Christian Investing Study

Christian Investing Study

The Christian Investment Forum is collaborating with a leading market research firm to propose a comprehensive landmark Christian Investing Study to examine the investment attitudes and behaviors of practicing Christians:

  • This project would include a customized segmentation study, interviews with multiple stakeholders, profiles of exemplar investors, and a published monograph including infographics, analysis and expert commentary.
  • The purpose of the study would be to provide an overview of existing practices in the market and highlight potential ways to better serve and support Christians in their investing decisions, and provide concrete action steps for investment professionals serving and supporting Christians in their endeavors in this area.
  • The study is proposed to commence in early 2019, completing in early 2020. This study could also serve as a baseline for future annual or bi-annual follow-up studies to track progress in this area.
  • Stakeholders who would participate in the study include:
    • Christian investors
    • Investment organizations and professionals who provide services to Christian investors
    • Leaders and pastors in the Church and ministry world

This will be foundational and a groundbreaking study into the language, landscape and shape of Christian investing in today’s world.  The purpose is to better understand and equip Christians, and the professionals, leaders and organizations who serve them, to help them collectively become more missional and effective in investing their resources for Kingdom purposes.

Objectives for the market research project:

  • Gain an overall understanding of Christians as investors and how investing fits into their view of faith (how related is investing to faith and work integration, faith and culture, and faith and impact).
  • Identify what Christian investors need and want in the area of investing (products, services, benefits, advice, etc.) to help them better integrate investing with faith.
  • Highlight the nature and extent of the gap between what Christians express in terms of investing with faith and their actual practices (words vs. actions).
  • Heighten awareness of Christian values investing as a credible approach to investment, regardless of church denomination and amount of assets owned, and as an approach that has many products and options available now in the market.
  • De-mystify faith-based and Biblically responsible approaches to investing for regular Christians and the Church.
  • Elevate and broaden awareness of these approaches through media communications and Christian Investment Forum members PR efforts.
  • Develop potential strategic and tactical solutions that CIF can incorporate into planning for the organization and its partners and members. GOALS


We Envision A Better Future:

Currently many Christians consider investing mostly in terms of getting market rate or better results through their investments in equity, bond or private equity funds, separate from their tithing or giving strategies to support church and Kingdom work.  That is, they invest to increase their resources so they have more to give away.



Envisioning a Better Future would have Christians actively applying their faith beliefs and Biblical principles to all of their investment decisions and activities for a greater overall Kingdom outcome.  This “enhanced” approach to stewardship would have Christians see their entire portfolio of investments aligned with their faith beliefs and practices. Investments viewed and managed in this way can provide a double bottom line and better use investing for Christian purposes in the world.

Insights to Action – Helping Christians think and act with more faith alignment in their investment decisions.


Click on the image below to view the short presentation regarding this landmark study:









If you’d like to learn more about this study, support the study or participate in some way, please contact John Siverling at



Barrons – MicroVest Sees Microfinance Shifting to Small Business

MicroVest, a 15 year old firm focused on the Microfinance sector, and a Partner of the Christian Investment Summit, was recently highlighted in a Barron’s article.  Here’s an excerpt from the article:

By Abby Schultz July 26, 2018 3:34 p.m. ET

Microfinance—the business of investing in financial institutions that make loans to low-income entrepreneurs in developing countries—is a form of investing for social good that long predates the decade-old impact investing market.

Today, microfinance is a key part of many impact portfolios, representing 9% of assets held by impact investors surveyed by the Global Impact Investing Network, or GIIN.

But for MicroVest, a 15-year veteran fund manager in the sector, the practice of investing in microfinance institutions is shifting from “classic” microfinance—providing loans to individuals selling vegetables at a local market, for example—to investing in small businesses, a sector MicroVest says is often under-served. “What happens when the woman borrower who started with a $200 loan has built her business and has 10 employees and now needs $5,000 in capital to buy equipment and machinery?” asks Ron Cordes, the former co-founder and executive co-chairman of AssetMark, who has invested in MicroVest through his family foundation since 2007.

“One of the issues with traditional microfinance is the organization she’s borrowed from to that point no longer has capacity to serve her,” Cordes says.

One of MicroVest’s objectives now is to serve this “missing middle,” by investing in low-income financial institutions with the capacity to lend to small businesses, to, in effect, strengthen the hand of these institutions to grow and serve more clients, which in turn helps to strengthen local developing economies.

“Small businesses pay taxes, so you can have schools and roads. They hire people outside of the family unit, they formalize and start to follow regulations, and they can link into the export economy,” says Gil Crawford, CEO, who co-founded the firm in 2003.


You can find the full article at the MicroVest website here, or at the Barrons website here.

Biblically based Investing…with a Charitable Twist

Biblically based Investing…with a Charitable Twist

The need for Biblically responsible investing with donor advised funds.

By Bill High


There’s a growing movement towards biblically responsible investing. As people realize that their investments have been going towards businesses that support unbiblical practices such as abortion, pornography or human trafficking, they are saying “No more.” Instead, to ensure that their investment decisions line up with their faith and values, they are switching tracks and turning towards an alternative: biblically responsible investing.

At the same time, the donor advised fund world is also exploding. According to National Philanthropic Trust’s “2017 Donor Advised Fund Report,” donor advised funds house over $85 billion in assets. They have shown steady growth as a charitable vehicle, increasing from 2016 to 2017 by 10 percent. Giving USA reports donor advised funds as “the fastest growing vehicle in philanthropy,” listing their growth rate as “three times the rate of total charitable giving in 2016.”

Here’s how a donor advised fund works: a donor deposits money into a donor advised fund and instantly receives a tax write-off. The money can then sit in the fund for years to come. It grows in investments until the donor is ready to recommend that a grant be sent out from their DAF to a charity.

Essentially, donor advised funds are the next big thing in charity.

Donor advised funds provide a win-win solution for both charities and donors. The donor gets the tax benefit of an income tax deduction the same year the gift is given. But once the money is in the donor advised fund, it can grow in investments for as long as the donor chooses. In the end, more money goes out to charity, since the donor advised fund allowed the gift to grow over time.

Donor advised funds are an excellent solution for strategic generosity. However, between biblically responsible investing and donor advised funds, there lies a gap.

