Two Common Mistakes Christian Business Owners Make

Two Common Mistakes Christian Business Owners Make

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.

walk-byGeneral 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:

  1. Not Understanding Your Purpose and Calling
  2. 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.

work-is-our-calling-400We 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.

DGreenThe 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?

 

 

Are You Hearing But Not Understanding?

Are You Hearing But Not Understanding?

Just over two years ago, I had surgery on my shoulder and I now visit a specialist every six months. Recently, I had another visit and I usually take my wife with me to help me understand since the doctor has a very strong French accent. Even though he speaks English, it can be very difficult to grasp the meaning of his words. During the appointment, he asked a question, but we just looked at each other bewildered because neither of us understood a word. He repeated it with the same result. He was saying “Ohh-ta-wah” in such a way that when it was placed in a sentence, we just couldn’t understand. After stating it the third time, we both realized he was asking if my surgery had been done here in Ottawa.

Have you ever heard someone but not understood what they said?

yesbymagnet_1Sometimes, language or dialect can be a barrier to understanding. I recall when we had friends from Ontario visit us in Newfoundland and we had a conversation with some locals. Our friends heard us speaking, but did not understand. Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked because the very tone of the common phrase, “Yes b’y,” actually changes its meaning.

The effort required to hear a sound compared to the effort required to process it, is exponential. Understanding is logically the step that follows hearing, unless, of course, it involves a politician.

prime-minister-trudeauPoliticians typically only say what they want us to hear and we have to dig deeper if we desire to get the entire meaning; otherwise our perspective remains limited. For example, the Trudeau government often claims it has cut taxes for middle-class Canadian families. A recent article helped me understand that while it did reduce the second lowest federal income tax rate (from 22 to 20.5 per cent), it also eliminated a number of tax credits, thereby increasing income taxes for Canadians who previously claimed such credits. Result: 81% of middle-class Canadian families with children are paying more in personal income taxes.

The Liberals quickly speak of reduced tax rates, but the elimination of tax credits enlightens our understanding of the issue. What we comprehend about any issue or even a person, depends on what we hear (and read).

perspectiveIf you think about it, the perspective from which you see things can be the very obstacle that prevents you from seeing another point of view.  (Doesn’t this graphic resemble a political debate? It totally depends on which side you are on).

The Bible has some interesting things to say regarding understanding:

  1. One instruction is to not depend on your own understanding. Maybe one of the reasons is that our own understanding limits our ability to understand others.
  2. Also, “By understanding He (The LORD) established the heavens.” What did God understand?  Was it an understanding of the power of sound and what is formed from vibrations? Maybe the reason God spoke was to cause vibrations to form the earth. What did He establish? Heaven represents an eternal dwelling place for believers. If God is an example for us then, the purpose of understanding is to establish something that is eternal and meaningful to others.
  3. Mankind has the capacity to understand the deeper things that are buried within a person. The purpose in a man’s mind is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.  If you think about your work, it may be important to understand others to bring clarity to them. Financial professionals can actually be a key to help clients see their inner purpose, why they have so much, or even why they have faced some troubles in life.
  4. By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, so that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen. Faith is not the opposite of reason, but actually a higher dimension of understanding. Think about the dreams within a person; they are actually unseen until exposed. If it is a dream of writing a book, it exists only in the mind of the author and only becomes visible when written.

In our work we should:

  1. realize “our own understanding” can be limited and should not always be relied on
  2. know we are called to establish something eternally significant through our lives
  3. understand others to expose the purpose that is often hidden deep within a person
  4. identify that faith can add a higher (or deeper) level of understanding

UnderstandingIn a conversation, an accountant told me he keeps his antennas raised when in discussion with clients. Since mankind is spiritual, our spirits are meant to be active and sensitive, which leads to an understanding of others. It is the spirit in man … that makes him understand. This depth of understanding is the requirement to draw out purpose.

In our efforts to understand others, how often do we simply rely on our own thoughts?  By ignoring our inner person (not having our antennas up), are we missing the greatest opportunities to explore the deep waters (purpose) hidden within others?

 

 

 

Sacred Call to a Secular Work

There are so many choices and opportunities when it comes to a career. It seems that “calling” is required to be a pastor or missionary, but not necessarily for a businessman,  fireman, teacher, lawyer, doctor, etc.

Let my experience provide some deeper insight: As a teenager, I felt a “call” on my life and the best way I could interpret it at the time was to become a pastor. My response was to attend Bible College and I recall during my first year having my Bible open to 2 Timothy 4 and I read daily, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season … endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”  I entered full time ministry in 1986 and felt like I was living out the sacred call on my life. Just 3 years later, I was invited to be youth pastor in a church, but never had the opportunity to do so since that church split! This was a major crisis for me (maybe the part of my call to endure hardship), which eventually led to my accepting a job selling life insurance (a secular work). My passion was to continue serving in church ministry but I needed an income, so the job provided financially.  I continued volunteering in church ministry which led people to draw a comparison to Paul making tents while his “calling” was to declare the gospel.

In my last blog I stated, “The mistake we often make is in categorizing our work as secular, separating it from the sacred, rather than sensing the pleasure of God in our work.”

missed callMy perspective was that my work as a financial advisor was not necessarily a “calling” but just a job (secular), while my “calling” as pastor was my true work (sacred). Can you sense the inner turmoil I was feeling? Had I missed my “calling” or was it possible that I could actually live it out by being a financial advisor? Did I have the wrong perspective to start with? Should I have even separated the two – the sacred and the secular?

Reflecting back on the 2 Timothy 4 reference, as a financial advisor, I certainly felt “out of season” when it came to being able to “preach the word.” However, another translation (HCSB) instructs “proclaim the message” which sheds a different light on that phrase.  The reality is I had many opportunities in my secular work to fulfill the sacred call. The “proclaiming” was different than I ever thought it would be because life was not the way I had planned it.

One client later confirmed, “You have more of a ministry here in this office (as a financial advisor) than you could ever have in a pulpit (as a pastor).” This helped me realize that the calling I felt was not limited to a particular role that I would have in life.

Calling QuoteSo whether I do the work of a pastor, financial advisor, director, bus driver, or teacher, you get the picture, the important thing is to be a good steward and be true to that call.

The right perspective: Your secular work is definitely connected to your calling and becomes the perfect opportunity to “fulfill your ministry!”

Have you made the mistake of separating the secular from the sacred? Are you fulfilling the uniqueness of your calling?