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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Christian Business

Have you noticed it? This proliferation of "Christian businesses" and the organizations and concepts that support them? There are several para-church ministries aimed squarely at Christians business owners. There are ministries to people in the marketplace. And then there are the businesses themselves. They market under the name of Jesus.

I travel to Africa often and sometimes smile to see the "Jesus Saves" bakery or cell phone store. It's how some name their businesses there. We aren't quite so blatant about it in western culture. Nonetheless, we put the fish symbol on the company car, have Bible studies at work and consider ourselves a Christian business.

But lately, I'm beginning to wonder if there is such a thing. I mean business today, as we know it, is grounded in capitalism. And frankly, I've not seen such good things coming out of capitalism. In fact, it seems to have been down right vicious to society in the last 20 or 30 years. Wasn't capitalism the author of offshore outsourcing? Isn't capitalism the leader of corporate mergers (that wipe out jobs)? Can't we blame capitalism for the fact that millions of Americans have slipped into actual poverty and millions more have seen their lifestyles decline?

"No intelligent man would try to find ethical sanction for capitalism in Christianity." - Ian Milner, 1934

Ian Milner was a Communist. ( His views were clearly leftist. But as I've considered what he had to say about capitalism, I wonder if there isn't more truth in his statement than he was given credit for when he said it.

You see, Jesus is not a CEO. Christianity is not a corporation. The man who builds a bank does not build a temple. The man who works at the stock exchange should not worship there. The man who collects dividends does not thereby witness for Jesus. Why? Because Jesus placed principle above principal.

A guy once told me of a gas station in his home town. An unabashedly "Christian business," it had a sign saying, "God is the owner of this business; I just run it for him." They sold beer and cigarettes and were open on Sundays. Some said they had the highest prices in town too!

In my city, there is a Christian business directory, called "The Shepherd's Guide." ( It bills itself as "The Christian's Choice of Yellow Pages." I think what it means that it's a collection of businesses who are willing to pay for a listing in this directory. And they call themselves Christians. We don't know if that's actually true, mind you. There could be hypocrites and pharisees listed in there too. In fact, I'm not sure Shepherd's Guide has any specific criteria. For all we know, Hindu and Muslim business owners could just as easily be listed there - just wanting to market to "the Christian community."

And there are all sorts of businesses that call themselves Christian. We have Christian tanning salon, home builder, modeling school, pest control company and even a debt reduction company. What fake tans have to do with Christianity escapes me. How using toxic chemicals to kill "pests" that God created seems equally questionable. Really, about the only thing I've not seen billing itself as Christian might be liquor store, porn store or escort service. Although I wouldn't put it past someone to try the latter!

It seems that one of the biggest problems in Christianity today might be this incestuous relationship that we have with capitalism. I'm not against Christians earning a living. I'm not against taking our Christian principles with us into the marketplace. But it is, after all, a market place. It is not a house of worship or a house of prayer. And I think I would argue that it shouldn't be.

Frankly, I'd rather my business be a house of principled people who love God, obey His commands, and enthusiastically support and engage in their local church.

I remember one time an acquaintance of mine started a business --- and then changed churches. Curious, I asked him why he and his family had changed churches. He said that while they'd had a long relationship in their old church, he just felt the business contacts would be better in the new church. And he was listed in The Shepherd's Guide. For sure, he was running a "Christian business," including hosting Bible studies in the board room each week.

It seems to me that we should give up on running Christian businesses. I suspect God would be more pleased --- and we would be more successful --- if we simply ran businesses ... and lived lives ... that truly honor God in all ways.

1 comment:

  1. Well..My ultimate goal is to expand beyond the affiliate marketing, and begin to sell my own product, which is a series of books about educational leadership, learning styles and playing your best golf. It’s doubtful I’ll leave the affiliate marketing behind, but I’m looking forward to using what I’ve learned to do my own thing.

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