How can business people advance the Christian faith? I was asking this question as a business student in my 20s and then as a young professional. At the time, business people seemed second-class when it came to the real work of the gospel.
As it turns out this question is a very old one. In the 1740s Jonathan Edwards wrote about this very thing in his “Thoughts On The Revival.” Edwards believed that business people can have a great effect on spreading the gospel.
Edwards laid out three very clear ways business people can contribute to a great awakening:
Edwards called for the need for zeal among those with wealth and honor. He marveled that these influencers 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 wrote, “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.
Generosity is a rare and beautiful mystery. It’s not natural in our fallen state. But 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.”
A great temptation for us is to live as if earth was our home. We settle in. We build our little kingdoms. We build bigger barns so that we can eat, drink, and be merry.
But when we give we remind our own hearts and proclaim to the world that we have in our possession the true and lasting treasure. Money isn’t it. Silver and gold don’t satisfy. We have received so much from Jesus that we can freely release the one thing the world chases after most: money.
3. Gospel Patronage
And for Christians who give, the opportunity is beyond philanthropy. It’s more than doing good to man, but a concern for God’s glory and man’s ultimate good, in other words, for his soul. Edwards says it’s 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 the 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 people could have if they would only catch the vision to send out those who could preach Jesus to the world. He believed they would be greatly advance The Great Awakening.
We’re in the same story still. Great awakenings could spring up again in the least likely places, in London or San Francisco or your city if those gifted in preaching would preach Jesus with courage and those gifted in business would rise up in zeal and generosity to fulfill the calling of a Gospel Patron.
There are no second-class Christians. You have incredible potential to be used by God to advance his kingdom. It’s time to rise up and play your part!