Have you ever been in the grocery store when a mother has told her toddler “No, you cannot do that!” All I can say is that the picture is not normally very pretty after that, right? For the next several minutes, if she is lucky, the toddler pitches a fit and throws a tantrum in an effort to convince her otherwise. Unfortunately, we often react the same way!
As I said in my last post, God got my attention over ten years ago and changed the trajectory of my life. He made it clear that I was to begin working toward a vision of using our business as a platform for Christian ministry. From the beginning of this journey, my motives have been to do just that. My goal has been to one day hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
In my last post, I described the life of a missionary family I know that is living in Cusco, Peru. I told you about their basic plan, from start to finish, and how God’s call on their lives is not at all different from His call on your life or mine. In this post, I want to explain that idea further.
My family had the awesome privilege to host a missionary family in our home. This family is serving in Cusco, Peru through an organization called Mission To The World. Along with close to 20 guests, we heard about the challenges and victories inherent in the work of a missionary. We also learned that the only difference between us and them is location.
I had a conversation recently with someone who asked me when I was called to do business as ministry. Like most people, he understood that there would be a “lightning bolt” type moment when God will speak to you and “call” you into ministry. While I am sure there are those who could argue both sides of the theology of that idea, my intent is to go in a different direction.
Have you heard anyone say, “I think I am going to quit my job and go into the ministry!” Have you ever heard a pastor talk about so-and-so that left the business world to go into full-time ministry? Has anyone ever told you that you should not be in business, but should be in full-time Christian ministry?
“The” Christian Ministry
So, what is all the fuss over “the” ministry? What exactly do you have to do to qualify for Christian ministry? What exactly is full-time ministry? Is it something you must be called to do?
If you do much traveling or meet new people frequently (outside of work), then you likely hear this question on a regular basis. “What do you do for a living?” You have heard it asked. You have asked it yourself. Whether we like it or not, people associate us with our occupation. We do the same thing.
So, what is wrong with this? I am sure there are psychological reasons that we should not necessarily do this. I would even agree that associating people with what they do for a living could cause us to jump to conclusions about them, their preferences, their lifestyle, etc.
You don’t think people often get the wrong idea about me when they find out I am in the car business?!? Of course they do!
Regardless of what you think about this question, we would all agree that it will continue to be asked into the foreseeable future. We are not likely to get this question eliminated from the habits of millions of people today.
So, how can we use this question to our benefit?
Have you ever thought about how you could turn this question into a perfect opportunity to tell the inquisitor something special about you and what you do? If you know people are going to ask you, “What do you do for a living?” then why not plan ahead to take advantage of it?
Here is what I am thinking…I think this is the perfect opportunity to break the ice about our faith without being offensive or pushy. I think we should take this chance to share what it is we do, but from the spiritual side of things.
Let me give you an example and see how you would respond. When someone asks me this question, my prepared answer is this:
I work for a very unusual company. It is a car dealership group that is a Christian company. We are trying to learn, and to show, how Jesus would run a business if He were the boss.
Lead In To More Conversation
Hopefully, I have said this in such a way that they are not uncomfortable with my answer. Likely, I have had a moment or two for them to get an idea of my sincerity before I toss this out there.
Assuming this, what kind of response do you think I will get? Where do you see the conversation going from here? Is it possible that I have offended them or more likely that I have intrigued them? Will they probably follow up with more questions?
Salt And Light
I guess my whole point here is that we are called to be salt and light in the world. I am a huge proponent of doing this by taking your Christian faith to your work or business. At the same time, there are opportunities outside of work that we can use to our advantage.
Our whole goal is to point people toward God. If we can take a few moments and do that with someone that is curious about our work, then why not do that?
Simple Response, Deep Conversation
In many cases, this kind of response will open the door to a spiritual conversation where you can witness to them without using a bullhorn! You may be surprised at how God can use a simple response like this to initiate a deep conversation very quickly.
While possible, this response is probably not going to offend the other person and cause them to react negatively. Granted, where I live (Southern U.S. – Bible belt!), this response is less likely to offend. It is more probable that the person asking the question is also a believer or associates themselves with the Christian faith. Great!
That just means I now have an opportunity to talk to them about why they should be taking THEIR faith to the workplace! Either way, I have a chance to have a spiritual conversation with someone that God can touch through it.
A final, sometimes unexpected benefit, is that YOU may be the one more blessed by the resulting conversation. So often, I have thought I was going to minister to someone else, only to find them ministering to me! I love it when that happens!
Try this idea for yourself. First, take the time to prepare a response that fits what you do. Wordsmith it, but make sure it is comfortable for you. You don’t want to appear like you are giving a robotic answer! Pray first, and God will give you the words you need!
Now go and look for opportunities to use it!
How could you explain how you make a living this way?
Do you feel uncomfortable with this? If so, why?
Have you tried this before? What were the results?
In my last post, I described a house that had gas cans, lit candles, and exposed wiring throughout. We agreed that the owner of this house is clearly trying to create conditions for a fire to break out. We also looked at how this same idea applies to Christian ministry in our businesses if we are looking for eternal impact by pointing people toward God.
