The baker’s dozen: You buy 12 and he throws in one for free.
I hope in this final installment of this “epic” series on The Christian & the Business World I can wrap up this baker’s dozen postings with thoughts that will stay with people (like the smell of fresh-out-of-the-oven onion bagels. Yum!) At least I want this final post to jar something in everyone who reads it, for everything I post here is about as heartfelt as heartfelt can be. You may disagree with what I say—and feel free to—but I think that we Christians have to come to grips with the truth that something is wrong with the way we are living and our work lives are at the heart of the problem.
As we have seen, much of modern business operates from a worldview that is antithetical to Christianity. It cannot be reformed from without, but only from within, and only then if replaced with a Christian worldview. As much As I would like to see that occur, I am not confident it will. This requires us to have a Plan B.
Christians don’t think too often about Plan B, and this is one of the mysteries of the Church in America that I have never fathomed. We don’t handle failure very well when Plan A does not play out like we imagine. But we need a Plan B, folks—badly.
I’ve been thinking about Plan B for Christians in their work lives for a long time. In only nine years of marriage, my wife and I have been through five corporate downsizings between the two of us. The cumulative time spent searching for work after those downsizings has been over two years total.
I’ve received plenty of comments and private e-mails from folks who can identify. This is one reason why we have to find alternatives. The common knowledge for trained professionals today is that we will forever be going back to school to enhance our educations in order to keep up. I am not convinced, though, that a Christian can perpetually be in college trying to stay ahead of their career track and actually have a sustainable walk with the Lord if he or she has a family. Something in the equation has to give; something must be lost in that process. It’s either a marriage, vital intimacy with God, real relationship with one’s children, or connection to authentic community, but something is lost. In far too many cases, everything is sacrificed just to stay ahead. Trying to keep up with the ideal nuclear family so many of us Christians have held out before us is taking an inhuman toll.
We must consider alternatives and reinforce traditional ideas we’ve abandoned. Many of the long-time readers of this blog will have encountered some of these proposed solutions before, but I feel it is important to revisit these ideas. Here are seven of those ideas:
1. We need to consider living in alternative communities – We duplicate too many of our goods. People are forced to work harder for higher paying jobs in order to duplicate the possessions of our neighbors. Yet there is no reason for all of us to have a $350 lawn mower that is only used once a week. In that same reasoning, there is no reason for us to duplicate many of our common activities, like each family driving to the grocery store to shop for food, or each homeschooling family homeschooling just their own kids.I believe that mature Christians should reconsider the idea of small, planned communities in which a half dozen families could buy a plot of land, put a house up for each family, and have one communal building for meeting and worshipping together. Some families could work in town, while some could work at home, and at least one work the land. This community could be sustainable from food grown off the land purchased.Such a community would allow for less duplication of both effort and items for living. Less need for money that would have gone for duplicated items for living would free up folks to take lesser paying jobs that could allow them more time at home and before God.If we are serious about our faith, we have to do something to allow for more time serving the Lord. So far, I have seen no Christian leader proposing any practical way to do this.
2. We need to think green – I know this is a contentious subject, but we Christians really have forgotten that the call to work in the Garden was also a call to proper stewardship of the Earth. Again, if Christians can learn to get off the grid, rely less on expensive, entertaining gadgets that do nothing to promote community or are so costly we just have to work harder to buy them, I believe we will be substantially better off. We need to be the ones pushing for alternative energy sources and should be early adopters of those sources. Again, the point here is that we should consider if it is possible to find home-based methods for working while also reducing our need for jobs that are too expensive to maintain (in time or money.) Utility prices are only going to get higher. As Christians, we should be the ones pushing for unconventional thinking with regard to everything we consume.
3. We need to start saying NO to the world’s systems – The first step here is to understand what those systems are and whether they ultimately glorify God or not. Most don’t. Not only do we need to re-evaluate how we work in the light of Christ, we need to rethink just about everything else. I’ve mentioned Darwinism, but it goes beyond rooting out Darwinian business practices.
As I mentioned earlier in this series, the United States was once a home-based economy that had both parents at home, working together and raising the children. And those children were needed for the survival of the family, too. (Today’s kids have no purpose.) If that system worked, is it possible to restore it? What would it look like?
Let’s be frank here: the resulting outcome of the Industrial Revolution has been a plethora of shattered families and a society that has numbed itself to this through endless entertainment and escape. Some futurists contend that the only path for America as a post-industrial, post-technological society is as the entertainment center of the world. Is this the best we can hope for?
We in the Church have to start asking if there is a better way, and if so, what will it take to get us there.
4. We need to stand behind the brethren – In every way, we must start thinking about others in our churches and not just look out for number one.
