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Draw Near to God

If you’re a business owner and you want to use your business for Jesus Christ, fulfilling that desire starts with you. Who you are is the primary factor in whether or not you’re successful.

We all can think of people who are highly talented and very smart. Yet they are not fulfilling their potential to achieve all that they could achieve. Why? Because they lack the character necessary to meet the demands of reality. Maybe they think they can do more than they really can, so they don’t build alliances that lead to organizational success. Often, they are unable to deal with conflict in a positive way.

All of us have deficiencies in our characters which leads to our inability to meet the demands of reality. The transformation of our character by the Holy Spirit is imperative if we are going to achieve all that God has designed us to achieve. This transformation can be experienced only by spending time with God.

In Hebrews 10.22, Paul tells us to “draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith”. There is no substitute on the planet for spending time with God – intimate, personal, quality time with God. When we “draw near” – we come close to the heart of God. We learn and we absorb. We take time to hear the voice of God and allow Him to speak truth into our lives. We ask God if there is any wicked way within us and as He lovingly reveals sin in our lives, we confess that sin and repent.

The Holy Spirit cannot transform us apart from us drawing near to God. Unless we are transformed, we will continue to commit the same mistakes over and over again that persistently retard our relationships and growth in our business. We will continue to hurt our staff, we’ll miss opportunities to build alliances, we’ll shy away from resolving conflict and we’ll avoid making the tough calls.

I want to encourage you today – draw near to God. Take time to be with God. Learn to hear His voice. Learn His heart. And let him examine you daily so that the Holy Spirit can transform you. Running your business God’s way starts with who you are. Let God, through the Holy Spirit, transform you today.

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

How Much are Ethics Worth?

How much are ethics worth? This was the topic of a recent study conducted at the University of Ontario’s Ivey School of Business. The study looked at customer attitudes toward companies that were described as highly ethical, neutral and poorly ethical. Generally, what they found is that there is a segment of our society that will pay a premium for ethically produced products. They also found that a larger segment of our society will only pay deeply discounted prices for unethically produced products.

The article concludes with this admonition for businesses: “The lessons are clear. Companies should segment their market and make a particular effort to reach out to buyers with higher ethical standards, because those are the customers who can deliver the biggest potential profits on ethically produced products.”

Well, now.

The lessons are clear: In this article, the authors advocate for ethics only if it leads to increased profits. Moreover, they assume that profits are the only measure of success for a company. While I agree that profits are necessary, focusing solely on profits leads to an imbalance in how the God’s purposes for business are implemented.

Presumably, if unethical behavior lead to an increase in profits, I would have a hard time seeing these authors argue against the unethical behavior. The harsh reality is that anytime you find sin in business, you’re likely to find additional money to support it. Think about it. Look at the businesses that engage in sin – prostitution….drugs….abortion…..gambling….as examples, and you will *always* find an excess of cash in those businesses. Generally, the more sin and lack of ethics, the more profits you will find.

Conducting business in an ethical manner will reduce your profits. It will cost you more to do the right thing. If you run a publically held company, you may have additional explaining to do in order to follow God’s ethics consistently.

As consumers, when reasonably possible, we should avoid supporting products that are produced in unethical manners. For example, if you know that certain clothes are produced using forced child labor in sweat shops in third world countries, your purchase of that clothing supports potential child abuse. Even though you might save money by purchasing this article of clothing, you should ask yourself about the ethics of supporting sweat shops with forced child labor. Integrating ethics into your purchasing decisions honors God and when exercised for moral reasons, furthers His kingdom on this earth.

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

Passions: God’s Purposes for Business – Part II

Earlier, I posted the first purpose of business: God created business to provide a means to produce goods and services that allows the community to flourish. In this post, I’ll discuss the second in this series – and that is this:

Business exists to enable the individual to express their God-given creativities and passions.

