On Being A Christian Businessman
It’s time for a small confession: I struggle with being a “Christian Businessman”. The struggle isn’t a moral one, as in “am I making decisions that are full of integrity, or God-honoring”. The struggle isn’t a business one, as in, “am I giving enough of our profits away to those in need”.
The struggle is a publicity one:
Do I publicly proclaim to identify with Christ, announcing via marketing, branding, and other media that we here at Wild Goose are a “Christian company” run by a “Christian businessman”? The benefits to this are clear, both from a business standpoint and religious standpoint: If I can identify myself, and my business, as “Christian”, I then immediately avail myself to a certain demographic that would has the potential to be highly supportive of our company mission, thus boosting sales.
Identifying ourselves as a Christian Business would also provide the opportunity to publicly spread the name of Christ to all those who come in contact with our brand. I have seen a number of companies, athletes, and artists do this very effectively—where the sharing of their faith is neither too subtle nor too obtrusive, thus making a good name for Christ-followers in the public eye.
There are also those who seemingly over-emphasize their faith-in-business, thus alienating the very public I assume they are trying to reach.
The flip side, of course, is hiding your faith so as to not alienate any audience. The problem with this mentality is that sometimes, Christian business owners aren’t really doing anything to distinguish themselves from the rest of the business owners out there, and any sort of “evangelism” is completely lost.
So where is the balance? On one hand, we have Jesus saying that we should not hide a light under a basket, while at the same time he says that we should be shrewd and wise and live “quiet lives”.
I think where I land personally is with Peter (who spent lots of time neither hiding his light under a basket nor living a quiet life, yet followed Jesus with all that he was), where he says to “be prepared to give an answer” to the hope that lies within. Of course, if we aren’t living lives that solicit questions, then we won’t really have many opportunities to “answer”, which makes things all the more challenging.
As a Christian business owner, if I’m not running a business that causes people to stop and ask questions about why we do what we do, then I can “prepare” until I’m blue in the face but will never have a chance to “answer” anything.
And so my struggle lies in not knowing which camp to identify with. I could go all-out Christian, and be in that camp, or I could rest my head in the “closet Christian” world, where my faith is nothing but an asterisk on my life.
But rather, I choose to walk the line, as carefully as I can, of balancing on a very thin line where I pour my heart and soul into a business model that aims to glorify Christ with everything we do, yet being subtle enough about the motivation behind the model so as to engage as many people as possible with it.
And you know what? I’ve never really been asked why we do what we do…
I have, however, been asked more times than I can count, why I named the company Wild Goose Coffee Roasters.
And that, of course, allows me to explain how Celtic Christians would go hunting after wild geese, and the pursuit of the wild goose would lead them on crazy, unpredictable adventures—so much so that they gave that name to God as a term of endearment.
I get to explain that going on a “wild goose chase” was something that led to the thrill of a lifetime, for God’s plans were far better and more adventurous than anything they could have scripted for themselves.
I get to explain that my personal journey with this business has been just that: as I chase the Wild Goose, nothing has ever gone according to script. Rather, it has been way better than anything I could have ever penned myself, and so I named the company as homage to that journey.
And so, while I set out to have a business model that solicits questions, even as we approach three-quarters of a million pounds of food given away, the questions aren’t fielded about the mission; they’re fielded about the name. And who could have predicted that?
Chalk another one up to the Wild Goose…