Business as Mission: An Expression of Biblical Integrity

by Mike Baer

The word “integrity” has been bandied about so much over the last decade or so that it has practically become meaningless. Politicians are described in their self-serving advertisements as men or women of “integrity.” We like the word. It’s right up there with “tolerant”—another empty term. In fact, who could argue with someone who was tolerant and had integrity. He or she would be a postmodern super hero.

Unfortunately, we don’t think about words much any more. We don’t dwell on what they mean. As a result, we lose the richness and power of a great concept. So, in this article, I want to spend a few moments unpacking two dimensions of integrity, especially in the context of Business as Mission.

Integrity and Ethics

When I first began teaching business in the Former Soviet Union twenty years ago, the first hurdle I had to overcome was establishing that business was legitimate in the first place. Most people viewed business as inherently corrupt and dishonest. Today’s America has very much the same opinion. And why not? We hear constant news flashes of another scandal in Apple’s China factory or fraud in CitiGroup’s financial products or theft on Wall Street, or…ad nauseum.  It is erroneous to confuse business with the business person. The person is corrupt but business is not. Nevertheless, few think that deeply and so they condemn all things business as dark, greedy and devilish.

Read more

Are You Really a Second-Class Christian?

By Dave Kahle

For much of my Christian life, I’ve struggled with a difficult and painful image of myself: I was a second-class Christian. No one ever said that to me in so many words, but a certain belief permeates our Christian culture so deeply that few Christians would ever question it:

Real ministry is defined by the time you spend in the official efforts of the church to evangelize the lost and edify the saved. This is the work that God is interested in, that He considers most important, special, and significant.

By accepting this false belief, our fruitfulness is hindered by shrinking and distorting our views of what we and our businesses can be. As a result, millions of Christians, like myself, lead lives that are far less productive than God wants. And hundreds of thousands of businesses are hampered in achieving their full potential. And that means that the Church’s influence and impact is light years away from that which it could be.

Here are some ways this belief is expressed in Christian culture:

A client recently told me that one of his salespeople left the company to go into full-time ministry. The implication was that the former employee merely ‘made a living’ when they worked for my client; now they did ‘real’ ministry – that work that is only in the context of the church.

Read more

Consequences of the Business as Money-Giver Mentality

By Dave Kahle

“Our business should just make money so that we can give it away” – that’s the message our contemporary evangelical culture teaches us. Those who look for a higher purpose in their business may find this message easy to accept but is this message actually short-sighted and missing the mark on all God has for Christian owned businesses?

There are books written advocating that the sole purpose of a business is to make money to fund religion. What if God has a much larger and full purpose for business? It is easy to conclude from the Biblical theme of giving that the sole purpose of our businesses is to give. And besides, it feels good and gives great CSR standing in the community! With so much support for the idea, it’s no wonder that most Christian business people believe it.

But is our perspective skewed?

Could it be that this giving paradigm, that feels good and seems reasonable, is actually hindering our growth and thwarting the growth of the Kingdom?

If we could unleash the potential of Christian owned and influenced businesses to see themselves as powerful entities in the Kingdom with multiple bottom lines (Social, Spiritual, Economic, and Environmental) as opposed to merely a Kingdom check-book, we could turn the world upside down. Here are some consequences of the short-sighted view of the Business as money-giver paradigm.

Consequences of the business as money giver paradigm

Consequence #1:  It elevates money to the highest priority in business.

By stating that the purpose of a business is to make money so that you can give it away, money is elevated to the highest priority in business. Now, all of the other purposes of a business — to provide community, to develop future leaders, to bless communities, to demonstrate the fullness of Christ, etc. (find the full list in The Good Book on Business) — slide down the scale and become subservient to the quest to make money. While a business should make money, that is not its highest calling. A business only achieves its potential when it steps out of the money-is-everything mentality.

Read more

Beliefs on Wealth Creation

by The Lausanne Movement and BAM Global

Wealth Creation is Rooted in God

The Bible makes a bold claim, namely, that wealth creation is rooted in God the creator. He is the ultimate source of all wealth. Genesis 1:1 declares, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ And Genesis 2:1 notes that the creation of the heavens and the earth was completed on the sixth day. ‘God saw all that He had made, and it was very good’ (Gen 1:31a). The word in Hebrew that is translated ‘very good’ is closely related to shalom which is normally translated as ‘peace’, but also means completeness or wholeness, wholeness of the individual person, wholeness of human interactions with one another and wholeness of relationship between humankind and all creation.

The goodness of his creation is celebrated in Psalm 104, which provides a kind of mind map of creation starting with God (vv. 1-4), then moving to the earth (vv. 5-9), provision of productive resources (vv. 10-13), relationship between man and creation (vv. 14-26), relationship between created beings and God (vv. 27-30), and acknowledgment of God the Creator (vv. 31-34).

God created humanity ‘in our image, according to our likeness’ (Gen 1:26a) and delegated to humanity a co-creation role. In Genesis 1:28 this role is specified as to ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the earth’ (see also Ps 8:6-8). In doing so, God did not transfer ownership (see Ps 50: 10-12).

Read more

Wealth Creation Manifesto

CWC Manifesto Cover 200Background

The Lausanne Movement and BAM Global organized a Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in March 2017. About 30 people from 20 nations participated, primarily from the business world, and also from church, missions and academia. The findings will be published in several papers and a book, as well as an educational video. This Manifesto conveys the essentials of our deliberations before and during the Consultation.

