God called me into ministry twenty years ago. I would not have believed you if you would have told me then that this path would lead to getting a Master of Business Administration and overseeing multiple businesses that have a ministry focus in their work. However, using business as a tool for building God’s Kingdom among the poor and disenfranchised is my passion and calling.
I was fortunate to spend a semester studying in Belize as an undergraduate student. We spent most of our time learning about systemic causes to poverty and traditional community development models of addressing poverty. Most community development relies on charity, and, unsurprisingly, the biggest issues that development projects face are not dependent on outside sources or sustainable over a long period of time. Despite people’s best intentions, the projects don’t typically outlast the financial investment of individuals, churches and other nonprofit organizations.
While my wife and I were living in Cambodia, I visited a village that had a building with at least ten public toilets. Most of the village, however, still went to the fields to use the bathroom because the public toilets were disgusting. A church group had identified a need in the community for toilets and tried to resolve it with public toilets. They built them and left. No method was developed for maintaining or cleaning them so the building sat mostly empty, and the money to build it was more or less squandered.
Countless stories like these made me wonder if there was a better way to help people, which led me to pursue the concept of “kingdom business” and getting an MBA. Businesses as a tool for building God’s kingdom and helping those in poverty are solutions for both dependency and sustainability. “Kingdom business or “business as mission” as defined by the Lausanne Movement (an international conference on missions) meets four criteria:
- Profitable and sustainable businesses
- Intentionality about the kingdom of God’s purpose and impact on people and nations
- Focus on holistic transformation and the “multiple bottom lines” of economic, social, environmental and spiritual outcomes
- Concern about the world’s poorest and least evangelized people
First, by being profitable, the business solves the need for sustainability. A business that does not make money is not a business. A profitable business can continue to grow in its impact and influence without a continuous flow of outside charity. Second, a business can help the issue of dependency. Businesses can provide income to people in the community as well as goods and services at affordable prices to which they otherwise would not have access.
A kingdom business most importantly works to build the kingdom of God with its multiple bottom lines. Most businesses have a single bottom line: profit. A kingdom business works to make a profit while looking for holistic community transformation.
As I interacted with families in the communities of New Orleans, there was a strongly felt need for employment opportunities for those who have been formerly incarcerated. There are men and women who want to provide financially for their families but are unable to find steady employment. To attempt to address this need, the Restoration Initiative for Culture and Community created a full-service landscaping company in 2013 that hires people who have been formerly incarcerated.
This is an example of just one of our efforts to use business to encourage the transformation in families. We measure success with a double bottom line: profit and life transformation.