Being Responsible for Another’s Debts Shows Lack of Judgement

There are four passages in the book of Proverbs which discuss the scenario in which one person (Guarantor) takes on the responsibility to pay the debts of another person (Debtor) should the debtor default on his payments. Here are the passages:

Proverbs 6.1-6

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth. So do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands: Go—to the point of exhaustion— and give your neighbor no rest! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

Proverbs 11.15

Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to shake hands in pledge is safe.

Proverbs 17.18

One who has no sense shakes hands in pledge and puts up security for a neighbor.

Proverbs 22.26-27

Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.

Discussion

What can we learn about doing business from these four passages? First, it is abundantly clear that we should not become voluntarily liable for another’s debts. The reason for this is clear: if we cannot pay those debts, then our “very bed” – our basic provisions – will be snatched from us.

Secondly, if we do put up security for another’s debts, we’re described as one “who has no sense”, literally, “one who lacks judgement”. It doesn’t make sense to do this – under any circumstances.

Finally, we are told that we will surely suffer – that, by comparison – we place ourselves in a place of danger. The danger, of course, is that the debtor will act rashly and either incur more debt for which we are responsible to pay or will simply walk away from his obligations, causing us to use all of our wealth to repay his debts and putting us in ruin. The Bible is clear that avoiding such a position is “safe”: you don’t expose yourself to the dangers inherent in taking on the responsibility for another’s debts.

Passing on Your Business to Your Children

Many parents would love to pass on their business to their adult children who work in the business. But they should be careful how they do this. Here is a true story that resulted in heart-break and a permanent family rift that will likely never be fully repaired.

John and Sandy spend 40 years growing a strong business as an insurance broker for a highly reputable insurance company. They employed a number of people in their business and were considered one of the top agencies in the country for this particular insurance company. John and Sandy earned, literally, millions of dollars in profits, which they saved. They lived well below their means and were known as people who loved the Lord and were generous in their giving.

When their 28 year old son came to them with (what appeared to be) a thoughtful, well planned real estate business, they were delighted to fund his business. He would purchase apartment and retail strip malls, manage them and return a profit to himself and his parents. So, John and Sandy co-signed the mortgages for the properties using their savings as collateral. He was the sole owner in his corporation and the properties were purchased under the corporation’s name. John and Sandy did not protect themselves by insisting that they hold majority ownership in his new venture until such time as the mortgages were repaid. So they had co-signed for his loans and left themselves no legal power to alter their son’s decisions.

At first, the son (Andy) worked hard and was making a profit. As the values in the properties increased, Andy refinanced the loans to pull out the equity with a view to investing the equity back into the properties to make them more profitable. John and Sandy were not happy with this refinancing decision, but had no power to stop him. Roughly 24 months later, the recession hit (2007-2008), and the value of the properties plummeted. Andy’s tenants started to pay their rents late because they had lost their jobs. Enough of them were either late or non-paying tenants that Andy was unable to make full, monthly payments to the mortgage company.

The mortgage company became concerned. They met with Andy. He had such a strong sense of entitlement coupled with an out-of-touch-with-reality view of his situation. The company didn’t feel that he was taking his late payments seriously enough. He didn’t have a plan to return his properties to profitability. Andy was in over his head. It was clear he wasn’t willing to evict those who were not making payments on time. They lost faith in Andy’s abilities. So, they called John and Sandy.

After talking with John and Sandy, it was clear to the mortgage company that Andy had lied to his parents, telling them that “everything is OK” when, in fact, his business was facing foreclosure. The mortgage company called the loans, forcing John and Sandy to empty out their savings to pay back the loans. At age 70, they were left penniless and facing the prospect of having to work again simply to live.

But more importantly, they lost all trust in their son. Andy never apologized to them for needlessly reinvesting profits into the properties. John and Sandy were literally stunned at Andy’s “it’s no big deal” attitude about their situation. After a few more months, Andy decided to take a full-time job and put the responsibility of running the properties onto John and Sandy. He signed over the stock in the corporation and literally walked away with no personal harm from the experience. He decided mom and dad were just “too uptight” about the whole thing and stopped talking to them. He didn’t want to be “bothered” anymore.

John and Sandy were able to sell the properties – eventually – and recoup a minority of their investment monies. But the loss of the relationship with their son was what really stung them the most. I recall watching Sandy devolve into a pool of tears as she talked about her own son’s lack of respect and honor for what she and John had done for him and how she rarely gets to see her grandchildren because of the rift their business caused.

Putting up security – even for a family member – is not something you should do.

One Last Thought

If you own a business and want to pass it onto your children, there are a number of ways to do this. But one way you should reject outright is the method of giving over the stock of the company to your children with only a promise to pay you in the future. This is, in essence, putting up security for your children’s debt to you. If you want to gift them the business – that’s fine. But don’t put yourself in a position where you’re expecting to receive payments from them. If they mismanage the business, you may not get paid and in essence, you will have lost your future life savings to their mismanagement of your business.

