See if this real-life example doesn’t sound familiar.

The owners of an automobile dealership were regular church-goers and considered themselves to be pious Christians.  However, the sales process they used in the business was designed to be manipulative and had several small lies built into it.  They never saw this as a contradiction, believing that Christianity was one thing and business was something else.

They compartmentalized their Christianity to encompass what they did around the programs and activities of their local institutional church and saw their business as outside of that. In their Christianity, they followed the local pastor.  In business, they incorporated the best practices of the world.

This approach provided them with some benefits.  They ran a financially successful business and were comfortable with that.  They were active in their local congregation and enjoyed some respect in that.  In short, their approach to business and the Kingdom fit their lifestyle, and they were comfortable in both arenas.

Consequences

That sounds acceptable until we look a little closer.  Peeling back the superficial uncovers a significant problem.  It is not what has happened, the problem is what has NOT happened that could and should have.

Had they built Christian principles instead of worldly values into their sales process, thousands of customers would have seen what it was like to be deal with an organization grounded in love and expressing itself in honesty and integrity.  Those customers would have been touched by a subtle witness of what it means to be a Christian.  But, unfortunately, they weren’t.

Had they built Christian principles instead of worldly values into their business, hundreds of employees would have seen that Christ is real and involved in the business and would have witnessed that impact on the lives of the owners and the actions of the principals.  They would have seen acts of love and times of prayer. Christ would have become real to their employees, and many would have been attracted to the peace and hope that they saw in their bosses.  Unfortunately, they didn’t.

Had they been guided by the Holy Spirit in all their business decisions, the business’ reputation in the locality would have gradually developed, so that their Christian witness would have grown and impacted their colleagues, their vendors and neighbors.  Instead of the message portrayed by the media that Christianity is for uneducated and ignorant people, they would have seen living proof of just the opposite.  Unfortunately, they didn’t.

Had they focused on building a business that had impact for the Kingdom, they would have gained visibility and influence in their industry among their colleagues.  At the national associations, they would have been asked to be on the committees that made recommendations and decisions, and to sit on the panels at the national meetings.  These would have given them opportunities to be a model and a witness to the power of Christ in their businesses.   Their influence would have spread nationally within their industry.  Alas, they didn’t.

Had they seen their business as an extension of the Kingdom and their own anointed ministry the owners would look forward to that day when they meet Christ, and he may say to them, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with the business that I created and put in your hands to manage.  You have multiplied its impact and used it to extend my Kingdom.  I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness. “

All of this could and should have come to pass, if the owners had seen their business as a ministry – an integral part of their Christian walk – instead of something separate and apart from it.

While this is incredibly sad for this one business, when you consider the impact of this separation of business from the Kingdom across all the similar businesses over time and around the world – the thought becomes staggering – incomprehensible.

Surely, millions of people would have come to know a blessed relationship with Christ, and never did, because the owners’ compartmentalized Christianity and business. In a lost world, populated with people looking for a solution for their pain and problems, they remained silent and aloof.

The world today would be a vastly different place if Christian business people hadn’t sat on the sidelines.  This, truly, must be one of Satan’s greatest accomplishments.

While the owners enjoyed their comfortable life-style and false sense of piety, they unwittingly helped to propagate one of the greatest failures in Christianity, and in so doing contributed to a lie that has withheld Christ from untold millions of people.

The lie that they have helped propagate is this:  Christianity is one thing, and business is something else.

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One of the biggest lies in Christendom is this:  Christianity is one thing, and business is something else.

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Causes

Ultimately, the underlying cause is the effective work of our adversary.

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6: 11 – 12.

On another level, the religious establishment has long promoted the separation of ‘sacred and secular’ and bares much blame.  At the same time, the purveyors of the worldly wisdom that holds money and success as the highest good have also influenced millions of Christian business people. Let’s look at each.

The practices and pronouncements of the religious establishment

          The institutional church system – that global assemblage of pastors, church buildings, denominations, seminaries, etc.— ultimately must be held responsible for the inception and propagation of this lie.

In my book, Is the Institutional Church Really the Church, I note that the system as spent over $540 Billion on itself over the past several decades, and has overseen the decline in the percentage of Christians in this country, has failed to make a measurable change in the lives of its adherents, has turned off and chased away a great percentage of the population, and has instilled such antipathy in the young people that the vast majority of them leave the system as adults.

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The institutional church system has:

* spent over $540 Billion on itself.

* has overseen the decline in the percentage of Christians in the US.

* has failed to make a measurable change in the lives of its adherents.

* has turned off and chased away a great percentage of the population.

* has instilled such antipathy in the young people that many of them leave the system as adults.

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Like all institutions, it is more concerned with the survival and expansion of itself than it is with its stated mission.  So, in order to glue its adherents more closely to itself, it has put forward a number of false ideas.  The one most appropriate for this discussion is this: There is something special about the institutional church and its employees.

