Integrating Faith and Business

Mar 3, 2012, Written by Sue Miley

When I became a Christian many things about my life and my character changed dramatically.  So much so that it is to God’s Glory that He can do such a transformation.

One area that has taken a couple of double takes has been integrating my faith into my leadership and business.  It seemed like whenever I was involved in a leadership group at church, everyone involved had on their extra nice hat.

What is Christian Leadership in the Church?

It was a little confusing to me because in some cases in a group of leaders, no one would take the lead.  Another oddity was that most of our leadership group was comprised of local businessmen and professionals.

Yet rather than address the situation at hand, like we would do in any business I have been involved in, we would just postpone, pray about it, and declare that it is God’s church and things will work out.

Being the new kid on the block, both as a Christian and a leader in the church, I was watching rather than jumping in at first.  As I observed I became increasingly confused why there was this invisible barrier to bringing our business sense and our take action leadership into the church setting.

Over time it appeared to impact the church, as it would a business that followed these practices.  It didn’t seem to be working.

What is Christian Leadership in Business?

As I began to work with Christian Businesses , in my business coaching practice, there was a similar dichotomy.  These Christian businessmen and women, who were strong in their faith and turned everything over to God in the church, were having none of it in business.

In some sense it was like they were checking their faith at the door of their business.  I have heard comments like, “We wouldn’t survive if we ran our business in a Christian way.” Or “It would open the door for everyone to walk all over us if they knew I was a strong Christian.”

Then on the opposite extreme, those who wanted to follow God in all parts of their life put a misplaced twist on Christian professional values.  They allowed employees to run amuck, took the brunt of every contract, and basically made poor business decisions claiming  “Isn’t that what Jesus would do?”

Can’t You Be a Strong Christian and a Bold Leader

Again, being new to this work and faith integration I was still perplexed.  I started asking people why they felt they couldn’t be both a strong Christian and a bold business person or leader.  I received such a variety of answers:

  • Being a Christian means being nice.  You can’t survive in business being too nice.
  • It is against the law to show your faith in business.
  • If I don’t fit in with my customers they won’t buy from me.
  • God doesn’t care about my business.  I have to do that part on my own.
  • Christians aren’t supposed to care about profits but I have mouths to feed.

All of these responses were heartfelt.  The Christian businessmen and women making these claims were truly frustrated that they couldn’t effectively integrate their faith and their business.

Since I wanted to follow God and was passionate about business, I began to seriously study the bible in areas of leadership, decision-making, accountability, teaching and many other topics.

Integrating Faith and Business

I found strength and clarity about Christian leadership and many other topics that apply directly to our business.  If we are to follow Jesus, what I found in the bible is that it is more important to:

  • Follow God’s will regardless of whether it is popular or not.
  • Hold people accountable to God’s ways which includes submitting to authority, doing everything in a way that glorifies God, being honest, watching our tongue, serving others, and much more.
  • To seek wisdom and make wise decisions.
  • To handle conflict openly and directly with the person the conflict is with.
  • To lead strongly and boldly.

The Bible’s Description of a Christian Business Person

All of my scripture research reinforced that a Christian business person was a person of integrity, justice, wisdom, character, strength, consistency, and love.  In looking back at the two settings described above, I am relieved to see such clarity in the bible as to our roles.

Here is what I have learned:

  1. If we are following God, we are following Him in every aspect of our life.  He cares about it all, even our business.
  2. If we are truly acting in love, when we have to make the tough decisions or face conflict head-on, that love will many times bridge the gap where hurt, defensiveness, or denial may set in.
  3. If we know something is God’s will (and He gives us a lot of direction for that in the bible) we should have even more confidence to step up and lead, rather than back down and wait.
  4. Jesus led by example handling issues and communicating calmly (in most cases) yet directly.

As Christian businessmen and women our hands are not tied if we integrate our faith into our business.  On the contrary, we have an extra set of hands to lead us and guide us.

The Christian Business Edge

Not only can we integrate our faith and our business, but we can show the world that as Christians we can have unwavering strength and limitless compassion, simultaneously and seamlessly.

And as is true with God in all things, He is faithful.  As I have personally followed what scripture shares with us about leadership and business, I have seen the wisdom of His ways and seen success achieved.

My business has always been profitable.  God’s vision for my business has stayed consistent and developed over time, adding strategies and tactics along the way. I have avoided the traditional roller coaster that results from changing focus and vision.  Contacts and relationships have grown and are based on mutual support.  My decision-making is more long-term focused and less reactive.