Make them pay you up-front. You scrimped and saved to build your business. Make them scrimp and save to buy it from you. If you hand it to them on a silver platter, you’ll probably do more harm than good and there’s a good chance they’ll mismanage it and not be able to pay you back.

You don’t want to be in this position. So don’t become, in essence, both the co-signer and the bank for your kids.

Bill English
Founder, Bible and Business

Building a Great Culture in Your Business

Everyone talks about culture. Everyone believes that a good culture is necessary to success in business. Yet, our understanding of what it takes to build a great culture is amazingly immature because, in part, we don’t know how to define what culture is. Consider these definitions that a quick Google search will give you:

“In other words culture can be defined as an evolving set of collective beliefs, values and attitudes. Culture is a key component in business and has an impact on the strategic direction of business. Culture influences management, decisions and all business functions from accounting to production.” (From www.businessculture.org)

“Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. A company’s culture will be reflected in its dress code, business hours, office setup, employee benefits, turnover, hiring decisions, treatment of clients, client satisfaction and every other aspect of operations.” (Investopedia)

“A blend of the values, beliefs, taboos, symbols, rituals and myths all companies develop over time.” (Entrepreneur.com)

“Corporate culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. Corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community. As such, it is an essential component in any business’s ultimate success or failure. Closely related concepts, discussed elsewhere in this volume, are corporate ethics (which formally state the company’s values) and corporate image (which is the public perception of the corporate culture).” (Inc.com)

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) says culture is the output of mixing these six elements together:

  1. Vision
  2. Values
  3. Practices
  4. People
  5. Narrative
  6. Place

This Forbes article defines business culture as a conflict that exists between two social contracts: the value of production vs. the value of innovation.

When you take a long step back and look at these different definitions of culture, it’s no wonder that culture means different things to different people. So, how do we build a great culture when we can’t even define what culture is?

Steps to Building a Great Business Culture

If you look at the common themes in the definitions presented above, you’ll find that values, beliefs and behaviors are mentioned, in one way or another, in nearly every definition above. If one were to look at the Christian Business Reference Architecture, one would find this architecture is rather strong in the areas of developing a great business culture. But, consistent with the architecture’s assumption that our personal dysfunction will be imprinted onto our businesses and that the problems resulting from our personal dysfunction will be seen as business problems by the owner, not personal problems, the creation of a great business culture must start with the Christian Business Owner.

When I consult with small businesses on how to build a great culture, I always start with the Executive – the owner. We first must get the leadership on board and moving in the same direction, exhibiting all of the traits and characteristics of the new culture we want to develop in the company. How do we do this?

First, the owners need to look at themselves and go through a process of coaching that will result in the minimizing of their personal dysfunction in their own organization.

Secondly, the owners need to develop their personal leadership philosophy, publish that to the organization, then live by it religiously.

Thirdly, most organizations have a set of core values. Often they have definitions of those core values. I take this a step further and ask them to write down 3-5 behavioral statements that illustrate when the core value is being lived out and when it is being violated in the company. Behavioralizing the core values is a necessary part of the culture’s development.

Fourthly, conflict resolution is essential to any organization being successful. Most companies die, in the end, because they couldn’t resolve their most important problems. So, I take the time to develop a conflict resolution value within the organization and then teach conflict resolution skills to every person in the organization. Getting everyone one board with conflict resolution is essential to building a great culture in one’s organization.

Fifthly, vision cast with each employee and give them a path forward for professional development that leads to career security instead of job security.  Show them how far your company can take them down the road toward their goals and the offer to do what you can to help “you be a better you”.

Lastly, governance of the organization must be considered. How the senior leadership interacts with its’ board and outside authorities is essential to upholding and furthering the culture of the organization. In addition, how the inherent power imbalances between senior leadership and employees are minimized so that real conflict resolution can take place is also essential to the organization moving forward.

To be successful in an organization that lives out its’ core values and is good at resolving conflict, people will need to have the personal characteristics of honesty, integrity, humility and coach-ability. This includes the owners as well as the newest of employees.

In my 67 Undeniable Truths of Business Ownership, I assert that Culture trumps strategy. I really believe this. Because embedded within the building of a great culture is where we find our skills as an organization to define, face and resolve problems. We learn how to live together in a business community and work together for a common purpose that is beneficial to all of us. We learn to support each other and, at times, hold each other accountable. And in so doing, we live out our shared core values.

If you need to develop a better culture in your business, use these steps as a starting point. If you want some assistance, you’re welcome to get in touch with me at bill @ Bibleandbusiness.com.

Bill English
Founder, Bible and Business

What is Our Message?

What is the message of the Gospel? And why does it matter?

In this extended post, I’ll lay out what I believe the message of the Gospel is – and no – I don’t think it’s as simple as the Four Spiritual Laws.

