Your Twitter feed, like mine possibly, is increasingly shaped by business driven themes. No doubt this is to be expected as many claim that businesses – rather more powerfully than any other institutions – shape the world today. Aware of this impact and the expectations of society, many business people are increasingly engaging with a question that starts with the nature of business: “how can we shape businesses to have positive impact in the world?” People of faith add to this question, for they want to know “how can we shape businesses to impact the world for good and for God?”
This is the underpinning question addressed in a short book, by the late Bridget Adams and Manoj Raithatha, entitled Building the Kingdom Through Business. The writers take the view – rather the norm at the time of St Paul; then re-emergent in medieval England at the time of the birth of trade guilds and livery companies and highly influential in the seventeenth to twentieth centuries in Britain – that business should pay attention to four “bottom lines”. When business decisions pay attention to economic, social, environmental and spiritual impacts the foundation for business as mission is being laid. When the four bottom lines are in view businesses have some chance of serving people, aligning with God’s purposes, being good stewards of the planet and making a profit.
“Building the Kingdom Through Business”is an important, yet short, eighty-page, booklet. It is profoundly Biblical, historically reflective, and immensely practical.
In his book “Screw Business as Usual”, Sir Richard Branson asked, ‘Can we bring more meaning to our lives and help change the world at the same time… a whole new way of doing things, solving major problems and turning our working into something we both love and are proud of?” His proposed solution? A new way of doing business. ‘It is time to … shift our values, to switch from a profit focus to caring for people, communities and the planet.’
If it is business that shapes the world, then why can’t the Church work in and through business to shape the world for good and for God? Shaping it for good brings wealth creation in communities, with greater justice and relief from poverty for the world’s poor, with the dignity of useful labour. Shaping it for God brings ‘life in its fullness’, a life reconnected with the One who made us and loves us, bringing hope and meaning and purpose. That is the motivation for Kingdom building businesses. And yet, as Mark Greene, Malcolm Grundy and many others have written, we are today living in the shadow of a more apparent than real, separation of Church and industry.
When the Archbishop of Canterbury, this week, addressed the landmark 150thTrades Union Congress, some of the UK’s popular Press attempted to reinforce this division of Church and business as though the two inhabit entirely separate spheres and should never talk to each other. Just how inaccurate this perceived separation of Church and industry is became clear when, two days later, more informed debate began to consider whether the Church of England Commissioners should actually have a very substantial investment – and significant investor’s leverage – in one of the global brands that the Archbishop roundly criticised in his TUC speech.
“Building the Kingdom Through Business” clearly demonstrates a God perspective on work and business, and points out the need for wealth creation – for the common good and God’s glory. The writers align with the Business as Mission movement, though they prefer the term “Kingdom Building Business”. They illustrate the transformational nature of the concept by reminding their readers of the story of the Quakers, whose guiding light was “spiritual and solvent”. Not for them – or, indeed, many others – a God who is interested in what happens in church but not in what happens in His world!
No, God is the original entrepreneur, and throughout His-story, from Paul of Tarsuson, we’ve seen men and women who have made a positive difference through business. Building the Kingdom through Business may provoke some, and it should inspire, educate and equip a new generation of Kingdom building business people.
This book is compact and easy to read. If you’re thinking of starting up a business then it provides some good background. If you’re one of those who think that church and business should never mix, then this book is also ideal for you.
“Building the Kingdom Through Business: A Mission Strategy for the 21st Century World” by Bridget Adams, Manoj Raithatha. ISBN: 9780955913518. Published Apr 2012. Paperback £7.99. Kindle £2.39.