Examples Of Christian Ministry
Today, I would like to give you some specific ideas about how we take this same approach in our business. I do not have the space to fully describe each item on the list. Instead, I will give a brief description and then, when possible, direct you to another post on this site that goes into more detail.
My hope is that you can take even just a couple of these ideas and adapt them to your business. If you have any questions or want to discuss them further, please comment below or send me an email. I will respond as quickly as I can!
1. Mission Statement
God is central to our company mission statement and core values.
3. Owners Manuals For Life
We put a New Testament Bible in the glove box of every vehicle we sell. The cover says “Owners Manual For Life” and we have a note inside that explains how we believe it is the greatest book they will ever read. We don’t point it out to the customer, but let them find it later.
4. Christ in Christmas Party
We celebrate and have fun like other companies, but we also make sure there is a story or illustration at the end of the party that contains the gospel message to keep our focus on the real reason for the party.
5. Christian magazines, Gospels of John in lounge
We keep Christian magazines like “TwoTen” on the tables in the customer lounges at each of our stores. We also keep pocket-sized copies of the Gospel of John stocked there.
6. Bible Studies
Our chaplain (and sometimes our Controller) leads a weekly Bible study in the employee break room. We do one at lunch and one at breakfast so everyone has the opportunity to come, regardless of work schedule. We provide the food and we watch a video series followed by discussion.
I go around to each department once a month and tell a quick story or illustration with a business and spiritual message woven in. These take five minutes or so and stay very light, but get great responses!
8. Employee Newsletter
I write an article for our employee newsletter once a month. In this article, I follow much the same pattern as the devotions mentioned above.
We have a couple of library areas across our locations where we keep books for use by employees. Topics range from spiritual to family to parenting to business. If they are looking for a book we don’t have (and it fits our mission), then we will get it.
We sponsor a number of faith-based organizations around our community. While these are mostly financial sponsorships, there are also opportunities to help with things other than money. Use of facilities, social media marketing, etc. are some examples.
11. Car wash
We host faith-based organizations on our parking lot and provide all necessary materials for them to hold a car wash fundraiser. They provide the labor and keep the revenue from the customers. We give a per-car donation as well.
12. Open meetings with prayer
We take time at the beginning of our sales meetings to open in prayer.
13. Employee recognition
We recognize employees who go above and beyond expectations outside of their job with a couple of awards – the RPM award and the Lightning Strike.
14. Christian music
Our overhead and on-hold music comes from a Pandora station with upbeat Christian music. It is not overwhelming, but provides a great atmosphere in the showroom and around the dealerships.
15. Pay for volunteering
We provide opportunities for employees to volunteer during community events we sponsor and pay them for half the time they spend doing so.
This is not everything we do to create the potential for eternal impact, but it should give you some ideas about what you can do in your business.
The idea I want to make sure I convey is that all of this does not happen at once. This is an accumulation of over ten years of intentional thought and action. We started small. You can do the same.
Progress Over Time
If you work at it over time, your business will look like the house described in my last post. Everywhere you turn, you will see potential for Christian ministry to happen. You will also realize that it is good for business!
Comment below and let me know what you would add to this list! Have a question, ask it! I would love to engage in conversation about this.
Let me ask you a question. What would you think if you walked into someone’s house and saw gas cans scattered all over the place in seemingly random places? What if you looked closer and began to notice exposed wiring sticking out of various holes in the walls? If you also noticed lit candles and other flammable materials sitting on various tables and shelves, what would your thoughts be?
Clearly, this is an extreme picture and one that is not likely to happen. However, if you did walk into a house that looked like this, what would you conclude? Would you assume the owner of the house had a death wish or that he was looking for a big insurance payoff?
Regardless of his final goal, you would have to conclude that he was interested in starting a fire, right? There would be no other reasonable conclusion that I can imagine. In fact, if it WAS his goal to have start a fire, you would probably give him an “A” for effort, right?
There Is A Point
I know this is a silly illustration, but there is a point that I want to make. In our businesses, I believe it is to be our goal to bring glory to God. While business is a worthy pursuit by itself, I believe the reward we receive at the end of this life will be based on our impact on eternity, not on the size of our business.
For me, this means that I want to run a profitable business that is healthy and growing, but I want to do this for the purpose of pointing people to God. I love business and know that God has placed me in a family business because that is where my talents can be used.
Bigger Purpose For Business
At the same time, I believe there is a bigger purpose for our business. I believe I will hear, “Well done” from Jesus at the end of this life if I have successfully run the business in a way that maximized eternal impact. This idea is my “Why” and is what drives me from day to day.
So, if that is the case, what does this have to do with a house full of highly flammable materials apparently laid out in such a way as to maximize the chances of fire breaking out? Actually, the answer is simple.
I believe we can do the very same thing with our businesses. I am not talking about trying to burn them down. No, I am saying that we should sprinkle spiritually “flammable materials” around our businesses that will increase the likelihood of this eternal impact happening.