Throughout the Scriptures, we find people expressing creativity through work. For example, Adam was called by God to name all of the animals, which required creativity to come with an entire schema of names. In business parlance, we call creativity “innovation”. Innovation is a process in which we refine, improve, connect or create new products, services or ideas that benefit our customers, partners, vendors or employees. Some are so innovative that they cannot see a future without their new idea coming to fruition. Bill Gates – who had the vision of a PC on every desk – represents this type of creativity. When we combine our creativity and passions, we are operating in our “sweet spot”, which is usually where we experience our greatest productivity, fulfillment and satisfaction.

This purpose can be perverted when a person’s passion is sin. We find this in Romans 1, where Paul describes those who have been given over to sin as follows: “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” One characteristic of being in bondage to sin is that you become passionate about that sin. That’s not a good place to be.

If you are an employer, writing up job descriptions that will accomplish certain tasks necessary to your business producing products that will help your business flourish. Finding people whose creativities and passions align with that job description is the essence of hiring good employees. If you’re an employee, ask yourself if your present job or career allows you to work in your sweet spot. If it does not, you might want to consider changing jobs or even careers so that what you do in the marketplace more closely aligns with who God has made you to be.

If you would like, you are welcome to engage with me and others about this post on our Facebook page at facebook.com/bibleandbusiness.

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

Products: God’s Purposes for Business – Part I

What are God’s purposes for business? And perhaps, more importantly, why should you care?

I’ll answer the last question first. If you’re a Christian business owner or leader, you can be confident that when you align your business with God’s purposes, you will glorify God through your business. Would you like to use your business for Jesus Christ? If so, it starts by aligning your business with His purposes.

I believe there are five purposes for business. The first is this:

Business exists to provide a means to produce goods and services that allows the local community to flourish.

In Genesis, we learn that the Lord blessed Adam and Eve by commanding them to “be fruitful and multiply”.

The Hebrew word for “fruitful” is the common word we translate as “fruit”, but also carries with it the idea of “increase” or “flourishing”. When a plant bears fruit, it is said to be “flourishing” or “producing”. By analogy, when we walk in the Spirit and increase our intimacy with God, Galatians tells us, our lives will produce fruit that is in keeping with the Spirit.

In business parlance, bearing fruit is equivalent to being “productive”. When we are productive, we add value to the lives of our customers, partners, vendors and employees, in short, we add value to our community. As a result, our community flourishes.

This purpose can be perverted. If we build businesses that add value to sinful activities, we will be contributing to the diminishment of our communities. For example, if we form a business that helps people gamble away their money, we are using our talents to injure individuals, families and more generally, communities.

Business exists to provide a means to produce goods and services that allows the local community to flourish.

Do our businesses align with this purpose? Answer this question honestly and you will have a proper context in which to measure true success and avoid the temptations to sin that so many business leaders and owners fall into.

Part II

Part III

Wealth and Luck

In today’s environment, the wealthy are increasingly scorned for being wealthy. Many believe their wealth is a result of being lucky in life’s lottery. You can find a number of articles and posts on the internet that connect wealth with luck: a large segment – perhaps a majority – believe that one’s wealth is the result, mainly, of one’s luck in life.

As a Biblical Christian, I don’t believe in “luck”, which is defined as good fortune or success that happens by chance. Chance, by its’ very definition, is outside the control of God. The Scriptures don’t teach that things happen randomly. For example, Proverbs 16.33 says “the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Other verses can be referenced to show God’s absolute sovereignty over every affair of man. For example, if the hairs on our head on numbered – in other words, if God is that intimately concerned with the details of our lives – then surely He is involved with every aspect and decision of our life.

The reason to discuss luck in relation to wealth is because the foundation for understanding wealth from a Biblical perspective is God’s sovereignty. While man points to luck in the disparities of income, the Christian holds two truths in tension: first, that God is sovereign and He gives to some more material goods than others and secondly, man has corrupted through sin and selfishness the opportunity for many to create wealth for themselves and others. Let me reference three different passages that form this foundation.

