Doing business for God? Possible or impossible? Done wrongly or just as a cover, running a business can dishonor the name of Christ. But done the right way, it can be a great tentmaking strategy. Realistically, running a business places many extra demands on a tentmaker. It’s not for everyone. But for the person with the right gifts and temperament, it offers some great advantages: long-term access without the need to renew or replace a contract, leverage in the society by providing needed products and jobs, a natural structure for implementing Christian values, and more.
Here’s the story of a very effective business that began small but couldn’t stay that way! God made it grow! He did it through one of his special children named Ken Crowell, who started a business called Galtronics in Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee.
Ken possessed academic, spiritual and work qualifications before he began. He already held several patents. He supported his family as a project engineer with a large firm in Portland while both he and his wife graduated from Multnomah School of the Bible.
Then he was recruited for a three-year contract with a large international firm’s affiliate in Tel Aviv. Consequently he learned the culture and the business culture of this country before he struck out on his own. The company almost tripled under his leadership. His complete openness about his faith gave him many opportunities to witness and he was introduced everywhere as “the Christian engineer.” This is impact of being well qualified and doing quality work, as Paul commanded in Eph.6:5-10, Col.3:22-24.
In 1977 he started his own firm. He wanted to produce antennas for two-way communication transceivers–something unavailable in Israel and an excellent product for export. The Israelis were so eager to have it that they facilitated all the legal red tape involved in the incorporation.
He had already started a small operation in the U.S. for the purpose of transferring it overseas. But a partner diverted its purpose. He had to begin his new firm in Israel with almost nothing! His first “factory” was his own house. The first work bench was a discarded X-Ray table from the old Scottish hospital. The antennas needed to be baked. So he put the black, sticky PVC plastic into his wife Margie’s oven. It regularly smelled and smoked up the house. Finally Margie gave an ultimatum: antennas or cookies, but not both! So he found other facilities!
Ken had three purposes:
- To establish a company in a place where there was little or no Christian witness. Tiberius, with no Christian church for centuries, qualified for that! It was an unlikely location because it is the city to which the rabbis fled after the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, and where the Mishna and Talmud were written. Today it is one of four rabbinical centers in Israel–conservative and fanatical. He planned to start a house fellowship which he dared not call a “church.”
- To provide employment to Jews, Arabs and Christians, to enable one-on-one evangelism. He also gave jobs to Jewish believers who could not get employment because of their faith.
- To bless the nation of Israel with high quality “Made in Israel” exports to strengthen the economy.
When he started, he was received by the mayor of Tiberius and the city clerk, because this would be the city’s first factory! The rabbis began their opposition at the same time. Nevertheless, in a short time he had 30 employees and 30 in the house fellowship!
Then a young Israeli military officer came to visit whom Ken remembered winning to the Lord in Tel Aviv when he was just a boy! Ken invited him to become his general manager. Later he became the pastor of the Peniel Fellowship.
But rabbinic opposition increased. The little hotel the Christians rented for the fellowship was burned to the ground. Margie was hit in the head by a rock thrown through their plate glass window. Then 35 Orthodox Jews invaded the company while the rabbis danced the Hora outside. They counted on all Ken’s non-Christian Jewish and Arab employees abandoning him. Instead, they defended him.
This story made the newspapers and television, resulting in reports on what Messianic Jews believe and teach! There were even public debates over Christian beliefs!
At this point the rabbis launched three criminal investigations against Ken, but he was cleared in every case! Once again, this greatly increased communication of the gospel! By then Ken had about 300 employees and almost 300 in the Peniel Fellowship!
Then a seemingly small move made an enormous difference for the company. His employees started a basketball team and won the championship for the city! The mayor himself awarded the trophy. The company became popular with the press and the local citizens. Though the Crowells were foreign, the firm was wholly identified with the people of Tiberius.
Then Ken asked the assistant to the Prime Minister of Israel how he could help the country. The PM said they were expecting half a million Jewish immigrants from Russia and they had few jobs to offer. An understatement! The Berlin Wall came down and Russian Jews came in droves, by land, air and sea! Ken employed 120 in Tiberius.
Among these immigrants were Messianic Jews. So the government passed a new law that all Jews who had become Christian weren’t really Jews and thus not eligible for financial help and liable to deportation. Many of these Jewish Christians were living in miserable condition in Haifa. So Ken started a branch firm in Haifa and hired 60 of these Christian Jews! He also started another fellowship! All this made Galtronics the biggest employer in the whole Galilee region!
Then the Kuwait-Iraq War brought 39 scud missiles raining down–most of them in Haifa where they broke out factory windows. People feared for the loss of Ken’s factories and scarce products and asked if he could start a backup firm in another location. So he started a branch in Scotland–run by Christians with the same principles of work and witness.
Ken now has 800 employees. Recently the Israeli government gave him two of their highest awards: the Decade Award–best firm in the decade! And the Kaplan Prize–highest award for industry. These were bestowed by the Prime Minister in the Knesset’s marble hall with most of Israel’s dignitaries present.
The Orthodox also came, in their distinctive black robes and long flowing beards, and charged among other things, that these Christians kidnaped Israeli children and sold them to Africa! The authorities apologized. But once again, this opposition led to much TV and newspaper publicity, all of it positive for Jesus Christ!
Ken Crowell’s latest venture? A firm in China–to provide jobs for the unemployed in that country, to spread the knowledge of Jesus Christ in house fellowships, and to bless China!
Ken’s story has continued since this report in the late 1990s with continuing Kingdom impact and blessing.