Business has a role to play in advancing God’s kingdom agenda, and it does so in two key ways. One, it helps provide meaningful and creative work for people to do, which is part of how people express their God-given identity. Two, it produces goods and services that enable communities to flourish. Economic capital is grown by business — and almost business alone — so all other institutions, in one fashion or another, draw on the economic capital that business creates. -Jeffrey Van Duzer, Author Why Business Matters to God
On September 20 and 21, Serving Leaders hosted about 40 thought leaders and practitioners at all stages of their journey of faith and work integration in a two-day experiment in Pittsburgh. The conviction that led to the convening of this gathering came out of our work with leaders and organizations over the past number of years. This conviction, cultivated in part from my own experience as a practitioner and believer, is that there are very few places where thoughtful Christian people can come and talk openly about the workplace challenges they face that are real, hard, and often seemingly endless and unresolvable. We cannot make sense of our challenges outside of real community – the kind where you can laugh and cry and show your warts and see that you are not alone and find companions for the journey. There is also another deeply held conviction that caused us to pursue this experiment. If we truly believe in the cultural mandate, and wish to participate in God’s work in the world to renew and restore creation, then we must care deeply about all levels of transformation, including the personal and the organizational.
I think we often miss the true scope of this comprehensive mandate. There are many good ministries that want marketplace leaders to leverage their influence and resources into meeting the needs those ministries address. Such leveraging by marketplace leaders is good and necessary. But realizing God’s love for the entire creation in its rich array of aspects and cultural domains, including the marketplace, is vital. We must build organizations – including businesses – that are healthy and flourishing and leverage influence and resources to bring real, systemic change to our broken our broken world, for justice and flourishing in God’s creation. (If you don’t know about Cardus and their great publication Comment Magazine, you should. Grab a copy of their just-released issue called We Love Institutions, where they make this argument more extensively.)
I was reminded by our conversations at Faith & Work 2.0 that businesses and the marketplace are primary means by which we can participate in the mission of God. God worked, God created the conditions for the flourishing of his creatures; God calls us to work and create goods and wealth that enable the flourishing of God’s creatures. Business is not merely a means to provide resources to the people doing the “real “ work of the Kingdom of God – it is as much part of that “real” work as any other work.
At Serving Leaders, we believe that the “Primary mechanism for the coming of the Kingdom of God is not the individual but the body of Christ,” as my colleague Rick Wellock would state it. I was also reminded at Faith & Work 2.0 that this means that we can also work to get better cities and better communities by growing healthy, flourishing business organizations and influencing for positive change in the institutions and systems of the market … but that we need to work together toward that purpose, and that our work is a participation in the work of the Spirit of God.
One of the things animating the emerging Faith &Work 2.0 discussion is this understanding – that flourishing cities and communities require all God’s people working out their vocational stewardship inside their organizations and places of influence in all sectors of society, for the common good.