WHAT TYPE OF FAITH TO INTEGRATE?

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Many of us actively involved in the Christian Business Faculty Association are interested in the process of integrating faith with what happens in the classroom. We are interested in discerning the biblical foundations for our various business disciplines. Faith integration as a perspective is gathering momentum among all types of Christian colleges and universities.

One question worth asking is this: What type of faith are you integrating in your classroom and in your scholarship?

“Belief that is not brought in to action is not truly faith. Biblical faith is not mere belief or mental assent to the proposition that God exists or belief in the truthfulness of what the Bible says when it talks about God or belief in Jesus as your personal Savior. This is a part but not the whole. Biblical faith is more! “Biblical faith is not a feeling of certainty that you have correct beliefs. Thus, biblical faith is not a mere sense of psychological certainty which you use to remove all questions, even the difficult ones. Rather, biblical faith involves living a life that is committed to a relationship with God and his way of living even when we do not feel especially close to him and especially when we still have questions…faith is action-oriented, not just psychological or emotional affection. It involves committed faithfulness of your whole being in a social context. In addition, true faith is not just an individualistic way of personal thinking; it is commitment lived in community where the great biblical story themes are shown in action. Accordingly, faith is not merely what you say; it is what you do with others that shows in action what you say. This level of commitment is not something that humans can produce of their own will. What an amazing gift of God faithfulness is.”  Cafferky, Michael E. (2015). Business ethics in biblical perspective: A comprehensive introduction (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press), p. 24.

Alister McGrath describes three types of faith this way:

  • “Faith is about believing that certain things are true.” (p. 77)
  • “Faith is trust. When I say that I believe in the promises of God, I am declaring that I trust them. It is more than a recognition that these promises exist; it is an awareness that they can be trusted and relied upon. Faith is not something purely intellectual, enlightening the mind while leaving the heart untouched. Faith is the response of our whole persons to the person of God. It is a joyful reaction on our part to the overwhelming divine love we see revealed in Jesus Christ.” (p. 78)
  • “Faith is entry into the promises of God, receiving what they have to offer. Having recognized that the promises exist, and that they can be trusted, it is necessary to act upon them – to enter into them, and benefit from them… the first two stages of faith prepare the way for the third; without it, they are incomplete.” (p. 79) (McGrath, 1992, pp. 77-79)

McGrath, Alister (1992) Bridge-Building: Effective Christian Apologetics (Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity Press).

So, I ask again: What type of faith are you integrating in your classroom and in your scholarship? It makes a difference!

Discussion Questions

  • How does your teaching and scholarship lead students to faith as belief in the truthfulness of certain propositions about God and the Bible?
  • How does your teaching and scholarship lead students to trust the validity of God’s promises?
  • How does your teaching and scholarship encourage or point the way to what it means to act upon the principles of a flourishing life (elements of God’s character) and thereby experience the benefits that these principles envision?

CROSS-CULTURAL MANAGEMENT & THE EXPERIENCE OF JESUS

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I share on a rotating basis in the leadership of an adult Bible study group in my congregation. This week our study group considered six stories recorded in the New Testament that are evidence of the cross-cultural contact that Jesus Christ had during his three and a half years of public ministry. While preparing for the lesson, it struck me that the biblical record offers relevance for managers.

Most principles of management textbooks, including the one I wrote (Pearson Education, Inc., 2012, pp. 104-137), have a chapter on cross-cultural management. Instructors may have some latitude in choosing which chapters to “cover” from a textbook during the school term, but it is difficult to completely escape the issues relevant to international management that can be considered in a principles of management course.

The Scriptures mention the word “nation” and “nations” over five hundred times (New American Standard Version – King James Version is similar in its use of the term). The term “Gentile” and “Gentiles” appear over one hundred times, mostly in the New Testament. The term “world” is used over two hundred forty times. There are other terms in Scripture that are used to refer to people in other lands or countries. The Bible writers, as a group tended to have a perspective that encompassed a region wider than their own country.

