Online Conversation | Work, Justice, & Common Good with Henry Kaestner & Dave Blanchard
In a time of growing civic fracture, how can we understand and steward the gifts and resources we have been given to serve God and others?
While work occupies most of our waking hours, it can often feel excluded from our understanding of or discussions around Christian formation and vision for flourishing. This Online Conversation will explore possibilities for faith-driven investing, redemptive entrepreneurship, and the role our work plays in the common good.
On Friday, April 22 The Trinity Forum hosted an Online Conversation with Henry Kaestner and Dave Blanchard to gain inspiration to engage in the business realm without sacrificing Christian faithfulness.
Transcript | Kaestner and Blanchard | April 22, 2022
Cherie Harder: Welcome to all of you joining us for today’s Trinity Forum Online Conversation on “Work, Justice and the Common Good” with Henry Kaestner and Dave Blanchard. I’d like to just add my own thanks to our sponsors who have made this program possible, Bill and Dana Witterman, John and Jackie Coleman, John Moon, and the John Steiger Ferry Foundation.
We’re delighted that so many of you are joining us for today’s Online Conversation and just really appreciate the honor of your time and attention. And I’d like to give a special shout-out as well to the well over 100 first-time attendees who are joining us for the first time ever. So thank you. Really glad to have you here. As well as for our many international attendees who have been joining us from at least 18 different countries that we know of, ranging from Australia to Algeria and Singapore to Sweden. So welcome from across the miles and time zones. If you haven’t done so already, send us a note in the chat box and let us to know where you’re from. It’s always kind of fun for us to see where everybody is tuning into and from.
And if you are new to the work of the Trinity Forum, a bit about who we are and what we do. We seek to provide a space for leaders to grapple with the big questions of life in the context of faith, and to offer programs like this Online Conversation to do so and to come to better know the Author of the answers. And we hope this conversation will be a small taste of that for you today.
And the questions we’re engaging today are indeed big ones. What does our work have to do with justice and the common good? In a competitive or even cutthroat marketplace, is it possible to work towards restoration and flourishing over domination or exploitation? And what would redemptive entrepreneurship and faith-driven investing look like in real life? How can not just our philanthropy and the resources we give away, but investment itself, the resources we steward, advance justice, build community, and cultivate the common good? It’s been said that the actual proves the possible. And today we’ll have the opportunity to talk with two entrepreneurs and investors whose actual experience reveals the real-life possibilities for work, justice, and flourishing.
Henry Kaestner is a co-founder of the Faith-Driven Entrepreneur and Faith-Driven Investor ministries, as well as a co-founder and partner at Sovereign’s Capital, a private equity and venture capital management company that invests in entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia and the US and maintains offices in Silicon Valley, DC, and Jakarta, Indonesia. He previously served as the co-founder, CEO, and later chairman of the tech company Bandwidth and its sister company, Republic Wireless. And he recently authored, along with Chip Ingram and J.D. Greer, the new book, Faith-Driven Entrepreneur.
Joining him is Dave Blanchard, who is the co-founder and CEO of Praxis, which works to motivate, educate, and resource the pursuit of redemptive entrepreneurship. He previously served as the principal designer at the innovation company IDEO, founded two companies in music and technology, and has authored the book From Concept to Scale.
Henry and Dave, welcome. Really glad to have you here.
Henry Kaestner: Thank you. It’s an honor to be here.
Dave Blanchard: It’s so great to be with you.
Cherie Harder: Great. So as we start off, I’d really like to kind of start with your own stories. Both of you have founded multiple companies before taking on roles in essentially founding efforts and organizations to encourage redemptive or faith -based or faith-driven entrepreneurship. And as entrepreneurs, presumably, you sense both a need and an opportunity. So I’m curious what led you to take on that effort and what did you see as both the need and the opportunity? And, Henry, we’ll start with you.
Henry Kaestner: So I love the way that you frame the question about the need and the opportunity. I think that entrepreneurs are in the business of solving problems and hopefully it’s a big enough problem or at least a problem worth solving. And my quick flyover of my background and being an entrepreneur is that I worked on Wall Street and then started a company and then came to faith, and then came to realize that through the next company, which is Bandwidth, that we had an incredible opportunity to love on people and to love on our partners, our vendors, our customers, and our employees. And it’s really fun, together with a business partner and best friend who is more of a mature believer, to really see our work as—and I didn’t know Dave at the time, so I probably didn’t use the word “redemptive,” but would have if I had known Dave at the time—and just seeing our work as an instrument of God’s glory in the marketplace. And we felt his pleasure as we went out there and tried to solve some problems we saw in the marketplace. In my life since then, and that was 24 years ago, since then, has been about that concept, out of a selfish ambition, of wanting to co-create with God under his power for his glory. And it’s just been a lot of fun as I’ve been involved in these different projects.
Cherie Harder: Yeah, that’s great. Dave, what about you?
Dave Blanchard: Yeah. Well, I think of myself as an entrepreneur from the youngest ages, really starting different companies and small projects from second grade on. And so I just kind of always had this interest in that world. And it was encouraged by my parents, though I grew up in a family as a pastor’s kid where my father was focused—and my mother—on ministry and prayer and so on. And I don’t think I ever saw those worlds converging like they have today. But interestingly, I think my journey through a number of, like I said, small businesses, through, I would say, kind of high school and college, out into music and technology in my twenties, in a time where I wasn’t all that serious about my faith—I was more interested in the kind of financial motive and autonomy and independence that entrepreneurship gives. Really, in coming back into this question that really my wife posed to me in a major way when I was 27, which was like, “What do you think the kingdom of God has to do with entrepreneurship?”—has has been the pursuit of the last several years of my life, actually over a decade now with practice, and trying to say, “Okay, well, I can see that entrepreneurship is in many ways good in and of itself, and it creates jobs and possibility and things like that.” When I was at IDEO, I saw people who were really interested in the common good and creating things that really bless society, albeit 99 percent of the time through a secular lens, and really trying to then push those things together and ask that deeper question of if Christians are going to be creative in the world, what should we create? And how can we use entrepreneurship to do that?
