Christian Leadership in the New Global Economy
I love visiting Singapore! It may be one of the world’s smallest countries, but it has an immense vision. The Christian community there constantly inspires me with its gung-ho, change-the-world, all-things-are-possible worldview based on its outsized concept of God. On my most recent trip, a friend asked me to address a group of leaders on the topic, “The Challenges and Imperatives of Christian Leadership in the New Global Economy.” I love challenging speech topics, so I worked hard on this one.
I have heard it said that the English language should have no plural form of the word “priority.” Either something constitutes the matter of first importance or it does not. It seems to me similarly that Christian leaders should have one master imperative, no matter what issues today and tomorrow may present—the Kingdom of God. Our Number One concern must center on God’s rule, on the accomplishment of God’s will on earth as it is in Heaven. As Matthew 6:33 enjoins us, we should seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things (food, clothing, etc.) will be given to us as well.
God’s will for humanity, declared clearly in God’s first blessing pronounced in Genesis 1:28, centers on the flourishing of the human race. God put us in the world to serve as his regents, bearing his image like a sheriff wears a badge. We have a divine mission to populate, fill, and build the world—all the while taking care of it as God’s stewards (Genesis 2:15). Along with that primordial mission, we have the responsibility of repairing the world and redeeming humanity to fellowship with God (Matthew 28:19). When we accomplish these things, we serve as agents of God’s Reign. Our work is clearly cut out for us, and our imperative will never change.
One of the enduring challenges faced by Christian leaders involves human flourishing through healthy economic growth. Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed growing into a large bush, a bit of yeast growing to fill a whole lump of dough, and a seed that grows into a mature plant and produces a one-hundred-fold yield of grain. Christians err in thinking of the Kingdom exclusively in terms of the increase in salvations and disciples. The Rule of God encompasses all of human flourishing, and its success is inexorable. Our commission implies population growth and a growing economy—all done with ecological responsibility. Christian business and governmental leaders should embrace this challenge with all due confidence in the success of God’s plan, creatively finding solutions to emerging difficulties and dilemmas. We can observe the growth of God’s Rule in the fact that human flourishing has reached its apex in our time, and the future promises eye-popping and heart-thrilling solutions to delight humanity and satisfy the heart of God.
The evangelization of the world can never slip into an inferior plane for us either. It must always be part of our work and worship in the world. The struggle for human freedom in our day also continues with the rise of a new authoritarianism among the governments of the world. If men and women do not enjoy freedom, their access to the Gospel and their ability to dedicate themselves to God’s Rule on a personal and societal basis suffers. Another challenge we face calls upon us to assert human creativity in the area of work. In the face of the advance of robotics and artificial intelligence, more and more human labor forms become obsolete. Luddite intransigence in the face of technological advancement has no place among Christian leaders, but work represents our primary form of worship and obedience to God. Christian leaders should take the lead in creating new ways to work that enhance human satisfaction and fulfillment. I mentioned to my audience the fact that while robotics and artificial intelligence have eliminated a record number of jobs in the United States, we also have the lowest unemployment percentage in our history. Technology need not destroy our ability to work—in fact, I believe it cannot. Work plays a central role in human nature, and we will always find a way to keep working. If technology keeps making our work easier, more efficient, and more productive, that only feeds into the Kingdom priorities God gave us in the beginning.
I said a lot more in Singapore, and much more remains to be said. Perhaps my future blog posts will go into these themes more deeply. I do not doubt that some people will call me a pie-eyed optimist. I’ve heard that criticism before. But I always counter that every great leader in human history has been a pie-eyed optimist, and I am happy to be numbered among those so accused, whatever the limited scope of my own leadership. I hope this blog offers you hope like the hope I see.