Doug HunterSeveral years ago, I was part of an international conference of Christian business leaders for which Dr. Os Guinness was a primary speaker.  His first message focused on his book The Call, which, for many in the room, myself included, had been a personal affirmation of their own c all to business as their platform for ministry.  It was one of the first clear articulations of the value of business – as well as other non-church related callings – as ministry, and essential to the building of the Kingdom of God.  The message received a standing ovation and rave reviews.  It affirmed all of us.

His second message also focused on one of his books.  This time it was The Case for Civility, and the response was somewhat different.  If you have read this excellent work, you know that Os has one primary theme:  Unless we learn to listen and converse with those whose opinions and worldviews are different than our own, it won’t matter what “truth” we want to get to the table for consideration.  It won’t be heard because of the noise of our biases and acrimonious ways of communicating.  Os’ call for “a naked public square” where we leave religious, political and other identities at the door, and come only to examine truth claims based on their own merit and the fruit of living them out was challenging to say the least.  To that group of business leaders who were fighting to be able to express their faith through their businesses – and, most of whom are wired to be strong willed (maybe “opinionated”?) – it was hard not to hear a message seeming to say civility calls for “being nice” and letting other have their say – no matter how wrong they might be.  However, Os was reminding us that “To be human is to have deep and abiding differences with other humans over worldviews and values” (The Case for Civility, Page 180), and that civility “is a tough, robust, substantive concept that is a republican virtue, critical to both democracy and civil society” (The Case for Civility, Page 3).

Dr. David Dockery, former President of Union University and now President of Trinity International University, often used a term that is helpful to this consideration when he spoke of “Convictional Civility.”   Generally defined as “a lifestyle of bearing witness for Christ and of contributing to the common good.  From the pulpit to the public square and from the campus to the courtroom, followers of Christ are to demonstrate Christian virtues through winsome civility and Christian values through wholehearted conviction.” (Convictional Civility, Page vii-viii)  Or, as I hear Dockery saying, the robust hard work of engaging in evaluation of truth claims and contending for those I believe to be real truth is best accomplished when it is accompanied by a life or lives that demonstrate the power and actual results of those particular truth claims … living out what you really believe to be true.

Of course, this is nothing new.  Ever see any lack of civility in the pages of the Bible – even from the “good guys”?   And William Wilberforce’s second great purpose after the abolition of slavery was “the reformation of manners”, which had a distinctly civility-related impact on England.  Nevertheless, our need to restore civility to the public square here in the United States is perhaps the most understated, misunderstood and yet essential challenges we face if the truth of the gospel is to get the kind of culture-impacting hearing we all desire.  (Note:  Please don’t assume I am discounting God’s ability to shine the light of truth anywhere or at any time He chooses, e.g. dreams and visions in the Middle East, etc.  I am simply contending for our role in stewarding His truth.)

Let me conclude this post with several things I have been convicted to do as I ask God to work on my own civility.  Perhaps they will be helpful for you as well.

  • Understand that true civility is a spiritual discipline, and requires work and practice.
  • Understand that true civility is not possible for me apart from the power of the Holy Spirit
  • Learn to listen and work on hearing what is being communicated
  • Understand that just because I speak the loudest or hold the floor the longest, that does not mean I have communicated or “won” my point. Civil discourse is never a monologue.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak what you are thinking even if you are not sure how to say it clearly or you are afraid of the response it might receive. Robust conversation includes working through bumps in clarity and in conflicting ideas/worldviews
  • Don’t just read or study an idea or issue – take time to think and to listen to God. It’s amazing what God can say to a mind open to and focused on hearing Him.
  • Balance the comfort and encouragement of being with and hearing from people who are like minded with the need to be challenged by the company and ideas of people who don’t think like or look like me
  • Ask God to give you the wisdom to discern when and the courage to interrupt a conversation when it is clearly not laced with civility or leading to a God-honoring conclusion.
  • Be sure your spouse knows she/he has permission to speak into your life about your own display of convictional civility.

*Doug Hunter – Executive Director, Whitfield Center for Christian Leadership and International Programs 

Charleston Southern University    

Doug Hunter began his business career in the vertical transportation industry in 1971 with Carter Elevator Company, being named its President and Chief Executive Officer in 1987.  As a Christian CEO, Doug became involved with the Fellowship of Companies for Christ International (FCCI), and was invited to join FCCI’s board of directors in 1992.  When he sold Carter Elevator in 1994, Doug moved to Atlanta to work full-time with FCCI.  In the years that followed, God developed his heart for international ministry by allowing him to work, speak and influence business executives in over 30 countries.  He participated in ground-breaking ministry in both Mongolia and Vietnam, became the Founding CEO of Media Asia – a project utilizing sports television in China as a platform for the gospel – and worked with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.  In 2002, Doug joined the staff of Perimeter Church in Atlanta to lead Business Partners International (BPI), a strategy to facilitate the global kingdom impact of men and women through the use of their business skills and passion … building on the belief that Business IS Ministry and Business IS Mission … and that the “call” to business is as essential to building the Kingdom of God as any other calling within the Body of Christ.  In 2007 Doug returned to FCCI / Christ@Work as President and CEO, and saw God expand its ministry of equipping and encouraging Christian business leaders both throughout the US and to 30 countries across the globe.  He stepped out of that role in 2011.  Doug currently serves as a consultant and member of the Global Leadership Team for the Global Cities Project of Campus Crusade for Christ International / Cru.  He is also engaged as a member of the Lausanne Workplace Network, the Global Think Tank on Business As Mission and serves on the Leadership Teams of Call2Business and the National Faith & Work Association.  In February 2013, Doug was named Executive Director of the Whitfield Center for Christian Leadership (WCCL) at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, South Carolina. The WCCL is seeking to be at the leading edge of the movement to provide a steady flow of next generation leaders – whatever their vocational calling might be – who are equipped and committed to learning, leading and serving from a distinctively biblical worldview.  At the same time, Charleston Southern is uniquely positioned to be a resource for marketplace / professional leaders whether they be in Charleston, the Southeast or anywhere in the world.  In September 2015, Doug assumed responsibility for strategic leadership of CSU’s new International Programs. Doug has been married to his college sweetheart, Janet, for 46 years.  They have 4 grown children and 3 grandchildren.