When it comes to personal finances, people of faith are turning towards biblically responsible investing. But what about when it comes to charity? Are they being equally careful with the money that has technically already been “gifted” but is still under their management through a donor advised fund?

I did a quick Google search and could not find a single donor advised fund sponsor who practiced biblically responsible investing. Not to say they don’t exist; I just couldn’t find any. Even among Christian foundations.

Here Christians were—being so careful to invest their personal finances using biblically responsible investing. But when they wanted to give to charity, no donor advised fund option allowed for the same amount of care. There was nowhere the money would be biblically invested.  Something had to change. So we started The Signatry.

As a Christian, God calls us to be charitable. He also calls us to be wise.

There seems to be a disconnect. When we make investments for our personal gain, we make sure they’re invested responsibly. But when our money is already dedicated towards charity (as in a donor advised fund), we don’t question the investments.

At The Signatry, we don’t think that makes any sense. First off, all of our resources belong to God. As Psalm 24:1 states, “The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it; the world, and all who live in it.” Since everything belongs to God, we are simply God’s caretakers, responsible to account for everything he’s given us.

If the money in a donor advised fund is dedicated towards making a difference for the Kingdom, then even before it is granted out, that money should already be making a difference. Or at the very least, it should not be invested in causes that are blatantly against biblical values.

Second, most faith-based foundations have standards for which charities receive their grants. Each charity is vetted through strict compliance measures to ensure they qualify as a grant recipient. Now, does it make any sense to have strict standards for the receiving ministries, but not to have the same standards for investments?

As far as I can tell, The Signatry is the only  Christian foundation offering investments that also comply with Christian values. This shouldn’t be the case. We are hopeful that one day biblically responsibly invested donor advised funds will be the norm, not the exception.

Let’s start a movement of Christians who are biblically minded, not just in their personal finances but also in their charitable contributions. Let’s make sure every dollar is used ethically—from the first investment to the last check sent to a ministry.




About the Author:

Bill High is CEO of The Signatry: A Global Christian Foundation. He has coauthored Giving It All Away … And Getting It All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously with Hobby Lobby founder David Green. You can learn more about investing in eternity and living a joyfully generous life at

Landscape Study on Christian Investing Highlights Opportunities and Needs

Recently a new study was published by Nexus Impact Advisors on Christian based investing.  The study author, Endel Liias, notes that it is there “hope that this information will be useful to people across the Christian investing spectrum—from investors and philanthropists to investees and entrepreneurs to the intermediaries, educators, and advisors that connect them.”

The report attempts to shape the full breadth of the market by offering some definitions for different segments to better classify the entire landscape of investing with Christian values.  The report is merely an introduction, as it was meant to be, and offers us the chance to follow-up with some well-designed research and studies to further expand our knowledge of each sector in more detail.  Why is that important or worth doing?  For several reasons.  First, it provides validation of the market opportunity that is currently underserved in hopes it can grow.  Second, it reinforces the professionalism and credibility of Christian investing against some common and long standing misperceptions or biases.  Third, it can identify potential gaps that providers can address or fill.  Fourth, it guides the ability to measure and analyze to determine if progress is being made.  Finally, it can offer the support of community to those involved or those considering to get involved.

Here is one highlight and some concluding thoughts from the report:

  • Overall, impact investing is estimated to total approximately $114 billion, with Kingdom Impact Investing estimated to be $2.0 – $3.0 billion. There is a much larger opportunity as the infrastructure matures, more options become available, and more investors gain an appreciation.

As the report concludes:

“The wide range of stakeholders and activities in Biblically-responsible and Christian impact investing is evidence of a robust and burgeoning marketplace, and this growth is likely to continue apace in the coming years.”

“Over the next three decades, approximately $30T in assets will be passed from baby boomers to millennials—the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in history. This will have major implications for the way money is invested, as younger generations increasingly look to spend and invest in accordance with their social, environmental, and moral convictions. “

“This presents particularly unique opportunities for development of the Christian investing marketplace… Meeting this demand will require the skills, creativity, and hard work of stakeholders across the Christian investing industry, as well as the participation of new entrants. “


The report is available at the website of Nexus Impact Advisors HERE .  The website contains much more information, research, and resources for impact investing generally and Kingdom Impact Investing more specifically.  A visit to the site is highly recommended.

About Nexus – Nexus Impact Advisors is a mission-driven research and advisory firm specializing in impact investing.  To learn more, visit .



Billy Graham Aiming High

Some years ago, a family member thoughtfully gave me a daily devotional book authored by Billy Graham called “Wisdom for Each Day”.  The entry for February 21st, the day of his passing, seems relevant to share.


“Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.”  Colossians 3:2

During the Second World War, the words of General Douglas MacArthur echoed in the hearts of the people of the Philippines, “I shall return” – and he kept that promise.  Jesus Christ has also promised, “I shall return” – and He, too, will keep that promise.

A continual looking forward to the eternal world Jesus will usher in is not a form of escapism or wishful thinking.  We Christians look forward with anticipation to Christ’s return and spending eternity with Him.

The promise of that new world, however, does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is.  If you read history, you will find that the Christian who did the most for the present world were those who thought the most of the next.  Only Christians who cease thinking of the next world become ineffective in this one.

“Aim at heaven,” said C.S. Lewis, “and you will get earth thrown in.  Aim at earth, and you will get neither.”  At what are you aiming?


I think everyone would agree that The Reverend Billy Graham’s aim was right and true.

Profit or Principles: Investing without Compromise book excerpt

“Profit or Principles: Investing without Compromise”, by Dwight Short

Used by permission


The following story is an excerpt from the book Profit or Principles.  It is the conclusion of a story about a couple and their journey through the decisions about investing and their faith.  As investors, we each have the opportunity to direct how we’d like our assets to be managed.  As Christians we should acknowledge that we don’t actually own those assets, God does.    If you’d like to learn more about the book, visit our Book review page here.



Todd’s hope was that Elise would join him on the visit to their financial planner to discuss changing the focus of their investments. However, Sarah and Chris­topher were back from their honeymoon and Sarah wanted to spend the day shopping with her mom. Ap­parently exchanging wedding gifts and spending the day with her daughter were more important than their investments. It wasn’t surprising since Todd took care of the majority of financial business for the family.