And so I think to your point around the need that I saw in the world, I think many entrepreneurs often create out of a need they felt themselves. And so in many ways, when we launched Praxis as a way for entrepreneurs to get mentorship and values-align capital, peer community, and really think through these challenges from a theological and a cultural lens of what we should build—I think that was really the dominant question of my life, which was how could I do that too? And just actually had the, I think, opportunity to help a number of other entrepreneurs do that as well through our program. So that continues to evolve. But I think that that was the deepest need, was really trying to bridge that gap between this entrepreneurial capacity that I kind of had, felt was just in me, and my growing faith.
Cherie Harder: Yeah. So you both have used slightly different terms. And, Henry, you alluded to this. Dave, you talk a lot more about “redemptive entrepreneurship,” and Henry about “faith-driven” entrepreneurship and investment. And so it’s always helpful to kind of start with definitions. What do these terms mean and what do they look like? And Dave, maybe we can start with you. What is redemptive entrepreneurship?
Dave Blanchard: Yeah, sure. So probably worth saying, over the past ten years of Praxis we had talked mostly about “Christian-led” entrepreneurship, which I think is connected to what Henry will say around “faith-driven” and so on. And certainly these things overlap deeply, of course, and our work has overlapped deeply as well. As it relates to this idea of redemptive, we kind of decided to put a name on it seven years in. And the idea there was there’s a particular way that we’re hoping Christian entrepreneurs go out in the world and, frankly, sometimes see non-Christian entrepreneurs go out in the world as well. And it’s connected to three ways we think people work. We can work exploitatively, which effectively says, “I’m going to use culture and people for my own gain.” There’s this ethical conversation of “We’re going to do things the right way, advance culture, make sure people aren’t mistreated.” I think Google most famously said their approach was to “do no evil,” which is kind of the lower baseline of the ethical. And of course, the ethical should be the baseline for us as believers and is taught as the thing that all business leaders should achieve, I think, in business schools and so on.
But then we think as Christians, there’s this next step out, this third way of being redemptive. We define that as creative restoration through sacrifice. We think, “OK, in the organization, how are we renewing culture? How are we blessing people, and how do we as leaders die to self along the way to do that?” That’s what makes up that redemptive way. Just one more click on creative restoration through sacrifice. We’ve chosen those words very intentionally to say “creative,” in the sense that we’re made in the image of God; “restoration” in that we should be joining God in the renewal of all things; and then “sacrifice” in the sense that we are made to love neighbor and and do that in a way that obviously calls us beyond ourselves. And so that’s our definition for redemptive entrepreneurship. And I’d say the sacrifice component of that can be the most challenging, the hardest for us to get our heads around, and is not a constant thing, of course. It is connected to work we do at moments while we try to achieve an ethical baseline and try to avoid exploitation as well as we can see it.
Cherie Harder: Yeah. Henry?
Henry Kaestner: Yeah. Thank you for asking. The concept of “faith-driven entrepreneur” in a title is a title that really I hope begs the question, which is “What drives me?” And Tim Keller and others would say that we’re all driven by—we all have a faith in something that’s driving us. Maybe it’s a faith in our work. Maybe it’s a faith in what money might be able to deliver. What is the faith that drives us? And of course, if you’re tuning into Trinity Forum, you might think, well, of course it’s my Christian faith. And ours is a decentralized movement that’s meant to coalesce around 12 marks, which I’ll get into very briefly—I won’t talk about all 12. But it’s meant to be this decentralized movement, to be able to encourage entrepreneurs that are driven by their Christian faith around the world to understand how they might participate in the work that God is doing. Because entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey, but it doesn’t need to be. And we try to provide content and community around that concept. But I like the term “faith-driven entrepreneur” because it challenges me each day, from a passage in Proverbs, actually—any time the Bible says something a couple of times, you got to pay attention to it. And Proverbs 16:2 and 22 say the same thing: “All a man’s ways seem pure to him, but his motives are weighed by the Lord.” So as I go about my work, as a faith-driven entrepreneur goes about their work, why are we doing what we’re doing? The why behind our mission and our purpose, or even our activities during the day, or just even the posture we have in a phone call or anything like that, that’s something I have to check daily.
And so having a title, hopefully “faith-driven entrepreneur,” helps me understand what’s driving me today. Is it my selfish ambition or is it a desire—? And if it’s a selfish ambition, is that necessarily bad? For instance, I’ve come to terms, as I’ve gotten older, that the selfish ambition that God put in my heart isn’t necessarily bad. It’s just that the joy that I seek, the peace, the freedom I seek, I can find as I co-create with God. And that’s all right. It’s just that in the past, my selfish ambition has been challenged to other things that haven’t delivered the things I had hoped. But as we co-create with God, I think we’re invited into something that’s more special and can really be a blessing and that’s incredibly fun.
