An examination of Christian values and correlated concepts in small business practices in South Africa
Author(s)Van den Berg, Ruan
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AbstractThe purpose of this research project was to establish in what way Christian entrepreneurs, in this case owner-managers of small and medium-sized enterprises, drew on their Christian faith – as an identity-creating construct – in the day-to-day running of their businesses. Religion was identified as one of the significant contributing elements that form part of individuals’ underlying values that are used to make numerous value-based decisions. Because SME owner-managers that adhere to the Christian faith constitute a fairly large segment of society in the Western World, a study of this nature can be regarded as a worthwhile undertaking that provides valuable insights related to how and to what extent this particular group of economic actors merge religious convictions with business operations. The research was set up in such a way that SME owner-managers in South Africa, who were self-proclaimed Christians and broadly defined as members of the Protestant tradition, constituted the sample participants. The methodology regarded as most suitable was a qualitative, grounded-theory approach whereby interviews were conducted along the lines of a semi-structured interview schedule. An openended exploratory strategy was adopted that allowed respondents to convey their thoughts and ideas pertaining to the research phenomenon from their personal perspectives. A number of conceptual and linguistic frames offered by the respondents – that gave language to the way they rationalised their faith in the context of managing their businesses – were recorded. A total of sixteen major themes and an additional eight sub-themes emerged from the data. The themes recorded and analysed were: faith, grace, calling, stewardship, kingdom, holiness, discipleship, discernment, love, relationship, anointing, inseparable dimensions of life, the Christian life journey, money, cultural perspectives and biblical principles, including the centrality of the Bible, integrity and honesty, sowing and reaping, humility, forgiveness, power of the tongue, importance of prayer and the centrality of Christ. The research findings revealed that a correct understanding of the Christian identity as well as a correct application thereof is crucial in successfully incorporating Christian ideals in the market. Full integration of the Christian identity plus an internalisation of God’s purposes and principles create an inner sense of direction that is less focused on external moral guidelines and codes of conduct – the phrase living from the inside out’ seems appropriately fitting to describe a group of economic actors who pursue their business careers with a sense of calling coupled with a belief that their commercial whereabouts are distinctively linked to a transcendent objective. In addition, general business administration guidelines, where the issue of religious affiliation per se is of no particular consequence, allow for the integration of the value concepts uncovered through the study by way of the corporate governance framework as contained in the King III report – particularly with reference to business practice interventions related to the formulation and implementation of core organisational values and moral codes.