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?

 

 

Is God Really In Control?

This is truly an important question to address. Recently, I read the following statement in a devotional: God is sovereign, meaning God is in complete control of everything. I think most believers in God would tend to agree with this statement, especially since we have heard preachers make similar declarations. However, I believe there is a big difference in God being “sovereign” and in God being “in control.”

There is actually a significant distinction between these two terms “sovereign” and “control” that needs clarification. When you consider the attributes of God “control” is not one of them, but “sovereignty” definitely is.  Here is an example to help clarify: Canada is commonwealth nation and as such recognizes the Queen as sovereign, yet she is not really part of the government that rules (controls) the country. Interestingly, to call an election though, government leaders have to first meet the the representative of the Sovereign or the Lieutenant Governor. In essence, while the Queen is sovereign, she’s not in a position of controlling policy or the everyday affairs of governing.

commanding officer

Here is another example: Consider the command of a naval ship; the command is vested in the Commanding Officer (CO) for the direction and control of the ship. The CO retains this authority at all times. Control is the authority that is vested in the CO to give orders pertaining to the operations of the ship. Obviously, because of human limitations, the CO may delegate charge and control of some particular aspects of the ships operations to one or more officers (such as Executive Officer or Officer On Watch), but the CO always retains command. Now this is certainly a human example, but it can help bring an understanding to this issue of control. The CO is always in command (sovereign), but at times delegates control of the ship, which in no way reduces his authority.  In the same manner God is always sovereign, but delegating control (to man) does not reduce his authority over the earth.

Think about creation when man was made in God’s image: man was given charge, dominion, authority to rule the earth. There is no doubt that God (the Commanding Officer), gave the earth to mankind (see Gen. 1:26 & Psalm 115:16b). Now let’s be clear, “the earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1) and He remains sovereign over the earth despite man having received dominion over the earth. Control is different than sovereignty.

In my last blog, I quoted 1 John 5:19 in reference to the story of Dunkirk because it can be most difficult to believe that God is in control while some people were rescued from the shores while others who were just as loved died on the beach. The verse says this: “we know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one.” This is a very important verse and one that many struggle to understand: the world we live in, is now actually controlled by the the evil one. Yet God is sovereign and in still in command.

Interestingly, whenever a CO delegates control, the CO also indicates: the aspects delegated, the duration for which control is delegated, and the limits which apply to the delegation. Now, consider the story of Job, when the ‘evil one’ comes to God about Job, God (CO) grants control but speaks to the aspects, the duration and applies limits. How many times have we held God responsible for things that happened, when in fact, it was an act of the evil one, or even consequences of our own actions? We know the end of Job’s story, God remained sovereign (in command), but delegated control for a limited time. In fact, the LORD gave him twice as much as before!

The whole issue of sovereignty vs. control can be beyond our human comprehending. Hopefully, this explanation is helps us understand that when we are faced with difficult circumstances, and things seem completely out of control, we can still trust God Who is sovereign.