on that in six months last year and the world and then you look at him, you say, “People are paying that kind of money for that?”
Nathan Spearing: Darren Doane told me that I should make my builds NFTs and that we should put into the contract royalties every time the house sells which is in typical Darren Doane fashion I felt like. He’s like, “Everybody’s paying 3% for brokers, whatever. If you have half percent in there and you build this portfolio of homes you sold, that then become productive property indefinitely.” I said, “Wow, that’s pretty cool.”
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, that is great. Yeah, I have to think about that.
Nathan Spearing: Yeah, when you build that timber frame house, you made NFT.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Yeah, I don’t know anything about it. I just look at the stuff and I say, “Man, there’s some people making a lot of money here and I’d like to understand it a little better, but I don’t have the time and the energy to invest in it,” but I’m at this stage of life … I’m going to be 60 this year, so I’m kind of a stage of life where I’m like, “Okay, what’s my strategy for the next 20 years? How do I invest myself if I want to get into this whole new stuff or do I want to just build on things I’ve already done?” At the moment, I’m just building on things I’ve already done.
First Steps Toward Productive Property
Nathan Spearing: Yeah. You said you have people reaching out to you, asking you for steps productive property, what are you saying? I know you say start a business, “side hustle,” what are some other steps that guys in the corporate slave area could do right now?
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, I keep giving this particular piece of advice and no one has taken me up on it. But my advice is that if you’re in the market for your first home, buy a two-family. It seems to me to be the most easy way to get into the rental business and all of the advantages of homeownership are yours because you still get the residential rates up to four units in terms of interest rates and that kind of stuff, that first-time homebuyer stuff and then you have the income. And then if you have an issue with your tenant, an absentee landlord doesn’t mean that you live in one part of the country and all your tenants are in another part. It just means that you don’t live in the building that your tenants live in.
C.R. Wiley: So in that situation, the center of gravity is moved in the direction of the tenant, but when you live in the place, the center of gravity moves toward you and the courts defend your interests in a way you don’t experience when you’re an absentee landlord. So if you bought a two-family, it’s not like you’re going to necessarily be at the mercy of your tenant. Your tenant is going to be at your mercy. You can vacate that unit almost at will. The only thing would restrict you is if you had a lease. So it’s a good way to get in to a property, and then when you do that, if you get it at a good price, then you’re probably paying less out of pocket because of the income coming from the rent, then you would be otherwise when you just bought a single family. And then you could find yourself in a position where maybe the second house you buy is the single-family and now you got your rental.
Nathan Spearing: Exactly. Almost exactly how it happened for us. We had a single family home that we fixed, but then our second one is a duplex and we lived in one while we fixed the other one up. And then as soon as we move, literally my wife and I are throwing trash bags and furniture that we don’t want out of the rental that night prior because we are just shuffling through the yard, but it was incredible to have our mortgage paid for the entire time we live there essentially. And then I would say even Airbnbs, it doesn’t even have to be a separate unit in some ways. It’s crazy how people will rent a place and they can lock the door and they can’t see … You got to protect your household, but there’s just ways to rent the basement out, rent a room that’s got a different entrance and just start getting that. So anything else besides that, the duplex side or the two-unit?
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, yeah. I’m glad to hear that you did that. That’s how I got started too. I think that another thing would be to keep your eyes open for people that you can’t learn from. Mentors are people that you learn from. When you enter to a relationship with somebody that you’re learning from doesn’t mean that you have some formal, “You’re my mentor,” kind of relationship. It just means that you get together with the guy every once in a while and talk about life. So you can have some guys that you can look toward who are further along than you are and know things you don’t know and just be your friend. And maybe get together with them every once awhile for coffee or lunch or something and just glean that wisdom from those guys. That would be another big thing you could do.
Nathan Spearing: Awesome. Well, I think you’ve been gracious with your time. Everybody’s getting in line to talk with you. I appreciate you taking time to speak. I think a lot of guys are going to get value out of this and some practical things. That’s why I like your experiences. How can people buy your books, I would guess? Because I haven’t spent $1 on Amazon this year.
C.R. Wiley: Good for you.
Nathan Spearing: Emily has. We expect that we will, but we had a couple Audible credits, but we stopped that thing. We canceled Prime and I started trying to buy books local, but as an author, how can guys buy your books and how can I recommend? Because I feel like Man of the House is in the masculinity canon these days to read, but what’s the way that helps you the most and what you recommend?
C.R. Wiley: Oh, well, I’ve never looked down at the breakdown when I get the royalty statement of where people get the books.
Nathan Spearing: Your productive property.
C.R. Wiley: That’s right. That’s right, but you can just go to the publishers themselves. That’s Wipf and Stock for Man of the House and then Canon for the stuff I do with them. But you can also go to your local bookstore and order the stuff.
Nathan Spearing: They get it from the publisher or distributor, I guess. Yeah.
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, yeah. And so you can get even different online sources if there’s a particular online source you’d like to use. Any of those things that I’ve written are available through those channels. So there are different ways to go about it.
Nathan Spearing: And then The Theology Pugcast will listen to? I heard you mentioned a couple sermons. Does your church put those out online? Is there a way to get your sermons? The talents one, you spoke about with Jonathan West, and I immediately was, “Man, I got to find his church’s sermons.”
C.R. Wiley: Yeah, well, if you go to Sermon Audio and just type in, “C.R. Wiley,” you’ll have all my sermons wherever I’ve been. So it’s whether my church in Connecticut, my church here or places I’ve preached if they’re part of Sermon Audio. They may not have put it up as C.R. Wiley. They may have put it up as Chris Wiley or Christopher Wiley, but you’ll see a picture of me. That’s how you can know it’s me.
Nathan Spearing: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time and I really appreciate you taking it and we’ll look forward to shooting guns together again.
C.R. Wiley: All right. Thanks, Nate. I appreciate the invitation and it’s been fun.
Nathan Spearing: Awesome, thanks.