Christian business success involves juggling a complex set of challenges that at times are in conflict with each other. But if you follow the principles and guidelines outlined below, you too can achieve Christian business success.
Let’s begin by getting clear what “Christian business success” means. Taken literally, it means:
- Christian – a follower of Christ and his teachings
- Business – an organization which generates income by creating value for customers and selling products or services
- Success – achieving an objective; often used to include wealth, fame and influence
An online search reveals that a number of famous business leaders, including some multimillionaires, were openly Christian and tried to follow Christian principles and practices in their business. According to research by GiantsForGod.com, these leaders and their companies include:
- John D Rockefeller Sr – Standard Oil
- David Green – Hobby Lobby
- Tom Monaghan – Domino’s Pizza
- S Truett Cathy – Chik-Fil-A
- Sir John Templeton – Mutual Fund Pioneer
- Norm Miller – Interstate Batteries
- Anthony Rossi – Tropicana
- Asa Candler – Coca Cola
- Henry Parsons Crowell – Quaker Oats
- Marion Wade – Service Master
- Bo Pilgrim – Pilgrim’s Pride
- Bud Paxson – Home Shopping Network
- Stanley Tam – US Plastic
But it might be a mistake to set your hopes on achieving this kind of fame and fortune if you want Christian business success. Each person benefited from being at the right place at the right time and working very hard to achieve business success. Did being a Christian make them more successful? Did God help them succeed? We do not know. The point is, there is no guarantee that being a Christian and even doing everything you can to love and obey God will make you a success in business. This gets to the crux of the matter.
“Christian business success” is not an outright contradiction or oxymoron, but it includes a tension which must be realized if you want to be a success both in business and as a Christian.
The Old Testament taught that obeying God would lead to prosperity, and it was believed that prosperous people were favored by God. Here for example are a few relevant Old Testament quotes:
- Psalm 25:13 – “His soul will abide in prosperity, And his descendants will inherit the land.”
- Proverbs 28:25 – “An arrogant man stirs up strife, But he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.”
- Proverbs 13:21 – “Adversity pursues sinners, But the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity.”
- Psalm 37:11 – “But the humble will inherit the land And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.”
- Joshua 1:8 – “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”
But in the New Testament we read that Jesus said:
- Matthew 19:24 – “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
- Mark 10:21 – Speaking to the “rich young ruler,” “And Jesus, looking upon him, loved him, and He said to him, You lack one thing; go and sell all you have and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come [and] accompany Me [ walking the same road that I walk].”
- Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Yet ever since the Garden of Eden, we humans have had to toil to survive. This is no less true today in our era of computers and automation than it was 5,000 years ago. The Bible refers to Jesus’ vocation in only one verse – Mark 6:3 – “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?” But scholars have since determined that the Greek word previously translated as “carpenter” is more accurately translated as “stone mason” or simply “builder.” And indeed many passages in the New Testament refer to buildings and stone masonry. Most buildings in ancient Galilee were built of stone, not stick-built with wood as many are today in the U.S. Either way, the implication is that Jesus worked for a living before he became an itinerant evangelist.
In Acts 18:3 we learn that the Apostle “Paul went to visit them, and he stayed and worked with them because they were tentmakers by trade, just as he was.” We do not know if this was a major source of income for him, because elsewhere in his letters he talks about how members of various churches provided him and his partners with financial support. But again we can say, at some point in his life, Paul also worked for a living.
Life is not the Garden of Eden, and money does not grow on trees. Unless you win the lottery, or inherit a lot of money from a relative, or you marry someone who makes a lot of money and you don’t have to, then you are going to have to work to make a living. Given that fact, there is no way we can say that business success is contrary to Christian faith. This leads to several important considerations about Christian business success:
- Christian business success is neither good nor bad – how you achieve it is the key. You can have a thriving business selling addictive drugs, or importing clothing made with slave labor, or treating your employees harshly. But such behavior is contrary to Christian principles. You can make or sell almost any product or service in a legitimate manner, paying fair prices for supplies or materials, and treating your employees with respect and Christian love.
- The Bible is not a substitute for learning about and using smart business practices. The Bible is about our relationship to God and our fellow human beings, about right living and strong principles. It is not the source of all knowledge. It will not tell you how to operate a computer or a car, how to create a website or a brochure, how to win a football game, how to cook spaghetti, or many of the thousands of skills and knowledge sets we must master to be successful in life and business.
- The business world is a competitive arena, a jungle, where only the fittest survive and thrive. You cannot achieve business success just by opening your doors and hoping customers come in and buy. As the saying goes, “Hope is not a strategy.” You can ask God to guide you and help you, but He is not going to zap all relevant business knowledge into your brain with a lightning bolt from heaven. You have to learn before you earn. And fundamentally you have to provide the right product at the right price in the right place with superior service – better than your competitors do. It’s tough running a successful business, and most of them fail in the first few years as a result. The Bible says to love your enemies, but that does not mean when a potential customer contacts you that you have to send them to your competitors instead. Being a good Christian in business does not mean being stupid or self-defeating.
- Christian love is a phenomenal practice to enhance business success. Every human being wants to be loved, respected and treated fairly. You can treat your customers with Christian love by taking time to understand their needs, modifying your products and services to meet those needs, and communicating with them honestly that you are now offering exactly what they want. This is actually the essence of what is called the marketing orientation – putting customers first. There is tremendous power in building and refining your business to provide exactly what customers want – and to constantly adapt to changing needs and market conditions.
In the same manner Christian love is a wonderful way to relate to and care for your employees or team members. Make an effort to understand their needs and unique abilities. Help them develop their talents to become more productive and successful. Make them your full partners in taking care of customers. Establish a strong set of values, vision and mission statements, goals and strategies built on Christian principles and the enthusiastic participation of everyone in your organization, business or team. Monitor their performance and give them loving but honest feedback to help them continuously improve, just as the organization strives to continuously improve.
In this way Christian faith and love become a competitive advantage, combining with business acumen to develop an ever-stronger organization with happy customers and happy employees, meeting real needs and earning market dominance as a result.
To learn more about Christian faith and practice, we recommend that you read the Bible and any number of good books and Christian commentaries. To learn more about business success, you can read more about what we have identified as the 5 Key Success Factors of Business elsewhere on this website. These Success Factors are big “buckets” that contain about 10 components each – all based on our 20-plus-year study of the success secrets of market leading companies and our own clients. These 5 Key Success Factors are:
- Strategic Focus (Leadership, Management, Planning)
- People (Personnel, Staff, Learning, Development)
- Operations (Processes, Work)
- Marketing (Customer Relations, Sales, Responsiveness)
- Finances (Assets, Facilities, Equipment)
If you would like help with your own or your company’s Christian Business Success, please contact us using our online contact form or call 704-332-4344.