Becoming an Irrelevant Leader - Part I
For followers of Jesus, there’s a tension we are constantly working to manage: the impact of what we do can never be the most important thing we seek and yet we’re called to love (through words and actions) those around us in the name of Jesus. As I've read over the collection of what we've shared on the blog, I'm worried that we could be sending the message that the impact of what we do is the most important thing. That can't ever be the case. The Most Important Thing is Jesus. Everything else flows from that.
Obvious and yet so difficult to practice.
We’re people who favor action, measurable progress, proof that we’re having a positive impact on the world. We hear the words of Jesus to “go into the world and make disciples” seriously, so we set about to plan, act, measure, adjust, repeat. In the process of all these great programs we loose sight of what’s most important.
Over the last decade I've learned a philosophy of ministry that helps keep first things first. It starts with a simple, but radical reorientation of our basic thinking about what it means to be a leader. Henri Nouwen states it well:
"The Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God's love. The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God's Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life." Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus
Lead by becoming irrelevant? Be ambitious to lead a quiet life? These admonitions seem to be oxymorons and maybe even counter to the Gospel (at least as we interpret it today). We feel like we’re supposed to serve others, bring healing, solve problems, BE RELEVENT, so they’ll want to know the God we serve. That’s true, but it’s not the whole truth.
Look at what Jesus himself says: “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’
He puts them in this order, not simply because He’s worthy of our First Love, but because it doesn’t work any other way.
I have nothing good to offer anyone on my own. On my own – without Jesus - I am weak, sinful, lazy, selfish. And so are you. We all know this and that’s why we spend so much time trying to cover it over with activities, awards, trophies, education. We don’t want anyone to see how little we really have to offer. And yet when we don’t admit this and go to the source of goodness – Jesus – we end up bringing the very worst of ourselves to our ministry post. Ministry in my own strength is the dry, joyless, half-truths of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
The only answer is to keep Jesus our First Love and let Him decide how much impact He will bring through our obedience. Over the next few days, I'll explore what this looks like and may even share some practical advice. Not that I've figured it out--far from it--I can be just as lost as an Pharisee. But I'm not going to stop trying to keep First Things First. Will you join me?
Hells kitchen's plant based PS Kitchen gives 100% of its profits to charity. Talk about a guilt-free meal! Not to mention, their drinks are fabulous as well.
How does a family of seven from Ohio end up living in the midst of goat herders in Kyrgyzstan and developing access to worldwide markets for luxury cashmere? After hearing Sy Belohlevek tell his family's story, the answer seems to be God and grit.
June Cashmere's 100% cashmere yarns are collected directly from Kyrgyz shepherds living on small family farms along the ancient Silk Road amidst the soaring mountains of Central Asia. June is the Kyrgyz word for animal fiber, which is a centuries old vital resource and essential element of their nomadic lifestyle. From felted woolen rugs, to the clothes on their backs, june has made itself an indelible part of Kyrgyz culture. Additionally, the uniquely warm properties of the cashmere from their goats allow them to sustain cold and long winters in the vast mountains in Kyrgyzstan.
After successful careers in the musical sales and financial services business, Joe was ready for a new challenge. So, during May 2013, he went on a 4-day fast and committed to God to sow (invest and give) 90% of his personal income to the work of the Kingdom of God on earth, and to live on 10% of his income.
The very next day, while driving, Joe saw a sign announcing a new Wal-Mart Store opening in his area. He felt God speak to his heart to contact Wal-Mart and try to begin a business relationship. Having spent his Saturdays serving meals to homeless men, Joe developed a burden to help. Over time that burden grew into an idea to offer affordable insurance to help people land on their feet even after the toughest life situations.
Ethiopia has changed since the famine of the 1980's that prompted pop stars to raise funds through a lovely concert and catchy tunes. Explore the current landscape with one of our portfolio companies.
Verde Beef Processing is a feed production, cattle fattening and beef processing business Located in Ethiopia’s largest state, Oromia (about 3 hours from Addis Ababa), Verde Beef is raising the country’s largest herd of cattle.
Verde has been leasing a processing facility but is quickly outgrowing it. Overall, this business is on track to scale to $100mm in revenue and $38M EBITDA per year. At that level of productivity the company will employ 2,500, and create 50,000 new jobs in the beef industry.
Work is how I amass enough power and wealth to make other people work for me.
Business is the means by which a few owners get rich through the effort of others.
The highest calling of a Christian in business is to make a lot of money to give away to the church and ministries.
We may not say it quite like this, but many of operate as if these lies and half-truths are true. If this is how we view work, it's no wonder that 70% of Americans hate their jobs or are completely disengaged (according to a Pew Research Poll.) This lame understanding of work also limits our potential to partner with God in some really amazing ways. By renewing our theology of work, we can better understand the role of business in the Kingdom of God. This is essential if we are to realize the power of business to serve as winsome witnesses of the Gospel, creatively demonstrating our faith by being part of the solution.
Pete Ochs" business Seat King exemplifies the best of "Redemptive Business" as a means of creating jobs and transforming lives.
Expanding on traditional Evangelism/Discipleship, the idea of Redemptive Business borrows heavily from Praxis Labs’ concept of a “redemptive entrepreneur”, or one who seeks to embody the gospel in creating and building a venture that leaves a meaningful impact on the world.
In the first 18 months of Impact Foundation, we have place $30 Million in 53 Impact Companies, spanning the globe from Silicon Valley to Laos. The impact of those investments encompasses most of the main categories of transformation sought by traditional charity plus a few areas that charity cannot reach. Read about the causes and places that our investments seeks to transform.
Some of our more devoted followers may have noticed that some months ago Impact Foundation and Olive Tree Investments joined forces. If you haven't noticed, or are confused by the combination, this blog is for you.
It’s a natural fit as both groups put charitable capital to work in enterprises that seek measurable social and kingdom transformation while earning money. Impact Foundation offers donors a flexible tool for charitable investment, while Olive Tree searches the globe for the best transformative businesses in emerging markets.
We are excited to welcome Steve Doerr to the team. He recently retired as an executive at ExxonMobil after more than 27 years. As Chief Operating Officer, Steve will help us shore up Impact Foundation's infrastructure and position us for the next phases of growth.
Steve has extensive experience managing diverse global portfolios and has lived and worked in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa as well as the US.
In the spring of 1984 my wife and I were standing in a field in Guatemala on an insight trip led by Opportunity International. I understood for the first time the power of business to accelerate the Great Commandment. I knew empirically and from experience that charity alone cannot eliminate extreme poverty; it's a critical piece of the puzzle, but insufficient on its own. That moment in Guatemala crystallized for me the desire to devote my life to serving the poor with sustainable, finance-driven solutions: not just to make the poor a little less poor but to partner with God in His work of redeeming the world and spreading the hope of the gospel.