The 116 Life Ep. 8: Profitable Kingdom Business
How to navigate business with a kingdom mindset.
“There’s kingdom business and there’s doing business with a kingdom mindset There’s certainly some overlap. But” Marcus explains, “One of the things that have been the most beneficial in my Christian life is to always watch out for an either-or. When we have either-ors we are in danger of sacrificing wisdom. We’re in danger of getting away from the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
First, we have to clarify what “kingdom business” is and what’s meant by “doing business with a kingdom mindset”. The distinction Marcus elaborates, “When we talk about kingdom business, keep in mind, we’re building a business we are doing it with the kingdom in mind. And we are hoping to produce things that are beneficial to the kingdom. At the same time, there’s doing kingdom business that can operate within the local church outside of the platforms of music, outside the platforms of radio, outside the platforms of social media that are also kingdom business.”
Navigating the entrepreneurship is tricky in and of itself. Couple that with Christian principles and it becomes that much more complicated. For example, when Marcus first started off at the label, it took some adjusting due to his ministry background. “A lot of my time was dedicated to making disciples. I would use my interest in shoes and fashion and art to go out for the sole purpose of building relationships that could then advance people spiritually in their walk with Christ.”
Settling into his leadership role at the label, Hollinger found that he needed to fine-tune his hiring practices. “When I would look at somebody who was a potential candidate to work at Reach was colored by how I was looking for people to disciple…I hired someone I had known for 10 years. That relationship, while I don’t regret doing that at all and God definitely did a lot through that; I think there were some things that I was missing in that, that had a lot to do with performance.”
To the point, in a disciple relationship, there are no productivity requirements because you are not in business. Seeing through the lens of discipleship, Marcus chose to put his friend before the label which caused some snags in the companies operations. “The team was suffering. We weren’t getting certain things done. We’re not providing a certain level of service.” Hollinger was so invested in his disciple relationship, that he’d compensate for them picking up the slack.
When it came time to re-evaluate their professional relationship, Marcus reveals “It did a lot of damage when it was time to transition him out.” Admitting he created confusion by the way he was leading, unable to separate the roles of boss vs pastor or friend. “It took me years to work through that to then say I have to put my responsibility to the company and why we’re here first. And with that being in place then I can offer these other dynamics. I can always make disciples outside of my job.”
As Christians how do we manage our expectations of businesses that promote Christian art or themes? It’s definitely a hot-button topic among believers who struggle with the not-so-nice part of the industry. “Our desire for ministry, to be kingdom minded and to do God’s business is coming from a pure place but I wonder if it’s a little limited in the context of how we are supposed to operate and steward a business,” says Ace.
Is it possible to remove our faith from our business decisions and actions? “As someone who’s a Christian doing business our business needs to be filtered through our faith. And there are moments when it’s not easy to do that,” Ace explains. He’s talking about the very real choice of principle over capital. Principle over profit. He goes on to say, “Why would I want to profit off him [someone who’s abusing women, specifically black women] as a producer? It benefits me but does that benefit, especially the black culture, hip hop culture? How does that contribute to culture in a way that’s productive and constructive?”
Understanding the difference between ministry and a business operated with a kingdom mindset is key to good business stewardship. A kingdom business may have a CEO, but it does not have a pastor, someone shepherding people. “That is to be done in a different context,” Marcus clarifies. “These are contractual relationships that we have, they’re not covenant relationships.”
How did Reach Records transition from being mission-focused to business focused? In practical terms, Marcus, who is on the creative team, the executive, and the marketing team, explains, “We serve 9 artists. There are people who need leadership. There are teammates who need camaraderie. There are artists who need not just encouragement or prayer, they actually need our business acumen to serve them.” To which Ace co-signs, “And specifically to serve their kingdom-building agendas!
Speaking to the naysayers and people who criticize the groundbreaking record label for evolving into the powerhouse it is today, Marcus says matter-of-factly, “I started out a disciple [maker]. And some might say, ‘Marcus, you don’t show up the same way to disciple your team.’ Yeah, because I learned. I grew. I had to adapt in order to steward. We wouldn’t be here if I didn’t adapt! Whether it’s a question or criticism, you would be able to levy that question or criticism if I change.”
What Marcus and Ace want to share with the Christian Hip Hop community is that evolving doesn’t equal concession. “There is a difference between change and compromise. We don’t want to compromise.” Marcus tells Ace. So, when they are in business environments that aren’t Christian two executives are adamant about remaining true to their Christian values. “Professing one thing and then actively doing another, we don’t want to do that,” Marcus elaborates.
Instead of being a church, Reach Records prides itself on having good relationships with churches, so when people show up in need, they can point them in the right direction. Collaborating with pastors to ensure team members have the biblical instruction needed to navigate life and career, is one way they are keeping it a business operating with a kingdom mindset.
At the end of the day to produce results. “Ben and Lecrae don’t employ Marcus and Ace because we love the Lord exclusively. Being kingdom-minded in business…you have to steward the business”, exclaims Ace.
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Related Radio Show: 116 Life