Kingdom Entrepreneurs Transforming Nations
By John Mulford & Ken Eldred
God made man steward of the whole earth and commanded him to rule over it (Genesis 1). God also created man in His image, so man has amazing creativity. Man can apply that creativity in developing the earth to support the billions of people that resulted from God's mandate to be fruitful and multiply. Much of the development needed to support the earth's population comes through business.
Business is first and foremost about people-personal development and interpersonal interactions and relationships. Man was created to work and feels most fulfilled when he has done a good job. In today's economy, few people work alone. Business thrusts people together--employees working together and with suppliers to create products and services, and interacting with customers from product concept to delivery. Deadlines, budget crunches, and technical problems create pressures that test character and relationships. The kingdom business person has ample opportunity to "live the gospel" in these situations. So where are the kingdom businesses? Why don't we see more transformation? In short, we don't see more because, even when a large fraction of a nation says they believe in God, that doesn't mean they all "know" God. And even those who know God may not be willing to obey and follow Him.
Some of the gap between belief and obedience is due to lack of knowledge. Some is a lack of understanding about how to apply that knowledge. The rest is rebellion-not doing what we know we should. We'll start with knowledge, because people can't obey what they don't understand.
Many Christians think that "acceptable" Christianity in business consists of telling the truth and keeping promises. While these are necessary, they certainly are not sufficient to bring the whole gospel to the workplace. But activists who want to confine the gospel to church buildings have intimidated Christians at work. By keeping the focus on surface symbols-displaying Bibles and holding prayer meetings-and arguing against those, they divert attention from the real mechanism of gospel transmission-godly people caring for others through their daily attitudes, words, and behavior. A kingdom business will have a vision, mission and strategy evidenced by its policies, procedures and culture that encourages these godly values. The sum total of all of these elements constitutes the worldview of the business-not just of the leaders, but of all the employees of the business.
Let's look at how the worldview that infuses a company's culture affects attitudes, behaviors and results in that company. And then we will examine the implications for society if that worldview dominates business in a nation.
The two-part table below contrasts three worldviews of business-Man-made, Principled, and Kingdom. A man-made worldview is one devised by people without consulting God either through prayer or through study of His principles. Man-made views may vary by location and time in history, because, even though people think they are devising everything themselves, they are influenced by the received wisdom of past generations. However, a man-made worldview will eventually degrade to the lowest level of human sinfulness. Here, we assume that the manmade worldview has reached its lowest form.
The Principled worldview refers to making judgments and decisions according to a set of principles. Religious people follow the principles of their religious books. Most religious writings share a common set of valid principles; however, trying to follow the letter of the law without a heart attuned to its purpose leads to failure in two ways. First, people lack the ability to obey the written rule. And second, people distort the meaning of the rule and then follow the distortion. Jesus criticized the Pharisees for the latter. Although the principled worldview could refer to any set of principles, for this article, we assume that the principles come from, or are at least consistent with, Judeo-Christian principles from the Bible.
A Kingdom worldview is based on a vibrant personal relationship with God, because it is His Kingdom that followers are sincerely trying to understand. Followers do this by asking God to illuminate His principles in their hearts. Just as Jesus restated many principles from the Old Testament and then held them to a much stricter standard of heart attitude in addition to outward obedience, a kingdom worldview requires one to go beyond the letter to the spirit of the law.
Worldview of Business
|Standard for right and wrong
||Individual sets own standard
||Live by set of principles
||Internalize principles of the Bible|
||Fight to survive
||Play to win
||Excel to glorify God|
||Cut corners to save costs
||Excellence to meet customer demand
||Create life-improving products & services|
||Deceive others to sell more
||Truth to those who are informed
||Truth for everyone; help those who lack knowledge|
||Do the least that will satisfy the customer
||Do what you promised
||Do the right thing for the customer regardless of cost|
||Drain him, then discard & replace him
||Equip him to produce
||Equip & care for whole person|
|Business approach to laws
||Deceive & cheat but don't get caught
||Obey letter of law; look for loopholes
Obey spirit of law
|Laws approach to business
||Law extracts profits
||Law protects private property & contracts
||Law protects private property & contracts, but at lower cost due to obedience|
|Government officials approach to business
||Officials extort money
||Officials enforce letter of law
||Officials enforce spirit of law|
||Not my problem
||Good citizen. Duty.
