In my journey with workplace ministries I have learned that there is both a need and a huge opportunity for the church to make a difference in the business community—but most pastors don’t know it.
Most of the pastors and seminary students I’ve spoken with over the years have not considered how or why they should support the business leaders in their church. Central to the church’s role in supporting businesses are questions like these: Is work good and a gift of God? Are only certain types of moral work pleasing and acceptable to the Lord? Which jobs are considered doing God’s work? Words like profit, competition, money, and business can elicit negative connotations for some. News headlines seem to reinforce those stereotypes.
Others may view businesses as a source of funding for the local church or their employees as a mission field ripe for evangelism. While in some cases those descriptions may be accurate, it’s important to remember that a business is the combination of the organization and purpose and the people who work in it. Businesses themselves add to our world by the contribution of products or services and the employment of individuals. In the case of medical technology, for instance, improvements in the field have brought life-saving procedures and much needed relief from pain. A smartphone and a computer keep grandma connected with her children and grandchildren on the other side of the country.
Any job done for the wrong reasons with sinful motivations and an impure heart is not pleasing to the Lord. Who does the work, how it gets done, and for what reasons reflect the state of the leader’s heart.
The pastor plays an important role in serving business leaders. Ephesians 4:11-13 expands the pastor’s role by instructing God’s representatives to “equip the saints for the work of ministry”. The word “work” in this passage is the Greek word ergon, which can mean business, employment, task, product developed or anything accomplished by hand, art, or industry. Part of the pastoral job description, then, is to help God’s people find the right job and to do it with excellence as unto the Lord to benefit the common good and for human flourishing.
God intends for his people to be his managers in the world for his glory and for the benefit of others. God ordained work prior to the entrance of sin in the world and work in itself has intrinsic value (Genesis 1:23-28; 2:15).
Almost every pastor I know can tell you that defining moment when he or she felt called into the pastoral ministry. They knew this was God’s purpose for their life. They were to help lead his people, grow them to be more like Christ, and to prepare them for a ministry and mission in the world.
Rare is the business leader who will tell you that they were created to run a good business and that their worship, ministry, and evangelism flows from their work that is pleasing to God. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Again we find that word “works” is the Greek word ergon, the same used in Ephesians 4:11-13. God planned long ago for some people to run a good and profitable business and to develop a good product or service. They are to have a ministry inside and outside the local church and a mission in the world.
The pastor plays an important and influential role for business leaders. Faith, work and economics are fundamental to our gospel mission and creation mandate.
As the pastor points the business leader to a fuller understanding of their purpose and influence in the world, their focus will expand beyond the local church to becoming more global-minded.
As the pastor guides the business leader in practically connecting faith to their daily work, the leader will become more missionally driven in their business and more Spirit-driven in their leadership.
As the pastor guides the business leader in discerning where God is in their business, the leader will collaborate as God’s business partner to meet unmet needs, bring new solutions and influence people.
As the pastor leads the business leader to connect with other like-minded leaders, they will find community and a sharing of ideas and spiritual growth in their worklife.
The business leader is not looking for their pastor to help them run their business more profitably, implement manufacturing improvements, or make that personnel decision. They are looking for their pastor to be their pastor in all areas of their life, including their worklife.
Leaders want their pastors to pray for them and their business. They want to be seen, known and understood for what they do. Pastors need to acknowledge the contribution that the leader’s business makes to society and to affirm their calling, value, worth and dignity as a business leader. Business leaders want to be valued for what they can provide in the local church with their unique skills and training.
Business leaders want their pastor to unpack the Bible with excellence and help them understand Biblical truth. They want to be refreshed and uplifted and encouraged. After a week of being beat up by customers, suppliers, and investors, they need to be refueled and sent back out into the world.
What local business leaders can you affirm, encourage and pray for?
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Used by permission. All rights reserved. Content edited and distributed by Asbury Theological Seminary for non-profit educational purposes. © 2016 Helen Mitchell