First, 1 Samuel 2.6-7: “The Lord brings death and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and exalts” (emphasis added). In Hannah’s prayer to the Lord while giving her son Samuel to the Lord at the temple, she takes her dream of having a son and attributes (rightly) to God His full sovereignty in sending both “wealth” (in her case, a son) and poverty (in her case, a barren womb). Too support this, 1 Samuel 1.5, the writer notes that it was the Lord who had closed her womb. We might think that some have good fortune when it comes to creating wealth, but the Bible says that it is God who sends to that person their wealth.

This foundation is further explained by the fact that it is God who gives us the ability to create wealth. Deuteronomy 8 is abundantly clear in this regard: “For it is God who gives you the ability to create wealth”. The *only* reason we can create wealth in the first place is because God gave us the ability to do so.

Finally, in Psalm 50.10-12 we find that God declares His ownership of everything in the world: “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world is mine and all that is in it.” God owns everything in the world – all the wealth, the money, the buildings, the land – everything. The only thing He doesn’t own is men’s hearts – and that is why we must freely give Him our heart to be in a personal relationship with Him.

Hence, the following is true:

1. God gives us the ability to create wealth

2. God sends us wealth or poverty

3. God owns whatever wealth we might create

So, what kind of a God gives some people poverty? What kind of a God has some people born in the slums and others in the wealthiest of homes? I don’t believe that God ever intended for there to be wide disparities between the wealthy and the poor. Before the Fall, we see Adam and Eve living together in the garden, engaging in generativity and being productive, but we don’t see one person hoarding more to the exclusion of the other. Admittedly, this is an argument from silence, which can be suspect based on the assumptions given. However, it seems to me that when man sinned, our economic systems became depraved as well. Man became selfish and our institutions became infected – unlike the picture we have of Adam and Eve in the Garden. Hence, ever since the Fall, we have had the wealthy and the poor. In a sense, the more we find extreme wealth or extreme poverty, the more likely we are to find sin.

The wealthy have a responsibility to give to the poor – to ensure that those who cannot work and earn a decent living for themselves – are taken care of so that they are not left wanting. In our country, the government is seen as the primary mover of funds between the rich and the poor. Most of what government does is transfer wealth from one person to another. My problem with our system is that government is infected by sin too: it is a highly inefficient way to transfer wealth. Wealth needs to be something that is not hoarded by the rich – it needs to be invested or given away. But it can be given away most efficiently when it is given person-to-person. The more institutions are inserted into the middle of the process, the more likely it is that we will find inefficiencies in the process. In some instances, institutions are necessary. I get that. But if you give to institutions, choose carefully. The larger point is this: those who are wealthy – nearly everyone reading this post – has a responsibility to give back. Our responsibility is to the Lord first and we will be judged for our faithfulness in giving.

It seems rather harsh for God to send poverty to some. I don’t like this view of God at all. But it is what the Scripture’s teach. God is not unjust in anything He does – yet it can sure appear that way from our viewpoint. For those living in extreme poverty, it might of little comfort for them to hear that God will take care of their needs – yet I have experienced this personally and have seen this in the lives of many I know – God did meet their needs when they were in desperate need. But consider the opposite might be true as well: sending wealth to someone might be more damaging than sending poverty. Wealth can insulate a person from feeling they need God. It is much easier to sin with lots of money than it is with little money. And the bondage that a rich lifestyle offers can be significant. Perhaps this is why Solomon wrote “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” Sometimes, God will meet the poor’s daily bread through the gifts of those who are rich. But please know that God’s heart aches when He sees unmet poverty or hoarded wealth. Neither are good – both should be remedied. But not by the government. Instead, the remedy should come from transformed hearts that freely give whenever God prompts.

