What if what you are doing in business right now is actually the most powerful platform you could possibly have to make this world a better place? Think about that!  In what other world could you find a better opportunity to impact every element of society?  Let me explain.

I’ve spent the past thirty years straddling two very different worlds: the world of building businesses and the world of building churches. I have been involved in starting businesses that serve many people well. I have been involved in starting churches that serve many people well. My prevailing paradigm over the years was that the world of building a business to create happy customers and the world of building a church to create happy followers of Jesus were very separate and distinct.

Of course, I tried to take my faith into the work world, and I tried to take some basic business savvy into the church world. In reality, though, it seemed quite normal for church and business to be very different spheres.

As I entered the second half of my life and started focusing more on meaning, I began to experience an internal conflict.  When I was in the business world, I felt  that I should be focusing more on the church world to do things that “really counted” for my life mission and legacy. When I was in the church world, though, I had a similar gnawing angst–that I needed to do something in the business world that could effectively change society in ways the church world was not.

A few years ago, I felt convicted to write a book on this subject. It was not because I had any ambition to be a published author. It simply felt like I needed the discipline of slowing down to ponder what, if any, connection there was supposed to be between these two worlds that could potentially make me and others more effective at building a better world.  I needed to figure out at a deeper level what is the ideal system for building better world.

You’ve Got to Wonder “Why”?

On my journey to understand what, if any, intersection there was supposed to be between the business and church and non profit worlds, and what would be the ideal system to build a better society, I started by questioning a lot of my paradigms and assumptions.

  • Why is it that it seems more noble or spiritual to build a church than it does to build a business?
  • Why is it that more parents (especially religious parents) aren’t telling their kids that the one of the best things they can do to build a better world is to build a highly effective business?
  • Why is it that the pursuit of profit is seen by many religious people as somehow being an  “unholy” or second class pursuit compared to being a missionary or working in the ministry of a church?
  • Why is it that business leaders don’t often add to their scoreboard of success the value they create for society just by doing business well and providing quality products, services, jobs and thereby helping to build healthy communities?
  • Why is it that churches don’t celebrate the transformative effect that the business leaders in their church have on their city through the meaningful value they provide to society through their product, service, and/or culture?
  • Why is it that when pastors are celebrating the food, clothing, shelter or education their church provides to needy people in the community through charity, they don’t at the same time celebrate the business leaders who also provide food, clothing, shelter and education to thousands of people in their community through the income they provide employees, taxes paid and the goods and services they produce?
  • Why is it that being Christian has often come to mean being religious people who isolate themselves from the evil influence of the world rather than being world-changing culture creators, as was the founder of Christianity?
  • Why is it that the church is not more effective at accomplishing its original mandate of actually transforming cities and nations?
  • Why is it that the church has become more known for what happens in the programs it holds on the weekend than for the influence it has on society throughout the week?
  • Why is it so rare for the effects of the church to show up in improving economies and providing for people’s tangible needs?
  • Why is it that churches, businesses, and governments have not been able to agree on an ideal system for improving society so they could cooperate more effectively to  build a better world?
  • Why doesn’t everyone understand the role businesses have in building a better world and why isn’t there a defined model for doing this?
  • Why is it that faith has been either largely ignored by successful business leaders or relegated to a religious notion that is perceived to have little bearing on success?

What Are We Missing?

As I though about these questions, I really started to wonder: what am I missing here? Could it be that the way I was defining the role and system of church in this world might fall short of the originally intended paradigm?  Could it be that the way I was defining the role and system of business in this world might fall short of the ideal value proposition?

What do you do with the fact that the leaders Jesus chose to start the original church were not religious people but where actually successful business people and strong leaders in the secular community? The four books of the Bible that Christians call  “the Gospels” (Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John) were all written by marketplace leaders, not religious leaders. Matthew had a tax collection business. Mark was the manager of a family business/trust.  Luke had a medical practice, and John owned a commercial fishing company. The key women, highlighted in the Bible as influential in the early church, were business leaders. Dorcas was a clothes designer. One of the most famous women in the early church, Priscilla, was a partner in a commercial tentmaking business. Another influential woman in the early church, Lydia, owned a textile brokerage company. Men and women who built the early church were actually building businesses.

The founder of the Christian faith was actually a successful business leader in his community. Jesus wasn’t viewed as anything close to a religious leader for at least thirty of his thirty-three years on this earth. He was known as a regional business leader. He was known as a businessman who ran a profitable business by serving people well as he ran his family construction business.

