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Wealth: A Tool or a Trap? 33 Questions for Reflection

by Evan Keller

Is wealth a tool or a trap? Well, both. Before we can sharpen it into an effective tool to serve others, we have to ask God to free us from the ways that money entraps our hearts. No surprise: with God it always comes down to the heart. Does how we use wealth reveal worship of God or of self? Who’s at the center of our story? The answers expose our two biggest money problems: pride and idolatry. Those may be our most serious and stubbornly entrenched sins – like insidious garden weeds that seem to spring back as quickly as you pull them out. Pride and idolatry sneakily capture our hearts, replacing God as our go-to for security and fulfillment.  

Pride intentionally forgets the source of all abundance. King David admits to God that “wealth and honor come from you” (1 Chronicles 29:12), And pride is only one of many pitfalls of the heart that come with wealth. 

How can I guard my heart from its sinful tendencies? I’ve developed this list of reflection questions to help me do just that in the coming months and years. Please join me in using these to see where our hearts are at, discovering in what we are placing our trust and finding our joy.  Read more

From All About Me to What About Me? A Personal Journey

by Evan Keller

Obviously, it was “all about me” with the “rich fool” (from Luke 12:15-21) we discussed in the previous post; let’s flip now to one whose heart was all about God. We’re jumping from the New Testament to the Old, from a fictional character to a historic one.

King David was much richer in wealth, fame, and power than the nameless “rich man” in Christ’s parable. Yet he saw those accomplishments for what they were: gifts of grace from God. On the other hand, the “rich man” couldn’t see past his inflated view of himself. He didn’t even acknowledge God. Twice in his psalms, David wrote: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). And “fool” is precisely what God calls the “rich man” upon his death in Christ’s parable. Conversely, God called David “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22).

Everything Comes from You Lord

Old Testament scholar Christopher Wright explains: “David’s example of putting his personal wealth into the temple project (1 Chronicles 29:2-5) motivates the rest of the leaders to do the same (29:6-8), which then seems to motivate the rest of the people in turn” (29:9). (Christopher Wright, The Righteous Rich in the Old Testament) He prays in disbelief: “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chronicles 29:14).  Read more

Creating Wealth and Being Rich Towards God

by Evan Keller

Scripture doesn’t condemn wealth, but is very concerned about how we get it, what we do with it, and whether it takes precedence in our hearts above God’s “house”. Gifts from God are not like the new, shiny bike you got for Christmas as a child, meant for you alone. No, gifts that come from God are to you but for others, “not a privilege but a responsibility – the Abrahamic responsibility of being a blessing to others. (Gen. 12:1-3)” (Christopher Wright, The Righteous Rich in the Old Testament)

This message doesn’t quite sit well with us fallen (yet being redeemed) humans. We want our shiny gifts to shine our own reputations. The Apostle Paul knows this, so keeps insisting that gifts are meant to serve the Body of Christ – the church – and bring glory to God. Likewise, the Old Testament prophet, Haggai asks: “Whose house are you building? Yours or God’s?”

Each of us use our gifts to build something every day. Are our efforts focused more on building our own little empire or God’s glorious one? According to 1 Kings 6:38-7:1, Solomon built God’s temple in seven years but spent 13 years constructing his own palace! As someone who’s currently building a house for my family, am I spending even more of my time and my gifts to build God’s house? I would say so, but those who know me best should make that call given that I’m not immune to self-deception.  Read more

Four Hands in Two Countries: A Parable of Talents!

by Evan Keller

What brings a stone carver and a mechanic together? Although they‘ve never even met, this story connects two (of my favorite) people who revel in lavishing generosity on others. Both Josue and Don beautifully embody the joy of giving that my new book explores. They are master craftsmen who love blessing people through their handiwork: Josue’s hands work in stone and Don’s hands master mechanics. Their Haiti-Florida bond was born in February of 2012 as we at Creating Jobs Inc mentored Josue Jean-Gilles in his business of creating plaques and gifts carved from stone.

At the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake, Josue suffered damage to his Léogâne home and workshop while fellow church members lost their very lives. Important foundations of his life continued to crumble as his mother died of a likely curable illness and his wife abandoned him and their children. After we heard Josue preach with passion one Sunday morning, his divorce forced a year-long furlough from teaching and leading at his church, which shook him further. So, you can see that his youthful face masks more heartache than a young man should have to bear. Yet his soul has not shrunk in self-protection but keeps giving, hoping and investing in others. It would have been natural to closely guard what remained, including a regional monopoly on his type of artisanal stone carving. Instead, he spread his skills far and wide by sharing his well-honed techniques with not only employees, but many orphans, and several new competitors he helped to raise up. Now that’s a mindset of abundance!  Read more

Business Response Plan: From Intensive Care to Recovery

In Part 1 of this blog, we identified four stages you can take to proactively lead your organization through the uncertainty and down the road to recovery.