I’d like to approach this by asking three questions, then going over what the Kingdom of God is and why understanding His Kingdom is important. Here are my two questions:

  • Was it necessary for Christ to die?
  • What was the Nature of the Atonement?

What is the Atonement?

The Atonement is the work Christ did in His life and death to earn our Salvation. The ultimate cause of the atonement as the love of God (John 3.16: For God so loved the world…) and the justice of God (Romans 3.25: God had been forgiving sins before Christ because of the future payment Christ would make on their behalf – our sins are paid by Christ (looking back)). The atonement is an act of love and justice. God’s demand for justice against sin is fully satisfied in Christ.

The Necessity of the Atonement

Was it necessary for Christ to die in order for God to save human beings? First, it’s important to remember that God wasn’t required to save anyone. He could have let us all die in our sins and had His justice fully satisfied. For example, when a third of the angels rebelled in Heaven, God did not spare them (2 Peter 2.4), so it’s important to remember that He could have left us in sin and eternal punishment – that would have been just.

But, God is not only a God of justice, God also loves us! In a very real sense, while the atonement was not necessary, it was a “consequence” of God’s love toward us. Moreover, Matthew 26.39 shows that it was not possible for Christ to be our payment without dying for us:

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Luke 24.25-26 also shows that Christ dying for us was necessary in order to fulfill God’s justice against our sin:

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Piecing together the thought development in Hebrews, we learn that since “it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” (Heb. 10:4), a better sacrifice is required (Heb. 9:23). Only the blood of Christ, that is, his death, would be able really to take away sins (Heb. 9:25–26).

It was necessary for Christ to die in our stead so that God’s justice could be fully satisfied and so that His love could be poured out on us so that we could have a personal, eternal relationship with Him.

The Nature of the Atonement

“The primary emphasis of Christ’s work was not on us, but on God the Father. Jesus obeyed the Father in our place and perfectly met the demands of the law. And he suffered in our place, receiving in himself the penalty that God the Father would have visited upon us. In both cases, the atonement is viewed as objective; that is, something that has primary influence directly on God himself. Only secondarily does it have application to us…” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology)

The nature of the atonement had two parts: Christ’s obedience for us and Christ’s death and resurrection for us. Consider that His perfect obedience is part of His atoning work for us:

  • Romans 5.19: by one man’s obedience, many are made righteous
  • Matthew 3.15: it is fitting to fulfill all righteousness
  • Hebrews 2.10+17 = Christ needed to learn obedience so that he could be our perfect representative
  • Matthew 4.1-11: fasting
  • Hebrews 5.8: learned obedience through suffering
  • Heb 12.3-4: suffered through intense opposition
  • Isaiah 53.3: acquainted with grief and sorrows

Yet, the pain of the Cross was important as well. The physical pain was immense. It was a slow death of inflicting on yourself suffocation and yet, in order to breath, you inflected on your feet and hands immense pain as your pushed yourself up on nails through your feet to take your next breath.

But the pain of bearing sin was more difficult for Christ than we’ll ever fully understand or appreciate. Remember, Jesus was perfectly holy and hated sin as much as God does (Isa 53.6; Isa 53.12; John 1.29; 2 Cor 5.21; Gal 3.13; Heb 9.28; 1 Peter 2.24: He bore, He became, He took away…..). God the Father put all of our sins on Christ – He imputed to Christ our sins the same as Adams’ sins were imputed to us. God literally thought of guilt for our sins as belonging to Christ and so He could pour out His wrath on Christ instead of us.

Jesus faced all of this pain alone (John 13.1 + John 16.31-32). And while He hung on the cross, Romans 3.25-26 tells us that Jesus bore the guilt of our sins alone. God the Father, the mighty Creator, the Lord of the universe, poured out on Jesus the full fury of his wrath. Jesus became the object of the intense hatred of sin and vengeance against sin which God had patiently stored up since the beginning of the world. He became our propitiation: a sacrifice that bears the wrath of God until God’s wrath is satisfied and turned away. Consider this extended quote from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, his chapter on the Atonement (I quote):

Although we must be cautious in suggesting any analogies to the experience Christ went through (for his experience was and always will be without precedent or comparison), nonetheless, all our understanding of Jesus’ suffering comes in some sense by way of analogous experiences in our life—for that is how God teaches us in Scripture. Once again our human experience provides a very faint analogy that helps us understand what it means to bear the wrath of God.

Perhaps as children we have faced the wrath of a human father when we have done wrong, or perhaps as adults we have known the anger of an employer because of a mistake we have made. We are inwardly shaken, disturbed by the crashing of another personality, filled with displeasure, into our very selves, and we tremble. We can hardly imagine the personal disintegration that would threaten if the outpouring of wrath came not from some finite human being but from Almighty God. If even the presence of God when he does not manifest wrath arouses fear and trembling in people (cf. Heb. 12:21, 28–29), how terrible it must be to face the presence of a wrathful God (Heb. 10:31).

