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Yes, Sometimes We Can Serve Both God and Mammon
Image: Photo courtesy of Jessica Lynch and Charlie McGlynn

Yes, Sometimes We Can Serve Both God and Mammon

My congregation's experiment in using market values to grow our mission.
When I pitched the idea of a business-based social entrepreneurial competition to church leaders, some presumed I'd lost my mind.

They had a point. So many foundational business values run counter to the gospel, be it the primacy of shareholders over service, gluttonous profits, avaricious career ambition, or accumulating too much capital. To prosper financially may not be a biblical vice, but greed, injustice, and extravagance lurk in prosperity's shadows.

On the other hand, Jesus also said, "all things are possible with God" (Matt 19:26). Mission can redeem the better aspects of the market to serve kingdom ends. Virtues of honesty and hard work, along with love and fairness, all improve the way we do business. To believe in Jesus is to value all these things. Granted, to believe in Jesus is also to embrace humiliation and loss, and loss is no way to profit—unless you buy the gospel. To take a providential windfall and risk it all on untested idealists sounded as ridiculous as changing the world through death on a cross. It takes faith for good business sense to make good mission sense.

Breaking New Ground

Being the new minister, I had relational capital to spend. The congregation tentatively went along, walking by faith rather than sight. We named the initiative Innové, a French word meaning "breaking new ground"—or perhaps better, "digging a grave," in keeping with the gospel's promise of resurrection power.

We designed an evaluation process that maximized our business-minded congregation--from technology, marketing, assessment, and coaching to advising, planning, training, budgeting, execution and evaluation. More than 150 members volunteered their talents. We worried that after marshaling this wealth of resources we would fail to attract applicants. But worry has a beautiful way of converting to prayer.


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Displaying 3–7 of 10 comments

Rick Dalbey

October 11, 2013  11:30am

Paul literally gave an early taste of fulfillment of this Matthew 25 scripture. He was persecuting Christians, taking away their homes and throwing them in jail. Jesus stopped him on the road to Damascus and said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?” Saul echoes the very question of Matthew 25, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” Jesus’ identification with His disciples is so deep that if you mistreat a believer for their faith, you are mistreating Jesus in disguise. Saul was imprisoning the brothers and sisters of Jesus exactly because they were Christians and Jesus said, you are persecuting Me, which surprised Saul. There is nothing wrong with building non-profit Payday loan businesses, building printing shops or mobile grocery markets, or other businesses that benefit society, it is right and good, but this is not the primary mission of the church. Jesus was very clear about our mission and then we see it played out in Acts.

Rick Dalbey

October 11, 2013  11:11am

Yvette, when the disciples ask at the beginning of matthew 24 “when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the END OF THE AGE?” He spends two chapters answering what the times will be like. He describes them with 3 parables ending with the judgement. The residents of earth are sent to hell for mistreating Christians who are persecuted and imprisoned for faith. He says, “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine.” Who are His brothers? He tells us several times in Matthew. “And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” His brothers are disciples. This is not a passage urging us to alleviate world poverty and visit all prisoners in the world or risk going to hell. Its subject is the treatment if disciples in the end times. Some mistakenly use this passage to encourage social engineering.

yvette moore

October 11, 2013  8:54am

Well the title was off-putting, but it did its job: it got me to read the article, which I liked. This church's program is kind of like a U.S. version of the microcredit programs many churches and nonprofit fund in developing countries to help impoverished women earn funds to send their children to school etc. except in this case the loan wasn't micro. I always thought we needed those kinds of microcredit programs here to help poor families themselves or others who don't have money to start their business. Banks are only an option if you already have money. Microcredit loans would be especially helpful when a person has a criminal history and can't get hired. To Rick: I get your offense at the title, but using money to help people help themselves is not serving Mammon; it is mission that helps "the least of these," Christ's brothers and sisters. That's a good thing. There's plenty of Mammon worship in our society today, but this isn' it.

William Halverson

October 11, 2013  4:49am

Interesting article with a peculiar title. It is hoped that most read past the title. Truly, God and earthly wealth do not mix well. John 16:13 However,when He,the Spirit of truth,has come,He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority,but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. Galatians 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Romans 8:16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Psalm 51:11 Do not put me away from before you, or take your holy spirit from me. 2Ch 16:9 For the eyes of Jehovah run to and fro in all the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him.

Jim sparks

October 11, 2013  1:46am

No, we can't "serve both God and mammon". However, we can rightly and carefully use mammon under the direction of God for the glory of God and the extension of His kingdom. This, in fact, is what the article states - even if the title is poorly worded.


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