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April 9, 2020

The New York Times Gets it Right

Os Hillman • Workplace, City & Nation Transformation
The following is a feature article from the Jan-Feb 2004 issue of Business Reform magazine. The article describes the growing faith at work movement nationally and internationally.

I walked into the restaurant just outside Elk River, Minnesota and extended my hand to a handsome, dark haired man in his early forties.  "Hi, I'm Chuck Ripka," he said.  I was encouraged to meet Chuck while I was in the Minneapolis area by one of my board members of the International Coalition of Workplace Ministries (ICWM).


He had informed me about something special that was taking place in the Riverview Community Bank and the city of Elk River.  Pastors and marketplace leaders and civic leaders gather on a regular basis for prayer.  The mayor of the city officially invited Jesus to be Lord over their city.


However, this day I wanted to learn more about Chuck's story and his own personal journey.  As Chuck began to tell me his story he used terms like "God said this to me" or "the Lord said he was going to do this or that."  He was confident in his ability to hear God's voice.  He recalls God saying to him on Oct 20. 1998 that He trusted Chuck and that He wanted Chuck to take Him out of the box he had Him (Jesus) in. According to Chuck, nothing has been the same since.


As director of the International Coalition of Workplace Ministries and Marketplace Leaders I hear lots of testimonies from those in the marketplace.  So, I needed to know if Chuck was the real deal.  Over the next year I got to know Chuck better by visiting the bank and his staff and speaking to more than 300 people a community luncheon in Elk River.  What has taken place in Elk River will shock you.


Not Your Ordinary Bank

The bank just began in March of 2003.  First year projections were $16 million in deposits but actual deposits in the first year came in at $52 million.  Their original projection was to be at $50 million in five years.  After 21 months deposits are now at $80 million.  Chuck says, "One of the things the Lord told me was, 'Chuck, if you will be obedient to My Word, you will not have to worry about the bottom line.'"


Probably more important than the success of the bank is what has taken place spiritually.  In the first 21 months Chuck has seen 80 personal decisions for Christ made inside the bank and almost the same number in physical healings.  A video clip was developed by a Minneapolis company that portrays what is taking place in the bank and includes a personal testimony of one of its customers who was healed.  Chuck's team trains their tellers to pray for customers as the opportunity presents itself.  This is just a snapshot of what's happening at the bank.


This bank was designed to be a Kingdom bank.  The founders of the bank wanted not only to run a bank with ethics, integrity and professionalism, but they also wanted it to be a place of ministry.  They are succeeding so much that even secular and liberal media outlets are taking note.


The New York Times Magazine Gets it Right

It was early fall and I was in my office.  The phone rang and it was a writer from New York doing a story for the New York Times magazine.  He was just beginning his research for a cover story to appear later that fall.  My first thought was, "Is this going to be one of those 'Christian lynchings' or a balance view of what is going on?"  I gave the writer the benefit of the doubt and answered his questions.  We talked for about 30 minutes.  He called me a week later and we talked for another 30 minutes.  Each time I gave him the names of others with whom he should also talk.  Then, about a month later, he called a third time. "I think I have an understanding of what this is all about but I need a case study of an individual who is practicing what you are talking about on a daily basis in his workplace."  That was easy.  I told him to call my friend Chuck.


Not only did this self-proclaimed secular writer call Chuck, he flew to Elk River and spent two days with him.  He interviewed every person in the bank and even went home with him and had dinner with the family.  He followed Chuck to some of the community prayer meetings and watched as Chuck prayed for people in the bank.  Chuck spoke very candidly to the writer about why he felt the writer was doing this story. It was not just a story about the bank, but it was going to be something God was going to use in his own life. The writer cites this in his last two paragraphs of his story.

"There are certainly no signs of Ripka's faith becoming diluted, however.  When I first visited the bank, I discovered that besides the chance to spread the Word via this magazine, there was one other thing Ripka wanted from me in exchange for his participation in the article: My soul. He had invited two other marketplace pastors-a dentist and the owner of a dental laboratory-to join us in his office.  Shortly after we sat down, they began to pray.

They prayed for me, for my family, for this article, for the Lord to guide my pen, for The New York Times, for the media in general, for secular society.  Then they pulled out a vial and began anointing me with oil-a practice from early Judaism and Christianity that some Christians today have revived-and prayed for me all over again.  As a result, I can report that having people pray over you feels just fine, like getting praise and a shoulder massage and an offer of help all in one.  And as a small personal reflection on the central issue of this article, I'm also prepared to impart how it feels to have a banker, a dentist and a businessman pray for your immortal soul in a bank.  It feels weird" (New York Times, Cot. 31 edition, pg. 69).

Now, what you won't read in the New York Times magazine is the impact Chuck and his staff made on the writer.  The impact has been so significant that it would be improper for me to comment here due to his position with the New York Times magazine.  He and Chuck have become good friends.  Two weeks later the photographers came to take pictures and Chuck also prayed with them.  Chuck attributes the fairness and accuracy of the resulting article to praying beforehand with the writer.

