In America it's amazing how closely we live near people in poverty without even recognizing it. A recent article, A City Divided by Income, was published by WABE.org that highlighted the income divide in three distinct parts of Atlanta, which are divided by income status. The article focused not on three different cities, but three different divisions within the same city - upper, middle, and lower class - which is probably not much different than most metro areas in the US.
From the authors:
We decided to do this project because we wanted to show people that poverty is not an issue that is far away from them; it is in their backyard. All of these neighborhoods were within 30 minutes of each other, but they were drastically different. We want to break the bubble that many wealthy people live in and show them that poverty is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Read the full article at http://news.wabe.org/post/city-divided-income
Many Christian entrepreneurs pray the prayer of Jabez, asking God to "enlarge their territory." However, I wonder how many understand the full implications of what they are asking God for and if their heart is in the right place?
God wants your business or ministry to grow exponentially, but it may not be in the way that you were thinking.
Every time a kid commits a crime, the US justice system has a choice: prosecute to the full extent of the law, or take a step back and ask if saddling young people with criminal records is the right thing to do every time. In this searching talk, Adam Foss, a prosecutor with the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office in Boston, makes his case for a reformed justice system that replaces wrath with opportunity, changing people's lives for the better instead of ruining them. By shifting his focus from incarceration to transforming lives, Foss is reinventing the role of the criminal prosecutor.
Everyone in our communities has a role to play in helping to create better opportunities and brighter futures for underserved, at-risk youth. Often it requires looking at the same problems with a new lens. My new book, Jobs, Justice & Jesus, focuses on the need to develop comprehensive, integrated solutions that include multiple organizations and institutions. Let's all work together to do more for our kids.
Click here to learn more and download a free chapter of my book.
I'm always excited to find out about programs that focus on helping youth and young adults find meaningful employment. So I was really inspired to learn about Workforce Opportunity Solutions, based in New York City, focused on transforming early career professionals by cultivating their talents. They connect leading companies with a network of thousands of ready-to-work professionals who reflect diverse communities and customers.
We need more organizations like this around the country that combine education and work opportunities to equip underserved youth to create a positive future. Keep up the great work WOS!
You can learn more about similar services we're providing in Atlanta through Kinsman Community to prepare underserved youth and young adults for the workforce and success in life at www.mykinsman.org.
The average cost per prison inmate per year to US tax payers is more than $31,200 and some states are as high as $60,000 (and these numbers are a few years old). In fact, certain states spend nearly three times as much to house prisoners than to educate students. And that's not counting all the negative family, social, emotional, mental, and community impact that's connected to each person who is incarcerated.
Of course we know that unemployment has a strong correlation to criminal activities. So why haven't we connected the dots to see that if more jobs are needed in urban communities to help people take the initial and essential steps break generational cycles of poverty, we look to small businesses as a primary source of job creation?
I tackle the answer to that question in my new book, Jobs, Justice & Jesus: An Economic Evangelism Playbook to Reach Urban Youth. You can download a free chapter to learn more about the foundational principles contained in this dynamic resource.
Kinsman Community is intentionally focusing on this issue by providing high quality programs for teens that equip them to be successful in the marketplace as employees or entrepreneurs. Your purchase of this book will allow us to continue to grow our programs.
I believe we can be more effective in dealing with crime prevention, in particular strategies to create jobs for at-risk youth and young adults who are most susceptible to committing crimes. We can do more to develop solutions that change lives financially, socially, and spiritually. Let's do it together for the sake of our future!
Some Christians may be wondering why we should care so much about people beyond their spiritual and eternal well-being. The truth is the Bible has a lot to say about how we treat people economically.
So how did God respond to economic injustice in the Bible? One example is Isaiah 58:3, “Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.” He was telling the Israelites that He was rejecting their religious activities because they were creating oppressive conditions for their employees. He was displeased because they were not taking care of the natural needs of people and were instead being a burden to them.
In Matthew 21 we see Jesus use forceful action to throw out the corrupt merchants from the temple who were taking advantage of vulnerable people. He wasn't angry that they were doing business. He was angry that they were using their businesses to manipulate, cheat, and steal.
Let’s look at a few other scriptures that touch on this issue of economic injustice:
So if we go back to Isaiah 58, towards the end of the chapter God gives us a prescription for what pleases Him: loving people, taking care of their needs, feeding the hungry, lifting burdens, and protecting the innocent. When we do these things in our urban communities, with a critical focus on our young people, here is what the outcomes will be:
“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.” Isaiah 58:11-12
I believe this is a prophetic word for what can happen in our communities even today when we take on this mantle! Christians should be leading the way to defend the vulnerable and confront the powerful who prey on the weak. We have a God-given responsibility and authority to help whose who are taken advantage of economically by others. So let's get to work!
