I was recently interviewing a mature Christian business person for one of the spots in my CEO Roundtable groups. “Tell me about your spiritual journey,” I suggested. He launched into a description of his local church, and the various roles he played in that institution. He was an usher, on this board or that board, served in this capacity and was a part of these programs. Pretty impressive, except that he nowhere mentioned Jesus Christ. His view of his spirituality was defined by the roles he played in his local congregation.
I could understand. Not so many years ago, I would have answered in exactly the same way. I suspect that most of the readers of this article would answer in a similar fashion as well. And that, unfortunately, is one of the saddest statements of our times.
The challenge of being a Christian business person in our times is characterized by conflict. On the one hand, we understand the need to make money and be profitable, and be accountable for our actions and our results to our bosses, shareholders, and families. On the other hand, we understand the command to obey and allow the Lord to determine the results. On one hand, we understand the wisdom in investing time and money into our businesses and careers. On the other, we’re mindful of the command to give.
And on and on it goes. We feel like we are in the middle, being pulled by two powerful forces into opposite directions — the prescriptions for business success on one side, and the call for Christian life on the other.
I recall the thought I had after the first interview for what was to become my first professional sales position, years ago. As a recent convert, I was sensitive to the calls of Christ on my life. But as a young father, I needed to make a living. “This is going to be tricky,” I thought – contemplating how I might navigate the turbulent waters between what I saw as these two opposing forces in my life.
Because it is ‘tricky’, a common strategy is to compartmentalize. Christianity becomes what we do in the church. And the degree to which we are active in the programs, activities and events of the church determine to what degree we are ‘good Christians.’ Business and our careers lie outside of that realm, or so we tell ourselves. We understand that some Christian commands carry over – we try to be honest, for example, and generally fair with people.
And so, our strategy is to compartmentalize – be active in the church and honest in business.
But, from time to time, we can’t help but wonder if that is enough. Is that really what God wants from us? Is church activity really the definition of our Christianity?
Is it possible that our careers and our businesses could become the primary expression of our Christianity?
Could we really be Christ-followers in the business world?
Could our careers and our businesses become our ministry?
Certainly the Bible is filled with stories of business people leading great movements of God throughout history. The list is too great to mention all of them here. But it begins with Abraham, the wealthy rancher, who birthed the Israelite nation. It continues through Moses, the royally–educated shepherd, weaves its way throughout the Bible, ending with Paul, the tent-making sole proprietor who was so active in nurturing the New Testament church.
So, there is reason to believe that maybe, just maybe, your career and your business could be something larger, more spiritual, and more significant than you have ever thought possible.
What exactly would that look like? And, how would you go about moving it in that direction?