by Mike Sharrow
I grew up in Alaska, in a melting pot of transient people and cultures (there are only 17 of us genuine Alaskans). I embarked on college then early career pursuits at a Fortune 50 company in Chicago where Christianity in the workplace was peculiar and I first wrestled with my own “sacred versus secular” frustrations. Then, in 2006, I moved to Texas and was surprised to find out that “everybody [practically] is Christian here!” At least, I heard a lot of Christianese and there was even a Christian business chamber of commerce. Blown away by this apparent oasis of fellow sojourners in business and the Kingdom, I began to ask every entrepreneur I could “So, what does it mean that you’re a Christ-follower running your business?” With every answer my heart sank.
The top 5 answers I received representing scores of in person surveys:
I’m not afraid to say God Bless you or Merry Christmas!
We pay people fairly, treat people well and tell the truth (slow clap)
We do a good job and I give a fair bit of money away to a lot of good causes
Everybody knows I’m a member of Acme Really Christian Church and vote for the Bible believing political party (which I didn’t know that party existed)
Can’t you see the fish on my business card!?
I concluded too many people confuse being American or, in this case, Texan, with being citizens of the Kingdom of God operating as called and commission ambassadors stewarding business assets of our Father’s Holding Company for His purposes and His glory.
It wasn’t until I sat around a table of entrepreneurs at a country club in Austin, Texas in the summer of 2010 that I found humble, hungry and faithfully smart peers truly wrestling with how to follow Jesus in the very fabric of business.
What does it mean to you to be a “faith-driven entrepreneur”? Is it about what you do with success achieved one day (philanthropy)? Is it about certain credos of conduct you abide by along the way (morality/virtue)? Is it a branding deal (icons)?
A friend running a contracting business, Scott Barr, challenged me that there was a beautiful tension at the intersection of a Venn diagram – work as worship (business to the glory of God), business as ministry (eternal impact now), and a life in order (rightly ordered life in Christ). That tension point is elusive and we tend to grab the circle of preference at the neglect of the other domains. The crucible of those 3 is actually the most powerful, formative discipleship experience I’ve ever experienced!
Being a faith-driven entrepreneur is not about quaint do’s and don’t, icons on materials or sacrificial gestures (so often about making ourselves feel good versus genuine worship like Zechariah charged our ancestors with). Anchoring in the fullness of an identity in Christ, recognizing we’re just managers of God’s assets, appreciating the idea of eternal rewards and accountability for our stewardship, we must reimagine the entire “balanced scorecard” of our business and ask what does truly glorifying God in each domain, at each tactical dimension and strategic construct look like? We use the 5 Point Alignment Matrix below as a visual paradigm to capture the breadth of this. For every dimension that may have its own dashboard, set of processes, rules and attributes – how is your faith expressed functionally?
That question catapults you into what will likely be years of discernment, experimentation and evolving mastery. I would argue, it hijacks the common rat race of “success” into an endless adventure of faith, discovery, impact and eternal significance!
Friends, our work matters. Results matter. I get to serve a tribe of servant leaders across 95 metro areas, 35 states and 4 nations on 3 continents who are walking alongside over 2,100 leaders working out this same calling. Culture matters, how we scale matters, creating a system of caring matters, and hearing from the Managing Partner daily matters. I’ll close with some vignettes of leaders working this out imperfectly, differently and yet with great stories.
If I asked you what does being a “faith-driven entrepreneur” mean and look like, what would You say?
Editor's note: Mike is a great friend of FDE and the CEO of C12, one of the great workplace ministries in God's Kingdom. We've featured some of the stories of C12 companies before, like this one about Gary Archer. You can learn more about Mike here, and C12 and other workplace ministries here.