Examining the pastor’s role in mentoring business leaders
When Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers and chased out the dove sellers from the temple (see Matt. 21:12), He also launched a discussion among church and business leaders for centuries to follow.
The relationship between church and business ranges from the simple, “Would it be OK to place a brochure for my business in your lobby?” to the more complex, “Would your business donate materials to build a new gym for our youth?”
A slippery slope exists in the relationship between church and business. The primary issue seems to balance on the fulcrum of doing commerce in the church and receiving support from local business for church budgets. As church budgets continue to cope with declining revenue, the tipping point becomes less obvious.
Ultimately, church leaders need wisdom in building relationships with business leaders for the work of the church and for the prosperity of local business. If the church focuses on developing the leader in the business leader, the harvest is predictable—for the business and the church.
Providing spiritual leadership to business leaders is not unlike teaching leaders of the home. Church leaders provide counsel to help businesses remain on a path to significance. The leader’s role is not so much to provide a list of “don’ts” as it is to encourage a businessperson to seek God first in all things.
Business is a domain, and God calls business leaders to have dominion in their calling. Rulers are set in place by God to effect progress in the kingdom. A godly business has a purpose in the kingdom of God. The following points are offered to help church leaders connect with their kingdom authority:
Effective business leaders have learned to listen to very few voices. Most leaders have a trusted circle of influencers and don’t stray too far away from that collective voice. The best counsel for business leaders is the voice of God. How can you help them hear the still, small voice?
Encourage the blessing of important contracts and deal sheets. Ask business leaders to meet with you as their spiritual leader to pray over and seek God’s blessing on the proposed deal. Too often, business leaders will come to God after a deal goes bad and ask why. We need to help businesses progress to the altar to petition God for wisdom prior to the inking of a contract.
Encourage business leaders to quiet the voice of advisers who do not know God. Key decisions require godly input. The advice of man is limited to worldly intellect, but spiritual intellect leads to better outcomes.
For example, a few months ago, a business leader brought me three proposals to build a website for a business. Proposal A was clearly the best, from my business perspective, with a lower cost and quicker turnaround from a more experienced firm.
Proposal B was God’s choice, and proposal C didn’t enter into discussion. When I prayed with the business leader, I could not get clearance to bless what appeared to be the best deal. I prayed over and blessed proposal B, and the business owner accepted the leadership.
In subsequent weeks, company B kept improving their delivery, and the project achieved better than expected results. Company A went out of business later that year. A business that is led by the Holy Spirit is headed in the right direction.
Business leaders can help the church, and we need to be open to listen to their ideas about church growth, relationship building and finances. There are some who suggest that we should run our churches as a business—but they don’t have business people as close advisers. It seems better to me to run our churches as prescribed in the New Testament while lending an ear to business counsel.
Knowledge in the business arena moves quickly. It would be a difficult battle for a church leader to keep up with all business innovation. Technology evolves almost overnight, and many of the new tools can help advance the work of the church.
Listening posts help church leaders remain connected and caring. Successful business leaders operate on a high level of communication and trust other leaders who initiate conversation. Have regular meetings with business owners, asking questions. Ask for recommended reading lists of everyone you meet in business. Learn to hear the drumbeat of business progress.
Then, in the quiet of your study, ask the all-important question, “So what?” What does it mean for your church? Did you learn something that you can now train? Is God leading you in a specific direction? It is likely that your leader meetings are divine appointments. What is the primary takeaway for you?
Obviously, this is a category in which church leaders must engage on a teaching level and in personal application. Business leaders expect church leaders to do what they say they will do. I continue to hear accusations against church leaders about their lack of keeping commitments. The credibility of a church leader is difficult to establish and easy to lose.
By nature, business leaders are skeptical of most promises made. There isn’t much they haven’t been promised and little they have seen fulfilled as promised. Most church leaders address issues of moral decay, but we also have a responsibility to teach business ethics at a penetrating level. It is not that hard for a business leader to lose “true north.” Messages to business leaders need to suggest a high bar, with faith as the core asset of the business.
Prayer and First Fruits
It seems overly simple to say this, but church leaders need to pray more often for business leaders. Pray the business by name, and pray for specific outcomes. Ask God to favor the business with increased revenue.
My preference is to go to the business and pray in its facility. I do this especially if the business is having difficulty. I pray over accounts payable and accounts receivable. I pray over the cash register. I pray with the leaders.
We need to demonstrate how to lead spiritually. It won’t surprise you to know of the success stories reported with on-site prayer and spiritual attention.
Business leaders need to be taught the principle of “first fruits” for their business. It is certainly one thing for a leader to tithe. It’s quite another to teach a business owner to share the first fruits of their business with Jesus, the High Priest. Businesses who give first fruits to God have greater harvests.
God is using business leaders today to advance the kingdom. In many churches and countries, the backbone of the church consists of a core group of business leaders. As we counsel leaders and learn to listen on a deeper level with full integrity, surely Jesus will be well-pleased with a righteous relationship between church and business.
Steve Greene is the dean of the College of Business and dean of Distance Learning at Oral Roberts University. With a long career in broadcasting and marketing, Greene has a doctorate of business administration from the University of Memphis.
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