Finally, I would rather have a God who is sovereign over the ills and evils of our world than to say that which is evil occurs by chance while that which is good occurs because of God’s direction. If God isn’t sovereign over all of life – both evil and good – then He is not sovereign at all. The problem of evil is a difficult one. Suffering causes many to shun God. Yet, it is God who is the only one capable of binding up our wounds and giving us the healing with so desperately need.

When it comes to the creation of wealth, God is sovereign. If He has given you wealth, you have a serious responsibility to steward that wealth with an open hand. You may be wealth today and poor tomorrow. Don’t build your lifestyle around the consumption of wealth – build it around the giving of wealth as God directs you to give.

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

Managing Yourself in Conflicted Employment Relationships

One of the most difficult parts of being Christian business owner is when personal relationships with an employee goes south. When conflicts arise, it is in everyone’s best interest to have the conflicts resolved swiftly in a win/win scenario. But what do you do when you don’t know a conflict exists until the relationship is so damage that it’s unrepairable? Believe it or not, this can happen. Some employees are so passive with their anger and so choreographed in their behavior that an owner can be caught unaware of the employee’s true thoughts and feelings. In rare instances, these employees will take legal action against you. More commonly, they will talk bad about you behind your back, damaging your relationship with other employees, customers, partners and/or vendors. The focus of this post is on your response to situations like this. As a Christian in business, how do you handle yourself to these types of events? I offer my unsolicited advice from my own experience.

Counselors are necessary

Bear in mind, you’ll need people who can speak truth into your life during these difficult times. You need to submit yourself to them and honestly appraise your attitudes, actions and words. You’ll need a few trusted advisors with whom you can honestly share your thoughts and feelings and who can offer sage wisdom on how to proceed and who can help you see how you might have handled yourself wrongly in the relationship. This post can’t take the place of real-time, real-world advisors who are close to you. If you don’t have them, then build them into your life as soon as possible.

Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks

The Bible is abundantly clear that our words come from our heart. Listen to how a person speaks and what they speak about and you’ll know precisely what is in their heart. It’s not rocket science. Make sure *your* heart is aligned with Christ and that you are allowing Him to supernaturally transform your heart so that you genuinely “love your enemy” and can discipline your tongue – which is the most difficult part of our body to discipline, according to James. But listen to how your former employee speaks? Do you hear hurt? Vengeance? Anger? Arrogance? What do you hear? If you can, learn to respond to what’s in their heart, not to the raw message of their words. But above all, guard your heart and mind so that your own anger, arrogance, vengeance or the need to protect your own reputation doesn’t drive your words, decisions and actions. Let God transform you so the words that come out of your heart reflect the heart of God. Let God manage your reputation.

Focus on what you can control

You can’t control another person’s attitudes, actions, words, thoughts, impressions, hunches, musings or world view. And you certainly can’t control what they think about you, what they say about you or any coalitions they build against you. What other people think about you is not your business. As stewards of a business that God has given us, let’s remember that His reputation and interests should be first and foremost in our minds and actions as we carry out our duties as Christian business owners. So, put your energies into understanding yourself in the situation, letting the Holy Spirit control your words, actions and attitudes as you interact with a person who has become your adversary. Understand your unique situation well enough that you know what you can control and what you can’t. Focus on the former – leave the rest to the Lord.

Before you respond – Pray!

Remember, you are stewarding a business for the Lord. In your natural state, you’ll want to respond any number of ways – most of them probably not wise or mature. It’s natural for us to want to defend ourselves while also taking vengeance on the former employee. Don’t do it. You’ll regret it a thousand times over. Remember, it’s not about *you* – it’s about *the Lord*. Ask the Lord to give you an unnatural love and acceptance of the individual who is hurting you. Ask Him to do a work in you that you cannot do in yourself. And be sure to pray for your former employee. I usually ask the Lord to heal our relationship and to bless that individual. I also ask for justice if I have been wronged, but I realize that justice may not come in this lifetime.

