Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Church Has Great Potential For Influencing Change And Should Not Be Passive.

Written by: on February 19, 2022

Max Weber was a German sociologist, economist and politician who believed that the protestant work ethic was a key force in the emergence of the unplanned and uncoordinated modern capitalism. In his book, The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism, Weber states that capitalism in Northern Europe evolved as a result of the protestant ethic influencing large numbers of people to engage in work in the secular world, and established their own enterprises and engaging in trade and the accumulation of wealth for investment.[1] While economists would not ordinarily point to Christianity as having such a significant influence on western civilization, this cannot be denied and there is evidence to that effect. Weber associates the prevalence or emergence of some protestant religions (especially the Calvinists and puritans but also the Methodists) with the psychological changes that were necessary for the development of the capitalism spirit. He is clear of the fact that the effect was an independent force and unintended. The protestant idea of a calling, with worldly asceticism is an independent force that was not created through the change of institutions or structures like money, trade, commerce, etc., but it emerged independently as an intended consequence of the reformation. The new ways of thinking and acting propagated during and as a result of the reformation, without doubt played a role in changing the views of people who became capitalists and workers.

The importance of the protestant ethic as a factor in the development of capitalism, in comparison to the formal changes in institutions and structures many not be scientifically determined but Weber believed that since the inner motives for the capitalistic spirit are closely connected with the nature of capitalism, as weber views it, the religious factors must have had significant influence. Those who criticize Weber’s argument point to the concepts used by Weber as narrowly defined as, the capitalism concept is different from what Carl Marx used and his capitalistic spirit is a fairy limited concept; and his notion of rationality which seems to play a big role in Weber’s writings is in itself limiting in the whatever he regards as irrational is not capitalism which effectively defines away many of the characteristics of capitalism. There also other criticisms of Weber’s approach include, as relates to religion, the Catholicism, especially before the reformation was not inhibiting to capitalism; empirical evidence supports to a big extent Weber’s assertions for England, New England, Scotland, Holland and Geneva but others areas of Catholic dominance like Germany, France, and Italy also achieved considerable early capitalist successes; and in terms of causation, it’s argued that Weber asserts that religious doctrines were separated from the economic aspects, but did nor disapprove assertions by Marxists that changes in religions did occur as a result of economic necessities, stating that Luther, Calvin, the Puritans and many others involved themselves in politics and such like pronouncements.[2]

Christianity cannot be dismissed whatsoever for its impact is big in every place that it has been propagated. Its important to appreciate its influence on the environment and especially because it will bring a positive impact on the society. As I read this book, it has occurred to me that Christianity greatly improves on the standards of morality in the society, the rule of lay and the respect for other people’s rights. These are significant and have an impact on how the society conducts itself and its affairs. These aspects are not significantly highlighted by Weber but there other studies that have recognized the role of Christianity in positively impacting on the values of society and positively impacting on the economic status and welfare of such societies. There are also other direct ways that the Church contributes directly to the wellbeing of society, economically, psychosocially, and otherwise. It has been established that the church plays a very significant role in alleviating poverty, providing social amenities likes schools, medical facilities and economic empowerment programs, in carrying out its missional obligation to care for the needy in society. The Church is a natural factor in the holistic development in society.[3] It is with Weber’s assertions and other empirical evidence as established in dependable research that I read the book with a lot of interest. Though I could read it in full, I have been affirmed in the topic of my research as I advance the case for holistic ministry by the church. The church should not a passive player in society and should recognize the important role that it can play to bring transformation in society. The church has always been downplayed as just a institution that should limit itself to the spiritual nourishment of people and restrict its activities to “the precincts” of the church, and not involve itself in secular matters. The separation of the Spiritual and the secular is not a new thing in society but it is imperative that as discerning Christian leaders, to recognize the big potential for the church to bring change in societies and nations and rise to the occasion. It had become obvious to me that there is so much that I can do to bring transformation, especially so because I live and do ministry among the World’s poorest and marginalized communities. The church is a catalyst of change a great transformation and should not any longer remain passive, and the responsibility to bring the church to carry out this God given mandate lies squarely with us the Christian leaders.

[1] Max Weber. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. (Mineola, New York. Dover Publications, 2003)

[2][2] 1. Bert N. Adams and R. A. Sydie. Sociological Theory. (Thousand Oaks. Pine Forge, 2001)

  1. Anthony Giddens and David Held. Classes, Power, and Conflict: Classical and Contemporary Debates. (Berkley, University of California Press,1982). HT675 C55 1982

[3] Loan Stinghe.  The Holistic Development of Society, The Contributions of the Christian Church. “Proceedings of Harvard Square Symposium, The Holistic Society: Multi- Disciplinary Perspectives, Volume 3 006, Research Association for Interdisciplinary Studies.

About the Author


Mary Kamau

Christ follower, Mother of 3 Biological children and one Foster daughter, Wife, Pastor, Executive Director of Institutional Development and Strategy in Missions of Hope International, www.mohiafrica.org.

13 responses to “The Church Has Great Potential For Influencing Change And Should Not Be Passive.”

