In a fallen world, how to achieve biblical and lasting transformation is the only real question for those who aspire to be Christ’s disciples. Put another way, leading people and building organizations God’s way is what all Christian leaders should aspire to do. Once one sees this, studying and walking out God’s principles of transformation takes center stage. Indeed, God is in the business of transformation. Continually, I might add.
So then, for those of us who lead people (which is virtually everybody) and for those of us who are building organizations (a smaller group), this quest for transformation becomes the spine from which all other subjects branch outward. Over the last twenty years, this quest has been my passion, and I have identified some forty-odd concepts which I believe to be some of God’s essential ones. What follows are four from that list. They all apply to us as individuals, parents, citizens, and members of whatever organization in which we participate or seek to guide or influence. They are a businessperson’s “meat and drink,” or at least should be.
Principle Number One: Moving toward Transformation Is Moving toward God
There is no biblical or lasting transformation without God being the one originating it and energizing it. All “change” is transitory and ultimately ineffective unless God is behind it. “Transformation” is truth in motion, and truth is a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ . Truth, in fact, is not an idea or concept. This statement of reality is a mind-bending paradigm shift, especially for citizens of the Western, Greek-thinking world. Trust me; as a life-long student of philosophy, I know whereof I speak. Truly, Christian thought is far more Hebrew in its worldview than Greek. The ancient Greek thinkers, from whence the foundations of much of Western thinking comes, looked at truth as ideas or concepts, that is, abstractions. To the Hebrews, truth was a declaraton of God’s reality passed on to man by God’s loving grace. Hence, when Jesus said that He was truth, it was wholly consistent with the reality of the Judeo-Christian worldview. The point is this: “I want to change,” or “I want to change this about my company” remains an abstraction until it shifts to, “Lord, how do I enjoin Your power to change me,” or “Lord, partner with me as I follow your way of changing my business as You see it.”
Now we are going somewhere. As I move toward transformation, I am moving toward God. Ultimately then, change and what we call “revival” are the same thing, aren’t they? Let’s make this point even more practical. Let’s say that we want to change our sales and marketing strategy in order to find new customers and increase our sales. We want to “transform” this part of our operation. “Conventional wisdom” and things we studied in school related to sales and marketing will take us in certain relatively predictable directions. We can do trial products and marketing tests; we can re-name and re-package; we can do product linkage and new combinations of product identification; we can divert marketing funds based on the advice of hired marketing specialists. The list could go on and on. Conventional wisdom is not wrong and is, under God’s direction, often very useful. However, unless we are seeking God first, conventional wisdom will often take us in the wrong direction.
The Holy Spirit, God’s wisdom revealer, may first take us in a very different direction initially than that of manipulating product, price, or name branding. He is more likely to take us first in the more important direction of asking questions like, “Why more profit?”; “Are the right people in the right places in the marketing division?”; “Have you noticed how unmotivated the current salespeople are?”; “What are you going to do to empower them as people?” For example, “Why don’t you begin praying for them more specifically and finding out what unmet needs they have that will lead them closer to Me?” Now, you will begin to change and they will begin to change, which is more important than finding new market share but will lead to that initial business goal in any event. Genuine transformation is wholistic, people-driven, and leads people and things toward God.
Transformation Principle Number Two: Biblical Transformation Is Obedience-Oriented not Fulfillment-Oriented
Most human-oriented change is driven by the desire to be more “fulfilled” in some area of our lives: more “freedom”; more resources; more power; more recognition; more whatever that makes me feel better about myself. Biblical change or transformation is driven by the desire to obey God and please Him. God and His purposes and pleasures are the engine driving our motivation for change rather than mere self-fulfillment. If we have, in reality, given our ministry in the marketplace over to God, or our business over to God, we have left “our career” and joined “God’s career”, and “God’s business.” Our quests and questions become God-centered, not simply profit-centered, or power-centered, or self-centered, using feigned love for God as a mask to hide our own selfish ego-driven needs.
Higher profits; more sales; greater market share; more employees; greater industry-wide recognition may indeed be elevating our profile and “success” in God’s name, of course, but God is looking at our motivations beneath it all. There are far, far too many biblical admonitions in the scriptures warning the rich about their apparent “success” for us not to take a very, very hard look at the motives driving outward success and what the ultimate outcome of that apparent success will truly look like at Christ’s judgment seat. Riches are a supreme deception if they are not an outward sign of an inward obedience to God. God’s scorecard is not “How much?” but rather “Why?” and “For whom?”
