How can businesspeople advance the Christian faith? I was asking this as a business student in my 20s and then as a young professional. But in the writings of one of America's most brilliant pastors, theologians and writers I discovered that my question was not new and good answers had already been written.
In the 1740s Jonathan Edwards was witnessing The First Great Awakening and he wrote a small booklet called “Thoughts On The Revival." In it he offered three clear ways business people could contribute to the spread of the gospel.
Edwards marveled that those with wealth and honor can have a strange shyness about their faith in Jesus, “as though they were ashamed of it.” They are careful, when they should be confident, afraid when they should be bold. He called for fresh zeal, like that of King David in Scripture:
“In this day of bringing up the ark, they ought to be like David, that great king of Israel, who made himself vile before the ark; and as he was the highest in honour and dignity among God’s people, so he thought it became him to be foremost in zeal.”
Business leaders who are passionate Christians can greatly influence others towards faith in Jesus.
We're all tempted to live as if earth was our home, but this is especially true for those with the means to build their own kingdoms and order their lives according to their will. But Jonathan Edwards believed that “If some of our rich men would give one quarter of their estates to promote this work, they would act a little as if they were designed for the kingdom of heaven.”
Generosity is a rare and beautiful mystery. Scripture calls it "an act of grace." When we give we remind our own hearts and proclaim to the world that our treasure is greater than silver and gold. We are in possession of something more valuable than money.
When business and professional people see Jesus and his salvation as their truest treasure, they're prepared to freely give the one thing the world holds onto most fiercely: money.
3. Gospel Patronage
Christian giving has the opportunity to go beyond philanthropy. Our beliefs lead us to alleviate suffering for people, but also care for the souls of men of women. Edwards advised leaders to “devise some notable things to do with their money, to advance the kingdom of their professed Redeemer, and the prosperity of the souls of men.”
He casts a vision for supporting gospel workers, saying, “Great things might be done for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ at this day by those who have ability… by supporting some who are eminently qualified with gifts and grace in preaching the gospel.”
Jonathan Edwards didn’t have the language of Gospel Patronage, but he saw the influence business and professional people could have if they would use their wealth to invest in the ministries of those who preach Jesus to the world.
We’re in the same story still. Great awakenings could spring up again in the least likely places, in London or San Francisco or some small unheralded city. If those gifted in preaching preach Jesus with courage and those gifted in business choose to partner with them in zeal and generosity, there's no telling what God will do.