Church buildings are often referred to as “God’s house.”  And the people who work in those buildings are often referred to as ‘clergy’ to distinguish them from us common folk ‘the laity.’  More modern denominations substitute ‘pastor’ and ‘minister’ as more palatable versions of ‘clergy.’  In other words, those things related to the institutional church system are somehow special — ‘sacred’ — and everything else is ordinary or ‘secular.’

This is, of course, a historical creation of men wanting to solidify their positions and shore up their institutions and is nowhere found in the Bible. God is not contained in a place, and the Bible knows of no special class of Christians. It teaches just the opposite – that we are all priests and ministers.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (I Peter 2:9)

         This is a perfectly understandable strategy that has worked for generations. If you want people to give you their money and their time, teach them that you are special and important. And, while this may have been an effective strategy to ensure the survival of the institution, the unintended consequences have been enormous.

When you claim that something is ‘special’, what are you saying about everything else?  It is ‘non-special’ – mediocre and ordinary.

When you claim that something is ‘important’, what are you asserting about everything else?  That it is unimportant and of no-consequence.

When you claim that some building, people, and programs are ‘sacred’ what are indicating about everything else?  It’s secular and of no lasting value.

It is no wonder, then, that business people just naturally come to the conclusion that their businesses are ordinary, unimportant and ‘secular.’  It is easy to believe that since all the important spiritual stuff happens within the confines of the institutional church, nothing spiritually important can happen in their businesses.

Once again, this is exactly the opposite of what the Bible teaches.  All work is sacred:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 4: 23)

Because the lie that there is something special about the institutional church system is so ubiquitous, the vast majority of Christian business people have never thought to question it.  It’s just part of the Christian culture.  So, the idea that there is something sacred and special about ‘church’ continues to live on, despite the clear and contrary teachings of the Bible.

The emphasis of the world’s business culture

          The world’s business culture promotes the idea that a business is primarily, if not exclusively, about making money.  The most deceptive ideas always contain a grain of the truth. This one does too. Business is about making money. But it is not just about making money.

From a worldly perspective, businesses are formed to provide for the economic security of the folks who own and work in that business. Since food and shelter are basic needs, a business, to be viable, must meet those needs. And it does that by providing goods and services for money.  Money then becomes one of the keys to any business. A business that doesn’t create sufficient income is not going to stay in business for long.

The problem arises when the business people focus solely on money as the rationale for the business. When they do that, they miss all the other incredible benefits that accrue to themselves, their employees, their families, their customers, and to society in general.

A business doesn’t necessarily have to create profits, but it does need to be sustainable. In other words, money is important. It’s a core reason for starting a business. But profits aren’t nearly as important as sustainability. And profits aren’t just for the purpose of buying the business owner a better car or bigger home. As we saw in the parable of the bags of gold, reinvesting in the growth of the business is a biblical strategy. Profits fund and empower growth.

Unfortunately, our popular culture promotes a distorted picture of the purpose of a business. The media glorify the “self-made” millionaire, Wall Street awards huge bonuses for those who reach revenue goals, and CEOs are awarded obscene bonuses for achieving quarterly results in publicly held companies. The emphasis on making money has never been more pronounced or glorified.

It is thus easy for the business person to react to the popular culture and define the success of the business solely in monetary terms. When we believe the idea that business is just about money, we never see the powerful entity for good that a biblical business could be because we never look for it. We need to take this idea—that business is just about money—pry it off and discard it in the trash.

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It is easy for the business person to react to the popular culture and

define the success of the business solely in monetary terms. When we

 believe the idea that business is just about money, we never see

the powerful entity for good that a biblical business could be because

we never look for it.

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The ultimate responsibility

Eventually, though, the practice of compartmentalizing business and Christianity proceeds from the minds and hearts of millions of individual Christian business people.   They are comfortable in their lifestyle, and afraid to risk their material trappings for a greater impact for the Kingdom. At some level, they are aware of the risk of actually questioning the status quo. They are secure in their life-style and see no reason to question the values promoted by the religious establishment and the world’s economic system.  So, they sit on the sidelines of the great struggle which describes an active role in the Kingdom.

Like a star player who has lost his motivation, they sit on the bench while the action takes part on a different part of the court, comfortable and unengaged.

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Eventually, though, the practice of compartmentalizing business and

Christianity proceeds from the minds and hearts of millions of individual

Christian business people.   They are comfortable in their lifestyle,

and afraid to risk their material trappings for a greater impact for the

Kingdom. At some level, they are aware of the risk of actually

questioning the status quo. They are secure in their life-style and see

no reason to question the values promoted by the religious establishment

and the world’s economic system.