||Care for needy|
Worldview of Business
||Strong take from weak
||Strong outperform weak
||Strong help weak|
||Trust no one
||Trust but verify; not everyone obeys laws
||Trust but verify; not everyone sanctified|
||Little-investor can't capture benefit
||Much-achievers keep benefits
||Much-achievers fulfilled by sharing benefits|
|Income & growth
||Low-workers lack vision & incentives
||High. Achievers motivated by money, prestige & power
||High. Excellence & diligence to glorify God|
||Highly skewed to powerful
||Highly skewed to high achievers
||Less skewed due to higher average achievement and voluntary giving by high achievers|
|Values promoted by products & services
||High percentage depraved
||Mostly good; some depraved
||Misery & despair
||Striving & questioning
||Joy and peace|
Societal condition represents the bottom line result of these worldviews. A fully degraded manmade worldview produces misery and despair because people are so focused on their short-term self-interest that they reject all the other-oriented behaviors that produce an orderly, healthy society. A society in which most decisions are based on Judeo-Christian principles will be more orderly and productive. However the pressures of an economic or social crisis may cause people to slip into sinful behavior associated with the man-made worldview. Even when times are good, the principled society may wonder, "Is this all there is?" Only those operating according to a kingdom worldview will experience the peace and joy of knowing that they fulfilling their creator's plan for their lives.
Although any manager can begin to implement a kingdom worldview in his sphere of authority, it is only a kingdom owner who can fully implement a kingdom worldview throughout the organization. For this reason, we focus on kingdom entrepreneurs, who have both the authority and the responsibility to operate their businesses according to a kingdom perspective (column three in the Table).
Why is following a kingdom worldview important? Won't God honor His principles even when we don't acknowledge God? Won't God work in our lives and businesses whether we recognize Him or not? The answer to both questions is yes; however, when we don't acknowledge God as the source of all we have, we forfeit our personal relationship with Him. It is that personal relationship that enables us to have a kingdom worldview, which is really God's view of the world. Let's see what we miss when we don't have that kingdom worldview:
We miss out on the wisdom to choose the right path. Our good strategy might miss God's Kingdom direction. A kingdom entrepreneur wants to know where God is headed in his industry so that he can cooperate with God's plan.
We miss out on God's power that changes us. His power helps us resist temptation. It enables us to discern the needs of our employees and to love them with tough love.
And we miss out on God's power that can change the world around us. It can produce supernatural results beyond our intellect and ability. God can give us new inventions and innovations, confuse powerful enemies, repair damaged relationships, and turn the heart of the king in our favor.
When entrepreneurs exercise a kingdom worldview in their businesses we should see a successful company that meets the needs of its customers with excellence, but we should see much more. Let's examine the beneficial results God produces through kingdom entrepreneurs:
Blessing that flows from the business to all those it touches
Transformed lives-employees, customers, suppliers, and the general public.
Everyone should recognize the hand of God on the business, even unbelievers.
And, as a result, we should see revival.
Unfortunately, so few companies operate according to a Kingdom worldview that their impact is negligible. The Principled worldview tends to prevail in developed nations, whereas the Manmade view dominates in less-developed nations.
Contrary to the man-made worldview that man can improve the world through the power of his intellect and will, the world will spiral downward into depravity unless man operates according to a God-instilled kingdom worldview. We shouldn't be too encouraged by the economic performance of nations where most companies operate according to principled worldviews, because that performance is not sustainable without an injection of the kingdom worldview. For the most part, these nations are living off spiritual capital accumulated over hundreds of years, deposited by people with a kingdom worldview. People who follow Judeo-Christian principles because they received the habit from their parents' generation can quickly slide into a degraded man-made worldview when the system is shocked economically, politically or technologically. Panicked crowds rarely remember the niceties of their principles. They tend to focus on their own survival.
Even mild pressures can tip principled business people into unprincipled decisions. Just look at Enron. In order to keep the numbers looking good, seemingly honest people first fudged and then fabricated the numbers. Who knows what people might do in a full-out financial panic. Kingdom entrepreneurs are the answer to both the current problem of nations hamstrung by a man-made worldview and to the future problem facing nations hanging on to principles without a foundation. The process may start slowly, but it should be viral and exponential. It starts slowly, because, before people can cooperate with God in His plans, they must first be prepared. They must be transformed into the image of Christ so that they will have His heart for the world, His perspective on the world, His wisdom and knowledge about business, and His attitudes and behavior that will transform the hearts of people.
A small group of vibrant kingdom entrepreneurs can spark change that envelops a whole nation in a generation or two. Take the case of South Korea. Although many factors have influenced its economic resurgence, one strong factor has been the role of kingdom entrepreneurs. Notice we say kingdom entrepreneurs, not just Christians who are in business. Other countries have seen similar increases in the number of Christians in their country, and even the number of Christians in business. But in Korea, many Christian business people were taught to see their business as an extension of what God was doing in their lives and in their nation. That intentional kingdom worldview focused their efforts and gave them eyes to see where God was moving in their nation and the ability to be swept along in that stream of God's blessing.
Permission to reprint granted by author.