Reflecting the state of the economy, particularly in the real estate sector, more than 100 banks have failed so far this year. Two that were closed on Oct. 23 particularly caught my attention: Riverview Community Bank in Otsego, Minn., and Bank of Elmwood in Racine, Wis.
Riverview made quite a name for itself as a Christian bank. This story in the New York Times magazine explains that people at the bank would pray with customers. They considered their work to be a ministry. Sometimes they would call Riverview a church instead of a bank. They were very overt about their work being a means of glorifying God.
Bank of Elmwood was not an overt Christian bank like Riverview, but owner Jess Levin clearly considered his work to be a calling, not just a job. I have had occasion to visit with Levin over the years and he is clearly devoted to his community and his customers. His bank served customers that other banks didn't want. He always seemed more interested in helping people than in making money. This story gives you a pretty good idea of how Levin worked.
The failure of these two banks makes it clear that a devotion to higher ideals is no guarantee of success. Sometimes people think that if they dedicate their work to God, He will prevent them from failing. But companies devoted to God are equally subject to the basic rules of running a business. No business can ignore best practices. Revenues have to exceed expenses, receivables need to be collected on time, expenses have to be controlled, managers have to make prudent decisions. These fundamentals apply to all companies, whether their owners operate in the name of God or not.
Dedicating your work to God is first and foremost a way to glorify God with your life; it is not a strategy for business success.