Leadership in the Bible, at least business leadership, often involved creating an intense culture within the business. We can see evidence of this in the story of the businessperson, Lydia, from the book of Acts.
You may recall the story. Paul and Timothy were traveling spreading the news about Jesus where ever they went. They found themselves in Macedonia and there met Lydia, whom the Bible tells us was “A seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God.” Lydia listened to Paul, “and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” (Acts 16:14)
Look at what happens next: “And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.’ “(Acts 16:15)
Lydia, who had been a ‘worshiper of God’ heard the Gospel and responded. Her whole household followed her lead and was baptized along with her. This is one example of a phenomenon we see multiple times in the Bible – the head of the business decided to follow Christ, and the entire household – all the family, slaves, servants and employees, follow that lead. (A Biblical household is an economic unit – for want of a better term, a business.)
Let’s stop a minute and think about what that says about the relationship between the head of the household (the CEO in our times) and the folks who worked in the business?
What kind of relationship?
There must have been an intense relationship between the head of the business and the employees, characterized by a great deal of respect for the leadership of the head. You can almost see them thinking, “If he or she decides to do something as important as committing to follow Christ, then we’ll do it too. “
Business leadership in the Bible was about, among other things, creating such a culture.
That culture fits perfectly with the Biblical mandate to “Love one another”
I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
As leaders in the business community, we have a responsibility to be mindful of the well-being of our employees and stakeholders. “Love one another” begins with loving family and those employees, consultants and contractors to such an extent that they would gladly follow your lead on important decisions.
What would your business be like if you could build such a culture into your organization?
Imagine the implications.
Your people would feel included and valued. They would grow to respect you and love you back. Productivity would sky-rocket, conflict within the business would ebb, and harmony would take over. Individuals would feel like there was freedom to take risks and grow. Folks would be dedicated to the mission and vision of your business. Your customers and vendors would pick up on the vibe and respond positively.
A Christian business culture, characterized by love and manifesting itself in an exceptional degree of respect for you, would be one of your greatest tools to enlarge your business and multiply its impact.
But, instilling a culture like this doesn’t happen by itself or overnight.
Some thoughts about how to do it.
1. An Intentional Discipline
You are the leader. The responsibility to create the culture is yours. That means that you must think about it relentlessly and then decide, willfully and intentionally to act in such a way that builds the culture toward the idea. It is not going to happen by accident.
Whatever it takes for you to give it daily thought and daily activity, elevate it to that level. Building a culture is a discipline. Like winning a marathon takes dedication, discipline and consistent effort, so, too does creating a Christian business culture.
2. Don’t Discourage
Understand that you will probably never achieve the ideal expressed in these Biblical models. That should not dissuade you from trying. Vince Lombardi put it this way:
“We will relentlessly strive for perfection, knowing full well that we will never attain it, because no one is perfect. But, we will strive for perfection because in the process we’ll catch excellence”
Excellence in a Christian business culture is worth the effort.
3. Start with God
Creating a culture characterized by Christian love begins with developing a loving relationship with God. It wasn’t by accident when, asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied,
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:22-40)
First comes loving God, then comes loving others. You’ll need to work on a loving relationship with God yourself, before your can extend that outward to your employees. As your relationship with God grows, so too will your ability to manifest that love to others.
4. Take the First Step Now
Culture is expressed in what people do. It is a way to characterize the general tone of the actions taken and the words expressed consistently within your business. Changing that will be a life-long challenge. You’ll never be completely ready. Start now. Take some positive step today.
Creating a loving culture in your organization may be the single most impactful initiative you can undertake. The implications can reach into extended families and stretch across generations. Start now.