In the New Testament we find interesting stories of Jesus making cross-cultural contacts within his own region.  Here is a summary to use with students:

  • (John 4:4-30) Jesus meets with a Samaritan woman who becomes instrumental in leading Jesus to her village.
  • (Matthew 8:5-13) A Roman army officer looks for Jesus to heal his servant.
  • (Luke 8:26-39) Jesus, in the region of the Gadarenes (on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, casts out demons from a man.
  • (Matthew 15:21-28) Jesus casts out a demon from the child of a Canaanite woman.
  • (Luke 17:11-19) Jesus heals ten lepers in the region of Samaria. One was a Samaritan.
  • (John 12:20-23) Greeks look for Jesus just a few days before his death and resurrection.

Don’t forget that the Apostle Peter had a cross-cultural experience (Acts 10 – 11) and the Apostle Paul also made several cross-cultural contacts during his ministry.

One way to handle these stories in the context of a management course is to assign each story to a different group of students. Ask each group to read the text carefully and record their observations regarding the cross-cultural experiences that Jesus had. In discussions that follow this assignment, students can be asked to share their observations and conclusions. Another way to encourage students to consider the Scripture record is to assign a short paper where the students read some or all of these stories, report their observations for each story and the stories as a group, and then draw lessons for managers. Encourage students to consult Bible commentaries as part of their study so that they can make use of the scholarship of Bible scholars.

Here are a few observations that can be made regarding this group of stories (you will be able to add to these during your discussion with your students):

  • Jesus did not limit his ministry to people of his own cultural subgroup.
  • Jesus didn’t travel far to engage people cross-culturally. Opportunity for cross-cultural contact may be nearer than you think. A person may not have to travel thousands of miles to have cross-cultural contact in a management situation. In most metropolitan areas of the world cross-cultural contact part of the living and working arrangements.
  • Jesus did not seek to avoid cross-cultural contact. Instead, he seemed to welcome it. In his own instructions to his disciples, he indicated that their work would involve cross-cultural contact.
  • In the story about the Samaritan woman (John 4) Jesus initiates the conversation around a basic human need (for water). He places himself in a vulnerable position. Then he lets the woman drive the direction of the conversation.
  • In some of these stories, people from other cultures had heard about Jesus and came seeking the opportunity to talk with him or to benefit from his ministry. This indicates that news about his work among the Jews spread cross-culturally by word of mouth to other segments of society and even across borders (from Judea to Samaria). When people from other cultures came to him, he did not shrink from the opportunity to talk with them.

Discussion Questions

  • What observations can be made regarding these stories individually and as a group?
  • What lessons might we draw from these stories for the work of Christian managers?
  • From a biblical perspective, what are the opportunities in cross-cultural management?
  • From a biblical perspective, what are the risks in cross-cultural management?
  • Critical thinking: To what degree is it a valid use of Scripture to read stories such as these and then attempt to draw conclusions for the work of a manager?

EGALITARIANISM IN COMPENSATION: IS IT BIBLICAL?

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In one of my April, 2015 posts “CEO Pledges to Cut His Own Pay…” I related the story that hit the news earlier this year regarding Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, and his decision to raise the pay of 100% of his workers up to the same $70,000 (phased in over a three year period) while reducing his own pay down to the same amount. A surprising example of egalitarianism in pay, huh?

I found that students are interested in this story. It sparks good classroom discussion. Well, if you have been following this story in the news, you know that it didn’t go away.

Is egalitarianism biblical? This is a debatable question. There are faithful Christians on both sides of the debate. If you choose to engage students in this debate, you may want to read the following article: Elliott, John H. (2002). Jesus was not an egalitarian. A critique of an anachronistic and idealist theory. Biblical Theology Bulletin: A Journal of Bible and Theology 32, 75-91.

