Christian businesses – a model for community transformation by Rev Stephen Brooks

Historically, many Christians have been discouraged from being entrepreneurial, having heard a preacher state: “You have to choose between God and material wealth” (Matthew 6:24). Equally, Apostle Paul warns the young Timothy: “…the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). No wonder there is an uneasy relationship between the Church and business people. It is ironic that the first mention of a rich person in the Bible is Abraham, the Father of Faith, in Genesis 13:2 – “And Abraham was very rich in cattle, in silver and in gold.”

There are two good reasons God wants people to go into business. Primarily, business is one of the only institutions that creates economic value, and that takes intellectual capital and commercialises them. Furthermore, God designed humans to work. We are made in His image; God is a worker, and God’s work is creative and meaningful. Business plays a key role by creating products and services that enhance one’s life.

A Christian in business should ask not only what will maximise the ‘bottom line’, but also what product or service could best serve his or her community. A Christian business (a business operating on biblical principles) should serve three primary stakeholders: internally, its employees, externally, its customers and, thirdly, the Kingdom of God. A business exists for certain purposes, one being to provide meaningful work. Another is to provide meaningful goods and services. It does not exist solely to maximise a return on financial investment, but to transform communities through enterprise.

Church and business partnerships can become a model for community transformation by:

  • helping people in the church and community to start businesses according to the biblical entrepreneurship model
  • assisting those who already own businesses to become more effective in operating their businesses biblically
  • owning and operating businesses as a church

Churches promoting Kingdom businesses have answered the call not to do business as usual, but to do business differently. Businesses provide local jobs, local income and building improvements in the local neighbourhood. If those new businesses are Kingdom businesses, communities are not only improved but also transformed.

Every pastor knows he (or she) is called to equip God’s people for works of service (Ephesians 4:12). When a pastor also understands the principles of discipling and training people for Kingdom businesses, the church’s influence in the community is greatly expanded.

Any church directly involved in or promoting Kingdom business encourages:

  • Bible-based teaching on Kingdom business principles
  • mentoring support
  • employees to take responsibility, as if they were owners of the business
  • life-long learning and continuous personal development
  • implementing community outreach programmes
  • other churches/entrepreneurs to successfully purchase and operate profitable businesses
  • access to affordable finance

Once you have brought people into your church and taught them biblical entrepreneurship, a church that understands the Kingdom business-ministry model can give potential business owners the push they need to get going and provide mentoring and support. This enables businesses to be more likely to succeed, and also keeps the church involved.

The three biblical principles that stand out from the many principles that define a Christian business are:

Firstly, integrity. It is about doing what is right rather than what is convenient or expedient. The organisation with integrity will make its business decisions based on the standards and principles of God: righteousness, truth and honesty. This means “we are who we say we are.”

Secondly, a commitment to excellence. Paul said, in Titus 3:8, that if an organisation is to be recognised as exemplary, one whose goal is to glorify God through its commitment to excellence in its service and product, it must always honour God and be thoroughly conscious of its role and mission in a secular world. God has called them to be His witnesses to the lost world in which they do business. They demonstrate God’s power to transform lives, not only through their employees but with their customers as well.

Thirdly, a Christian business should have a commitment to its people. This includes the area of fair compensation, performance recognition, and providing growth opportunities, both professionally and personally. The Apostle Paul indirectly addressed relationships between employers and employees, when he commanded, “Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven” (Colossians 4:1). Paul gave this command to employers because, just as their employees report to them, they themselves have someone to report to—their Master in heaven. Employers could hardly expect to be treated fairly by God if they failed to treat their employees fairly.

Paul’s remarks concerning the employee/employer relationship involve the mutual submission of employees to their employers, and vice versa. Employees, too, are to treat their employers with respect and “obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart” (Ephesians 6:6).

Now is the time for a paradigm shift within the Church. Pastors urgently need to recognise the necessity of holistic discipleship in the area of work. Instead of looking down on business people, and viewing their work as ‘carnal’, church leaders must tap into the many ways in which Christian businesses can affect and carry out the purposes of God. In addition to supporting the financial needs of a church, God can use businesses to affect everlasting change in the lives of people and their communities. It is time to honour and support the people whom God has called into the business world, instructing them: “If riches increase, do not set your heart on them” (Psalm 62:10).

 

Rev Stephen Brooks

New Jerusalem Apostolic Church

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