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January 1982 · Vol. 11 No. 1 · pp. 43–45 

Building Trust and Partnership [Perspective I]

Lynford J. Becker

My assignment is the topic of “building trust and a sense of partnership” between pastor and businessperson. The wording of the topic would seem to imply an existing deficiency. In preparation for this assignment, I visited with several pastors and businesspersons. I asked the pastors such questions as, “How many persons in your congregation are entrepreneurs? What do you know about their business? . . . the products? . . . the type of customers? . . . the profit or loss status? . . . the impact of the recessionary times? Do you relate to them socially? Do you visit with them in the business setting? Do you know any of the employees? Do you sense a high or low level of spiritual commitment on the part of the businessperson?”

I asked businesspersons such questions as “Has your pastor ever inquired about your business? . . . the tensions? . . . the ethical dilemmas? Does he understand you as a businessperson?”

The responses were predictable. There are pastors who relate very well to the businessperson parishioner, who are concerned and express concern for his or her success not only spiritually but as a business person. Unfortunately, this is not true of all pastors. Many, perhaps a significant percentage, would confess to an inadequate understanding of the tension peculiar to the business world.

The businesspersons responded with such statements as “My pastor has been very supportive”. “My pastor doesn’t understand me; he has never visited me at my place of business, even at a point in time when it was common knowledge that we were having serious financial problems.”

Several factors might contribute to whatever deficiencies exist. It would seem to me that they must often relate to the way we see ourselves and the other person. Let me cite several contrasts. Economically, the image is often of the poor pastor contrasted with the prosperous businessperson, the unsuccessful pastor (financially) with the successful businessperson, the pastor with a limited knowledge of economics and the businessperson with a good grasp of economic principles. Socially, the image is often of the pastor who supposedly is not to have close friendships within the congregation and therefore stays socially aloof in contrast with the businessperson who is socially at ease in church, {44} belongs to the country club, has close long-term friends in the community, and “flies through airports.” Spiritually, the image is often of the pastor who oozes commitment contrasted with the businessperson whose commitment is suspect because of an all-too-common mind-set that honesty and business do not mix. Intellectually, the contrast may not be as marked, except that pastors often get boxed in to the world of committee meetings, Bible study, crisis counseling, and necessary or expected visitation to the point that he goes on a “guilt trip” if he takes time to read U.S. News and World Report. While that is an overstatement, it is nevertheless true that the pastor does not always have ample opportunity for intellectual stimulation through attendance at conventions and growth seminars that the businessperson might have due to economics, or location, or role expectations. Any or all of these factors could result in trust and a sense of partnership not having had opportunity to develop.

Let me make a few suggestions for building trust and this sense of partnership that we believe to be so desirable. The first seems obvious. One word says it. That word is ACCEPTANCE. Each must accept the other, as fellow believers, fellow called-out-ones to be God’s kind of persons who are to live by biblical principles, to discern priorities for living, and to be ethically sound and honest in all dealings. That is a mutual calling.

The second can also be said in one word, AFFIRMATION. The pastor needs to affirm the businessperson as vocationally called even as the pastor desires to be affirmed as vocationally called of God. There needs to be affirmation of worth as God’s unique persons. There needs to be affirmation of gifts and a recognition that pastors can possess gifts of management even as businesspersons may possess the gifts of spiritual discernment. Pastors would do well to profit from the successful businessperson’s approach to problem solving. Some people count problems and lament; others identify problems and seek solutions. It is my observation that the businessperson most often has a mentality of identifying and seeking solutions whereas others of us may belong to the “count and cry” crowd.

The third suggestion can also be said in one word, ENCOURAGEMENT. Pastors and businesspersons need to be friends and have a sincere desire for the success of the other. Both need to cultivate the friendship of the other. Businesspersons should want their pastor to be the best he can be and help him reach that goal. Pastors should want their parishioners to be the best they can be even to the point of financial success. Pastors and businesspersons should share their successes and tensions, their hopes and frustrations, their failures and blessings. Pastors and businesspersons should visit each other at the office or the place of business. Building trust and a sense of partnership takes time; the investment will pay dividends. {45}

Even as pastors encourage their businesspersons to spiritual wholeness, I would like to see businesspersons encourage their pastors to spiritual, intellectual, social, and emotional wholeness by encouraging their involvement in community activities, civic clubs, chamber of commerce activities, and growth seminars.

Building trust and a sense of partnership should be a priority for both pastor and businessperson.

Lynford Becker is a former pastor and presently is the Director of Human Resources, Waldon Corporation, Fairview, Oklahoma.

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