11825363_s“Pastor” is a word I associate with the church, not with the world of banking. So I was pleasantly surprised to hear a bank director share recently that one of the things he could do in a new position that he had assumed was pastor the people that reported to him. I shouldn’t have been surprised. This brother had stated on a number of occasions that he saw his work as a banker as his ministry. I am sure banks don’t hire him because he is a Christian. They hire him because he is able to get the results they need. And banks are profit-driven institutions. Therefore I was glad that this brother did not see his work through the lens of some sacred-secular divide. I was delighted that he saw his daily work as his ministry.

Therefore it made sense that he would care for the people in his team. After all, followers of Jesus are called to love God and to love neighbour (Mark 12:29-31). We should be concerned for the welfare of all those whose lives we impact. It seems this is good business practice as well. Tim Sanders, the former Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo! wrote a book called Love is the Killer App (New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 2002). He argues:

…to succeed in tomorrow’s workplace, you need a killer application. (What’s a killer app? There’s no standard definition, but basically it’s an excellent new idea that either supersedes an existing idea or establishes a new category in its field. It soon becomes so popular that it devastates the original business model.) What is that application? Simply put: Love is the killer app. (Sanders, 11).

But how does Sanders define love? He quotes Milton Mayeroff for the best general definition: “Love is the selfless promotion of the growth of the other (Sanders, 11-12).” Sanders adapts this definition for the world of business. His definition of love business (sic): “the act of intelligently and sensibly sharing your intangibles with your bizpartners (13).” Sanders understands our intangibles to be “our knowledge, our networks and our compassion (Sanders, 13).” He goes on to explain the importance of compassion:

Unlike knowledge and networks, which we build over time, we all can tell people how much we care about them….At the office our humanity can be defined as the ability to involve ourselves emotionally in the support of another person’s growth. Whether we celebrate someone’s accomplishments, or show true sympathy for someone’s undoing, it is our warmth that separates us from the thinking machines. (Sanders, 18).

I note that Sanders calls us to show “true sympathy.” Perhaps Sanders is concerned, as we are, that love gets reduced to a technique to be used to manipulate people and we end up faking sympathy to make people like us so that our business prospers. Sympathy has to be true, from the heart. We either care for people’s welfare or we don’t. When my banker friend commits himself to pastor his staff, he shows himself to be a true follower of Jesus. Jesus shows us the connection between compassion and pastoring.

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:34 NIV).

What Jesus felt and did sounds a lot like Sanders’ killer app. And Jesus did it 2,000 years before Sanders. I have this theory that if we wait long enough, empirical science will end up “discovering” what was in Scripture all along.

The fear that many have of showing compassion in the work place is that people will take advantage of us. We needn’t feel that way. Jesus also calls us to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16). We must love with wisdom. And if I love someone I wouldn’t want this person to take advantage of me or anyone else. It wouldn’t be good for him/her.

Still, all demonstrations of love carry some risk. Sanders also recognises this.

Business love isn’t always smooth. Your defeats can sting, embarrass or depress. Occasionally people may completely misunderstand you…Showing your compassion openly at the office can leave you feeling vulnerable and, if rejected, hurt. (Sanders, 205).

I am sure my bank director friend knows this. Still he has chosen to pastor his people. He is a follower of Jesus. I am not sure if he has read Sanders’ book. It’s not important. We care, not because it is a “killer app.” We care because it is the Jesus thing to do. And it might just help people care about the Jesus we preach.