Proponents of an egalitarian view turn to the following in support:

  • The book of Acts of the Apostles describes the early church as egalitarian where they held all things in common. Nothing was offered after this to recommend anything different (Acts 2:45; 4)
  • Jesus directed the rich young ruler to sell all that he had and give to the poor (Mark 10:1-31; Luke 18:22)
  • Jesus included concerns for those at the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder.
  • The ancient Hebrew principle of sabbatical and year of jubilee shows that God did not intend for wide economic disparities to exist between people.
  • Jesus directed his disciples to sell their possessions and give to charity (Luke 12:33).
  • We are all created equal in God’s sight. There should be no distinction between persons (Romans 10:12; Colossians 3:11).
  • Jesus came to this earth with no special status (Matt 8:20; Luke 9:58).
  • Leaders should be servants (Matthew 18:1-5).
  • Paul the Apostle called for equality of members of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:24-25).

John Elliott and others see it differently. Here are some of the supporting ideas to his thesis that the “Jesus Movement” in the early church was not egalitarian:

  • Jesus did not call for the elimination of social and economic differences.
  • In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul the Apostle’s concern was for social harmony not the removal of differences. Paul’s discussion of leaders makes this clear (1 Corinthians 12:28-30).
  • Inclusiveness of people at the lowest end of the socio-economic ladder is inclusiveness. This is not the same as “social levelling” or abolishing inequities.
  • Jesus said that the poor would always be with us (Matthew 26:11).
  • There is no explicit command for equality in every regard in either the Old Testament or the New Testament.
  • The Bible never provides a comprehensive definition of what equality means.
  • Jesus’ teaching assumes an underlying difference in status and hierarchy. The servant is not above the master (Luke 6:40); Household owners are superior to slaves (Luke 12:42-48); parents are in a superior position with respect to children (Mark 7:11-13); some slaves enjoy a higher rank than do others (Luke 19:12-27); some places of social honor are greater than others (Luke 14:7-24); generosity and sharing toward the poor assumes that there are differences (this is not the same as equalization).
  • The experience of the early church (reported in Acts 2-4) did not become a general policy. If it had continued, the result would simply have been the transfer of wealth from the Christians to the non-Christians with the Christians ending up in a weaker position economically.

To these pros and cons you can add what you have gathered from your own study of the Scripture.

Discuss this Issue With your Students:

  1. Is an egalitarian approach to compensation biblical?
  2. What is the definition of the word “egalitarisn?”
  3. What is the definition of the term “equality?”
  4. Does egalitarian approach to wages work in a production department of a factory?
  5. Does egalitarian wage policy work in the sales department?
  6. What unintended consequences (positive and negative) might occur if the wages of all workers are identical?
  7. In the case of Gravity Payments, the announcement of the increase in wages was greeted with applause. Within a few weeks problems started arising. The egalitarian approach to compensation has already resulted in disharmony among workers. Rumors began circulating that a customer cancelled its contract with Gravity Payments. Some workers complain that the pay of slackers is the same as those who are high producers. Is this criticism valid?

BIBLICAL LITERACY & THE BUSINESS INSTRUCTOR

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If you asked your students who the Bible characters Cain and Abel are, would they be able to answer correctly? Or, would they like some, say that these were two disciples of Jesus? Even if they could tell you that Cain and Abel are two sons of Adam and Eve, would your students know Cain’s occupation and Abel’s occupation? Would they know who is the first person mentioned in the Bible as the owner of a vineyard?

Many people have heard about Abraham, but how many of your students could tell you the story about the time when resources were running scarce for Abraham and his cousin Lot and which one of them took the leadership to find a solution to problem? How many of your students could tell you under which king mentioned in the Bible there was so much trust in the organization that there was no need for internal controls on cash wages paid to workers?

Since the 1990s various surveys have been conducted, both nationally and internationally, among Protestants and Roman Catholics, to discern the level of biblical literacy (sometimes called “Christian literacy”). The results are not encouraging and the situation is not getting better. From these surveys we know that people with college education do better answering basic Bible knowledge questions than do people with a high school education. People who attend church do better than those who do not attend church. Even so, a small proportion of people are growing up with minimal literacy when it comes to Bible knowledge. Keep in mind that most students have no more than a high school education when they enter as first-year college students at your school.

