Using business as a vehicle for missions and ministry is not new. The apostle Paul, for example, was a full time leather worker during much of his missionary career. A study of his letters reveals that working was more than a way to support himself; it was a central part of his missionary strategy. Preaching the gospel for free added credibility to his message and served as a model for his converts to follow (see 1 Cor. 9:12-18). Similarly, centuries ago, Christian monks integrated work and ministry by tilling fields, clearing forests and building roads, while also tending to the sick, the orphaned and the imprisoned, protecting the poor, and teaching the children. As villages and towns sprang up around the monasteries, the communities were transformed as they incorporated many of these same social concerns. And even as recently as the nineteenth century, many early Protestants integrated business and other secular occupations into their mission strategies.
You may be called to be a plumber, a doctor, a secretary or a CEO. Know that your calling is equal to that of the pastor or vocational Christian worker. It is more about our roles, not spiritual value or importance. The key is to be in the place where God has called you and to live for the glory of God in that place. Each of us should see ourselves as a servant of the living God masquerading as a banker, a plumber, a doctor, a secretary or a CEO.
Each of us is called to relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We are called by Him, to Him, and for Him. Once we enter that relationship with Christ, we are called into the physical expression of that relationship. This is where our vocations are manifested as a result, not as an end in themselves.
One of the most persistent and vexing challenges we face as Christians attempting to lead our companies as stewards of God's property is the need to keep His values and priorities in the forefront of our decision making processes. It is so easy to slip into looking at our businesses from strictly, or at least predominately, a secular perspective. Almost all of us have been trained to do so. Our culture emphasizes the secular nature of business and almost nowhere are we encouraged otherwise. The force of the opposition to our seeing all of life from God's perspective, hence wisely, is far stronger than most of us realize. Satan knows full well that he cannot steal our salvation, but that does not stop him from doing all he can to render us ineffective in the work God has designed for us to do, and thereby to steal from us our godly heritage and destiny of service to our King. Recognizing this truth is the first step to overcoming many of the problems that it generates.
Patrick Flood was one of the rising stars at HomeBanc Mortgage Corporation, Atlanta's top mortgage lending institution. But he tossed and turned one night in turmoil.
Patrick woke up in the middle of the night realizing his responsibility for people. "I thought I was being called into ministry, " he recently shared with a reporter. After much prayer and soul-searching, Patrick concluded that God wasn't calling him to be a pastor, but He did have a ministry in mind.
When Mary was sixteen and getting ready to go to Harvard, she wanted to study business. She also wanted to serve Jesus. Torn by what she saw as conflicting desires, she marched into the office of her Presbyterian pastor in Salinas, California, and presented her career dilemma.
"I love God," she told him. "And I love business. So I'll probably just go work in a church or be a missionary, right?" Wrong, her pastor said: "Christians are needed in the corporate world, too."
That truth-that she could use her talents for God in the secular sphere-set Mary free. She tackled a joint major in economics and religion at Harvard and wrote her senior thesis on social investing-the concept of using one's money to address ethical concerns, such as helping the poor or boycotting pornography.
The first line in Rick Warren's best-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life, says it all: "It's not about you." This is quite possibly the most profound, yet most challenging statement I have or will ever wrestle with. Thirty-seven years of deeply ingrained beliefs cried, "Look out for number one!" and "Watch your back!" and "Never expose your soft underbelly!" Old habits die hard. The call on my life to write God Is My CEO challenged every belief I had about self-preservation.