Business is a calling; it is a gift; it is ministry

“God did not call me to be a minister or a missionary; He called me to be a businessman – and I see no difference.”

(Michael Cardone of Cardone Industries)

I have recently been contracted to write a couple of courses for a Christian college in Canada.  One of the courses is to be entitled “Theology of Business.”  I have taught workshops on this subject by spending an hour or two, but a 36-hour college credited course is something different, especially when I am not an expert on the subject.  I have been reading and studying the scriptures as well as what learned men and women have to say on the subject.

For many people ‘theology’ and ‘business’ are compartmentalized into two segments: secular and sacred with very little or no connectivity to each other.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Ken Eldred, asserts that the real goal of business is to serve people to the glory of God.  Business serves people by creating wealth (Deut. 8:18) and God who is the creator of all things gives mankind the ability to do so.  Theology and business are inherently linked from the Cultural Mandate in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 (where God gave Adam a job to do) until today.

One of the sub-topics of this subject deals with and individual’s purpose in life, calling, and unique place in the world. I am really tired of hearing terminology which infers that so-called “spiritual” tasks in the church, missionary work, etc. are of a higher calling and called ‘ministry’.  I hear it in my church, I read it in missionary literature and websites, and I hear it in the talk of friends. It is nonsense. It is not Biblical. It disregards theology. It bifurcates “spiritual” tasks from wholesome God-ordained human activity like carpentry, janitorial services, engineering, mechanics, sewing, cooking, song writing, artistry, music, political service, military service, teaching children, business management and on and on.

How do we know that business is a high and holy calling?  How do we know it is a gift?  The answers to these questions are rooted in the theology and history of the scriptures. Negative abuses provide insights which are regrettably scattered throughout the Christian era, with clearer understanding beginning with the Protestant Reformation. A short blog such as this can only touch on a few highlights.

Inherent Gifts or God-given Natural Talents Recognized in the Old Testament

Os Guinness, in The Call1, specifies our primary calling as followers of Christ is by Him, to Him, and for Him. First and foremost, we are called to Someone (God).  Our secondary calling is to understand our best talents, gifts and abilities and do it entirely for Him, by bringing His image to a dark world. God normally calls us along the line of our giftedness, but the purpose of giftedness is stewardship and service…calling says, ‘Do what you are.’ There is joy in fulfilling a calling that fits who we are…”2 as we pour Shalom into the world around us.

The call of God to Adam, Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Gideon, and many other Old Testament characters was first to God Himself and then to a utilization of their abilities to serve God’s purposes in their day. They had a new sense of purpose.  This lesser-known section below helps us to see the integration of both the primary and secondary calling.  And secondary callings whether they be craftsmanship, shepherding, homemaking, or priestly service, are equal in God’s sight; all are to be like King David, who, “after serving God’s purpose in his own generation, fell asleep.” (Acts 13:36)

30 Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. 34 And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.

36 So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded.” Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work. Exodus 35: 30 – 36:2

Gifts of the Spirit in the New Testament

The New Testament likewise does not differentiate a “higher calling”.  We are all to understand how we are created and to apply those assets to service to God and man.  Again, Guinness says “…the terms calling, and vocation should be synonymous.3 Secondary calling is one’s vocation, occupation, a unique role in advancing the Kingdom of God

  • Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good…  (I Cor 12: 4-7) 
  • Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3: 23)
  • For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2: 10)
  • Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. (I Peter 4:10)

Reformation Theology Applied

Os Guinness refers to the Catholic distortion of calling, and later the Protestant distortion. Both are a form of dualism, which elevates the sacred at the expense of the secular. The Protestant reformers highlighted the need for a recovery of a holistic understanding of calling. However, today’s evangelical traditions appear to have regressed to pre-reformation misunderstanding. While thinking of this context, modern Mats Tunehag, has suggested the need for another reformation focused on the destroying the sacred-secular divide.

  • “The works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks, but that all works are measured before God by faith alone…” (Martin Luther).
  • “…if our desire is to please God, pouring water, washing dishes, cobbling shoes and preaching the Word ‘is all one.’” (William Tyndale)
  • “No task will be so sordid and base, provided you obey your calling in it, that it will not shine be reckoned very precious in God’s sight. (John Calvin)
  • “We understand you are having problems choosing whether to do the work of God or that of a political activist. We humbly suggest that you can do both.” (spoken to Wilberforce in the movie “Amazing Grace,” 2007) In Wilberforce’s own words, “My business is in the world; and I must mix in the assemblies of men, or quit the post which Providence seems to have assigned me.” (Wilberforce journal in 1788).
  • “Monastic vows rest on the false assumption that there is a special calling, a vocation, to which superior Christians are invited to observe the counsels of perfection while ordinary Christians fulfill only the commands; but there is no special religious vocation since the call of God comes to each in the common task.” (Martin Luther)