Open the Media Floodgates
On October 31, 2004 the feature story appeared, just four days before the re-election of President Bush.  These two events triggered a landslide of media attention to the subject of faith in the workplace and the role of faith and morality in the re-election of George W. Bush.  Right after the story broke Chuck received inquires for interviews from a broadcast company in France, a German newspaper, the Boston Globe, the Minneapolis Star, and PAX TV.  I also received requests from the Charlotte Observer, an LA radio station, and National Public Radio.  A story is being developed right now by CNBC and Fortune Small Business magazine for the spring.  Everyone wants to know the real scoop. God is drawing attention to Himself through these events.

But what does this all mean? Is this an isolated event?

An International Movement Designed for Nation Transformation

The faith at work movement is not just a U.S. movement. God is raising up business leaders around the globe who are being used of God to impact the nations.

Charisma magazine featured a recent story on Graham Power, a successful businessman in Cape Town, South Africa.

Graham was awakened one day at 4 a.m. in July 2000.  He said God gave him a vision in three stages.  First, he was instructed to rent the 45,000-seat Newlands rugby stadium in Cape Town for a day of repentance and prayer for that city.  In the second part of the vision, he saw the prayer movement spreading to the rest of South Africa for a national day of prayer, and in the final part of the vision he saw the effort cover the rest of the continent.

On March 21, 2001, the first step came to pass. A capacity crowd gathered in Newlands stadium for prayer and repentance.  Soon after that a notorious gangster in the city was saved.

News of the first gathering spread quickly, and in 2002 eight cities in South Africa hosted the day of prayer.  Leading up to the event young people from all over the country took part in a "Walk of Hope" from Bloemfontein to the eight stadiums where prayer meetings were to be held that year, visiting schools and community centers along the way. The events also were broadcast on television.

Power said he received another vision in February 2002, in which he saw the prayer event in 2003 spreading as far as the widest point in Africa, covering sub-Saharan Africa.  The Day of Prayer for Africa last year did exactly that.  Not only did 77 cities and towns in South Africa host interdenominational prayer events, but 60 other cities and towns in 27 countries in sub-Saharan Africa also took part. 

According to Charisma, an estimated 15 million to 30 million Africans from all 53 countries in Africa and five islands gathered for united prayer in hundreds of stadiums throughout the continent" (Charisma magazine, May 2004 edition).  It all started with the vision of a businessman.

Israel Invites Christian Based Marketplace Group

The International Christian Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) is another marketplace group making a big difference in nations.  In 2003 the ICCC, as they are known in 95 countries now, co-hosted a business expo with the nation of Israel.  Three Israeli departments of trade came together with the ICCC to bring 400 business leaders from 40 nations together for one reason-to bless the nation of Israel in a time when they most needed it.  The result was extraordinary.  The leaders of the nation were so impressed with the Christians from ICCC that they invited ICCC to have their headquarters in Jerusalem.  This relationship is continuing to develop with many other joint projects.

The government of Egypt in Cairo saw the success of this event and has now asked ICCC to do the same for them.  Leaders will be going to Cairo in February for an international business expo to invest in Egypt. You won't hear much of this on the evening news. But just imagine it:, A Muslim country inviting Christians to bring their faith and their business investment to their nation!

China: Transforming the Educational System

ICCC has also been involved in a project for the last seven years in China.  China has been moving toward a market-driven economy for the last ten years.  IBM and Microsoft heard of their interest and offered to provide some educational training in market economy.  They politely said no but turned around and invited the leaders of ICCC to provide training for their people.  Surprised by this - ICCC has never done such a project-they inquired as to why they would ask them to do this.  "You will provide our people with ethics in addition to the market economy training," was their answer. ICCC replied to them and said, "But you need to know we are a Christian organization and we would teach this course based on the Bible." The Chinese government responded with, "That's okay, you just can't say Jesus, God or the Bible."  ICCC responded by saying, "Can we say 'It is written'?"  To that they said "yes" and the project moved forward with Scriptures quoted throughout the program with the explanation that "a wise old saying says."

The program has aired many times to a potential household audience of 250 million.  The government leaders have documented more than 40,000 businesses being started as a result of the program.  It is now the only government approved market economy course in the university system.  Now, the graduates of the course and owners of the businesses are asking, "Where do these wonderful sayings come from?"  The government wants ICCC to start ICCC chapters, but the organization does not yet feel the timing is right for such a move.

The New Reformation?

In the past issue of Business Reform you have read about what American businessmen are doing to change Colombia and, in this issue, about what's happening in Argentina.  These are just a few examples of God's activity in the marketplace today.  Jesus is indeed on the move in the marketplace throughout the entire world! 

Dr. Peter Wagner has said that the workplace movement has the potential to be as significant as the Protestant Reformation because it reaches those in society who have the power to make changes in society.  When people in government, entertainment, education, military, and business begin to operate from a Christian worldview, we begin to see changes in laws and decisions that rule our nation.  Church leaders have the ability to impact those who serve in these arenas.

Wouldn't it be great to be the generation that becomes the catalyst for real transformation of our society? Why not begin your own paradigm shift in how you see your work life calling with a vision toward workplace, city, and nation transformation?


Os Hillman is president of the International Coalition of Workplace Ministries and Marketplace Leaders, an organization designed to equip Christians for workplace transformation. He has authored nine books and writes a free daily email devotional entitled TGIF TodayGodIsFirst.com.  His website is www.marketplaceleaders.org and www.icwm.net.  His email address is os@marketplaceleaders.org.


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