By Jamie Shafer
C. Neal Johnson’s résumé is nothing short of remarkable. His background includes experience as an attorney, banker, educator, business consultant, and entrepreneur. In his legal career, he was one of the negotiators of the Panama Canal Treaty, working at the highest levels of the Pentagon and State Department.
Dr. Johnson has traveled in more than 70 countries, lived in 12, and has lectured all over the world. He ministered to a church in northern Italy, planted a church in Kazakhstan, and served on the mission field in Latin America.
He has a passion to help those in the marketplace find a life-changing relationship with Jesus. His love for God is even more striking.
A Crossroads Moment
Led to Christ by a fellow executive at the age of 42, Dr. Johnson experienced firsthand the impact that a Christian can have among coworkers. He grew up in a Christian home, but says that once he was out on his own, he felt he was a “modern student” and the faith of his parents wasn’t relevant to his life. From a cultural perspective, he found success in his educational and vocational endeavors, but remembers he sensed an empty hole in his life.
Not long after accepting Christ, he pursued involvement in the local church. He sought a minister’s advice on places to begin serving Jesus. Dr. Johnson remembers being told that he should get out of the business world since it was “Satan’s playground.” Johnson moved on to involvement in missions and ministry work.
As he traveled the world, he witnessed the spread of capitalism, but felt that it did not work when separated from Christian values and biblical foundations. This realization led him to pursue his doctorate at Fuller Theological Seminary in California, where he focused on intercultural studies with a concentration in international development.
Dr. Johnson’s years of experience and observations about faith and business culture led him to embrace the concept of business as mission, the idea that Christians can pursue both business and their God-given mission simultaneously. Of course, the next question is how. He addresses this in Business as Mission: A Comprehensive Guide to Theory and Practice (InterVarsity Press, 2009), a book that is being used in business and educational settings around the country.
Currently Dr. Johnson is a professor and department chair in the College of Business and Management at Hope International University in Fullerton, California, where he teaches and guides students on the practice of business as mission.
He believes we are witnessing one of the new mission movements of the 21st century. “It has been so satisfying to see God moving in a global way. People in other countries are telling me stories of similar impact,“ notes Dr. Johnson.
Three Ways to Engage Now
He says there are immediate steps any believer in the marketplace can take to move toward kingdom impact and away from being a “closet Christian.”
Everyone has an opportunity to make a difference. “CEOs can set the culture for the company. Managers can set the culture of the department. Workers can set the culture of the other workers.”
Regardless of role or rank within a company, he suggests three ways to get started:
Pray. One of the simplest but often missed steps in reaching people for Christ is prayer. Johnson notes the importance of taking time to befriend coworkers and committing to pray for them.
Connect. Christian marketplace groups are emerging across the country and around the world. Johnson recommends exploring existing groups like Fellowship of Companies for Christ International (www.fcci.org), C12 (www.c12group.com), or Christian Business Men’s Connection (www.cbmc.com). If nothing exists in your immediate area, consider starting a group. Find ways to fellowship with other believers in similar work situations. Support one another and explore ways to live out your faith 24/7.
Mobilize. Johnson is passionate about encouraging ministers and church leaders to make this mission field a priority. “The pews are full of a whole army of people,” he says. “We need to organize and equip them to go out into the community.” Examine your own church to find areas of opportunities. He suggests forming career-based affinity groups where members support one another and talk about ways to integrate faith into their professions.
Jamie Shafer is the communications director at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. She and her husband, Eric, have two children.