Thursday, January 25, 2018

Kickstarter # 3 - Capital Investment

            When I went on my last cross-country flight of 3,000 miles, I traveled overnight so I could arrive in the morning.  My plan was to sleep comfortably on the airplane—seated in coach.  I thought I could put my seat back into a reclining position, close my eyes, and drift off to sleep.  Furthermore, I expected that everyone else would also be sleeping, so the cabin would be quiet.  I also thought my carry-on was sufficient for all the little items I might need.  Boy, was I wrong in all those things!  The seats didn’t tip back, the cabin lights were too bright, people talked through the flight, and it was so cumbersome every time I needed something, to drag my carry-on out from under the seat.  I wished I had purchased an amazing product for frequent travelers.  The travel jacket from BauBax[i] features a pocket for charging your cell phone, a built-in inflatable neck pillow and eye mask for when you want to sleep, earbud holder in the hood, built-in gloves, a drink pocket, pockets for your phone, passport, and sunglasses, a large pouch for your tablet, a secret pocket in case of pickpockets, and even a pocket for your blanket.  These comfortable, versatile jackets are perfect gifts for friends (or pastors/writers) who travel often.  😉 

BauBax’s travel jacket is one example of the many products made possible by Kickstarter[ii], an online service that matches inventors with investors to help turn great ideas into realities.  For ages, would-be inventors have had trouble getting their ideas off the ground because they lacked funding for the expensive patent process, production, or advertising.  But with Kickstarter, inventors make promotional videos about their potential products and then sell these items before production ever happens.  Investors pledge to purchase the products only if enough investors back the project, reaching a goal that makes production possible.  This way there’s no risk for the investor, and the inventor doesn’t have to worry about refunding potential investments if they don’t make their fundraising goal.  Kickstarter makes investing easy, and maximizes its helpfulness to those inventors who can put that capital to good use.

You might say that kickstarting new things is one of the main topics of the Bible.  God says, “See, I am doing a new thing (Isaiah 43:19).”  Again, God says, “I am making everything new (Revelation 21:5)!”  But in order to do a new thing, God wants us to invest.  Yes, the Bible has a lot to say about how we use our money—how we lend, borrow, spend, give, and invest.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a story about a wealthy business owner who goes away and leaves his servants in charge of his finances:

To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more.  But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money (Matthew 25:15-18).[iii]

            When the business owner returns, he rewards those servants who invest his money and return both capital and profits.  But the servant who buries his bag of gold and returns simply a full but dirty bag—that servant is punished and fired.  Jesus’ point is this: God wants believers to be investors.

            Now, I want you to think about this.  With Kickstarter, investors win in a couple of  ways.  First, they get the satisfaction of knowing that they have helped an entrepreneur get their idea off the ground and jump start a new business.  By pledging their support, they play a part in helping somebody make a success in life.  But they also win because once that product has taken off, they receive the travel jacket or fidget cube or other product that they’ve helped create.  So, it’s a win-win situation.

            In the same way, you win when you invest in the ministries of your church.  Your offerings might go to support the kinds of things your church has been doing for the past couple of hundred years.  Or, it could be that someone in your church has had an entrepreneurial idea for ministering to your community in a new way that nobody has ever thought of before.  Like a Kickstarter inventor, they have a bold vision that just needs the backing of someone like you to support them.  When you invest into the ministries of your church, you win in a few ways.  First, you get the satisfaction of knowing you’ve paid the church’s electric bill, or you pastor’s salary, or funded a missionary, or fed the hungry, or clothed the shivering, or sheltered the refugee.  Second, you win because God says you get blessed when you give (not necessarily in a financial way, but there are many kinds of blessings).  Third, when your church is effective, it will thrive—and a thriving church will make a big spiritual impact on many people.  Fourth, a thriving church will grow in attendees, who will become investors who help more ministries thrive, until God’s influence expands more and more in your community and around the world.

            Now, I want you to know that this article isn’t off the cuff—it’s been fully approved by my stepmom!  I was talking it over with her, and she comes from a tradition where her congregation sold tickets to the highest-attended worship services.  So, she reminded me to tell you that investing in God’s work isn’t all about money.  Sure, there are bills to be paid (and a lot of them!) but when you invest your time and talent into your church, guess what happens.  People are helped, inspired, and challenged to grow.  The hungry are fed, the shivering clothed, and refugees sheltered, just the same.  How does this happen?  Well, maybe your hand is the one that puts free food on the hungry person’s plate.  Or, maybe you help the congregation in other ways that save the church money—dollars that can be put to better use when they sponsor the visionary, entrepreneurial, or daring outreach ministries of the church.  There are lots of ways to invest in the church—and when you do so, you invest in the lives of people who need God the most.

            Sometimes a weary traveler just needs a little comfort—and maybe, just maybe, BauBax’s travel jacket will help somebody find relief along the way.  Kickstarter investors help make that happen.  But life can be far more wearisome than an overnight flight or crowded airport.  Travelers through life need a little help on the journey—and maybe you as an investor can ease them on them on their way.  As Christians, we see people struggling every day, and we believe that, through Jesus, we have the answer.  Through your generosity you can invest in God’s people and the work of your church.  You can provide shelter and rest to those who need it most.  When you do, you can hear the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”[iv]

[i]  November 29, 2017.
[iii] Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV.
[iv] Matthew 25:21, 23

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