Affirmations

1. Wealth creation is rooted in God the Creator, who created a world that flourishes with abundance and diversity.

2. We are created in God’s image, to co-create with Him and for Him, to create products and services for the common good.

3. Wealth creation is a holy calling, and a God-given gift, which is commended in the Bible.

4. Wealth creators should be affirmed by the Church, and equipped and deployed to serve in the marketplace among all peoples and nations. Read more

Calling the Church to Affirm Wealth Creators

by David Bennett

‘What is the role of wealth creation in holistic transformation?’ Have you ever heard a sermon or participated in a small group Bible study that answered this question? If your answer is ‘No’, you are not alone.

Although I have been preaching and teaching the Bible for over four decades, I had never addressed that question explicitly. I had taught about the dangers of obsession with wealth, and the importance of good stewardship of wealth. I had discussed the importance of ethical creation of wealth, and the compassionate sharing of wealth. I had advised foundations and wealthy individuals concerning the wise distribution of their wealth. But I had never taught about the God-given role of wealth creators. I had not highlighted the potential impact of a growing business, not only in lifting individuals out of poverty, but in benefiting entire communities, caring for creation, and introducing people to the good news of reconciliation and shalom through Jesus Christ.

Mats Tunehag, our first Lausanne Catalyst for Business as Mission (BAM), expresses it like this, in a chapter for a book soon to published by the Korean BAM movement:

The Bible talks about wealth in three ways; one is bad and two are good. Hoarding of wealth is condemned. Sharing of wealth is encouraged. But there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created . . . All too often in the church the issue of wealth creation is misunderstood, neglected, or even rejected. The same thing applies to wealth creators.

Read more

God Gives Us What We Need

by Hugh Whelchel

The following is an excerpt from Monday Morning Success: How Biblical Stewardship Transforms Your Work, a recently published ebook by Hugh Whelchel on the biblical meaning of success. Download the ebook FREE here.  

 

God gave humans not only the physical world, but our own talents – gifts and abilities that we can use to serve him. Prior to the Reformation, the medieval church interpreted the talents in Jesus’ parable as spiritual gifts God bestowed on Christians. But the Reformers upset the status quo of the church by teaching people that their work matters to God. Martin Luther said, “The work of the milkmen is just important to God as the work of the priest.” Later, John Calvin helped shape the modern meaning of the world talents by defining them as gifts from God in the form of a person’s calling and natural abilities, rather than just spiritual gifts.

Despite some historical disagreements over the precise interpretation of talents, they are basically the tools God gives us to carry out the cultural mandate. He gives us everything we need to do what he has called us to do. In calling us to plant a garden, God gives us shovels, trowels, land, seed, strength, and patience. It is then our responsibility to use those gifts to the best of our ability. Even once we’ve used our gifts to till the soil and plant the seed, we look to him for rain and sun to secure the outcome of healthy plants. But without the contribution of our labor, the garden doesn’t grow.

Calvin challenged believers “to work, to perform, to develop, to progress, to change, to choose, to be active, and to overcome until the day of their death or the return of their Lord.” Calvin understood scripture to teach that “the whole of a man’s life is to be lived as in the Divine Presence.” As Pastor John Piper explains:  Read more

Work is Good

by Hugh Whelchel

The following is an excerpt from Monday Morning Success: How Biblical Stewardship Transforms Your Work, a recently published ebook by Hugh Whelchel on the biblical meaning of success. Download the ebook FREE here.  

 

From his first steps on the earth, man received a charge from the Creator: work. As a culture, even as Christians, we’ve wandered away from the idea that we were created to work. We tend to view work as something negative. But God placed Adam in the garden to work it and take care of it before sin tainted his good world. As Christians, our mission is summarized by what is called the cultural mandate:

God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’
Genesis 1:28

We are to oversee all that is God’s while we await our Savior’s return. God has given us authority to take care of the earth and use wisely all that he has placed in it. Pastor Tim Keller writes in his book Every Good Endeavor,

“… We do not see work brought into our human story after the fall of Adam, as part of the resulting brokenness and curse; it is part of the blessedness of the garden of God. Work is as much a basic human need as food, beauty, rest, friendship, prayer, sexuality; it is not simply medicine but food for our soul.”

The cultural mandate also emphasizes that the physical world is a good and beautiful part of God’s purposes in this world. Far from a bus ticket to heaven, our salvation is an invitation to participate in the restoration of all things. Our stewardship of the physical world is just as important as our cultivation of spiritual gifts. Therefore, all that we do is worship – planting a garden, cleaning a school, creating a spreadsheet, building a hospital.  Read more

Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation

by Mats Tunehag

“Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives  you the ability to produce wealth.” (Deut 8:18)

The Bible talks about wealth in three ways; one is bad and two are good. Hoarding of wealth is condemned. Sharing of wealth is encouraged. But there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created.

Wealth is not a zero-sum game. Different kinds of wealth can and should be created, and can increase. All too often in the church the issue of wealth creation is misunderstood, neglected, or even rejected. The same thing applies to wealth creators.

Wealth creation is both a godly gift and a godly command (Deut 8). The people of Israel were commanded to seize business opportunities in mining and agriculture, and as a result the nation would prosper. However, God reminded them that wealth creation was a gift from him. It should be done in community and for community, recognizing the covenant, being accountable to God, and being mindful of blessing all peoples.

Wealth creation in and through business is beyond corporate philanthropy. Businesses do not exist to simply give away profit. They primarily exist to create different kinds of wealth for people and societies. It is not only about financial wealth, but also social, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual wealth.  Read more