THE IMAGE OF GOD, THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST AND THE PURPOSE OF MANAGEMENT – Part 3

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Recall from my thesis presented in an earlier posting today (March 22) that:

A) The image of God in humans established at Creation has been marred and needs to be restored. The purpose of management and management education are directly related to this restoration process.

B) God’s great plan of redemption includes the restoration of His image in human beings.

C) The restoration process involves imitating the character of Christ.

The Story of Scripture is that the image of God that has been marred needs restoration and God’s plan of redemption, first laid out in Genesis 3:15, includes the restoration of that image. Consider these passages relevant the restoration process:

In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Eph 4:22-24)

Put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Col 3:10)

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; (2 Pet 1:2-5)

The process of renewal is described in different ways in Scripture:

  • Establishing a relationship with God by faith (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24);
  • letting the transcript of God’s character (his Law) restore us (Deuteronomy 6:6; Psalm 19:7);
  • letting the word of Christ dwell in us (Colossians 3:16);
  • having Christ live in us (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:20);
  • putting on the clothing of Christ’s character (Isaiah 61:10; Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27);
  • beholding his character and becoming changed (Hebrews 12:2);
  • imitating God’s character in our daily life (Ephesians 5:1).The most direct, general statement about imitating God is in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 5:1; see also Leviticus 19:2; Matthew 5:48; Luke 6:36; 1 Peter 1:15-16; 1 John 4:11)

Restoration is a divine process. Restoration comes as a result of the Holy Spirit changing our own characters modelled after the character of Christ. Truly, this requires the same creative power of that was exhibited at Creation when the earth and all it contains was first made; however, we are also called to be co-workers with God in this process.

What does this mean for the purpose of management? At the bare minimum it means the following:

  • Faithful Christian managers who desire to found their work on Scriptural principles will see that the purpose of their work is not merely to help individual workers. It is not merely to help the organization accomplish the organizational goals. While the purpose of managerial work embraces these things, there is a deeper purpose at stake, namely, that the purpose of the manager is to be a leader in co-working with God in the process of restoring His image in humans.
  • Restoration of the image of God must be the central, ultimate goal of all managerial work, not merely a side-bar comment. Restoration of the image of God is not something that happens merely in a church pew during corporate worship. It is not something that occurs only during private devotions of prayer and reading the Bible. To be true to the biblical Story, this restoration process must comprehend the daily work of the manager, it frames the larger purpose of managerial work from the biblical perspective.
  • Every worker the manager deals with bears the marred image of God. Every worker deserves respect. But the restoration of God’s image goes much deeper than this. The manager has been given responsibility to lead fellow workers in the organization along the pathway toward renewal.
  • The focus of this renewal is the character of Christ as expressed in His life and work. The character traits shown by Christ are carried in several grand themes of Scripture (which I will explore in later postings in this series).
  • Such a purpose can be embraced by the faithful manager who works within the publically traded for-profit company, the private firm, the non-profit organization and the government organization. Even if the culture of business forbids the manager to speak openly about the Bible or faith in Jesus Christ, the manager can still advocate on behalf of the character of Christ on a daily basis when policies are created, when decisions are made, when actions are taken.

All this suggestions some radical implications for the purpose of business education in the Christian university. Business education is not merely to help students do well in the ETS Major Field Test in Business that many students take during their senior year. It is not about becoming expert in maximizing Net Present Value or strategic thinking for organizational goals. It is not merely about researching and publishing the results of research. Our core purpose as business educators is to lead students to embrace the process of restoration of the image of God in us and in them as together we both prepare to be co-workers with God in the restoration of His image in others in the context of the marketplaces of the world where we serve. Such a task cannot be left to the work of the religion professor, the campus chaplain or the church pastor. Business professors and students alike must participate in this process if the context of business is one of the settings in which God’s character is restored in humans. From the perspective of Scripture this is our highest calling, our deepest purpose for serving at a Christian university.

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THE IMAGE OF GOD, THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST AND THE PURPOSE OF MANAGEMENT – Part 2

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By way of review, my thesis for this series of postings can be described in the following propositions based on Scripture

A) The image of God in humans established at Creation has been marred and needs to be restored. The purpose of management is directly related to this restoration process.

B) God’s great plan of redemption includes the restoration of His image in human beings.

C) The restoration process involves imitating the character of Christ.

D) The character of Christ is expressed conceptually in the Ten Commandments, visibly in the life and work of Jesus Christ, and through several “grand themes” of the Bible.

