At Work & Theology 101

Business As Discipleship?

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I give you my tithe and my Sunday mornings. Now you want my business, too?

My eyebrows raised when I read this part of one of the responses to my first post about business as a means of culture-making.

To put it in context, this was the response of someone in business when their pastor began a series on faith and work. Even if this comment came from only one member of the congregation, it makes me wonder how many others might share the same sentiment.

What might be behind the fear that the church is attempting to move beyond its proper bounds and in some way “take over” or heavily meddle in the business affairs of congregants?

Perhaps it is the phobia that church leadership will begin to make demands on those in business, demands that ultimately lead to the pastor becoming a theological dictator or de facto CEO or Chairman of the Board (even though the pastor may know nothing about how to run a business).

Perhaps there might be some situations where this might happen, but this is not only an unfounded fear but also a significant misunderstanding of what it means for Christians to understand that the business world matters to God.

While there may be reasons for some to have legitimate concerns that Christians can become overzealous in linking “church” to “everything else,” the larger problem is related to the way Christian discipleship is conceived and practiced.

If we regard discipleship as the “spiritual” part of our life, we are certainly correct that it has everything to do with how we relate to God in our internal life. We would also have only a partial understanding of the extent of discipleship.

Jesus came pronouncing the arrival of the Kingdom of God, a reign that will ultimately be both in the hearts of people and the very structure of society itself. As we wait for the fullness of the Kingdom to arrive, we live as followers of Jesus who call him “Lord.” This means that he reigns over everything, including our external, every day lives beyond Sunday worship.

To be a disciple is to be a truly spiritual person, where “spiritual” does not mean “non-material” but directed by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:3-16, Galatians 5:17-19). Maybe the problem here is that some people fear that if we regard Christ as Lord over everything, it means that those in business are somehow handcuffed by the church and obligated to make evangelism the ultimate goal of their business. Evangelism is very important, but there is far more to the life of a disciple. As I noted in my first blog post, the task of culture-making is extremely important, and this task is central to much of business.

Christian disciples are people who pursue all of life with and under the Lordship of Christ. The fact of Christ’s Lordship does not equate to churches micromanaging the business affairs of congregants, but it should mean that churches are helping businesspeople have an increasingly greater vision for how their “business life” is an expression of the rich life of discipleship.

So what would I say if a business person said “now you want my business too?”

I would say, “It already belongs to God; what I want is for you to see how it matters to God, and how your life in business is part of your life of discipleship.” Of course that only begins the conversation, but at least we are heading somewhere.

How do you think life in business is a part of the life of discipleship? 

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  • Dave Doty

    I agree that there is a fair amount of paranoia among business owner’s and operators that are being told they must evangelize in their workplace if they are going to be a “good Christian.” Ephesians 4:11-12 says “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” The “church,” as all God’s people, is to be taught properly what it means to “be Christ,” including in the marketplace such that our efforts and endeavors will glorify (reveal) God in the goodness and character of what we do. “Witness” is far more than (traditional) evangelism models of verbally sharing. Witness is to live as Christ in the midst our broken society in such a way that the world sees the Truth, can find the Way, and be restored to the Life of God.

  • Erika

    Excellent article, thank you. All of my business ideas came, are coming from God. I asked him to help me out, because I just do not have any need for so much money. “Man needs so little to survive and much less to be happy” not sure who said that…but has always been true for me. We should be socially responsible, yes! When all have available the opportunity to work and take care of our families, we all live in abundance of joy and happiness. I thought I read somewhere God said “Take care of my poor”

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