How the Church Fails Businesspeople

How the Church Fails Businesspeople

John C. Knapp
Eerdmans, 2011

Why do so many Christians struggle to relate their faith to their daily work? Is it the church’s fault? John C. Knapp argues that the church’s unclear teachings about vocation, money and business have long contributed to Christians’ uncertainty about how to live out their beliefs in the workplace. Based on Knapp’s business experience and extensive research — including numerous interviews with Christians in diverse occupations — How the Church Fails Businesspeople (and what can be done about it) brings fresh perspectives to this troubling problem.

Reviews and Resources: How the Church Fails Businesspeople

“John Knapp’s excellent book presents a much-needed wake-up call for pastors, churches, and Christian businesspeople alike.”
—Wes Cantrell, author of From the Shop Floor to the Top Floor: Releasing the CEO Within

“John offers a way out of the sacred-secular compartmentalization so prevalent in today's society.”
—Stephen B. Young, Global Executive Director, Caux Round Table

“We have been waiting for this book.”
—Jerome Miller, Vice President of Diversity and Social Responsibility, Toyota Motor Sales

Reader Reviews

“Great book highlighting a really crucial problem for many Christians today: how to integrate faith and daily work life — and how the church can and should help. I needed this book and have now passed it along (highly recommended) to my pastor-husband.”

“This book offers a fresh perspective on how and why so many of us feel our work lives are neglected by the church. (I know I do!) I never before grasped the theological basis for the church's indifference to discipleship at work, but Knapp analyzes a number of these factors. He also discusses the clergy's tendency to put the work of full-time church workers on a spiritual pedestal far above the careers of the laity. The book includes a fascinating chapter tracing the history of the church's theological confusion about money.”

“If you are serious about discipleship in the marketplace, this is a must read. If you are a pastor and want to help your people to have a new understanding of their work, this is a must read. Don't miss it!”
—Kopano Christian Bookshop

Blog Reviews and Featured Articles

“Knapp’s book is helpful to pastors seeking to learn more about the worlds of work in which their parishioners spend a majority of their time. It properly names the sacred-secular and public-private life dichotomies that have hampered Christian witness in the workplace for years. Vocational discipleship is an area that Evangelical churches desperately need to address, and Knapp's approach of inviting pastors to interview congregants about their workplace is a good place to begin.”
—Cory Willson, Comment: Public Theology for the Common Good

“So many essays on business ethics for Christians are little more than worldly, secular, Enlightenment moral philosophy ‘plus Bible verses’ — they unwittingly support the individualism, rationalism, and sterility of Modernity. Knapp plays it completely differently, biblically, in a profound sense. He doesn’t just pour holy water over secular ethics as many of our brothers seem content to do.”
—David W. Gill,

“The book is not afraid to ask challenging questions about our assumptions regarding work, calling, money, and the separation between what is sacred (and therefore assumed to be superior) and what is secular (and therefore easy to compartmentalize from the implications of faith).”
—Amy Simpson,

“This book pushed me beyond my previous understanding of the role I can play in my church and business communities. It challenges both businesspeople and pastors to redefine what it means to be relevant to a new generation of church members longing for deeper integration between their professional and spiritual realms.”
—Jim Smucker, The Christian Century

“... the Church does teach business ethics, says Knapp. But too often it only talks about personal ethics without helping businesspeople inside imperfect systems... ”
National Center for the Laity

“... helpfully documents how many business people and those who work in the corporate world feel ignored (or even betrayed) because it seems that their church and pastor don't seem to care much about equipping them to live faithfully in their complex, significant working lives... It isn’t off-the-charts spiffy, not a lot of hip bluster, just good, solid reporting of how the ethos of many congregations seems indifferent to the public lives of most members.” 
—Byron Borger, Hearts & Minds

“We can be thankful that John Knapp has written this book. While we must be careful not to simply envision church as a place of moral development, we can’t lose sight of the fact that the church is a place where moral development and transformation can and should take place. It’s an excellent book that needs wide circulation, especially now, as we live in a time of economic stagnation and when questionable business practices sent the economy spiraling downward. There is increasing disillusionment with the business world, even as there is with government, and even in the church, which has stumbled in its response. Looking at business from the perspective of Jesus and of Micah could be a blessing to our nation and world.”
—Robert Cornwall, Ponderings on a Faith Journey
Other references

