How the Church Can Partner With Business
In late 2013, my friend Jimmy Graham, former Navy SEAL, and I were having multiple monthly hourly talks about the subject of business, but our talks came to a head in early January 2014. I asked myself: “If we’re having difficulty talking about business, let alone our faith, where have been the discussions or sermons about faith and business inside the church?” I’ve been a Christian since I was 14 years old, but had never heard a sermon about faith and work, let alone faith and business, i.e. marketplace ministries. Most businesses I talk with report the same issues, although discussions and sermons around faith and work today are getting some minor traction, the chasm is still very wide.
My research (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Edersheim) showed that Jesus apprenticed from age 12 until 20 and then successfully ran, without sin, a “general contracting” business until age 30, or He had about 18 years of business experience. Jesus is our businessperson’s model. So here are three dos and three don’ts on how the Church can better partner with businesses and their flock for the marketplace ministries.
Do see business and church as a true partnership. Christ is the Head, the Church is the Body, both your church and business need to work together, not one over the other. Sunday is a day of rest to listen to God for guidance, but Monday through Saturday is to grind out God’s guidance and shine His love and light in the secular marketplace. Pastors may spend a few hours a week with it’s members, but CEOs and business owners spend up to 40 or more hours a week interacting with their workers, vendors, and customers. Pastors need monthly roundtables with their members who are business owners (John 21:17b, He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”).
Don’t see business profits as the church’s ATM. Too often various church programs and ministries look to businesses for funds and support both inside and outside the church. It’s not a matter of creating and having programs that increases one’s faith, but how to apply one’s faith. As the saying from Sister Irene Kraus goes, “No margin, no mission.” This is especially true when Christian charities (501(c)3 non profits) kills commerce and the incentive to work and earn a living from one’s God-given talents (See the documentary Poverty, Inc. ). Same goes for stingy Christian customers dealing with Christian businesses: Discounted prices, discounted missions. If you’re not disciplined or ethical in money matters in business or church, both of God’s missions suffer.
Do ensure you equip saints for their work of service in business. Paul writes in Eph 4:11-12 that pastors/teachers are “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” Ask any businessperson if they’d visit their pastor if they’re having trouble with their business, most would say, “NO!” The word “equip” in Greek has two denotations, that the Church is to prepare and fully equip them for their Godly assignments, but the root of the word has a deeper meaning, to first repair and heal new and old believers because of their “frontline” time fighting. An entry level believer needs to be healed and then equipped for their faith and work, but the next level is faith and business.
Don’t miss the purpose of business is to have “a faith that works” in the marketplace. Since nearly everyone works, this needs emphasis. As the book of James says, “faith without works is dead.” Learning about how to grow one’s faith on Sunday also means applying one’s God-giving talents, skills, and faith in your own “full time ministry” of life and in the marketplace mission field Monday through Saturday. The free enterprise system is based on God’s commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” and requires each of us, startup entrepreneur, business owner, vendor, or customer, to treat each other like we’d like to be treated (Exod 20:15, “You shall not steal” and Exod 20:17, “You shall not covet…anything of your neighbor”, Lev 25:14 “If you make a sale, moreover, to your friend or buy from your friend’s hand, you shall not wrong one another.”).
Do realize businesses lead more people to Christ than clergy. By a factor of 48:1 BAM businesses (Business As Mission) lead more people to Christ than those in full time ministry (See “Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done…In Business Biblical Foundations for Business as Mission”). That means the Church needs to realize there is a two pronged focus for each business owner and worker in the marketplace: To serve others for Christ in the marketplace and to witness to the lost when the evangelism doors become open. But it is primarily business interactions, i.e. honesty, integrity, and how you “love your neighbor AS yourself,” is what unbelievers see. Your words, “I’m blessed and highly favored” or displays of your Christ-labeled bling or adornments are gum ball words and trinkets compared with your ethical dealings or transactions in the marketplace.
Don’t overemphasize the spiritual at the expense of the physical. We each have many more God-given talents that we were born with than spiritual gifts we were given at the moment of our salvation. That fleshly opera-like singing voice God gave you at your physical birth is the same at your spiritual birth, coming to faith means changing your allegiance from the world to the Word. But we’re not to become “so heavenly bound we’re no earthly good.” That child born with a cleft palate, a homeless woman angrily telling a college student she wants the dignity of a job (The Empowerment Plan) and not a coat that turns into a sleeping bag, or turning trash of an empty one liter plastic water bottle into treasure of a functional 50 watt solar light bulb (Liter of Light) are all examples of bringing one’s spiritual life down to the physical and empowering prosperity for all.
To me, one of the sleeper movies of 2017 is The Man Who Invented Christmas, chronicling Charles Dickens writing the novella “A Christmas Carol” in 1843. Not only did the movie show the craft of writing and all it’s foibles, but also the business of writing, you need to make a profit from your product. But the character Scrooge before Christmas seems like how most Christians may see Christian business owners, when in reality most Christians business owners would love to act like Scrooge on Christmas day, willing to help and support the church.
Winston Churchill’s quote gives multiple attitudes of how a church might see a Christian enterprise:
“Some regard private enterprise as if it were a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look upon it as a cow that they can milk. Only a handful see it for what it really is—the strong horse that pulls the whole cart.”
Only when the partnership between the church and business is strong will the kingdom of God prevail in the marketplace ministry.