Twentieth Century Wisdom

  • “The ‘layman’ need never think of his humbler task as being inferior to that of his minister.  Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called, and his work will be sacred as the work of the ministry. It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it.  The motive is everything.”  (A. W. Tozer)
  • “God did not call me to be a minister or a missionary; He called me to be a businessman – and I see no difference.” (Michael Cardone of Cardone Industries)
  • “In nothing has the church so lost her hold on reality as in her failure to understand and respect the secular workplace. She has allowed work and religion to become separate compartments, and is astonished to find that, as a result, the secular work of the world is turned to purely selfish and destructive ends, and that the greater part of the world’s intelligent workers have become irreligious, or at least uninterested in religion. But is it astonishing? How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of life?” (Dorothy Sayers)
  • “There is truly no division between sacred and secular except what we have created. And that is why the division of the legitimate roles and functions of human life into the sacred and secular does incalculable damage to the cause of Christ. Holy people must stop going into “church” work as their natural course of action and take up holy orders in farming, industry, law, education, banking, and journalism with the same zeal previously given to evangelism or to pastoral and missionary work.” (Dallas Willard)
  • “If God has called you to be a businessperson, do not stoop to be a preacher”. (Mats Tunehag of BAM Global)
  • “The priesthood of believers did not make everyone into church workers, rather it turned every kind of work into a sacred calling.” G.E. Veith

Today’s examples of Business as Mission – Theology integrated with Business

Thankfully, more and more of God’s people are beginning to understand this “theology of mission”. They are realizing that it is a lie that ‘spiritual affairs are far more important than ‘secular’ affairs.  They are people like these whom IBEC has helped and who have started Business as Mission businesses for the greater glory of God.

  • Kristian Pettyjohn, founder and CEO of PhotoUp always had an aptitude for technology and in his youth fell in love with UI/UX design and software development. He started building better software and soon launched four startups.  As a follower of Jesus, it did not take long to take his technology to a potential labor pool in the Philippines and make disciples of Jesus.  and
  • Narcis Runghwic, in his native Romania, was mentored at the university level, by some Christian agricultural scientists. He soon linked his love for Jesus, his interest in agriculture, and his capacity to see an opportunity. Check it out at
  • Beau Milliken is a chemical engineer graduate of Oregon State University. He loved problem solving and he loved “having a strong group of fellow engineers to work with, study with, and grow close with…”  He loved his experience leading Young Life groups and serving with a local NFP. Put all that together, and it leads to the founding of Kijani Forestry in Uganda – solving the problem of deforestation, unemployment, and the need for Kingdom values.
  • Emanuel Bistrain started his own construction company in Texas at nineteen years of age. A mission trip took him to his fathers’ birth country, Romania, and he asked the question, “Why is God poor, just in Romania”. Understanding the power of business to change communities, he and his wife started Westfield Real Estate.  Two of our blogs tell the story:

  • Kevin Mullins was a missionary when he moved to Portugal during the financial crisis in 2000. People were leaving the country, as they were jobless and poor. Even though he continues to teach the gospel of Christ, he began to realize that he had a predisposition for problem-solving and that he was “wired for business”.  It dawned on him that God had made him for this moment – job creation would be a help in this crisis and JoyLabs and Atomivox were started.
  • Jenny Nuccio was another one who took a mission trip and never looked back. New women friends in Kenya helped her understand culture and survival skills, and she reciprocated by helping them learn to sew.  A couple of years later, a group of sixteen women started Imani Collective and today, about 200 women are employed which represents more than a thousand people benefiting from the business. Jenny mentions that, “Together, we unleash a woman’s greatness through empowerment, opportunity + community”.
  • Julie Colombino-Billingham made it to Haiti ten days after the January 2010 earthquake. She had a background in crisis and management, but she was not prepared for what she saw. Yet, God said, “Ok – just listen”.  And as she listened, she heard the need for job training and jobs themselves. There were no jobs in Haiti, but there were plenty of tires in the streets. She and two other women began to make sandals from tires, and thus created jobs – 40 of them!  Her experience in Africa and elsewhere helped her to see that charity is important in a crisis, but the long-term solution is job creation.
  • Sarah Lance first visited Kolkata in 1999. She began by building relationships with women working in the sex trade and learned about the unjust social structures that make women vulnerable to being trafficked. Sometimes, a business startup has its roots in a social need. By 2006, Sarah realized that many NGOs and mission agencies were trying to help liberate enslaved victims of trafficking and prostitutions, but few were creating jobs so survivors could sustain themselves. Today, Sarah’s company employs 120, which means many times, benefits can be seen from those jobs.

And so, we know that theology and business go hand-in-hand. In the words of theologian Wayne Grudem, “business itself glorifies God when it is conducted in a way that imitates God’s character and creation.”  God is the creator-God. My wife is always creating something new in the kitchen. That is a gift; it is a calling; not unlike a musician or an architect, a song writer or an artist – and not unlike a businessperson who creates a product and creates jobs.

  • Guinness, Os. The Call – Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life, (Nashville, TN:  Thomas Nelson, 2003), 31.
  • Ibid., 45-47.
  • Ibid., 47-48.

Larry W. Sharp, BAM Support Specialist, IBEC Ventures

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