6. What It’s Going To Take –
I’m told that at the turn of the 20th century some 70% of people were self-employed or in business. Similarly, I’ve been told that at the turn of the 21st century that number had dropped below 30%.
When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.
For any society to experience and enjoy the divine blessings of happiness, security, wellness, personal fulfilment, scientific and spiritual enlightenment, and prosperity, it needs this sixth element – blessed business. I am going to make the case that we need leaders in business who know God and how to invoke His blessing upon their business. I hope to further this case by showing that the Scriptures show that when righteous business people prosper, entire cities are also blessed (Prov. 11:10). A part of this blessing upon a city is that people are gainfully employed with meaningful work, and these righteous business people are able to exercise a positive influence for the good and welfare of a society.
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the LORD
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
THE PRINCIPLES OF RIGHTEOUS BUSINESS
A business is an organised means of supplying goods and/or services at a reasonable price to customers or clients which gives a reasonable return to investors. A righteous business is also this, but it is done in a way that honours God and His Word. It goes without saying then that it is a business that not only operates within the law, it also operates with moral uprightness and ethical integrity. For some businesses, such as Hobby Lobby, or Chic-fil-a, which are owned and run by followers of Christ, it means not violating Hebrews 10:25 which is why they do not open their stores on Sundays. It also effects how they treat customers and staff. Some Christians who have worked for a “Christian business” (a term I do not like or use) have been surprised that their employers have taken a dim view of their tardy work ethic – even though they may have been running late to work having just come from a church early morning prayer meeting, or when they have taken an extended lunch-break because they were deep in Bible study or witnessing to a non-Christian co-worker. (Perhaps in the appendices of this proposed book I might list the principles for being a Christ-following employee starting with those found in Second Thessalonians 3:10.)
Not everyone can go into business as their main or sole source of income. Running a successful business may look easy to an outsider. But upon closer inspection we would discover that the person starting or running a business has to manage a complexity of issues that an employee or self-employed person doesn’t. But the one who owns a business has the potential to create wealth than an employee or self-employed person does not. As Proverbs 11:10 states, when the righteous succeed in their business, the city rejoices. And well they might! Successful businesses can add value to a community – and not just financially! There is tremendous value for their employees who are then able to have the dignity of being productive members of their community. There are numerous ‘spin-off’ economic benefits derived as other businesses are spawned which provide associated goods or services. There is benefits for the broader community as the business pays local government rates and fees which helps to fund the upkeep of local roads and parks.
By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.
TYPES OF BUSINESSES
When I studied economics nearly 35 years ago, we were taught that there were essentially three categories of business: Primary Industry, the Wholesale (Distribution) Industry, and, the Retail Industry. This view of the economy was built almost entirely upon the production of physical goods and their allied services. While these three broad categories of the economy still exist, all modern economies are now far more complex due to three factors that didn’t exist when I studied economics.
Perhaps I could illustrate this complexity by pointing out that in today’s economy, the world’s largest video entertainment provider does not directly produce video entertainment! YouTube is a platform which has (as of today) 1.3 billion video producers who collectively upload 300 hours of videos a minute to YouTube! In 2006, Google bought YouTube for $1.65B! Speaking of Google, it is now the world’s main source of information and news, yet it does not produce any. It is a platform. Today, Google is worth $846.02B. Facebook is a platform for anyone (within reason) to produce content and is now worth around $400B. In addition to these businesses which operate as platforms there are full-time YouTube content providers who are making between $50K to $16.5M a year [source].
Business today is much more complex than the farmer growing his produce for the distributer to wholesale it to retailers! Economists refer to such major shifts in the economy as revolutions. The Industrial Revolution which began in the late 18th century ended around the time of the Berlin Wall coming down with what has become known as the Information Revolution. Others refer to this period as The Digital Age. No longer are ‘goods’ merely physical, or ‘services’ done manually. Businesses today can still be in the traditional three tiers of the economy, but they are increasingly operating in the digital world of virtual goods and automated services. This can look like coding, software, interactive games, and other forms of digital entertainment. Will Christ-followers develop as industry leaders in this new strata of our global-village economy? I hope so.
Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’
HOW BUSINESSES GROW
By my reckoning, up to half of the world’s top 50 companies did not exist 45 years ago! Several of them, such as Apple, and Amazon, have annual turn-overs of several hundred billion dollars. Their stories highlight what it takes to grow any business. And perhaps it is here that we find the filter for distinguishing a business from someone who is self-employed – even though they may employ a few people. A business has the potential for unlimited growth. A righteous global business has the potential to be a force for good on a global scale in such a way that it could have the power and influence to help eradicate global poverty, and those criminal activities which currently blight our world such as human trafficking, and escalating suicide rates. For those called by God to build, or help build, an innovative global business, I want to sow the seed of divine possibility into your soul that you could be called to do far much more than build a comfortable business which gives you a comfortable lifestyle and leads to a comfortable retirement. By growing your business into a global enterprise you could literally be a contributing agent to transforming impoverished and corrupt nations into prosperous and God-blessed nations! To do this, you must learn to develop three things-
- SYSTEMS – processes: how things are done
- STAFF – people: who does it
- STRATEGIES – purpose: why it’s done
A business could have weaknesses in its processes and strategies but still succeed as long as it has great people involved. Every successful business is always going to be contingent and dependant upon people. Discipled Christ-followers should have a huge advantage here. By following Christ, a person learns to care for others. You cannot follow Christ closely and fail to see Him treating every person He came in contact with with tremendous tenderness and respect – even those He corrected (like the Pharisees for example). It should go without saying that if a business has great systems and a great strategy yet treats people without due respect and care, that business can never truly succeed. This is why any Christ-follower who seeks to run a successful business must learn from Christ about how to lead and manage others. Every great business needs a great leader and many good managers.
You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may confirm His covenant that He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BUSINESSES AND A LOCAL CHURCH
Business people have often thought of churches and church leaders as out of touch with the reality of business life. Whenever pastors spoke about the relationship of business-people to the church, it was nearly always about being a source of finance. I don’t think I have ever done this. In fact, I hope that those business people whom I have pastored over the past few decades could bear witness that I have been a pastor to them as a person. One of the reasons I conduct a monthly leadership training for all our volunteers on the first Sunday night of each month is to also give godly leadership and managerial tools for those in business or management. It is over these years that I have become increasingly persuaded that the ministry of a healthy local church can also help those in business in at least 8 vital ways:
Fostering personal character development
Promoting godliness through moral formation
Instilling the means and resources for healthy soul-care
Providing positive intellectual distraction with a vision of Someone greater than them
Connecting them with a Cause far bigger than their business and with the potential to change the lives of others for eternity
Inspiring innovation and excellence with a vision of the glorious Creator
Training in human relationships, particularly marriage, parenting, social interactions, being a leader, and a manager
Helping them to view their business as integral to their worship of the Lord
For a society to experience and enjoy the divine blessings of happiness, security, wellness, personal fulfilment, scientific and spiritual enlightenment, and prosperity, it needs this sixth element – blessed business. Not everyone is called to go into business, but for those who are, it is my hope that they can be blessed and become a blessing to many. I hope that our church can become an incubator for young people to learn the necessary character traits to be successful in life and not just in business.