Stop Calling It a “Christian” Business

megaphoneDid Jesus use the fish, or cross logo to promote his “brand?”

Did he label his “business” (as in”…I must be about my father’s business…”) as a “Christian/Kingdom/Jesus business?”

I don’t think he often even told people who he was – Son of Man?

If you have to tell people you are a Christian business owner – you probably shouldn’t.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

– John 13:35

Does this mean that we are to love business partners?

Vendors?

Community members?

Customers?

Do we have to love employees too?

When Jesus answered the question about who our neighbor is did he also illustrate how to love?

Hint:  Think “I came that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.”

– John 10:10

Is that the purpose of your business?  More abundant life?

For just you – or for neighbors too?

What could “loving” the stakeholders in your business look like?

If you did this you wouldn’t have to tell people you operate a Christian business.

They would experience it.

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11 replies

  1. Enjoyed reading this short article. It’s sad but true to see that so many business leaders who have cut throat approaches to managing their business call themselves ” Christian Leaders”. However, we should not forget that some leaders are driven by faith and lead by example.( I would consider these leaders as the minority)

  2. Curious your thoughts on advertising – Your actions will be enough for those who know you – but what about those who don’t?

    Would you support advertising with some mention of Christian Values etc? without actually saying I am a Christian Business? People are looking to do business with other Christians – but if you don’t say anything in ad or flyer -etc- how would they know to call you?

    I do agree with your overall thought – just curious about how to reach people who don’t know if no mention.

  3. Hi Steve Hoeft here, founder of FaithDrivenBusiness.org and prior marketing agency owner. I agree! As Francis Schaeffer said, “Our relationship with one another is the criterion the world uses to judge whether our message is truthful.” More important than stating Christian values is communicating the benefits of values in relationship with your company. For example a Christian run law firm wanting to communicate the benefits of servant leadership called it “Energetic Service – our whatever-it-takes approach means you get all-out effort all of the time.” Link your values to customer experiences and people will get why you are special and they want to do business with you.

  4. Steve – Thanks so much for your comment. The example was perfect.

  5. Thanks for your comment and your question. Here are some quotes from Jesus that could shine some light on the issue:

    “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…”
    – Matthew 6:3

    “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”
    – Matthew 6:5

    Word of mouth is the best advertising there is. Create something worth talking about, and people will advertise for you. Generate more value than you extract and people will notice. Optimize the Human Experience – that’s what Jesus did – and people will talk to their friends – he even asked them not to, and they did anyway.

    “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
    – Matthew 5:16

    Personally, I would not mention “Christian” in my advertising, because the potential return doesn’t justify the risk.

    The risk of not fulfilling the expectations that may be associated with that label.

    Some say it this way: Under promise & Over deliver.

  6. Thanks for your comment and your excellent point. These leaders are in the minority as illuminated in Jim Collins’ worth while book “Good to Great.” Further, those excellent (Level 5) leaders are so humble that they would never presume to be worthy of the name of Christ.

  7. Here is a question for you.. Since we started our business we have called our business with a bible verse because of what it means to us. Is that not good? I have been a believer since I was a kid in Jesus and I am not afraid of the Gospel of Christ. I am not shouting it out in the rooftops but I can’t hide it under a bushel either. There were according to someone i know over 9 million searches online in 1 year for christian business. I think we do need to stand for what we believe in. Others do, why can’t we. I am not talking about bible-banging and have all our customers convert, but be open to the realization that sometimes you are in business not necessarily to create profit but to do be “profit” with one of your customers and clients.

  8. I understand where you’re coming from, but I think you’re missing a few things here. First, Christian businesses who need/want to hire only other Christians need to be very explicit in the fact that they are a Christian organization. For example, with my business, I do not ever want to be forced by the government to hire secular writers and analysts who may espouse all kinds of things with which I do not agree, that would violate biblical principles, etc. If it ever reached that point, I would probably have to just shut it down. Fortunately, I can avoid this by being explicit that it is first and foremost a Christian business. My business is owned, managed, run by Christians, based on Christian teachings, and is primarily for Christian readers. My hope is that non-Christians will visit my site for the investment writing, and hopefully see a light shining while there. But in order to keep my business free of worldly influence, I have to be very explicit about the fact that it is first and foremost, a Christian organization.

    Second, some businesses, by nature, are just niche businesses that appeal to Christians. ChristianPost.com probably wouldn’t exist if it were just called “The Post” What about Christian musicians? Should they drop any mention of Christianity, faith, etc. and just let people figure out somehow that they’re a Christian who is trying to approach their profession in a way that glorifies God? Christian authors/books? Christian schools? Christian cruises? Drop the label?

