Reputational Risk, Brand Strength and Persecution

While abortion remains a divisive issue after 30+ years in our society, the issue of gay marriage has become even more divisive and at the same time, a uniting issue for those on one side or the other. By vast majorities, the younger generation is pro-gay marriage, seeing it as a civil rights issue. By a lesser plurality, older folks see gay marriage as a moral or natural law issue, one in which civil unions can be endorsed, but marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples.

Social issues are now corporate risk issues. Managing your company’s reputation is now a core element of managing risk. Privately held companies by Christians will face increasing pressure and reputational risk when they follow their Christian beliefs in the marketplace. Just as most non-profit organizations are an outgrowth of the founder’s beliefs and personas, so are most small businesses: they are an outgrowth of the owner’s skills, talents and moral/religious beliefs. As the extreme pro-gay element in our society went after Chick-Fil-A in 2012 and more recently, Mozilla’s Barry Eich who resigned under pressure for having donated to a 2008 California ballot initiate that defined marriage as being “between one man and one woman”, those who run their businesses God’s way will find increasing pressure and opposition from the gay community as they live out their beliefs in the marketplace.

Chick-Fil-A is a good example of how a strong brand – which represents a strong emotional connection between the customer and the brand – can help weather attacks from various groups who are hell-bent on transforming society into their utopia while silencing any opposing viewpoints. But knowing how to engage in spiritual warfare is the Christian Business Owner’s most effective tool in navigating troubled waters. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” says Paul in Ephesians 6.12. The battle that was fought by Chick-Fil-A and the one now being fought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties is, at its’ core, a spiritual battle. In short, Satan wants to destroy and silence all who oppose him. God is on the other side and while He tolerates evil today, He will one day rule in authority, power and righteousness. Every knee will bow to Jesus Christ and every tongue will confess Him as the Lord “in heaven, on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2).

Staying quiet in the marketplace in order to maintain your business is tantamount to surrender. God has not called the Christian Business Owner to quiescence. Staying focused on the four core purposes for businesses is essential for you, your employees and your community. But being salt and light in your business and community will sometimes mean taking a stand on social issues. Some are called to be prophets in the business world. If it costs you your business, is that any worse that what other prophets have endured in the past? We need to be faithful to God and His Word before all else. If you are facing opposition or even persecution today because our society thinks you’re on the wrong side of a social issue, then work to strength your brand, but also spend time in spiritual warfare for yourself, your family and your business. Ask God to bring a sweeping revival in our country and commit yourself to faithfulness and perseverance to God and His Word. Hold out the Word of truth to a lost and dying world, but hold it out with love and respect for those who oppose you and with humility as your represent the Lord in the marketplace.

Bill English