Take responsible steps to protect yourself and your business

Several times, when an employee who had submitted his or her resignation was talking with me, I felt the Holy Spirit telling me to be economical with my words and watch what I said in their presence or wrote to them. Why? Because it was apparent to me that they were attempting to get me to say or do things that they could later use against me in a legal action. While a business owner should always be “on guard” for potential situations that increase exposure to liability, your radar should be fully “up” when talking with an employee who is exiting the business or who has recently left. Be sure you’re taking the following steps to protect yourself and your business:

  1. Document all under-performance and what you did to correct and/or remediate the employee
  2. Never talk bad about anyone to anyone for any reason within your business. It’s just too risky. Save your “venting” for your trusted advisors or business partners (assuming you get along with your partners)
  3. Some relationships cannot be repaired – so end them – but do so in a way that you get a legal document that releases you from all liability. Now, I assume here that as a Christian business owner, you have not dealt untruthfully or unethically with anyone in your company. If you have, then you need to take ownership of that and repair it as soon as possible. But if you have dealt with everyone – including the former employee – truthfully and ethically, then asking for a full release of liability only makes sense. You’ll need to pay consideration. That’s a cost of doing business. Yes, it’s unfair. But its’ how our system works. You can whine and complain about it or you can accept it and work within it. I suggest the latter.
  4. Pray against any demonic spiritual forces that are working to damage you and/or your business. Ephesians tells us that we don’t wrestle with flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces from the demonic realm. So be sure that daily, you are asking for God’s protection from demonic attacks and then in Christ’s name, you command any and every demonic force to leave your business and to cease all destructive activities in your relationships with employees, partners, vendors and customers.

Practicing these steps isn’t a fool-proof measure to ensure you never have a difficult time with a former employee, but they will sure help reduce your exposure to liability and the frequency with which these events occur.

Take responsible steps to defend yourself and your business

Defending yourself and your business is different than protecting yourself and your business. Protection has to do with the present and the future. Defense has to do with the past. I have learned through experience that former employees have immense power to extort monies from a former employer even though the employer did nothing wrong. People can, quite literally, make stuff up by reinterpreting past events to their advantage and then using legal action or the threat of legal action to (essentially) extort money from you.

IF this happens, remember that God is in control and He expects you to figure out a way to settle the matter before going to court (Matthew 5), even if this means agreeing to a settlement that is wholly unfair. Sometimes, pursuing what’s fair will cost you a great deal more than settling for unfair. It’s a cost of doing business. Don’t let your emotions drive your decisions when defending yourself. Instead, use your advisors and trusted legal assistance to your advantage. Your goal is to get the matter out of your hair so you can focus on running the business and creating profit for the Kingdom. Don’t get side-tracked by stuff like this. Keep your eye on the ball, let your legal team defend you as vigorously as you can afford and then be sure to bear in mind the cost/benefit aspects of defense. Your job is to create profit for the Kingdom, so don’t spend more than you must on legal matters that can be resolved quickly, even though it costs you unfairly.

Vengeance belongs to the Lord

Whatever you do, don’t take vengeance toward the former employee. Don’t hassle them. Don’t make life difficult for them. Vengeance is the opposite of loving your enemy, so don’t do it. Believe me, you’ll be tempted to get them back. But don’t do it. Stay focused on what God has called you to and let Him deal with them in His way and in His time.

Look back and see if you should have fired them earlier

In every case where I’ve had an employee leave on negative terms, I had considered termination of their employment at some point in the past. Usually, if you even think about firing an employee that means it’s time to let them go. As Christians in business, we have a hard time letting people go. We want to believe they can be trained to do a better job or they will somehow magically improve on their own (this *never* happens) or you kid yourself into thinking they are doing a better job than they really are. But still, you’ll look back and more than likely, you will wish you had terminated their employment. Learn from this. Don’t let this opportunity go by the wayside. Learn from it.

