Doing God’s Business: Meaning and Motivation for the Marketplace
If you’ve ever wondered where God stands on “business” and the role of business in Kingdom work, Paul Stevens’ Doing God’s Business: Meaning and Motivation for the Marketplace is a must-read. In a previous publication, The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Minis-try in Biblical Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), he presents a personal purview, looking at people—theology, laity, and clergy. Doing God’s Business: Meaning and Motivation for the Marketplace is approached from a corporate perspective not just locally but globally as well. The book fits quite well within the body of knowledge in the areas of Business as Mission, Faith at Work, and Business as Ministry. The first part of the book, “Meaning,” lays a theoretical framework, while part two, “Motivation,” gives the reader some practical guidelines.
In “Meaning” Stevens’ main premise is that God and humankind are in business together. He notes that as he reads through the Bible, he finds God “designing, beautifying, nurturing, imagining, embellishing, crafting, etc.” (5). When put this way, there is a striking resemblance. He identifies thirty-seven attributes that mankind shares with God “coincidentally,” which together give new meaning to being “created in His image.” Many of these attributes find expression in corporate mission statements.
The mini-cases and end-of-chapter discussion questions add a much-needed feature for those who wish to carry on a discussion on what it means to do business as a mission. Likely this feature will bridge the gap between churches and the businesspeople in their congregations if the study groups were church-based. David Miller in God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement speaks of a disconnection between the church and the businesspeople in their congregation.1 Miller gives an example of how in an adult Sunday school class, the pastor refers to “the greed of all multinationals” and the “self-serving nature of their executives” (9). Laura Nash and David McLennan, in Church on Sunday, Work on Monday: The Challenge of Fusing Christian Values with Business Life, also support Miller ’s views.2 Based on their study, they assert that “many Christian business people report feeling a radical disconnection between their experience at Sunday services and their Monday morning business activities.” (24).
Stevens discusses “business and mission,” “business for mission,” “business as a platform for mission,” “mission in business,” and “business as mission.” Each classification requires a different mindset. He introduces concepts from The Other Six Days such as the idea of business as a community, but he takes it a step further by conjecturing that perhaps business is God’s plan to accomplish the task of building a global community for Kingdom work. Her eferences Steve Rundle and Tom Stephan’s book, Great Commission Companies: The Emerging Role of Business as Missions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003), which notes that “while Christian companies may unintentionally forward the great commission in making Christ known, ‘Great Commission Companies’ are driven by the mission of God.” (92).
Stevens develops an analogy of “prophets,” “priests,” and “princes.” Prophets speak the Word of God with immediacy; in the business world, they are the visionaries. Priests are bridge-builders; they purvey hospitality and community. Finally, princes and princesses rule; they coordinate, organize and manage.
In “Motivation” he asserts that a corporation has a soul and a calling and that such a calling is not mainly for profit but for good. He speaks of the “corporate cathedral” replacing the church in Max Weber’s day. In this corporate cathedral, prayer, Scripture reading, meditation, journal keeping, fasting, confession, and the Sabbath are used as business strategies. He further refines his ideas by saying that “life and work are themselves spiritual disciplines pointing us God-ward.” (184).
In this section he also speaks of character, integrity, success, compromise, and creativity, all with a God-centered view. A companion to this book for the benefit of those following the development of the “business as mission” movement is Ken Eldred’s God is at Work: Transforming People and Nations Through Business (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2005). Eldred puts a very practical spin on what it means to observe God at work and to participate in that work, extending the discussion to include nations and government, presenting practical approaches to doing God’s business.
Stevens speaks of Jesus and King Solomon as entrepreneurs. As Stevens presents it, the product of Jesus’ enterprise is spiritual service. The founder has long since died but the business continues. Thousands of new converts/customers come in daily. The book written about this business outsells any others in the world.
Stevens makes it clear that we do not find a direct reference to business as a calling in the Bible, therefore he had to draw inferences from Scripture. Unfortunately, some of the theology is slightly misleading. For instance, he refers to 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 as an indication that our work will be tested by fire and may even survive (32). It is not clear if this speaks to physical work. He also refers to I Corinthians 15:58 where the Apostle Paul said, “In the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (35). Again it is not clear if Paul was referring to physical labor or spiritual labor.
To summarize: Does business have a calling? Is God in business? Does business have a role in Kingdom business—and on a global scale? Stevens answers all of these questions with a resounding “yes.”