And then with [my organization] Faith-Driven Entrepreneur, we do try to touch in to these 12 marks about what characterizes a faith-driven entrepreneur. And just as a quick flyover, there are things like our call to create. When we can lean in to this opportunity to create with the living God who loved us so much that he sent his son to die for us, that gives us this incredible just mission and purpose and just seeing this God work six out of seven days and we become alive with him. And then as an extension of our work, maybe we’ll get into this later, providing that opportunity to others, something that Praxis does so very, very well. The second of the marks is the identity in Christ. So oftentimes, an entrepreneur their identity is wrapped up in the fact that they’re growing 20 percent month over a month or they just did a big funding round or they just closed a deal with Google. Well, no, actually, when God looks at us, he sees his son and we can’t earn our own salvation. And so there are ten other marks. I won’t go into all of them. But what is it that drives us? Why are we doing what we’re doing? And hopefully we can help Christ-following entrepreneurs to answer that question for themselves.
Cherie Harder: I want to pick up on a term that each of you used, which was love and sacrifice. And when most people think about entrepreneurship or investing, they think of it as essentially competitive, often zero sum, and not something that has much to do with love or certainly with sacrifice. It’s quite possible that people who are hearing that might even feel slightly cynical. So I’ll ask sort of the—I think we’re probably all Gen-Xers—the Tina Turner question: what does love have to do with it? What’s the connection between love and entrepreneurship? And, Henry, maybe we can start with you.
Henry Kaestner: Wow, that’s a great one. I love the fact that you’ve invoked Tina Turner. That’s well placed. Love has everything to do with it. And I know it sounds hokey, but I probably don’t even use that term enough. But God is love. So I’m going to betray some of my Calvinist roots maybe a little bit here, but the chief end of man is to know God and enjoy him forever. And if God is love and his love for us creates our identity and our purpose, we have to tap into that every day. If I don’t tap into God’s love for me, his incredible love for me, I stand no chance of being able to experience his joy during the course of the day. I stand no chance of being able to be any type of a witness or a testimony to his love for me if I haven’t tapped into it that morning. And even, as it happens, I end up becoming a fainter and fainter echo of his love for me. But it’s all about love.
And, you know, an entrepreneur, when they’re solving a problem, they’re creating a redemptive product or service, it’s out of a love for mankind. It’s a desire for justice. It’s a desire to fix something that is broken, to serve their fellow man. And as we do that—we all know this feeling—as we love others well, we feel a sense of joy. But all too often, at least in my life, the worries of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, all of these things, kind of are choking me back. So I don’t get that return that’s promised with 160- and 30-fold. But if I can tap into love every morning, starting with God’s love for me, I got a chance.
Cherie Harder: Dave, I want to ladle an additional question on top of that one, which you can pick up on. But in addition to that, I want to ask you about metrics and measurement in that, you know, through practice labs, you’re coaching a bunch of budding entrepreneurs, and, of course, measurement and metrics are really important. Usually performance almost immediately improves when you track [it], and you get a lot more of what you reward and pay attention to and less of what you penalize or ignore. And in general, the metrics of entrepreneurship are focused on capital and not on people. That’s a broad statement, but we’re trafficking in generalities. And I wondered how you think about tracking the success of entrepreneurial ventures, what measurements you use, and do they differ at all from a mindset that wouldn’t be characterized as redemptive entrepreneurship?
Dave Blanchard: Yeah. Yeah. Wonderful question. And one that we could we could probably opine on for a few hours here if we had the time. I think there are some basics here to probably start with, which just say that profits aren’t bad. Sustainability is critical. Profits can be great because they drive future possibility and purpose. Free markets can be amazing with certain caveats to that. There’s a lot to unpack there. But I think even in just all of this, I think I have maybe a bit of a countercultural perspective on this that’s been formed by a few of our mentors in our community. And it’s maybe connected, actually, if I can try to loop the two questions together to a recent quote I saw from this American economist, David Friedman, he said, “There’s three reasons to do something for another person: love, money, or force.” And it really jumped out of me as like, you know, I think if you look at how we measure success, the spirit of the age in our time—this actually relates to something you said in the opening, I think—which is that we just kind of have said we’re going to pursue dominance at the cost of relationships. And so we’re going to measure success through numbers, not love and not people and a lot of those things. So I think as we think about redemptive entrepreneurship, it goes back to unique metrics that every organization should have and look at that are not related to how high is the top line? How many new customers did we get this year? And so on. But how are those customers actually doing? Do they sense and self-report that their flourishing has gone up as a result of their interactions with our entity? Now in today’s day we can look at some of the things we are most connected to as customers—I don’t know, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, what have you—many of the customers would actually self-report as being worse off but still being hooked. So we have a problem as it relates to entrepreneurship and the product and service mix that’s going out there.
At the same time, the numbers of people inside the working environment who are glad they’re making money doing the thing they’re doing [but] are not reporting a lot of satisfaction at work [are rising]. We’re in the middle of the great resignation. The hybridization of everything, the remote-work culture that’s emerging—which has possibilities, I think—is mostly leaving people lonely and alone. And so as organizational leaders, we should be thinking about how do we bless the people inside the organization? Are they self-reporting as being blessed by their working relationships and their engagement with us? Are we investing in them as individuals or do we just really see them as utility for that larger thing? So I think as we get down into that, it’s really asking the people, customers, employees, and so on, how are you doing? And is our organization actually part of the fruit of your life or something that you kind of tolerate or work with or are hooked to and can’t get out of?
Cherie Harder: Yeah. Thank you. Henry?