“An increasing number of cultural observers are recognizing the sizeable gap that exists between our faith and our work. In his book... John Knapp brings his insightful analysis to bear on the problem as well as some helpful reflection on making positive strides forward.” 
—Tom Nelson, author of Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work 
Read the full review

“The ranks of second-career pastors are rapidly growing. They bring with them decades of experience in the secular workplace. The church should be increasingly well prepared to offer help for dealing with ethical issues in the workplace. This book by former businessman John C. Knapp says it’s not happening. We continue to leave job issues at the church door. The book is an exploration of the possible reasons.”
—Richard Ridge, The Presbyterian Outlook

“Knapp’s book is no how-to silver bullet, but it clearly articulates the problem, introduces a framework for addressing it, and invites pastors and churches to join a growing number of Christians who are working to integrate faith and work in their discipleship.”
—Guy Williams, Seedbed

“Tina Turner once asked ‘What’s love got to do with it?’ Today, many businesspeople are asking ‘What’s God got to do with it?’ For some, the question is a facetious way of saying that God really has nothing to do with business, but for many Christians it is a very real question… a question for which the church is of little help... And while we have seen a move in recent decades to make the workplace more diverse along a number of demographic lines, religion in the workplace is still seen as something that should stay at home... ”
—Michael Kruse, Jesus Creed
Read the full review: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII

“... although there has been a flood of words, lots of books, and a near paradigm shift about the general understanding that there is a relationship between faith and work, there is still a huge, huge disconnect in most ordinary parishes... Enter the brave work of John Knapp, the director of the Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership at Samford University. He has written widely on the ethics of leadership and how today's business challenges can be pursued faithfully. In this new, well-written book, Knapp explains the research he has done on whether or not local churches are actually helpful to business men and women, offering insights gleaned from his interviews... ” 
—Byron Borger, Cardus

“A book that is sorely needed in today’s Christian world is John Knapp’s How the Church Fails Businesspeople (Knapp is a professor and head of an ethics center at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama)... Amen, John. May your book gain a wide audience... ” 
—Chris R. Armstrong, Grateful to the Dead

“When I saw this book on the shelf, I was immediately drawn to it... John C. Knapp, who authors this book, reminds us of numerous Biblical passages in both the Old and New Testament that either explicitly or implicitly lift up the business vocation... He discusses the current church approach to business (mostly, don't talk about it), and the business approach to church (the same). On the basis of a series of interviews with Christian businesspeople, Knapp has come up with recommendations for how the Church can start to be more helpful and engaged with its members in the business world.”
ELCA Conservative 

Other Resources

The Business of Higher Education

The Business of Higher Education

Edited by John C. Knapp and David J. Siegel
Praeger, 2009

This three-volume resource considers the costs and benefits to both universities and society when academe embraces business models for improving cost-efficiency, marketing, hiring practices, and customer service. Bringing together a diverse team of contributors from the academic and business worlds, The Business of Higher Education offers 35 essays in three volumes. The first volume explores issues of leadership and culture, the second focuses on management and fiscal strategies, and the third volume takes up issues of marketing and consumer interests. Throughout, the work balances the contrasting perspectives of those within the academy and those outside of it, as it considers whether higher education and the public interest are ultimately helped or harmed by the application of business methods to essential academic functions.

Reviews: The Business of Higher Education

“The pros and cons of applying business methods to university operations, tempered by economic realities, is at the heart of these books. In a series of 35 essays, academic and corporate experts discuss nearly all aspects of higher education, from leadership strategies, labor issues, and crisis management to rankings, marketing, and sports... This set represents a thoughtful and highly useful starting point.”
—University Business

“Likely to raise the blood pressure on many readers, this is a thoughtful collection on a timely topic that will be of interest to policy makers and administrators.”
—Reference and Research Book News


“The notion that colleges need to act more like businesses appeals to many people outside higher education and, especially in difficult financial times, to some trustees and state leaders. Efficiency, productivity, innovation — all concepts that colleges and universities are all too often accused of lacking. And yet, many college and faculty leaders bristle at the suggestion that the institutions — and their students — would be better off if only institutions operated more like their counterparts in the private sector.

