Faith and Business: How an MBA Can Transform Both
An MBA can have a profound impact on both your career and your walk with Christ. Learn about a pastor and MBA graduate’s experience in Baylor’s online program.
For Chad Blake, pursuing an MBA that integrated faith and education was an easy choice. As executive pastor at Shepherd’s Grove in Irvine, California, he is well aware of a natural tendency people tend to have.
“We often face the temptation to put our faith into a bucket, our work into a bucket, our family into a bucket and become these compartmentalized people,” Blake, executive pastor at Shepherd’s Grove in Irvine, California, said. “’What compartment do I need to be in right now?’”
“I think more things like Baylor’s MBA should exist that say, ‘No, this is a holistic, integrated approach. Our faith informs our business practices and our business practices inform our faith so we actually become better people—better disciples of Christ—when we do away with the buckets and become more integrated.’"
Blake is, of course, not your average MBA student. A pastor at a local church that has a global ministry with 2.5 million TV viewers each week and six international offices, his background and use for the MBA are rather unique. Yet, the value he experienced spiritually and professionally is standard.
From MDiv to MBA
Blake double-majored in business and religion before switching to the latter. He then earned his Master of Divinity degree prior to joining Shepherd’s Grove and having a major role in the “Hour of Power with Bobby Schuller” broadcast.
While pursuing his education at that time, he learned a lot, “… but one thing that it did not prepare me for was how a local church is in many ways a business,” Blake said. “You are not looking at profits and shareholder value in the same ways. But there are things like shareholder value and making sure you can pay the bills and dealing with cities and all sorts of stuff like that. When you couple that with the idea that we are an international ministry, dealing with offices all over the world and negotiating contracts with television networks—that was something I learned on the job.”
That realization led him to an MBA. Another factor was how his father, an attorney, recommended that he pursue an MBA or JD to help within the ministry. “My dad would often say, ‘I have helped so many well-meaning churches that just had no idea how to operate in the real world who found themselves in a whole heap of hurt because nobody on that staff knew how to deal with anything other than how to proclaim the Word of God or counsel people,’” Blake said.
While enrolled in Baylor’s online program, Blake was able to immediately apply what he learned. For instance, he reported how he would meet with the church’s CFO and understand how to apply concepts he had learned from his finance or accounting class the previous night.
That was the case for every class. “I mean, every class,” Blake added. “Every single one enriched my daily showing up to work, being able to do my job and do it more confidently and more proficiently.”
The Impact and Presence of Faith in the Program
Across his work and personal life, Blake found that the MBA enriched his faith.
“I think it helped me expand my understanding of what my congregation may encounter,” he said. “We are called to be on mission wherever we find ourselves. It helped me broaden my spiritual walk in the way I relate to people in different ways.”
“It was also super encouraging because not only did I want professors and curriculum that incorporated some level of faith in an MBA program, but I made the assumption that I would probably have higher odds of having fellow classmates who had some level of profession of faith. And I would say that that was a fair assumption to make, that even as I got into groups or onto message boards and forums, being able to see how other people are living out their faith was an encouragement to me, watching how they are pursuing it for their journey in the business world and their faith journey.”
And it should go without saying that those are vast journeys. Everyone is at a different point in their relationship with Christ, along with how they are integrating faith into their careers and other aspects of their lives. Blake found that the online MBA accommodated this idea well—although it initially caught him a bit off-guard.
“I want to say this with hesitation, because in no way do I mean this as a negative, because it , I think, is a positive, but having gone through a religion undergraduate degree and then seminary, business school was far less faith-based than I anticipated,” Blake said. “At the same time, it very much was a component of all of my classes.”
Baylor’s online MBA is at the same time accessible to anyone. Regardless of students’ faith journey, or even if they are not a Christian at all, students are able to take part in activities without having to have any particular view or background.
“Ultimately, I think that makes you a better ambassador for God in the business world,” Black said. “That you are not so indoctrinated or have this one single context that you go out into what—I am assuming, a vast, vast, vast majority of Baylor MBA graduates go out into—jobs that find themselves outside of a traditional ministry context.”
How Does a Faith-Based MBA Help Professionals in Non-Ministry Environments?
There is a risk in seeing Blake’s journey in the MBA program and believing that it may not apply to you. After all, he is a pastor and faith is a core element of his career. Is the “faith-based” part of an MBA really that significant if you are not working in a faith-based environment? And does that make your work less relevant or significant spiritually?
“I think the common misconception is that working for a church or a nonprofit that is overtly Christian is frontline ministry work,” Blake said. “And it simply is not. Pastoral ministry is back-line, equipping those who are on the front lines. And so I encourage everyone and would challenge everyone to think of themselves as actually being much more on the mission field when finding themselves in a more typical workplace, as Scripture calls us to embody Christ everywhere we go.”
“I think by having a program that is rooted in the principles of faith, we allow ourselves to become more formed into the kind of person that Jesus would be if he found Himself in a business situation. Our decisions, our actions, the way we treat people, the way we respond to people, the way we ethically make decisions when no one is looking—is making big kingdom impact out in the world, no matter where you find yourself.”
Being aware of that kind of impact is where the “faith-based” part of the MBA program comes into play. The decision to pursue a master’s degree like this is more than just a business decision. It is a spiritual decision that can allow you to—as you pursue career growth—combine knowledge and skills with the spiritual application and insights to make an eternal impact.
“Not everyone has to pursue all these things, but if you are feeling like that is something that you are stepping into with God, to me, the idea is to put as many tools in your toolbox as possible because you never know what tool God is going to call you to use,” Blake said. “And so that is a perfect example of why I pursued an MBA.”
“It may not be the traditional graduate degree for a pastor to have. But let me put all those tools in my toolbox because the next time I find myself in a situation, God might call me to use one of those tools.”
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