With this in mind, we are now better able to understand Jesus’ cry of desolation, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46b). The question does not mean, “Why have you left me forever?” for Jesus knew that he was leaving the world, that he was going to the Father (John 14:28; 16:10, 17). Jesus knew that he would rise again (John 2:19; Luke 18:33; Mark 9:31; et al.). It was “for the joy that was set before him” that Jesus “endured the cross, despising Jesus wondered why he was dying. He had said, “The Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus knew that he was dying for our sins.

Jesus’ cry is a quotation from Psalm 22:1, a psalm in which the psalmist asks why God is so far from helping him, why God delays in rescuing him: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. (Ps. 22:1–2) Yet the psalmist was eventually rescued by God, and his cry of desolation turned into a hymn of praise (vv. 22–31). Jesus, who knew the words of Scripture as his own, knew well the context of Psalm 22. In quoting this psalm, he is quoting a cry of desolation that also has implicit in its context an unremitting faith in the God who will ultimately deliver him.

Nevertheless, it remains a very real cry of anguish because the suffering has gone on so long and no release is in sight. With this context for the quotation it is better to understand the question “Why have you forsaken me?” as meaning, “Why have you left me for so long?” This is the sense it has in Psalm 22. Jesus, in his human nature, knew he would have to bear our sins, to suffer and to die. But, in his human consciousness, he probably did not know how long this suffering would take. Yet to bear the guilt of millions of sins even for a moment would cause the greatest anguish of soul. To face the deep and furious wrath of an infinite God even for an instant would cause the most profound fear. But Jesus’ suffering was not over in a minute—or two—or ten. When would it end? Could there be yet more weight of sin? Yet more wrath of God? Hour after hour it went on—the dark weight of sin and the deep wrath of God poured over Jesus in wave after wave.

Jesus at last cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Why must this suffering go on so long? Oh God, my God, will you ever bring it to an end?

Then at last Jesus knew his suffering was nearing completion. He knew he had consciously borne all the wrath of the Father against our sins, for God’s anger had abated and the awful heaviness of sin was being removed. He knew that all that remained was to yield up his spirit to his heavenly Father and die. With a shout of victory Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Then with a loud voice he once more cried out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). And then he voluntarily gave up the life that no one could take from him (John 10:17–18), and he died. As Isaiah had predicted, “he poured out his soul to death” and “bore the sin of many” (Isa. 53:12). God the Father saw “the fruit of the travail of his soul” and was “satisfied” (Isa. 53:11).

Grudem, Wayne (2009-05-18). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (pp. 576-577). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

It’s important to understand the full depth of God’s wrath and Christ’s propitiation for our sins:
it assumes an eternal, unchangeable requirement in the holiness and justice of God that sin be paid for. It’s also important to note that God was first affected by Christ’s propitiation, then we were affected. God’s wrath was satisfied, then we were offered a new life in Christ.

The Kingdom of God

Colossians 1.13 says “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Christ’s work for us literally rescues us from the Kingdom of Satan and brings us into the Kingdom of God.

I believe that being brought into the Kingdom of God is a necessary part of our message. Consider:

  • Matthew 19.23-24: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” In Jewish thought, rich people were blessed by God. So if those who are blessed can’t get in, who can? The point is that the Kingdom of God cannot be earned, it is made available only through the generosity of God
  • Mark 4.26: “He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” The Kingdom of God grows and reproduces, even when it appears that there is no logical reason for the growth. And it will keep growing until the “harvest” when Christ returns in His fullness
  • Mark 1.15: “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.  “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” When people get near the Kingdom of God, they are first asked to repent of their sins and believe (cf. Col 1.20).
  • Mark 10.14-15: “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” The kingdom of God belongs to those who trust God unconditionally and who lack self-sufficiency
  • Mark 10.23-24: “Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”  The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The Kingdom of God belongs to those who depend on God, whether or not it appears that God’s blessing is on them
  • Luke 7.28: “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” It is one thing to announce the coming of the Kingdom, it is another thing to participate in it. (Matthew 7.21). The “least” is greater than John because we are now in the time of fulfillment, not the time of anticipation. The Kingdom of God belongs to those who participate in it.
  • Matthew 21.31: “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ” ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.  “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” Those who obey God will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (Luke 12.47, 1 Corinthians 6.9-10, 15.50, Galatians 5.21, Ephesians 5.5).
  • Luke 9.2: “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Jesus sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and bring healing – both physically and spiritually. (Cf Luke 4.43; Acts 8.12, 28.23, 28.31)
  • Luke 9.62: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” If you keep looking back because you’re distracted, you’re not fit for service in God’s Kingdom. By the same token, if you keep looking back to see or admire what you have accomplished, you’re not fit for service in the Kingdom of God. (Cf Phil 3 (…forgetting what is behind, I press on…))
  • Luke 17.20: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.  If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” The Divine Sovereignty of God and His Kingdom is revealed in works of power and mercy.
  • Luke 19.11-27: (no Scripture quoted) The Kingdom of God is given to those who work in it, knowing their master, doing His will and producing “profit” in His kingdom. The Kingdom of God is taken from the one who does not know His master, does not do His will and produces nothing of additional value in His Kingdom
  • Luke 21.5-36: (no Scripture quoted) As the Kingdom of God draws closer, it produces:
    • Disruption
    • Reveals the depth of sin that exists in men’s hearts.
    • Confusion
    • Betrayal
    • Persecution
    • Hatred
    • Dispersion
    • Terror
    • Uncertainty

