This edition of M3 Weekly is the latest installment in our series called M3 Journeys, highlighting the experiences of various missional enterprise practitioners. This week, we sit down to chat with John Kirby. John lives among refugees in Hamtramck, MI, and leads efforts to open staffing offices among immigrant communities throughout the country.
John’s entrepreneurial journey includes decades of experience, both as an employee and business owner, leading to where he is now – experiencing the power of missional business in a staffing agency focused on placing refugees. The first half of our interview is included below, describing how John grew out of disillusionment with the business world into an empowering understanding of the biblical theology of work. The transcript has been edited for clarity.
M3 Weekly: I would love to hear your journey of how you ended up in this thing called missional enterprise.
John Kirby: I had the experience of being involved in my own business prior to any idea of how one could use their vocation as a means of honoring God. I had an independent insurance agency that dealt with property casualties. We served small businesses such as general contractors with their worker’s compensation insurance, general liability, bonds, and things like that. As far as the business side of things, it was a profitable business. However, at the time, I completely lacked a theology of work. It was a struggle to try to build a business without a grasp of how that had anything to do with the kingdom of God. The world of business was seen as a totally separate thing from my walk with God. And I really struggled with that and hated it.
Later, for various reasons and challenges that we faced, we ended up leaving that business. I took one job, in particular, with a company that had for many years been rated as the best company in America to work for. They had quite a reputation that they had built up and I was their number-one producer in the whole country in a given set of products. I read the press clippings and assumed that this was a company that really wanted to do the right thing for their clients, employees, etc. And so when I discovered some things that were not quite lining up with that, I thought it was very appropriate to bring that to leadership’s attention. But I found out that the press clippings and reality were not the same. And despite the fact that I was the number one producer in the company, I was escorted out of the building for bringing to attention the fact that they were abusing clients.
So I was disillusioned with the business world. I really began to wrestle with that, and I began to dig into the scriptures. I was beginning to see some significant differences between the way God views work and the way work is viewed in the church, where there is a perceived division between what is considered “sacred” and what is considered “secular.” As I looked at the scriptures, I said to myself: “something’s not right.” What I had experienced and the way I had worked in the business world didn’t line up with the theology of work that I saw [in the scriptures], and the fact that there is no such thing as a sacred-secular divide.
M3W: What aspects of a good theology of work do you feel are critical, not just for missional entrepreneurs, but for the whole body of Christ?
JK: I lean into the verse where we see we are told, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Now, we need to eat and drink all the time. These are typical everyday things, and if God says that you can do those normal everyday things in a way that glorifies him, then there is nothing that is not sacred! Everything that you do can be sacred and everything that you do hopefully should be done with a sacred mindset.
I went through so much of my life in the business world doing things and feeling like I was wasting my time. At the end of the day, I would feel like asking “what have I done today that has any value, any worth?” And that question was largely driven by the fact that I didn’t understand the theology of work and the fact that everything can be sacred. I should not end the day saying, “I’ve wasted my time in the endeavors that I’m doing!” No! Doing work and producing economic activity in a way that glorifies God is not a waste of time! It is anything but a waste of time! It is something that has powerful ways to glorify him, advance his kingdom and paint a picture to the lost. We are living and discipling among the lost, right?
That perspective brings so much meaning to doing business. And I would say that, yes, too much of the church, too much of most people are missing out on the realization that what they are doing can be sacred, can be holy, can have meaning and purpose, and it should!
In a future edition of M3 Weekly, we will hear more of John’s journey.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 (NIV)
Let’s meditate on this verse and rejoice that whatever we do, including the work God has called us to, can be done for Jesus and in his name.