Should businesses be “Christ-centered”? Or, is that calling reserved for your local church?
Most Christian business professionals are employed within “Babylonian” organizational cultures. Unlike Daniel, Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, these Christians in “Babylonian” businesses won’t be thrown into a lion’s den or a fiery furnace. However, the corporate cultures in which they perform their jobs usually discourage any public expressions of their Christian faith. Yet, they can still make an impact for Christ from within these organizations.
For those of us that live in a free society and are called and gifted to be entrepreneurs and business leaders, how much more do we have opportunities to shape the culture of our businesses. We can dedicate our businesses to God and submit them to his purposes and strategies.
Before I talk about what a “Christ-Centered Business” is, I need to share what it is not.
It’s not about only hiring Christians.
Refusing to hire anyone except Christians is illegal (at least, in the United States). Not only is it illegal, such a practice would prevent a business from fulfilling a key part of its redemptive purpose: being salt and light among unbelievers in the workplace. Jesus spent a significant portion of his time with unbelievers. If we’re not working with unbelievers, our business probably isn’t being Christ-Centered.
It’s not about being “churchy.”
Being a Christ-Centered Business is not about packing your employees into the conference room, playing worship music, and bringing in your pastor to preach to them. It’s not about transplanting local church service models into a business setting.
It’s not necessarily about being financially prosperous.
If we define prosperity only in terms of money and influence, it’s not enough to say, “Christ-Centered businesses prosper more than businesses led by non-Christians.” Many businesses led by non-Christians are on the Fortune 500, Inc. 500, and other lists of the most successful companies in the world. Jesus explains this phenomenon by saying that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45b).
It’s about more than applying timeless principles.
The Bible is full of practical business wisdom that has proven effective in the marketplace since the beginning of economics. Christians and non-Christians alike can apply the Bible’s timeless business principles and experience the benefits. Therefore, it’s possible to take business principles from the Bible and leave God out of your business. God is a person, not merely a set of timeless principles.
If there is more to being a Christ-Centered business than hiring Christians only, churchiness, financial prosperity, and the application of timeless wisdom, what are the qualities by which they can be recognized? Here, I will offer share four of those indispensable qualities.
Quality #1 – Eternal Return on Investment (EROI) is the Bottom Line
The bottom line for a Christ-Centered business is not merely financial, social, environmental, or anything else that is temporary. The bottom line for a Christ-Centered business is eternal. The Bible says…
“…each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:13-15)
If it doesn’t last in eternity, it’s not the bottom line.
Quality #2 – Makes disciples of Jesus
I believe the ultimate purpose of a Christ-centered business is the same as for a Christian individual: “to make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).
Making disciples of Jesus in a business setting may sound more complicated than it is. The Apostle Paul simplified and defined disciple-making with this invitation: “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
Do the business practices of your company reflect the character of Jesus Christ? In other words, does your company treat your employees, customers, clients, and other stakeholders as Jesus would? Have you invited others to follow your example? If so, you are making disciples, followers, of Jesus. It’s that simple.
Quality #3 – Led and empowered by the Spirit of God
If a company is in business to fulfill the mission of God, it only makes sense that the company would be led by God Himself. He leads us through the presence and voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
When leading the children of Israel toward the Promised Land, Moses said to God, “’If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). He didn’t want to move anywhere unless he was following God.
When I first started out as an entrepreneur, I hired a web developer without first praying about whether he was the right choice. To make a long story short, I ended up losing $5,000 on account of this person and had nothing to show for it. Asking God first would have prevented the loss of six months, $5,000, and my peace of mind during that frustrating season of my life.
Quality #4 – Chooses to be accountable to godly advisors
The Bible says, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Prov. 11:14).
There are many thought leaders in and around my industry that I respect for the advice that they share. The problem is that many of them do not know God. A diet of business advice and guidance fed primarily by non-Christian thinkers will condition a person to believe that God is not relevant to his/her business. As Larry Burkett said in his classic, Business by the Book, “The difficulty isn’t the advice they give; it’s the advice they don’t give, specifically, the lack of spiritual insight.”[i]
Over the past several years, I have benefitted from the business wisdom of Christian thought leaders such as Dave Ramsey, Dan Miller, Michael Hyatt, John Maxwell, and others. At the same time, I must admit that a large percentage of the business books I have read and business podcasts I have listened to were presented by non-Christian thought leaders.
In your company, make sure that you are giving priority to the voice of counsel from those who share your Christian values.
[i] Larry Burkett, Business by the Book (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 89.
Darren Shearer is the host of the Theology of Business Podcast, which helps marketplace leaders to partner with God in business to transform the marketplace and make an impact for eternity. The Theology of Business Podcast has been downloaded in 66 countries. Darren is the author of three books, including The Marketplace Christian: A Practical Guide to Using Your Spiritual Gifts in Business and Marketing Like Jesus: 25 Strategies to Change the World. He is the founder and CEO of High Bridge Books, which offers professional book publishing and author consulting services for inspiring thought leaders.