Aaron Groen is a financial adviser with Ronald Blue Trust, and an organizer of the Business on Purpose conference. Aaron joined me on the podcast Business in the Kingdom on the Edifi network to talk about Christian entrepreneurs as a key part of the solution to our culture’s ills, and the personal as well as long-term business advantages of Christian character.
To listen to the full podcast, click below.
Here are a few highlights from that discussion, lightly edited for clarity and length:
Jerry: You helped run the second Business on Purpose conference. What’s the purpose of the Business on Purpose conference?
Aaron: Well, what we started with was, “God's word is sufficient for all of life.” And we thought, what if we took that premise and said, how can we equip and encourage Christians who own businesses to do so, to run their businesses and to grow their businesses in a way that's biblically faithful and that is distinctly honoring God. We looked around and we thought, you know, businesses are kind of like the redheaded stepchild in the church sometime and the leaders of the church might think of businesses as, “Well, they have a big checkbook and they can support the work of the church and that's what they're good for, we’ll tolerate them.” What I wanted was for business owners to see that they're an integral part of the kingdom of God. They are an integral part of bringing restoration and healing. God’s equipped them to do business, and that's a noble calling. That's part of the purpose of our conference is encouraging Christians who owns businesses, they're doing good work and God's word has something to say about how to do that good work.
Jerry: When you meet Christians who are entrepreneurs, how much do they feel the goodness of business? In other words, how do Christians who are entrepreneurs view their business?
Aaron: I’ll answer your questions in two ways. One is, I think there's a growing movement in the church to step away from this view that business is a necessary evil. I think that's becoming more and more true. I think Christian business owners are being increasingly encouraged that this is a calling that is good, and that doing business well honors God, but I do think that there are a large majority of Christians who are entrepreneurs who wonder if it's okay. To use your example, you talk a lot about the Rich Young Ruler. I think a lot of Christian business owners might hear or read that text, maybe they've heard a sermon on it, and they wondered, “I'm building a successful business that’s very profitable. I'm scaling up, I've got 50, 60, 80 employees and it's generating a lot of income for me. Am I the Rich Young Ruler?” or they wonder “Am I going to be found faithful? Because all I'm doing is producing great products and providing great jobs. All I'm doing is helping people flourish!”
Jerry: You said the majority.
Aaron: I really think that. And I don't think it's all coming from the church either, I think part of it is just a cultural thing that we're dealing with. It's the cultural moment that we're in right now. I think that the church hasn't done a good enough job to validate people who are in business, people who have said “God has gifted me with an entrepreneurs mind, and that's a good thing, and God has gifted me with the ability to forge the connections, make the relationships to turn a profit and produce whatever the great service is or the great product is.” The church hasn't necessarily validated that and that it might be that the people aren't hearing the message of validation. And so, they unnecessarily feel like “oh my goodness, I'm dealing in filthy commerce.” I just feel the church can do a better job, but it's also just a cultural issue as well.
Jerry Bowyer is financial economist, president of Bowyer Research, and author of “The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics.”