Jesus didn’t go to religious seminaries, temples or synagogues to find the key leaders whom he intentionally chose to launch a world-changing movement. None of the twelve core leaders that Jesus chose were religious leaders, priests or rabbis. Not one of them. They were all leaders in the marketplace.

As I began to ponder these basic facts of history, I had to wonder why for much of my life as a business leader, I’d had this nagging feeling that when I was doing business I was not really doing all I could be doing for God–that if I was really devoted to God and His church, I would just be a pastor or a missionary and forget all this business stuff. If I was really spiritual, I would just build the church and not worry so much about building businesses.  At the same time I had to wonder why for much of my life as a church leader, I had this nagging feeling that when I was doing church stuff, I was not really having the depth of impact on building a better society and transforming the world for God that I could be having–that if I was sold out to seeing the church be as strategic and as well led as a highly successful business, that somehow it would transform cities and nations like it was supposed to.  I have believed this som much that I even started a non-profit that trains and coaches pastors on how to lead churches more strategically and for 20 years now we’ve been coaching pastors to lead churches more effectively and have seen many churches become more effective at accomplishing their mission and vision.

The Consistent Key to Success in Building Society

More and more these days as I do business around the world, I see that building successful businesses is the most consistent system for building successful societies across all nations.

Our family was recently in Ireland.   In the period of one day, we toured ruins of a village from 1000 B.C. and a market from 1000 A.D. Then we walked through a modern, vibrant shopping area.

Toward the end of the day I asked Sky, “From what you’ve seen today, what are the top two or three most common elements that build society in all cultures, in all times, in all places?” This led to a very interesting discussion.  You want to know what our conclusion was?  We concluded that all societies, at all times, are built on two fundamental things: family and business.  And that’s one of the reason why when we started this podcast a couple months later, we decided to focus this podcast primarily on systems for success in family and in business.   I believe that when done well, family and business are the two most fundamental pillars of healthy societies.

We have a lot of content in these podcasts on systems for success in families and we have some on systems for success in business. Many of the systems for success apply to both realms.

Societies throughout all times and in all places have been built on families. As far back as we can go in history we know that people have lived in families. There is no time in history where this was not the case. There has been no society that has succeeded very long by trying to destroy the system of family . . . There have been and continue to be plenty of proposals at changing the family system. And despite many actual experiments over the centuries, actual results have proven that human societies work best when there are healthy family units.

Yet families have always been economic units too. Throughout history, they engaged in doing business. What they could not hunt or farm for themselves, they traded for by offering something of value to others. They formed cottage industries and engaged in money-making activities.

As I do business in many of countries these days, it has become glaringly clear to me that building better businesses is a vital key to building a better world. The heart of building our world is constructing businesses that make families, communities, societies, and nations flourish.

Yet much of society believes that the church or non-profits are the key to building a better world. There is this huge perceived chasm between building businesses and building churches. For some reason, most people don’t see any correlation between pursuing commerce and pursuing cultural change through non-profit ministries. There is this giant perceived gap between going after commerce and going after God.

I am now starting to see that this perceived gap continually perpetuates a cultural paradigm that hold the church back from having ask much tangible power as it could have to make the world a better place. It also blinds business leaders into missing the real value in they bring to building a better world and accomplishing God’s purposes on this earth.

So, as I’ve been journaling my journey on this subject in recent years I started to crystallize new paradigms and processes that are giving me fresh insight and inspiration regarding how my life as a business leader impacts building a better world.

God Loves Business!

Another one of my initial core conclusions is that God actually loves business and God really loves business leaders! God doesn’t hate money, and He doesn’t hate people who make a ton of it by serving their fellow man well. In fact, I’m not sure there is anything that makes God smile more than seeing business leaders create so much value and serve people so well that those people are willing to give up this thing called money in exchange. At the risk of this statement being a bit of a spoiler, I will say that I am increasingly convinced that God might have even chosen business as His preferred method to manifest His presence and perpetuate His values in this world.

What if what you are doing in business right now is actually the most powerful platform you could possibly have to make this world a better place? What if what you are doing right now as a business leader is really God’s ideal strategy for doing His best work to transform society on this earth to be more like His original intention?

