An interview with Gunnar Olson, founder of the International Christian Chamber of Commerce
Gunnar Olson; ICCC Chairman and Founder of The InternationalChristian Chamber of Commerce established in 1985 in Brussels, Belgium (a non-profit international association)
The ICCC has had members in the US since its founding, and ICCC (USA) was organized in 1991. ICCC has an international membership in over 82 countries. The purpose of ICCC is to put the Kingdom of God as the first priority in our business life, and to teach and train men and women to respond to the Biblical challenge of a walk with Christ in the marketplace. It operates to promote Christian ethics and morals in the marketplace, stimulate development of member businesses and services, build a national and international network of contacts, and undertake important national and international projects.
As you see Christians not only from the US but also internationally, could you describe the current state of the average Christian business person in various parts of the world?
The church generally has been focused on evangelism and saving souls. We have in many cases however had a rather shallow view of what it means to make disciples. In simple terms, we could say it this way: Christians have made Jesus as their Savior, but they have not made Him as their Lord. However, it goes even deeper than that simple illustration. Jesus did everything by faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit. This means that everything we do must be a walk of faith. But I also see a growing yearning in many hearts to see God glorified in their lives.
What is the challenge for a business person wanting to move into thewalk of faith?
I have often compared a Christian business person to the nation of Israel when it was in the desert after having escaped from slavery in Egypt. In Egypt, they had been under their masters, fed by their masters and totally controlled. Finally they broke free. Perhaps we can liken this to salvation. In the past we were totally under the bondage of sin and the power of the prince of the kingdom of darkness. However, through the complete work of Jesus, we have broken free. However, many Christians are still like the people of Israel in the desert. Though they are free, in the desert they are still slaves in their heart. They are not willing to enter the Promised Land. They prefer the comfort and security of slavery to the insecurities of life following God in the pillar of smoke and the pillar of fire. Similarly, many of us find the security of the world system much more comfortable than the walk of faith. Our challenge also is to walk into our promised land. Therefore, through ICCC we have been calling the Christian business community to come out of Egypt, and the slave mentality, to enter into the full freedom of the sons of God. This is not just preaching. This is a very deep and powerful reality. As some of us have begun to move through these faith experiences, powerful testimonies have been raised up in various parts of the world. We are now seeing the people who have walked in this kind of freedom for several years and it is exciting!
What does the "Promised Land" look like for a Christian business person?
My answer for business people is similar to that for the Israelites. For every believer, our Promised Land is a land flowing with "milk and honey." But some of the same challenges also apply. We often forget what happened when the Israelites first entered the Promised Land. When they crossed over the Jordan, the first thing that happened was a time of circumcision. This is a very serious thing and we often fail to think about it when we speak so freely about blessings. There is a time of dedication, shedding the former things, even some time of testing and pain and humbling ourselves, before we are ready to enter into the blessings. We often forget that the Israelites had to fight for the Promised Land. They did not just walk in and everything came to them. There were 39 wars before it came under their control. They needed to be obedient to take the whole Land. They could not compromise with the other people there. They also had to cast out idols in the Promised Land. There are a lot of messages out of this story that have important applications for Christians in business.
What are the implications of entering the Promised Land?
It is a strange and wonderful thing with God that He gives man a free will. We are free to decide whether or not to enter the Promised Land. However, if we refuse to, we can be found like those Israelites that refused to enter the Promised Land in their day. They needed to be humbled and many even died in the desert. Many of us also go through times of testing and humbling in the desert. However the Bible tells us that God does this in order to do us good in the end. We need to keep the goodness of God and His love in front of us at all times. So we are not just talking about an optional role in which someone could get some extra "blessing". This is not an issue of being a better Christian or not. The Bible says that everything that is not of faith is sin. Therefore, when we think about a walk of faith, we really need to see that if our life is not a walk of faith, we are walking in sin. If God could begin to show more of us this reality, I believe it would cause a major shaking in the church and amongst Christian business people in particular. Of course there is a blessing to walking with God, and all the blessings will flow to someone who obeys God. This is wonderful! But equally, all of the curses of not obeying God also flow to those who do not take the steps into which God is calling us. It really is as simple as the expression that Jesus mentioned in His Sermon on the Mount: we can not serve God and mammon.
