Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Review: How the Church Fails Businesspeople

When I saw this book on the shelf, I was immediately drawn to it - maybe it's having spent my "formative years" in a rich, suburban congregation where most members were businesspeople, but my heart goes out to  the materially rich of this world - so many of them are so lost, so drained by their efforts.  So many of them have bought into - hook, line, and sinker - the worldly definition of success, and have found it lacking.  And so many of them come to church seeking something deeper, and hear only that "Jesus loves poor people" and "Jesus ate with 'sinners and blue-collar workers'".  So often, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven" is - explicitly or implicitly - translated as "It is impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, and likewise, it is impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven." 

But when we say that - implicitly or explicitly - we are saying 1) that some people are outside the redemptive ability of Christ, 2) that these people are better off just leaving, because they don't belong in church.  We lose the opportunity to share the Gospel - the only thing that can free them from the hamster wheel of "success" - and to help them live out their vocations in a Godly fashion. 

Because Jesus doesn't cast businesspeople aside.  John C. Knapp, who authors this book, reminds us of numerous Biblical passages in both the Old and New Testament that either explicitly or implicitly lift up the business vocation.  Those in business are only criticized when they live this vocation in an unethical or immoral fashion. 

And so Knapp works through the Biblical and theological material on business as a vocation, including reflection on the historical development of "vocation" as a concept extending beyond "be a priest".  He discusses the current church approach to business (mostly, don't talk about it), and the business approach to church (the same).  On the basis of a series of interviews with Christian businesspeople, Knapp has come up with recommendations for how the Church can start to be more helpful and engaged with its members in the business world.  Some of these recommendations are: visit people at work, preach about business, get to know people and their vocations, don't be afraid of lifting up vocations, be clear about your availability to discuss ethical issues, don't say stupid or overly simplistic things. 

A lot of these, of course, are relevant to all vocations - but perhaps the Church could work on being more clearly supportive of those in the business world, and thereby help our businesspeople to live their vocations in light of their faith. 

Bottom line: if you want to know more about what businesspeople are thinking and would like from the Church, check out this book.  It's a quick-but-helpful read, and will give you a lot to think about!

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