Wallace Burke had all the trappings of success. His professionally styled office suite was located on the third floor of the Overton Bank Building in the heart of the city. The polished tile floor in the hallway led to an oversized mahogany door with silver-plated hard­ware. Once you stepped inside, the carpet was plush, the furniture was rich, and the colors were subdued. Margaret, a woman appearing to be in her 50’s and al­ways dressed as conservatively as a grandmother, had been Wallace’s secretary for years and her voice was the first thing heard when entering the office suite.

“Hello Mr. Watson,” was her cheery greeting. She did not need to have Wallace’s calendar in front of her to recognize Todd. He had been investing according to Wallace’s financial advice for years and was probably his best customer. There was no need to sit, Wallace was ready and waiting in his office, so Margaret quickly escorted Todd as if he were a new customer.

Not being sure why Todd wanted the meeting, Wallace had all his paperwork in order, spread out on top of his executive-style desk. He and Todd liked each other, but they had never spent any time together out­side of their business relationship. Wallace was several years older and pretty tied to a quiet routine. No one would ever say that Wallace liked adventure or taking risks and he ran his investments like he ran his life–as risk free as possible.

Todd and Wallace exchanged the usual pleasant­ries. Margaret brought Todd a cup of coffee, just like he liked it, and they sat down to discuss the matter that brought Todd unexpectedly to the office.

“I know you’re curious about why I’m here,” Todd began. “First, let me assure you that it is not because I’m unhappy with anything you’ve done! Elise and I have been very pleased with the way you have handled the money. You have accomplished precisely what we asked you to do for us.”

The words provided a touch of assurance for Wallace but he was still waiting for something more. He knew Todd was not there just to pat him on the back. “We want you to continue managing our money,” Todd said, and Wallace hoped his sigh of relief was not visible. “It’s just that we want to change our approach,” Todd continued.

“Your investments have been doing very well,” Wallace replied, “Especially in this economy. I’m not sure we can do much better.” He was hoping Todd was not looking for a bigger payday that required riskier investments, that was just not Wallace’s strength.

“No, no, I’m not concerned about making more money. Elise and I have been thinking a lot lately about how our money is being used. Let me explain how this whole thing came up.”

Todd then took the next seven or eight minutes to describe the encounter with Robert Wells at church and how that turned into the conversation with his busi­ness partners and then the questions they had about all their money and what it was accomplishing. He also tried to explain how he had spent hours reflecting on Jesus’ story of the talents and his conviction that God was trying to tell him something about being a bet­ter steward. Wallace listened carefully. He was certainly interested in Todd’s way of thinking because good in­vestment advisors must know their clients and he al­ways prided himself on being able to provide what his clients wanted.

When Todd brought up the phrase, “Biblically Responsible Investing” that he had read about on the Internet, Wallace’s attitude changed. He was somewhat defensive toward this approach to investing. Making money in this volatile market was not an easy thing to do and Todd should be happy that Wallace is getting him a decent return. Now he wants to put some stipulations on how to invest and will probably be upset if he doesn’t make as much money.

“What do you know about investing like this?” Todd asked.

“I’ve studied it some, “replied Wallace hesitantly. “I’m not convinced it’s a good way to go.”

Somewhat surprised since he knew Wallace was a Christian, Todd pressed, “Tell me why, I’d like to know.”

“Probably my first concern is the financial loss you will experience, or at least the financial opportu­nity missed, by not investing in some very profitable companies, just because we don’t agree with everything they do.” This was always Wallace’s first comment when asked about BRI even though he didn’t know of any evidence to prove it was true. It simply makes sense; if you avoid certain types of companies then you will likely miss some good opportunities.

Todd was expecting this objection since he had done his homework prior to the meeting. “Just because a company avoids questionable activities doesn’t neces­sarily make it less profitable does it?” he asked.

“Not necessarily,” agreed Wallace, “But if we change our investment habits just to avoid some of these issues, we might take a hit on your returns and that would not be good stewardship either.” Keeping his investments separate from his religion seemed like a good policy to Wallace.

Sensing that Todd was not convinced, Wallace continued. “Besides, you know how difficult it is to determine exactly what companies are doing. A company that primarily makes dog food might have some secondary interests in tobacco or alcohol, or a computer company might hold ownership of a casino. I don’t know if there is such a thing as a completely responsible company in today’s world. Besides, I think this might just be a fad that will disappear in a short while. You know how investment fads come and go all the time.”

“This is more than a fad with me, I really think this is something I want to consider. I know it’s not easy,” Todd said, trying to keep his aggravation toward Wallace’s attitude from coming through his voice. “But it’s important enough to me that I want to give it a try. What do we need to do to get started?”

“Like I’ve always said, I work for you,” Wallace quickly chimed in once he realized Todd was commit­ted to this new approach. “Give me a few days to get some information together and then we can meet and make some decisions.”

“Great!” said Todd. “I’m ready as soon as we can get started.”

They spoke a few more minutes, making plans to meet in exactly one week to formulate a plan. Todd was not totally pleased with the conversation but he was willing to give Wallace an opportunity. He had earned that much since he had been a good advisor for many years.

On the way out of the office, Todd spoke to Mar­garet, “I’ll see you next week.”

It was a short walk to the parking lot and just as he reached out with his left hand to open the car door, Todd’s phone rang. As he had done countless times before without having to think, Todd reached into his pocket, pushed the answer button as he lifted the phone to his ear and said, “Hello.”

“Todd, this is James,” and then a very brief pause. “How are you doing?”

Without even looking at the caller id, Todd recog­nized the voice as James Adams, his pastor and good friend. He and James had been friends for more than six years, since James first came to the church as pastor. They were about the same age, both shared an inter­est in old cars, occasional fishing trips, and their wives were good friends. Put all that together with James’ in­terest in Todd’s spiritual growth and a close friendship developed.

Todd had already spoken with James about his interest in BRI. It came up in a conversation after dis­cussing James’ sermon on the parable of the talents. James knew a little about the subject. Obviously he did not have the money to invest like Todd, but he did keep a close eye on his retirement funds, which were managed by a Christian ministry that specialized in helping pastors.

“I’m good! Todd answered. “I’ll bet with this weather you are wanting to plan a fishing trip.”

“I would love to go fishing, but it’s not gonna happen today. Hey, I called your office and they said you didn’t have anything scheduled for lunch. I’ve got a proposition for you.”