Once you have taken care of the most urgent tasks in the “Emergency Room” phase, it is time to start treating your business to lead it towards longer term stabilization, recovery and repositioning.

2. Moving through Intensive Care

Main Priority: Address the unhealthy areas in your organization and enlist the larger organization in your response.

Establish stakeholder communication plan

During times of uncertainty, increased communication is vital.

Who are your key stakeholders?

How often should you be in contact?

What is the best media and approach?

Implement employee care & development plan

During times of crisis, more care and attention is needed, and development challenges are available.

What current needs are your employees facing?

Who can you give development challenges to?

How can you build your culture during this time?  Read more

Business Response & Recovery Plan to COVID-19

A process to lead your organization through uncertainty and down the road to recovery

If your business has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, we recommend taking immediate action. Don’t “wait and see” what might transpire.

We have identified four stages you can take to proactively lead your organization through the uncertainty and down the road to recovery.

Our Core Assumptions

  • The spread of this pandemic will lead to major disruptions in almost every industry.
  • A “wait and see” approach could be destructive –prepare for the worst and hope for the best
  • No one can predict the future. A systematic and agile approach is needed.
  • Every customer and employee is experiencing some level of stress, anxiety, or fear. Strong values-based leadership is needed
  • No business will remain the same. The disruption will create opportunities for retooling or repositioning for those that are proactive.

 

1. Getting Started in the Emergency Room

Main Priority: Help your leaders and organization recognize the urgency of the times, align to secure the safety of stakeholders and stop the financial bleeding.   

Here are some activities for the “Emergency Room” stage of a crisis:

Rally Key Leaders

 Rally key leaders with a wake-up call and clear sense of urgency

 Avoid inaction and a “wait and see” approach

Key Questions to Answer:

What is a realistic picture that recognizes there is no certainty on when things will improve?

What will need to change with your communication and meeting cadence?

Set a Baseline

 Determine clear financial picture around cash flow, profit/loss, etc

 Identify cost cutting measures

 Determine worst case scenario for supply chain, project schedules, and other operational critical areas

Key Question to Answer:

How deep can your cuts go without inhibiting your ability to recover once stable?  Read more

BAM vs COVID: Stories of Innovation and Our Unique Contribution

by João Mordomo

In part one of this post I introduced the idea that BAM can help defeat COVID if we have the right focus: Looking Up, Looking Back, Looking Around and Looking Ahead. In this second part, I’ll talk more about our posture and what that looks like in practice, i.e. telling some stories of innovation amidst the crisis.

Posture

Remember the agape love I mentioned before? How does a BAMer put agape into action through business? What should be their posture?

We could talk about agape again, or being a Christlike servant (Phil. 2:3-5), or depending utterly upon God, but those relate to all Christians in general and the question here relates to BAMers in particular — or more broadly, to Christian entrepreneurs. What is different about us?

When God looks at BAM practitioners, who are created in His image, what does He see that is, in many cases, different than in the lives of other believers? The answer relates to the fact that many BAMers are, by nature, entrepreneurial and/or innovative. They look around and see things that others don’t. Everyone can see the problem of COVID-19, but not all will see solutions. Everyone can all battle COVID-19 in a general way, but BAMers can do it very specifically.

That is the posture of a BAMer or Christian business leader: “I’m a problem solver. I’m made in God’s image to innovate and come up with solutions that don’t occur to other people.” Or, “I’m an entrepreneur. I see solutions that others may also see, but they are not willing to take the risk to make the solution a reality, and I am.”

In the past month, I’ve had contact with several outstanding Christian entrepreneurs with this kind of posture, putting agape into practice through business. I want to tell you about three of them, two of which I am closely associated with.

Practice: Stories of Business Leaders in Action

My Pillow

I’ll start with Mike Lindell and his US-based company called My Pillow. I don’t know Lindell personally, though I would describe My Pillow as a Kingdom-focused company. Lindell is outspoken about his Christian faith, and it seems to drive him with respect to how he runs his business. He’s an example of a Christian entrepreneur and business owner willing to jump into the COVID-19 battle immediately, and not without cost to his business: he recently shifted 75% of his manufacturing capacity to the production of medical masks, to the tune of 50,000 per day! He looked around, saw the need, trusted God, and jumped into the battle with the resources at his disposal. Why not take a minute to do the same thing? Look around. Perhaps God will show you how to get into the battle against COVID-19 with the resources you already have stewardship of.  Read more

BAM vs COVID: Look Up, Look Back, Look Around and Look Ahead

by João Mordomo

To paraphrase Sun Tzu, we can win every battle if we know our enemy and know ourselves. But what happens when we don’t know our enemy well? COVID-19 is a case in point. The “facts” are slippery and constantly changing. We don’t really “know” what we think we know!

