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Connecting Businesses to a Greater Purpose
Luncheons provide a place where business people can bring a friend, hear a speaker talk about business and faith and enjoy fellowship with other business people.

Other-focused thinking is the new giant of the business world. Gone are the profit-driven 80s and the cost-obsessed 90s. Business has entered a new millennium, and its themes are ethics, customer satisfaction, employee motivation and filling needs. Go to any bookstore and you’ll find best-sellers like Emotional Intelligence at Work, The Tipping Point, Who Moved My Cheese? and The Purpose-Driven Church.

CBMC hosts monthly luncheons for business people. At a recent event in Burlington are chaplain to the business community Henry Verrier (left), guest speaker Ace Clarke and Burlington CBMC chairman Jim Fisher.

The last title is a bit of a surprise – after all, isn’t that a Christian book? But the publisher of Forbes, one of North America’s top business magazines, says it’s “the best book on entrepreneurship, business and investment that I’ve read in some time.” Substitute the word ‘business’ for ‘church’, Rich Karlgaard continues, and there are some crucial lessons to be learned.

Teamwork, wisdom, ethics, caring for others – as business people look for guidance on these and other issues, it is small wonder they find inspiration in Christian writings. Jim Fisher, chairman of the Burlington chapter of Christian Business Ministries Canada (CBMC), agrees: “If you listen to any motivational speaker talking about how to do business, it’s the sayings of Jesus and the sayings of Proverbs from top to bottom.”

A place to bring non-Christian friends

This is why CBMC encourages members to invite non-Christian friends to its monthly business luncheons. An entrepreneur, community leader or sports star will talk on an aspect of business and faith, usually including some kind of personal testimony about their walk with God. People are also invited to make a commitment to follow Christ, and invited to join a Bible study.

Mark Orr owns a financial planning practice in Burlington and spoke at a CBMC luncheon two years ago. He shared his testimony, integrating key thoughts from another Rick Warren best-seller, The Purpose-Driven Life. One of Orr’s non-Christian friends who came along said he’d been reading that book for a while and couldn’t put it down. “He’d read it three times and wanted to find out more,” says Orr. “Since then, I believe he’s accepted the Lord. He’s also come out to other luncheons.” 

Ken Coffield, speaker Mel Finlay, Oakville CBMC chairman Ernie Domet and committee members Bill Burns and Barry Beach.

Jim Fisher emphasizes “we don’t limit our ministry simply to bringing people to Christ. We also seek to help with ongoing issues they have in the workplace.”

The luncheons can provide support for Christian business people as they pursue their faith in a stressful environment. “Business people often don’t have enough contact and fellowship with other Christians,” said Barry Beach, secretary of CBMC’s Oakville chapter. “Our meetings and early morning Bible studies help with that.”

Supporting Christian business people is the main focus of the Canadian Christian Business Federation (CCBF), which holds monthly breakfasts and other events where entrepreneurs can share their problems and help each other with practical advice. Executive Director Hans VanderStoep, based in Burlington, says living for Christ in a business context is a big challenge.

“We’re called to be the salt of the earth, to permeate everything we do with the faith we profess,” he said. “Our love of Jesus should show in how we sell our services, how we treat our employees, and even our work-life balance.”

CCBF executive director Hans VanderStoep (second from left) and some of the participants in the monthly breakfast meeting in Burlington.

These challenges extend to all business people – and those who don’t know Jesus are at a particular disadvantage, says Fisher. “Most entrepreneurs these days recognize that good ethics and treating customers and employees well are the ways to be successful in business. So Christians have an instant edge, because Jesus’ teachings already incorporate these principles.”

That’s why organizations like The Leadership Group help leaders develop their thoughts and character to lead to Christ-like action and better business practice. Through Discovery Groups that explore faith questions relating to business and personal life, as well as breakfast meetings, leadership retreats and other events, entrepreneurs get the chance to see the benefits of living for Christ.

“As a busy businessperson, the Discovery Groups have allowed me to share my ups and downs with others in like situations. I am constantly reminded that the best results are when we have the opportunity to go to the Lord for wisdom and direction,” says Bill Myles, who organizes Discovery Groups in Burlington.

“Giving my burdens to the Lord takes away a tremendous amount of stress and frustration. We also support one another in prayer and emotionally if needed. We help each other grow spiritually, but the most exciting thing is when we see one of our non-Christian members accept Christ.”

Reverend Henry Verrier agrees that it’s non-Christian entrepreneurs, who may not have an accepting, close-knit community around them, who need particular support. Verrier is well known to many people in the Waterdown and Burlington business communities as the Entrepreneur Chaplain. He spends his time visiting store and company owners, listening to their concerns and helping in any way he can.

Hans VanderStoep

As he makes his calls, he distributes free articles containing sound advice based on Biblical principles. Written by Verrier himself, these Winning Principles for your Business include themes like ‘The Danger of Power’, ‘Adaptability Creates Opportunity’ and ‘Positive Steps in Managing Stress’. Bible quotations, mostly from Proverbs, are sprinkled throughout.

Verrier got the idea for his ministry when he noticed some business people at his church going through a hard time. Then he wondered how unchurched entrepreneurs got through tough situations, and the Entrepreneur Chaplain ministry was born. Through ongoing service without asking anything in return, Verrier has built trusting relationships with dozens of business owners who look forward to his weekly visit.

“One guy was always cold towards me when I visited him,” said Verrier. “Then he told me he couldn’t go to his daughter’s wedding down in the States because of his health. I offered to perform the service again up here so he could see it, and he started to cry. He said: ‘You would do that for me?’ It just melted him.”

Applying Bible principles in everyday life

Neil Bos, owner of Village Fish and Chips in Waterdown, has also been supported by the Entrepreneur Chaplain. When Verrier first placed articles on his counter, Bos thought they were just more pieces of typical freebie reading material. But he gradually came to enjoy reading them, and now goes to a weekly Bible study at the Crossroads Centre.

Neil Bos

“I was always too busy to go to Bible studies, but now I really enjoy the fellowship of other business people,” he says. “Henry has given me a great outlook and helped me live out biblical principles on a day-to-day basis.”

And this, according to a growing number of local entrepreneurs - Christian or not - is the way to run a successful venture. Business is a part of Christ’s purposes like any other area of life. So it makes sense that the more someone becomes like Him - cheerfully serving others, putting love of people before money, and trusting God through the storms – the better they’ll be at business.

Just look at Neil Bos, whose restaurant has been in Waterdown for 36 years. “I think it’s really important to have a happy outlook and be passionate about what you do,” he says. “For me it’s a real honour and privilege to serve the community. I also have great employees who are a solid foundation for my business. And of course,” he adds modestly, “they have a great boss.”

Suzie Chiodo is an editor and freelance journalist based in Niagara, Ontario. Trained in Britain, she has contributed to The Economist, The Daily Mail, and various community papers in London. In Canada she has published articles in the Hamilton Spectator, Grimsby News, Beacon Magazine, The Design Exchange's Express newsletter, and has appeared on CTS's On the Line as well as Behind the Story. Her website is Northern Exposure.

Originally published in Beacon, January/February 2009.

Used with permission. Copyright © 2009 Christianity.ca.

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