Christians, don’t integrate faith and business. Don’t integrate faith and anything. Live as followers of Messiah where you are.
Business is having the right people in the right slots headed in the right direction. It is all about people. Business is the largest mission field available to Christians, at home and abroad. Besides, it is the only wealth creating entity in society. Those of us whom God calls to be in business need to behave consistently as His stewards (Colossians 3:23-24), and His disciples (Luke 14:25-34).
Don’t Integrate Faith and Business
Many Christian business leaders and pastors have not realized how much the church drifted into the world. Thus, they see a need for Christians in business to integrate their faith and business principles. Christianity is a lifestyle. However, the integration idea suggests that Christianity is not a lifestyle, but a set of principles that apply situationally. So, in church and “Christian” settings, we live as Christ followers, but in business we integrate faith with business principles.
Recently, two fourth year biblical studies students interviewed me in my capacity as a business professor. They asked two basic questions: How do I define ministry? How do business students carry out ministry? I told them ministry happens where you are. On the bus, at the gas station, in dorms, overseas, everywhere. Daily, Each of us who follows Jesus should live a life that glorifies Him. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus tells His followers to go into the world to make disciples. This includes business, and applies to each of His followers.
The students were surprised at my answer. They could not imagine business students doing ministry. When do they go on the mission field? After all, business is about making money. Isn’t it?
I assured them that making money is not a goal of firms like Apple, Google, Amazon, Netflix. Money results from decisions and activities. It’s never a proper goal. Firms make products or provide services for customers and clients. To function effectively, these firms need people—employees, suppliers, customers, shareholders, and so on. Sustained profits flow from treating employees well, serving customers, treating suppliers fairly, contributing to communities, and so on.
Previously, some of my students’ parents had similar issues. They were concerned their children were in the business program instead of a ministry program. I assured them that if God called their children into business, these children would be in a significant mission field.
Don’t Integrate Faith and Anything
This silo view that only folks in churches, para churches, and overseas missionaries are in ministry is widespread in the church and among Christians. Industries are popping up to make business a ministry. Church leaders and businessmen who are Christians are calling for Christians in business to integrate their faith with business principles and practices. There are seminars and courses teaching this approach. How sad! Instead of equipping people to go where God leads them, the church, Bible schools, and Christian business people, unwittingly are promoting silo living: separate church life, business life, home life, and so on.
Many churches continue to mimic the world. Pastors and leaders seem to forget that as Jesus’ followers we need to live lives that glorify Him everywhere we go. There is no need to integrate faith and business. All we need to do is live by biblical teachings where we are.
Bible principles are excellent business principles. My former company’s (Alcan Inc.) principles, objectives, and policies could have been (probably were) taken from the Bible: Be honest, have integrity, treat people fairly, don’t take bribes, create safe and healthy workplaces, protect the environment, and so on. I worked at Alcan over 32 years in more than twenty countries, on each continent, and in different cultures. For the last sixteen years, I operated as a follower of Jesus and a senior executive. By God’s grace alone I lived my faith. In every instance my focus was on doing what’s right according to the Bible. Living my faith was enough.
Christians don’t have to Bible-thump in business. We don’t have to preach. All we need to do is follow Bible teachings. Non Christians call this ethical behaviour. They know positive results flow from such behaviour.
In each course I teach, I stress that business is ministry. You are in business, you are in ministry! I encourage students to obey the greatest and second greatest commandment that Jesus taught. Love people. I stress that when Christians follow Bible teachings in business we have a competitive advantage. That’s our key to success.
I see my students follow this path. One former student told me of an incident where his supervisor insisted he falsify records to speed up product shipments. The student refused. He told his boss this was not the right way to treat customers. Besides, it was dishonest. He was scolded instantly. The next day the supervisor, and the supervisor’s boss met the student. They apologized and commended him for his honesty. They admitted that consistent good customer service is essential. They agreed that the firm needed to be honest with everyone. This student did nothing but lived his life by Bible principles. He lived his faith.
Recently, I received this note from another former student:
Like any business, this dealership is determined to be successful. However, its guiding principle is to make as much money as possible from every deal. As a sales associate, I feel this is the wrong mentality to have. We should be looking to provide a service to our customers first. The outcome of a sale should take care of itself, if we are servicing our customers in truth and honesty.
He chose to follow the biblical path instead of integrating his faith with the business’ principles.
Do you find yourself wanting to integrate faith and business? Why are you not living as a follower of Jesus everywhere? The Bible is enough. It has all truth. Integration will lead to compromise. Don’t follow that path. Live a life that glorifies Jesus. You and I will fall, but He will pick us up.
Poor stewardship and greed were main causes of the Great Recession. Many Christians were involved. The world’s standards of making a fast buck attracted them. Jesus told us to be on guard against greed (Luke 12:15). This will be an ongoing challenge. However, staying focussed on our Messiah is the only way to go.
Today, many pastors behave like CEO’s and earn huge compensation to preach a feel-good gospel. An uninformed, naive, self focussed population will continue to demand that their ears be tickled. Pastors and business leaders need to adhere to Bible truths in the church and everywhere. We can do this. But only with the help of Holy Spirit.
© 2016 Michel A. Bell