David Green’s leadership lessons from Holy Scripture
Occasionally a book tells such an extraordinary story that it makes for compelling and inspirational reading. Leadership Not by the Book by David Green with Bill High is just such a book.
David Green is the founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, one of the most extraordinary success stories in American business history. Green is a devout Evangelical Christian who was committed to running his business according to Christian principles.
As many business consultants have told him, he is running his company counter to the rules of MBA programs (By the Book). Instead, Mr. Green has been running his business by leadership principles from THE BOOK—the Bible.
It is clear that David Green’s Christian faith has permeated every aspect of his life. This is in part explained by his family of origin. His parents and all five of his siblings are in church ministry.
It is abundantly clear that David Green is committed to living out his Christian faith. He believes that God called him to be a businessman in as genuine a sense as his siblings were called into ministry.
READ: 'I don’t see myself as wealthy': Hobby Lobby founder David Green talks stewardship, trusting God (Part 1)
This concept is very biblical. As one of David Green’s favorite verses proclaims, “For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11, Amplified Bible).
The New Testament reinforces this truth when the Apostle Paul declares, “For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God preordained (planned beforehand) for us, (taking paths which He prepared ahead of time) that we should walk in them—living the good life which he prearranged and made ready for us to live.” (Eph. 2:10, Amplified Bible).
Green believes that God called him into business for “a divine purpose” and that God is the true owner of Hobby Lobby, and that he and his family are stewards entrusted by God to run Hobby Lobby for His kingdom purposes.
I have often said that God has a plan and a purpose for every individual person and that God’s purpose for David Green was to be used by God to steward this tremendous business called Hobby Lobby and to be a truly “Christian” business for its thousands of employees and multitudes of customers.
As Green puts it, “When you’re an owner, wealth can easily become a curse. When you’re a steward, wealth becomes a tool.”
Green began by focusing on what he labels the “secret sauce.” Right at the beginning Green issues a challenging and intriguing question to the reader: “How may God want to use you to create some new sensation (one that ‘just shouldn’t work,’ but does) to bring life to families, blessings to the world, and joy to God’s heart?”
As a theologian, I find Green’s story fascinating because he adheres so closely to my understanding of timeless truths from the Bible.
Green believes God has a purpose for every human life, even if you are in a business as a lawyer or an educator, or an engineer. Green really means it when he says that God owns the business and he is a steward who will give an account one day for his stewardship of the resources entrusted to his supervision.
Green focused on three “extraordinary Bible verses” which have helped his prayer life enormously. The first verse instructed him to “Pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17 KJV). The second verse, Hebrews 13:5, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” The third verse, James 4:2, asserts: “You do not have because you do not ask God.”
Taken together, embracing these verses helped Green cultivate the habit of praying throughout the day and he was sensitized to the Lord being with him at all times. Lastly, the third verse encouraged Green to never hesitate to ask God for great things.
READ: Hobby Lobby founder David Green: 'We truly believe that it’s God's business' (Part 2)
I cannot imagine that anyone involved in business would not benefit greatly from reading David Green’s experience of building and exercising stewardship in the business world. I know several young people who are in business school and I am going to place a copy of Leadership Not by the Book in their hands.
Following the principles laid down in Leadership Not by the Book will make anyone who embraces its truths a better employer or a better employee.
One area of Leadership which I found particularly helpful was the discussion about the transference of wealth from one generation to the next. There is no area where the truth that we are stewards of God’s company, rather than the owner, is more important.
Green points out that when you “own” the business, wealth can be a cruel master and can become a curse for the family and especially children and grandchildren who feel privileged and entitled. When God owns the company, wealth is “a tool used for God and family members know they must earn their income.”
This last part reminds me of a beloved mentor who has now gone home to be with the Lord. As a young man, this mentor pastored out in a West Texas farming community. Geologists discovered oil in the area and many of the farming families in the church became fabulously wealthy virtually overnight. My mentor, as their pastor, was visiting with one rancher years later. Oil was discovered right up to the edge of his property and then stopped.
He told the pastor, “I used to ask the Lord why all my neighbors became rich and I didn’t. Now, I thank God they didn’t discover oil on my property.”
With tears streaming down his weathered face and pulling a handkerchief out of his well-worn overalls, he told the preacher, “I have watched marriages break up, families torn apart, and their children go completely astray!”
In the New Testament, we are warned, “For the love of money is a root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have been led astray, and have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many acute [mental] pangs.” (I Tim. 6:10, Amplified Bible).
People often overlook the fact that it is the love of money, not money itself, which is the source of evil. Green’s stewardship approach is a tremendous safeguard against such temptations.
In conclusion, I would say that Green’s story is one of the best examples of living out Christ’s command to be “salt and light” (Matt. 5:13-16) in society.
I found this book to be truly inspirational, and I recommend it without reservation.
Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.
Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.