Both men enjoyed having lunch together but they were both too busy to make it happen often. “I’ll tell you what, Todd responded, “name the place and I’ll buy. How’s that for a deal?”

“I knew you’d say that. Let me tell you what I have in mind. I’m having lunch with the man who handles my retirement account. After our conversation last week I thought you might want to meet him and pick his brain a little about responsible investing. What do you think?” asked James.

“That’s a great idea James, perfect timing. Tell me when and where and I’ll be there.”

By the time the arrangements were shared Todd was in his car and driving out of the parking lot. He knew Elise and Sarah would be having lunch together so he was not worried about checking in. He had just enough time to make a couple of quick stops along the way to the restaurant.

The plan was to meet at Bronson’s out on Westridge Parkway not far from the church. Although it was a new place it was rapidly becoming a favor­ite for James and several of their other friends from church. It was clean, the food was good, and the prices reasonable, all good reasons to chose a restaurant.

Traffic was light so Todd suspected he was a few minutes earlier than planned. He scanned the parking lot for James’ car as he walked toward the entrance.

Confirming with the hostess that he was the first one there, he requested a table in the corner, hoping to be a quiet enough place to allow conversation. By the time the waiter took his order for a glass of water, Todd spotted James walking toward the table.

He stood up, grasped his hand firmly and said, “Hey friend, I’m so glad you called.”

“I’m glad you could come,” replied James. “Let me introduce my friend.”

Pointing to a tall, slender man in a light tan sport coat, James said, “Todd, this is Michael McDonald, he is the financial advisor I told you about.”

Todd and Michael shook hands and exchanged customary greetings. Todd said, “Thanks for including me in this conversation.” Turning toward Michael he added, “James has probably told you about my interest in Biblically Responsible Investing.”

“Yes, I was excited to hear about you. I’ve been trying to get the word out for several years but it has been difficult. Anytime I find a potential convert I’m like a preacher meeting a first time visitor at church.”

All three men chuckled at the comment and the waiter arrived at the table at the same time to take drink orders and explain the menu. James and Todd knew what they wanted and Michael took their recommen­dation so there was no need to spend time studying the menu options. With the lunch order out of the way they could get about the business of discussion.

“What is the hardest thing about encouraging people into Biblically Responsible Investing?” posed Todd. “Why are Christians hesitant to take this ap­proach?”

“I think the primary reason is that people don’t like change. The ones who should be most interested in this type of investing are probably the same ones who strive to be good stewards. Consequently, they are reluctant to do anything that doesn’t seem safe. They are making a little money by doing what everyone else is doing and most people equate that with being a good steward,” answered Michael.

“That’s exactly where I was until a few weeks ago,” chimed in Todd. “Elise and I were happy that we were making some money, we were giving our tithe to the church and trying to manage our money care­fully. Then I started reading Jesus’ story of the talents. I don’t know how many times I’ve read that story lately, but it won’t let me go. We’re convicted that we’ve got to do more.”

About that time their lunch arrived. The waiter carefully arranged the table and made sure each of the men were satisfied. Talking stopped for a few minutes to allow everyone to sample the food and get started on the meal.

Todd was the first to get back on subject. “How hard is it to switch over to Biblically Responsible In­vesting?” he asked.

“It’s not hard at all, not any more difficult than changing any investment in your portfolio,” Michael responded. “All you need is a financial planner who is willing to help.”

“That might be my problem,” Todd said with a hint of dejection in his voice. “I just met with my guy this morning about making some changes and I’m not sure he’s on board. I don’t think he’s opposed to the idea… just not confident in what to do.”

Hoping to be reassuring, Michael said, “That’s not uncommon. It’s a new thing for a lot of financial plan­ners. It’s not that they are unwilling. They just need some help to get started.”

“I think that’s probably the problem,” Todd re­plied. “He has always been very capable. What can I do to help?”

“I don’t want to butt in, but maybe I can help. If you will give me permission, I’ll call your guy and offer to help him get up to speed. There’s no need for you to change planners if he’s willing to make a little ef­fort. In fact, it will make him a better planner for all his Christian investors.”

This sounded like a good plan to Todd. He made arrangements to have Wallace call Michael and hope­fully they could all three get together to get things started. Todd felt much better about his potential for being a good steward. This whole thing was turning into a lot more work than Todd expected at the begin­ning, but it would be well worth it to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


This story is an excerpt from the book “Profit or Principles”, by Dwight L. Short.  Used by permission 

Denver Institute for Faith & Work video of Eventide Funds

Jeff Haanen, Executive Director for the Denver Institute for Faith & Work, recently met with the team from Eventide Funds to learn more about the organization.  From that meeting a short video was filmed, and published to the DIFW website.  Jeff has graciously shared that video with us, and we wanted to share it with you.

Here is the video

Investing 360 – The Story of Eventide Funds from Denver Institute on Vimeo.


DIFW also created excerpts on specific topics, in case you can’t watch the full 5:23 video, and they’ve shared links to those with us as well. Watch and share with a friend.


Learn more about the Denver Institute for Faith & Work by visiting their website.

Bridging a Great Divide

This article first appeared in the February 2015 edition of the Green Money Journal

Bridging a Great Divide: The Evolving Evangelical Relationship with SRI

By John Siverling, The Christian Investment Forum

When the term Biblically Responsible Investing is uttered, a common perception forms in the minds of many investors about a politically conservative, narrowly focused approach to investing that targets a couple of socially charged issues.  Sustainable investors often perceive a great divide between socially responsible investing and biblically responsible investing.  Those perceptions fail to see the change underway in the BRI space, including with those that would consider themselves evangelical.  BRI is experiencing a growth towards a holistic view of investing and faith, bringing into focus the ideas of positive screening and equity selection, shareholder advocacy, and targeted investments in communities– and not just the use negative screening.  It focuses on excellence in how advisers and investment managers work, not condemning others.  It is an effort to avoid the risk of those in the field becoming what author Larry Osborne describes as “Accidental Pharisees” in his book of the same name.  This movement in biblically responsible investing, along with generational attitudinal trends, creates opportunities for those embracing these trends, and for those in the socially responsible investing field.  Common goals can be accomplished by focusing on shared perspectives that remain a minority viewpoint on Wall Street.  There is an opportunity of bridging a great divide.

