Material taken from a podcast by John Lee and Steven Schenk for UNITE WNY
The Kingdom Assets of the Business World
The Apostle Paul uses the metaphor of the human body to describe the way the church works. This metaphor helps us to understand that each individual and group of Christians have their own important gifts to bring to the table. This metaphor also makes it clear, just how imperative it is that we all work in concert with one another, and under the guidance of Christ, our head! So what are the gifts that business leaders bring to the table?
We assert that there are four levels of praxis for Kingdom-minded business leaders. They are not necessarily in order of importance, although they are in order of complexity. The first two levels are important to note, but it is the second two levels that are the focus of our conversation here.
The first level is the basic call to generosity, integrity, and witness. Business leaders often represent significant financial resources. These resources should be handled with integrity. Money should be recognized as ultimately belonging to God, and should be handled with great generosity. All of this should be done with the awareness that how Christians handle money will declare to the world precisely who (or what) it is that we worship. This is where John Wesley’s adage to “earn all you can, give all you can, and save all you can,” is appropriate.
The second level is the call to produce “good goods.” All business people are fulfilling the needs of the market. This is usually a good thing in and of itself. Christian business people will ensure that it is always a good thing. They won't just provide goods, they will provide “good goods.” Christian business leaders will provide goods and services that are beneficial to individuals and to our world. People genuinely need household goods, furniture, cars, and clothes. People’s lives are enriched by insurance and medical supplies, restaurants and gas stations, computers and books. Providing these goods and services for people can actually serve to make the world a better place. Business leaders provide legitimate blessing to our world by serving in this way, and ought to see it as an essential piece of their vocation and witness to do so.
The third level is the invitation to use business skills to organize and manage the local church more efficiently in the pursuit of its mission. The average church in America has approximately 70 members. This means the majority of congregations are being lead by a single pastor with volunteer support. Most ministry leaders are trained and skilled at teaching the scriptures, navigating the intersection of theology and culture, leading prayer and worship, providing compassion and hospitality, and counseling in the practice of the faith. Most ministry leaders, however, lack the practical skills of organizational leadership and management, not to mention financial planning and management.
We advocate for business leaders to be participating in the leadership of every local church. In a myriad of ways (evaluating financial decisions, leading strategic planning, managing the tasks of ministry, creating systems of organization, or navigating interactions with the local bank) business leaders can either come alongside ministry leaders as coaches and mentors, or can simply perform specific tasks and roles in the congregation directly.
Perhaps an appropriate analogy would be the running of a successful restaurant. Pastors are like the chef with expertise in the kitchen; successful restaurants require a solid chef, but they also require a solid business manager, and rarely do those two skill sets coexist in a single individual. Christian business leaders should seek to play the “restaurant manager” role in their churches so that pastors can focus on their role as “chef.” When this kind of symbiotic relationship exists, the local congregation will be functioning at high capacity towards its mission, just like a body with all of its limbs and organs working together efficiently for a single purpose.
The fourth level is the use of business assets to engage in community development outside the church. Communities need many things to flourish, many of those things are directly related to the unique skill-set of business leaders. Employment, physical infrastructure, healthcare, and education, are vital to the health of any community. Business leaders are essential players in the creation and maintenance of the various systems, organizations, and institutions that provide these things for any community.
It is both vital and appropriate that business leaders will use their resources and skills to provide for their own family, but Christian business leaders will go beyond this and use their resources and skills to provide for the community at large. Instead of simply building the most successful business, Christian business leaders will also ask questions about the needs of the surrounding community. Christian business leaders are willing to sacrifice maximal profits in order to create jobs for underemployed communities, create necessary infrastructure in impoverished neighborhoods, or provide goods and services that the community needs.
The temptation for the church (and for business people!) is to conceive of business leaders as the wallet for the church. The reality is, however, that the most important Kingdom asset business leaders possess is not money, it is the skills, the practices, the relational networks, the paradigms, and the experiences that are important. Christian business leaders, your money is not what God wants, what He wants is you!