How the Church Fails Businesspeople


Why do so many Christians struggle to relate their faith to their daily work? Is it the church's fault? John C. Knapp argues that the church's unclear teachings about vocation, money, and business have long contributed to Christians' uncertainty about how to live out their beliefs in the workplace. Based on Knapp's business experience and extensive research - including numerous interviews with Christians in diverse occupations - How the Church Fails Businesspeople (and what can be done about it) brings fresh perspectives to this troubling problem. Buy from Amazon.

"John Knapp's excellent book presents a much-needed wake-up call for pastors, churches, and Christian businesspeople alike." - Wes Cantrell, author of From the Shop Floor to the Top Floor: Releasing the CEO Within

"John offers a way out of the sacred-secular compartmentalization so prevalent in today's society." - Stephen B. Young, Global Executive Director, Caux Round Table

"We have been waiting for this book." - Jerome Miller, Vice President of Diversity and Social Responsibility, Toyota Motor Sales

Reader Reviews

"Great book highlighting a really crucial problem for many Christians today: how to integrate faith and daily work life -- and how the church can and should help. I needed this book and have now passed it along (highly recommended) to my pastor-husband."


"This book offers a fresh perspective on how and why so many of us feel our work lives are neglected by the church. (I know I do!) I never before grasped the theological basis for the church's indifference to discipleship at work, but Knapp analyzes a number of these factors. He also discusses the clergy's tendency to put the work of full-time church workers on a spiritual pedestal far above the careers of the laity. The book includes a fascinating chapter tracing the history of the church's theological confusion about money."

"If you are serious about discipleship in the marketplace, this is a must read. If you are a pastor and want to help your people to have a new understanding of their work, this is a must read. Don't miss it!"

Kopano Christian Bookshop

Blog Reviews and Featured Articles

"Knapp's book is helpful to pastors seeking to learn more about the worlds of work in which their parishioners spend a majority of their time. It properly names the sacred-secular and public-private life dichotomies that have hampered Christian witness in the workplace for years. Vocational discipleship is an area that Evangelical churches desperately need to address, and Knapp's approach of inviting pastors to interview congregants about their workplace is a good place to begin."

Cory Willson, Comment: Public Theology for the Common Good

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"This book pushed me beyond my previous understanding of the role I can play in my church and business communities. It challenges both businesspeople and pastors to redefine what it means to be relevant to a new generation of church members longing for deeper integration between their professional and spiritual realms.

Jim Smucker, The Christian Century

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"...the Church does teach business ethics, says Knapp. But too often it only talks about personal ethics without helping businesspeople inside imperfect systems..."

National Center for the Laity

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"...helpfully documents how many business people and those who work in the corporate world feel ignored (or even betrayed) because it seems that their church and pastor don't seem to care much about equipping them to live faithfully in their complex, significant working lives...It isn't off-the-charts spiffy, not a lot of hip bluster, just good, solid reporting of how the ethos of many congregations seems indifferent to the public lives of most members."

Byron Borger, Hearts & Minds

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"We can be thankful that John Knapp has written this book. While we must be careful not to simply envision church as a place of moral development, we can’t lose sight of the fact that the church is a place where moral development and transformation can and should take place. It’s an excellent book that needs wide circulation, especially now, as we live in a time of economic stagnation and when questionable business practices sent the economy spiraling downward. There is increasing disillusionment with the business world, even as there is with government, and even in the church, which has stumbled in its response. Looking at business from the perspective of Jesus and of Micah could be a blessing to our nation and world."

Robert Cornwall, Ponderings on a Faith Journey

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Other references

"An increasing number of cultural observers are recognizing the sizeable gap that exists between our faith and our work. In his book...John Knapp brings his insightful analysis to bear on the problem as well as some helpful reflection on making positive strides forward."

Tom Nelson, author of Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work

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"The ranks of second-career pastors are rapidly growing. They bring with them decades of experience in the secular workplace. The church should be increasingly well prepared to offer help for dealing with ethical issues in the workplace. This book by former businessman John C. Knapp says it’s not happening. We continue to leave job issues at the church door. The book is an exploration of the possible reasons."

Richard Ridge, The Presbyterian Outlook

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"Knapp’s book is no how-to silver bullet, but it clearly articulates the problem, introduces a framework for addressing it, and invites pastors and churches to join a growing number of Christians who are working to integrate faith and work in their discipleship."

Guy Williams, Seedbed

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"Tina Turner once asked 'What’s love got to do with it?' Today, many businesspeople are asking 'What’s God got to do with it?' For some, the question is a facetious way of saying that God really has nothing to do with business, but for many Christians it is a very real question … a question for which the church is of little help... And while we have seen a move in recent decades to make the workplace more diverse along a number of demographic lines, religion in the workplace is still seen as something that should stay at home..."

Michael Kruse, Jesus Creed

Read the full review: Part I / Part II / Part III / Part IV / Part V / Part VI / Part VII / Part VIII

"...although there has been a flood of words, lots of books, and a near paradigm shift about the general understanding that there is a relationship between faith and work, there is still a huge, huge disconnect in most ordinary parishes... Enter the brave work of John Knapp, the director of the Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership at Samford University. He has written widely on the ethics of leadership and how today's business challenges can be pursued faithfully. In this new, well-written book, Knapp explains the research he has done on whether or not local churches are actually helpful to business men and women, offering insights gleaned from his interviews..."

Byron Borger, Cardus

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"A book that is sorely needed in today’s Christian world is John Knapp’s "How the Church Fails Businesspeople" (Knapp is a professor and head of an ethics center at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama)... Amen, John. May your book gain a wide audience..."

Chris R. Armstrong, Grateful to the Dead

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"When I saw this book on the shelf, I was immediately drawn to it...John C. Knapp, who authors this book, reminds us of numerous Biblical passages in both the Old and New Testament that either explicitly or implicitly lift up the business vocation...He discusses the current church approach to business (mostly, don't talk about it), and the business approach to church (the same). On the basis of a series of interviews with Christian businesspeople, Knapp has come up with recommendations for how the Church can start to be more helpful and engaged with its members in the business world."

ELCA Conservative

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Other Resources

Business and the Development of Christian Social Thought

Faith at the Workplace

Books on Community, Work and Guns

How the Church Fails Businesspeople

The Gospel Coalition: Review

Putting Business on the Mission Map: How Churches Can Serve Businesspeople

Business is the Church's Business - Christianity Today

Leader Online Editorial: Spring 2012

Samford Professor's Book Says Church Fails Many Workers - The Birmingham News

EerdWord Blog Posts: Part I / Part II / Part III

Working Prototype Blog Posts: Part I / Part II / Part III / Part IV

Mennonite Brethren Herald

An Accidental Blog

Biblically Thinking

The Humanitas Forum on Christianity and Culture

Business as Mission Network

The Biblical World

Jesus at Work

Managing Your Church



Drayton Nabers, Jr.

Brooks Hall, 227A


C. Cameron Collins 
Program Manager
Brooks Hall, 227B

Mitzi Lafferty  
Administrative Assistant
Brooks Hall, 227
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 The Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership emphasizes the indispensable connection between ethics and good leadership in business, government, social services and the classic professions. Much of the center’s work is at this vital nexus of ethics and leadership. 

Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership
800 Lakeshore Drive
Birmingham, AL 35229
205-726-4634 or Cameron Collins, Program Manager