Whether you’re attempting to witness to your frustrated waitress or deciding how to run a “Christian Business,” when, where, and how to mix your faith with business affairs is a sticky subject for a lot of people.
A few years ago, the Lovely Wife and I were unloading some of our kid’s old toys and clothes on eBay. We had gotten a pretty slick system down, and generally made more at it than we would have at a rummage sale. We tried a few times to find sources of other cheap stuff to resale on eBay, but we just never got the situation working quite that smoothly. The Lovely Wife, during this time, had a great idea: including a CD of a message from our church in the shipment for free. We had tons of CD’s from our church laying around that we had accumulated over the years, so it was sort of like cleaning AND spreading the Gospel! That’s what I call a Win-Win Scenario.
After we ran out of appropriate CD’s, we told our church what we were doing, and they started giving us free copies of a simple message on how to be saved, and what it means to be a Christian. These got included in every shipment with a simple note: “Thanks for your business! Please enjoy this CD as our ‘Thank You’ Gift!” All in all, over 150 CD’s got sent out, to a generally decent reception. However, we got a pretty angry email back once, from a “Christian” of all people. I have long since lost the email, but I’ll reproduce it here as best as I remember:
I did receive the CD, but I did not listen to it. I am a Christian, and I believe that it’s people like you who give us a bad name. I just wanted to order some clothes, not be preached to. This is a business transaction, and God has no place in it.
Now, you might think I’m wording it more strongly than it originally was, but as I recall, it was just that terse. This “Christian” was angry and deeply offended at our attempts to share our faith in what we, at least, believed was a safe and non-confrontational way. It begs the question “WHEN, if not in the course of normal human interactions, is the appropriate place to share one’s faith?!” She apparently strongly believed it should be kept in the 4 walls of the church house.
I’m assuming here that the crux of her argument rests on her assertation that God has no place in business. I think that’s a pretty hard argument to make, Biblically, as we can see that God routinely blessed the business affairs of his servants. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all greatly blessed in their livestock and produce. I believe we’re called by God to be salt and light to a dark and dead world. Many times, if not most of the time, the most meaningful of these interactions happen in our normal daily affairs. I think it’s a testament to our integrity if we “show Christ” by the way we conduct business.
So I’ve made a little list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts” that you are free to add to:
- Be watchful of God-ordained opportunities. Business is done by people. And those people may be hurting or just in need of a friend who truly cares. Sometimes the opportunity is available and appropriate to minister during your business conversation. It may be as simple as letting them know you care, or it may be an opportunity to share the Gospel with them.
- Be mindful of the other person’s situation. A stressed waitress on Saturday night probably cares a good deal more about a nice smile and a generous tip than the tract you leave her. The Lovely Wife and I have had a hanful of opportunities during slow business days to discuss God with a waiter or waitress, but we were short and courteous, offering to talk more later, and inviting them to church. We leave much larger tips than normal on these occasions.
- Ask for a time to talk again. If the topic of God comes up (and why wouldn’t it, you talk about other things in your life), it’s okay to ask for a time to discuss your beliefs in greater detail. Something like, “I can’t believe we’ve worked together all this time and I’ve never really shared with you what I believe. I know you’re busy, can we get together some time and talk?”
- Run your business in a Christ-centric way. I’m not saying slap every customer in the face with a Bible. But allow your convictions and Christian Ethics to be the guiding factor in all business dealings. Many of the Bible’s teachings have very practical every-day applications, and this is a great place for them. Be generous, not greedy. Give freely to your community, because they’re the ones that keep you in business. Never respond with a harsh word, but in kindness.
- Share your faith when appropriate, and back it up with the previous “DO.” We’re the keepers of the most important truth in the universe, and tasked with sharing it with the world. I typically feel it’s better to err on the side of over-sharing, than under-sharing. The most important thing is that if you do, you must portray Christ to your customers, vendors, and everyone else in all of your dealings.
- Be a jerk. And there are tons of ways that self-righteous people find to be jerks. Leaving a tract instead of a tip, interrupting the normal flow of business for someone to make sure they know just how badly they need Jesus, etc, etc. The Golden Rule is a great guideline here. And if you present yourself as a Christian, you HAVE to show the love of Christ in everything you do, whether that means giving an extra tip, or great service.
- Use Jesus as a marketing tool. I think former Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee is a great example of this “DON’T,” with his ad with a giant cross in the background. Tacky and tasteless. Businesses advertising themselves as “Christian businesses” just turn my stomach, and are typically far from what you would expect from a Christian business. They typically charge higher prices, and offer less service, just from what I’ve seen. Unless it relates to the business itself (i.e. Christian Counselling, Christian Book Store) let your actions speak, not your business cards.
- Preach. While there are many appropriate times to share your faith with someone in a business setting. These are typically conversational, where it’s done with a heart of love and a listening ear. Under most circumstances, it’s probably best to keep the sermonette on the Blood of Christ for an after-hours conversation. If you’re the business person, you’re on someone else’s time. If you’re the customer, the other person is on their boss’s clock. You have to be respectful of that.
We’re called to show the truth and love of Jesus everywhere we go? How do you do that in your everyday life? Feel free to add to my list!