Four Qualities of a Christ-Centered Business (and what a Christ-Centered Business is not)

Should businesses be “Christ-centered”? Or, is that calling reserved for your local church?

cross lightMost Christian business professionals are employed within “Babylonian” organizational cultures. Unlike Daniel, Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, these Christians in “Babylonian” businesses won’t be thrown into a lion’s den or a fiery furnace. However, the corporate cultures in which they perform their jobs usually discourage any public expressions of their Christian faith. Yet, they can still make an impact for Christ from within these organizations.

For those of us that live in a free society and are called and gifted to be entrepreneurs and business leaders, how much more do we have opportunities to shape the culture of our businesses. We can dedicate our businesses to God and submit them to his purposes and strategies.

Before I talk about what a “Christ-Centered Business” is, I need to share what it is not.

It’s not about only hiring Christians.

Refusing to hire anyone except Christians is illegal (at least, in the United States). Not only is it illegal, such a practice would prevent a business from fulfilling a key part of its redemptive purpose: being salt and light among unbelievers in the workplace. Jesus spent a significant portion of his time with unbelievers. If we’re not working with unbelievers, our business probably isn’t being Christ-Centered.

It’s not about being “churchy.”

Being a Christ-Centered Business is not about packing your employees into the conference room, playing worship music, and bringing in your pastor to preach to them. It’s not about transplanting local church service models into a business setting.

It’s not necessarily about being financially prosperous.

If we define prosperity only in terms of money and influence, it’s not enough to say, “Christ-Centered businesses prosper more than businesses led by non-Christians.” Many businesses led by non-Christians are on the Fortune 500, Inc. 500, and other lists of the most successful companies in the world. Jesus explains this phenomenon by saying that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45b).

It’s about more than applying timeless principles.

The Bible is full of practical business wisdom that has proven effective in the marketplace since the beginning of economics. Christians and non-Christians alike can apply the Bible’s timeless business principles and experience the benefits. Therefore, it’s possible to take business principles from the Bible and leave God out of your business. God is a person, not merely a set of timeless principles.

If there is more to being a Christ-Centered business than hiring Christians only, churchiness, financial prosperity, and the application of timeless wisdom, what are the qualities by which they can be recognized? Here, I will offer share four of those indispensable qualities.

Quality #1 – Eternal Return on Investment (EROI) is the Bottom Line

The bottom line for a Christ-Centered business is not merely financial, social, environmental, or anything else that is temporary. The bottom line for a Christ-Centered is eternal. The Bible says…

“…each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:13-15)

If it doesn’t last in eternity, it’s not the bottom line.

Quality #2 – Makes disciples of Jesus

I believe the ultimate purpose of a Christ-centered business is the same as for a Christian individual: “to make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).

Making disciples of Jesus in a business setting may sound more complicated than it is. The Apostle Paul simplified and defined disciple-making with this invitation: “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).

Do the business practices of your company reflect the character of Jesus Christ? In other words, does your company treat your employees, customers, clients, and other stakeholders as Jesus would? Have you invited others to follow your example? If so, you are making disciples, followers, of Jesus. It’s that simple.

Quality #3 – Led and empowered by the Spirit of God 

If a company is in business to fulfill the mission of God, it only makes sense that the company would be led by God Himself. He leads us through the presence and voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

When leading the children of Israel toward the Promised Land, Moses said to God, “’If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). He didn’t want to move anywhere unless he was following God.

When I first started out as an entrepreneur, I hired a web developer without first praying about whether he was the right choice. To make a long story short, I ended up losing $5,000 on account of this person and had nothing to show for it. Asking God first would have prevented the loss of six months, $5,000, and my peace of mind during that frustrating season of my life.

Quality #4 – Chooses to be accountable to godly advisors 

The Bible says, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Prov. 11:14).

There are many thought leaders in and around my industry that I respect for the advice that they share. The problem is that many of them do not know God. A diet of business advice and guidance fed primarily by non-Christian thinkers will condition a person to believe that God is not relevant to his/her business. As Larry Burkett said in his classic, Business by the Book, “The difficulty isn’t the advice they give; it’s the advice they don’t give, specifically, the lack of spiritual insight.”[i]

Over the past several years, I have benefitted from the business wisdom of Christian thought leaders such as Dave Ramsey, Dan Miller, Michael Hyatt, John Maxwell, and others. At the same time, I must admit that a large percentage of the business books I have read and business podcasts I have listened to were presented by non-Christian thought leaders.

In your company, make sure that you are giving priority to the voice of counsel from those who share your Christian values.

[i] Larry Burkett, Business by the Book (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 89.

What are some other qualities of “Christ-Centered businesses”? 

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  • Great article! As a Christian entrepreneur, I know the difficulties of creating a God exalting, Christ centered business. I’m going to take these four principles and dwell on them a little more!

    Dontrell Gilmore

    • Darren Shearer

      Thanks for sharing, Dontrell!

  • Sam Cooke

    What about adding to the list: “An authentic expression of the church”? A Christ-centered business should not be seen as an extension of the church (or something to do for God when not “at church”), but rather the church gathered and co-laboring with God. Engagement in a seperate 501c3, faith-based, non-profit organization (ie. “The First Church of ……..”) is not nessicary when the organizational structure of your business (God’s business) can accommodate more authenticly and holistically. The freedom of this return in ideology is hugly freeing and empowering.

    • Darren Shearer

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sam. I don’t think local churches need to be 501c3 nonprofits necessarily. However, there are significant conflicts of interest within a business that can be barriers to Christian fellowship. For example, when employees don’t meet performance expectations, they get fired. Local church members typically don’t get excommunicated for not volunteering as greeters, nursery workers, etc. (Certainly, we can argue that the traditional, 501c3-style institutional church has some conflicts of interest as well… when the focus becomes on bigger offerings, bigger buildings, etc. Though, it’s generally assumed those incorrect focuses are not why these local churches exist in the first place.)

      • Sam Cooke

        Topics for further discussion: 1) Is “firing” truely nessicary for poor performance in a Kingdom Business? 2) The Church is an organism called (designed) to function in the organization of the world. The Church “gathers together daily” and worships corporately in the workplace. Does the Church need it’s own “church” organization at all?

  • Myson Jones

    Thanks for this post Darren. Quality #4 is true for me, too in the sense that there is a lot of good content presented by non-Christian thought leaders… It’s lead me to want to compete and bring influence and attention to Christ instead, but I know that’s not why we are to run the race.

    Our faith and hope isn’t for EVERYONE, but isn’t there gain in making an impact to take away “market share” like very few do. Like the Truett’s, John C.’s and Dave Ramsey’s?

    Whether Chick-fil-a tries to or not, they’re still taking business away from KFC. You know?

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