What is a genuine ministry? Many churches would never say entering into business, or being a part of the business world is one. Yet many books are pushing to promote just that – the idea that a real ministry can also be to enter into business.
Jeff Boswell of Cudis CPN (makers of various electrical products such as distribution boards, rotary isolators and consumer units), agreed to do an in-depth interview with us on his thoughts about Christians in the business world, and how ethics can help shape and progress and company.
Why, or rather, would, God want somebody to view business as a ministry and enter into it?
Well, there are two main answers I think. The first is that we need to provide goods and services as a whole, and the second is to grant us to partake in imaginative and creative tasks that can honour him and serve the wider community as a whole!
Having said that, we must still be careful to hear God’s voice in what we do, and ensure the commercial enterprise we enter into is ethical by God’s standard. Not every business is equally viewed by God. We need to ask ourselves what is the best way to increase our bottom line, but also serve our community in a positive way as well.
God did create us to work thought, and there is no denying the scripture on that. Work has just evolved since the Old Testament, but the principles still apply. We need to remember that a company and large business only provides chances for work and that God is imaginative, creative and very significant in everything we do – even in the electrical industry! Haha!
What is the function of a company in business?
A company should be focussed on the inside, and the outside. It has to serve its employees on the inside properly, fairly, and justly. It should value them and their contribution, and help grow each individual. In terms of externally, it has to offer products and services that mean something and offer value to the wider community. Sustainability is a fairly new term, but one that fits well I think. You cannot just focus on profit, what you do must give something back too, and be good in the long-term.
It can also focus on partnering with the community and other businesses in order to support a common goal that helps benefit everyone. This then grows the economy as a whole in the right way.
Many books over the last few years have been calling out to us that business can also be a genuine ministry for a Christian, and yet we still feel the need to keep ‘banging the drum’ about this. Why do you suppose that is?
It is still required as there is still a general feeling that Christian ministry does not include ‘business’. When you are in church and somebody says they are entering into a new ministry, nobody thinks it could be opening a curtain shop. So we need to stop these assumptions and try to focus on asking, ‘what is the ministry?’.
I have met and spoken to many people in church who feel as though the elders and other members of the congregation feel as though their job is not ministry, and even view it as a ‘required evil’, or lack of willing to really ‘step out for God’. Is this still a valid complaint and point of view?
Unfortunately, I believe it is still very much a concern. I will say I think it is improving in most places though. The church as a whole needs to step up and learn to empower every Christian and ‘activate’ them into realising what they do in business, can every much be a ministry. They can be a thermostat and help change how things are in the real world.
What can churches do to help empower business people and ensure they understand this?
Get involved. Very often, a church leader will have been disconnected from the ‘real’ world for some time. They can talk to business people in their church and community, see what they have to deal with and help understand concerns.
Then they need to adjust their thinking. What is a ministry? What defines it? Is it biblical to say work outside of the church isn’t counted, or not ordained by God? Wrestling with tradition is what is needed for most churches.
As well as the church thinking poorly of business, don’t business people and those outside of the church also think negatively of it? As though the church is soft, and out of touch with the realities of the modern world?
Indeed. There is great misunderstanding on both sides, and I am glad you brought that out of this discussion! Some corporate enterprises can think of themselves as God, without even realising it. They try to control and define what their workers can and can not do, inside and outside of work. To help aid this, we must foster a communication improvement between both, and also involve government, so we each understand how to better work together. A business would then understand that things like ‘KPI’s’ or performance metrics don’t fit with a church, but a church provides something else, something which is equally valid for its members, and that the two can work together to ensure the well-being of their members.
With the economy today, as it is, do you still stand by your statement in other articles that you think the free market system is still in the best position than any other to deliver things and deliver services?
We have to be careful – I am not saying, and never will, that markets are perfect. The market operates as it is allowed to, but I still believe government has a strong role to play in ensuring regulation is taking place, and we are protected from large spikes in the economy (positively or negatively). However, I believe a free market is much better than a market wholly controlled by the government or state.
What about other countries where they have more government intervention, such as the Scandinavian countries. They manage to have well-working economies that also provide free healthcare, education and other wonderful social services. Does this align with your ideas better?
Many times in my life people will mistake my ideas and thoughts as of those of a socialist. However, I don’t want government completely controlling the economy as I noted earlier – a free market certainly seems better (although not completely free!). What I am trying to put across is that a Christian needs to ensure what they do for a living, or in any business, is aligned with what God would want them to.
Would many Univeristy business courses recognise your vision for Christians and business?
Probably not, but there is a wider train of thought around sustainability as I mentioned earlier. I don’t think it would be too far a reach to develop those ideas and tie them into a Christian ethic. My ideas aren’t something wild or new, and, in fact, tie into what some thinkers already want – I just attach God and his ethics to them.
Are there any companies out there that practice business as you have outlined? Does Cudis manage it?
We certainly try. I think there are companies out there certainly, but each will have slightly different objectives and visions for those ethics and principles. At Cudis, we try to ensure our products are safe, offer good value, and improve peoples lives. Our focus isn’t solely on bottom line profit, but I am sure other companies do the same. We need wider engagement and communication to really push this narrative though.
There are many who would say acting in this manner is a competitve disavangtage in the cut-throat world of business.
They certainly say that, and I’m sure for some companies and industries it is true. But at what cost? Eventually, society will suffer. This is about looking to the future, and doing what is Godly in the business world. That isn’t always short-term. Ethics in itself doesn’t earn money, but having good principles underlines a long-term successul business in my mind.
What advice can you offer to a Christian who is working at a company that isn’t virtuous or Godly?
This is what churches should be addressing today, and helping these people. There is always that fine line of providing for your family, and where the money comes from. Not everyone has the luxury of choice. I think it is a question for each individual Christian to determine what God is calling them to, and seeking the help of the church if they feel they need to be somewhere else.
Being in a company that has a less than acceptable ethic and business is not good. Eventually, the Christian will have to repent before God and move on, or they risk being seen as in sin, or worse, condoning sinful business. For example, I would find it very difficult to work for a tobacco company, knowing their products do no good for society at all, and in fact only harm. I would have to seek an alternative career as it would clash too much with the virtues God has laid out for me.
I wish that the church would help these people navigate the best way in these hard situations and help them understand how their business and activities can help with the overall work God has for us in his kingdom.
Many thanks to Jeff of Cudis CPN for discussing business and Christian ethics with us!