Almost all the great leaders in the Bible were developed in business. The implications of this pattern of truth in the Bible are staggering – prompting us to take a new view of the purpose of our business and a new vision of what we do within them.
First, let’s look at the pattern of creating Biblical leadership within the environment of business. Here’s an excerpt from The Good Book on Business:
Work—and by extension, business—is so important to God that he chose a businessperson to lead every major movement in the Bible.
While the full story for many of these examples is beyond the scope of this book, here is a small sampling of the business people who were chosen to lead major movements in the Bible:
One of the most successful of all biblical business people, he headed an enterprise of thousands and was chosen to be the father of the special people group later known as the Israelites.
A third-generation business owner, he fathered what was to become the twelve tribes of Israel.
In the business of raising sheep and was chosen to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt and into the promised land.
The first king of the Hebrews was working for his father in his business when his life was interrupted, and he was called to be king.
Employed by his father in a family business, he was chosen to be the second king of Israel; he consolidated the kingdom and wrote most of the Psalms.
A small businessperson, he was a carpenter for the majority of his adult life.
A small businessperson, he had a fishing business when he was called by Christ to become an apostle, and he became one of the highly visible leaders of the early church.
Was a tentmaker, a sole proprietor, who led the advance of Christianity into most of the known world following the death and resurrection of Jesus. (The Good Book on Business, pp 83, 84)
This list contains just the most obvious examples, but the pattern is so pervasive that the list can go on for pages, including Old Testament characters like Boaz and many of the prophets, and New Testament characters like Lydia, Priscilla, and Aquilla.
What is it about business that provides such a fertile environment for development of leadership character that God uses it repeatedly as the training ground for His people? Here are a few thoughts…
Business stretches us beyond our known limits and causes us to add new skills and refine our character. Every business person knows exactly what I mean. The complex mix of people and mission in a business continually presents us with situations for which we were not trained. We quickly understand that we either figure this problem out or we bear the consequences. There is nothing like a responsible position in a growing business to build competence and confidence in its leaders.
Business forces us to be cognizant of other people and our impact on them. Leadership is always about leading people, and businesses, since they are amalgams of lots of different people, instill an awareness of those people and a sense of how to get along with them, keep them focused, and motivate them. Those managers and executives who don’t eventually do this well limit their growth and the development of the businesses they lead. We have no choice but to learn people skills – or watch our businesses linger in the dregs of mediocrity.
Business drives us to our knees and prompts a closer relationship with God. Time after time we are confronted with situations that appear beyond our ability of resolve. It could be the loss of a key employee or customer or a financial or legal crisis. Regardless, something isn’t going the way we had hoped it would, and it causes fear and anxiety and puts the business in jeopardy. At times like these, we turn to God and beseech him to intervene.
As He does, we recognize His interest in us and our businesses and begin to talk with Him regularly. The adversity and crises that come with every business provide the venue and the stimulant for a closer relationship with Him.
So, what does that mean to us?
You can shrug this off and continue, acting as though there was no relationship between your spirituality and your business. Compartmentalizing these things is, of course, the most common strategy.
Or, you can accept the Biblical pattern, and understand that business — and especially your business — has a special place in the Kingdom of God and that you have a unique and special opportunity to make an impact through your business.
If that is your choice, then you would understand that God may be using your business to raise up leaders.
Take on the attitude that God is your senior partner, and you need to support and enable His initiatives. Continually ask God to show you with whom, among your employees and the people in your sphere of influence, you should spend extra time.
Intentionally instill a culture that rewards reliance on God, risk-taking, and acceptance of responsibility.
Make it a point to offer your employees lots of training and opportunities to develop their leadership character. Think of David. He refined his slingshot skills on the job – protecting his sheep from predators — and grew in his faith and relationship with God.
Be prepared to release them to other works. Keep in mind that they are in your care and keeping for a season, temporarily lent to you to help shape and mold, and that season may come to an end.
Your business can be a juggernaut in the Kingdom, not only making money but also impacting people for generations and sending ripples of blessing to the folks in your sphere of influence. Developing leaders is one way you make your mark on generations.