Starting and running a business is hard enough. Starting a business that focused on transforming lives is even harder. That's why mission entrepreneurs must keep focused on these five truths in order to not get off course or discouraged in their business pursuits. This is not an exhaustive list but it will give you a good framework to consider.
1. Connected to God - Missional entrepreneurs above all else live the primary commandments to love God and love people. Their enterprise becomes a strategic and creative way for them to express love through the use of their gifts and talents to serve people with excellence. Further, the importance of staying connected to God is to receive direction and strength to fulfill the purposes of God through their business.
2. Conformed to Christ - Your reputation is your greatest asset as an entrepreneur. Character and integrity shaped by Christ form the bedrock of a way of living - for reasons beyond just doing business. From this foundation business becomes an incredible opportunity to let your light shine through the love of Christ and business practices He would endorse.
3. Committed to the Great Commission - To me the biggest difference between mission driven businesses and others is the ultimate end goal. For Christian entrepreneurs one purpose of the business should be about the salvation of souls and transformation of lives. God gives different people different ministry platforms, and business is a very strategic one for many. Entrepreneurs who embrace the role of "business pastors" will most likely spend more time one-on-one with people than pulpit pastors. We need both roles, so we definitely can't downplay the significant contribution that Christian entrepreneurs can make to the Kingdom of God in the marketplace.
Related Article: 8 Clues it May be Time to Quit Your Job and Start a Mission Driven Business
4. Community Consciousness - Missional entrepreneurs are aware of and sensitive to the issues and needs of the community to which God has connected your heart. There is an intentionality about using your platform to address the pressures from outside and inside that challenge the health and vitality of that community. There is not a sense of "us and them." Instead the focus is on "we" as in an extended family.
5. Collaborative Solutions - One of the worst things that hurts communities are people and organizations who come riding into a community on a proverbial white horse trying to "save the day," but without connecting with the individuals and organizations that already exist within that community. It takes collaborative teams to accomplish big dreams, working strategically with individuals and organizations that have a similar vision for the community. Communities that are in distress still possess extremely valuable assets - people, organizations, wisdom, experience, talents and skills, resources, etc. - that should be identified and engaged as part of the solution. Just because you have great ideas doesn't mean you have the only ideas to transform a community.
So if you have been on the fence about pursuing a mission driven business, hopefully this will encourage you and push you forward with confidence.
Fame or perceived success – it all comes from group think.
Earlier this week the music industry celebrated the 59th Grammy Awards. There were many dynamic performances, but the one that caught my attention and many others was Chance the Rapper. What impacted me the most was the fact that he was willing to use a secular platform to boldly proclaim his faith. And while many people are celebrating his rise in the industry, I also wonder how many people,though, have whittled down his elevation to a few familiar and overused buzzwords.
One of those buzzwords that typically gets thrown around around stories like his is "passion." With him being an independent artist it's easy to apply that label to him and say that's what caused him to be in the position he is in right now. It's hard enough becoming successful in the music industry with a major record label behind you. So it would have to be many times harder going the independent path to becoming a successful artist.
However, passion alone didn't win him those awards and accolades. Passion of course was part of the formula, but he had to be excellent at his craft in order to be recognized by the Industry as the best artist in his category.
It always irks me when people use passion as an oversimplified path to achieving your dreams. It's a waste to be very excited about what you do but not develop the character and discipline to grow into being very good at what you do.
If you want to get to the top of your industry you must realize that passion should push you become excellent at your craft, skill, or gift. But it's not enough by itself. Passion should give you the motivation to practice even when you don't feel like it. Passion should propel you past convenience and comfort. True passion will drive you to do your best even when no one is looking. If this doesn't describe you, then I would question whether you are as passionate about your dream as you say you are.
We can see his end results now, but very few people saw the money invested, long nights, early mornings, series of rejections, and painful experiences that led up to this point.
If you never demonstrate excellence in your supposed area of expertise, passion will become just another random word and empty promise.
So find something that you're passionate about and then become excellent doing it. Develop your skills. Build your expertise. Become the best at what you do.
And even if you're not celebrated on a stage like Chance the Rapper, you can still be confident that you have given the world your best and not just another buzzword.
Connect Your Passion to Your Profession!
When starting or running a business, you must realize that pressure is inevitable. So whether the pressure is financial, relational, social, political, or any other, it usually causes one of two reactions. It can cause you to either wilt under it or it can push you forward to your next level. Fortunately, you can choose how you will respond to it.
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Amos Johnson Jr.
Brotha Online Magazine
Business as Mission
The High Calling