The Puritan Gift was hailed by the Financial Times as one of the Top Ten Business Books of the Year in 2007. In this acclaimed book, British authors Kenneth and William Hopper (brothers) maintain that early American Puritans, such as John Winthrop, provided a foundation for the best of American business practice up until 1970. The results, until then, were positively staggering.
But why did Christianity have such a positive affect on America's development, yet not in some other places of the world where Christianity has been introduced? As my friend Lowell Bakke once remarked, "Why are some cities that have been Christianized and churched, like Lagos, Nigeria, still full of poverty and corruption?"
Part of the answer lies in the terms Christianized and churched. In the case of America, Puritans saw no separation between "a man's shop and his chapel." They embraced a wholistic form of Christianity that saw fish farming and shoe making as God's work.
In some parts of the world, "Christianization" has produced a withdrawal of Christians from business, arts and politics. A personalized and privatized Gospel has produced Christians with little or no interest in the way business is done, or how civil affairs are managed.
As Dr. Darrell Furgason observed: “In places like Africa...Western missionaries generally brought the Gospel in the way they learned it, as a purely soul-saving faith, with no real bearing on anything else—religion was a mostly personal matter, nothing to do with things like politics, science, law, economics….African people were given the Gospel, but not how to build a righteous nation, how to apply Christianity to everything."
As one African friend of mine put it: "Africans have understood the Gospel of Salvation, but not the Gospel of the Kingdom." Yes, the "Gospel of Salvation" points people to becoming born-again through faith in Christ's shed blood. Through this door we enter into a relationship with Jesus, and this is the beginning.
But the Gospel of the Kingdom helps us understand what salvation is for. We are not just saved from something, but for something. Personal salvation is a part of the Gospel of the Kingdom, but not the whole. The Kingdom is larger than the soul.
One of the best descriptions I've heard on this topic is by Paul Stevens, in an interview I did with him several years ago at Regent College: