According to Julian, there is no spiritual distinction between serving in the marketplace or doing ministry, as we should treat everything we do as worship to our King.
Luke 19:13 says, “So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’”
The conflict between the calling to serve in the marketplace and church ministry has to be cleared. There have been so many people who assume their work is “secular/carnal” while doing ministry in church is “sacred.” The result of this kind of mindset has largely dismantled the ability of Christians in the marketplace to exert positive influence and impact. If God’s redemption extends to all arenas of life, then it is always true that His redemption plan includes work and the marketplace. Jesus endorses us to be faithful in our work: “Do business till I come.”
I have learned that I cannot separate work and ministry – my work is actually my ministry.
In my personal life, for quite some time, I have also been juggling with the so called “myth balls” of work. As a Christian, I believe that my spiritual growth determines my future success in life; on the other hand, I believe the first “myth ball” that in order to develop my spiritual growth, I have to sacrifice part of my working life. I have to be very focused and serious in building up my spiritual journey in the church, involving myself heavily in church related ministry, and the rest of my time and energy – I spend on work.
I enter the next struggle in life – when it comes to money and meeting my family needs – I have to work harder; that is when I juggle the second “myth ball” – if I want to grow big in my career/business, I have to sacrifice part of my ministry life. Clearly I’m trapped in a deep confusion when I keep juggling these two myth balls. They do not bring any truth that would set me free. The only choice I have is to throw away these two “myth balls.”
Along the journey, I have learned that I cannot separate work and ministry – my work is actually my ministry.
Now, I have to replace those “myth balls” with “truth balls.” This is what I have learned: the first ball of truth: my spiritual growth determines (contributes directly) to my career/business growth. Matthew 6:33 states clearly that if we “seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; all these things shall be added unto us.” My second ball of truth is: my career/business growth brings completion to my spiritual journey.When you bring out the best in your work, not just doing things as usual but making every opportunity in your work to create a “masterpiece,” then people will honor your work result and that will produce growth in your business or career. When you grow in your business, it brings you to a place of influence and authority to speak God’s truth and that is how we can experience the ultimate purpose of our spiritual journey – a life that impacts others.
Let’s look at some checkpoints that bring us towards reflection on experiencing our work as worship. I will call it the 5Ps to make it easier to understand.
REFLECTION: Do I have a God-centered purpose in building my business?
Whether you are a professional or business owner, as long as you are committed to implant the Kingdom purpose in your work – then you are exercising your work to become a vehicle to worship Him. Kingdom purpose here simply means you have “God-centered orientation” goals in all the things that you do in your work.
One of my partners in marketplace ministry in Indonesia, Mr Paulus Bambang, a highly respected Christian professional and author in his recent book Built to Bless, introduced some inspiring values:
S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, a fast-food chain restaurant in USA, states his company mission: “To glorify God by managing wisely all that God has entrusted, and give a positive impact to everyone related to Chick-fil-A.” Owner of Interstate Batteries, Norm Miller says that their company mission is “to glorify God as we supply our customers worldwide with top quality, value-priced batteries.”
Have you found the shape of your career or business? How do you measure success and meaningful business? When was the last time you thought about what is really important and meaningful in your life, and career?
REFLECTION: Have I managed my profit wisely and invested it into a Lasting Purpose?
God honors the faithful steward who can manage money wisely (Lk 19:12-27). The purpose of God’s blessing in our work is to assure us that we can enlarge our capacity to give, or say it this way: God’s blessings are not meant to increase your lifestyle, but rather to increase your giving.
For some reason, many of us have failed to invest our profit (income) well because of greed. We use the profit or extra money for building our own pride and kingdom, which leads to problems such as: over-expansion, an unplanned portfolio, investment in businesses that we have no core strength or experience in, “get-rich-quick” schemes of investment and so on.
REFLECTION: Do I create products and services that glorify God, and bring benefit to others?
When we dare to stand for the truth, the Word of God becomes the yardstick for our business values. The world tempts us to worship everything that can create more money, no matter what kind of products or services are being offered.
One of my friends experienced tremendous growth in revenue (tripled sales in one year) in his retail business. The reason was clear – he imported fake fashion branded products and sold them at very attractive and lower prices. Not long ago, as he embarked on his spiritual journey with God and learned the Kingdom principles in our business community, he found out that it is actually illegal to sell those “very profitable” products. He had a choice to continue and then compensate his guilt by increasing his church offering but he chose to honor God. He prayed to God, explored new products that honored God and benefited customers. He also did away with the “old way of doing business.” Months after closing his previous business, God has blessed his current new business ventures.
I have quoted these simple principles from Built to Bless to evaluate your existing products or services:
• Is it LAWFUL? (1 Cor 10:23)
• Is it HELPFUL? (1 Cor 10:23)
• Is it PEACEFUL? (Rom 14:19)
Our sincere commitment to provide the best products and services in order to satisfy our customers is another simple act of expressing our worship to God – our Great Creator who only creates the best for mankind.
REFLECTION: What change needs to be made to align my work process with God’s principles?
The world out there speaks the language of “the bottom line” – more profit at any cost, results orientation over process or even people, and cost-reduction; all of these mentalities, if not put into a fair and balanced view, can blind our hearts.
If you are a professional, think about this: when was the last time you thought about efficiency? Do you use the company’s property/facility/assets for things that do not relate to the work policy? In your personal and work life, have you honored God by honoring other people’s intellectual property? What do you need to change in your work process?
If you are an entrepreneur, think about this: are you paying your supplier on time? Do you negotiate with them fairly or knock them down to the corner side of bargaining? Do you have this mentality: “negotiate as low as you can, pay as late as you can?” Have you thought of practical ways to bless and thank your loyal customers and suppliers? Do you care for them or just their money? What is the one thing you need to do differently in your business process that pleases God’s heart?
God honors the small things that we do in our job, and proper work processes surely will then be a reflection of Good Corporate Governance in any organization; better yet we can learn it from God’s Corporate Governance.
REFLECTION: How do I treat my colleagues and staff in my role as a shepherd in my office?
Have you heard this statement: “People are our greatest asset!” – and yet the largest portion in the company’s profit does not go into developing this valuable asset. Maybe a more honest approach to say is this: we hardly plan for anything in nurturing the people we work with until the moment they plan to quit.
Let us take some time to mirror ourselves: Do I pay my staff fairly? What did I do to them when they failed to perform? How can I be “an enabler tool” to bring them to the next level? If God is the owner of my business, how will He deal with the difficult people? Build healthy relationships within your company now. When we recreate our business to become a God-centered business, leveraging our profit into lasting purpose, innovating the best product and services that “wow” the customers, diligently building a sustainable work process, and nurturing the people surrounding us in God’s truth – then we are building a new altar of our work to worship Him in a deeper and meaningful way.
Have a God-centered day!