Former Lutheran minister and leadership coach John Scherer to discuss intersection of work and spiritual identity

As a young boy raised in a church parsonage, the Rev. John Scherer still remembers watching his grandfather, the pastor, tend to the spiritual needs of his congregation.

“I remember seeing people come in upset and they would go in and talk with my grandfather and they would come out smiling and hugging,” Scherer said. “From an early age, I had this imprint that transformation is possible because I saw it on a regular basis.”

John Scherer

Now as founder and president of Scherer Leadership Center, Scherer has built a career around facilitating transformations. An ordained Lutheran minister and former U.S. Navy combat officer, Scherer has held multiple leadership roles, though to him, they share the same intention.

“I just have this concept that I am in the world to be with people at the level of their deepest need,” he said. “… All of my different career paths have had me there.”

At 2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1, in the Hall of Philosophy, Scherer will use his background as a leader and mentor to inform his lecture, “Seva as Sadhana: Workplace as Spiritual Development Dojo.” Scherer’s lecture, which marks his first visit to Chautauqua, is part of the Week Six interfaith theme, “The Spirituality of Work.”

Both “seva” and “sadhana” are Sanskrit words that Scherer said he believes are connected. “Seva” translates to work or service, while “sadhana” translates to spiritual path or practice.

“Your seva can be your sadhana,” he said. “There’s lots of ways you can do the tasks that go along with your work, but the question is—do you see them as an opportunity to deepen yourself as a human being? Wouldn’t it be cool if you could turn what happens at work into developing more fully (into) who you are capable of being?”

Scherer, author of Work and the Human Spirit, encourages people to connect their work to their spirit through his business, which has served people in 44 countries, he said. Having been recognized as one of America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders in Personal/Leadership Development by the Stephen Covey organization, Scherer understands what it means to be a motivator.

“If you’re going to work with people who are going through a rough patch, you have to develop and master a way of being present to people that is empathic,” he said. “I have to stay in the eye of the hurricane, I have to be in a centered place, to be able to relate to people who are in the swirl of life. You have to feel with people deeply without falling in the pit yourself —that’s the trick.”

Now based in Poland, Scherer’s leadership work has exposed him to different cultures, faiths and customs. Though he is a practicing Lutheran, Scherer believes in respecting all beliefs and encouraging his clients to draw closer to their personal selves.

“I’m not trying to push any particular theology,” he said. “I am inviting people to reacquaint themselves with who they are at a deep level. I’ve had people from all the major religions who have done this course.”

As a former minister, Scherer said he is often asked why he left, because he said many consider the ministry to be “the highest calling you can have.”

However, even as a businessman and mentor, Scherer said his faith still plays an instrumental role in his work.

“I don’t talk about my faith — I talk from it,” he said. “That’s the distinction I make. Instead of talking to the world about the content of your faith, use your faith to educate and shape how you interact with the world in a healing way.”

Tags : A Spirituality of WorkJohn SchererSeva as Sadhana: Workplace as Spiritual Development DojoWeek sixWeek Six 2018

The author Julie Ciotola

Julie Ciotola is reporting on the Interfaith Lecture Series and Sacred Song Services. She is an Akron, Ohio, native and studies journalism and history at Ohio University. Next year, she will serve as editor-in-chief for Backdrop Magazine, a student-run campus publication. This is her first time at Chautauqua. Contact her at or on Twitter.