Many have heard the names of the famous people mentioned in the Bible: Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Joshua, Samson, David, Goliath, Solomon, Daniel, Jesus, Peter, Paul and so forth. But how many people can tell you the stories that are connected with these people? That’s a different matter altogether!  And how many can tell you the deeper meaning of some of their stories? How many could tell you accurately the essence of the deep biblical themes relevant to business (holiness, truth, loving kindness, wisdom, righteousness, justice and others)?

What difference does this make for business? Understanding the basic stories and themes of Scripture are crucial to understanding the biblical worldview on business. Many stories have economic or business element. Biblical literacy is the building blocks for theological literacy necessary for deeply understanding what the Scripture says to business professionals. Furthermore, showing students how knowledge of business can enrich their understanding of Scripture might be an encouragement to some who find it boring to read the Bible.

More to the point, have you ever thought about your responsibilities as a Christian business professor to contribute to the solution of biblical illiteracy? If faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17), isn’t it possible that the study of business can present opportunities to hear the word and thereby experience faith for the marketplace? Should the problem of biblical illiteracy be given to religion faculty, pastors and priests to correct? Framed in more blunt terms, on what basis should the Christian business classroom abdicate its role (some would say responsibility) in teaching the biblical foundations for business?

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 New American Standard Version)

“And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 New American Standard Version)

Discussion Questions

  1. Does the Apostle Paul, a businessman and evangelist, in his second letter to Timothy exclude business when referring to the importance of Scripture for preparation for “every good work?”
  2. On what basis should the business instructor leave the problem of Christian illiteracy to the religion scholars, chaplains and pastors to solve for their business students?
  3. How can the business instructor contribute to the solution to the problem of biblical illiteracy?

FOLLOW UP ON WORK AS AN ALTAR OF WORSHIP

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My summer MBA course Integrating Faith & Business is complete. Just as in previous years, this year’s on-campus group of students brought high energy into the discussions. It was truly a pleasure studying with them.

In follow up to a previous posting (June 30, 2015) on “Work = An Altar of Worship” I want to share something that more than one student said during the final class period. I asked the students to reflect on what stood out in their mind the most during the course. The students reported that when we discussed work as an altar, this both surprised them and help them make sense of the legitimacy of their career in terms of serving God. It played an important role in helping them clarify their calling.

ARE CONTEXT, ATMOSPHERE AND TONE ENOUGH?

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I assume that if you regularly read this blog, you either teach management, organizational behaviour, organizational ethics or a related subject in a Christian university. Or, you are interested in Christian higher education particularly as it relates to business disciplines.

After spending twenty years serving others in a career in healthcare administration and I began teaching in a school of business that happened to be an academic unit of a Christian university, I assumed that if the mission of the university was real, it must be present and accounted for in every discipline, every classroom, every semester.

Boy did I have something to learn! At that time engaging students in dialogue about issues of religious faith was daunting for me. I was still “back-filling” knowledge in the disciplines of management and business ethics trying to grasp the theories and the contributions of the influential thinkers that have shaped the disciplines.

Few people on campus at that time, let alone the school of business, were talking about faith integration in the classroom. It was not a topic that appeared on the agenda for faculty meetings. Yet every now and again I would see the words of the institutional mission. I wondered how this mission was supposed to be extended into my own work. Apparently, like religious experience, the scholar’s experience of bringing issues of religious faith into my scholarship was a private matter not to be discussed in the open, not to be studied, researched, experimented with or planned for as a community of learners. This, it seemed, was expected to be an individual matter, not a community matter. Perhaps this was not the intention of the institutional Board of Trustees, administrators or the heads of academic departments. But this shared value (culture) of silence and community inaction concerned me.

One day I asked a more seasoned scholar about this. His reply was given in terms of the need to protect academic freedom. Professors, it seems, do not want someone dictating to them what they should and should not teach in the classroom (within limits of course). Professors get pretty sensitive about this sort of thing. Okay, I get that. But freedom is never isolated on its own. Freedom, to be effective and honorable, is inseparable from responsibility.

