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The Integrated Life: Banking with the Bible

Imagine walking into a bank to withdraw some cash. As a bank employee hands you your money, he asks you an unexpected question: “Now, is there anything I can pray about for you?”

You may be surprised to learn that there is such a bank -- in Otsego, Minnesota. It’s called Riverview Community Bank, co-founded by a man named Chuck Ripka. The bank was designed to minister to the needs of the people in the community.

As businessman Ken Eldred writes in his new book, The Integrated Life, the bank has become so successful that people drive for up to three hours to visit “the bank that prays with people.”

Why don’t more banks do that? I could sure use an extra prayer when I stop at my bank’s drive-thru window. The reason more banks, or other businesses, don’t do things like this is because they don’t have a proper understanding of the goal of business. According to Eldred, it’s to “serve others to the glory of God.”

All too often, even Christian businessmen and women compartmentalize their lives, putting their private, spiritual lives in one sphere and their work lives in another, with different goals and standards for each. But that’s wrong. In business, as at home or at church, we should obey the command of Jesus to love God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We should daily be living out the command to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

This means that someone who sits next to you in the pews on Sunday should not discover on Monday that you engage in unethical business practices.

A view of business as serving others does not mean we should forget about profits. Obviously, profits are necessary or a business won’t survive. But, as Eldred notes, “if our goal in business is to serve others to the glory of God, our work assumes spiritual value.”          It means putting a priority on serving others in love, and running our business with a servant’s heart, not as a tyrant -- or as one simply trying to make as much money as he possibly can.

For example, at Riverview Community Bank, the management does everything it can to help people who are having problems repaying their loans. Instead of sending out the loan collectors, the bank instead asks the customer how its employees can pray for his particular situation. In taking this approach, the bank is going far beyond providing basic financial services. Employees are discerning and meeting customers’ “latent needs for God’s help,” Eldred says.

This approach has made Riverside Community Bank so popular that the bank exceeded by nearly two years its own asset and income projections.

All the prayer in the world, however, would not make the bank popular if it were not also conducting business in a biblical and ethical manner. Every Christian-run business ought to be known for its strong work ethic and the excellence of its products. And the work we do must be “in harmony with God’s creational purposes,” Eldred says. This means we should not involve ourselves in the sale of pornography, for instance, or exploit workers.

I urge you to read The Integrated Life. It’s an excellent book written by a man who’s had great business experience himself, and as a strong faith. Then share it with business people you know. You can get a copy at our online bookstore at BreakPoint.org.  And if you’re ever in Otsego, Minnesota, stop by the bank that goes well beyond even “Minnesota nice:” The bank that prays for its customers.

This article published on April 28, 2011.

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

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