Taking care of God's business
- 1999 13 Aug
Few people have it, everybody wants it, and most people are using the wrong means to obtain it.
Many believe that if they achieve some elusive goal, close another deal, or reach a certain level of income, they finally will have peace. But true peace comes only from God and "surpasses all comprehension" (Philippians 4:7).
For Christians in business, the first step toward peace is to operate according to the principle of stewardship, which states that God owns everything and we are stewards (managers) of what He has entrusted to >us. "For the world is mine, and all it contains" (Psalm 50:12).
At Greensboro Shaver and Appliance, in Greensboro, North Carolina, this stewardship principle has become a key objective for Robert Wright, who operates the appliance sales and repair shop along with his father Allen.
With God at the helm, Robert is free from the worry that consumes so many people today, and it shows in his attitude about the business.
He works four days per week and dedicates much of his free time to serving in his church, The Tabernacle, in Danville, Virginia. "The Lord wants me to spend time doing more than making a buck," he says.
His wife Mary Beth stays home with their three boys, Richard, Johnathan, and Benjamin. Along with doing homeschooling, she uses her accounting degree to keep the books for Greensboro Shaver and Appliance.
Robert majored in business administration in college but wasn't exposed to biblical business principles like stewardship until the late 1980s, when he obtained a copy of Larry Burkett's Business by the Book.
About three months ago, he went back and reviewed the principles taught in that series, which also are discussed in "Business by the Book" seminars throughout the nation.
To further strengthen his knowledge of God's Word, Robert obtained a degree in biblical studies with an emphasis on pastoral ministries from Luther Rice Seminary in Atlanta.
Some of his fellow students questioned why he was seeking the degree if he wasn't pastoring, but as he puts it, "I wanted to use what I was learning right where I am."
Unfortunately, many Christians fail to see the ministry opportunities associated with businesses, which should exist for the purpose of sharing Christ and glorifying God.
Robert has taken advantage of those opportunities and keeps Bibles and Christian materials on a table near the entrance of the appliance shop, which is an authorized repair center for various portable appliance companies.
He has counseled people going through difficulties, including a woman whose husband was suffering from cancer. And he takes advantage of opportunities to share Jesus Christ with people who are lost, including a local television reporter who interviewed him during a major toy recall.
Greensboro Shaver and Appliance was one of many shops throughout the country where the toys were taken to be repaired. And even though television stations have a habit of editing out religious messages, some of Robert's message was left in the report and went out to viewers.
The News and Record, a large newspaper in the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina, also ran a feature on Robert and Allen.
The two talked openly to the reporter about their faith, and just above a photo of the father-son team, in large type, was a quote of a statement Robert had made during the interview.
"Our definition of success is not based on how big a place we have," the quote read. "It's based on faithfulness -- how faithful we are to each other, how faithful we are to our customers, and how faithful we are to the Lord."
The article reached a total of 500,000 people in two separate printings, but it's something Robert is careful not to boast about. Instead, he views it as a testimony of God's faithfulness.
The Wrights also share their faith through small, bright yellow slips of paper that they insert into boxes along with repaired appliances. The message on the slips is as follows: "Thank you for giving us an opportunity to serve you. We at Greensboro Shaver & Appliance consider you a blessing from our Savior Jesus Christ and a vital part of our business. For these reasons you deserve the best service we can provide. We hope your experience with us has been positive and that you will allow us the privilege of serving you again."
Along with using business to glorify God, another benefit of work that Robert enjoys is doing something that he believes God gifted him to do. As a child, he spent a lot of time at his grandfather's welding shop and realized his interest in mechanical things.
But he never felt pressured by Allen to work in the appliance business, which left him free to pursue any career he chose. Still, Robert prayed about God's will for his life and felt God leading him to work alongside his father.
In his continuing effort to seek God's will in business, Robert also practices tithing. His 1987 Nissan pickup has traveled 300,000 miles and continues to be reliable, which he believes is God's reward to him for being faithful in the area of money.
The shop operated by Robert and Allen Wright is among millions of small businesses in the U.S. These businesses employ 52% of private workers, provide 51% of the private sector output, and provide virtually all of the new jobs, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
However, the Wrights belong to a much smaller group of businesspeople who've discovered the peace and joy of operating according to God's principles for business.
Instead of chasing lofty dreams, they are growing where God has planted them. Instead of leaving their faith at home, they are using their business as an opportunity to share the Gospel. And instead of viewing customers simply as numbers and opportunities for profit, they're striving to treat customers in a Christ-like manner and even counsel those who need help.
Robert sums up his philosophy of business in a statement he read in one of Larry Burkett's books. It describes a Christian shoemaker who was asked what he did for a living. Instead of responding that he made shoes for a living, he responded that his purpose in life was to serve Christ. Making shoes, he said, was simply a means of supporting that purpose.