Working out your faith in the business world

Christians talk a lot about “shaping culture” and “having an impact on society.” What springs to mind when you hear those phrases? I tend to think of Christians trying to spread evangelistic or moral messages through entertainment or politics. Those are certainly major places where Christians can live out their values—but there’s a more mundane, perhaps even more important, place where we are called to live out our faith: the business world.

From the Enron scandal a decade ago to the recent economic crisis, it’s clear that Christlike values are as needed in the business community as they are in any other aspect of life. At the Lausanne World Pulse site, John Terrill addresses this in A Revolution of Vocation, which argues that the church should do a better job of equipping and supporting Christians who are called into business:

We desperately need to recover the sacredness of a calling to business. The Church must continue to renounce the sacred/secular divide that has beleaguered Christian communities for too long. As A.W. Tozer rightly notes in The Pursuit of God, far too many Christians get snared in this trap: “They cannot get a satisfactory adjustment between the claims of the two worlds…. Their strength is reduced, their outlook confused and their joy taken from them.” And I might add that their impact in the world is severely constrained.

Christ followers serving in business, law, healthcare, the arts, media, government, and every other profession need to experience in tangible ways the Church’s blessing of their Christ-honoring work in companies, law firms, clinics, studios, press rooms, and congressional chambers.

Terrill thinks the church has much to say about the role of business within a community, and that in today’s globally interconnected economy, business is a means of doing Christ’s work in the world.

It’s a challenging and helpful read, especially if you or someone you know is a professional trying to figure out how their profession relates to their Christian faith. Terrill’s is a fairly high-level approach; for more ground-level articles about living out your faith in your day-to-day job, see this collection of essays about Christianity in the workplace from Discipleship Tools.

How about you? Do you feel your church supports you in your career? Do you feel called to your profession? Do you have a sense of how your job fits into the big picture of your Christian life?

2 Responses to “Working out your faith in the business world”

  • There are at least two ways to consider how one’s job fits “into the big picture of Christian life”: 1) on the macro level, we can choose to work for employers who do business with honesty and trust and provide products and services that advance society, and 2) on the micro level, we can approach our work in a Christ-centered way, putting in our best efforts out of a sense of service to others instead of ego.

    As it relates to the first point, here is an excerpt from a writing of mine from 2007:

    “Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than you are authorized to do’ ” (Luke 3:12-13). John instructs here simply not to abuse the authority of one’s position for material gain. If John were delivering his message at the turn of the 21st century, he might very well be directing this sentiment at the CEOs of the world’s large corporations. The accounting scandals and their ill-gotten gains are tantamount to the extortion John warned against in his day. In this age of free enterprise, many more of us — not just chief executives — have opportunity to abuse the material power entrusted to us by employers, business partners, shareholders, etc. John’s teaching on this point is relevant to all of us.

    As it relates to the second point, here is an another excerpt from the same piece I wrote:

    In the business world, one of the most difficult transitions to make is to become a manager of the very people who were once peers. . . . Above all, to be successful, the new manager must be willing to serve the individuals on his/her team as much as he desires to lead them: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15).

    • Chris Salzman says:

      Stephen, excellent thoughts!

      Regarding your second point, one of the greatest pieces of advice I ever received from a boss was to “never ask anyone to do something you’re not willing to do yourself.” He backed that statement up by continually doing his best to serve us in everything he did. It’s the best example of “foot-washing” that I’ve ever encountered.