I have spent my life being very involved in many wonderful churches and other non-profits which are valiantly attempting to meet the desperate needs of society. Churches are full of wonderful people, including wonderful business leaders, who believe that the people and programs of the church are the best way to solve the massive societal problems facing our world.

Many churches certainly play a valuable role in attempting to address these problems. Churches mobilize tremendous talent and pour out significant resources to address these needs. Churches have invested two thousand years of hard efforts trying to meet these needs through what we have considered the directly sponsored ministries of the church. The results are mixed, though. In fact, the brutal reality is that churches are not making the progress that they want nor the progress the world needs in overcoming these global challenges of society..

Dare I say that the church is not winning the war on poverty, illiteracy, hunger, etc.? For sure, the church can show that it is making some progress. The church can show many benefits it is providing that help meet the social needs of the world. But its contributions are small in comparison with the scope of what really needs to happen in this world. The reality is that there are very few churches or non-profits that make a truly significant dent in these global problems.

Why is that? There are many reasons. Let me just address a couple of systemic reasons which cause obvious limitations: money and manpower. Most churches and non-profit agencies believe they could do more if they had more resources. If they just had more people and time committed to the cause, if they just had more money to pour into the mission, they believe they could make a bigger dent in the problems.

This is no doubt true. But the practical reality is that most churches and non-profits operate on a small percentage of the income of their constituencies. Because of this there will never be enough resources to meet a large percentage of the world’s needs. Even if everyone donated 10% of their income, there would never be enough money to meet 100% of the world’s needs. There will simply never be enough donor money to deal with the realities of the societal challenges of the world on a large scale.

So, one of the practical challenges the church has is a basic resource problem. There’s an old gospel song that says, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  Well If God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, then where are the cattle when it comes to meeting all the needs of the world? They don’t all seem to be in the church. Where are the resources to meet the practical and tangible needs of our world?

Only Business Can Create Resources

Resources are created in business! In fact, all money is actually created by business. Business creates resources when it meets a need at a profit. Business receives revenue when it serves the needs of people in a way that makes them happy. Business earns profit  when what it costs the business to serve the needs of others is less than the dollars that are received from the customer. That profit is what pays the business owner for the skill, risk, and time he or she invested to serve that need. That revenue produces incomes for employees and results in taxes that fund the building of society and in also results in personal charitable donations that fund the building of the direct ministries of the church and other non-profits.

Some Christians and certain other religious groups actually see profit as evil, as if business only makes a profit by taking advantage of or doing harm to people. Yet they profit system is pretty simple.  Profit is simply the difference between the price that is paid for a product or service and the cost to produce that product or service. It is profit that empowers the business to create more value to benefit the world. It is profit that allows a business to invest in meeting whatever need the business finds, and profit that allows it to meet that need in ever-increasing magnitude. It is profit that allows the business to increase the scope of the value it provides to more and more people. For example, if you can make a profit by serving ten people, then you have a pathway to make a profit by serving one hundred people, and then a thousand, and then a million. It becomes a self-perpetuating, ever-increasing vehicle to meet more needs in society.

Not everyone sees or uses their business as a platform to make the world a better place.  But my increasing conviction is that is not only the highest and best use of business, it is the use the system God designed to make the world rebuild the world with sustainable values, norms and outcomes.

Historically, many pastors believe that the primary value business or business leaders bring to the church is that they will give more donations to the church if they make more money. But after two thousand years, that paradigm has not yet successfully fully resourced the direct ministries of the church or the direct outreach and social service programs of other non-profits. It has not yet enabled non-profit institutions to meet the ever-increasing societal needs of the world.

Of course, business should continue providing resources to the valuable programs of churches and other non-profits. And business leaders like me should continue donating to those good causes. However, what I am proposing here is that business not only has the power to create resources for the mission of the church, it also has the power to build great value in the world just by doing business well.

My closing challenge for you today is to first change your paradigm about the power you have in business to make this world a better place. And second, think of one or two things you might do differently if you really believed that what you do in business could have an impact way beyond just the doing of business.  What could you do that would make life better for your coworkers, your customers, your clients, your suppliers or the people in your community that your business effects?  What could you do that would in some way influence better values, better relationships, more joy, more fulfillment in the people whose lives that you touch in business every day?  Go beyond just doing business. The time you spend in the business world is your system to build a better world.


There are no additional resources on this subject right now.  But watch for the book coming out soon!


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