Henry Kaestner: Yeah, I’d love to chime in on that, too. And I think that I’m going to echo what Dave said and then build on that, too. I think it’s really important and I think that outcome is best when performance is measured. And I look at it from two different lenses. On one, I spend most of my time now with the ministries of Faith-Driven Entrepreneur and Faith-Driven Investor, and yet I still am on the investment committees, many of the investment committees, at Sovereign’s Capital, which has a mission to be able to provide market returns, top quintile returns, by investing in faith-driven entrepreneurs worldwide. And so there is absolutely a performance base that we have to focus on as fiduciaries for LP’s money. In addition to that, though, and I think this is really important, is that we have always believed that the mission is the most important thing. Mission actually even trumps culture. The mission of an organization is incredibly important. So when you work and you spend time with an entrepreneur, understanding what their mission is and then how they will know when they have gotten it—now some of them will say, “I want to go ahead and I want to clothe the world’s naked children.” And there are billions of them. And so that may be too big to be able to accomplish. And yet what are those milestones? And so we have an opportunity with each entrepreneur, whether we’re working with a for-profit entrepreneur at Sovereign’s Capital, or many more through the Faith-Driven Entrepreneur to say, “Okay, how will you know along the way, based on measurements that you have preordained, consistent with your mission, how will you know you’re on track?” So I think that’s important is to have the metrics defined by those we invest in.
Cherie Harder: That’s great. You know, somewhat relatedly—and I’ll probably start by throwing this to you first, Henry—many times there are incredibly lucrative opportunities to invest in ventures that are either clearly or perhaps much more ambiguously unjust or at least embedded within unjust systems. You know, I’m thinking here of child or forced labor or real estate investing in redlined areas, you know, several decades ago. And, Henry, I know that your former company, Bandwidth, when you were at the helm, made a very conscious decision. You were far along in the process and decided not to pursue a relationship with a company that turned out to be a holding company for adult entertainment, even though it would have been a very lucrative deal. And would love to hear from both of you about, as investors and entrepreneurs, how you pursue redemptive entrepreneurship amidst structures, systems, that are unjust and what line do you try to draw?
Henry Kaestner: Well, Cherie, maybe I’ll start—yes. There are some no-brainer things. Early on—I mean, I wish I could take a tremendous amount of credit for the decisions we made early on, but we were a business that was started on the values of faith first, then family, then work, and then fitness. And so of course, we couldn’t install this very large circuit that we ended up finding out was going to be used for adult entertainment. We couldn’t. That was an easy decision. Now, the challenge we had was, well, how do we compensate the rep who spent so much time doing this and was swindled along the way, and we end up being able to pay out a commission check there and we felt like it was the right thing to do. But that wasn’t really, really a hard decision.
I think the hard decision is made by each of us when we challenge ourselves to go to the next level. Okay, here’s what I mean by that. We have a podcast. Yesterday we recorded a podcast which will be released in a couple of months with Justin Dillon, who of course Dave knows really well, has been involved in Praxis ministry and Praxis has been part of the way that he thinks about things. And Justin Dillon challenges us to think about what kind of impact we have in our consumption, and in our supply chain, about what’s going on with trafficking. And so an ethical or even maybe even a redemptive entrepreneur might be thinking, “I’m just buying materials and I’m making a product. I’m trying to solve this problem.” But Justin would say, actually, “Let’s go the next mile to say what really is going on in our supply chain and who’s making it. And ignorance can’t be bliss. We have to know. We actually have to ask the hard questions and we have to prepare ourselves to not like the answers.”
Same thing on the investment side. Every investment has an impact. My partner John Coleman talks about that a lot and is much more articulate on this than I am. But the understanding that when we make an investment in any type of a company, we have an impact with that investment. So going the next level and saying, “Okay, so if I’m buying shares in ExxonMobil, what are they supporting with their corporate social responsibility?” But I also want to make sure that we understand that as Christ-followers, we shouldn’t just have this negative screen. What impact, what positive impact, might I be able to make with my investments in a way that might advance flourishing, advance God’s kingdom, while bearing witness to the king? So we believe in faith-driven investing. We have this opportunity to invest with Christ-following funds, and there are more than 50 funds now that are out there that have some level of chaplaincy embedded in how they invest. And so what we have to do as Christ-followers is we have to take the next step and say, “How can we participate in them?” Maybe our financial advisors, Goldman Sachs, isn’t bringing that to us, but how do we go ahead and ask the difficult questions? How are we consuming? And on the other one, how are we investing?
Cherie Harder: Dave?
Dave Blanchard: Yeah, Henry, so many good thoughts there. Just a couple of things I think to double click on. You know, I think our perspective at Praxis—and it’s not a cynical one—is that we all step out into systems of exploitation every single day. And there are very, very few ethical systems that need no renewal and we can just participate in them and not think about it. And that is a sober reality, particularly because we rely as individuals and corporate leaders and entrepreneurs, we rely on those systems to get things done. And so we have to recognize a lot of that exploitation is invisible. It wants to hide. It wants to, like Justin’s work in supply chains, it wants to be unknown and hidden so that it doesn’t have to be addressed. And I think our opportunity as Christians is to unearth those things and say we will take them seriously. I think also for entrepreneurs, when starting a new organization, or people who are considering where to join, there’s such an opportunity there to avoid what I would call business-model inertia or entrenchment. There’s a lot of businesses that, frankly, the whole thing is built on a particular model of exploitation, and it’s almost impossible to imagine that organization reconstituting itself through an ethical or even a redemptive framework. And so I think we need to identify those things.
And right now we’re in this interesting moment, I think, in history where both consumers and team members, people who want to join the workforce, are interested in places where profit meets purpose and are fleeing places—probably going back to the big tobacco makers—are fleeing places that maybe provide a good income but clearly have major negative externalities on society, if not core to their enterprise.