Common Themes

What are the common themes in the Kingdom of God?

  • Obedience: Jesus is LORD of your life, not a manager or consultant
  • Participation: we’re not voyeurs or spectators – we get into the game – we get dirty – we stretch ourselves – we get uncomfortable
  • Repentance: We repent from our sin and believe in Christ – our message isn’t one of personal improvement – it’s about Him, not us!
  • Humility: We jettison self-sufficiency and self-trust
  • Focus: We develop laser focus on the future and what God has asked us to do and say

What is our Message?

The Gospel is more complex than what we often find in Evangelical circles. But our message is simple – anyone can understand it:

  1. Christ lived a sinless life
  2. Christ fully satisfied God’s demand for justice for our sin
  3. Christ learned obedience through suffering
  4. Christ demonstrated His love for us by dying for us
  5. Christ took the full wrath of God that should have been poured out on us

Our response is pretty straight-forward:

  • We repent of our sin
  • We make Christ LORD of our lives
  • We learn Obedience through suffering
  • We jump in and work hard on God’s agenda & knowing Him
  • We stay focused and persevere on God’s agenda & knowing Him

Our message is not:

  • An isolated choice made through a formula prayer
  • Personal improvement program
  • All about me
  • Making Christ consulting manager of my life

Our message is:

  • A conscious choice made in my heart before God
  • Personal regeneration through the Holy Spirit
  • All about Him
  • Making Christ the LORD or RULER of my life
  • Enjoying His presence forever

If you have never made a decision to accept Christ as your Savior and Lord, then now is the time to do this. Ask Him into your heart and move into the Kingdom of God where you’ll be richly welcomed and richly blessed, even while you are taking through sufferings to transform your persona into the image of Jesus Christ.

Bill English
Founder, Bible and Business

Five Things Adult Children should do after Mom and Dad Sell the Family Business

Over the next 10-30 years, we’ll see the largest transfer of wealth (here too) ever in the history of the world as the Boomers sell their businesses, then die and pass on their wealth to their heirs.

In a number of these situations, their wealth has been created by the founding and growing a profitable, family business. In many instances, one or more children in the family have grown up working in the business and even after starting their own families and other career opportunities have come and gone, they continue to work in the family business.

When the parents are ready to sell their ownership in the business and realize the reward for having worked hard their entire life, their children may well be into their thirties or even early forties. If the business is sold to an outside, third party, what should the adult children do to move on after the sale of the family business?

Well, here are five things they can do to move on and create a second career for themselves.

First, get some career counseling and professional coaching. Find out what you’re good at and what you really love to do. If you’ve worked in the family business your entire life, you’ve likely not worked a series of other jobs, gaining valuable experience as to what you do and do not like to do. Often, adult children in family businesses haven’t explored what they really like to do, so this is your opportunity to go through that process that many of your peers went through earlier in life. Getting some career counseling and finding a personal coach can help you process what your true passions and talents really are and then help you devise a plan to build a second career around what you really want to do.

Secondly, define your personhood apart from what you do in your job. This is essential to being successful in any career, but it is especially important during a career transition. Don’t define your inherent value and work by what you do. Let your work be your work, but let it be a reflection of who God has created you to be and not the end-point of your personhood.

Thirdly, you may need to downsize your standard of living. If you were overly compensated in your family business because mom and dad were generous, it is likely that other employers will not be so generous, so be prepared to lower your standard of living. You might find you like not having all the perks that a high salary brings. I’ve heard people say to me more than once that when they lowered their standard of living, their life became less hectic. They enjoyed a new found simplicity in life that money could never buy them.

Fourthly, think about going back to school to get an advanced degree that will help you move forward in your new career. Adults going back to school is such a common experience these days that schools are bending over backwards to appeal to the adult learner. If you’re in your early forties, think about the fact that your education might be twenty years old and you have another thirty years of work ahead of you, so getting another degree might be a good way to position your new career for the next thirty years while brushing up on the information updates that have occurred over the last 20 years.

