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I am in my sixties. With that, there are a few things I often tell people regarding my age:

1. I’m only 39.

2. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I have always had one foot in the ministry world and one foot in the business world. As a kid, I grew up in a blue-collar community. There weren’t too many career options. I became a pastor for two reasons: I loved God, and I wanted a job where I wouldn’t have to work under anybody else. My goal was to be my own boss, but that entrepreneurial bend has made me feel guilty over the years. 

Up until recently, it was frowned upon for Christians in full-time ministry to have a secular job. In some denominations, that is still the case. If you had a job or business on the side, it was regarded as a lack of faith. Your income was supposed to come from God alone. Still, my wife and I pursued several side hustles and passive income streams over the years. Now, of course, we are fully emerged in the business world (but that’s a different story.)

The church’s relationship with the business world has ebbed and flowed throughout history. However, there has been a common theme. People who work in a church setting are often seen as more “spiritual” than people who are employed in other sectors—especially business. In his book, Anointed for Business, businessman, strategist, and Bible teacher Ed Silvoso describes the feeling many Christian business people experience when it comes to the integration of their faith and work. He writes,

“The most common self-inflicted put down is “I am not a pastor; I am just a layperson.” This is all part of a clever satanic scheme to neutralize apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, along with an entire army of disciples, already positioned in the marketplace.” (Anointed for Business, 21)

The Sacred Secular Divide

What we are really brushing up against here is a concept called the sacred-secular divide. A result of this divide is that matters like money and business are not often talked about on Sunday mornings (until it’s time to take up an offering.) According to The Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, the sacred-secular divide has been around for a long time.

“The sacred-secular divide has deep historical roots. The early church held a sound biblical view of work, but lost it during the Middle Ages. The Reformation helped rectify this, but historical, intellectual movements of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries paved the way for the sacred-secular divide to rear its head again. These movements have had a significant impact on the contemporary church’s view of work.”

This blog post will explore some of those movements. This is by no means an exhaustive timeline. Instead, my goal is to provide a wide perspective of how the relationship between church and business has changed, for better and for worse.

If you get excited about the integration of the church world and the business world, you’ll love our upcoming Business Development and Nonprofit Workshop. It’s August 19th-21st, 2022, and you can still join us in-person or online via livestream. Learn more here.

church and business

It’s Complicated: How the Relationship Between Church and Business Has Changed Over Time

6 BC – 100 AD: Jesus Spearheads Marketplace Ministry

  • Jesus makes his living as a carpenter. When he begins his itinerant ministry, he recruits 12 disciples—none of which were professional ministry leaders or rabbis in the synagogue. Rather, they worked as fishermen, tax collectors, and political zealots.

In his book Anointed for Business, Ed Silvoso writes, “Marketplace people played a vital role in the emergence, establishment, and expansion of the Early Church-in fact, most of Jesus’ followers remained in full-time business while simultaneously conducting full-time ministry. This was possible because they saw the marketplace as their parish and their business as a pulpit. To them witnessing was not an occasional activity, but a lifestyle.”


  • The Holy Spirit falls as recorded in the Book of Acts, and the Church begins to spread. Elders in the early Church were often marketplace and business leaders, including Dorcas (seamstress), Lydia (wealthy textile dealer), Cornelius (Roman centurion), and Priscilla and Aquilla (tentmakers.) The Apostle Paul also ran a successful tentmaking business that provided the funds for his ministry (See Acts 20:33-35.) 
  • Christians are not encouraged to withdraw from participation in everyday life and work to do their ministry. Whereas believers aren’t challenged to leave their secular jobs, the age of church persecution and Christian martyrdom prompts believers to consider if they are willing to die in the name of Jesus.
church and business

200 – 400 AD: Monasticism and Official Clergy Create a Separation Between ‘Religious Calling’ and Secular Work 

  • Christianity becomes the Roman Empire’s official religion. Monasticism, which called Christians to a complete separation from the world, begins.
  • An official clergy is created, and Bishops are given the exclusive right to rule the church. Other Christians are described as laity. 
  • Saint Augustine rejects his former job and relationships after he converts to Christianity. He distinguished between the ‘active life’ and the ‘contemplative life,’ elevating the latter. This had a large influence on how Christians conceptualized ministry and worship.