History of Values Investing

It should not come as a surprise that the similarities between SRI and BRI are much greater than the differences.  The concept of utilizing personal values in the decision making process for investing has existed for much longer than the current movements and the various terms that have been coined to formalize the process.  Since personal values are usually developed based on a person’s faith, the integration of faith with investing is intertwined in our society whether we formalize it in our decision making process or not.  The idea of Christian faith impacting wealth and the use of wealth goes back to the beginning of Christianity.

More practically, faith based investing began as a formalized practice over 200 years ago when used by the Quakers and Methodists.  The first use of what we could call Biblically Responsible Investing was to restrict investing that supported human trafficking, which at the time was the legal slave trade.  Methodist founder John Wesley is also credited with raising awareness and building credibility for socially responsible investing, most prominently in a sermon entitled “The Use of Money”.  In it, he outlined some of the ideas that remain the basis for both Socially Responsible Investing and Biblically Responsible Investing.  At that time, the focus was on excluding  businesses with practices would harm others, and the avoidance of industries that were considered detrimental to society.

Over time the concept of social justice became part of the fabric of faith based investing, socially responsible investing became a more accepted term, and the movement began to shift away from the religious origins and toward a more secularized foundation, though this approach continues to retain many of the concepts that Christians and other people of faith would still support.

Over the last 20 years, a new variation of faith based investing has grown from an evangelical base.  In part, this stemmed from the trend of SRI towards a less religious orientation, but it was also an example of meeting a market need.  Some Evangelical Christians did not feel they had adequate investment options available through SRI, particularly with respect to some social screens that were viewed as a priority.  In some cases, the very social perspectives that evangelical Christians sought to sought to reflect in their investments directly contradicted those that were priorities for many socially responsible investing approaches.  These differences—though far fewer than many might expect—have formed a perceived “great divide” between BRI and SRI philosophies and proponents as values-driven investment options have exploded in number over the past decade.

Defining Faith Based Investing

The definition of Biblically Responsible Investing (BRI) used and promoted by the Christian Investment Forum (CIF) remains purposefully broad.   While there are some examples of the term BRI being narrowly used for only a specific set of criteria for investing, the use of the term BRI by the Christian Investment Forum is broad and is interchangeable with other similar terms used by investors who incorporate Christian faith into the investing process.  Those include Faith Integrated Investing, Morally Responsible Investing, Stewardship Investing, or Values Based Investing.

In this broader scope, Biblically Responsible Investing is a term used to describe an approach to investing assets in a way that is in alignment with the investor’s faith and biblical beliefs.  The definition that CIF uses is as follows:

“Biblically Responsible Investing, or BRI, applies Christian values to investment decision making by incorporating moral and social principles into traditional financial analysis.  BRI provides a platform for the faithful stewardship of God’s gifts on the basis of our shared Christian faith.  BRI seeks to invest in and own companies that best represent those Christian values.” (Editor Note: this has been updated since original publication)

By defining BRI as an approach that seeks to align investments with the investor’s faith and biblical beliefs, BRI is by definition a personal process.  While Christians share core foundational beliefs, it is also true that on many topics personal faith perspectives will lead Christians to differing opinions and, more importantly, differing priorities.  This makes it difficult to place a simple label or definition on what BRI is and what it is not, or how it is applied into the investment decision making process.   This diversity in how investors apply BRI is similar to what practitioners of SRI struggle with in defining their approach to investing.

The similarities between Faith Based Investing and Sustainable Investing are much greater than the differences.  Both seek to incorporate additional factors into investment decisions beyond a purely quantitative financial assessment.  Some on both sides believe this can provide superior performance, while others on both sides believe it is appropriate to address issues they believe are important in society regardless of the performance issue.  The similarity becomes even more apparent if we use the description of SRI from USSIF: the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investing but add one single key phrase (italicized bold to highlight).

“What unites these diverse investment approaches – and what ultimately distinguishes them from the broader universe of assets under management in the United States – is the explicit incorporation of environmental, community, societal or governance issues viewed from the Christian faith into investment decision-making, fund management or shareholder engagement activities.  The specific ESG factors and the way they are used may differ widely from investor to investor, and tactical and technical considerations are often specific to an institution or fund manager. ”

It is reasonable to say that Faith Based Investing largely mirrors Sustainable Investing, except that the lens used to consider criteria such as environmental, social, corporate governance, and company industries is a lens of religious faith and the values that flow from that faith.  That lens is key in understanding the purpose for which the investment is made, and in determining which  values play a role in guiding investment selection.

An Evolving Professional Investment Process

Faith Based Investing and BRI has continued to evolve over the last 20 years, as more practitioners have formed firms and more investment options have become available.  Most notable is the breadth of approaches to BRI.  Each firm and fund manager develops an investing strategy that aligns with their faith and values, but that is also based on the core principles of professional investment management.  Social issues that have become polarizing do remain a part of the criteria for some, but just as many funds also prioritize shareholder governance issues, inclusionary screening, or best-in-class selection parameters.  Some examples:  Praxis Mutual Funds, from the Mennonite Church, is an active participant in Green Bonds through the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund (MIIAX) , and a vocal advocate for the environmentally-focused faith value of “Creation Care”.  Epiphany Funds comes from a Catholic perspective.  Epiphany offers some specialty funds, such as a Latin America Fund, and takes an active role reviewing proxy materials internally and voting based on their faith values.  Eventide Funds doesn’t fall under one particular denominational label, but instead blends evangelical and mainline faith values.  Eventide has developed a concept known as Business360, which uses many of the themes familiar with socially responsible investing and re-aligns it with the positive religious convictions that were a foundation of SRI.  Business360 is a framework that uses inclusionary screens, exclusionary screens, as well as other governance data points to value a company on more than the short-term bottom line profits.

15 years ago there were no more than 5 mutual funds that described themselves as BRI focused.  Today, there are at least 100 different mutual funds across 28 different categories that explicitly incorporate Christian faith values as one part of their investment process.  The performance of these funds, based on ratings from firms such as Morningstar, follow a similar distribution curve as the full universe of investment options, and closely align with the performance of Sustainable Investing funds.  With the number of funds and fund managers across sectors, there are also investment management firms (Aris Corporation & Camelot Portfolios, for example) that research and create diversified portfolios of BRI funds for clients through separately-managed accounts.

