In last week's post, we introduced the principle of mutuality - of standing together on common ground, and of looking to each other's good as we make decisions.
It is distinctive that for those who follow Jesus, the common ground we stand on is him. Missional business-people, whether entrepreneurs or those working in secular businesses, must first and foremost know and follow Jesus in their lives, obeying everything he has taught us.
As we have his purposes in mind, we will have a common aim. If we own the business, at its core, it will be working towards coherent goals. This is a prequisite for mutuality.
But what does that mean for day to day decisions? How does it relate to the capitalist model of owner interest?
Some principles come to mind:
- Our ultimate owner is our Lord Jesus Christ. We are stewards of the resources God has given us.
- Our purpose is set out throughout his Word and is clear. Psalm 67v2 states it as "so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations." Psalm 145v12 says "so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendour of your kingdom." Paul calls it a "ministry of reconciliation" in his second letter to the Corinthians (ch5), recognising that God reconciles the world to himself through Christ, and we are his ambassadors with God making his appeal through us.
- Missional businesses structure themselves to maximise our ultimate owner's purposes. Shareholders' purposes usually aim at a financial return on the investment of money, time or effort, with a maximisation of that return over the long term. But our owner doesn't need money. Ideally, those we work with share that common purpose. The driving goal of the business can be aligned to Christ's purpose.
- Does that mean that we do not strive to make a profit? No. There may be excellent motivations for profit that include sustainability, growth and appropriate returns to investors. But those things are tested in light of the overarching goal of making God known, of telling people how he is reconciling the world to himself. That will probably mean we do not seek to maximise profit.
- Is this lack of maximisation of profit a major issue? Impact investing, social entrepreneurship, venture philanthropy - these are examples where shareholder interests extend beyond pure financial interests. Perhaps a better definition would be the maximisation of wealth creation, defining wealth in broad terms to include human, social, environmental, and financial.
Next week: how might mutuality impact our relationships in the business?