Lastly, don’t make any life-changing decisions for at least one year if you get a lump sum from the sale of the business. In many family owned businesses, adult children own stock in the company. If the sale has brought to you a bucket of money, don’t go out and immediately start your own business or build a new west wing onto your house. Take some time to decompress, perhaps grieve the loss of your family business and work with your trusted advisors to move into a new phase of your life.

But whether or not you’ve run into a sum of money, look back over the last 15 years and evaluate what you’ve liked and not liked about your life. Retain the basic structures that you want to retain. Jettison those things that haven’t worked, but don’t get rid of them impulsively. Do it after thoughtful consideration.

When mom and dad sell their business, it’s a huge change for the adult children who now need to move on. Through thoughtful planning and foresight, the sale can be one of the best things to ever happen in the lives of the adult children.

Bill English
The Platinum Group

Raise the Debt Ceiling and Our National Debt Goes Up $339B in One Day

No kidding. Take a look at the Debt to the Penny web site from the Treasury Department. Using their own numbers, we started 2015 with a national debt of $18,141,444,135,563.30. On October 31st of this year, our debt had risen to $18,152,981,685,747.50. That’s a total increase of ~$72B for the year. By my calculations (using exact figures supplied by the Treasury), from January 1st thru October 31st of this year, we had an average increase in our debt, per day of $231,841,684 or $9,951,736 per hour or $2,764/second.

On November 1st, when the new debt ceiling approval took place, and our national debt jumped by $339 billion in one day.

One day!

That means, now, our average per day increase in our national debt is now $1.3B. Our average increase per hour is $56.3M and our per second avg increase is now $15,666.

Constrains on Federal spending matter, but I don’t think many in Washington in either party really care.

Bill English
Bible and Business

Should Scripture Replace the Rule of Law?

On a routine basis, Christian business owners and ministry leaders insert faith-based arbitration clauses into their legal documents in order to avoid litigation, lower legal costs and comply with faith-based ideas of conflict resolution. Using these arbitration clauses, religion is being used to sort out secular problems such as financial fraud or wrongful death. For example, when the family of Nicklaus Ellison sued Teen Challenge in 2012 to uncover what had happened to their son and learn why he died, they hit a brick wall: when he was admitted to the program, he signed a contract that prevented him or his family from taking Teen Challenge to court to find out all that Teen Challenge knew about his death.

Religious based arbitration is a normal part of life these days. According to the Pew Research Center, Jewish, Catholic and other groups (some 15 total) have alternative forms of dispute resolution based on their religious faith. The center has published a good overview of these groups and how their arbitration processes work.

But faith-based arbitration clauses are not limited to religious groups. Businesses owned by believers of various faiths use these clauses in their legal documents too. Take Higuera Hardwoods as one example. A Seattle-based business that provides products made from bamboo, Higuera has this arbitration clause on its’ web site:

“…Arbitration shall be by a single arbitrator experienced in the matters at issue and selected by principal and agent in accordance with the Rules of Procedure for Christian Conciliation of the Institute for Christian Conciliation, a division of Peacemaker Ministries. The arbitration shall be held in Seattle, Washington and shall be conducted in accordance with the Rules of Procedure for Christian Conciliation existing at the date thereof of the Institute for Christian Conciliation, a division of Peacemaker Ministries, to the extent not inconsistent with this Agreement. The decision of the arbitrator shall be final and binding and may be enforced in any court of competent jurisdiction….”

Higuera is not alone. Aramaco (a Saudi-owned corporation) is an example of a business that uses an Islamic-based arbitration clause. This activity participation agreement uses Christian arbitration as one of its dispute resolution methods. Many Christian organizations – like the Holmesburg Christian Academy – uses faith-based arbitration in their agreements. Even missionaries are asked to submit to faith-based arbitration. These clauses pepper the legal landscape in the Christian world and are inescapable in many instances. You agree to arbitration or you don’t get hired, you don’t go on the mission trip, you don’t purchase the product you really need and so forth. Because the arbitration clauses are simply presented in a “take it or leave it” method, many unsuspecting patrons agree to them, not realizing how much of their jurisprudence rights they are forfeiting.

In the New York Times, Michael Corkery and Jessica Silver-Greenberg cover this topic in their thought-provoking article In Religious Arbitration, Scripture is the Rule of Law. The authors outline three different scenarios in which faith-based arbitration clauses were used by faith-based organizations. In two of their examples, the organizations gained a favorable outcome. In the third example – Northlake Christian School in Covington, LA – the school didn’t get the outcome they wanted, so they reverted to the American legal system to appeal the arbitration ruling. Corkery and Silver-Greenberg note in their article that “…for some groups, religious arbitration may have less to do with honoring a set of beliefs than with controlling legal outcomes. Some religious organizations stand by the process until they lose, at which point they turn to the secular courts to overturn faith-based judgments, according to interviews and court records.”

