One of the principles of biblical entrepreneurship was accomplished this week in our business. In fact, we did something we have only done one other time in the three decades.
We sold a property.
No, one of the principles of biblical entrepreneurship isn’t selling property! Let me explain.
Our sister real estate company, CRF Affordable Housing, Inc., was founded in 1992 to be both a sustainer of affordable housing and leverage its charitable business model to generate sustainable revenue for missions work worldwide. We’ve prided ourselves in keeping our apartment complexes, reminding ourselves and our staff often that “we are in this business to stay in this business.”
But yesterday, we practiced one of the principles of biblical entrepreneurship by selling the 304-unit anchor of our multifamily real estate portfolio and seemingly abandoning that commitment. This sale is just the first of 8 total we will engage in in 2021. So, what changed?
Part of it is most certainly a business strategy, seizing a unique moment in the affordable housing market we may never see again. But when you run an overtly faith-based business like ours, especially when you tell your story so frequently and openly, the driving force must be much deeper than that. Yes, market forces still impact our decision-making (and faith-based business owners who practice principles of biblical entrepreneurship may have multiple bottom lines, financial stewardship being one). Still, there is something much more divine happening here.
The pillar of God’s presence just seems to be moving…
The Pillar of God’s Presence
In Exodus 40, we see the people of Israel in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land. You may know the story – the supernatural escape, the signs and wonders, the miraculous provisions, and the unfaithfulness and idol worship that left God’s people wandering for 40 years as punishment.
During that season, God’s literal presence was with His people in the form of a pillar: a cloud by day and fire by night. That cloud rested at the center of their camp directly over the Tabernacle. Here’s the passage from Exodus 40:
“Now whenever the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out on their journey, following it. But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted. The cloud of the LORD hovered over the Tabernacle during the day, and at night fire glowed inside the cloud so the whole family of Israel could see it. This continued throughout all their journeys.”
At this point in their history, Israel was nomadic. These weren’t permanent cities; they were “tent cities”made for mobility. When God’s presence stopped, His people stopped and set up camp. When God’s presence moved, His people packed up and followed.
Imagine for a minute what this might have been like in real life. The pillar stops somewhere in the Middle Eastern wilderness. The Priests and Levites start setting up the mobile Tabernacle directly beneath this supernatural anomaly. At the same time, you and your family begin unpacking the donkeys and camels that carry all your earthly belongings. You set up your tents and your cooking utensils. You locate the nearest water supply. You dig a latrine. The kids go find the new camping location of their closest friends.
You may live in this location for a few years, perhaps just a month or two, or even just a few days. You never really knew; you just trusted God’s sovereignty and kept your eyes on the pillar of His presence. As a dad, I can just imagine getting all settled in, finding that prime camping location right next to the picturesque gurgling spring,settling in for a long sabbath nap, only to watch the pillar rise and set out again.
“Seriously, God, I landed the perfect setup here, and you’re off and moving again!? Kids, uproot the tent pegs and saddle the camels!”
When God Moves You Move
How do we know when God’s presence is moving today? God, Himself may not be visible in a pillar of cloud and fire during our moment in history, but we still sense those divine moments where His presence is on the move.
One of the principles of biblical entrepreneurship is this: When you’re daily spending time with God, daily surrendering your life, your business, and the work of your hands to His leading, you begin to instinctively sense when His presence is on the move.
For almost 30 years, God led CRF to buy and hold an affordable multifamily housing portfolio. We set up camp, put our stakes in the ground, unpacked the camels, and tried to build something beautiful. Over the last three decades, God has led us to grow and expand from buying and rehabbing old affordable housing to developing a new product, including assisted living facilities.
While the principles of biblical entrepreneurship we are guided by haven’t lead us out of the industry, we are beginning to pivot in a new direction. Where exactly? The path isn’t obvious quite yet. We have some ideas of where we think God is heading, but right now, we just sense the cloud is moving, and we’ve got to pull up stakes and follow.
That’s our role as Kingdom marketplace people – one of the principles of biblical entrepreneurship is trust. The work of our hands belongs to Him. The story is His. He is the center, and we revolve around Him. He is the Leader, and we are the followers. Everything belongs to Jesus.
A Season Worth Weeping Over
The day before closing, we took the on-site staff out for lunch to both celebrate and mourn (those two things often go together in this life) and to put a bookend on what has been a beautiful Kingdom season of marketplace ministry. By their own testimony, none of the on-site team members had a personal relationship with Jesus when they stepped into leadership at the property.
The beauties of the gospel, as well as the principles of biblical entrepreneurship, have done resurrection work in many of their lives. That individual redemption story has overflowed to the property as well. That’swhat Jesus does. When our roots go down deep into Him, the fruit of His presence begins to emerge all around us. It’s the promise of His Kingdom come, a little foretaste of the “not yet” amongst our “already.”
We sat together for over two hours. We told stories, cried a little, and laughed a lot. We encouraged each of them to take what Jesus had done in their lives into their next marketplace role, to continue to embrace the business world as a sacred calling. It’s a daily opportunity to worship God, practice principles of biblical entrepreneurship, love their neighbor, and proclaim the lordship of Jesus.
When the pillar of God’s presence begins to move, it’s not always easy to follow. Embarking on a new leg of the journey can be emotional. Still, I’m thankful that God graces us with seasons meaningful enough to weep over when they’re through.
Is the Pillar Moving?
One thing that is on the opposite spectrum of the principles of biblical entrepreneurship is when they forget who is at the center of the story; a significant danger for Christians. The temptation is to head out on our own journey and then, because we’re faith-based people, ask God to come join us. That’s backward thinking.
Where is the pillar of God’s presence moving in your life? In your business? In your everyday work? Is He asking you to uproot your comfortable, common-sense campsite? Even if you followed Him to where you’re at today, He wouldn’t always let you stay there.
You and I were made to live in God’s presence and live out the principles of biblical entrepreneurship. So, when the pillar moves, it’s time to pull up stakes and head off after Him.