What do you see as the business person's calling?
Many of us need to see a broader picture of the role of business in the Kingdom of God. Sometimes we are focused too much on ourselves or the local scene. But God is calling out Josephs throughout the world who represent a "tribe", if you will, of people who are "providers". They are providers not just for themselves, but for others out of their abundance. Joseph was prepared through adversity andhe was used to provide for a whole nation. He understood how towalk with God within a corrupt kingdom. I believe God is raising upbusiness people to be providers in many ways during these last days. The primary thing we have to provide is Jesus. Business people have lived like the Israelites who had to "pump the water" out of the earthas a slave to water their crops. That is where many business people are still today. We have not understood our high calling. We are still viewing ourselves as slaves to doing business through striving and toil. We have been trained to believe we do not get more than what we can produce. The contrast to the Promised Land is that God said that it was a land of milk and honey and their crops were a result of the rain from heaven, not water pumped from the ground. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit saith the Lord." When Israel had to exit out of Egypt, they also had to exit from a way of viewing themselves. Today too many business people are striving to make their businesses work. The promised land signifies "obedience and relationship". Blessings come as a result of obedience. Blessings do not necessarily mean financial, but certainly His provision is from obedience. We have noticed that the person who tries to take theshortcut never gets to the real promised land of spiritual blessing in and through their business. Why do you think the people got so upset when Jesus came into the temple and turned over the tables? It was business as usual as far as they were concerned. Their predecessors had taught them that selling in the temple was OK. They really did not understand who was the owner of the temple.
When Jesus came into the temple He made them aware that things had to change. What they had learned from the past was no longer acceptable. He was changing their whole mindset about business in the kingdom.
Are you seeing God dealing with business people about their commitment more so than ten years ago?
Oh, yes. It is much greater today. It is such a consistent pattern that we marvel at how often it is the same story among business people we meet. Especially among those who make a conscious commitment to serve Christ through their businesses. I believe the time is short and God is moving among business people. We have noticed a very particular process (a type of death and resurrection) usually is experienced shortly after their commitment is made to Jesus for their business. The good news is that when we die with Christ we are also resurrected. We share with Him in that resurrection. Usually that person has greater success spiritually and professionally when they successfully go through this process. This is because God watches over the business and many circumstances begin to change that have nothing to do with what the business owner might do. It is a tough process.
Os Hillman has developed a complete 6-tape audio course with workbook on the recruitment process that Gunnar speaks about in this article. Go to FaithandWorkResources.com to see The 9 to 5 Window workshop audio tape series.
For more resources by this and other authors, click on FaithandWorkResources.com link to the right of this page.
William Wilberforce (August 24, 1759 - July 29, 1833) was a British politician, philanthropist and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. A native of Hull, Yorkshire, he began his political career in 1780 and became the independent Member of Parliament for Yorkshire (1784-1812) and a close friend of Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. In 1785 he underwent a conversion experience and became an evangelical Christian, resulting in changes in his lifestyle and in his interest in reform. He was 28 years old at the time and wondered whether he could stay in politics and remain a follower of Jesus Christ. His good friend John Newton, who was a converted slave trader and author of the famous hymn, Amazing Grace, convinced him to stay in politics to model his faith in the public sector. His life was dramatized in a 2007 movie production from Walden Media entitled Amazing Grace.
He didn't begin this job until he was sixty-nine years old. He had already had a successful Hollywood movie career and decided to try his hand at politics. He would be known by one job more than any other. He would also be known as one of the United State's greatest statesmen. He had a faith that was genuine but not intruding or very public, but you knew where he stood. He always treated people, even his detractors with grace. He was known for his extraordinary love he had for his wife.
As children in grammar school we often played pick-up football. Two captains would alternate making the best choices among schoolmates to make up the two teams. I was often chosen first because I was a good athlete. It felt good to be valued by others for what they perceived I could contribute. Conversely, it must have felt crummy to be the last chosen or not chosen at all...