C. Neal Johnson — Spiritual & Social Aspects of Business

Hope International University, USA

God made us creative, He made us to work- what they need is the kind of dignity that comes with a paycheck that says, ‘Somebody values my service, somebody values my life, and that I have dignity.’

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C. Neal Johnson—Business as Mission

Dr. C. Neal Johnson is a professor of Business and Management at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. Since the mid-1990s he has been a frequent speaker and keynoter on “Business as Mission” (BAM) at professional, educational, church and mission conferences. His Christian approach to the marketplace is reflected in his book, Business as Mission: A Comprehensive Guide to Theory and Practice, published by InterVarsity Press.

C. Neal Johnson—Lawyer, Banker, Entrepreneur

Johnson has a dynamic background as an attorney, banker, educator, missionary, business consultant and entrepreneur, domestically and internationally. In his distinguished legal career, he has served as one of the negotiators of the Panama Canal Treaty and worked at the highest levels of the Pentagon and State Department. He also practiced domestic law with a special focus on business and banking law and is admitted to practice law in four states, the Court of Military Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Johnson served as a bank president for ten years, was selected as president of his state’s bankers association, and was asked to serve on numerous professional, educational and foundation boards of directors, including chairing the Governor’s task force to form a state venture capital fund for economic development. In addition, Johnson has been invited to be a frequent speaker, panelist and moderator for numerous business, banking and civic groups throughout the world, as well as guest lecturer/professor at various universities, symposia and conferences, and keynote speaker/lay preacher in church pulpits, mission conferences and other evangelical settings.

In the early 1990s, Johnson became a founding faculty member of the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategy Research (KIMEP) for the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. During his three year tenure there, he co-founded and became a Director and Executive Officer of the first western style bank in the Republic. In these dual roles, he worked intimately with a wide variety of start-up businesses in the fledgling market economy and with foreign investors seeking business opportunities in the new republic.

C. Neal Johnson—Pastoral and Mission Work

Johnson also performed mission work in the Dominican Republic, pastored a church in northern Italy, co-founded a church in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where he served as pastor, preacher and teacher, and was on the boards of directors for missions in Armenia, Moscow, Latin America and a global tentmaking support agency. He also served as his state’s representative to his denomination’s Annuity Board and helped oversee the investment of a billion-plus dollar pastoral retirement fund and medical insurance plan. 

While in seminary, Johnson served as the Western States Regional Director of FCCI—the Fellowship of Companies for Christ International, a.k.a. Christ @ Work—and worked with two hundred Christian business owners and chief executive officers on issues of faith integration.

C. Neal Johnson—Education and Academia

Johnson holds a Ph.D. from Fuller Theological Seminary, where he focused on faith-based business management practices and directed his dissertation toward “God’s Mission to, within and through the Marketplace.” He also holds a J.D. (Juris Doctor), a Masters in Intercultural Studies with a concentration on International Development, a Masters in Public Administration, and a Graduate Banking Degree (with Distinction). His Bachelor of Arts is in Political Science (International Studies) from the University of Colorado, and he is a graduate of the American Bankers Association’s School of International Banking.

In 2008 he was asked to be the founding Dean of the Business School for Bakke Graduate University in Seattle, Washington. The Business School offers an M.B.A. and an M.A. in Social and Civic Entrepreneurship (MASCE), both from a distinctively Christian worldview with a strong Business-as-Mission (BAM) emphasis and a calling to help find innovative solutions to urban issues, especially among the cities’ marginalized, homeless and powerless. This school seeks the transformation of global communities through Christian business and entrepreneurial education.

Johnson and his wife, Frecia, also a Ph.D. from Fuller Seminary, now reside in Newport Beach, California, close to their two married children. In July 2010 he joined the faculty of Hope International University. From this base he will be continuing to promote BAM and faith-based Social Entrepreneurship through speaking, mentoring and consulting. 

