How to Start a Kingdom Business (Pt. 1)
Over the past 25 years I have had the privilege to work with a wonderful network of brothers and sisters in the Business as Mission movement. For a major part of that time I worked with the Jholdas Project–a small business incubator focused on establishing persecuted believers in business so they can support their families, their struggling local churches and, ultimately, indigenous mission work. To date we have seen over 1,300 businesses started and approximately 500 churches planted as a result–primarily among the unreached people groups of the world. Along the way, we have learned a few things about starting a Kingdom Business that we will share over the coming weeks in this blog series and ebook.
What exactly are we talking about? Business as Mission (BAM) is the natural extension of my commitment to Christ in the sphere of life to which He has called me. It may be in my home country or it may be in another country. The simple reality is that business is a fully legitimate calling and the disciple is meant to enter into that calling with headlong, joyful abandon and focused on living for Jesus in that context.
However, there is another vital dimension to BAM. My career or my business or my startup needs to be deliberately, thoughtfully connected to God’s purpose in the world. In my opinion, it is this characteristic that is the sine qua non (absolute essential) of Business as Mission. A quick survey of Scripture will lead you to conclude that God was, is and always will be focused on filling up this earth with people who know, honor and love Him. So the question comes: how is my business intentionally connected to that?
And, finally, a Kingdom Business is one that seeks to operate on principles and values drawn from and consistent with the revelation of God’s Word. There is far more in Scripture about work and the marketplace than we have ever imagined. We must learn to dig it out and apply it fearlessly in our companies for the glory of God.
Simon Sinek recently published a book entitled Start with Why. It’s an excellent read and there is also a TedTalk on the subject entitled How great leaders inspire action. It’s all about core motivations, reasons for action, and motivations. In the same way, the Kingdom Entrepreneur needs to think through the “why” of his or her business early in the launch process.
The late management guru, Peter Drucker, once said, “The purpose of all business is to make a profit.” I wholeheartedly agree and so does Scripture. As an institution of God (see Genesis 1), enterprise is purposed with creating the wealth necessary for the other institutions of society to function. Thus, no profit means no business; it doesn’t matter what you call it.
However, like every other institution, business has multiple levels of its core purpose. To create wealth, yes. To make a profit, yes. But there are many dimensions of wealth and profit beyond today’s fallen definition of “money only” or “shareholder value.” There is the benefit brought to a family, a community, or a nation through business done God’s way. There is an environmental responsibility borne by all humans and all businesses based upon the Creation Mandate:
Then God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food. And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26-31, ESV)
And, most importantly, there is the doxological why. All things are designed and created for the glory and worship of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31) Business is no exception.
So the starting point for Kingdom Business startups is the what and the why. We must be clear on these points or we shall forever be looking over our shoulders and living in “semi-apology” for our business and its success.