  1. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Mary: I really enjoyed your review and analysis of Weber’s work. In particular, your statement that “The church should not a passive player in society and should recognize the important role that it can play to bring transformation in society” stuck out. Considering your ministry context in poor and marginalized communities as well as your extensive travel & partnerships in the US, do you see more passivity of the church in one region over the other? If so, do you have any insights into why that may be?

    • mm Mary Kamau says:

      Thank you Kayli, I really appreciate your comments and question. The most interesting thing is that the church has made efforts to go beyond the church premises to do the justice and mercy ministry but their response is lukewarm compared to their potential, and majority of the church is generally passive. The Church in America has focused on missions to other poor countries and less within the US while the Church in developing countries do more mission work within their local communities. While the church in the US has more financial resources and is responsive to the needs in the poorer developing countries, the church in the Third World is limited in resources and they respond locally in their Justice and Mercy ministry, with assistance from the Church in America and other Western nations.

  2. Mary, Thank you for this reflection. You write, “Its important to appreciate its influence on the environment and especially because it will bring a positive impact on the society.” I’m curious, what negative influences have you experienced? For example, how does colonialism still give shape to your specific context?

    • mm Denise Johnson says:

      I agree with Michael, great insight. I too am interested to hear more about how the historical evolution of Christianity has shaped your context. Particularly, in the areas of work ethic, the adoption of Capitalistic means within practices of Christianity.

      • mm Mary Kamau says:

        Thank you Denise, to say the truth Christianity has had a great impact in my context, and mainly positive. Despite of the negative association of the church with colonization, the truth is that the church is associate with with development because the church has participated significantly in providing education and health services and other social amenities. In Kenya its officially acknowledged that 30 percent of schools and health facilities are run by the church. To your specific question, its generally acknowledged that the church teachings encourage hard work and sacrifice in pursuing one’s calling which has evidently encouraged the capitalistic spirit among Christians. Christians are known to generally do better in society.
        There’s a general perception of the pentecostal/Charismatic church as being “too Spiritual” at the cost of being rational and hard working, as they wait for miracles, but I believe this negative perception is negatively exaggerated by the local and international media.

    • mm Mary Kamau says:

      Thank you Simmons for your very good question. In relation to colonization, the church is seen as having facilitated the imperialistic colonization of Africa in particular. The missionaries who came first and established mission stations across Africa, were followed by colonial governments and business people who were oppressive and exploited the local people. The local people’s perception was that the missionaries conspired with their imperialistic governments and business people to come with the bible to deceive the people, and take their land in disguise. The missionaries were also seen to follow the oppressive and discriminative policies of the colonial governments.

  3. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Mary: Great insight about how the Christian faith enables people to have a work ethic and how also the Church helps the disenfranchised of society. Together, it shows the world that the Christian faith matters for the her and now, not just for eternal matters. Do you see this play out in the ministry you perform today? Although there is a divide between the secular and sacred worlds, they still are forced to interact with each other. We are partners to create a better world here and now, but with always an eye on God’s coming Kingdom.

    • mm Mary Kamau says:

      Thank You Troy for your comments. Our ministry is holistic in that we minister to both the spiritual and physical needs of the people in emulating the ministry of Jesus Christ. We plant churches alongside our education; economic empowerment; and health programs, meeting not only the eternal security but also the here and now needs of the whole being.

  4. Elmarie Parker says:

    Thank you, Mary, for your thoughtful engagement with Weber’s treatise. I appreciated the positive dimensions you raised of the church’s presence, influence, and work. I was challenged in this reading by the ways Christian doctrine and teaching has ended up being distorted by the wider society (in this case, especially in a US context, the Protestant work ethic contributing to the “spirit of capitalism” that has warped into profit at the expense of any other value). I’m curious if you have a sense of where in Kenyan culture there may be the temptation to distort/disfigure the message of the Gospel?

  5. mm Eric Basye says:

    Mary, excellent post! First off, the summary was excellent. I wish I had read that before I read the book! AND I so love and appreciate your take on the book and the impact the gospel and Church should have in society and the world around us. I could not agree more. This was a great quote: “The church should not a passive player in society and should recognize the important role that it can play to bring transformation in society.” I look forward to hearing more about your doctoral work as you dive into this subject. Great job!

  6. mm Andy Hale says:


    I found your insight, starting with “The church has always been downplayed as just an institution that should limit itself to the spiritual nourishment of people,” is powerful.

    I think we all, in our own way, find ways to exclude our theology from certain areas of our life, whether politics, economics, cultural expressions, or beliefs about others.

    I’m curious to learn how you see this at play in the people from your particular denominational tradition. In what ways is the church non-influential?

  7. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Mary I would love to hear more about how you define “holistic approach” for ministry. How might the ethos of capitalism impact those different aspects of the whole?

  8. mm Henry Gwani says:

    Mary, much thanks for your thoughts on the role of the Church in catalyzing social change and how that impact has been felt within both protestant and catholic circles. How might the protestant ethic become more widespread among the people you serve?

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