Think about it. All it takes is for us to think strategically about how we can impact people for eternity through the uniqueness of our business. We can just start small and take it slow. It does not have to happen all at one time. The little things will add up over a period of time!
Maybe the first step is a process or policy that goes beyond the norm in taking care of your employees or coworkers. Maybe it is simply the presence of a Bible in the waiting area or a Bible verse on your business card. Get creative!
Whatever the starting point, be intentional and persistent over time. Eventually you will look around and see potential for impact everywhere. Before you know it, God is working through these “flammable materials” to draw people to Him, sometimes without your knowledge!
Nothing I am recommending should be a negative impact on your business. In fact, many of those “flammable materials” that you initially wonder about will eventually prove to be a positive impact on the business. God has a way of making this happen!
I guess the bottom line is that we have to see the spiritually “flammable” potential in our business. Regardless of the nature of your business, I guarantee you can come up with ways to do this if you will take some time to brainstorm it. Pray for wisdom in this area and see what God will do to answer that prayer.
When He does, trust Him and act! Start small, but start. Don’t look back years from now and regret all of the missed opportunities you had to point people toward Him!
Do you see your business as having this kind of potential?
If not, isn’t it time you started?
If so, what spiritually flammable materials have you spread in your business?
Every once in a while, something happens that really catches my attention and gets to my heart. Recently, this very thing happened in our company and validated the culture we are trying to create. I feel I have to share, especially since it actually relates back to my last two posts!
Two posts ago, I shared how we see our community as a critical part of the answer to the question, “Why does our business exist?” Our answer to that question, also our mission statement, is that our business exists to honor God by impacting the lives of our employees, customers, and community.
In my last post, I gave a specific example of how we attempt to create a culture of impacting the community by hosting monthly car wash events to benefit local, faith-based organizations. To get the whole picture here, you really need to go back and read these posts first.
About a week or two after our last car wash event for the year (due to the weather getting colder!), we held an employee blanket drive for Emmaus Women’s Shelter, a local homeless shelter for women and children. With the cold weather quickly approaching, they had a need that we wanted to help meet.
In order to deliver the 100+ blankets we collected from employees, we enlisted the help of one of our Clean-Up department employees, “Joe”. He was eager to help and the blankets were delivered without incident, or so I thought!
The next day, “Joe” came to me and asked if he could have a minute to share something. I quickly agreed. What I heard was incredible to me! He told me that he had helped to deliver the blankets to the shelter and was shocked to find children there. He could not believe there were so many children that were homeless.
Keep in mind that “Joe” is in the most “entry-level” position in our company and has more financial needs than most. He went on to tell me that he could not get the children off his mind, wondering what they were going to do for Christmas. He said he wanted to help make sure they had gifts at Christmas.
He then asked if we could do another car wash event where we asked people to bring toys instead of paying for the car wash. I then asked him who would actually work the event, washing the cars, since that was typically the job of the organization we were helping. He said he would get other employees to volunteer their time (their Saturday off) to do it.
Another Car Wash?
My first reaction (transparency here – it wasn’t culture!) was to think about the cold weather (this was mid-November) and many other reasons it would not work. I really did not think we would have many employees volunteer to give up their time off to do it. I am not knocking them, but that is a big deal when they work so hard during the week.
To check his commitment level, I gave “Joe” a test. I told him to go create a sign-up list and see how many employees he could get to volunteer for this car wash event. I told him we would talk further when he came back.
Less than 90 minutes later, he was in my office with a list of 25 employees willing to staff the event! I was shocked!
Not The Best Conditions
I have to tell you, I still did not know what to do. Thanksgiving was less than two weeks away and people were not going to come out in droves for a car wash. It could be snowing that day (it’s possible!) or raining and cold.
My mind continued to flood with excuses. The problem was that I had a very committed employee in front of me, and whether he knew it or not, he was calling me on my commitment to real ministry.
I told him it was a done deal. We would hold the event on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, hoping that the natural shopping traffic would help our cause. We posted details about the event on Facebook and our normal channels.
Not satisfied, “Joe” got another employee to create a paper flyer for him and he went from gas station to grocery store and to the WalMart parking lot, passing them out. He did this by himself!
The day of the event was cold…maybe not cold for some of you, but sub-40 degrees. That is cold enough when you are washing cars with hoses, buckets, etc.! The traffic was not overwhelming, but it was decent. My brother and I joined in and worked the whole event right there on the hoses! We were soaked and exhausted, but I can’t remember being more fulfilled recently.
The end results amounted to roughly $1,200 raised along with a truck load full of toys donated! “Joe” ran the entire event and delivered the toys and the money. He was on cloud nine (and deserved it).
He single-handedly motivated 25 employees to volunteer their time washing cars in the cold and provided Christmas for a crowd of homeless children. In fact, when we later recognized his efforts with a “Lightning Strike” award at the company Christmas party, everyone in attendance gave him a standing ovation!
Folks, I still get emotional thinking about the impact that one guy had on so many people. He had the least to give, but produced amazing results. What about you and me? In anyone’s book, we have so much more to give than “Joe” does.
So the question is this:
What are you doing with your time, treasure, and talents to impact eternity?