Several years ago I met a local businessman who by all accounts was very successful in developing and running an enterprise. His business was operating out of several locations and there seemed to be a steady stream of clients at the door. At that time he admitted that he was struggling with the idea that his Christian walk was compatible with his business operation.
Faith and Enterprise
The Bible makes connections to vocation and faith clear, indicating that we should do, “All things to the Glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). There are numerous stories of business events that require managers to demonstrate wise decision-making. Take, for example, Matthew 25:14-30 where Jesus likened the Kingdom of God to employees being given bags of gold to invest. Central to the concept of running a business well is that the person in charge should be trustworthy and wise in managing the Kingdom of God. You mean my managing a coffee house is like managing the Kingdom of God? Now, that changes everything for us. Remember, this example is from a secular enterprise, not church ministry.
The pandemic dilemma
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic created financial burdens for businesses. Times like these can certainly test our Christian worldview. When one of our options is to terminate one or more employees, or even close the business, it can seem very cold, practical and unChristlike. Do we, can we, take into consideration the impact on our employees and customers? Where do we go for “guidance” in these moments? The textbook you kept from your MBA Program? I don’t remember the pandemic chapter!
TIU business school approach
In the business courses that I teach at TIU, we review secular literature about handling business decisions. Most of it reflects business theories that sound great in the classroom. Unfortunately, most business events have their own uniqueness and applying a “business theory or technique” might be one answer, but often not the best or complete answer. For those of us who believe that the Lord has our best interests in mind, we can receive his wisdom through the work of the Holy Spirit. It does not mean that we develop a whole new “theory” to resolve our dilemma. It can, and often does, mean that we see unique and nuanced solutions. With a tweak here or a twist there, we are able to make better decisions for the specific situation at hand. It is encouraging to our students when they realize they can be more successful at this “leadership thing” when they apply what they know from their walk with the Lord.
We are very intentional in helping our students understand that Jesus’ work with his disciples is very transferable to their vocation. Jesus made sure the disciples knew who they were in the Kingdom of God and how important they were to his ministry. We call it “servant leadership.” Many years ago I was able to incorporate that concept into my teaching and work. How much more successful this can be when there is faith and where the foundation is the love for one another that only Christ can instill in us! Being genuinely interested in the success of another human being is not a human trait. We are selfish, self-serving, safety-first by our fallen nature. Only through our commitment to Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit can we love and genuinely care for those we are called to lead.
Human beings first
Years ago, a wise friend of mine told me that great leaders see their employees as “human beings” first and then “human doings” second. The effect is transformational. When we see them as “human doings” they are expendable commodities that can be replaced at will. When we see them as “human beings” we connect with their whole existence (love, safety, security, intellect, personality, etc.). We become more interested in their personal success at work and, by extension, at life. This has the incredible possibility of a more engaged employee who may just happen to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason. Sounds like a great employee to me! How much better when we see others through the love and grace of Christ.
Now it’s up to you
Hopefully, even prayerfully, this may impact how you treat your business, your employees, your suppliers and your customers. It did so for that friend of mine. Several months later, he made the connection and it reduced much of the stress he was having running his business. Now it was in the Lord’s hands. He found great moments of divine wisdom leading to peace about his business, as he was led by the Spirit beyond his textbook and the income statement. I understand his employees noticed the difference too.
Art Bailey is an Adjunct Professor of Business at Trinity International University, Florida. Visit tiu.edu/florida
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