As I have worked with clients to integrate their faith with their business I have also seen growth and improvement.  I have received comments like,

“As I have become more comfortable with accountability, it has helped me to hire better people and get off to a productive and consistent start.”

“I wish I had been tougher to begin with, I see now how my lack of discipline and holding others accountable has negatively affected my business.”

“I wasn’t sure how to handle business decisions and now I am so happy to have scripture to guide me.  I just didn’t realize how much guidance God provides about leadership and business.”

What Would God Have Us Do?

It may seem grey at times to definitively know exactly what God would have us do, but if we make it a way of life to always seek Him, to study His word, and to live a life that strives to emulate Christ, I believe strongly that we will have the answers we need and that we will see God’s divine guidance in all aspects of our life, even our business.

If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Susan DiMickele says

    Thanks for your voice Sue! I have made so many of these mistakes in separating my faith from my work, and I need to remember every day that God does take an interest in my work — and that I can glorify him. I am so thankful for the encouragement of you and others on this journey. Talk soon!

  2. Chris Patton says

    Excellent post, Sue! You really addressed some critical issues that need to be heard by every Christian business owner or leader. I appreciate your efforts at getting this message out there.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Debbie Potts says

    Thanks for this post Sue. You touched on a number of issues that I have seen in the marketplace as well. I find that the quality of humility is one that is most unusual, but also most influential. Without openly preaching Jesus, our acts of humility will make people sit up and take notice like nothing else. It is also the one quality that marks the true leader. I recently read Humilitas by John Dickson, awesome leadership book!

    • S_Miley says

      Debbie, I think where we get confused sometimes is in our definition of humility. Jesus had great humility, yet strength too. I think strength and boldness, combined with true humility, is the perfect balance.

  4. S_Miley says

    Hey Susan and Chris….
    It has been a decade plus now since I was a newbie following Christ, but I do find that this is one of those issues that resurfaces like the ups and downs of a roller coaster. Just when I think I have done the hard work and made it up the hill again, I doubt myself and my stubbornness to follow scripture and think maybe all of the other Christian leaders get it more than me. And I soar down the harrowing down-turn only to re-assess at the bottom and begin the climb again! Thanks for commenting!

  5. Paula Mary Millar says

    Sue, I really appreciate this article also. I’m just begining my advising business and this gives me a heads up on what to expect to run into.
    Blessings
    Paula Mary

  6. Bill Kassler says

    Excellent Sue.
    As a believer, a teacher and an author of Christian books, I know that God will hold me personally to a higher standard. It’s impossible to keep Him out of the workplace for me.
    Believing that we are not battling flesh and blood, but principalities (Ephesians 6) you have to learn to integrate your Christianese into your natural language:

    Praise God
    Halleluia
    I’m thankful God helped me setup this meeting.
    I am truly blessed to work with you.

    Open up a dialogue opportunity and find the people that God is seeking – they will be drawn to you. You will not be speaking like the world speaks.

    Of course, as you state – keep your ethics. Live by Proverbs 127:1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain.” He must be in everything you do. Finally, do as Jesus said – be a servant to all. You can be the boss and a great teacher and mentor at the same time.

    Bill Kassler – Author of “The End from the Beginning” and 3 other books.
    http://SearchingForJesus.info

    • S_Miley says

      Hi Bill, I agree..I can’t keep Him out of the work place and be true to Him or myself. I know He wants to be in all facets of our life, and for that, I am thankful! Blessings.

  7. David Sena says

    Sue,

    Thanks for the post. I have read material from Bill Hybels on dealing with staffing issues in the workplace. Currently, I also consult with my board of directors and our attorney (if needed).

    I have learned that shrewdness mixed with transparency and honesty are difficult. I see that with Jesus and how he communicated with the rich young ruler, shared the parable of the talents and cleared the temple.

    Jesus was a unique leader and manager. I think I make him too tame and therefore limit my ability to lead well because I embrace actions based on fear, or a desire to minimize conflict.

    I am challenging myself to be more courageous, transparent and a better communicator to make the playing field as equitable as possible. I often think how would I like to be handled.

    Thanks for your insights.

    Cheers,
    Dave Sena

    • S_Miley says

      Hi David. This is where I have struggled the most. The world makes us feel like “good christians” don’t hold employees accountable. Which is truly not accurate. God holds us accountable and we many times have to reap the consequences of our sin. Yet, people make you feel like you are too harsh. Which I know are total lies, so I try to not second guess myself and stay as close to where I think the Lord wants me as I can!

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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