What it means to be a Christian Business Owner

Recently, I had lunch with a business owner who is on his second business. He grew and sold the first business he owned and how he’s on his second business. As we talked about business, he made the comment that he’s far from perfect when it comes to integrating his faith as a business owner. “I don’t hold Bible studies for my employees”, he said. “Sometimes, I’ll tell an employee that I’ll pray for them, but beyond that, I don’t talk much about God.” You could see he felt he was missing the mark when it comes to properly integrating his faith with his ownership role.

I think he felt that in order to live out his Christian faith as a business owner, he needed to be evangelizing his employees, holding Bible studies during work hours or doing other, direct activities to bake in His faith into the business culture. He described one business here in the Minneapolis area that displays John 3.16 in big letters at the entrance of their business. I was surprised he thought this was more the standard for being a Christian Business Owner.

As I understand it, there are four purposes that God has for business:

  1. Products
  2. Passions
  3. Profits
  4. Philanthropy

In my estimation, achieving success in fulfilling these four purposes is tantamount to running a business God’s way and being successful at the Christian part of being a Christian Business Owner. These four purposes should become the core measurements of your business: if we at the Bible and Business are right in our interpretation of Scripture, then measuring how well you’re doing in these four areas would seem to make sense on a number of levels.

By contrast, what it does not mean is that you’re some type of super-business evangelist. You might fly from Minneapolis to San Diego and not win over the entire cabin to Christ at 40,000 feet. Some owners are more comfortable directly witnessing to their employees. Most are not. Sharing the four spiritual laws or running Bible studies is not the core reason most business owners are in business, yet some feel shame for not being more personally bold and direct about their faith with their employees. That feeling of shame is unwarranted. Instead of comparing yourself to other business owners who imprint John 3.16 in big letters on the side of their building, realize that God has wired you the way you are and has given us direction in the Scripture that all of us can follow and achieve, regardless of our personalities or temperaments.

It doesn’t mean that you’re holding daily Bible studies or taking your employees to church. It also doesn’t mean that your focus and attention is equally spent in each of the four areas. In fact, I would submit that you’ll not spend that much time on Philanthropy and will spend a majority of your time on Products and Profits. So even though all four purposes are equally important, this won’t translate into allotment of time for the Christian Business Owner. Finally, it doesn’t mean that you won’t face tough tradeoff choices to keep these purposes in balance – the reality is that you will face those choices. But you’ll face them with the Lord in your corner, giving you support and guidance as you listen to His voice and follow Him wholeheartedly.

Finally, it doesn’t mean that you’ll always be understood by those who look into your business from the outside. For example, you might find that your employees will grumble just a bit because their bonus checks were smaller due to your philanthropic activities. You can’t let the misunderstanding of your tradeoff choices become the basis on which you make decisions. Ask God – hear His voice – and follow His direction. Moses, Aaron, Joshua and even Jesus Christ were not always understood by those who looked in from the outside, but they followed God and fulfilled His purposes for their lives. You can do the same.

Be encouraged. Being a Christian Business Owner is about fulfilling God’s purpose for your business and doing it with holiness, humility and submission to God. It’s not about saving everyone who works for you or holding Bible studies at work.

Bill English

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