Becoming Friends in Mission

The reality in the financial industry is that the common goals of both BRI and SRI remain a minority view on Wall Street, as well as with many institutional investors and advisors.  One of  the common goals of both approaches is to establish the credibility of incorporating ESG factors into stock selection and outperformance, whether those factors are included based on faith values or secular social ideals.

For an agnostic investor, investing in GuideStone Extended-Duration Bond Fund (GEDZX), Eventide Healthcare & Life Sciences Fund (ETNHX), or other BRI funds can be just as impactful to their social goals as any other SRI fund, and deliver outstanding financial performance in the process.

For an evangelical investor, investing in funds such as Calvert Global Alternative Energy Fund (CGAEX) or Pax EllevateGlobal Women’s Index Fund (PXWIX), among others, can diversify a portfolio while not necessarily violating their own faith convictions.

In his book, Uncommon Decency, Richard Mouw describes what is needed if we are to focus on common goals between SRI and BRI.  He writes, “…one of the real problems in modern life is that the people who are good at being civil often lack strong convictions and people who have strong convictions often lack civility….We need to find a way of combining a civil outlook with a ‘passionate intensity’ about our convictions.  The real challenge is to come up with a convicted civility.” Through convicted civility perhaps we can remain friends in mission.


There increasingly is no great divide between BRI and SRI.  There are differences, to be sure, in some values, convictions and priorities.  The reasons for investment decisions may be different.  The real divide, however, is with those that don’t take any values or convictions into account when investing and instead seek only to maximize value regardless of the harm that may be caused.  Not only is that short-sighted, but research is finally proving that maxim is faulty as well.



John Siverling is the executive director of the Christian Investment Forum [link:], whose goal is to build awareness and credibility for faith based investing within the broader financial investment industry.  In addition he is also a co-founder and President of Sentiens, LLC, an early stage healthcare technology company and a Managing Partner in JAS Ventures, LLC, a consulting firm focused on helping companies develop and execute faith integrated business practices

The Purpose and Practice of Business

The following article is reprinted by permission of Eventide Funds


American business people have had, for the last few decades, a consensus response to a very important question: What is the purpose of a corporation? Answer: To maximize the wealth of its shareholders . . . a conception which is encapsulated in its own ‘maximization of shareholder value’ (MSV) label and theory. In practice, MSV has made raising short-term share price the primary business objective.

This is a relatively recent notion, the seed idea of which was first advanced by Milton Friedman in his famous 1970 opinion piece in the NY Times entitled, “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.” Then in 1976 two business academics, Michael Jensen and William Meckling, published “Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behavior, Agency Costs and Ownership Structure.” This hugely influential article argued for compensating CEOs with substantial grants of stock, or stock options, to better ensure that they were motivated to act for the good of shareholders.

But it was in the 1980s when business people themselves embraced in a big way this new understanding of corporate purpose. They were especially influenced by Jack Welch’s 1981 speech “Growing Fast in a Slow Economy” in which he made clear that, henceforth, General Electric’s primary objective would be to return maximum value to shareholders. This conception of corporate purpose has reigned supreme in America ever since. (It got considerable, but less, traction in other English-speaking countries, and very little traction in Europe.)

This understanding of business purpose is, however, deeply at odds with the view of Scripture. In fact, it leads to business operating in direct opposition to God’s good work in the world. But because the maximization of shareholder value conception is so pervasive — and because the church has failed to articulate the biblical alternative* — even devout Christian business people are deeply influenced by the larger business culture’s demonstrably unhealthy** understanding of purpose.

Thoughtful readers of Scripture might counter that nowhere does the bible communicate a conception of business or corporate purpose. True, of sorts, but only in the most literal sense. There is no bible verse, of course, along the lines of, “Thus saith the Lord: ‘The purpose of business is . . .’” Despite that, Scripture offers very clear evidence of God’s intent for both the purpose and practice of business — provided one reads the bible looking for its metanarrative, i.e., looking for the forest rather than just the trees.

In John 10:10 Jesus describes his (and his Father’s) overarching purpose: “I came that they [my followers] may have life, and have it abundantly,” (ESV). In fact, Scripture has a special word to describe this abundant life — ‘shalom.’ It means perfect human flourishing in every dimension of life. In other words, human flourishing that encompasses our spiritual, physical, relational, economic, social justice, and artistic dimensions — a harmonious prosperity pervading every aspect of life. This is the intrinsic, hallmark character of God’s kingdom.

All of which was lost through sin at the Fall. Ever since, God has been on a determined mission to restore his kingdom and its shalom character here on earth. The decisive elements of this restoration mission are, of course, the birth, death, resurrection and (eventual) second coming of Jesus. As well, we see Jesus throughout his earthly ministry continually acting to further flourishing: those who were hungry are well fed; those whose physical condition was broken — the blind, deaf, lepers and lame — are made whole; even a young couple’s wedding celebration about to be ruined is, instead, made more joyous. These all make visible and emphatic God’s shalom restoration mission.

Remarkably, Jesus says that his followers are meant to join him in this very same mission. “Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father,” John 14:12 (ESV). These works to be done by his followers are, in fact, the very same “good works” Paul refers to in Ephesians 2:10 when he says, “We are Gods handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do, (NIV). In other words, just like Jesus himself, his followers are meant to do the works which help restore on earth God’s kingdom and the shalom which is its hallmark.

Nowhere is this more true than in that aspect of our lives to which we devote far and away the most time and energy — our vocations. Meaning that the work of educators, and physicians, and government officials, and scientists, and artists, and the clergy, and yes, the work of business people, is all meant to enlarge human flourishing. In fact, every (legitimate) vocational endeavor is meant by God to further his abundant-life mission and, in so doing, further his kingdom.

Which means that God’s grand purpose for business generally, and for every particular business, is that it add to human flourishing. Or put more simply, business is meant to make people’s lives better. So, by the way, is government, and education, and science, and art . . . and street sweeping. Of course the particular ways in which any vocation enlarges human flourishing are specific and distinctive. Government is meant to create order and justice; education is meant to enlarge knowledge and understanding; the clergy are meant to guide us toward God and his ways.*** Each vocation is meant to make its own distinctive contributions to human flourishing. Each is meant to make our lives better in the ways for which they are particularly suited.