Transformation Principle Number Three: God Builds Relationally and We Should Do Likewise
In one way or another, my entire book, Doing Business God’s Way, and the Business Leadership School and seminars coming out of that book are all about how God is in the people-investment business. God is love, and He loves His entire creation in general, and human kind in particular. Indeed, “What is man, that Thou rememberest him?” Man, in Christ, is a centerpiece in God’s creative passion. He has chosen to invest Himself in Christ in man in a way unique to everything else that He has created.
God is in the empowering people business, and it’s the only business that an enlightened Christian should be in as well. Capitalism is largely about personal profit and keeping score with money and lifestyle, while socialism is about personal security and covetously making sure no one gets “too far ahead of anyone else.” Both have some vestiges of virtue, but neither represents God. Only Kingdom economics, driven by obedience, enlightened stewardship, the empowering of people, and personal responsibility coupled with compassionate empathy, can make any such claims. No child of God need be poor, and no children can be “too rich” if God is the One empowering them for a purpose. Money is not the issue. The issue is, “What must I do to glorify God and serve Him with the gifts He has given me to steward?” That answer, as modeled by Jesus, is to empower people to serve the Master out of what He has given them, or wants to give them. “Economics” really is about its root-word meaning (lokos), “household management.” And it is God’s house and God’s people we are talking about managing with Him as apprentice co-partners.
All our business or marketplace ministry decisions should be birthed before God and rest in the question, “Lord, what can I do to further Your purposes in this person’s life or the life of this organization?” Everything else we can say about either micro or macro economics is merely “details” or corollaries related to this central axiom. All conventional business wisdom, if not rooted and grounded in the people business, is hubris and leads to the turning of people into objects of exploitation, function, or “machines” to enhance the ego-driven hellish judgement of those misusing them. Beyond this, the economic systems that are not birthed in Christ are doomed to judgment and the speed of that judgment is determined by how much or how little of God’s virtue remains within them.
To build relationally is to build out of love. That love will be both tender and tough. It will seek to use no man or woman, nor seek to protect them from the consequences of their own actions, thus blunting God’s purposes for the laws of sowing and reaping. It will promote excellence, re-train and upgrade mediocrity, and release indolence and indifference. Above all else, it will seek the godly welfare of all. Kingdom economics and Christ-like ministry in the marketplace are about justice, mercy, encouragement, and embracing the lesson of consequences, which serve us as the rungs of the ladder to coming success. God’s business is about conforming us to His image. In what business are you?
Transformation Principle Number Four: To Produce Real Transformation, You Must Be in the Transformation Yourself Which You Are Advocating for Others
God models for us, in Christ, what He asks us to be and do. He is “in” what He advocates. As His children, if we are His children, we will increasingly be like Him. We will only ask others to “come up higher” when we are sitting there ourselves. Authenticity is the true power behind true advocacy. We only have as much power to change people and organizations as we carry within ourselves. We carry the power to transform, because that power is working in us.
So much “change” is transitioning, fleeting, and false. It isn’t “smoke and mirrors”; it is hollow encouragement coming from hollow encouragers. It has no lasting power to transform because it carries no such power or process within itself. The corporate world, which surrounds us and which drives so much of our national and international policy, spends multiplied millions of dollars annually on transitory change, coming through transitory people and “transitory experts,” Substance begets substance. If Christians should be anything in the marketplace, they should be people of substance who carry the power to change within them because they are living in the changing power of Christ as a way of life. In the world of speed and quick response to market volatility, what a set-up by God for true quick-change leadership, led by eternal-change believers who do so as a way of life, rather than mere commercial need!
Both salvation and modern business practices are driven by the need for transformation. This is precisely the business we Christians are in, if we really understand who we are. Revival is spurred by people who walk their talk. Revival in the marketplace is driven by our witness. And what, pray tell, is that, merely quoting Bible verses? I don’t think so. Revival is a divine disease. That disease needs carriers, highly contagious carriers. Those carriers are God’s change-agents. They show up to work everyday carrying that change because they live in it. They get promoted, and they become leaders, not because of their Bible-quoting or their MBAs; they get promoted because they bring change, and the power to change others, with them. They are “in,” what they are advocating. Therefore their words have power, like God’s, because they are conduits for Him, running on the same “juice.”
If we’re going to talk about business or marketplace ministries, then we’re going to have to talk about transformation, what it is, how to carry it, and who carries it. Everything else is “details.” The force of the marketplace is transactions. Transactions are about exchange. Exchange is about transformation, about moving things or people along. The question is, “Where and into what?” That, friend, is where we come in.
By Dennis Peacocke. This article originally appeared in the March 2004 edition of Business Reform Magazine.