One last thought here is just that as we talk about that creative restoration through sacrifice, I think even as you were calling on the investment inside red line areas and things like that, one of our pathways now, I think, is to right some of those historical injustices. And there’s, I think, a common saying in the investment world that the risk one takes needs to be met with the reward one might receive. I think we should rethink that a bit and think maybe there are places where we should take more risk, where the reward might be the same if it works, but that we stuck our necks a little bit further out there to take on some of these larger challenges that our society faces.
Cherie Harder: That’s actually a great segway to something I want to ask both of you about, which is the fact that the rules, the constraints, and the freedoms within publicly traded companies and investments are quite different than they are when one owns one’s own company: different sets of obligations, pressures, and the like. And I’m curious about whether the approaches that you’ve articulated are possible within publicly traded companies. If so, how, and if not, how one can pursue redemptive or faith-based entrepreneurship within a publicly based company? And, Henry, maybe we can start with you.
Henry Kaestner: So the answer unequivocally is yes, absolutely. And it’s top of mind. And this is going to feel like my whole name dropping thing, because I was talking about Justin Dillon yesterday, but this morning, earlier this morning, I had a chance to spend an hour with Pat Gelsinger, who’s the CEO of Intel. And I asked him those questions and he responded with great articulation about how he, as a Christ-follower, can lead Intel and how he sees the redemptive aspect of the technology they make and his ability to minister and love on. And he’s even—even when he’s a [inaudible], he thinks of himself as the pastor. And at Intel he has 121,000 employees and starting with loving them, and that’s exactly the word he used, he talked about loving them. And that’s a belief and it’s a function that we really believe in it.
There’s a myth out there—and we had the great fortune of taking Bandwidth public—and there is this myth out there that you’ve got to really tone things down when you’re leading a publicly traded company. But I think about people like Frank Harrison at t-Factor. Well, Frank Harrison is the CEO of Coca-Cola Bottling, but he has a ministry called t-Factor to help publicly traded companies understand how they can launch chaplaincy, where he’s got something like hundreds of chaplains at Coca-Cola Bottling and faith-driven employee resource groups—which, by the way, is a concept that was started really and popularized out here in Silicon Valley. Apple, Google, Facebook. They’re doing praise and worship in the Dropbox lunchroom. I mean, there’s this concept of being able to bring your whole self to work. And Pat talked with great articulation about that. And so it’s something we believe very much in the movement. At Sovereign’s, we launched a fund called the Omega Fund to just invest in publicly traded companies run by Christ-followers who have an articulation of how they want to be involved in the redemption of their company and their industry, their product and their service. And so publicly traded companies can be phenomenal instruments for redemption.
Cherie Harder: That’s fascinating.
Dave Blanchard: Yeah. I would just add to that that I think we’re, you know, the subtext of this conversation is the Milton Friedman movement that started in the late seventies around shareholders being the sole priority of the CEO and the management team of a publicly traded organization. I think most of those days are behind us. I think there are some people who are still holding on to that idea and managing from that perspective. But we now have, I think, more of a public expectation and, per my point, of even the retention of employees and customers and so on, leaders who are more able to consider multiple stakeholders in how they manage a public entity, which gives them the ability to do things that don’t look solely profit driven.
I think also an exciting development that we are just in the very early days of is alternative corporate structures that actually build that into the fiduciary responsibility of the directors of the company, like the B Corporation. So we’re seeing organizations like Chobani and Patagonia and others taking on that model, which certainly doesn’t mean they’re not seeking a market return for their investors, but also are telling public investors, if you want to be a part of some of alternative investments and funds that look a little bit differently at the world, there’s now a actual legal structure to do that.
Cherie Harder: Yeah, that’s fascinating. Well, in just a second, we’re going to take questions from the audience. They are piling up here. But before we do, would be interested in hearing from both of you about how this mindset might affect modest investors or the entrepreneurial-minded who don’t yet have their own venture. What would it look like for those with the mindset and the interest to approach their work and investments redemptively? And, Henry, we will start with you.
Henry Kaestner: Oh, gosh. We are all invited into the redemptive work that God is doing in the world. God is a God, who I said before, worked six out of seven days. And the Gospel of John says his work continues to this day, and it’s not just the purview of somebody who owns a business. It’s any time we interact in the marketplace; it’s any time, at any level, we’re loving on and have the opportunity to love. And we’re using the “love” word again: to love on partners and vendors and customers and employees and to feel God’s pleasure as we do so.
Another thing I challenge along the lines of this, because you’ve talked at the outset about justice and what that looks like. I think that in recognition of the fact that God has indeed created us in his image—and he was a God who worked, and his work, of course, was very good—is being able to provide opportunities for others to do the same. You know, if we believe that a component of justice is to provide opportunity and freedom, then we have an opportunity in our own backyards for those who have been impacted by injustice and overseas to be able to help equip them to solve the problems they see in their own backyard. So there are a bunch of different ways that an entrepreneur or somebody who wants to support entrepreneurship might get involved in solving the problems that they see in their backyard, in their downtowns, and then overseas.
One is that we might feel called to to launch a redemptive entrepreneurial opportunity. But I think the harder work and maybe the better work is to actively look, to equip and encourage others to do the same. There’s a joy of entrepreneurship, of owning a business, and a freedom. And oftentimes, the best people to solve that problem, to erase the injustice, are those that come out of that culture and that community. So as we feel called in to solving a problem, maybe a question we might all ask ourselves is, are there community leaders in that community? And maybe they don’t have the same experiences we do. Maybe they don’t have the same financial resources we do. But if we’re really honest with ourselves, they’re the ones best equipped over the long term to solve the challenges that they see. And that’s something that I need to wrestle with more because I’m an entrepreneur. Like, oh, let’s go out and let’s just go fix it. And here I am, I’m a guy in a V-neck sweater, and I show up in, like, Uganda and, you know, I’m maybe not the best person to solve that problem. But maybe there’s a leader in the community there. And I just need to just find out what resources they already have. And maybe the only thing I can do is pray for them. But that’s something I need to do more of.
