If you’ve been following along with our recent content series, you know the answer by now. A Kingdom business is NOT the same as a Christian business.
The reason they are different is that Kingdom and Christian describe different things. The former is a place, the latter is a person.
In theory, “Christian” describes that person’s spiritual condition. In practice, maybe it describes their religious condition. In either case, a collection of such people is not a business. It’s a church. A primary purpose of a church is to mentor, nurture, mature, somehow advance the spirituality of its members. That is, it is supposed to deepen their relationship with their namesake – Christ Jesus. Again in practice, unfortunately, maybe it only advances members’ religiosity. I know I’ve greatly simplified all this, and there’s plenty more nuance than we have space for in this blog post – but the point of a church is to “do Christian things.” Which in turn, is supposed to attract new members. That is, to “make more Christians.”
But a business has a different purpose altogether. For simplicity sake, it’s a collection of people joined together to create economic value. I understand we could also write a whole book on the nuance of what that means for various people in the collection, like employees, investors, customers, stakeholders, and more. I think you understand the basic point, though, that a business is formed to create economic value.
A worldly business may create such value only for its members. A corrupt one may manipulate people inside or outside the organization to create value for only a certain select group of members at the expense of other people. A good business may create economic value for both its members and the community (customers, stakeholders, geographic region) it serves. A Kingdom business? In creating value, it does so in a way that reflects a place, namely the Kingdom of Heaven. Or at least it’s on a journey to reflect more and more of that Kingdom and less and less of the worldly kingdom in its operations and mission as it matures.
It took me longer than it should have to figure all this out. When I first gave my life to Jesus, He set me in some wonderful, non-denominational, evangelical church settings in which I could grow and learn. I was “all in” on my faith, so right away I was trying to figure out what that meant for my Tuesday, in the office, in my job, and career. To my surprise, most of the people in my church context were only focused on Sunday and church, and weren’t thinking much about how faith might apply on Tuesday at work. The few who did were really thinking in terms of “Christian business,” which they translated into “do Christian things” or “make more Christians.” These were good people who loved Jesus, they had just never been taught any different. In some cases, they were church people – not business people – and that’s what churches are supposed to do. In other cases, they were business people, who simply had no other grid in which to see their work than through the eyes of a church who didn’t understand or value them in their business role – and just wanted them to “do Christian things” and “make more Christians” like they did. So you can see now why that term – using Christian as an adjective to describe business – is so confusing. Does that mean you only hire Christians? Do you only market and sell to Christian organizations? Do you only make Christian products? (And what exactly are those??) Does it mean the owners are Christian? Does it mean you have to get everyone in the company “saved”?? None of the above … because it’s the totally wrong grid!
Now I’m all for evangelism, and helping people discover our amazing, awesome Lord so that they too want to join His family. If you look at my history, you could never accuse me of being shy about my faith in Jesus, or “anti-evangelism” in some way. But clearly, evangelism is not the primary purpose of a business. It’s a desirable outcome – but not a primary purpose. A business is a mechanism for a collection of people to create and enjoy economic value, to provide for and enhance their livelihoods. Business is good and proper. God equips and gifts people to conduct it. God has given us plenty of examples, principles, applications, and guidance all through Scripture on how to do it. In short, business is God’s idea. But none of that says a business should look like a church or do the things a church does. The Lord does, however, say we should make it look like His Kingdom.
And that’s a lot less confusing. There’s just one question to ask really. “Is this the way things work in the Kingdom?” Then you partner with the Lord to see that it does …
(If you want more background on that, I’d suggest searching for some books on “the seven mountains of influence” by authors like Johnny Enlow, Lance Wallnau, and others. Of course, you’ll also find additional background and much deeper discussion on how to do all this in my own book “At Work As In Heaven” and on the website at atworkasinheaven.com.)