E) Management is an important setting where God is at work restoring His image and where the grand themes of Scripture can be expressed.

F) The grand themes are the fundamental principles that are at the foundation of business management work: the manager’s functions, roles, skills, and processes.

This and the next few postings will begin to unpack these propositions with both Scripture passages and examples from the work of contemporary managers. As we unpack these propositions, the purpose of management from a biblical point of view will begin to take shape. Along the way I will suggest some radical implications for management education in Christian colleges and universities.

Several scriptures present Jesus Christ as the cornerstone including the following: Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 6:48-49; 20:17-18; 1 Corinthians 3:10-11. I find these passages from Ephesians and Corinthians especially interesting in this discussion of the restoration of the image of God:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Eph 2:19-22)

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Cor 3:9)

The Image of God. Like so many elements of the biblical perspective on business, we can benefit by starting with the Creation story. It is in the Creation account that we find the first managerial responsibilities given to human beings by God. It is also at Creation that we find out who we are.

The first description of the image of God is found in Genesis:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:26-28)

A related passage is found in Psalm 8:

When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, The moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him? Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God, And dost crown him with glory and majesty! Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Thy name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:3-9)

There is not enough space here to explore all there is to know about the image of God except to say that this image was marred when Adam and Eve sinned. Many books and articles have been written regarding what the image of God means. There is no substitute for the management scholar becoming familiar with these biblical ideas. If you would like some suggestions, write me and I will give you some resources to find in your own university library.

The image of God was created in the human race and the work of restoration, it would seem, must embrace all of humanity. Whatever part Christians in business play in the restoration of God’s image, such work must extend to all of humanity, not just to Christians. In the next posting I will explore the restoration process a little more and suggest some radical implications for managerial work and management education.

THE IMAGE OF GOD, THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST AND THE PURPOSE OF MANAGEMENT – Part 1

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This blog will introduce a completely different way to look at management with students in a Christian university, a way that is based on a few deep Scriptural principles. The few blogs that follow will explore this a bit more. Accordingly, this posting introduces a short series on the topic of the purpose of managerial work from the point of view of Scripture.

These concepts have become insights developed from a paper that I presented a week ago at a conference of like-minded scholars who want to find the biblical foundation for various academic disciplines. The paper is titled “The Purpose of Business.” I will present an abstract but framed in terms of managers.

The question of purpose in the field of management is important for the Christian who wants interweave the Bible into the conversation about management and business. One might even say that the purpose of management seen from the Scripture point of view should get into the conversation early. Unless purpose is clearly understood, the management journey for a Christian can be unfocused and ambiguous.

Perspectives on Management. A variety of points of view can be used when having a conversation about the subject. Do you want to talk about the work of a manager? No problem. We can talk about management functions (Henri Fayol: leadership, organizing, planning, controlling, etc.). We can talk about managerial roles (Henry Mintzberg). How about the various skills that managers need (Katz: technical, interpersonal, conceptual)? Management processes provide another way to look at management. Economic sectors reveal that there are some subtle differences in how managers do their work. Differences in national cultures also is a great way to explore what it means to be a manager (Hofstede). Or, we can talk about the various levels of management and some of the differences we see in practice: We can simply talk about the work of a top-level leader or explore the interesting experiences of mid-level managers who sometimes are “caught” in the middle between front-line workers and top-echelon managers.

All of these perspectives are useful and are often covered in standard Principles of Management textbooks. In my textbook Management: A Faith-based Perspective (Pearson Education, 2012) I address these in Chapter 1. What the secular textbooks do not do is address the question of management from a biblical perspective.

Briefly, my thesis can be described in the following propositions based on Scripture:

A) The image of God in humans established at Creation has been marred and needs to be restored. The purpose of management is directly related to this restoration process.

B) God’s great plan of redemption includes the restoration of His image in human

C) The restoration process involves imitating the character of Christ.

D) The character of Christ is expressed conceptually in the Ten Commandments, visibly in the life and work of Jesus Christ, and through several “grand themes” of the Bible.

E) Management is an important setting where God is at work restoring His image and where the grand themes of Scripture can be expressed.

F) The grand themes of Scripture are also the fundamental principles that are at the foundation of business management work: the manager’s functions, roles, skills, and processes. Faithful managers become co-workers with God in the process of restoration of His image in us.

In follow-up postings I will begin to unpack these propositions with both Scripture passages and examples from the work of contemporary managers.