Cherie Harder: Dave, anything to add?
Dave Blanchard: Yeah, I mean, those are, again, great thoughts, Henry. And I think, you know, so our our name Praxis comes from this idea of orthopraxis, which is connected to orthodoxy. So orthodoxy is what we believe; orthopraxy is our faith in action. And so I would just say, I think many if not all of the ideas we’ve been talking about today apply to all of us as Christians who should be asking, personally and corporately, what is the creative action of the church in this time, and how am I going to be a part of that? That could be through time and resources and energies. It could be small things, big things. But I think for any of us to think our task is only to make sure we think the right things is incomplete, and we need to translate that out into, OK, how does this new insight that I’m getting, change what I go and I do and who I interact with and how I interact with them? And that we should all be, no matter how entrepreneurial or not we are, putting meaningful risk into our lives relationally. Maybe it’s our financial resources or otherwise. And when we do that, I think we will start to experience what it means to truly love sacrificially.
Cherie Harder: Oh, that’s great. Well, we have a bunch of questions coming in from our viewers, and we’ll start with the one from Mattson Duncan and, Mattson, I’m going to compress your question just slightly. Hopefully we’ll get the meaning of it. He asked about the fact that with a healthy theology of vocation, the church probably could have had a much bigger impact than it does. And he asked, “What is your hope for an American church that functions to inspire society”—in this way, with a theology of vocation—”from the cultural forefront, instead of languishing in frustration at the tail?” And Dave, I’ll throw that one to you.
Dave Blanchard: Oh, thanks. That’s an easy one. I’m just kidding. I think, you know, back a little bit to what we were talking about earlier, my shallow read of things of the last few decades is that we’ve said “let’s just go for power as much as we can get it” versus the harder work of doing vocation thoughtfully and nuanced and so on. Obviously we’ve done that largely in the political realm, and we’re experiencing some of the dissonance or a lot of dissonance right now in that. I think my hope is that actually not that we would reclaim some big public reputation as, you know, Christians are all of a sudden great for the world and everybody thinks that and we’re a reestablishment of Christendom in some sense. But actually that—my hope is that—on a local level, whether that’s locally inside of an organization, locally inside of a church, or whatever context you have, that people would experience redemptive action and say, “I don’t know what that is. I don’t know what I’ve heard about Christians out there, but I know that’s what I want more of.” And that that would draw people in. And I think that’s actually each of us, a large part of that, is each of us just going to work and saying, “What can I do today?”
Cherie Harder: Yeah. Our next question comes from Peter Petit and Peter asks, “Should we be thinking narrowly in terms of ‘solving problems’ or should we also think in terms of addressing them faithfully? We live in an uncertain world with uncertain futures, and some problems might be worth pursuing, irrespective of whether a solution is a viable possibility worth investing in.” Henry, you want to take a shot at that?
Henry Kaestner: These are awesome. These are really, really good. It makes me think you should have invited Steve Graves on to this panel, and Dave and I could have thrown all of these to him. A framework that I think that all of us as Christ-followers need to be thinking about is how can we endeavor to be one with God? You know, Mark Galli wrote this great editorial that made such an impact on me several Easters ago, but every Easter now I think about it, which is the greatest miracle is not that Jesus was raised from the dead in the resurrection, but that Jesus is in us. And I’ve been meditating on that a lot more because, again, it’s around Easter and just understanding the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who believe and just seeing that that’s an untapped resource in my life, so that I can then look at, first all of, God’s love for me and then say, “Heavenly Father, what are the problems that break your heart that you would call me to be involved in, and then let me be faithful and obedient to them.” And maybe they’re big problems. And maybe they’re big problems that can be solved in my lifetime. Maybe they’re small problems. Maybe the problem is just me. Maybe the problem is that I’m trying to solve problems and not trying to solve the messed up problem than I am. But allow me to be faithful and obedient and allow me to never proceed along any path without seeking God.
I’ve been impacted recently by, again, the lessons from the good kings of Judah. You know? So here’s what you need to know: I mean, as an investor, as an entrepreneur, as a member of the Trinity Forum, don’t do the things that the bad kings of Judah did, right? That’s easy. But don’t do the things that the good kings of Judah did. These are all people who had hearts after God, as David did, and yet every one of them made a big mistake. For some of them, it was not asking God whether they should enter into a trade deal. For some of us, whether they should make an investment. And then, of course, the most famous of these examples is David. David’s wife and kids kidnapped, gone. What does he do? I mean, I tell you, I would immediately out the door. I would take whatever weapon. I don’t really have any weapons around here, but I would have just gotten as many brilliant guys as I know, and we would have gone out there just to make it happen. But David didn’t do that. He stopped and he asked God whether he should pursue. And I think God has that in his Word for us to understand that with every decision—even the ones that we think according to our common sense, of course, we would pursue—let’s ask God. And if we do that, I think we’ll be headed in the right direction.
That’s my greatest challenge, though. My greatest challenge is asking God first before I make decisions. Nehemiah was— Your know, Artaxerxes said, “What do you want to do about this problem in Jerusalem?” It says Artaxerxes prayed. If I did that before every decision, big and small, I would be so much more in one with God. I’d have so much more joy and so much more of a chance of God working through me.
