One of my wife’s favorite movies is You’ve Got Mail. Two people who are complete opposites fall in love against all odds, and I always end up going through a box of Kleenex. In the movie, Joe Fox (played by Tom Hanks) owns a large box-store that is, effectively, shutting down Kathleen’s (played by Meg Ryan) small, quaint mom-and-pop store. Throughout the movie, he recites repeatedly to her: “It’s not personal; it’s business.” This line sticks with me because it has truth in everyday life, right? People tend to separate their business activities from their personal worlds. But as a follower of Jesus—and as a church planter especially—I learned that everything is personal—even business.
Since starting the church plant The Branches, I have made significant connections for networking and building deep relationships in my county’s business community. I began by getting plugged into the local chambers of commerce. I remember nervously walking into the first chamber office to sign up and the only thing I could think of was how awful I did in an introductory business class in college. I thought the moment I started talking they would know I was a fraud! But taking those steps into the office started the very first important connection I made in the journey of church planting.
Soon I joined two other chambers in our area, which really let me jump into the business world of our county. Three years later, the monthly “Business Leader” newspaper in the county put me on the cover, calling me the pastor of the business community!
The business world also helped me be part of the very influential local leadership class that has connected me to even more people, organizations, and businesses in our community. I often get to say the invocations at community events. I have been offered opportunities to sit on boards of nonprofits. Recently, I was offered the chance to be the local fire department chaplain.
Want to plant seeds for your church by being involved and caring for the community? Maybe you can try making inroads to your community’s business world. Be a friend to the business women and men who are also trying to make your community better. Soon they will start to call you their pastor, even if they haven’t visited your church yet.
In my context, I have learned that the local business has been a doorway to getting to know the community and sharing the love of Jesus by praying for local businesses and being there for start-up businesses when they need the most encouragement. Having a pastor and other followers of Jesus allows for grace to prevail when someone finds out they are being let go and makes a way for love to seep into making final deals.
Has everyone I’ve met in the business community joined The Branches? Of course not! But a few have. And a few more brought their families. And a few more help out with our special events. And lots of them have recommended the church to friends or people they meet in the community.
Taking those steps into the chamber office were the best steps in sharing Jesus with my community. As church planters and pastors, we get to enter into this context with this focus: “It’s not business; it’s personal.”