I suspect that Christians in American would generally support Christian arbitration as an alternative to secular courts, if for no other reason than it is a cost-effective way to resolve conflict. Many would support the principles behind the Rules of Procedure for Christian Conciliation, published by Peacemaker Ministries, if not the process itself. But I also suspect that nearly all American Christians would not support the same right for Muslims living in this country who want to resolve their disputes using Sharia Law. At an intuitive level, Muslims understand this. Writing on his site, theamericanmuslim.org, Sheila Musaji, Founding Editor notes:

“As an American Muslim I would be opposed to any suggestion that Sharia replace our American legal system for American Muslims or any other Americans, and I would be the first to fight any such possibility. However, the inclusion of Sharia arbitration or alternative dispute resolution that might be utilized by Muslims who so choose after signing a binding arbitration agreement (signed by both parties in a dispute), or that might file an amicus brief with the court is not an alarming new idea.  In fact, it is an existing option for religious communities.  Any decision rendered by a tribunal or a panel of mediators is subject to appeal to the courts and must be consistent with American law and our Constitution. This is how the law already exists.  The various anti-Sharia bills are based on the idea that they would prohibit certain provisions of foreign laws including Sharia law from being considered by a court if they do not afford the same liberties, rights and privileges guaranteed by the US Constitution.  That is already the case.  The existing laws of the U.S. and the Constitution of the U.S. are already the final arbiter.” [Emphasis his]

Canada has grappled with this from a family law perspective. Sometimes, the use of arbitration within the context of family law deserves special attention because, writes Caryn Litt Wolfe in the Fordham Law Review, “…family law often involves more vulnerable members of society, and religious doctrines used in deciding family law issues may present human rights concerns. Indeed, in September 2005, the premier of Ontario, Canada rejected a proposal to establish Islamic arbitration panels, putting its other already existing faith-based arbitration systems at risk.” This ruling in Ontario led Mariam S. Pal in a draft presentation at the Kwantlen University College in 2006 to conclude that the more we allow the privatization of what are fundamental government functions (my words, not his), “…it could be argued that the government….[is] reneging on their responsibility to provide access to justice for all.” Put another way, does faith-based mediation recognize cultural and religious diversity or does it marginalize minority communities to the outer reaches of society?

So, should a Christian business owner insert faith-based arbitration clauses into contracts and other legal documents? I offer some principles to consider to any Christian Business Owner or Ministry leader:

First, only insert arbitration clauses if you honestly believe your faith teaches a better way based on better principles of resolving conflict than currently exists in our system of American jurisprudence. If you applaud your faith-based systems of arbitration when the outcomes are favorable to you but then revert to the secular courts when you receive an unfavorable ruling, you’re demonstrating that your faith-based arbitration clause are more about controlling the outcomes of your disputes and less about honoring the faith you profess. If you really believe in faith-based arbitration, then rule out the possibility of appealing in court when you don’t get your way. If an arbiter’s ruling causes you to suffer, then accept the suffering as part of God’s work in your life to mature you into His image.

Secondly, be sure to understand that many of the process rules that we take for granted in our legal system may not apply or be utilized in an arbitration system. For example, unlike a trial, the rules of evidence are much more relaxed during arbitration. Hearsay and other evidence that may not be allowed in court can be presented during arbitration. After reviewing the presentation from both sides, the arbitrator will make a final, often binding, decision. Unlike in trials, this decision does not have to be based on the law. The arbitrator can make a decision based on what he or she thinks is just. Moreover, the decisions are usually regarded as final and can only be appealed in very limited circumstances. You give up a number of your rights when you submit to arbitration. Take this into consideration when deciding on the cost of litigation vs. the convenience of arbitration.

Thirdly, if you insert faith-based arbitration clauses from a motivation of trying to make your business more “Christian” (or “Catholic” or “Jewish” or “Muslim”), then you’re barking up the wrong tree. What makes your business distinctive is not what you write in your legal contracts but in how you treat others who are your enemies. Contracts notwithstanding, Christians are commanded by Christ to love our enemies and to do good to them when they are persecuting us. Consider Matthew 5.43 – 48:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

And again in Luke 6.27 – 31:

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

How you treat people who have wronged you will say more about your persona and your business than any arbitration clause you’ll insert into your contracts. Don’t insert them just to look good. That’s a poor motivation for engaging in alternative dispute resolution methods.

Fourthly, do not insert these clauses simply as a cost-savings measure. You may find that what an arbiter decides will cost you more in unforeseen ways than using lawyers and litigation to settle disputes. This can be the case when discovery rules that are followed in litigation are not available in arbitration. If the other side withholds information that is helpful to your argument and if the arbiter doesn’t catch it, such oversights can cost you dearly.

Lastly, hiding behind some Christian arbitration rules and methods in order to deprive the other party of their basic rights of justice before the law is sin and will not fool God. As a Christian business owner, you should not deprive someone else of the basic rights of justice afforded to them by their government.