Cherie Harder: That’s great. So our next question comes from Dana Witterman. And Dana asks, “How might the principle of multiplication in business relate to fruitfulness in God’s economy?” Dave, you want to take that one?
Dave Blanchard: Can you give me that one more time? I want to make sure I caught it.
Cherie Harder: Sure. “How might the principle of multiplication in business relate to fruitfulness in God’s economy?”
Dave Blanchard: Hmm. Yeah, great question, Dana. I mean, I think what I would see from that angle is that faithful stewards of enterprises over the long term create a multiplication of not only financial resources, but other leaders who believe that the redemptive way is possible. That’s part of our model with bringing in mentors to entrepreneurs who have gone before. And these entrepreneurs are mostly seeing Silicon Valley stories of secular leaders who go a particular way. And so when they do that, when they see that there’s this different pathway, it provides a possibility. And I think that’s related to God’s economy because, ultimately, you have these folks who are tasked with stewardship. And it’s not just a financial stewardship, but it’s a stewardship of influence and opportunity and possibility that, through a wide variety of means, whether it’s philanthropic or investing in the next thing or thinking about what God values in the world, which is surely not US currency but people and relationships and his glory—those things become interconnected and become the priority of people’s lives and daily norms instead of the systems of mammon of the world.
Cherie Harder: That’s great. So a question from Dean Blevins, which I’ll toss to you, Henry. Dean asked, “Many people might associate entrepreneurship as primarily a white male venture based on well-known entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and so on. How can we promote the idea that entrepreneurship is really an asset for diverse communities, including faith-based communities?”
Henry Kaestner: Thank you for that. Thank you. Tim Keller was asked, how can we have diversity in the church? He said one of the best ways to do that is to have people of diversity in leadership up front. He said, “When I had an Asian worship leader, it helped with our diversity in our church.” And so I had known that, but one of the things that we’ve tried to do at Faith-Driven recently is to try to catch up. We’ve got a podcast for Faith-Driven Entrepreneur with three white guys on it. So that’s not a good example of going ahead and showing this more diverse group. And so extremely excited as we launched the Faith-Driven Entrepreneur Africa podcast to do that with Ndidi Nwuneli who’s just an incredible woman. That’s a good way to start, although that’s just an example.
But to be clear, again, in leadership you need to have diversity, and then you hopefully see opportunities to promote diversity, which, and again, it shouldn’t be hard for us if we feel called to address injustice because injustice happens so much in communities of diversity, and that if we subscribe to the belief that the best people to solve the problems of injustice and communities where there is injustice are the people who have grown up in the problem who are best equipped to solve it, then I think it will solve itself. But there is a white savior complex that, as we spend more and more time in Africa and just trying to steep myself a little bit more in the history of colonization, I’m realizing that that’s a real issue. It’s a real issue. Through the best of intentions, we have not been able to promote diversity. And I think, and back to the mission thing, and I think it’s been at the expense of the mission. Best way to achieve the mission is to have somebody that’s in the best position. So, yes, thank you for the question.
Cherie Harder: Absolutely. So, Dave, I’m going to toss you this question from an anonymous viewer. And they ask, “What are practical ways to encourage flourishing rather than just productivity in a workplace?”
Dave Blanchard: Yeah, yeah. Such an important question right now because we see basically that people are working about 20 percent more for the same amount of productivity. And most employers are like, “OK, whatever it takes” in the remote context. I think this time requires a re-imagination of how an organization spends its time together and spends its resources on time together. The reality is flourishing comes in great healthy relationships where we feel meaning and purpose and contribution together, where we’re celebrated for the things that we’re doing, and where we can complement each other and affirm each other. And so I would just encourage anybody who’s in an organization, which is most of us, to figure out what are some things you might introduce. If you have a lot of agency over budget and dollars, I would encourage you to find time to invest in things that don’t feel essential to the the enterprise, maybe like flying to get together. We at Praxis fly our team in. About half of our 18-person team is remote, and we come in two days a month. We have a really nice dinner together and make sure we’re investing in each other as people. A small thing we do is when— We have a birthday and a half per month. Every time it’s someone’s birthday, we give the five people or so who work most closely with that individual an opportunity to affirm that person in front of the rest of the team over Zoom and just recognize the work that they’ve been doing, who they are as a person, and so on. And we, I think, are in this scary time, frankly, where a lot of the communities, whether it’s the places that we lived or used to live, given so much of the movement, or the workplaces that we used to go into, or the churches that many people used to attend or now attend virtually, all these different things have fractured our community and our actual embodied relationship with each other. So I think that’s just an easy starting point for us, even if we’re building remote organizations.
Cherie Harder: That’s great. So, Henry, I’ll toss this question from Paul Wettenhall to you. And Paul asks, “How do you balance your redemptive focus as Christians in a pluralistic society where your employees, investors, and customers may have different faith perspectives or including no religious faith? Where do you encounter conflict and how do you resolve it?”
Henry Kaestner: Oh. So that’s another great question. And I’m going to channel Pat Gelsinger because we just talked about this this morning and talked about the opportunity that we have as leaders to be able to help create inclusive cultures where we welcome somebody bringing their whole self to work. So I’m a Christ-follower. And if I don’t have an opportunity as the CEO of bandwidth.com as I was to be able to winsomely talk about why I do what I do, to share my story, never prescribe but to describe, and just talk about how that works its way into who I am as a person, if I can’t do that, then I’m leaving a key part of who I am. And I think that businesses and organizations need to have somebody be able to bring their whole self to work.