  • Our God-Given Creativity

    God is an incredibly creative individual, and He said that I’m making men and women in my own image. He made us to be creative individuals … He gave a number of things to humanity and to mankind and said, ‘Look, this is who I want you to be. This is who I’ve made you to be. I want you to take dominion. I want you to exercise your creative gifts.’

  • Loving One’s Neighbor Through One’s Vocation

    When Jesus was asked as to what the greatest commandment was, he said to love the Lord, but he said, ‘Like unto that is to love your neighbor,’ so you’ve got the ‘love God’ and ‘love other people.’ And the primary way we love other people is through our vocations.

  • Handouts vs. Paychecks

    It’s easier to write a check than it is to give of yourself.… All too often that’s what the people in the pews have done and the churches have told us, that the NGOs have told us – that’s all they need, they want our money ... But when you go to find people in these countries, and they don’t have jobs and you realize what they need is not just a check, but they need a job, they need meaningful work. God made us creative, he made us to work—what they need is the kind of dignity that comes with a paycheck that says, ‘Somebody values my services, somebody values my life, and that I have dignity.’

  • The Impact of a Job

    One of the problems we saw in Kazakhstan when I was on the mission field there was that the people didn’t have jobs. The men were out, they didn’t think well of themselves so what did they do? They turned to the bottle; alcoholism problems were really rampant. They’re angry, they’re frustrated, they have no hope in life, and they don’t see any value in their life. But you take that same person, you give them a job, you give them something meaningful, and it can totally change their attitude toward life and gives them hope, gives them promise … So business not only creates valuable goods and services, but we’re creating employment for people that allows them to have a whole different sense of who they are, what their purpose is, and what their hope is for the future. And the social implications of that are just enormous.

  • Work as a Blessing

    I see work as a blessing to us. I had a chance to retire one time. I tried it and I found that I absolutely was bored silly. I thought, “Am I just going to hit the little white ball around and golf on the golf course for the rest of my life? Is this all that I was created for? Is this all the meaning I can have out of life?” No, I get my meaning out of life by working, by relating to others, by creating, pouring myself into other people, and I do that through my family, I do that through my business. I do that by giving to my students, pouring my life into them and my business, pouring my life into my employees and into my customers, and that to me is where joy comes from. It’s a fulfilled life, it’s an exciting life and quite frankly, it couldn’t be that good and not be of the Lord.

  • Charity and Unintended Consequences

    There’s a story that I heard of a miner, a family down in the Appalachia area. The church there really thought that they were doing a great deal because they would go in, they would pick the poorest families and they would take them Christmas gifts and turkeys and that sort of thing. So they went to this family and presented with them with all the gifts, all the children had gifts and they had a hot meal on the table. The church was so pleased with what they had done, and then they left. And the husband just broke down and cried because he said, ‘You mean in this community, we are thought of as the poorest family in the community?’ The shame that came with that, with the charity that had been given so lovingly out of the best of intentions, but it absolutely shamed him and it destroyed his life. I heard it from his son. He said, ‘It destroyed my father because he said he was so shamed in front of the rest of the community because they didn’t think that he was a person of worth that they had to take care of his family for him.’

  • Integration of Faith in Business

    The internal integration of faith in the business is where we as Christians try to live out a gospel 24/7. We take Biblical principles and we bring them into the management of the business—what I call management style evangelism in which the way we deal with our people, the way we deal with our employees, their families, with the suppliers we deal with, the vendors, with our clients and our customers—everything there should reflect the love of Jesus, reflect excellence that our Lord called us to, that we are accountable to in the end.

  • Ethics as Advantageous

    Being ethical is not a competitive disadvantage in the long run. Granted, in the short run, there can be and have been a lot of instances where it is. But in the long run, an ethic isn’t a disadvantage…. It doesn’t mean the businesses won’t fail, won’t go down. They still have business cycles and those kinds of things that apply to it, but that’s a better way to live and that’s a better way to do business. And quite frankly, we’re being obedient to faith and to our Lord’s calling by doing it that way.