500 AD – 1500 AD: The Divide Deepens

  • The categories of sacred and secular work deepen as the Catholic Clergy gained power and influence.
  • St. Benedict (480-547) warned Christians about the danger of excelling in business. According to The Christian History Institute, “He urges that any thoughts of pride or accomplishment must be suppressed, and he denounces greed and selling things at secular market prices.”
  • There is a class division between those who do ‘spiritual’ work and those whose jobs require manual labor. Spiritual work is considered more necessary than other labor, but other labor is necessary to economically support spiritual work. This view is still common in Christian circles today—that the only redemptive quality of business is to support the church financially.
  • Francis of Assisi took a vow of poverty and mandated the practice for his followers. In her article in the New Yorker, Joan Acocella writes:

In Francis’s view, property, by arousing envy and, therefore, conflict, was the one thing most destructive to peace in the world. Thus the community lived, as completely as possible, without property. To be part of the group, a man had to sell all his goods, give the money to the poor, and, like Francis, sever all ties with his family.


1500s: All Work Can Be Ministry (The Protestant Reformation)

  • Martin Luther kickstarted The Protestant Reformation by nailing his 95 theses, objections to several practices of the Catholic Church, to the door of a German church. 
  • Among Luther’s points were the fact that Christians could earn salvation by faith alone, and that every Christian has a vocation. A ‘calling’ isn’t just for the clergy or monastery. Christians began to develop a framework for how their businesses and everyday work could function as their ministry.
  • The Protestant Reformation is believed to be tied to Europe’s economic prosperity today. Economics professor Roman Sheremeta concludes, “This movement [The Protestant Reformation] unleashed forces that resulted in technological innovation, knowledge creation and influenced people to be healthier and make more stable personal decisions—all factors clear in evidence we linked to better economic outcomes in Europe.” 
church and business

1600-1900 AD: From Enlightened Thinkers to Persecuted Workers


  • The Enlightenment (1685-1815) was a philosophical movement that separated knowledge into two categories: facts and beliefs. Science was deemed factual, and religion was classified as a belief. At large, this cultural conflict hindered Christian influence in the marketplace.
  • During the Industrial Revolution (1760 – 1840), there was an exponential spike in machinery and factory work. Labor laws could not keep up with the quick growth, and many people, including children, were exploited by harsh labor conditions. Christians struggled to understand how to integrate their faith in such environments.
  • The Social Gospel gains traction from 1870-1900. Christians emphasize the importance of their faith beyond individual salvation. They aimed to reform the business world to reflect Christian morals. According to Britannica, labor reforms—including the abolition of child labor, a shorter workweek, a living wage, and factory regulation—constituted the Social Gospel’s most prominent concerns.

1900s to Present: The Rise of Business as Mission and The Faith and Work Movement

  • Around 1900, the first wave of the Faith and Work Movement begins. Walter Rauschenbusch urges churches not to monopolize the “best and the brightest” as clergy, and Dorothy L. Sayers, prolific writer and friend of C.S. Lewis, urges excellence in everyday work.
  • Faith and business becomes a popular topic in Christian publishing, including books like Ed Silvoso’s Anointed for Business, Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor, and Amy Sherman’s Kingdom Calling.
  • The concept of business as missionbegins to take off in the early 2000s, and more Christians begin to think critically about how their work and skillset can be used for the common good—not just inside the four walls of the church.


Today, several parachurch organizations, degree programs, and nonprofits exist to promote the integration of faith and work, or faith and business. Biblically responsible and Provalues investing is on the rise. God is calling Christians to the marketplace so that they can be a force for His Kingdom. Do you hear the sound?

If you get excited about the integration of the church world and the business world, you’ll love our upcoming Business Development and Nonprofit Workshop. It’s August 19th-21st, 2022, and you can still join us in-person or online via livestream. Learn more here.