First, whenever a person in a church is unemployed, we need to do everything possible to help that person find work ASAP. There is no sense for me to be buying $4000 plasma TVs when another family in my congregation is burning through their life’s savings while trying to find work. The average job search (even now in what some consider and “up” market) is ten months. That’s more than four months past when unemployment compensation runs out. No one should have to look that long while the Church stands idly by.
In the same way, we need to stand behind Christians who take tough stands in their businesses and jobs, especially if they pay the penalty for doing so. Taking on the Darwinian heart of business will spawn casualties. If our best and brightest business people go down for the cause, we better not let them twist in the wind as a result.
This goes for American Church leaders who try to step into the business world void in order to speak truth to the corporate world. We must support those folks 110%, particularly if we have gone to great lengths to raise them up to speak! And we so desperately need people to stand in the gap between the Church world and the business world that we can’t afford to let them suffer for the cause without our support, no matter what the outcome is.
5. We need to lay down our lives – One of the trends that just baffles me when I think about it is that supposed Christians are objecting on privacy grounds to having their personal information printed in church directories.
Listen, when we become Christians, all pretenses toward privacy that we might have had before is gone. We are part of a new Body now and that means we have to lay our privacy down and suffer the inconveniences that come from being a body part.
There is no reason why our church directory doesn’t list where we work, what our skills are, and how we can help other folks within the congregation in their specific needs, especially if they are work-related. That’s basic, folks. It is essential to our community that we be able to bear each other’s burdens, but the only way we can do that is if we give everything we are to the Lord and His Church.
6. We need to start planning to compensate for lost support systems, particularly government and business-related ones – I mentioned before that the church needs to consider sustainability in our living arrangements. That’s a start. But medical insurance, Social Security, and other support systems we have been repeatedly told will be there probably won’t be. Too many of our “American benefits” are linked to standard corporate operating expectations. If Christians consider alternatives to the business world and explore a traditional home-based economy, we must find ways to pick up the slack for families that have grown reliant on these government and business perks. With the ridiculous cost of medical care in this country, if the Church is serious about exploring other work arrangements, then we need to also consider how to provide medical support to families who drop out of today’s corporate environment. We also need to step up our help for the elderly and those who will probably face the specter of having all their Social Security savings consumed by the time they are old enough to ask for the share they put in.
7. We need to stay committed to each other in community, especially to our extended families – There is a Christian witness in every country on the planet. The Gospel has gone out. I know this is controversial, but I believe we are in a time when all of us who are Christians need to consider our harvest field to be the very neighborhood we live in right now. Our focus needs to become more local. This does not exclude a call to overseas work when God does call, but I think that He is moving to keep more and more of us right where we are now.
I believe that one of the problems we have gained from the Industrial Revolution is that extended families are fractured by our perpetual moving to be where the jobs are. If my wife and I are any indication, we could have considered moving six times in the course of our nine years of marriage in order to follow jobs to the next city with a hot job market. Is that feasible? With so many of our social constructs unable to handle such a move (even though Americans on average are now moving once every seven years—and pushing toward six), the toll this takes on relationships within families and church congregations is devastating. Community, the human connection factor we all need, simply cannot function.
How can we stay put for any length of time to grow with a church body or to see our extended families connect for more than a generation? Unless we find alternatives to current work realities, this is an impossible dream.
This has been a lot to digest. For those who are new to Cerulean Sanctum, I have several past posts that delve into some of these ideas further:
- The Church’s Missing Men
- Another Look at the Church’s Missing Men
- Work (and Everyday Life) Redeemed
- The Anti-Church
- Ford, GM, and the Church
To Tim Challies, I say, Thanks for putting me up to this series. And oddly enough, I never did fully address the Pyromarketing post you put up, but I think this series has run its course. I know that I have put several projects on hold in writing it—projects that actually pay!
I’m trying to find a way to make what I have written about here work in my own family. I don’t know how successful it will be, but I feel it has to start here with us. I can only hope that more of us Christians will rally together to make a difference in attacking work issues head on. Many of these issues are entrenched and resemble nothing less than Pandora’s Box. But something must be done, and with Christ’s strength and Spirit, I know we will triumph if we let Him work through us.
Blessings, and thanks for making through all 13 posts of The Christian & the Business World!
Previous post in this series: The Christian & the Business World #12: The Redemption of Corporate America, Part 5
Series beginning: The Christian & the Business World #1: My Qualifications for the Series
10 thoughts on “The Christian & the Business World #13: Radical Christian Workers Unite!”
Wow. Eye-opening series for me. Much to chew on and consider.
The concrete application portion is often the most challenging :).
It sounds like in some ways you want to replace the evils of capitalism with the evils of socialism. I would not be interested in your complete model, but I do applaud you for offering an alternative. There is mostly sameness in our Churches. Believers need many more options than what is presently available.