The twelve years that have passed have led me to ponder whether or not it is enough to have a business school located on the same campus of a Christian university. Is geographical proximity enough? Is context and atmosphere provided by the larger campus enough for business students studying at a Christian college or university?

At this point, I have come to the belief that the Christian context for learning in business is necessary but not sufficient. First, the business school and its students contributes to the larger context, atmosphere and tone of the campus as a whole. If the business school is basically secular in approach to teaching (except for the tone set by the professor in the classroom), this is the contribution that the school of business (the professors and students combined) makes to the larger learning community of which we are a part. Second, from a structural point of view, if the “center of gravity” for a college and university is in the activities managed by the academic departments, then the institutional mission, if it is valid and more than mere words on a page, must be present in these academic activities on a daily and weekly basis. Third, religion scholars may not be teaching much in the way of business (and other disciplines) since this is typically not their area of expertise. Thus the question began to haunt me: Who will teach religion as it applies to the practice of business if the business professors don’t do this?

We might say that the institutional mission must be present in the courses taught by the school of religion, present in the chapel programs, and evident in the worship services. Business majors, after all, must attend these just like students who are pursuing other majors. But, I ask: Is not this same mission also necessary to be seen in the accounting classroom, the marketing course, the management syllabus, and the ethics lectures and case studies.

One argument that I’ve heard is that the mission must be present in the school of business in the ways that business professors treat students and the atmosphere or tone of the business classroom. Having a devotional thought and prayer is a good way to set the tone. If we are fair with students, courteous with students, if we pray at the beginning of the class period, showing concern for the issues that students face, these are the ways that we bring faith into the classroom by setting the tone and atmosphere. But course content must focus on teaching the best practices of business. Leave the teaching of religion to the religion professors, the pastors, the campus chaplains.

Having wrestled with this question over and over for twelve years, I have concluded that atmosphere, tone and context is important. By themselves they are insufficient. If we don’t bring the issues of faith into the dialogue with students about the big questions of the discipline, we are leaving on the table some of the very things that the center of gravity would call for. If we do this, as professors we are doing students and ourselves a disservice, providing less value than is being promised to them and their families in the words of the institutional mission. In this, it seems to me, lies an important moral issue we cannot escape.

You might want to discuss this question of institutional mission with your students or fellow faculty members.

Discussion Questions

  1. To what degree should issues of the Bible and religion be present in the course content on a daily or weekly basis?
  2. Is atmosphere, tone and context sufficient?
  3. How can the institutional mission be brought into the center of gravity in terms of the academic or intellectual activities?

WORK = AN ALTAR OF WORSHIP

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During the summer I teach an interesting MBA course titled Integrating Faith & Business. It is much different than the typical business course and one of the ways our MBA degree is distinctively different from other MBA degrees.

During a recent class session we had an exciting discussion regarding the deeper significance of a person’s work. Work is not just secular. It is an altar of worship. I am not the only scholar who has recognized this, but this theme has become an important part of my teaching business students.

This recent class session created an unbelievable dynamic discussion. It helped some students see for the first time that work is not just work for money. It is something bigger for society and for God.

I handed out a sheet of paper with the following information and questions:

Given a list of occupations, discuss how God is at work through human effort in each one. (If you prefer, divide up the list among your group members, give an assignment to each group member to present a proposal for a few of these and then group members respond to the proposals.)

    • Bank manager
    • Factory assembly line worker
    • Building maintenance worker (heating, air conditioning, electrical, plumbing)
    • Off-shore oil pump operator
    • Investment banker
    • Accounts payable clerk
    • Transit bus driver
    • Air traffic controller
    • Member of the House of Representatives or Senate
    • Chef
    • Registered Nurse
    • Urban police officer
    • Farmer in subSahara Africa
    • Coal miner
    • Tour guide for families on vacation

What other occupations would make an interesting conversation about God at work through human effort?

What is the sacred dimension of your current work, even if your work only part time is a full time student, volunteer, or if you work at home (but not for pay).