Previous | Next

January 1982 · Vol. 11 No. 1 · pp. 46–48 

Building Partnership and Trust [Perspective II]

George G. Konrad

The title of this topic is not a reference to a corporate or business approach to profit sharing or the establishment of a business partnership with one’s employees. Rather, it is an attempt to focus briefly on the relational aspect of the business world to the church in general and the pastor in particular.

The question of a sense of partnership and trust in relationship to other persons is not unique to the business world. Nor does the economic sector of our society carry exclusive responsibility for the general alienation, privatism, and individualism which are broadly evident. However, Christian businesspersons, along with other members of the church, share the responsibility to explore the meaning of the biblical injunction, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”


There is ample evidence of a general erosion of trust in the businessperson. Cavanaugh states categorically that “Only a small minority of Americans now have confidence in business and business leadership. Enlightened self-interest continues to be clung to as the business ideology even though its effects are undermining the very institutions it is designed to preserve.” 1 Such erosion of trust is abetted by irresponsible segments of the business world. A recent brochure came across my desk entitled, “Everyone Who’s Made a Lot of Money is a Crook!” Another circular advertised a book with the title: Why SOB’s Succeed and Nice Guys Fail in Small Business.

Gerald Cavanaugh reports major agreement on the part of young people that: 1) Business is overly concerned with profits and not concerned enough with public responsibilities; 2) Economic well-being in this country is unjustly and unfairly distributed; 3) Today’s American society is characterized by injustice, insensitivity, lack of candor, and inhumanity; and 4) Our foreign policy is based on narrow economic and power interests. 2 Whether or not these statements are correct, the high level of agreement indicates an erosion of trust.


How then, can businesspersons and church leaders recreate confidence {47} in each other and jointly build the kingdom of God? We must first recognize that there is not “a” or “the” Christian economic philosophy or biblical blueprint to follow. Situations change, conditions vary, and needs of individuals and groups differ. In addition, when pursuing the Christian maxim to “love our neighbor as ourself” we are immediately faced with our own internal contradictions: the law of love is contradicted by self-love; our social obligation is contradicted by our own self-interest. We can also assume that these contrary forces are at work both in the businessperson as well as in the pastor. There are, however, some general principles which are basic to the process of creating partnership and trust.

1. We must take our Christian commitment with utmost seriousness. This implies the recognition of God’s continuing activity in the world and our devotion to the person of Jesus Christ. “As Christians we believe that God is speaking to us out of this (the current) situation. We believe that this is his world, that he is active in it, and that his word can be heard in the events of human history.” 3 For all of us this places “everything human under the rule of God, warning against the idolatry of putting the business firm, the nation, ‘free enterprise,’ or the career at the center of life. With such a perspective, all things pertaining to business stand under the judgement of God as limited goals and loyalties.” 4

Our devotion to Jesus Christ as the Lord of our life leads us to assume ultimate responsibility for all of our behavior. This means that we avoid any artificial separations which provide a rationale for irresponsibility: the separation of the spiritual from the material, the separation of the personal from the organizational, and the separation of the content of our faith from the context of daily activity. Rasmussen points out that the results of such divisions have made “faith irrelevant and barren and economic life sterile and without higher purpose.” 5 The avoidance of responsibility breeds distrust. It is true that there is both a personal and a business responsibility, but we cannot avoid our personal responsibility by claiming the primacy of our allegiance to the business firm or to the church organization.

Taking our Christian commitment seriously also implies that we acknowledge our relationship to the Christian community, the church. In the context of this community we all stand under the judgement of God and are partners in the fellowship of life.

2. Another principle which will guide us in developing trust is respect for other persons, for their integrity, their interests, their right to a full life, and the expression of their opinion. The stress on the importance of persons is not only a wise, pragmatic organizational technique; it arises from the knowledge that all persons are of equal value in the sight of God. Sleeman states that “The Christian insight has {48} a contribution to make here by insisting that the pursuit of wealth and power cannot be safely treated as ends in themselves, but only as means towards the more effective loving of the neighbor, through the structures of the economic and political order.” 6

Our view of persons recognizes their ultimate status and should prevent us from treating them as resources to be exploited. Business persons should not exploit persons for corporate gain. Neither should pastors exploit the wealthy by relating to them primarily as means to meet church budgets.

3. We must recognize the social realities of which we are a part and seek effective ministry within these realities. Both business and religious institutions are suffering from the malaise of the American society which Cavanaugh identifies by the following symptoms: 1) Loss of confidence in our institutions; 2) Alienation or lack of satisfaction for the roles and work within society; 3) A loss of a sense of community; 4) Recognition of the limits of our natural resources; 5) The erosion of accepted values such as individualism, the Protestant ethic, and delayed gratification; and 6) an unpredictable future. 7 Both the businessperson and the pastor are challenged to acknowledge these realities and to join hands and forces in meeting the urgent needs of those who are our neighbors.


  1. Gerald F. Cavanaugh, American Business Values in Transition (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1976), p. 169.
  2. Ibid, p. 137.
  3. John F. Sleeman, Economic Crises: A Christian Perspective (London; SCM Press, 1976), p. 3.
  4. Edward C. Bursk, ed., Business and Religion (New York: Harper and Bros., 1959), p. 150.
  5. Albert T. Rasmussen, Christian Responsibility in Economic Life (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1965), p. 3.
  6. Sleeman, Economic Crises, p. 173.
  7. Cavanaugh, American Business Values, pp. 145-155.
George Konrad is professor of Christian Education at the Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California, and is active as a professional counsellor.

Previous | Next