Good Faith Media attended the Invested Faith Fellows Gathering for social entrepreneurs from January 17-21 in St. Louis, Missouri.
Invested Faith is the brainchild of Rev. Dr. Amy Butler. Butler created Invested Faith as “a fund that receives the assets of institutions and individuals and offers small, unrestricted grants to faith-rooted social entrepreneurs building businesses that are changing unjust systems.”
The gathering was attended by fourteen fellows from across the United States, ranging from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Boston, Massachusetts. In addition, the entrepreneurs consisted of a diverse group of individuals from various ethnic and social backgrounds.
Jen Owen, an Invested Faith Fellow from St. Louis, talked about how the gathering in her hometown meant so much to her. The group reinforced the need for her to be with “other people who were like-minded for encouragement, community, and hope.”
Owen received a grant from Invested Faith to support FORAI (Friends of Refugees and Immigrants,) which offers home-based and in-workshop income for women through artisan-made jewelry and crafts.
Butler told GFM that bringing so many change-makers together for the event was life-giving. “The conversations created from these incredible people being together,” she said, “was a reminder about the enormity of the injustices in our world.”
Fellow Nikole Lim, from Berkley, California, runs Freely in Hope, an organization equipping survivors and advocates to lead in ending sexual violence in areas like Zambia and Kenya. The Invested Faith grant assisted Lim in developing a children’s book “to help families and spiritual leaders and children understand body safety and prevent childhood sexual abuse.”
Fellows are chosen by the Invested Faith board after further deliberation between the board and the applicants. Requirements for the program include presenting an idea rooted in faith, designed to transform unjust systems, and built on a sustainable financial model.
Spending time with these fellows showed that each demonstrated a calling and passion for their project. However, they also recognize the importance of networking and supporting other entrepreneurs.
Film-makers Calvin Lee and Marisa Prince from Boston, Massachusetts, are countering the dangers of Christian nationalism by producing a short film titled “Are We There Yet?” I sat down with them at the gathering to learn more about their project.
They shared how other entrepreneurs and projects assisted them. These fellows understood the symbiotic nature of their work and supported those efforts.
Lee and Prince see their world as connected by both unjust systems and advocates for justice. Therefore, we must all work together.
Another topic discussed during the gathering was the place and, more appropriately, the absence of the church in their work. While all of the fellows and their projects are rooted and shaped by their faith, the institutional church has shied away from supporting them.
None of the fellows or the Invested Faith staff were critical of the institutional church, but a lingering question persisted. Overall, the church finds itself in decline.
While there are certainly some thriving congregations across the United States, churches facing decline and potential disbandment are becoming far too common. Therefore, an honest question needs to be asked, “What will become of them?”
Here is where Butler’s theology shines. She rightly claims that churches need to remember they are resurrection people.
For resurrection to occur, death cannot be avoided. However, while sorrow and pain accompany death, it does not have to be final. Sunday morning is always right around the corner.
In addition, resurrection never means a return to the old but a new beginning for a fresh start. Before her death, Phylis Tickle argued that the church engages in a rummage sale every 500 years.
The church finds itself in one of those sales right now. Significant changes are happening to the church, but these changes should not be feared but embraced.
Jesus did not rise from the grave expecting everything to remain the same. Jesus rose from the grave, knowing the world could be different.
Jesus’ physical image even changed after his death and resurrection. While the scars of death remained visible, something new shone from him that transformed everyone’s outlook and expectations.
In the context of the changing church, the Holy Spirit appears to be moving outside the church’s doors into the community. From the work of social entrepreneurs to protest marches, the evolving church can now be seen in neighborhoods and streets. Churches following the Holy Spirit’s lead are discovering new opportunities to engage and love their neighbors.
The Invested Faith social entrepreneurs are doing just that. However, they are looking for local partners to work alongside them.
What if local congregations worked with and supported these fellows, seeing them as partners and not competitors? For one thing, the kin-dom of God would be served much better than the current dynamic.
The verdict is still out on whether faith-based social entrepreneurship is the wave of the new and thriving church. But until we find out, how many people could be served and how many injustices could be addressed?
And because of that reality, count me in as a supporter.
CEO of Good Faith Media.