This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent and the not-so-innocent.
Sunday 12:10 p.m.
Pastor Andy James stood at the front door of the church after the morning worship service. As those who attended the service filed by, Andy grasped the hand of Jacob Barnes, long-time church member, Sunday School department director, and prominent deacon. Jacob smiled and said, "Preacher, I believe that was the best sermon you have ever preached." Unexpected warmth filled the pastor as he soaked in the affirmation. After all, as Andy would later recount to himself, that compliment was from Jacob Barnes, an influential church leader. Sunday night Andy rested peacefully.
Monday 8:00 a.m.
Jacob Barnes was ready for work. He was focused. Mumbling a "good-bye" to his wife, Jacob headed to the office. He was responsible for about 1,000 employees, an important and influential man.
At work, Jacob's Sunday smile had given way to a workday scowl. Things were not as he wanted them to be. One by one, various employees were summoned to his office. One by one these unsuspecting subordinates heard screams and curses from this businessman/church leader. Jacob said to one after another of his employees, "what in the @#$%! have you been doing? You are a lousy excuse for an employee!" One of Jacob's employees is also a member of Andy's church. Jeff Sawyer is a young married adult in his first job. That Monday, the day after Jacob affirmed Andy's "excellent" sermon, he tells young Jeff, "Your faith has no place in our company. In fact, the stuff we hear preached and taught on Sunday is not relevant in the real world. Jeff, if you want to succeed in the real world, you must do business the real world's way."
Jacob is in a crisis and doesn't even know it. Like so many people, Jacob segregates his faith from the rest of his life. The "Jacobs" of this world believe faith in God is OK on Sunday but on Monday they act as if God has little to say about how we live and work. That's the reality of our day.
During sixteen years as a banker I encountered people like Jacob quite often. Today, I serve the Lord in a ministry specifically focused on the issues which Jacob's life illustrates. Through our ministry I regularly meet many people who are struggling with Jacob's syndrome. There are thousands, if not millions, of people like Jacob in our world today, and some of them are in your church — maybe even among your leadership.
Do you know a Jacob? Perhaps you are a pastor. Maybe you are a church leader. You can begin today working to make an eternal difference in Jacob's life and the life of your church. Here are some ideas to help you identify and disciple Jacob:
• Pray for discernment. With godly insight, you can see the Jacobs in your circle as needy people in crisis — it will relieve the temptation simply to judge them, and prepare you to act as an intercessor for them.
• Listen proactively. Listen as solutions to church problems are proposed by lay leaders; ask yourself if the proposals are consistent with Scripture. If not, the person offering them is very likely making similar inconsistent decisions on the job. That's a red flag, a signal that the faith and the work worlds don't intersect for them. You may be working with Jacob.
• Get involved. That's our calling. Invite Jacob to lunch. Casually ask him, "How does your faith in Christ affect your work?" Follow up, asking, "How does your work help you to know God better?" Probe deeper by asking, "What is God doing in your workplace, and how is He using you to accomplish His purpose there?" Invite the Jacobs to work through Experiencing God with you.
Jacob attends your church. Every Sunday Jacob sits in that same pew and attends that same Sunday School class. Every Monday Jacob engages in his/her life's work and shuts out the blessing of God on that huge part of life. Now, what are you going to do about it?
Faith-based Business Decision
Truett Cathey, the Southern Baptist layman who founded and owns Chick-Fil-A restaurants, is well known for his stand on Sunday closings. Recently, Cathey spoke about that in an awards ceremony at the annual meeting of the Lord's Day Alliance of the United States. He said, "… you have to consider what's important in life and Whom we need to serve."
Cathey said he once asked his boys' Sunday School class what they would think about their teacher if he opened his restaurants on Sundays.
"We would think you were a hypocrite!" one boy replied.
"We're still in business after 50 years," Cathey said, "and others seem to respect our decision and convictions about staying closed." He noted, for example, that Delta Air Lines has started serving Chick-Fil-A on their flights, but only six days a week!