Part 2 in our "Defining and Measuring Series"
"I own a company and I'm a Christian. Does that mean you can invest in my company?" - We get a version of this question at least once a week at Impact Foundation. Consequently, we've spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to say deploy capital for social and spiritual impact alongside financial gain.
It is easy to understand Kingdom impact in a company that provides specifically religious or spiritual products for consumers, like the Abide Prayer App. Or one of the dozens of film and TV producers who create content with redemptive and biblical themes (some of whom make movies people actually watch and who truly create a return for investors--really!).
But is that it?
Increasingly, Christians have come to hope, and perhaps even expect, there is more to the idea of Kingdom impact through business. The faith at work conversation has made much progress in the past decade to remind us of the theological importance of our day-to-day work. Through the efforts of countless authors, parachurch ministries, and pastors, we understand that our work provides an opportunity for living the gospel and witnessing to our neighbors. In addition, a few great authors have exhorted us to see that our work--whether as accountants, pilots, artists, homemakers, gardeners, or lawyers--has unique and intrinsic value as a means of worshipping our Creator and of partnering with Him in His work of renewing all things.
To extend this idea, the leaders of a company can create positive social impact through leadership that intentionally incorporates their Christian faith into meaningful relationships with employees, vendors, and customers. For example, a new company called Exothermix sells innovative portable heating to consumer product companies. Exothermix has adopted a company covenant to align senior leadership and investors around a few core tenets. While there is nothing particularly spiritual about a self-contained heating unit that can warm prepackaged soup in a few minutes, the covenant is part of a sincere attempt to incorporate biblical values into the company culture. No one is required to profess faith in Jesus to work for the company, but senior leadership works to create a winsome witness to the gospel for employees and customers.
This is not to say that Christian leadership, on its own, is all that is needed for a company to be placed in the Kingdom Impact Investing category. Scripture is clear that personal faith will result in changed behavior, which Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit.” Certainly a corporate entity cannot have faith or be baptized as a “Christian.” Still, a CEO or group of senior leaders shaping that company with their personal faith can be expected to display evidence from the company that is indicative of spiritual health. As a corollary to the idea that “faith without works is dead,” we can look to the fruit of the company to determine whether this second type of spiritual impact is at work. This saves us the difficult, and strangely invasive, task of trying to assess the spiritual health of a leader to see if their company can be considered worthy of a Kingdom Impact Investment.
What have we missed? What makes a company worthy of investment if we're seeking social and spiritual transformation along with financial return?