So how does that work at a large company? Well, it means faith-driven employee resource groups. And I think you can adopt this on a smaller basis, too. And Pat will tell you, they’ve got a Christian faith-driven employee resource group that’s been going on for 30 years at Intel. They also have a Hindu one and a Muslim one. But Chris Sciple is a friend and many people on this call will tell you that truth stands out in the marketplace of ideas, and that can be a beautiful thing. So as leaders, we should welcome people bringing their whole selves to work, and that includes sexual orientation, all these things. And yet for never—for the Christian or the Muslim or the homosexual or the whole gamut of things—it should never be a prescription on what somebody else should think, but one where we’re able to go ahead and welcome and be inclusive of each other with the belief that as we do so, again, truth will stand out in the marketplace of ideas. Where does the friction happen? It happens when one group feels ganged up on by the other and doesn’t feel that, “Oh, you can bring your whole self to work, but I can’t bring my whole self to work.” So I think that that’s the way to address friction.
Cherie Harder: Yeah, that’s fascinating. Henry, Dave, this has been so much fun. I have really enjoyed it. Thank you so much. And in just a moment, I’m going to give both Henry and Dave the last word. But before doing so, a few things to let you know about. One, immediately after we conclude, we’ll be sending you an online feedback form. We’d love your thoughts. We read every one of these. We basically try to take all this feedback to heart to try to make this program ever more valuable to you. And as a small incentive to do that, we will give you a code for a free Trinity Forum digital download reading of your choice. [We] Have several titles that relate quite directly to the conversation we’ve had today, including “Why Work?” By Dorothy Sayers, “How Much Land does a Man Need?” by Leo Tolstoy, and “The Purchase of the Soul” by Victor Hugo. So would love to hear from you.
In addition, for those of you who signed up to participate in a breakout group, those will be starting shortly after we finish here. Simply exit this webinar as you normally would, and then click on the link that you’ve been sent for the discussion group to kind of go more deeply into some of the topics that have been raised. If you would like to join a discussion group and have not yet signed up, there should be a registration form in the chat feature and you can go ahead and do that now.
In addition, we will be sending out tomorrow an email with a video link to today’s Online Conversation, as well as a number of different follow-up resources. We’d love for you to share this conversation with others, start conversations about it, and if you want to go deeper, we will be including different readings and resources where you can do that.
Cherie Harder: Finally, we’d love to invite you to join the Trinity Forum Society, which is the community of people seeking to advance the mission of the Trinity Forum to cultivate, curate, and disseminate the best of Christian thought leadership and provide a place where leaders can grapple with the big questions of life. There are many benefits of joining the Trinity Forum Society, including a subscription to our quarterly readings, our podcast, different invitations, our daily “What We’re Reading” list of curated reading recommendations, and, as a special incentive for those of you who are watching today, by joining the Trinity Forum Society or with your gift of $100 or more, we will send you a signed copy of Henry Kissinger’s book, Faith-Driven Entrepreneur. So we encourage you to avail yourself of that opportunity.
In addition, our next Online Conversation will be two weeks from today, same time, where we’ll be hosting sociologist Jonathan Haidt, along with Andy Crouch, to discuss “After Babel: Rebuilding Community and Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World.” We’re really excited about this online conversation. Jonathan Haidt. Actually has the cover story in the current issue of The Atlantic, which has caused a lot of discussion. Andy Crouch has a wonderful new book out on reclaiming relationship in a technological world and hope that you’ll join us for that. We just sent out invitations this morning and there’ll be a link in the chat feature as well. So hope to see you in two weeks.
Finally, as promised, I want to give the last word to Henry and then Dave. Henry?
Henry Kaestner: Thank you. I’m embarrassed. I’m giggling a little bit. I went to summer camp in the early eighties and I remember all the t-shirts people had of “My parents went to St. Barts and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” And you’re joining this incredible organization, the Trinity Forum, and all you’re getting is this book by—
Cherie Harder: Awesome book. Awesome book.
Henry Kaestner: Well, Chip Ingram and J.D. Greer are amazing. But the last word. Thank you for that. It just would be an encouragement. I think that God is inviting us into the work that he is doing in the world. He is active and it’s a beautiful thing. My friend David Willis is fond of saying “Aslan is on the move.” I think he’s probably channeling C.S. Lewis a little bit there, but Aslan is on the move and we are invited to break out of this monochromatic existence that all too often we followers find ourselves in, myself included, into this beautiful technicolor experience of participating in the work of redemptive entrepreneurship, faith-driven entrepreneurship, faith-driven investing. And all we have to do is say, “Yes,” and “Heavenly Father, allow me to understand how to steward the vocation, the opportunity, the time, and absolutely the financial capital and participate in the work you’re doing. Find me faithful and obedient.”
Dave Blanchard: Hmm. That’s good. Well, Cherie, you said I could end with a favorite quote of mine, and so I’m going to do that. And it’s connected to what Henry just shared. This is from N.T. Wright. He says, “Our task as image-bearing, God-loving, Christ-shaped, spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to a world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to a world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to a world that knows only exploitation, fear, and suspicion. The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating across all fields a worldview that will mount the historically rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and postmodernity, leading the way with joy and humor and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom. I believe that if we face the question, ‘If not now, then when?’ and if we are grasped by the vision, we may also hear the question ‘If not us, then who?’ And if the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is?”
Cherie Harder: Henry, David, thank you so much. This has been a rich and really enjoyable conversation. Thank you to each of you for joining us. Have a great weekend.