In the end, it isn’t wrong or unethical for a Christian business owner to insert faith-based arbitration clauses into contracts and legal documents. But it’s not the panacea that many think it to be. There are pros and cons to this issue. In the end, resolving a conflict has less to do with arbitration vs. litigation and more to do with the willingness of the parties to admit where they are wrong and how best to reach and agreeable solution.

One last thing: As a Christian business owner or ministry leader, in order to resolve conflict well, you’ll need to have an eternal perspective on the conflict itself and whatever outcomes materialize. Having an eternal perspective (much of what you’re fighting for may not really matter) plus a health theology of suffering (God usually takes us through suffering to mature us into His image) will help you more than any other two elements to resolve conflict in a peaceful and permanent way.

Bill English
Founder, Bible and Business

To Understand Your Customers Better, Eat Your Own Dog Food

For a long time in the software development world, there was a phrase “eat your own dog food”. It was a colloquialism that described a company using its own products or services for its internal operations. The term is believed to have originated with Microsoft in the 1980s.

Small businesses often serve businesses that are much larger than their own, so the products and services they provide are difficult to consume internally. Yet, to the extent it can be done, any given business should “walk the talk” and “eat its’ own dog food”.

When you force your own company to consume your own product or service, you give yourself the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be at the other end of a transaction with your own company. This type of experiential insight can be invaluable to improving your company. For example, I was with a company today that is a leader in their vertical, yet the very thing they ask their own clients to do are the thing they themselves do not do. But I’ve seen this elsewhere:

  • A training company that lacks any internal employee training program
  • An information consulting company that doesn’t organize its’ own information well
  • A software development company that uses a competitors product for the functions it builds into its’ own software
  • A facilities management company whose offices are offsite from any of the buildings they manage
  • A church whose babysitting needs in the nursery is staffed by hired help who doesn’t attend the church
  • A financial advisor who is unwilling to purchase the very products she represents to others
  • A restaurant manager who regularly eats at a competitor across the street

I could go on, but I won’t.

Consuming your own products and services is the best way to find out where your company is weak and vulnerable. Consuming your competitor’s products is a wise thing to do – and then honestly compare your experiences. If you were a customer, why would you choose your own company over that of a competitor. Be brutally honest with yourself. Have some trusted advisors consume your products/services as well as those of your competitors. Have them give you honest feedback. It may hurt. But the wounds of a trusted friend can lead to immense growth.

Eat your own dog food. While it may not taste good going down, it will help you in ways that no other experience can.

Bill English
Bible and Business

So You Want to Start a Business

So, you want to start a business? Make sure you’ll succeed by attending these interactive workshops!

So you want to start a business is a series of interactive workshops with job aids to help entrepreneurs start their first business. Over three Saturday mornings, we’ll cover each of the seven sections and discuss the four core questions you need to consider in each section. We’ll help you develop your business idea and plan so that you will succeed.

These workshops will challenge you to:

  • Focus your ideas into a winning start-up strategy
  • Clearly articulate your competitive advantage
  • Define what you do and, more importantly, what you do not do
  • Assess whether you’re ready to get going
  • Risk your own money in the smartest way possible
  • Be brutally honest with yourself

The six core areas that we focus on map directly to the Christian Business Reference Architecture. We’ll also go over the four core principles that God has given us for running a business His way: Products, Passions, Profits and Philanthropy. These groups will be taught from an Evangelical Christian perspective. These six core areas are as follows:

  • Personal Readiness
  • Uniqueness of business idea
  • Money & funding
  • Market and alliances
  • Legal considerations
  • Branding and business development

There will be homework assignments as part of your experience in these workshops. While we won’t “grade” your homework, you’ll find that you’ll get out of these workshops what you put into them. The harder your work, the more likely it is that you’ll succeed in successfully starting your business.

The job aids that you’ll receive and be taught how to use in this group are as follows:

  • 26-week cash flow forecast
  • How to calculate your break-even point
  • The CEO dashboard that will measure the core areas of your business (12+ measurements – Excel 2013)
  • The Christian Business Reference Architecture
  • List of reputable trusted advisors we have personally vetted for your consideration
  • How to develop your personal leadership philosophy
  • Building your core values and core purpose statement templates

Group Details

We must have a minimum of four people to form and run this group. A maximum group size is eight is allowed. We’ll meet on three Saturday mornings. Check the registration page for exact dates. We’ll meet from 8:30 am – 12 noon each Saturday. The cost is $225/person (early bird registrations are available at $195/person). Registration and payment is made in advance of attending the group (via Paypal) and is non-changeable, non-transferrable and non-refundable, unless we are unable to garner the requisite four members for the group. Then your payment will be fully refundable.

If you have any questions, please email me at bill @ Bibleandbusiness.com. I look forward to working with you to help you achieve success in your new business!

Bill English
Bible and Business

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