One thing we do know is that we are in a battle against a killer, and it’s real. One way or another, COVID-19 is killing people, jobs and economies. Another thing we know is that BAM is especially well-positioned to help now in the midst of the battle, and help later in the aftermath. How should BAMers respond right now?

On the basis of what we know. BAM can help defeat COVID if we have the right focus, posture and practices

Focus

In part one of this two part post, I’ll first talk about our necessary focus. We need to look up to God and look back at history first, and then look around and ahead. In part two I’ll talk about posture and practices and share a few real stories about how Christian entrepreneurs are responding. 

Look Up (to God)

COVID-19 is not a surprise to God. He means to use COVID-19 for the common good, the specific good of His children, and His glory. (See Gen. 50:20 and Rom. 8:28.) And Job, with authority, assures us that God “can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (42:2). (See more thoughts on this here)

Rejoice in this, rest in it, and take action because of it!

Look Back (at History)

There have always been plagues and pandemics. It’s instructive to remember how Christians in the early church responded in situations even worse than ours. In The Triumph of Christianity, Rodney Stark reminds us that during the two great plagues of AD 165 and 251, the “truly revolutionary principle” that drove members of the early church to respond sacrificially, even to the point of death, was “Christian love and charity”. The early church grasped agape — sacrificial love — and lived it out. While a third of the Roman Empire was perishing, and physicians were fleeing the cities and priests were abandoning their temples, true “Christians claimed to have answers and, most of all, they took appropriate actions.”

Look Around (for Needs)

Christians — all of us — must look around at immediate needs and take appropriate actions to win the battle against COVID. These actions are usually very simple and related both to how we conduct ourselves (by abiding by the generally applicable rules and guidelines pertaining to COVID, for example) as well as to how we look out for those around us (such as the priest in northern Italy who practiced agape by giving up his ventilator on behalf of a younger patient, and dying as a result). 

However, BAMers have a very specific and special role to play in the battle against COVID, right now. The relief and development analogy is applicable here. Immediately after a natural disaster, we respond with relief aid. Later on, we invest in development. Right now, BAMers can respond with their “relief hats” on, by looking around for immediate needs that they can meet. That could range from taking a financial loss by not firing or laying people off, to re-tasking a workforce and/or retooling a factory to produce personal protective equipment.  Read more

What Advice Would You Give to BAMers Going Through Covid-19?

by Sam Cho

What advice would you give to BAM entrepreneurs going through the Covid-19 crisis?

I asked this question to various experts in business and mission in my network (mainly in the Korean BAM network). Twenty people responded with advice, including several BAM practitioners, several entrepreneurs, four business professors, a missiology professor, and two top-level executives at global companies. 

What follows is a summary of their opinions and advice. We hope it is helpful for BAM practitioners in the current situation.

Survive and Learn

  • Increasing liquidity is critical. Survival can rightfully be the main theme during this period. Discounting the price of services and products only to cover overhead cost is just fine. You do not have to make profit during this period but just to make money enough to float. Discount accounts receivable is an option too in order to attain cash. Negotiate your accounts payable with your suppliers to cut down the amount owed for better liquidity.   
  • It may pay off to make an extra effort to search for government support packages like long-term loans, subsidies for foreign ventures or extensions of payback periods. Don’t overlook this possible opportunity. If your loan is on a variable-interest rate, try to renew the loan on better terms. 
  • If you survive this time, you need to earn a lesson about risk management. Many companies usually have a one-month cash reserve in the case of no sales coming in. Running a BAM business abroad means relative lack of available financial resources in difficult times. Remember that often when it rains, it pours – and not just during crisis like Covid-19. Building up a three-month cash reserve is a must; you may need more depending on the volatility in the area and industry you are in. 
  • Many BAM missionaries and tentmakers working under a mission agency often do not have (enough) donation-based support and rely on their living from business or job income, which is positive. However, for times when business is difficult, it might be advisable for Mission Agencies to build a common contingency fund or encourage more fundraising for these workers.

Renew Intimacy with God and Family

  • We could lose our daily devotional routines and sense of intimacy with the Lord from the daily busy-ness of business life. Crises such as this can lead us to return our heart back to the Lord and open a door to be near to our Lord again. The Lord always responds to our prayer in trouble, even when that does not mean the survival or prosperity of our business. 
  • You can ask your friends to pray together. If you do not have a prayer group, you may start one so that you can have a group of people you can talk to and pray with. Times of trouble are really a good chance to ignite passion in the group. Like-minded businessmen or women or financial supporters from your mission or sending church members could be good candidates for the prayer group. 
  • If your business is slow or has a temporary shutdown, you can spend that time with your family. Many BAMers often lose rest and time with close ones like the spouse or children. God may want you to slow down and to come back to your loved ones. True rest can give you energy and creativity, and true rest comes from intimate relationships with the Lord and family.  

