27 June 2008

Glocal Christianity: How Christian is my business?

Excellent post from Matt Stone on what makes a Christian business and what makes a business Christian. Well worth reading.

Glocal Christianity: How Christian is my business?:
For years now Hillsong have been running a Christian Business Directory for Christians in western Sydney, and apart from the missiological issues this inevitably raises, I have also long wondered, what does it mean to call a business “Christian”?

There can be many problems, which take many different forms. Some businesses use Christian symbols in their logos. That does not make them Christian, it just means they are trying to con Christians into supporting them. One church I was in asked a parishioner to design a logo that could be used on church stationery. Another parishioner, who ran a light engineering business, promptly nicked the logo to use on his business stationery -- thus implying that his business had the endorsement of the church.

A few years ago a bloke quoted for some building alterations on our house. He was full of Christian talk, but he took the money and didn't finish the job. His name was Lukas Neethling, so if you ever come across the guy, beware of any business deals you make with him!

That kind of thing gives Christians a bad name in the secular world. But the most telling exampleof the bad reputation of Christians was when I applied for a job as a bus driver with London Transport. They wanted three references. I gave them some, and they rejected them. References from anyone connected with the church were unacceptable. I'd just arrived from South Africa as a semi-refugee, having skipped the country one step ahead of the Security Police. I didn't know anyone in Britain who wasn't connected with the church. Eventually I gave them the names of some professors at the University of Natal whose courses I had taken, but hardly knew me at all, and those were acceptable.

Of course such things can take different forms, and it's not always in the form of a published directory. A few years ago there was a TV sitcom called Birds of a feather, about two sisters, Tracy and Sharon, who ran a working class cafe. One was divorced and the other's husband was in jail. A yuppie Jewish friend persuaded them to turn their cafe into an upmarket bagel bar, and their business fell off drastically. The husband in jail was Greek, so they went to see the Orthodox priest, who remarked on Sharon not being seen in church since her wedding, and when she was suitably contrite, pulled out a card index of business contacts, and at the end of the episode their business was prospering again. That kind of networking was dead true to life. I've seen it many times.

A more positive example comes from more than 30 years ago in Namibia. The Anglican bishop, Colin Winter, gave a series of Holy Week addresses in a Durban church, and urged people to come and help the church in Namibia. One guy there, Ed Morrow, said "I'm just a builder, what can I do?" And the bishop said, in effect, come anyway, God will show you. So he and his wife let their house, put their furniture into storage, bought a second-hand Volkswagen Kombi into which they loaded their stove, and set out to drive 1500 miles to Windhoek. When they arrived the church registered a building company. They wanted to call it Ikon Construction, but the Registrar of Companies said that was taken, so they called it Noki Cosntruction instead. The Diocese owned 198 shares, Ed Morrow owned one, and the diocesan secretary owned one. They asked clergy if anyone wanted to learn the building trade, and three blokes came from Ovamboland, 500 miles to the north. They went everywhere in the old Kombi, to work, to church, to social occasions. They were referred to as "the Noki outjies" (that's an in South African joke; if you're from elsewhere, skip it, it'll take too long to explain). At the end of a year, Ed reported to the diocesan synod. He said they had shown it was possible to run a business on Christian lines and still make a profit. They paid three times the going rate for workers, they quoted fair prices, and they did a good job. They had gained the respect of their customers.

But Matt goes way beyond these trivial examples in his post, so do have a read of it.


I looked to see who else was talking about this stuff and this is what I saw:

Mentions by Day

Posts mentioning business ethics per day for the past 30 days.

Chart of results for business ethics

Anyone know why Technorati shows such a drastic drop off at the beginning of June?


Adam Gonnerman said...

Several months ago an ad ran on Christian radio here in New Jersey for a guidebook to "Christian businesses."

I didn't realize that businesses could be baptized. Would that involve just the documents, or all the physical structure? Seems like the water would be hard on the office equipment....

Rock in the Grass (Pete Grassow) said...

Hey Steve - you put this well. And I have borrowed the core idea for a "Weekly Comment" that I include in my local church bulletin. (Hope you do not mind)


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