“What I really wanted to talk to you was about giving to my ministry!”
That was the comment posed to my friend by his friend when discussing business. He used it as an “in” to considering his newest venture, a non-profit -- a common pecking order practice within the “holiness hierarchy” in the church. Asked to give to yet another “ministry” and you’d get eye rolls for yet another “hand out.” In reality, Godly businesses ARE a “non-profit” ministry.
However, eye rolls occur when most Christians hear the phrase “a wall of separation of church and state.” It is used by secularists who want us to disconnect our faith and our involvement in the public sphere of government, education, and business. The phrase has been taken out of context in recent decades when Thomas Jefferson briefly and disjointedly discussed it in his private letters to others.
However, this mythical wall of separation between the church and state has been a long and hard-fought battle to reinstate our full abilities to practice our faith according to our First Amendment right: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Our government can’t stop us from practicing our faith, but have we?
While we have various and similar legal battlefronts to fight, there is a cultural battlefront with a different wall of separation: Between ministries and the marketplace. I’m astounded at the nearly complete disconnect between these two subjects within the church.
The church demographically “slices and dices” the church to death and puts everyone into neat little boxes and “small groups.” In reality, the rich, poor, man, woman, child, or retiree all need some help in some form from someone from time to time. Marketplace ministries? Not!
It starts with God’s mandate to Adam and Eve “be fruitful and multiply.” His mandate to “be fruitful” is how we’re to see work and marketplace ministries. Invariably we are taught to see things in two dimensions, i.e., an “either/or” perspective, when in fact there are many facets. Most often we can see two extremes, such as rich or poor, but a third “middle road” is more appropriate to meet our needs. How would marketplace ministries and this “third-way” be demonstrated regarding wealth creation? Let’s look at the two extremes first.
Idol work is to chase wealth. We see workaholics on one end. They rarely take time off, nor is accumulating more and more wealth ever enough (Luke 12:13-21). There is always the drive to have more, less about the issue to hire more. Jesus told the hoarding rich ruler in Matt 19:21, “Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” This scarcity attitude (Proverbs 11:28) creates an “I win; you lose” attitude rather than an equitable view of “let’s win together.”
Everyone involved or connected with a workaholic suffers, and it is to our detriment as a society that we have workaholics, even Christian ones. However, you see the change happen when you read that David Green, CEO of Hobby Lobby and author of the book, “More Than a Hobby,” talks about his transformation from idol work which chases wealth to ideal work which creates wealth. Not just wealth for himself, but all who were involved in growing Hobby Lobby. He saw himself working together with God and others as his partners, not merely as his patrons and only seeing God as backing Green’s efforts with little involvement. It’s equity, not equality.
Idle work is to chastise wealth. The other end of the work spectrum considers they’re entitled to take from the labor of others. Welfare cheats to rent-seekers get paid for adding little to no value and plunder the wealth from our communities. Include some “ministries” which do not add value or have much accountability to the community, let alone the church, for how they are performing. 2 Thess 3:10b says it best, “we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” Activity is disengaged work, productivity is engaged work.
This attitude comes from my favorite James J. Hill (1838-1916) quote, CEO of the Great Northern Railroad, who never filed for bankruptcy compared with rest of the railroads. He stated, “The wealth of the country, its capital, its credit, must be saved from the predatory poor as well as the predatory rich, but above all from the predatory politician.”
Predatory habits begin with coveting (Exod 20:17) and expands into stealing (Exod 20:15) and bearing false witness (Exod 20:16) and beyond. The church chastises wealth creation, yet turns around and expects us to give more. You can’t save you way to wealth nor give away to the church to create wealth. You in business create wealth! When you understand Biblical wealth creation in the marketplace ministries, then the need for more non-profits will move toward zero. How?
Ideal work is seen to create wealth. Ideal work thinking is the middle, third-way between idle and idol work. Creating wealth is a win/win/win when you get everyone to fully engage their God-given talents to add value, i.e., abundance thinking, for the marketplace.
The new Denver pizza restaurant in Cherry Creek, Pizzability, follows the model of their first business, The Brewability Lab. The Pizzability’s web site says it created “a pizzeria empowering people with disabilities” for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). These businesses give disadvantaged people the chance to earn a dignified living in a great environment who otherwise might be overlooked in the labor market. If it can happen with those with IDD, what about the rest of us?
Christian Peter Freissle of Polydeck is another example. He led his company’s efforts (God at Work video, The Business Card book) to change his company’s culture to more reflect God’s economy. Loving and investing in his workers/customers/vendors had negative metrics headed downward. Companies like OMI, Inc (a friend worked there) when they became the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award 2000 Award Recipient, Service recipient achieves similar results. Their numbers speak for themselves: Positives up, negatives down. When will the pastors break down the walls of separation within the church and marketplace ministries?
Companies which invest in their people see an increase in productivity and profits and lower costs and more tax deductions than giving to non-profits. In other words, rather than throwing money over the company wall to non-profits, businesses can become their own “non-profit” when investing in others. Creating wealth is about profits, “being fruitful,” but it begins with wisdom (knowledge), then work (knowledge applied), even for those with disabilities, which creates wealth (purposeful profits). Creating wealth is the future of our prosperity and involves people, process, and product. However, when people know their purpose, they become the center of your increase in profits.