Read more

The Real Finish Line: Maximising Missional Potential

How do you know your BAM project is achieving all it can for the Kingdom of God?

This is a challenging questions to answer for many leaders of BAM projects.  Often at a loss as how to measure anything spiritual, it leads to those nebulous statements such as: ‘Jesus is the centre of everything we do’ when questioned.

But it doesn’t have to be nebulous.

It IS possible to measure the progress towards your spiritual goals, but in order to do that you need to know what the target is.

Key Concept – Missional Potential

Not all BAM projects are able to impact for the Kingdom at the same level.  When we opened a data entry company that had Christian employees working for Christian customers, we realised that this was a very limited ‘fishing pool’ from which we were able to impact the Kingdom through evangelism.  The enterprise just didn’t ‘touch’ many people who were not already Christian.

As a response, we opened a bakery in a much busier part of town.  The bakery, by way of the nature of its business model, had many more interactions with people ‘far from God’ and so had much more potential for reaching people for Christ.

Is it fair to expect the data entry business to achieve the same level of spiritual fruit as the bakery?  We think not.  So what is the standard we are measuring the projects by?

The answer?  Each project needs to maximise its missional potential.

The Real Finish Line

By evaluating what the full missional potential is for your project, you now have a target to shoot for.  A finish line to work towards.

If we simplify the missional discussion to evangelism only, then the maximum missional potential for the data entry project is understandably far smaller than that of the bakery.  At the data entry project, we could potentially reach our suppliers (people who provided and fixed our computers for example), but our customers and staff were already Christians.  We would need to look for other areas to impact for the Kingdom of God.  Perhaps introducing discipleship for the staff that they could take home, and maybe evangelism training for them to use within their communities outside of work.

The bakery, however, was in a different league of missional potential.  Almost every interaction was with someone far from God.  We were based in an impoverished community, and both our staff and workers were not Jesus followers.  So considering what our outreach goals could be would need to be much more ambitious if we were going to maximise the missional potential of the bakery.

Are Quantifiable Targets Possible?

The idea of maximising your missional potential may be intuitively easy to understand, but how do you lead an organisation to targets without something quantifiable?  This may be a primary reason why BAM projects tend to shy away from measuring themselves in terms of spiritual fruitfulness:  They do not feel equipped to know how to measure what feels like a God ordained process.

We agree that people coming to Jesus is a God ordained process. At the same time, we feel it is possible to measure the project’s effort of effective exposure (EEE) to the gospel.

Our experience both doing effective outreach ourselves, and also comparing notes with some of the best in the world who do it, is that there are steps that lead to effective evangelism that can measured, and this is where quantifiable goals can be created.

For instance if you use the Four Missional Milestones referenced in the A Case Study – Applying Outreach In Business, it is possible to do analysis on the potential of your project to reach each milestone, and set realistic goals of applying the techniques necessary to reach those milestones through your project.

Application

For example, the first milestone is Connect, with a goal to get to the second milestone Share.  Your first step may be to analyse all the potential people your business touches that might be far from God.  From there you then analyse how many of those interactions are potential for EEE.  You then can set a target for 1) training your Christian team members with the skills for EEE, 2) measuring their performance of achieving EEE in Connect to Share.

Ultimately, you can measure numerically how much of your missional potential you are realising in reaching Connect, and the how many of those reached in the Connect phase are getting to the next milestone Share.  From there, you measure how many are moving from Share to the next milestone Gather and on and on.  You have now quantified your missional potential and are setting SMART goals that help you understand how much of that potential you are realising.

Conclusion

Understanding your project’s maximum missional potential can be a key step in achieving the Spiritual Bottom Line your project exists to fulfil. It allows you to set realistic goals for your team, and measure outcomes that can then be relayed back to investors, supporters or other key stakeholders who are supporting the project in order to see God glorified through the project.

It also helps to prevent you from going red-faced when asked what you are achieving for the Kingdom as you tell the questioner that ‘Jesus is the centre of everything we do’.

 

Article first published on the Business and Mission website, reposted with kind permission.

Business and Mission.org is a network of leaders each with decades of international entrepreneurial experience, but also comparable experience in effective outreach. The network was founded by Colin Crawley. Colin served for 8 years as the CEO of a UK missions agency based out of central London and prior to that served as the Executive Director for a California based global Business as Mission group for 5 years. Colin has a global background having lived in Hong Kong, the US, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. He enjoys meeting and learning from other leaders from all over the world who are passionate about seeing God’s Kingdom come.

 

 

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