So how about business? In what way(s) is business meant to add to human flourishing? What is the distinctive contribution business is meant to make to shalom and the advance of God’s kingdom? As a way into answering this question, it’s helpful to ask another: How is business meant to be practiced so that it does, indeed, enlarge shalom, so that it does make our lives better?

And again, at the metanarrative level, Scripture provides a clear answer. All human conduct is meant to fulfill the ‘Love your neighbor’ First Principle of God’s moral universe.**** This applies to our individual conduct, of course, but it applies just as much to the larger arenas of human endeavor. Business, government, education, the arts — for each vocation, the way in which they further flourishing is through the particular means by which they love and serve their neighbors.

Business does this by creating value . . . in two quite different ways. On the one hand, business creates a staggering array of products and services explicitly designed to add value to the lives of customers. In fact, customers generally purchase a product or service only if they believe it will add more value to their lives than the loss of economic value required for its purchase. In other words, customers spend their money precisely because they believe a product or service will make their lives better.

Provided customers do, in fact, find a company’s products meaningfully valuable, the company also has opportunity to create an entirely different kind of value — by selling its products for more than the cost of the resources and labor required for their production. In which case the company has added (economic) value to those resources and gets to harvest this increase in value as profits. In so doing, the company enlarges human wealth. Provided it is broadly shared rather than narrowly hoarded, this wealth becomes another important way in which business creates value for its neighbors and furthers human flourishing.

Several important implications flow from this metanarrative understanding of God’s intent for the purpose and practice of business. Let’s consider a few of the most significant.

The Kingdom Significance of Business

There are no second-class vocations. God means every (legitimate) vocation to join him in fostering human flourishing and reestablishing shalom on the earth. Jesus preached the kingdom of God, fed the hungry, healed lepers, gave sight to the blind, turned water into wine. In every instance — not just when he was preaching — he was furthering his and his Father’s abundant-life mission. In every instance he was thwarting the “steal, kill and destroy” mission of the enemy and advancing God’s kingdom. In every instance he was fostering human flourishing and defeating death with life.

This is an especially important message for Christian business people. Many of us have, at least at times, felt like our choice of vocation has made us second- or third-class citizens in the kingdom of God (or at least in our church). Pastors and missionaries are first-class citizens, of course, because they point people towards salvation. Doctors and teachers and social workers and the like come next because their professions are explicitly intended to help others. And then, ranking somewhere down toward the bottom, are those of us in business.

Nonsense. Every vocation is meant to serve God’s abundant-life mission through the particular ways in which it fulfills his ‘Love your neighbor’ command — business very much included. In fact, there are good reasons to see business as an especially valuable kingdom calling. Consider: The diversity of ways in which business adds value to people’s lives is staggering. Think of the incredible benefits of computer and communications technologies. Of food production in all its vast array. Of medical technologies like pacemakers and prosthetics, or of life-saving medicines. Or the benefits of travel via planes, trains, and automobiles. Or of good homes in which to live and raise families. All these, and an almost infinite number of others, are the blessings of business. In fact, no other arena of human endeavor comes close to the volume or variety of ways in which business enlarges human flourishing.

Business is Gods Partner in Provision

But there is more. God’s foundational relationship with humankind is that of Provider. Scripture makes clear that it is God, ultimately, who provides for our physical needs — who sustains us with food, shelter, and the like. In fact, without him acting as Provider, we humans disappear, and quite quickly. And though God could do this great work miraculously and single-handedly, he prefers to partner with people. Deuteronomy 8:17-18 tells us that the ability to create wealth is a gift from God. Notably, this gift is rooted entirely in business — i.e., only business enlarges human wealth. Which means that God chooses to do his great work of material provision in partnership with a very specific group of people — those in business. That’s right, business people are God’s chosen partners in sustaining and prospering all of humankind! A very high calling indeed! And even that understates the kingdom significance of business, since it is business alone that provides the economic wherewithal that makes possible the shalom blessings of government, education, the arts, even the church.*****

Wealth Creation is Secondary

Nevertheless, it is imperative that business people remember that of the two ways in which business creates value, one of these — wealth creation — is necessarily a byproduct, a derivative, of the other. When business focuses on creating value for others (customers, employees, suppliers, etc.), it prospers nicely as well. But when it makes its own profits the priority (for example, by making MSV its principal objective), it moves from serving others to serving itself at others’ expense. Which means it moves from fulfilling to violating God’s ‘Love your neighbor’ First Principle. And instead of creating value, it begins to extract value. In a moral universe in which we eventually ‘reap what we sow’ (Galatians 6:7), such selfish business behavior proves both toxic and unsustainable.

Business and the Greater Works

Let’s revisit for a moment Jesus’ words in John 14:12: “Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” Honestly, I spent many years perplexed by these words. If Jesus healed the sick and fed the hungry with just a word, what were these “greater works” . . . and why over the subsequent millennia had we seen little evidence of miracles eclipsing those of Jesus?

Then one day I realized my error. As far as Jesus was concerned, that they were miraculous was never what was important about his miracles. In fact, he seems purposely to wield his supernatural power in the least conspicuous ways possible. No, what Jesus considered important about his miracles was their outcome, not their method — hungry people were fed, hurting people were helped . . . human flourishing was furthered. Jesus was not saying that the deeds of his followers would, compared with his miracles, be greater displays of supernatural power. Rather, he was saying the scope of their beneficial effect would be larger. More people would be helped, more human flourishing would ensue.

This has particular relevance for business. Because companies make a profit from their activities, they can fund their own growth. Operated well, in fact, a company can expand almost indefinitely — what business people refer to as the ability to scale. In turn, the scope of a company’s beneficial impact can expand indefinitely as well.

This is unique among the arenas of human endeavor. For government, or education, or science, or the arts, or religion to expand, they need funding from elsewhere. As a result, their scope of impact is naturally constrained. Not so for business, which grows under its own power. As a result, business is an especially potent means by which the followers of Jesus can have a “greater works” impact on human flourishing.