The Business of Higher Education (Praeger), a new three-part collection of essays edited by John C. Knapp and David J. Siegel, presents a wide range of perspectives on the complex impact of business models on higher education. The authors — respectively, the Mann Family Professor of Ethics and Leadership at Samford University, and an associate professor of educational leadership at East Carolina University — are neither pro- nor anti-business; they describe themselves, instead, as ‘ambivalent, conflicted, and (perhaps more positively) open to the merits of strong arguments.’ Those they (and readers) get, from such shrinking violets as E. Gordon Gee, Marc Bousquet and Cary Nelson."
—Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed

Leaders on Ethics

Leaders on Ethics

Edited by John C. Knapp
Praeger, 2007

More than a dozen influential leaders share perspectives from the trenches, showing the breadth of ethical challenges facing today’s leaders in a variety of industries and professional fields. Leaders on Ethics is a window into the minds of some of our most prominent leaders. A collection of speeches transcribed from original presentations, it features CEOs and other nationally known executives addressing subjects ranging from marketing with a conscience to promoting workplace diversity to dealing with the implications of globalization.

Reviews and More Information: Leaders on Ethics

The following leaders, among others, share their experiences in facing — and facing down — ethical dilemmas and challenges: James Copeland, retired chairman and CEO of Deloitte & Touche; Debra Waller, chairman and CEO of Jockey International; Jack Ward, chairman and CEO of Russell Corporation; Deval Patrick, former executive VP, corporate secretary and general counsel of The Coca-Cola Company, former general counsel of Texaco, and now governor of Massachusetts; Karen Katen, president of Pfizer Human Health and vice chairman of Pfizer; Ed Zinbarg, retired CIO and chief administrative officer of Prudential Life Insurance Company; Steve Odland, chairman and CEO of Office Depot and chair of the corporate governance task force of Business Roundtable.

Featured Reviews

“These 15 high-powered contributors understand very well that the ethics of modern society has changed rapidly, as evidenced by the behavior of ordinary individuals as well as by the heads of major businesses... They urge leaders to be trustworthy, sensitive to diversity, accepting of others regardless of class or union affiliation, and capable of putting high values and ethics first.” 
—Reference and Research Book News

“By bringing together in one volume the insights of some of the most thoughtful leaders of some of America's greatest companies, John Knapp provides a valuable service to all who believe that business ethics is a fundamental driver of business success. The strong voices we encounter in this volume show a thoughtful commitment to the ethical dimensions of business leadership, they command the skills needed to make a persuasive and lively argument, and they demonstrate the courage to speak out, even when it may mean controversial critiques of their own companies or professions. This book should be read by every executive in business today both as a primer on ethical business leadership, and as a guide to action in an increasingly complex and challenging global business environment.” 
—James C. Murphy, Ph.D., Executive Director, International Business Ethics Institute

For the Common Good

For the Common Good

Edited by John C. Knapp
Praeger, 2006

For the Common Good showcases the insights, reflections and recommendations of some of today’s most forward-thinking leaders, as they explore the challenges of leadership in the context of our global, 21st-century society. It features orginal essays by such luminaries as Nobel Prize winner John Hume; Leader-to-Leader Chair Frances Hesselbein; Harvard University’s Howard Gardner; M.K. Gandhi Institute’s Founder Arun Gandhi; poet David Whyte; and President Jimmy Carter. For the Common Good stresses the need for a new kind of leadership committed to promoting social welfare, justice and opportunity.

 Reviews: For the Common Good

“Contributors from business, education, religion, and politics set out the ethical requirements of leadership in the 21st century the obligations of leaders to promote justice, fairness, trust, and the conditions necessary for people to promote communities that flourish. They focus on practical matters, leaving theory to others.” 
—Reference and Research Book News

“[A] very refreshing work.” 
—Business Digest

“A sobering and inspiring portrait of the wide-ranging and complex global leadership challenges that confront our institutions and the critical role that ethical leaders can play in effectively addressing them.”
—David Vogel, Solomon P. Lee Professor of Business Ethics, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley

Featured Review

“Knapp has compiled a stellar collection that brings together reflections on the ethics of leadership by 11 academic and societal heavyweights such as John Hume, Howard Gardner, and Arun Gandhi… Knapp divides the essays into three sections, in which contributors consider the new climate in which leadership must be practiced; explicate leadership challenges in a global context; and examine how higher education can foster a sense of responsibility for the common good among college students who will become the new generation of leaders in this complex, fast-paced society. Focusing on the practice of ethical leadership, each contributor makes the case with moral authority that ethical leadership is as much about the personhood of the leader as it is about understanding the context in which leadership is practiced. Overall, a valuable addition to the literature on leadership and business ethics. Recommended. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals.”
—Choice Magazine