He had a dramatic conversion. My friend was a businessman with no Christian training and after meeting the Lord became a sponge for knowing more about Him.
Like most with a similar story, this led him to some great friendships, congregations, and to some that were not so stellar. My friend is humble and always open to a better way. He and his wife are committed to doing what is right – regardless of what others choose.
Successful in business, he deals with the high and mighty, as well as the lowly and treats everyone the same. He is a decent, caring human being, but says he was not prior to meeting the Lord. Jesus made he and his wife into new people.
He gives in ways that no one is aware of. Though he could purchase a new whenever he wanted, his car is typically a decade old. He focuses on ‘increasing his standard of giving, not his standard of living.’ When he makes more money he simply gives more away.
He and his wife have impacted thousands of people by ministering in churches. Like many, they eventually found themselves on the wrong side of a ‘church power struggle’ they were not even aware of, were sacrificed on the altar of expediency, and washed out of the church.
No place to minister
With no platform to invest his gifts into ‘the church’ or her people, he turned to coach football, opened his home, and ‘adopted’ a few players to give them a chance at a better future. He and his wife also raised two amazing children of their own.
He felt the loss of ministering in the church and inevitably compared what he now did, with what he had lost. With leader/teachers like myself elevating ‘ministry’ (in our congregations) above all else, he probably felt less than successful with the impact of his life.
He and his wife continued ‘ministering’ but rarely in ‘a church.’ Nearly everyone who came into contact with them was impacted, but there was no acclaim from the church to indicate they were making any difference; especially as ‘other ministries’ grew and flourished around them.
Business is ministry
All this time, my friend continued succeeding in business. He is honest, hardworking, ethical, and successful as a real estate developer. I have heard him introduce his profession by saying, ‘I sell dirt’ followed by him laughing out loud.
My friend fixes problems no one else can. Tracts of land often have many complications – easements, deed restrictions, etc., making them difficult
You seldom find this kind of gift mix in one person. This is ‘his genius’ – what makes him unique and successful in the marketplace and in life. It brings him before great
Like anyone who loves ‘ministry,’ I think business paled in significance, in his mind. Most of us believe ‘ministry counts toward eternity;’ while business is only temporal. Thanks to most Christian leaders this dualism blinds many to the intrinsic Kingdom value of work itself.
His impact revealed
My friend changed the landscape of his city. Businesses and homes dot what was once raw land. Homes and jobs were created as a byproduct of his labor and success. He built his city in remarkable ways – literally.
I got an inside peek at his impact after I had switched banks and needed to access one of their services. When I called the dedicated number, the person answered by saying, ‘Chase Service Center– Arlington, Texas.’ I was stunned.
In the mid-90s my friend put together and sold a tract of land to Chase Manhattan (at that time) for a service center in his city. Twenty plus years later I found myself talking to one of the hundreds now employed there. I quickly told the rep about my friend and this was her response:
‘I love my job and am so grateful for it. Please tell you friend thank you for doing his job so well. This job has transformed my life and I owe it to your friend.’ I may have found myself tearing up as she talked, but I might not admit it now.
Making a living or making lives better
A week later I sent my friend an email and wrote this.
‘When you wonder about your impact, consider how many people have worked at Chase’s service center in the last 20 years, the tax revenue generated, the birthday celebrations that took place in break rooms, the people who prayed or counseled together in cubicles, the amount of life lived there, because of your gifts, talents, and hard work.’
This is from only one of many deals he closed over four decades. What was the most significant aspect of my friend’s success? Was it teaching in churches or caring for people? The coaching, or bringing a player into his home? Or could it be the tedious, mundane work that daily appeared to simply be his method of making a living?
The teenagers he coached probably believe that was most significant. Some people probably think his church involvement was most important. I already know what the woman at Chase Bank thinks.
Our work has intrinsic value
None of us will ever know this side of eternity what was most significant about our lives and our work. The only assurance we need is that our work – our daily involvement and input into the most mundane, secular, and worldly of jobs IS significant and meaningful. It really is doing God’s work by serving people and making our world work better.
If I were to insert myself into my friend’s story and imagine myself in his shoes, I would probably have struggled to see or feel the significance in the daily work. I might have despised it over the ‘ministry’ I had done previously. Instead of realizing the impact I was having through my work itself, I would probably have felt grief and loss.
Even if my friend had found himself in this posture, he still did the work and the benefit is the same. His faithfulness and diligence impacted others. Many in the marketplace feel little value in their work, in terms of the Kingdom of God. Does that lack of perceived values cause some of the problems we see in business?
I wonder how business would be done differently if everyone understood that our business is God’s work IF we are serving others through it? I wonder how many might meet the Lord IF they understood it is He who has gifted them, and that they could serve Him with their work? This is a goal of The RAINMAKER Project.
Moving into the world
In the Old Covenant honoring God was accomplished by honoring religious leaders and traditions. Giving to God was done by giving to the priests and religious institutions. Jesus expanded how we honor God in the New Covenant.‘If you give a drink of water to the least of these, you have done it unto Me.’
The least of these were insignificant disciples, the poor, or those who lacked. Jesus recognizes any service or investment in others – comfort, compassion, or material needs – as being done to Him. We are now free to honor God in wider ways. The Kingdom of God is not limited to a place, people, or a program. The world itself is our field of service.
We are free to invest ourselves, our talents, and gifts into the world to see it transformed. That is why we were created and why God gave us each ‘a genius,’ to succeed and serve others with that success. Ministry in the church is good, but not better or more holy than serving in the world through our work and careers.
In fact, it could be argued that serving in the church is the old way and serving in the world is the new one. At least according to Jesus.
Let that sink in for a moment.