God does NOT care what economic system we use. If you examine closely the economic system he gave the Israelites, you’ll find a mix of capitalism, socialism, agriculturalism, and a few other things. Israel was expected to help the poor. They were required to leave part of their fields for travellers; they were required to leave unharvested produce and grain for gleaners.
The New Testament church practiced communism. “They had all things in common.” By definition, that’s communism.
Here’s the point: ANY economic system, when practiced by those informed by and practicing Christian principles, will function in a Godly manner. NO economic system, when practiced by those uninformed by and not practicing Christian principles, can function in a Godly manner.
The idea that “Christians are Capitalist” is Satanic.
You should have read the series. I specifically said in my first installment that I believed that most economic systems are workable in a Christian frameset, but that I believed that capitalism was one of the better of them.
In business terms, your series focuses on a ‘race to the bottom,’ though you call it Darwinism. Long and short, if one company pollutes a little more, lays off a little more, cuts corners on taxes, etc, other companies must or they will slowly lose profitability and go out of business. I find this to me more of a race to the bottom, rather than Darwinian survival of the fittest. Although the ‘selfish gene’ concept is close.
I personally think you are right on many points, specifically how we have gotten away from home based economies, that 2 working parent houses will have to drop one ball (at least) of education, family, or God, and that we can’t spend 10+ hrs per day at work, without God, and then expect to be true Christians.
So the crux of part 13 is ‘what to do about it?’ Through God anything is possible, but in my opinion we are beyond the point of no return on getting a Christian/long term business model that competes with the existing race to the bottom. The market simply won’t bear it.
So we are left with your idea of communal living. We have to bend the cost curve for families to spend more time as families, more time studying and teaching the word, which requires more time and less work. We will lose things – as you mentioned – such as health insurance and will need to come up with ideas. We will need to take care of one another and truly treat people that are in our community as family, as we should all be family. Our own farming will be integral to our new radically thrifty lifestyle, which will look nothing like modern ‘McMansions’ and suburbs as we not only reject consumerism as a trapping that forces us into 60 hour workweeks and modern American godlessness, but also as unnescessary and unaffodable.
What strikes me the most is how close this all seems to resemble the Amish way of life. They are having a race to the bottom too, as the wealth produced by our culture makes thier land increasingly valuable, expansion unaffordable, and slowly pushes them into less ideal areas of the country. Perhaps long term even the Amish will find that way of life unaffordable.
I also worry that with our focus on our own ‘community’ and inner family, that we would fall victim to the perception that plagues all communes – that we are cults, sheltering our people from the real world. I worry not about perception, because as Christians we should rejoice our persecution, but that our modern Church and indeed our modern culture was built on ‘best intentions’ just as this idea is.
In conclusion, I don’t have the answers or too many questions, but that you at least have a like minded soul out there who enjoyed your series, as well as your writings in general.
God Bless you,
Elsewhere, I refer to what you call “race to the bottom” as “lowest common denominator syndrome.” So I think we are on exactly the same page.
Everything you wrote in this comment is true. You are right; what I propose looks a lot like the Amish way of life. That has never been my ultimate intent, but as time goes by and I think about these issues more, that “Amish” outcome is inevitable and unavoidable. It WILL look Amish, albeit with a more modern twist on it and with less Pennsylvania Dutch. 😉
I also agree that even the Amish are feeling pressured, particularly as their communities grow. Your insights there are right on the money. They too are being squeezed by systemic changes they’ve never had to deal with before. A large Amish community lives 20 miles from my home, and my in-laws are right next to Holmes County, which is Ohio’s answer to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, so I’ve watched what is happening to them. They’ve had to adapt in ways that put stress on their families, traditions, and assumptions.
For more commentary along these lines, you should also read these two posts of mine:
Late to the show, Dan, but excellent series. It’s interesting to see this in the light of the fact that it’s 2010 and all that has happened.
Hi there! I’m pastor bong v. lacerna
i just want to challenge you by reading this comment. May be it sound annoying but its real.
In your business life maybe your time was dedicated to your business,thinking how to make it grow and become successful business man and woman in the christian world in the future.
maybe you are limited when come to evangelizing the people at your place.
This my challenge to you all out there business and professionals. You can still touch lives and bring them to Christ by letting your money moves.
How? Simple as this. I’m pasturing for almost 15 years, and sometimes I just do the walk cause i don’t any single money in my wallet, I try to eat just one meal for a day just to survive in the ministry just for a day.
If you want your some money worth just sow it, and it will return to you in many fold as the 2 Corinthians 9:6 to 11 you will reap more what you sows.
I have church which I’m pasturing right now, its a 5 year old church but still they could able to sustain my personal as their pastor, simple because most of my member are came the poor families.
I’m just throw a challenge to you business people out there, I’m knocking your heart, if you are being challenge I will give e mail below for your help in the future.
Mobile No. 09227193627
thank you in advance.
God bless the works of your hands.
In Christ Pastor bong V lacerna