By way of example, let’s recall the story of Barnhart Crane and Rigging. On two occasions, Jesus provided a meal to several thousand people. Through their company, Alan and Eric Barnhart provide well-paid employment to more than a thousand employees — in other words, tens upon tens of thousands of meals, and all the rest of the elements of provision, year after year after year. Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom of God to thousands across Palestine. Allocating 50 percent of annual profits to fund evangelism, Barnhart has underwritten the preaching of the gospel to millions across the globe. Consider as well that Jesus may have healed hundreds, but the effect of a pharmaceutical company’s life-saving drug may save hundreds of thousands. As these examples attest, business is especially capable of the “greater works” impact of which Jesus spoke.

Business A Double-Edged Sword

The ability of business to scale under its own power means that it can help — or hurt — a great many people. It can be an incredibly powerful engine for blessing . . . or for blight. It can foster human flourishing or, just as easily, human floundering.

The potent ability of business — and business people — to cause harm is hardly an abstract concern. Over the last several years, we have been subject to a seeming tidal wave of stories of business misbehavior and malfeasance. Though reminders hardly seem necessary, here are a few:

  • General Motors consciously allowing a defective ignition switch to continue killing customers, and others, for over a decade.
  • Our biggest banks admitting to massive fraud and other illegalities and, as a result, paying tens of billions of dollars in fines. As if we don’t well remember, these behaviors cost millions of Americans their homes and jobs.
  • BP systematically short-changing safety for profits — leading directly to the Deepwater Horizon blowout that killed 11 workers and fouled over 16,000 miles of U.S. shoreline.
  • Clearcut logging that resulted in a mudslide obliterating Oso, Washington and killing 43 of its residents.
  • The world’s largest private employer, Walmart, controlled by the world’s wealthiest family, paying wages so low that many workers make ends meet only through poverty-assistance benefits funded by U.S. taxpayers.

Unfortunately, the list goes on and on. Which raises an obvious question. Why does business misbehavior seem so prevalent? After all, we don’t often read about teachers practicing their profession in ways that are broadly harmful . . . or nurses . . . or scientists . . . or the clergy. Why is it so often business, and business people, that seem to behave so badly?

There are, I believe, two factors. One is specific to the last few decades, the other is much more longstanding. The ‘maximize shareholder value’ conception of business purpose elevates the interests of business owners above all others. As a result, it has provided a covering justification for selfishness on a grand scale — a selfishness which always proves toxic. But there is another factor as well. Individuals who hunger deeply for riches rarely self-select into medicine, or eduction, or religion, or social work. Instead, they self-select into business (just like those who hunger for power tend to self-select into government).

Please don’t misunderstand. Much of this column, and my many others, chronicles the great benefits of business. Many people choose business as a vocation because of the good it can do. Nevertheless, business also attracts the greedy — and poses a constant threat to corrupt those who may have started with better motives. Jesus’ frequent warnings to be on guard against greed are, therefore, of special relevance for those in business.


God’s purpose for business (and everything else) is that it foster human flourishing — that it make people’s lives better. In practice, business does so when it fulfills ‘Love your neighbor’ by creating real value for customers, employees, and others. Taken together, these are the essentials of ‘business for blessing’ — God’s grand intent for the purpose and practice of business.


* Some time back I had a conversation about this with Richard Mouw, the former president of Fuller Seminary. He observed that pastors rarely preach about how Christian faith is meant to infuse and inform the vocational lives of their people — particularly when the vocation is business. In most cases there is simply silence . . . little or no counsel from the church about God’s intent for business. Mouw added, “Why is this? As someone who spent twenty years as president of a seminary, I think all of us in the seminary world must admit that we have failed to educate pastors in a way that focuses and equips them to speak beneficially into the vocational lives of their people — especially into the lives of their business people.” Food for thought.

** A (very) partial list of the widely-critiqued failings of maximizing shareholder value (MSV) includes:

  • It is the primary driver of the dramatic rise in inequality over the last four decades — responsible for much of what is driving both the astronomical compensation of CEOs, hedge fund managers, and other members of the top 1% and, simultaneously, the flat or declining incomes of the poor and middle class. As a result, the share of Americ’s GDP accruing to capital (shareholders) has never been larger and the share accruing to labor (employees) never smaller.
  • The wholesale offshoring of formerly well-paying jobs, especially in manufacturing, and the consequent loss of technical expertise and competitive capability in America.
  • The myopic focus by big business and Wall Street on cost-cutting, rather than on investment for future growth. It also drives their widespread tax-avoidance schemes.
  • The notable decline in American innovation, and in the rate of formation of new entrepreneurial ventures.
  • Excessive financialization, with consequent speculative risk downsides — including, of course, the 2008 subprime mortgage debacle that nearly sank the global economy.
  • It fails at its own objective: actual shareholder value grew at a noticeably faster rate in the several prior decades versus since the 1980s.

*** All who follow Jesus are meant to testify to the good news of salvation, not just the clergy. But only the clergy (pastors, missionaries, etc.) do so vocationally, i.e., in witnessing to Jesus, only the clergy are fulfilling the primary thrust of their vocation. The other arenas of human endeavor are meant to fulfill the abundant-life shalom mission of God in distinctly different ways. Not lesser ways, simply different ways.

**** “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” Mark 12:30 (NIV), is the First Principle of God’s spiritual universe. It provides the foundation for our understanding of God and our relationship to him. Morality, however, concerns itself with our conduct toward others and, as well, toward the rest of God’s natural creation. Which makes ‘Love your neighbor’ the First Principle of God’s moral universe.

***** This does not imply, however, that business has more kingdom importance than other vocations. True, government, or education, or the arts, or even the church, could not function without the economic wherewithal provided by the wealth-creation capabilities of business. But neither could business function without the order and civil services and physical infrastructure provided by government, or the knowledgeable workers provided by educators, or the breakthroughs that come through science. All vocations are meant, together, to serve the abundant-life mission of God.


Unless otherwise noted, Eventide is not an investor in companies discussed in this or other of our ‘faith and business’ columns, nor is there meant to be an endorsement, explicit or implied, of the entirety of any company’s business model, much less of all of a company’s business practices. Rather, aspects of the business model or practices of particular companies are discussed only to help illustrate contemporary examples of larger ‘faith and business’ topics.


The material provided herein has been provided by Eventide Asset Management, LLC and is for informational purposes only. Eventide Asset Management, LLC serves as investment adviser to one or more mutual funds distributed by Northern Lights Distributors, LLC, member FINRA. Northern Lights Distributors, LLC and Eventide Asset Management are not affiliated entities.

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