Far too often we can let little things slide but recently I read an article titled “Never Walk by a Mistake.” It served as a good reminder of the importance of correcting even what seems like a small thing.
General Ann Dunwoody was walking down the street when she saw a soldier in uniform walking with his hands in his pockets. Anyone who’s spent time in the military knows that this is a big no-no. Dunwoody could have literally walked by the mistake and not addressed it. It’s something small, it wasn’t impacting anyone at the time, and the kid probably just forgot. It wasn’t anything overtly heinous. As a general, though, she knew that if she didn’t correct the error, she would be, by the sin of omission, setting a new lower standard for that soldier. So rather than letting it slide, she approached him, kindly addressed the problem (rather than yelling at and demeaning the young guy), and reinforced the ideas of discipline and attention to detail.
Here is what intrigues me: by not correcting the error, we are actually setting a lower standard, which is obviously not acceptable. After reading an article by Jerry Bowyer entitled “Are Christians Allowed to Get Rich?” I saw that there is a standard set for Christian business owners and there are at least two mistakes that lower that standard:
- Not Understanding Your Purpose and Calling
- Not Understanding You are a Steward, not the Owner
1. Purpose & Calling
Typically, when we speak of “calling,” business owners are not the first to come to our mind. We tend to immediately think of those with a more sacred calling, like pastors or missionaries. David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby is “the son of a pastor, and the brother of a large cohort of pastors, pastor’s wives and missionaries.” Like many Christian business owners, “David felt that there was something not fully Christian about his passion for running a successful store.” When he would talk excitedly about his business, his saintly mother would ask him, “Yes, but what are you doing for the Lord?” Obviously his mother meant well, but had a limited understanding of God’s calling.
We usually make the same mistake when we categorize our work (or business) as secular, separating it from the sacred (calling). Rather than sensing the pleasure of God through our work, we often consider our work less than God’s calling. It seems that David Green felt like a black sheep because the rest of his family were “ministers” while he was in business. However, when we serve others (in our work), we are actually serving the Lord, not just men (Eph. 6:7) and can fulfill the call God has placed on our lives. Here is a great piece of advice: Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord … (Col 3:23).
In time, David Green discovered that God can use a merchant just as well as He can a pastor. It seems that business was his purpose and calling after all and was a means of engaging in the great commission. I love what he said in the interview with Jerry Bowyer: So I believe I have a calling on my life; I think we all can, no matter where we are, be anointed. I sense God’s anointing on my life as a businessman.
2. A Steward, Not an Owner
It would certainly be valuable to listen to the audio interview with David Green as he provides insight on how Hobby Lobby endeavours to incorporate biblical principles into its business. He speaks about the importance of avoiding long term debt and he says, “We go into debt when we think God isn’t moving fast enough,” which identifies our lack of contentment.
The part that I found most interesting is the corporate structure of Hobby Lobby, where the shares are owned by a trust rather than by family members. This speaks to the fact that the Green’s are stewards of the company and the corporation is actually held in trust. This means if the company was to be sold, 90% of the value would go to a foundation and subsequently distributed to the Lord’s work. Typically, a business is passed down to the next generation, then the next, but in the case of Hobby Lobby, the family cannot actually touch the assets. Since these assets are seen as under God’s ownership, the corporate structure reflects that and is actually referred to as a “stewardship trust.”
God owns it all, like Psalm 24:1 clearly states, is a statement Christians agree with in principle but despite this knowledge, we often live like we are the owners.
If you are a Christian business owner or a Christian financial advisor, accountant or lawyer directing business owners, please listen to the audio recording for just 10 minutes (start from 14 minutes to 24 minutes). It is easy for Christian business owners and Christian financial professionals to be “conformed to the world” when it comes to business structure and advice. What I heard is transformational because it is based on biblical principles. If we choose to ignore these principles, we are setting a lower standard than has been laid out for us. Does the legal structure of your business align with your theological structure? Does the corporate structure represent the interest of the steward or the interest of the owner?
2 thoughts on “Two Common Mistakes Christian Business Owners Make”
Lorne, I just wrote this announcement up on Saturday. Let me know if you have any thoughts about it, please.
Note to our writers: past, present, future or potential:
We’re making some changes at Affluent Christian Investor, and I want to tell you about them:
First, we’ve been told by Google AdSense that we cannot continue to participate in that program if we continue to republish articles that have already been posted elsewhere. This means that we can only publish original material going forward. This means that in order to publish your work we would either have to be the only place your article would run or (perhaps) the first place where it would run. If that does not work for you, we understand.
Second, we’ve been talking with an expert in search engine optimization, and we think we have an opportunity to increase our (including your) readership with us. We will be splitting our writers into two different groups: those who write explicitly Christian material and those who write conservative material. By doing this we think we have a good chance at creating both the top destination for Christians seeking financial wisdom, and the top destination for those seeking financial insight from a conservative point of view. This will take time and effort.
So our writers will need to focus their pieces specifically on Christian financial content OR on conservative financial content. In other words, some of our writers will fit in the Christian financial space; some will fit in the conservative financial space. In addition, we’re asking for both groups, conservative writers and Christian writers to focus more on particular subjects such as: investment, generosity, leadership, career, economics, etc. as opposed to personal piety, or devotional material or general political opinion. Financial Devotional is fine, but general devotional won’t really fit the new highly focused format. Politics is fine, but when it impinges on economics of finance. So what we’re looking for is a conservative and/or Christian point of view with a money/wealth/financial focus.
Third, we are in the midst of negotiations with a much larger entity about moving our content to their platforms. What this means is that our writers are more likely to get significantly larger circulation for their pieces. I can’t say much more about this at this point except: there will probably be minimums in place for frequency of writing, probably 5 pieces per month, and minimums for readership, probably between 5 and 10k readers per month. There would, of course, be a transition time during which we would gear up. We’re very excited about this.
In many cases our writers have lucrative ‘day jobs’ and do their writing for publicity, for fun or for a good cause. Some, however, might be interested in writing for pay. Pay scales in this industry depend on click rates, which means that writers are usually not able to follow their ‘bliss’ when it comes to topics. Writing for pay typically means writing designed for maximum reader draw.
In some special cases, we’re thinking about pursuing brand-building relationships. In other words, the content would be built up into a personal/professional branding effort with an audience-building and lead generation system for assets under management, donations, book/curriculum/conference sales, etc. There would, of course, be a financial partnership in those cases.
We’re grateful that you have allowed us to publish your writing thus far. We’ve used it happily and gratefully. We asked you a favor, to be permitted to publish your material, and you generously allowed us to do so. You don’t owe us anything. But the rules are changing for us, and that means changing of the relationship. We’re happy with these changes because we think we can have a bigger impact by following them. But that does not mean you are under the slightest pressure or obligation to come along with us into this next phase.
Blessings to you,