I was on LinkedIn the other day and notice my tagline was “I believe businesses can change the world.” In the current social and political climate that could be misconstrued that I’m a harsh capitalist with profit on my mind. Yes and no. I love the idea of business because it combines the talents of people on a team and they can accomplish more together than if they were apart. I love the idea of missional businesses that solve problems, make profits and change the world for the better.
Going from starting a business to becoming a missional business isn’t easy. It’s not dissimilar to the same process many describe for the journey of life. I’ve heard it said this way. We all start off in a survival state. From the time we’re living at home and being provided for to the time we’re out on our own, we’re surviving. As people progress they go from survival to success. For many, this is just the story of their life, one that strives for success. However, a few individuals go from success to significance.
Missional businesses are not much different. They have three stages as well. These stages don’t match up exactly to “life” because we’re talking about an intentional missional business. One destined to change the world and leave a legacy. For Biblically-based missional businesses, the three stages are Gather, Give, GO!
Most businesses, entrepreneurs and new marketplace leaders are in this stage. There’s nothing inherently wrong with gathering. Most businesses must be “bootstrapped”, that is, they have to start and launch with little or no funding. Gathering resources is a perfectly acceptable and financially sound stage to be in. There’s no shame in being in a gathering stage, just as there is no shame in being in a survival state as a person. Statistically, over 80% of small businesses fail in the first 2 years, and even fewer make it to year 5.
The challenge is moving forward out of the gathering state. Many businesses intentionally or unintentionally stay in this state. Many of the world’s non-Christian business owners stay here. It keeps them financially sound and usually makes a few people wealthy. God has called us to do more. In Luke, Jesus tells the parable about the rich fool who decides to increase his storage for wealth.
We all read that and can easily see this as folly. We need to re-examine our financial budgets in order to make sure we aren’t guilty of the same thing. When you realized that you are simply a steward for God’s resources and that you are supposed to be a river and not a reservoir of resources you move to the second stage. Give.
Most organizations I’ve had the pleasure to know that make it out of that dreadful first 2 or 3 years are in this category. They are actively giving to their community or to a charity. What’s exciting is that many members of the millennial generation often go into business with this in mind . There aren’t many books on giving and even fewer still that outline the responsibility that businesses must give to their community.
In and of itself, a business is just a system built to solve a problem. This problem solving produces value that is exchanged into profit. However, the power of the business profit is that it can do so many things to impact the lives of the employees, the customers and the community. There’s no law that says a business must give or a business leader must give. I personally feel that it’s every leader’s responsibility to search for those opportunities of where their business can make a positive impact. Most great business create excess. In addition, as Christians we are called to stand out.
Unfortunately for many Christians, the non-Christian business owners are many times outgiving the Christians! Look at a business like Toms Shoes that gives a pair of shoes to those in need whenever they sell a pair of full priced shoes. In researching Toms Shoes, I found nothing Christian about the company. You could say that Toms Shoes is only giving because it’s good press. I’m OK with that. Where Toms Shoes is different than say Goodwill (a pseudo charity) is that Toms is giving the shoes away. Whether it’s 5% or 10%, it’s still an amount that’s been set aside to give.
That’s a key takeaway. You must be proactive and take a step. In order to be an effective giver, you must set aside the resources to give. You must look at your budget and earmark the amount to give. I use percentages, but you could have a giving goal that isn’t percentage based.
You’ll never accomplish great things if you don’t take the first step. Giving, even something small, is often the first step to big things.
If you aren’t at the “give” stage yet, then aspire to be. Giving is not a someday destination, it’s a decision that you can make that God will bless. Test Him against His word, the Bible says this regarding the tithe in Malachi 3:10. Often giving can open doors to new opportunities whether it be good press or new relationships. It’s a Biblical principle, give and you will be given to. Another way the Bible says, you’re blessed to be a blessing. Read Jesus’s words in Luke 6:38
Need more? Read Deuteronomy 15:10, Proverbs 11:24, 22:9, 2 Corinthian 9:6-7.
An entrepreneur or marketplace leader is in this stage when they are giving over and above their tithe. Many businesses give to the red cross or give to special projects at the church and call it a day. This is a great place to be, and there are many great examples of givers both Christian and non-Christian. However, for businesses and leaders to be driven by eternity, there’s another stage that I’d like for you to strive for.
Few leaders ever reach this stage. It’s the mixing and melding of a business and a mission. Very, very few non-Christian companies get here. It’d be easy to herald businesses that do well that are openly Christian, but international businesses rarely allow this sort of freedom. For a leader engaged in this stage, you need to be engrossed in Kingdom work.
This doesn’t mean you have to build churches or orphanages. It doesn’t mean you have to pay to help Bible smugglers. You could be building hospitals or providing clothing and food to the needy. It’s a subtle difference.
“Going” looks different than Giving. It’s taking a specific action or physically going somewhere. The key factor in “going” is responsibility. It’s the difference between a child and an adult. Taking it upon yourself to not just give to a charity but be committed to the work. The difference between the Give and the Go stage is that in the Go stage you are using your Time and Talent, not just your Treasure to impact God’s kingdom.
My hope is that as you grow from gathering to giving, that you’d create enough momentum to begin “Going.” Where your business can leave a legacy becuase of the impact that was left. There is no greater time for a leader to step up than a time of crisis.