Restoring the Social Good & Moral Potential of Business
Michael CravenS. Michael Craven is the President of H.I.S. BridgeBuilders and the author of Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity (Navpress, 2009). H.I.S. BridgeBuilders is an urban missionary ministry that works to bring the redemptive power of God’s kingdom to bear upon the poverty-ravaged areas of our city, restoring people, families, and communities through spiritual, educational and economic development to the glory of God. To learn more, visit: www.hisbridgebuilders.org
- 2011 May 16
In May of 2001, the Lord began the ministry that would become the Center for Christ & Culture. This mission was born out of a deep personal burden for the church and its growing irrelevance as a culture-forming institution and, ultimately, its message. When I first began, I often met with resistance when suggesting that there was a problem with the evangelical church in America. Suffice it to say that today that resistance is almost nonexistent.
Most Christians now recognize the obvious demise of Christendom and the fact that America, along with the greater Western world, is now decisively post-Christian. That is not to say that evangelical Christianity doesn’t exist in America, simply that it no longer represents the consensus source of values and worldviews that shape our cultural institutions, such as education, the arts, media, family, government, and business.
In 2009, I felt led to focus my work and ministry in just one area of cultural influence: the marketplace. As one who spent eighteen years in business—nine as an executive and four of those as the CEO of a multinational subsidiary—I was naturally drawn to this segment of culture. Secondly, following years of serious analysis and writing about culture, it was obvious that business was the one cultural sphere where the contemporary church even remains. The fact is, we are so scarcely represented in the other spheres of culture that the near-term expectation of any tangible impact is simply unrealistic.
I was certainly not alone in this observation, and as more and more Christians saw the marketplace as an area of emphasis, the Business as Mission (BAM) movement emerged. Now there are many good minds giving attention to the marketplace as a powerful channel for missions. Generally speaking, this is a very good thing. Unfortunately, the same theological vacuity that got us into this cultural dilemma still drives much of the BAM movement.
It was this realization that prompted me to launch the Kingdom Project in 2010. What I believe remains lacking in understanding business as mission are the essential intellectual and theological foundations. Without this, business as mission often ends up being nothing more than business as usual but with Christian platitudes tacked on. In other words, Christian businesses all too often look indistinguishable from non-Christian businesses in substance. I believe something much deeper and more serious is required.
This was the goal of the Kingdom Project—to engage Christian business leaders in developing a relevant and robust understanding of Christian mission as it relates to the marketplace. I refer to this as marketplace missiology.
Missiology is the area of practical theology that reflects on all aspects of propagating the Christian faith. To clarify, when I speak of “propagating the Christian faith,” I am not simply referring to proselytizing the lost. Instead, I am referring to a living faith that transforms people—who in turn impact the people, systems, and the society around them in a tangible way, offering a sign and foretaste of Christ’s kingdom. In other words, a public witness reminiscent of the early Christians.
A good missiologist will explore theology, anthropology, history, geography, theories and methods of communication, comparative religion, apologetics, and methodology in an effort to formulate the most relevant and effective means for propagating the faith in his or her time and context. Our time is post-Christian and the context I have chosen is the American marketplace or business community. The demise of Christendom demands a new understanding and approach in order to be relevant to our particular situation.
Upon working out a modern marketplace missiology, the task then became equipping and application. How do we equip Christian businessmen and women with the theological foundations to first understand and then apply these principles in the operation of their businesses? One major challenge was to combine relevant missiology with business excellence and success. Any effort that fails to balance mission in business with profitability falls short of being an effective marketplace missiology. A biblical marketplace missiology does not treat business as merely a means to some other “spiritual” end such as evangelism or giving to ministry. This diminishes the moral potential and contributions of business that God expects. Another challenge was finding an efficient and effective means of distribution. Finally, the ministry had to be financially sustainable.
As I wrestled with these questions, I found the answers in a partnership with Truth@Work. This partnership represents countless hours of prayer, study, and reflection in the ongoing evolution of the Kingdom Project. By combining the marketplace missiology of the Kingdom Project with the best practices curriculum and peer-group dynamic of the Truth@Work Christian Roundtable Group format, the Kingdom Project powered by Truth@Work can offer one of the most comprehensive personal, spiritual, and business development programs available to the Christian business leader.
This is not a Bible study for business people but rather a rigorous exploration of operational issues, practices, and challenges from a consciously Christian worldview. The monthly group dynamic fosters collaboration among experienced Christian business leaders in a process guided by a serious marketplace missiology. The goal is to empower Christians in the marketplace with missional purpose: help them achieve business excellence, grow spiritually, and align their business and vocation with kingdom purposes.
We are now accepting applications for membership in our first Truth@Work Roundtable Groups in the Dallas–Fort Worth area. If you want to know more about the Truth@Work Christian Roundtable program, visit: www.mykingdomproject.org The Kingdom Project is about “connecting your work life with the redemptive mission of Christ” and Truth@Work promises “a life and business changing experience.” Together, I believe the Lord may be pleased to use us to empower Christian businessmen and women to achieve business excellence, set the world on fire for Christ, and provide the church a compelling public witness that draws the nation, once again, to the King of kings!
© 2011 by S. Michael Craven Permission granted for non-commercial use.
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