Get over the “Christian” aspect

I once believed that Christians – or strongly religious people – would do an inherently better job for me than others. I have pivoted 180 degrees on this. Over my 11 years of owning a business, I have learned that Christians often do a worse job than others and then blame others for their failures. I have had good, solid Christians shamelessly and repeated lie to me on matters that were viscerally important to the success of the business. The damage they caused was immense because I made significant decisions based on untruthful information. Honestly, I can see how others become jaded on Christians in business. We talk a great talk, but our walk doesn’t always match our talk. Just because an employee (or a partner, vendor or customer) is a Christian doesn’t mean s/he will do a better job for you than others. Hire for culture, then competence, but don’t let the fact that they attend your church, denomination or Bible study or the referral of a respected pastor influence your decision.

Change your hiring practices for future candidates

Learn from what went wrong with your former employee and then look for those elements when you interview others. Get your radar “up” high – very high – and walk away from those who will impress you, but who also have the potential to cause you real pain and agony. They are not worth it. Star employees can achieve much but also do significant damage to your organization and cause you a truck-load of pain.

Recently, I interviewed a top-performer candidate for my company. She came with serious credentials and references to the interview. She was (is) smart, disciplined, focused, goal-oriented and willing to work hard until she achieves results. She’s made other owners millions of dollars. She’s ethical in her business dealings and her customers spoke highly of her. After 20 minutes, I ended the interview. I didn’t hire her. Why? Simple. She’s not a team player and she can’t resolve conflict. In the first 20 minutes of the interview, she gave me three different examples of when she had quit – each time because she had a conflict with the owner and couldn’t get it resolved in the manner and form she expected. It was her way or the highway. She couldn’t handle getting “no” and then adjusting to a decision with which she disagreed. Moreover, she made two different comments about her need to have people do things her way in the sales and business development process or “there will be problems”. So I ended the interview early and told the referring person that I wasn’t interested in her candidacy. The referring individual was literally stunned: “She knows how to get things done and she knows how to succeed.” “True,” I said, “but she doesn’t know how to work in a team and the position I would hire her for is a team-oriented position.” The referring individual didn’t see it that way. That’s OK. She will go from job to job, owner to owner, business to business, cycling through each one every 2-4 years, never resolving the most important problems that she faces and never learning from her own mistakes. My decision was to protect my company. I’ll take less in revenue and profit in the tradeoff. That’s an easy decision.

In another interview, my gut told me we should not to hire this individual. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I just felt an unease about it. But since the final decision belonged to another person on my staff, I gave my input and let that individual make his decision. The candidate was hired. It took less than six months for us to start noticing a passive-aggressive behavior on the part of this person. We found that the closer one worked with this individual, the less cooperative this individual was. “I forgot” was a common phrase. “That’s not how I do things” was a persistent theme. Finally, staff members came to me – individually and confidentially, one-by-one – to tell me that they couldn’t work with this individual anymore. Even though this person was doing a terrific job with our customers, this individual was clearly damaging internal relationships and our culture. I wish I had been more assertive at the beginning – insisting that my instincts were right and that this individual should not be hired. Lesson learned. Taking a cue from me, if you even have a whiff of unease about a candidate – regardless of the reason – don’t hire them. In the long run, you’ll find that it’s not worth it.

Epilogue

If you own a business long enough you’re bound to encounter conflicted relationships that should be ended because they are too damaged to repair. When this happens, be sure to pray early and often, work hard to protect and defend the business you are stewarding and then learn from your experiences to improve your hiring practices in the future. Overtime, you’ll find the under-performing, passive-aggressive, negative and/or difficult people will self-select out of your business or you will have terminated their employment. But the “keepers” will remain and you’ll be thankful they are there. Keep your eye on the ball: profit and cash flow. Understand that for some, no matter what you do, you’ll be Satan’s gift to Christian Business Ownership. Some will scoff behind your back at your Christianity. Don’t sweat it. Stay focused on creating profit for the Kingdom and let God examine your heart and life on a daily basis. If you’re successful in God’s eyes, that’s really all that matters.

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp