Secular Employment and Business Ventures

By Karen Zerby (aka "Mamma Maria")

FD/MM/FM; ML#3792; August 2009

1. We recently asked the Lord for His updated counsel on Family members taking on secular employment and participating in business opportunities today. The practical changes that we're presenting here are primarily for the FD category of membership, as Family members in other categories have always been free to pursue secular employment and business opportunities without restriction, according to their faith and circumstances. However, the general principles apply to all Family members.

2. The guidelines for FD members, as articulated in the Charter, currently state:

l. The Home decides, by a two-third majority, if any of its members may take outside employment or engage in business, which members may do so, and what employment may be taken, or business engaged in.

In some cases, some Home members might desire to take a secular job or perhaps run a business, as a means of support. As the "Charter of Responsibilities and Rights" does not specifically prohibit it, it is generally allowed. We are not recommending it, but it's not forbidden. Since such a decision affects the Home, financially and otherwise, it will be the Home that decides, by two-third majority, if they will allow any of their members to get a job. They should also discuss and decide who can get a job and what kind of job is acceptable. Remember, if you want to get a certain job and the Home doesn't want you to, the Home's decision prevails; but you can seek out another Home or start your own if you don't want to abide by the decisions of the Home you are in.

"We believe you should certainly pray that if the Lord wants you to take on one of those System jobs, that He will open up the one for you that will be the most fruitful in witnessing as well as in support, and the one least demanding in hours, subject matter and other requirements" (ML #2406:107). ("Home Life Rules," I, pg.266.)

3. While our governing documents have allowed FD members to take on secular employment and business opportunities, since the publishing of "Conviction versus Compromise, Part 3," this has not been recommended or encouraged. The stance in "Conviction vs. Compromise, Part 3," which was published in 2001, was strongly anti-secular employment.

4. In that Letter I stated: "It is Peter's and my firm conviction that most System jobs held by those in open fields are not God's highest will. Most System jobs are a compromise of our standard of discipleship, unless they're absolutely needed for you to remain in your field, or they provide a very clear and abundant avenue for witnessing, or are a tremendous source of income that supports a lot of very active missionaries" (ML #3363:10, GN 959).

5. As you know, this counsel was written during the period of our history when we, as a Family, were in a weakened and compromised state. We had received many reports at the time about the types of employment that Family members were engaged in—both Family-based non-witnessing fundraising methods as well as secular employment—and it was clear that such ventures were hindering our members from preaching the Gospel. The majority of the endeavors were not resulting in mission-based fruit, but rather compromise. For the most part, we as a Family were not handling secular employment wisely, so He had to rein us in and put safeguards in place.

6. Today, however, the Lord wants to give us more flexibility in the realm of secular employment/business ventures, because He knows that having the wherewithal to pursue some of these avenues will in some cases be necessary to doing the new things that He may be asking of some Family members in order to accomplish the mission. When the Lord puts those new and different open doors before you—some of which may involve participating in forms of secular employment, business ventures, part-time work, or networking and collaboration—having a change of mindset regarding secular employment and business opportunities will make it easier for you, through counsel and prayer, to "follow the Spirit" in those situations.

7. Peter and I are altering our past stance toward secular employment for FD members. We are stating that the Lord could likely lead Family members toward secular employment or business ventures, for both participating in and/or facilitating the mission. The existing Charter clause will be updated to reflect this, and to allow for greater freedom and flexibility in this realm.

8. In addition to updating the Charter clause, it's important that we all change our mindsets regarding secular employment and business ventures. If something along these lines is within the Lord's will for an individual, and if such a venture would help them to more effectively participate in and facilitate the mission according to their means and ability, then our reaction should be one that is open and supportive.

9. We're not suggesting that all Family members take up secular employment. That would be an inaccurate conclusion to come to; it's not the point of this Letter. The premise of this counsel is the same as was stated in "The Mission": That each one of us should find out what the Lord wants us to do in order to fulfill the mission, and then do that to the best of our ability. Fulfilling the mission remains our focal point and primary goal.

10. With this Letter, Peter and I are officially stating that we recognize that some Family members' participation in and/or facilitation of the mission might involve some form of secular employment or engaging in or collaborating on a business venture. In some cases the Lord may lead someone along these lines; there will be times and situations when it will be His will. If the Lord leads an individual to take on some form of secular employment or engage in a business venture, then we should be accepting of that and supportive of their efforts.

11. We foresee situations in which a Family member taking on some kind of secular employment, even temporarily or part-time, or one that is home-based, could provide a boost in reaching your Offensive goals; for example, if an individual is able to bring in a good amount of revenue to relieve the Home of some of its financial pressures and restraints, thus freeing more members to focus on the Home's Offensive-related goals and be more effective in the mission.

12. Or a business venture for collaboration or networking purposes might prove to be a boon to the Offensive—helping to further the work by developing closer ties with the friends or supporters whom you are collaborating with, opening new doors and opportunities, or putting individuals (and thus the Family members they're working with or collaborating with) in contact with those in positions of influence, who can in turn help to further their Offensive goals.

13. The atmosphere of the Family today must allow for and support the things that will enable individuals to give as much as they can to the mission, according to their abilities and the Lord's will for them, in order to bear fruit that remains. For some individuals or works, this may include taking on a secular job or business venture of some kind. If secular employment or a business opportunity helps us to fulfill the mission and the goals of the Offensive more effectively than we could otherwise, then it's a good thing.

The potential pitfalls

14. My commentary in "Conviction versus Compromise, Part 3" could have easily given the impression that secular employment or business opportunities automatically bring compromise. I was making a strong case about the pitfalls of secular employment at the time, in order to pull the Family out of a compromised state. But it's important to realize that secular employment or business opportunities and compromise are not one and the same, and they are not necessarily synonymous.

15. Of course, there is the danger of compromise when you get involved in the business world—that's definitely a factor to consider and to be realistic about. But we will be disadvantaged if we lump all business opportunities or secular jobs together with compromise, because then we will not have the faith to pursue something that may in fact be the Lord's will for someone and may open doors for significant progress in the Offensive.

16. There are genuine downsides to allowing greater opportunity regarding secular employment and business. If you enter this realm, you should do so with full faith and the Lord's backing, as well as the agreement of your Home. The potential dangers of secular employment have been spelled out clearly in the Word. (Of course, a lot of these are potential pitfalls in a number of endeavors, ministries, or opportunities one might engage in; they're not only linked to secular employment and business.)

17. Here are some of the main pitfalls to watch out for:

* It can detract from a person's spiritual life, if their time becomes consumed with work obligations that don't allow sufficient time to maintain their spiritual life and walk with the Lord.

* It can detract from a person's Christian testimony, if they don't strive to be an example of Jesus in the workplace and a witness of His love and truth.

* It can end up as a means of simply supporting day-to-day existence, rather than supporting an individual, a Family work, WS or the greater Family, in fulfilling the mission and bearing fruit.

* It can sap substantial time and energy from valuable personnel that might be better invested directly in the mission.

* It can be the easier way and can contribute to lethargy. Once you have the money you need through secular employment/business, it can detract from your mission-focus and drive to reach the world.

* It can cause you to rely on the arm of the flesh and depend on the world for your support, rather than on the God factor. You can begin to lose faith for miracles of supply.

* It can breed attitudes that are not in line with our mission and goals, such as independence, a lack of balance, selfishness, lack of love, money-hungry attitudes, and a materialistic spirit.

18. While you need to be aware of the potential downsides and guard against them, at the same time you have to realize that if you're in the Lord's will and your heart is in the right place, He can keep you from compromise, no matter what situation you're in. If your motives are right, if you're engaging in secular employment or a business venture for the right reason—to facilitate and advance the mission to the best of your ability—and if you're faithful before the Lord to keep your spirit strong and clean, then you can maintain your faith, your convictions, and your testimony. You're not doomed to compromise.

19. In fact, since the launch of the Offensive, Peter and I have been receiving regular news and reports from a number of individuals and Homes around the world that are engaging in some sort of secular employment, business opportunities, collaboration or networking endeavors and the like, in order to further the mission. We've been inspired by these accounts; the Lord is doing new things, and good fruit is being borne.

20. Those involved have been using these opportunities to reach many people that they wouldn't have otherwise been able to reach. They've been using their positions and standing in the community to witness and win, to become known in their communities as a force for good. Their efforts are bearing fruit. These recent Family examples prove that if done right, with the goal of following the Lord and furthering the mission, such opportunities can bear tremendous fruit!

Other possible benefits…

21. The main benefits to be had from this change are the expanded possibilities for furthering the mission that will come through allowing more opportunity for personal faith in the realm of secular employment and business ventures. Here are other possible benefits:

* More open doors for distributing our Family products and materials.

* Significant income generated; greater financial stability.

* More unity and harmony if some of the financial strain (which can bring tension) is lessened.

* Family members becoming experts in certain professions could benefit the Family and our mission.

* The elimination of some of our current fundraising methods that include little to no witness and bring in very little funds.

* It may help some of you through the period of time when you're making the transition from non-witnessing or hand-to-mouth fundraising methods, to building a work and being funded through your witnessing, outreach methods, and follow-up.

* Some individuals may benefit by feeling that they can make a more significant contribution to the success of their Home and its Offensive goals, or to the Family as an organization, in a way that they personally feel more gifted for, fulfilled in, and challenged by.

* It may help to provide a better example to those that you're ministering to if extra funds raised through secular employment are put toward things that upgrade your presentation and testimony—for example, a better standard in your Home, or a better educational situation for your children, or having some personal money to invest in upgrading your personal presentation, etc.

* A business opportunity may provide necessary visas for some Family members to remain in the country.

* It may provide more options for short-term fundraising methods, such as for those raising funds to go to a new field, or raising funds for members to attend a Family camp or meetings.

* It may provide opportunities to learn to speak and practice the local language, as well as understand the culture, customs, and mentality of the local people and the country you live in.

* It may help to put more "skin" on professionalism, putting us more in touch with certain disciplines and accountability that we haven't yet experienced much of or been so accountable for within our Family structure—i.e., being on time, diligence in work, accounting for our time and productivity, structure, integrity, people handling, etc.

Points to consider

22. If you are considering secular employment, or engaging in a business venture or collaboration effort, you will want to consider the following:

23. * Secular employment or business ventures that Family members undertake should serve to facilitate and ultimately further the mission in some way. This concept is explained in "The Mission": "What Family members do, whether individually in their service for the Lord, or in teamworking with others to serve the Lord, should be for the purpose of achieving the stated goals of our mission. … Fulfilling the mission should be central to what defines your actions as a Family member. It should be a fundamental consideration in your choices and actions" (ML #3776:18, 95). (See also "The Mission," ML #3776:74, and "Offensive Briefing #7," ML #3778:12-13.)

24. * Secular employment and business opportunities are not all equal—either in the finances that they will potentially bring in or in the fruit that they will bear. Some will be much more worth your time than others. For example, if one Family member's secular job creates an avenue to witness and minister to a new circle of influential people, or helps to support a Family Home or work, thus freeing more members to witness and fulfill the mission, that's probably well worth it. On the flip side, working in a low-paying job, or one with no mission-related benefits or progress, will not generally be a good use of a Family member's time.

25. Be wise when deciding which opportunities to pursue. Consider what the returns will be for what you'll be putting into it. Is it worth it? Will it help substantially—either to directly further the mission or to support the mission financially? Does it have mission-related potential, even if it's less financially appealing? If it's financially lucrative and you are facilitating the Family's mission in that way, will it leave you with the time you need to personally participate in the mission and to maintain your connection with the Lord and the Word?

26. Bathe your decision in prayer, take the time to hear from the Lord, do any needed research, and discuss and agree on it as a Home, so that everyone involved has the faith for the decision, and so that the right fruit can be borne.

27. * In addition to facilitators, we need as many people as possible who are dedicated to giving their full time to participating in the mission. If you are called to be a full-time participator, that's a high calling! Don't give it up! "We need many who spend most of their time directly engaged in the mission, going out witnessing, teaching classes, spiritually ministering to friends and associates, and sharing the message of God's love and truth with as many people as possible" (ML #3776:87).

28. * Should you choose to take on secular employment or a business venture, you should assess your decision periodically, to ensure that it is still the Lord's will, that it's bearing good fruit (both in the mission and in your spiritual/personal life), that it's playing out as you thought it would, and that it continues to be in line with your mission- and Offensive-related goals.

29. Be flexible and willing to change. Some opportunities may be long-term, due to their nature and the potential for the job or venture to be an ongoing boost to the mission, either through the significant finances that it brings to your work or Family, or the means that it provides to witness to and reach those who can assist you in the mission, or to help you to reach your long-term Offensive goals. Other opportunities may be temporary, or a means to an end, and once the Lord's will has been accomplished, He might have a new open door for you.

30. Keep the vision and goals always before you, and be ready to change with the times. No decision in this realm has to be permanent. Consider the fruit it is bearing—not just mission-based fruit, but the overall fruit in every area of your life. If something is no longer bearing fruit, or if the fruit is questionable, that's a good indication that it may be time to move on.

31. "You should be able to look at what you're doing, or at what those you're supporting or assisting are doing, and establish a direct correlation between those actions and the mission being accomplished. You should know that your facilitation and participation is resulting in the mission being accomplished, demonstrated by progress and obvious, quantifiable, lasting fruit" (ML #3776:97).

32. * The individual engaged in secular employment/business would be expected to be a good reflection of a Christian and Family member.

33. "Whether you are in a communal Home, or working closely with others, or starting out on your own, besides using the mission as a benchmark for your decisions, manifesting Jesus' love and following His Word are factors that will keep you grounded on a rock-solid foundation, and help you to bear much fruit for His glory. 'For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ' (1Cor.3:11-14).

34. "What things about your example make people want to know Jesus, read His Word, and grow closer to Him?" (ML #3778:59-60.)

35. (Jesus:) If you choose to take on secular employment or to engage in a business venture, you should have the conviction to witness. Be willing to be an instant witness, be a good reflection of Me, and have a clear understanding of your personal responsibility to fulfill the mission.

Flow with the Spirit, leaving behind preconceived ideas

36. Following is a message that the Lord gave when we asked for His counsel on secular employment and business opportunities.

37. (Jesus:) My intention during the Offensive is to open many new and wonderful doors. I will open as many doors as My children have the faith to walk through. I am not limited in the type of opportunities that I will bring your way, and they may come packaged differently than what you would expect, if you base your expectations on the context of the past.

38. Many open doors will come through direct witnessing and Offensive means, as you work hard and exercise the art of dependence and follow Me closely. I will lead you to new—and in some cases, even astonishing—means of communicating the message and reaching people who have the potential to further the mission. These new doors will be an unprecedented source of encouragement to you, and will bolster your faith as you see that anything can be done if it is My will and plan.—And it is My will and plan to use extraordinary and out-of-the-box methods to make the full vision of the Offensive a reality.

39. I will also open new and unusual doors for you to enter into secular circles, where you can relate to people on a peer level and reach them in a way that would not have been possible using traditional witnessing methods. As the Family broadens its circle of influence and becomes known as a force for good, opportunities will present themselves in some situations that will entail "becoming one" in a different way, either to reach professionals and influential people directly, or to collaborate with people who are already in your fold or have become close friends and contacts.

40. My will is that the Spirit flows freely throughout the Family, and that Family members will follow where the Spirit leads without preconceived ideas or trying to control the flow or channel it according to contexts of the past. You're going to have to consciously remind yourselves of this at each turn, in order to ensure that My Spirit can flow freely. You need that freedom to experiment, to try new things, and to walk through the open doors that come your way. If you make wise and Spirit-led decisions based on the template of the mission and the Offensive, you will be empowered to reach people in new ways.

41. I will call some of you to collaborate with others, or to initiate business ventures that will not only be successful and result in a significant source of financial supply, but will lead you to cultivate supporters and key facilitators. There are many business people in the world who would love to actively assist a volunteer work, but who don't have personal access to people of faith. Business people work a lot through friendships, networks, and relationships built on trust. Although in some cases you can build relationships along these lines just through product distribution, referrals, and regular follow-up, in other cases it takes a different kind of approach.

42. There are so few of you, and the job is so great. I need all of you to be focused, and to stay determined to actively participate in the mission. Some of you have the gifts and talents to break into these business circles, but have not had the faith to do so, given the previous counsel. I will lead some of you to walk through these doors in the future, while remaining firmly attached to Me and channeling your efforts to benefit the Family's mission.

43. When secular employment and business opportunities arise that will aid you in fulfilling the mission, I encourage you to seek Me desperately for My will concerning these opportunities, and to be willing to stretch and grow, to learn new things, and to play new and different roles if they will further the mission. I want you to feel free to avail yourself of the opportunities that I intend to bring—and in some cases, have already brought—your way. This is the new context and position, a new Offensive-friendly, mission-focused mindset.

44. Through this change in context I'm tying secular employment and business opportunities more directly to the Family's mission and achieving the goals of the Offensive. This is an important concept for all Family members. Everyone is on the same team, working toward the same goals, and contributing their efforts—large or small—toward the Family's big-picture goals: the mission, and the success of the Offensive.

45. If you have a secular job or are engaged in a business venture, here are some questions to periodically ask yourself and the Lord:

* Am I staying close to Jesus and maintaining my spiritual life? Am I manifesting the fruits of His Spirit in my life and in my interactions with others?

* Is it bearing good fruit in my life, in the lives of my loved ones and co-workers, and in the mission?

* Is it still meeting the conditions the Lord gave me when I first asked Him about taking on the job?

* Is it enabling me (or my Home or team or the Family as a whole) to better fulfill the mission and make greater progress in the Offensive?

* Is it time to stop?

We're still dependent on Jesus—as always!

46. This change of mindset and adjustment of policy regarding secular employment and business opportunities does not change our belief in the Lord's promises to provide our needs as we do His work. His promises are as true today as they've always been.

They which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel (1Cor.9:14).

My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Phil.4:19).

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Mat.6:33).

47. This change simply allows you to explore additional ways through which the Lord can fulfill those promises to supply your needs while you engage in the mission. It's one of many options for funding that the Lord might lead you to use. It doesn't change the Lord's ability to supply our needs on His Own, no strings attached, when we're devoting our full time to the mission. The Family has been dependent on the Lord for over 40 years. God has not failed to supply our needs—ever!

48. This change in context is not a call to transfer trust for financial supply from God to secular employment or other sources. We believe, just as we always have, that if we engage in the mission He has called us to, God will provide the funds to pay the bills. But that doesn't discount the fact that He may want to use the avenue of secular employment or engaging in a business opportunity as one of the means of doing so—for some people or situations, or for a certain period of time. In this day and age, that might be one of the ways that the Lord wants to supply for you financially, or provide influential friends or collaboration opportunities for you, or further the mission in some other valuable way.

49. We're still dependent on Jesus for our supply, through whatever means He chooses to use—whether through follow-up and teaching spiritual truths, supporters, fundraising, secular employment/business, or other means. He's the only thing in this world that doesn't change, the only One Who is truly unfailing. We've all seen in living color how unstable the world economic situation can be. We've seen the instability of the world's finances up close and personal—millions of people losing their jobs, their homes, their savings, their retirement funds, their everything.

50. So, while the Lord may lead you to take on secular employment or engage in a business endeavor for the purpose of facilitating or participating in the mission, or to benefit you financially, remember that the only place where your ultimate trust should lie is in Jesus—not the world and its false sense of stability. Be careful about feeling secure, unless you're feeling secure in Jesus. Our only financial security is in Him!

51. The Lord might lead you or someone you work with to take on secular employment to supply some of the finances that you need, but He might also lead you not to do so, and provide for you through a variety of other means. It's all about finding the Lord's will, the way in which He is leading you to carry out the mission. Our goal in making this change is to help to create an atmosphere in which you have the faith to engage in the mission the way the Lord is showing you to, the way that works for you and makes it possible for you to win your part of the world.

52. God has promised in His Word that He will supply for us if we do the job, and He has been true to His Word. He will continue to supply even more abundantly as we focus more concertedly on achieving the mission. We expect that in many cases He will supply in new ways, as you open your hearts and minds to the new opportunities He will bring across your path.

53. As His Spirit moves, we want to be ready, willing, and able to flow with Him. So we need to be open to operating in different ways, which in some cases might include exploring secular employment or business ventures. The key is to find out how the Lord wants you to fulfill the mission, and then to follow where He leads by faith.

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand.—Woodrow Wilson

(Dad:) Faith and obedience have brought supply and miracles for God's people all throughout the ages, and those same spiritual principles are in play today. If you obey God, even if by faith alone, whatever kind of miracles you need are guaranteed. That's a fact! He'll never fail, if you trust Him and do your part (ML #3591:68).

Copyright © 2009 by The Family International