    Like I said, I understand where you’re coming from. We used to have a running joke where I worked that if you see the Jesus fish on your contractor’s business card, turn around and run. But, that was before I realized I wasn’t supposed to be so quick to judge others, spent more time thinking about the topic, etc.

    You’ve kind of covered this topic with a very broad brush. Your blogroll says “Faith Driven Business” and “Faithbloggers” and you’ve got Christian themes all throughout your writing. You post in Christian groups because you want other Christian people to know that you’re out there. I don’t see the difference between doing that and someone having a description of their business as “Christian”. Just food for thought. I enjoy your articles!

  9. Chris:

    Thanks so much for reading, and taking time to contribute such a thoughtful comment. Thanks for exploring this topic with me.

    Perhaps it would be useful to frame the issue with the following questions:

    Am I selling goods or services to Christians?
    Am I a Christian selling goods and services?

    If you are marketing your brand to a group that has a Christian “otaku” (a Japanese word often used by marketing guru Seth Godin describing people with an almost obsessive interest) then using Christian labels, images, and language would benefit your business – whether or not you are a Christian.

    Many businesses involved in the Christian music industry are a great example of this. (I have a limited window on the Christian music industry as some of my friends are very involved, and from their perspective much of this industry is lacking in Kingdom culture.)

    If your mission is to represent the Kingdom of Heaven as an ambassador of Christ, and your business is the embassy where Heaven’s culture comes to earth (in keeping with the Lord’s prayer…thy kingdom come…on earth as in Heaven) then

      behaving

    in ways that are aligned with the behaviors of the King (i.e. open, trustworthy, generative, vital, dynamic and generous – never manipulative, intimidating or exploitative) will benefit your mission more than labels.

    Those differences established – if a business owner chooses to publicly explain various business decisions in terms of “Christian principles,” they should be careful to observe ALL Christian principles or be found to have an integrity problem (as many in the Christian music business have.)

  10. I agree with you that Christians should always do their best to represent their savior as well as possible. This is true whether we’re explicitly using the label in some way or not.

    As for use of the name, I think it comes down, like everything else, to what is in our hearts. Am I using the Christian “label” because I have a product/service that I believe is beneficial to my brothers and sisters? (Christian radio, TV, movies, magazines, are other examples)

    Or, am I just claiming to be a Christian/using the label in order to try to drum up more business, trick people into believing that I’m honest, etc.?

    Obviously the latter is wrong, but the person doing that probably isn’t a true believer anyway, in my estimation. Anyone doing that probably falls into the category of people mentioned in 1 Cor. 5:11. Clearly they should not get our support.

    But how are we to know the difference? I think the answer is found in 1 John 4:1, that we must test the spirits. I have looked at other “Christian Investing” sites, products, etc. and it’s normally pretty easy for me to spot the fakers from the genuine. There are plenty of both. The fakers attempt to mask their true colors, but if one is discerning enough, it’s easy to spot, as they often appeal strongly to people’s sense of fear, greed (even while claiming that they don’t!), or guilt with their marketing.

    All of that being said, there is a 3rd category of people we haven’t really mentioned… people who are upfront about the fact that they aren’t a Christian owned business, but that market to Christians nonetheless. An example would be Christian Mingle.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with them because they aren’t trying to trick anyone and they are actually providing a service that is beneficial to Christians. We are not to be unequally yoked, so why get on a site like match.com and scroll through pictures of half-naked women, that I have no business dating, in order to find the Christian girl of my dreams? I can avoid unnecessary temptation by using Christian Mingle, assuming it is largely used by other genuine Christians.

    To me, this type of business is no different, philosophically, from a secular publishing company that prints Bibles or Christian books. Secular publishers, makers of Christian apparel, jewelry, etc. provide a needed product/service to Christians and do a good job of it, so we use them. The only real difference is that business concepts such as Christian Mingle are relatively new. So, because of our unfamiliarity with the business concept, it’s easy to have a knee jerk, emotional reaction that says, “They’re taking advantage of Christians…” No, they’re not. They’re selling a needed product/service, just like the secular publisher of Bibles and Christian books. If they aren’t very good at it, or they do something that is dishonest, offends Christians, etc. they won’t last very long. If they conduct their business responsibly, in a way that benefits Christians, they will have success.

    If I had a choice between Christian Mingle and a similar site that was actually Christian owned, I personally would choose the latter. But that doesn’t mean there is something inherently wrong with Christian Mingle that should make me refuse to do business with them.

    Thank you for writing a thought provoking article and for letting me comment on it. I think I’ve got enough material now to do my own article about the topic. 🙂

  11. I enjoyed this! I have often wondered if I should say I’m a Christian owned business or not, but this helped.

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