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A remedy

If you see some of yourself in this situation, it is time to step out of your comfort zone and begin to move to a greater engagement in the fray. It doesn’t matter what the religious establishment proclaims; it doesn’t matter what the world’s system pressures you to do; the only thing that matters is you and your relationship to God and what He wants you to do.

Impacts

Your decision to stretch out of your comfort zones and to begin to pursue the reality that your business is your ministry – if you pursue it with dedication and perseverance – will prove to be one of the biggest decisions of your life.  The impact will be enormous.

Here’s just a sample of what others have reported:

1.  A personal sense of freedom and clarity.

“It’s like coming out from under a deep fog – I saw things about Christ and Christianity that I had never seen before. “

2.  A deeper sense of purpose.

Now, your purpose is larger than you had seen it before.  Not only do you have the purpose in common with every other Christian – to know and serve God – but you have a very specific expression of that. Now, you see yourself as the shepherd of your business, with all the responsibilities that come with that.  It is fulfilling at a level you may never have approached.

3.  A closer relationship with God.

From the very beginning of creation, God has ordained business and work as the place in which He would engage with his creation.  You’ll find lots of opportunities to grow closer to Him that you not have recognized before.

4.  A powerful impact on your family.

When you are in sync with God’s will, you’ll find that He blesses you in multiple ways.  You become like a stone thrown into the pond and the ripples of blessing will encompass wide swaths of your life.

5.  You’ll grow as leader, shaping your character, and increasing your personal competency.

6.  A greater impact on the community your business touches.

While your business may never be a Chick-fil-e with impact in communities around the world, you will be a light to the world that your business serves and touches. Someone in the world that your business influences, or maybe hundreds or thousands of people, are looking for something that can believe it.  You’ll be a model to attract some of them.

7.  Recognition for excellence.

Because you’ll implement the God’s wisdom and direction in your business, you’ll eventually create excellence in what you do. The world around you will recognize that and you’ll gain influence with them.

The benefits extend way beyond these few.  You’ll find it to be one of the biggest, most impactful and fulfilling decisions of your life.

Steps in the journey

Begin with repentance and prayer. 

Who you have been is no indication of who you could become.  Let God know you want to change your thinking and engage in bigger ways in the Kingdom.  Bring him into the situation with intentional prayer.

Pray with the expectation that God will answer you. He will direct you in the way that you should go.  As you pray, become more sensitive to His leading, both in the circumstances around you, the people you encounter, and the insights that He gives you.

Feed that small voice of the spirit within you.

Begin to exposure yourself to thinkers, authors and speakers who articulate the principles and practices of a truly Christian business. You will never break out of the comfortable situation as long as you limit your input to the sermons of your local pastor.  There is a whole world of thinkers and writers who can nudge you in the direction of a holistic approach to business and Christianity.

There are dozens of books written on the subject, and a like number of blogs and websites that will feed your spirit.  Check out my own Building Biblical Businesses newsletter.  You may want to consider The Biblical Business Course, which methodically takes you through a series of steps to help you transform your business into a powerful Kingdom entity.  My Christian Business Insights Podcasts are another option.

Surround yourself with like-minded Christian business people. 

There are Christian business people in your community who are challenging the sacred/secular divide in practical and purposeful ways.  You’ll find it incredibly encouraging to rub shoulders with them.

Find a group to belong to who will build you up and hold you accountable.  Almost every city has a local group, and there are several national organizations that provide that environment.  Check out C-12, Convene, Truth@Work, and my own CBIG (Christian Business Impact Groups).

Begin to implement Christian practices and principles in your business.

In other words, do something.  Act.  At some point, you’ll need to change what you do. Now is the time to take the first step. Implementing Christian practices and principles in your business is a necessary first step.

But it is only a first step.  There is a whole world of practices which mark the degree to which a business is influenced and directed by God. Our Biblical Business Self-Assessment is a free download that will help you see the spiritual impact of your business more objectively, and chart a path to realizing its spiritual potential.

You’ll eventually confront your practices and attitudes in all sorts of practices:

Pricing, your approach to debt, business culture, who and how you hire, goal-setting and planning, etc.  You’ll discover that every decision can and should be colored by your relationship with God.

The impact of your commitment will extend to those around you.  Your family will be blessed, your business will grow in its impact, and you’ll grow closer to God

There is a whole world of personal spiritual growth, and Kingdom impact available to you, when you decide to accept the idea that your business is your ministry, and begin to pursue that vision.

          ****************************************************************************

There is a whole world of personal spiritual growth, and Kingdom impact

available to you, when you decide to accept the idea that your business

is your ministry, and begin to pursue that vision.

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Conclusion

The separation of business from the Kingdom has been one of the most dramatic errors of modern Christianity.  It has caused millions of people to be lost, and Christ denied and ignored across geographies and generations.  It’s time to accept our responsibility to change that.

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